Squam Range Traverse – 5/14/20

Well… hello blog fam!

It’s been a hot minute… month… two months. With current world/life events, I’ve found myself extremely uninspired to write/blog/create. Instead of forcing it out of feeling like I “should” or that I need to be productive – I’ve given myself the space and time needed to just be with my thoughts and feelings throughout the past two months. Honestly, I’m really proud of myself for this too. I’m a “doer”, and slowing down to give space doesn’t come naturally for me. At all.

Quickie life update: I’m furloughed from my part-time job until mid-July, the gym I was about to begin personal training at is closed, I will likely be done my Sports Nutrition Certification early/mid July, haven’t watched the news in a few weeks, my living situation is very socially distant, my 7 year recovery anniversary was the first weekend of May, I’ve come to conclusion that I’m an extremely independent introvert, and it’s been feeling like summer this week and I’m BEYOND giddy.

The past few weeks have felt a little more “normal”. While far from normal, I’ve been hiking again and having some (distant) social contact. Both of these have proven to be very helpful. I’m grateful to live in an area and be in a position where these are even possible.

View from Cotton Mountain, NH

Last Thursday, my friend Jess and I hiked the Squam Range Traverse in the Lakes Region of NH! If you’re a follower of my blog, you might be asking “who is Jess?!”. This is a fun story. So, good ol’ social media land – Jess and I have followed each other on Instagram for a while and had been chatting on occasion about hiking and such. Both of us had been doing lots of local walks and we just happened to run into (not literally) when I was out for a walk on my road and recognized each other! How crazy, right?! Anyways, we’ve gone on a handful of walks and hikes since and I’m stoked to have a new gal pal/adventure partner in crime.

Both of us have been taking social distancing, keeping local, and staying off the higher summits very seriously. For me, April consisted of road walks mainly from my apartment, lifting in the basement, and towards the end of the month a few local hikes. May has included some less local hiking, still within an hour drive. Insert Squam Range Traverse.

This hike is a gem and about 35-40 minutes from where I live. The most interesting part of the day was needing a car spot so during the 20 minute drive from each end of the hike in the morning and afternoon, Jess and I wore facemasks in the car – an interesting experience to say the least. Interesting, potentially overkill seeing we are both in the VERY UNLIKELY category, but important right now.

Crawford Ridgepole Trail sign

With not wanting to hike the higher summits at the current moment, trying to avoid snow as much as possible (real talk: over it), and wanting a slightly longer hike, we opted for the Squam Traverse. With where our cars were parked it was a 11.5 mile and 3,894ft vert. hike… according to Strava that is.

This traverse crosses over seven peaks – Cotton Mountain, Mt. Livermore, Mt. Webster, Mt. Morgan, Mt. Percival, Mt. Squam, and East Doublehead. Ups and downs throughout the day.

More trail time has felt like home. Pure bliss. I’m so thankful to have these mountains either in my backyard or relatively close to it. Moving North last October was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made in my entire life for a handful of reasons… and that is being solidified almost daily at the moment in terms of location and feeling safe.

From Mt. Livermore

Before this hike, Jess and I had hiked the Morgan Percival loop the week prior and I low-key fell in love with the Squam Range (and the short drive to it). This range is beautiful, the drive is through a rural country area for the most part, and well it was Spring here before it was Spring where I live. Triple win. One “silver lining” of all that is going on in the world right now, is that I’ve been able to find new places and expand my scope a bit. On this, it feels off to say “silver lining”, because I still wish this wasn’t all happening. But I’m trying my best to be safe, make calculated decisions, be kind, and support myself and my friends/family to the best of my current ability. And with supporting myself to the best of my current ability comes hiking. Because for me, hiking is, and has always been, a form of self-care. It just looks a little different right now.

Trees!

Being in the mountains more recently after about a month and a half of staying home/very close to home has reminded me why I hike and why the mountains feel like home. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and not take a step back and remember the WHY behind why we do what we do. While the forced “step back” isn’t ideal, it’s definitely got me thinking. A lot of my thoughts lately have been kept fairly private vs. the usual blogging, instagram story tangents, or even just talking about them. I’ve needed the additional solitude, alone time, space to just be and process for my own mind.

One of the biggest lessons hiking, or more specifically the trail, has taught me – it’s all about the process. The golden nuggets are found in the process.

Crawford Ridgepole Trail, NH

While I’m not sure what is to come in terms of… well… anything really (anyone have a crystal ball?) – I look forward to future trail time and trying to just keep doing my best at navigating whatever is throw in my direction with the uncertainty of the world.

