Winter Woodland Walks

There’s nothing quite like going for a woodland stroll in the woods.  It feels and looks so magical! Last weekend, I visited a wonderful, small, western New Jersey town that gets all decorated for Christmas.  There’s an adorable main street lined with small shops and cafes and lots of nearby farms perfect for visiting for some homemade apple cider and live Christmas decor (pine wreaths, anyone!?). After spending the day wandering the cute little shops and sipping coffee and cider, I decided it was time to see what walking paths and parks were nearby.  Lo and behold, the Cooper Mill was just down the road.

The Cooper Mill was built in 1826 and is on the National Historic Register.  During the warmer months, there are tours and events at the mill.  On this particular day, it was snowing, the water in the mil had begun to freeze over, and it was extremely picturesque.

15317857_10207887164165219_8183266594997969898_n

15350505_10207887165005240_6890438405369865262_n

15350703_10207887166285272_4942360795230269859_n

15541140_10207887164285222_5031368023457945789_n

 

sarahheart

Advertisements

Baby Gators and Thunderstorms

Over the years, I’ve written a number of blog posts recounting my adventures at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida.  It’s an absolute favorite spot of mine and, on most visits, I am usually blown away by the fantastic wildlife sightings and encounters I have there (especially during the more active gator season!).  When I first moved to Florida a few years ago, I thought my hiking days were pretty much over – I was used to hiking mountain ridges and dense forests and Florida didn’t really have any of that.  But Circle B Bar Reserve has proved to be one of my favorite hiking places of all time.  On my penultimate trip there (…I recently moved house and no longer live near it! So sad!!) I got to see some baby alligators, got super close to some wildlife, and outran an incredible thunderstorm. Of course, I took pictures 😉

When I arrived at Circle B, I immediately noticed the posted signs indicating that the major trail, Alligator Alley, was closed.  There wasn’t a specific reason given for the closures, but my assumption is that it had to perhaps do with the many alligators and sightings there recently.  With the main trail closed, I decided to just head up the trail that leads to it, which fortunately still offers incredible views and opportunities for wildlife spotting.

The trail I walked up sits in the middle of a large wetland area.  I had my infamous massive-gator-encounter here (see the gator here!) and was hoping to actually see another.  There weren’t any large gators this time, but I did spot a number of baby ones! So cute!

It was gorgeous and sunny as I headed down the trail in hopes of some more wildlife sightings, as evidenced by this lovely photo here (lol):

IMG_4220

Perfect skies, perfect temperature! It was seriously gorgeous.  I continued my way down the trail and even explored part of the Alligator Alley trail until I was met with the closed-off area and warnings not to dare attempt entering it (which I did not).  I did, though, make friends with a brave and fearless squirrel!

IMG_4234

After becoming acquainted with my new squirrel friend, I began making my way back and, for the first time, noticed how extremely dark it had gotten.  The sky was no longer a beautiful and clear blue, but a dark and storm grey.  Thunder sounded in the distance.  I was standing in an open wetland… So I booked it back to my car.

The storm that rolled through was impressive.  The wind gusted so hard, Spanish moss rained down from the trees and large branches fell to the ground.  I had a hard time keeping to the center of the trail as I headed back, the wind was that strong!

IMG_4244IMG_4249

I made it back to my car just before it started down-pouring.  The whole experience was a reminder of just how powerful mother nature can be, and how quickly a really nice day can turn really dangerous in a matter of minutes (weather in Florida is so fascinating this way!).

So, although my hike didn’t include my favorite trail and was cut short by the extreme weather, it was still an eventful and worthwhile adventure! I’ll certainly miss you, Circle B!

sarahheart

Summer Perfection: Hoboken’s Pier 13

IMG_4355new.jpg

Summertime means getting outside and enjoying the sunshine, preferably with a refreshing beverage in hand. In Hoboken, New Jersey, the “Mile Square City,” that means heading over to Pier 13.  With food trucks, fun drinks, and incredible views of the New York City skyline, it’s hard to beat!

Pier 13 stretches out into the Hudson River on the north end of Hoboken.  It’s a bit unassuming if you merely walk by it on a stroll of the waterfront, but once you walk out onto it, everything changes.

At the front of the pier, you’ll encounter that day’s food trucks.  Pier 13 has a pretty great “collection” of food trucks that change and rotate day-to-day.  My favorites include the Dark Side of the Moo (burgers, wings, tacos), Amanda Bananas (banana-based ice cream!), and Carnivale (stuffed donuts!).  There’s generally at least five options to choose from, unless you happen to go during their monthly Food Truck Frenzy, when ALL the food trucks come to share their deliciousness! It’s quite an event!

After the food trucks comes the booze! If you want to drink, you’ll have to get a wristband as you walk farther down to the pier toward the water.  Here, you’ll encounter the drink stations.  There are two structures on the pier that serve alcohol – one is more geared toward cocktails and the other is a bit more beer-centric. Pier 13 is home to all sorts of fantastic drinks! You can get a “beach ball” or a “party pail” to bring out into the seating area with you. I personally enjoy their spiked lemonade and Arnold Palmer beverages – super refreshing on a hot day!

Once you grab your drinks, grab a seat! The remaining stretch of the pier is devoted to casual and relaxed grass-carpeted seating.  These brightly colored lawn chairs are perfect for sitting back and enjoying your food, drink, and friends.  Around 5pm each day, the crowd on the pier switches over from moms-with-their-kids-enjoying-the-sunshine-and-booze to young-and-hip-twenty-somethings-getting-a-drink-after-work.  It’s a great place to head with friends and coworkers to unwind from the day’s work grind!

