Skiing in a Winter Wonderland

It’s now officially spring, but many parts of the U.S. still definitely feel like winter! And I’m actually totally okay with that! Growing up, I went skiing every winter with my friends after school.  We had an after school ski club that most of us attended throughout the winter each year.  My parents skied, my grandparents skied, so it was only natural that I learned when I was young, too.  It has truly always been one of my favorite pastimes! Living in Florida for the past few years, though, skiing is hard to come by.  That’s why I was so excited to set aside a weekend recently to head out to the mountains to partake in some snowy fun!

It has been years since I’ve worn my ski boots and, at first, getting them on was a but difficult.  The plastic sections on the front had kind of warped out of shape, so locking the bindings on them was almost impossible (it took two people to finally get them on my feet). They were a little stiff at first, but walking around and skiing downhill on them all day loosened them up a bit and brought them “back to life.”  If you’ve never skied, just know that there is nothing worse than uncomfortable ski boots.

I started off on the smaller slopes to warm up, genuinely surprised how quickly it all “came back” to me since it had literally been years since my last downhill run. After I was sure I could once again handle myself on long planks stuck to my feet, I headed to the more difficult slopes.  The conditions were pretty nice, but the temperature was positively freezing. I ended up going inside a couple times to warm up, but even hot chocolate couldn’t completely shake the cold from my bones.  I wanted to get the most out of my day on the slopes, though, so it wasn’t long before I geared back up and headed up the mountain again.

Once the sun set, the temperature really, really turned cold. Tired and hungry, I decided to turn in to the lodge.  It was a wonderful day and lots of fun!! Skiing will always be one of my favorite winter activities!

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The Keystone Capitol

There’s nothing quite like taking a road trip to visit old friends!  I recently took a drive to central Pennsylvania to visit friends, enjoy some historic and eclectic nightlife, and see the state capitol.

The day began with a visit to a wonderful restaurant and bar called The Gingerbread Man in downtown Harrisburg.  I enjoyed a yummy Cuban sandwich and a crisp beer.  After lunch, it was time to head down the street to a wine bar! With lots of local options, it was fun to taste and try the vino of Pennsylvania. I’m always a big fan of trying local fare and drinks when traveling to or visiting new places.

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As the day waned, it was time to revitalize ourselves with some coffee. The next stop was a coffee shop called Denim Coffee in Carlisle.  I got a warm mocha and we all sat and talked away the late afternoon.  Continuing what was soon becoming the food-and-drink tour, we ventured onward to a local favorite – Molly Pitcher Brewing Company.  With fun drinks, a cozy space, and the coolest beer taps I’ve ever seen, it was definitely one of my favorite places of the trip.

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I drove past the beautiful state capitol building in the early hours of the morning after finishing a few rounds at a fun, eclectic bar (with excellent fried pickles!).  It was a wonderful day and night of exploring, trying new things, and catching up with friends!

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Snow Tubing in The Mountains

I couple weeks ago, I flew north to New York City and then made a short trip to the Poconos in Pennsylvania to visit family, see my old childhood home, and to take advantage of the snowy, cold weather activities in the mountains!  I had been wanting to go skiing for quite some time but, due to time restrictions and traveling, decided on going snow tubing instead.

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I looked up a few of the mountains in the Poconos that offer tubing and decided on Big Boulder, which part of the Jack Frost/Big Boulder Ski Resort.  Although it is a smaller location than say, Camelback Mountain (which boasts 42 snow tubing lanes!), I decided on Big Boulder because it’s super close to my family’s home, it’s a scenic drive (especially if you enter through Split Rock Resort), and the price and time slots available were right.  So the drive from NYC to the Pocono Mountains began!

After arriving at Big Boulder and finding the parking for the tubing area (which is all the way beyond the ski slope parking), I added my final cold-weather layers to my attire and headed out to the mountain! I signed a release form stating I wouldn’t sue if a I died and attached my wicket and ticket to my coat (I had a great moment of nostalgia attaching the wicket to my coat, haha… I hadn’t done that in years!).

I grabbed a snow tube and headed for the “magic carpet” tow that took me up the mountain (more of a hill, in this case).  At the top, there were different lanes you could choose to tube down, so I hopped in line for one and waited to glide down the snow!

It’s such an exhilarating feeling, “teetering” at the top of the hill and then rushing down! I love a good adrenaline rush and snow tubing is great, especially on a steep hill with drops! The snow and ice kicks up while you go down, though, so protect your eyes if necessary.  I saw a number of people with ski goggles on, but I braved the hills without any (I was a little blinded the first time down, but it got better after that).

As time went on, fewer people stuck around into the evening and the lines at the top of the hill got shorter, making for quicker runs and returns to the top. It was a blast!  Eventually, my toes were cold enough for me to consider heading in, so after my final run down the hill, I headed into the small “snack lodge” to warm up.  There was also a large fire pit outside to warm up around.  Now that I live in the south, I really miss simple things like fires in the winter and going out in the snow.

Snow tubing at Big Boulder was incredibly fun!  I miss winters in the Poconos a lot, so it was nice to get back and enjoy a wonderful day outside in the snow!

 

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Columcille Megalith Park

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Tucked away in the Pocono Mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania is a beautiful and mystical place called Columcille Megalith Park. It’s rather unknown even to locals but is truly a wonderful treasure. If you’re up for exploring the outdoors while immersing yourself in a mystical landscape and setting, Columcille is for you!