“When I feel lost, I remember I am not the woods. I am my own tree.” – Glennon Doyle

XO, S

Week recap 2/22/20

Hi all!

Back to the game of the “2’s” today with it being 2/22/2020… How is it almost March? Can somebody please explain this? While winter hiking has been a lovely time adventuring into Narnia-land, I’m becoming more and more giddy for summer. Perhaps it’s because I’m a June baby, or perhaps it’s that I have a high preference for shorts>pants… but May-October are my happy months 🙂

I miss blogging for blogging.

For the few of you (you know who you are) that have followed my tangents over the years, you know this, and for new readers (hi!) a little backstory: I’ve been blogging since early high school. The OG blog was Peanut Butter and Deadlifts. YES. It no longer exists on the interwebs so don’t bother with the classic Google search, it will result in many things I’m sure, none of which will be my first child (first blog).

I digress.

I started blogging as a way to express my creative side and also in hopes of engaging with the larger blogging community. Honestly ‘blogging’ has changed a lot over the years. I think mainly because there are now podcasts and audiobooks… you can’t read a blog post driving/ running/ cooking/ cleaning etc., but you can listen during those activities. It’s all about accessibility. While podcasts are great and all, there is something about having a blog that I very much enjoy. There’s also something about reading others blogs that just makes me feel a sense of connection.

After stepping away from maintaining a blog in the traditional sense, I’m placing intention towards moving into this space again. Because it feels good.

While I can’t say if weekly recaps will become a weekly thing, I am drawn to the idea of sharing a weekly overview. A lot can happen in a week, and a lot of good has happened over the past week.

I joined a gym: After taking the time from when I moved in October-now off from lifting in a gym setting, it feels deeply fulfilling to be back in that space (and having more of an equipment selection is also welcomed… it’s like a playground). I’m a big proponent of outdoor movement and home workouts, but I have a side that still loves barbells and all of that. Having started lifting at 14 years old, it feels pretty innate.

Was asked to be involved in a women’s health workshop: I was technically asked last week but just determined what I’ll be contributing! A local wellness studio is hosting a workshop in April and I’ll be speaking about the menstrual cycle phases and how they relate to physical activity, performance, and recovery from activity. I’m literally SO beyond excited for this and the topic. About a year ago an article I wrote on the Role of Psychoneuroendocrine Factors in Menstrual Dysfunction Among Athletes was published in the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition publication from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and I have missed wearing my nerd hat to the nth degree. If anyone reading is local to the Conway NH area and would like to come or wants to read that article, send me an email at snlacourse (at) gmail (dot) com

Took a week off from hiking: Between it being ridiculously cold a few of the days, just not feeling like hiking, and enjoying lifting this week, I took the week off. I love that I’m in a place where I can be very intuitive around movement and what feels good and right at a given time. This skill has taken YEARS to cultivate. It’s surely a skill. It’s easy to just go through the motions, being out of connection from a mind/body perspective, and just exist on auto-pilot. This is one of the main topics that continuously comes up with clients.

Made progress on an e-book: I’m working on a few projects, one of which is an e-book which will/should be available on my website early April. As someone who works well in bursts, sometimes progress feels like a cha-cha.

Friday Seacoast trip: Yesterday I took a trip to Portsmouth NH, the area I’m originally from. After moving North in October, my social life has taken a hit. Being an independent introvert I don’t mind this much, but the past few weeks I’ve been feeling like I needed some tlc from my seacoast fam. Boy was this so needed. I met two lovey humans for coffee dates and then went out to dinner with co-workers from the job I had from 18-25, who are pretty much my moms. My heart feels full and I’m going to be adding more trips south to my calendar.

It was a good week ♥

“When will you stop being afraid of everything you can be. When will you let flowers grow in the cracks of your soul. When will you understand that those broken parts of you have learned how to sing more beautiful songs than the loveliest of songbirds.” – Nikita Gill

Photo at top of post is from Summer 2019, Airline Trail on Mt. Adams

The decade of planting seeds

Hey folks!

Happy New Year to all of you 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful day and for those of you who stayed up until midnight NYE, that your sleep is now back on track. I mean it’s now Friyay, so I really hope it is. I did not stay up, and was asleep by 10pm. This said, my sleep has been rather erratic lately between working nights and a rather abrupt bout of evening anxiety I’ve been dealing with as of the past few weeks.

I’ve been writing A LOT lately, most of it’s private in one of my many notebooks. Most of it has also been free writing, where I just sit down and write whatever comes to mind. I usually find myself with a semi-topic by about 30-60 seconds of pen to paper time. On the other hand, I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying prompt or question initiated writing.

