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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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 Pocono Mountains: Francis E. Walter Dam

Welcome to my next adventure in my summertime Pocono Mountains series! Today I’m exploring a place where the workings of man and nature come together – the Francis E. Walter Dam!

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The Francis E. Walter Dam can be accessed from routes 115 or 940 near either Lake Harmony or Bear Creek, depending on which side of the dam you enter from. Regardless of the direction from which you come, there are some fantastic little spots to stop off at and check out before even reaching the dam itself.  The area surrounding the dam is perfect for hiking, boating, and doing some good old fashioned exploring!

The Francis E. Walter Dam was built by the Army Corp of Engineers in 1961 as a way to block water on the Lehigh River.  As a result, there’s now a large water reservoir that “fills up” on one side and is a prime location for boating.  When water is released through the dam, the other side, or the “dry side,” suddenly becomes rapid-like and rafters flock to catch some good rapids.  In summertime, it’s simply a nice place to enjoy some outdoor activities!

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On the roads leading up to the dam itself, there are lots of little waterfalls to check out and explore.  They are always a favorite of mine because they’re often less visited than the dam itself and are great places to explore around and to even enjoy being in the water.  Many of the little waterfalls have flat bottoms where you can stand beneath the falling water, or small pools where you can sit and cool off on a hot day.  In any case, it’s always a good idea to wear or bring a bathing suit and have a towel ready when visiting the Francis E. Walter Dam.  Between the surrounding waterfalls and the large water reservoir, there’s plenty of ways to stay cool there in the summertime!

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Even in the wintertime, though, the dam and the waterfalls around it are still sightseeing-worthy!  The entire place often ices over and is truly dazzling.  For comparison’s sake, here is a picture of one of the waterfalls in both winter and summer:

Waterfall near F. E. Walter Dam in summer

Waterfall near F. E. Walter Dam in summer

Waterfall near F. E. Walter Dam in winter

Waterfall near F. E. Walter Dam in winter

The road leading to the dam on either side can take you two ways: over the top of the dam or on the road beneath it.  The road over the dam is the most used because the road that goes “beneath” it is flooded over pretty much 99% of the time by the reservoir.  In times of drought, or sometimes when the water is released, the road that goes under the water is uncovered and you can drive straight across it!  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing it just a couple times in my life and have managed to capture a picture of it.  Here are some pictures of the road both covered and uncovered:

Road under the dam flooded over

Road under the dam flooded over

Road under the dam exposed during low water levels

Road under the dam exposed during low water levels

When the road is flooded over, it becomes a makeshift boat launch area for boaters to access the water.  On one side of the dam there’s even a picnic area, so it’s definitely a place where one can visit and spend an afternoon enjoying being outside either in and/or around the water.  There are some hiking trails through the property around the water, too.  There’s lots to see and do!

In the summertime, snakes love to sunbathe on the rocks and can usually be seen if you walk atop the road that goes across the dam (the “high road”). Access to the machinery of the dam is located here, too, but because it’s government property, it is strictly gated off.

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Whether you’re searching for some nice views (there are great views of the surrounding mountains!), or to cool off under a waterfall, or to go boating, or just enjoy being outside, the Francis E. Walter Dam is truly a wonderful place to visit.  Take the time to explore the side roads leading up to the dam to find the waterfalls and take a walk down to the reservoir!  Given the amazing views from the road across the dam, it almost feels like you’re on top of the world 🙂

For other places to explore around the Poconos, check out the image below!

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The Pocono Mountains: Boulder Field

Welcome to the next installation of my summertime Pocono Mountains series! Today I’ll be exploring Boulder Field, a well-known local spot that’s both unique and rather iconic!

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Boulder Field is located in Hickory Run State Park off route 534, which can be accessed from I-80 or the nearby turnpike (I-476) if you’re coming from out of town, or from local back roads around Jim Thorpe and the Split Rock/Big Boulder area. If you explore around this area in general, you’ll find many smaller boulder fields (which I’ve traversed previously), but the main one is of course the most well known. What exactly is Boulder Field, you ask? Well, it’s a giant field. Of boulders. No kidding!

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Finding rocks out in nature is no big deal, but a large field of boulders like this is highly unusual. Boulder Field was made roughly 20,000 years ago during the last glacial period in North America. The simplest way perhaps of explaining the formation of the field (as best as scientists can determine – much of their information is still theory) is that, during the last ice age, the glacier never actually covered Boulder Field, but made it cold enough to freeze the ground, expose bedrock (the Pocono rock), and create permafrost. With fluctuating temperatures between the day and night though, freeze-thaw and frost-heave created cracks in the bedrock. Because Boulder Field actually lies on a slope, gravity naturally played into the formation of the boulders once the bedrock cracked. The rocks moved due to a process called gelifluction, or the downward movement of sand, water, rock, and ice particularly in geographical areas like the Poconos. Similar to the process of how potholes are created in wintertime, the bedrock of Boulder Field cracked and eventually broke into the large boulders as it sloped downward and was “moved” by the flow of water, ice, mud, and sand. Today, water still runs beneath Boulder Field. Geography is awesome!!

The boulders are naturally rounded rather than jagged because of having collided and “rubbed” against one another for so long. Large boulders lie on the top of the field because they have greater surface area and allowed smaller boulders to “fall” below. The indentations in the field that are seen today are evidence of this process and movement. In some places, these large indentations have generated stories about their origins, often weaving into the history of the surrounding area. A hike in Central PA a couple years ago led me to a place called “Indian Wells,” an area similar to boulder field but on the top of a ridge, where large indentations in the rocks were present (the story goes that Indians created these impressions to collect water, hence “Indian Wells”).

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The road to Boulder Field is usually closed in the winter due to snow and ice, but those willing to hike the three miles in can still access it. In summer, many snakes make their home in Boulder Field, so it is crucially important to take caution when walking across the boulders. Some of the rocks are loose, so taking your time is a smart idea. Spiders are also abundant, but they normally just scurry away into the depths of the rocks when you approach.

Unfortunately, Boulder Field has seen lots of vandalism in recent years, including the spray painting and defacing of the actual boulders. To maintain Boulder Field as it exists today, natural occurrences aside, it is important not to move the boulders or remove them. Like anything in nature, leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories!

Boulder Field is great for a day adventure. You can even picnic out on the rocks while doing some exploring! Once you get the hang of walking across them, the boulders don’t pose too much of a challenge. I’ve seen really young children and even pets traverse them with no problem. It’s certainly an incredible sight to see and absolutely worth the visit!

For more information and posts about the Poconos, click the image below!

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