Friday Thought #93 Awesome America

So I’m afraid I’ve had a bit of a summer break, but I’m back, and despite it feeling like a very long time ago now, I would like to journey back to our American road trip this summer. We try and do at least a 10 day road trip in the States every summer, simply because we love it. It is a country with endless adventures, you could spend multiple lifetimes there and still only scratch the surface of its diversity. Coming from Europe it’s hard to get your head around a land mass that size which is all one country, over here we are so used to being able to hop on a plane and be in another country in little more than an hour. And not just a different country, but one with a totally different language, a new culture, a completely different climate. And while that is just wonderful, the grass is always greener isn’t it?! What you haven’t grown up with is always intriguing and exciting, and it kind of blows my mind that in America you can drive in a straight line for 10 hours and still be in the same state!

I just love the American open roads, the big skies, the sheer enormity of it, the emptiness. Europe is SO full, especially in the summer. You cannot pitch your tent on a public campsite and be more than 5 meters away from the tent next to you. And try driving anywhere on mainland Europe in July and August without being stuck in dreadful traffic and adding at least a couple of hours to your journey. Away from the cities, the States is simply empty. During the week it’s not uncommon to have an entire state campground to  yourself, and as for the wilderness areas, wow, uninhabited wild spaces that size are just mind boggling, and it almost makes me feel worried that I’m never going to have the time or opportunity to fully explore even a fraction of these incredible places.

So enough of my rambling, this trip saw us starting in Seattle and finishing in Portland, Oregon, in between managing to explore a bit of the Olympic Penninsula, stay on a horse ranch in rural Idaho and journey across Idaho and Oregon, taking in some incredible places, including Boise, Bend, Smith Rock, deserted campgrounds, empty lakes, and of course those endless skies.

If you ever plan a trip to the States I can’t recommend road tripping enough. It is by far the best way to see the country. We didn’t really have a set plan, just followed the weather and went wherever took our fancy. The roads are enormous and there is never any traffic, which means that rather than being a chore, the journey to a new destination is all part of the fun, in fact it’s thoroughly enjoyable! Crank up that country music and sit back and relax under those big, open skies…

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Friday thought #80 Beautiful Autumn

Despite Autumn faithfully and predictably arriving every year at the same time, it still never ceases to surprise me how beautiful it is, possibly because each year it seems to sneak up and blow you away with its seemingly impossible colours. The summer months are always wonderful, and living in a place which has the 4 distinct seasons makes the transition from hot, carefree summer days to dark, short winter days so much more bearable by easing us in to it slowly.  Now I must admit a winter with snow and skiing is a great deal more tempting than a rainy, grey one, but it’s still always a challenge to let go of the summer regardless of what’s around the corner!

Every year I cherish the Autumn and make sure I stop to appreciate just how unique and stunning it is, even on a grey day…!

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Friday thought #67 Spring has arrived and everyone is smiling

I hate to say it in April, but winter in the Alps is well and truly over, and has been for a while. The last few weeks in Innsbruck have seen temperatures as high as 25 degrees C, the cows and horses are back in the meadows, and rock climbing, via ferratas, hiking and running are very much back on the agenda.

Despite the fact that it feels like summer, this is my first Spring in Austria and I love the feel of the city as the seasons start to change. Being a university city, it’s no surprise to see the students out in force as the weather becomes warmer, but the sight of the neverending line of people sitting along the banks on the river Inn next to the university still made me stop, get off my bike and marvel at the power of the sunshine.

The mere presence of the sun means that everyone is happy and relaxed. Stress is forgotten, people suddenly have more free time and want to be outside; having barbecues, playing frisbee, or simply socialising out in the sun.

Here’s to a long summer of enjoying the outdoors x

A river and sunshine, an unbeatable combination
A river, mountains and sunshine, an unbeatable combination

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An alpine meadow with cows grazing. It's amazing how happy it can make you feel...
A simple alpine meadow with cows aimlessly grazing. It’s amazing how happy it can make you feel…

 

Friday thought #38 The cool stuff you see when trail running!

Last year, in perhaps a moment of madness, I decided to enter myself in to the Mont Blanc half marathon. 23km long, with over 1000m of vertical ascent, around the mountain trails of Chamonix. Whether this was a wise move or not will be revealed next week…! So I’ve been training, and earlier in the week I thought it would be a good idea to run the whole course, mainly to see whether I could actually do it! Of course I took my camera, as this, early summer, is a truly beautiful time of the year. In almost 4 hours I saw maybe 10 people, and had the chance to spot things that I just wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been on foot. Lovely!