One of the recent question prompts I answered for myself contained the following questions:

  1. What has this been the decade of?
  2. What were the biggest teachers and teachings?
  3. If you could tell your 2009/2010 self anything, what would it be?
  4. What is the theme of the next decade?

These questions sparked my interest as they were about a greater span of time than only a year. I think pausing and looking back at a decade can really provide solid insight into our path, interests, patterns, and synchronicities .

While this post won’t get into all four of those questions, let’s focus on #1. “What has this been the decade of?”

Planting seeds.

It took me answering this question to come up with that two word combination that hits the nail on the head at such a deep core level.

My full answer (directly from journal number 3,029,584):

“Coming home to myself and realizing plus understanding that I am my only and my truest home. Allowing all of my self-ingredients to sync together all by actually allowing them to do so – because my ego never had, nor will it ever have the power to make that happen. The ego is control, and controlling things isn’t the key. There is no forcing, only flowing. It’s been the decade of beginning to dissect the deep and dark parts of myself and providing them light and appreciation. Listening to my intuition, spidey sense, and beginning to realize its true capacity to guide me to that internal North – the space where I feel safe and whole. Learning that my sixth sense really is a sixth sense. Practicing vulnerability and being an open book so-to-speak, and allowing this to motivate and support me to continue on my process. Risk taking and giving permission to not follow along with the ordinary box, and just letting whatever feelings come up with this challenging of societal norms.

It’s been the decade of planting many roots, exploring, following ideas.

Many life events have occurred which bring full-circle numerous things and create intersections in parts of my life I never would have thought of having ever intersected. This too, another learning: all parts are connected, no matter how disconnected they may seem.

  • Graduated high school and college, the first with a less than stellar GPA, and the latter Summa Cum Laude
  • Obtained personal training certification
  • Started two websites, this here blog and sarahlacourse.com
  • Began hiking
  • Finished NH 4000 footer list
  • First solo hike
  • Started a business
  • Worked in a neuroscience lab at UNH
  • Started a masters program and stopped after a semester to pursue starting my own business instead
  • Published a peer-reviewed manuscript on the Psychoneuroendocrine Factors in Menstrual Dysfunction Among Athletes
  • Lost and regained my period after losing it for over 3 years
  • Developed and taught four undergraduate level lectures (and an undergrad)
  • Moved out of/packed up childhood home and relocated up North
  • Relapsed, was in treatment, and also hit the 5 (and 6.5) year mark on remission
  • Am living along for the first time ever
  • Got my license
  • Ran a spartan race, ultramarathon, and a few ruck events
  • Dealt with three stress fractures, was diagnosed with osteopenia, and have learned how to navigate and heal to the best of my human ability

It’s been the decade of destroying myself and finding myself, a paradoxical yet beautiful and magical combination.

It’s been the decade that I chose myself, for myself. Where I learned I am worth it, all of it, and I have a story to share.

It’s been the decade of becoming friends with my darkness, because it kept me alive. And beginning to understand that my primary fear is feeling too much, rather that not enough.

It’s been the decade that displayed an internal compass that I know I have to follow, am following, and will never not follow again.”

What is the next decade the decade of? Cultivating the seeds and enjoying the process.

“Be like the single blade of grass. For she too, has been trampled on, mowed down, and hit with such bitterly cold stretches that she had to shut down to survive. Yet still she stands upright with dignity, knowing that she endures, and still she dances with the wind.” ― Sandra Kring

Willey, Tom, Field – 12/25/19: a Christmas adventure

Hey folks!

Merry merry to those of you who celebrate Christmas ❤️🎄 I hope you all had a wonderful day!

This year, Christmas was a day for getting outside and adventuring with a gal pal, Alyssa.

I don’t have family or many friends in the area as I just moved in early October and my parents are in Florida currently (they are heading West soon!) doing the whole full-time RV life shindig. So, why not spend the day doing something that fulfills my soul and that I’m mega grateful to have in my life – hiking! I’ve found my Christmas tradition. As someone who will likely (never say never) always live alone, doesn’t love social gatherings, and won’t have family nearby for holidays, it’s fitting. It’s more than fitting, it’s perfect.

Spur trail headed to Mt. Tom

Alyssa and I decided to hike Willey, Tom, and Field and I think we were both very happy with this choice throughout the day and post hike! There are a few different route options for these mountains and we decided to do an out and back starting at Crawford Depot station and used Avalon Trail, A-Z Trail, the Tom Spur Path, and Willey Range Trail.

This out and back route is a nice 10.2 mile hike, and for most of the day, the trails were hard packed highway status.