Of course, you can’t talk about Pier 13 without mentioning the stunning views.  New York City serves as the scenic backdrop, with the iconic Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, and Freedom Tower taking center stage. Even if you go it alone to Pier 13, enjoy your drink and just take in the incredible sights!

IMG_4346

Pier 13 is always hosting fun events ranging from movie nights and painting classes, to silent dance parties and mini golfing.  There’s also boating and water activities available from the pier, too, if you’re looking for something that gets you off the concrete and into the waves.  Summer is the perfect time to try paddle boarding and kayaking!

For more information about everything Pier 13 has to offer, check them out:

Website // Instagram // Facebook

 

Happy travels and happy summer!

sarahheart

A Wild Gator Encounter!

I decided to go for a hike at one of my favorite places to spot wildlife in Central Florida, Circle B Bar Reserve.  I’ve written a number of blog posts about my animal encounters there and, each time I go, I am never disappointed.  My most recent visit this past weekend was certainly no exception.

map

I began by walking down the Heron Hideout trail. This trail is accessible directly from the parking area and leads to the biggest trails on the reserve.  It has very little shade (wear a hat or sunscreen!) and so it gets pretty hot.  The trail is surrounded by marsh on both sides and offers prime viewing for birds, small fish, and gators.  The Heron Hideout trail eventually reaches a crossroads, where you can opt to continue forward onto the Eagle Roost trail, right to the Marsh Rabbit Run trail, or left (most popular) to Alligator Alley, which parallels Lake Hancock.  I decided to continue forward on the Eagle Roost trail.

The Eagle Roost trail has marsh and ponds bordering both sides of it before the trail turns farther up and becomes more open and sandy.  While walking up the trail, I noticed a gator moving nearby in the water.  It was pretty cool to see! I turned around at the bend in the trail and, on my way back, I became absolutely startled.

The gator I had seen swimming in the water suddenly popped its head out of the tall grass to the side of the trail just five feet ahead of me.  He was huge!  I immediately backed up, mentally running through the list of all the safety tips I had learned in the Everglades.  The gator proceeded onto the trail and I was in awe at his size – he stretched the whole way across! It was certainly a sight to see.  His gait was slow and almost crooked.  When he made it to the water on the opposite side of the trail, I waited a minute before quickly passing.  I was still catching my breath!

IMG_5196

Perhaps almost ironically, I turned onto the Alligator Alley trail next.  I didn’t have any more personal gator encounters, but I did see a bunch more! Along the trail were beautiful birds, rabbits, and turtles.  There were some baby alligators sitting in the marsh off to the left side of the trail, and larger gators swimming around in the lake to the right. There was just so much wildlife to see!

Circle B Bar is one of my favorite places for wildlife sightings and this visit definitely tops my list.  That alligator encounter was incredible! I’m glad I went when I did! 🙂

IMG_5185

sarahheart

Wanderlust Wednesday: Zurich, Switzerland

zurichwanderlustnew

On this Wednesday I’d like to explore one of my wanderlust wishes that is to see Zurich, Switzerland! I was in conversation with someone about places to see and travel to and they mentioned Zurich was on their list. It struck me as one of those places that I can definitely see myself wanting to travel to, but had almost forgotten about while pondering other, non-European locales. Between my own research and talking about it with others, it’s clear that Zurich has a lot to offer as a destination!

“Why Zurich?” I asked in regards to why one would rank it as a must-see location.

“Because of the history, it’s got fantastic Swiss food and chocolate, and it’s by the mountains and a huge lake so there’s hiking and outdoors stuff,” is the reply I received.

It became suddenly clear to me that Zurich met a lot of my “requirements” as a location (that’s not to say a particular place does or doesn’t “make the cut” based on any exact thing) since I tend to value outdoor adventure and history a lot. If I can learn and have fun while seeing some cool sights, I’m in!

Zurich certainly has a ton of history, even more so than many places throughout Europe that are “old.” Located in north central Switzerland, Zurich is a city that’s pretty much been around for over 2000 years in various forms. Just exploring that history is a feat unto its own (and something I honestly wouldn’t mind doing!). Like most European cities and towns, shifts in politics, wars, human migration, and climate has played a large role in molding Zurich to the city it is today.

f77b8cb7ce044966f910a51f9f17e7af

The language in Zurich is fairly unique because, also the standard “formal” language is German, there’s a spoken dialect of “Zurich German.” Like many Swiss cities, though, one can hear many different dialects of German spoken, which I always find personally intriguing (the history behind the development of varying dialects in a particular region always really interests me). I don’t speak any German, unfortunately, but there is a high percentage of English-speakers in Zurich, as well.

b2eaa97913ffaaccd5657abde370f6ac

I love cities that have geographical points of intrigue and Zurich certainly delivers! Lake Zurich sits on the south of the city, offering gorgeous views and lots of opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Swiss Plateau also nestles against the city, providing trails for hiking and fantastic sightseeing. There are even gondola rides up the mountainsides. I’m a sucker for outdoors things like these!

Especially since we’re now entering the holiday season, it’s a point to note that Zurich is home to some wonderful Christmas markets and is done up to look absolutely gorgeous during the season. When it starts to snow, it really looks postcard-perfect!

2e36e4c8abdd4bb2a557a4e42ceffd48

Between the vast history of the city, the outdoor activities, and the chance to experience some aspects of Swiss (and partly German) culture, Zurich truly is an ideal city to visit.   I always find that there is a certain charm to these types of old European cities that I find really appealing. The history probably draws me in more than anything – the rest is just icing on the cake!

If you’ve ever been to Zurich (or Switzerland in general), leave a comment with your experience below! Happy travels!

signature_su1awkumwi8wm7wdlr