Beautiful alpine flowers!
Beautiful alpine flowers!
A path of tangled roots
A path of tangled roots
Sheep just chilling in their alpine meadow!
Sheep just chilling in their alpine meadow!
Literally in the middle of a forest, how handy!
Literally in the middle of a forest, how handy!
And look how posh it is inside! I couldn't resist a photo!
And look how posh it is inside! I couldn’t resist a photo!

Friday thought #10 Beautiful Autumn

I wrote a few weeks ago heralding the coming of Winter, the colder days, the darkness creeping in earlier and earlier, the imminent arrival of the snow… But I feel the need now to perhaps delay that slightly and cling on to the beautiful, and highly underrated, season that is Autumn. I find myself thinking the same thing every year and once again reminding myself that Autumn is one of the most stunning times of the year. In the Alps it is all about winter and summer, the periods bridging the gaps are simply referred to as ‘Interseason’ and I believe are totally forgotten and glossed over.

I feel so strongly that we must embrace these ‘in between’ periods and not just see them as time to kill before the ‘proper’ seasons arrive. There is so much to do in the mountains right now, with the added benefit of it not being too hot, so you can often actually do far more than in the sumer. There is also no-one around. Summer peak season is so overrun with holiday-makers, yet no-one seems to come in the Autumn. It’s like a secret, our own personal paradise, deserted and beautiful. On a walk last week I found myself becoming quite the nature lover and flora photographer! Everywhere I looked I saw stunning colours in the trees, the leaves and the heather. I’ll include some of my amateur snaps, no photoshop, no colour enhancement, just the pure beauty of nature at its best.

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Friday Thought #6 Winter’s coming…!

It’s a sentence most people dread. September in England signalled the end of summer and back to school which inevitably brought with it short, dark days characterised by cold and rain. September meant Winter was coming which generally led to negative grumbling and griping about the weather and how hard done by everyone was! Winter and positivity were two words not often associated with each other! I think it’s safe to say that England doesn’t really get much of a seasonal weather pattern, it can get slightly warmer in the summer and marginally colder in the winter, but in general the weather pretty much stays the same, so although I was aware of ‘seasons’, I’d never really experienced them.

You grow up dreading winter and desperately waiting for summer, so how I ended up living in a mighty cold ski resort and itching for winter is anybody’s guess! Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the summer, especially in the Alps. It’s by far the most convenient season and I am genuinely sad that it’s pretty much over for this year, but the wonderful thing about living in the mountains is that you get four distinct seasons and you know exactly when it changes. This year the summer here has been pretty dismal, as I believe it has been across most of Europe, but almost as a special treat to make up for it, September has been absolutely glorious. Up until last week the sun has been shining and it has been genuinely warm; shorts and flip-flops weather still. We’ve been climbing, hiking, running and even swimming in the lakes, not what you’d expect from an often ‘dreary’ month. But this week we have clearly felt it ‘turn’. It has suddenly gotten very cold in the mornings and evenings, the trees are all turning fiery red and golden and the darkness is rolling in earlier and earlier. It’s such a snap change, Summer becomes Autumn almost overnight, not Winter, Autumn.

This is why I love it here so much. Everyone enjoys the summer but as soon as it cools down and the trees start to change, the thoughts inevitably turn to winter and the chat turns to skis, lift passes and winter plans. But before all that excitement begins we get a grace period where we get to ease out of summer mode, eek out the sunshine as much as possible, but gradually start to get our warm clothes down from the loft and think about when the snow will come.

In the vein of enjoying every last drop of that sunshine, last week I went for a wonderful long run along the Chamonix valley, starting and finishing at 2 different points which resulted in a reasonably long wait for a bus at the other end. Again sitting and waiting for a bus is a prospect that conjures up images of miserable commuters huddled under a rainy bus stop. It’s a strange place to count your blessings, but I couldn’t help but smile as I sat on a bench in the sunshine facing a spectacular mountain range bisected by a stunning glacier, and to top it off, the trees in the foreground were at that perfect autumnal point where they can’t quite decide whether they want to be red or green.

It’s the little things that make the difference… I love autumn!

Red or green, red or green...??
Red or green, red or green…??