Over the summer, I did this hike with my friend Jo and instead of taking the Willey Range Trail from Mt. Field back to A-Z trail to Avalon Trail, we added Mt. Avalon which was a fun addition! No hike recap for that day, but it was a misty and humid one!

Back to Christmas…

I felt pretty festive myself as I wore green leggings and a maroon colored jacket, sadly no Santa hat. Apparently the hat didn’t make the move North with me, because I did used to own one. Throughout the day we must have passed close to a dozen other hikers, which Alyssa and I were both surprised by! A couple we passed were much more dressed up and festive than myself and I’ll surely be upping my game for 2020.

Water crossing on Avalon Trail headed to A-Z Trail

Avalon Trail starts off as a mellow walk in the woods. There’s a branch off for Mt. Willard right at the start, which was one of my first hikes as a child. We talked about how amazing the trail conditions were for the first time out of what would probably be fifty times by the end of the day. I love winter hikes that you can do car to car in microspikes and not think twice about that decision. It’s easy walking, the noise of the spikes is practically walking meditation for my brain, and I’m not tripping over myself in snowshoes. Win, win, win.

There are two small water crossings on this section, both were a mix of ice bridges and easy rock hopping. Watching the water flowing under the frozen rocks and ice at crossings is such a peaceful experience. Nature truly is an amazing thing when you take a step back and really take it all in and think about it.

Which way which way

After about a mile on Avalon Trail we branched off to the A-Z trail to head towards Mt. Tom. This would make my fourth trip to Mt. Tom (Willey and Field too, although fifth time to these trails as I hadn’t hiked all three mountains together each time!). I forgot the steady climb of this section of trail. It’s just up, and up, and oh some more ups for your pleasure too.

On the return trip back to the trailhead, we really noticed how up the trail had been earlier in the day as coming down steeper sections in winter always seems more noticeable than summer. Mainly because all that crosses our minds is butt sledding and how that would be the most efficient way down. Having not ever hiked any of these trails in the winter months, everything felt much different as the entire landscape and external feeling is so varied from summer.

Spur Path to Mt. Tom

The spur to reach Mt. Tom is a quick 0.6 miles and nothing steep. There were MANY Gray Jay’s, more than I’ve ever seen at one time. On the way back down the spur path Alyssa and I decided to do a little game of “chase the elf”, apparently I’m an elf. Alter ego? I vote yes.

Next it was time to head toward Field and then Willey via the A-Z and Willey Range Trails. There are some hikes where more conversation is had with hiking buddies, and some where there is a lot of silence throughout the day. Christmas was a quieter day, and I used the time in the quiet woods to allow whatever wanted to come up to come up.

One thing that came up was how the different parts of my being find their “home” so to speak in different areas or during different activities. For example, my competitive/ex-competitive athlete side thrives in a gym setting (which I have to wrangle on occasion), my creative self thrives writing/painting/during solo dance parties in my apartment/during deep conversations/joyful movement, my intellectual (and neuroscience background) side really digs learning and being a mega-nerd on the science and the WHY, my intuitive side lives off synchronicities, and my soul lives off being in the mountains.

There are obviously other “self ingredients”, but these are ones I was pondering as I walked.

Looking into the Notch from Willey summit

The trail to Field is a “casual” climb and between Field and Willey is a bunch of rolling terrain, ups and downs.

I recalled a few areas between the peaks that offer some views, and the views on Christmas did not disappoint. Honestly they never disappoint, even when it’s dense fog, it’s still beautiful.

Somewhere along the Willey Range Trail
Somewhere else along the Willey Range Trail

We didn’t stay on any of the summits for too long, 5-10 minutes I’d say. I love hanging out at summits in the warmer months and sprawling myself out on a rock, but in winter I tend to get chilly rather quickly. While I do have a decent set up from a gear perspective, I’m slowly adding to my collection of *extra* warm layers and especially mittens with now working in the outdoor industry part-time (which is low-key dangerous for my wallet).

After summiting Willey, the trek out was just following the same path back. The trails were overall in good condition, some blow downs which are always fun to crawl under/over and you kind of feel like a kid again. We considered adding on Avalon (which really isn’t adding because it’s actually slightly less mileage to take that route out), but opted not to on this particular day. The steeper sections coming down were fun to run down and then challenge yourself to slow back down again, because momentum and gravity are totally a thing.

Staring down Washington from Willey

All in all, it was a wonderful day with great weather and stellar company. I’m giddy to have now hiked these three mountains in the Winter and to see the differences between snow covered vs. rocks and roots for these trails. The more I Winter hike, the more I fall in love with it.

Cheers to many Christmas hikes to come!

“We stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” ― Herman Hesse