I reached Columcille Megalith Park by taking route 611 off I-80 near Stroudsburg (right near the Delaware Water Gap for those in NJ/NY).  From route 611, I then took route 191.  Be on the lookout for Fox Gap Road next!  Quaker Plains Road comes up about a half mile later and this is where I found the Megalith Park.  There’s a dirt/stone parking area alongside a fence.  From there, you can begin your adventure!

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Columcille is an outdoor “sanctuary” built of stone and megaliths. Inspired by ancient Gaelic megalith structures and landscapes, Columcille is named for the 6th century Irish monk Colum Cille, who founded a monastic community on the Scottish Isle of Iona. The Megalith Park is privately owned but opened to the public – anyone can come and enjoy the sights!

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On my visit, I followed a map around the property and was able to see some awe-inspiring structures and megaliths. The stones were brought in specifically to create Columcille. The megaliths are often thought of as stones meant to allow one’s spirit and energy to “play” and be free. While exploring Columcille, it was easy to see how one could engage with the mysticism the site inspires. One doesn’t have to be spiritual by any means to enjoy the sites, though. The park exists simply for people to come and enjoy!

The tallest megalith at Columcille rises out of the ground about 20 feet and weighs over 45 tons! I was impressed and in awe at the fact that someone could possibly go through the trouble to place these giant stones this way. It certainly creates a gorgeous landscape.

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Around the park, there are lots of little sights to visit. There are bridges, towers, single-standing stones, and other creations made from stones and the megaliths around the property. Walking around, I was sort of reminded of a fairytale. I felt like I was exploring ancient Ireland during the time of the Celts – there’s such a neat vibe there. I really enjoyed being able to walk around and simply enjoy the scenery and visit the sights around the park. There is a guest book in the chapel you can sign and I was amazed how many people from so many different places come to visit! It’s generally a very quiet place, but the park is also a popular spot for celebrating spiritual events and holidays, like the equinox and solstice.

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If you ever find yourself around the Pocono Mountains and want to experience something truly unique, I highly suggest a visit to Columcille. It’s a great place to simply get in touch with nature and, if you’re interested, feel a bit more connected to your spiritual side.

To see and explore more of the Poconos, click the image below!

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The Abandoned Mining Town: Centralia, Pennsylvania

Creepy and weird or abandoned places always seem to top those “must-see” travel lists for those looking to go beyond the normal “touristy” stuff. Sometimes, though, these types of places are right in our own backyard. A while back, I took a trip to Centralia, Pennsylvania, a town not too far away from my own former hometown and the real-life inspiration for the movie and video games Silent Hill (talk about creepy, right??!).

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What exactly makes Centralia so weird and how did it serve as the inspiration for Silent Hill? Located in Columbia County, PA, the area was once a popular coal-mining site (there are still active mines nearby today). In 1962, the mines beneath Centralia accidently caught fire when (according to the most popular theory, as there are quite a few) a fire at a landfill was not entirely extinguished and reached down into a strip-mine pit, leading the coalmines to eventually catch aflame, as well. Centralia is literally a town with a fire burning beneath it.

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Numerous attempts were made to extinguish the fire, but the fact of the matter is that there is too much coal beneath the town, too many different veins that may have caught fire, and no amount of water that could be poured into the ground would sufficiently put it out. The fire is still burning today and there are estimates that it could take over a thousand years to fully burn out, given the amount of coal that may lie beneath the town and connect to other coal veins in the area. Ultimately, residents of the town were forced to evacuate due to dangerous gases, the fire itself, and possible land collapses as the coal burned beneath the town. Some residents refused to leave, however, and as of today, there are less than ten people remaining in the town (against the will of the government). Centralia’s zip code has been revoked by the U.S. Postal Service and the state has invoked eminent domain on all the property, with last-ditch efforts to evict the remaining people there. The residents won a lawsuit, however, and are allowed to remain in the town until they die.

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Centralia is easily missed unless you’re actually looking for it. The state route that once ran through it, PA Route 61, has been torn up and no longer reaches the town. Other, smaller roads are now used for access. Once you do stumble across the town, it’s quite an eerie sight. All buildings have been knocked down (save for those still being lived in by the few who refuse to leave), so nature has reclaimed much of the town. The crumbling sidewalks and cracked streets still remain, though. Coal fire smoke and steam drifts up between cracks in the road and from the side of the large coal-dump mountains and piles. In the winter, snow melts because of the temperature beneath the ground. There’s always a fog/mist hanging around Centralia due to the fire, giving the town a definite creepy-abandoned feel. You can still drive through the abandoned streets and, if you’re super adventurous, get out on foot and head back into the woods, where the old mine shafts are. I did just that and found some interesting things.

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Be careful crossing into any areas marked with bright orange netting! These are dangerous and are not advisable to enter!

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There are some old, overgrown access roads that now make for some solid hiking trails if you’re looking to do some exploring.  It’s super important to pay attention to the ground when walking around Centralia, particularly if you go into the lesser-visited areas and into the woods. Many of the old mine shafts were simply abandoned when the town was evacuated, so it’s certainly possible to accidentally end up falling into the old mines if you’re not careful. In my experiences exploring Centralia, I’ve come across old ruins of the coal mine company buildings, abandoned mine shafts, empty houses and shacks, old power lines, rusted equipment and children’s toys, and other odd things. When exploring the area, it’s easy to see how the town was the inspiration behind Silent Hill.

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It is absolutely crucial to be safe about where you go and what you do.  DO NOT approach any mine openings and stick to roads and obvious paths while exploring.  Be cognizant of your surroundings always!  Vandals have unfortunately defaced some of the roads and ruins around the town, so police patrol the area more heavily now than in the past.  Always be smart and always be safe!

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