Shenandoah Sunset Picnic

For our 2nd anniversary, Jon and I wanted to do something simple and fun to celebrate.  Since our anniversary was on a Tuesday, we couldn’t camp and were limited to after work hours.  We decided to head out to Shenandoah National Park for a picnic at sunset and it was the perfect anniversary date!

The weather cleared during the afternoon and we arrived at Signal Knob overlook, in the northern section of the park, just as the sun was beginning to sink toward the horizon.  We had a few minutes to eat before the actual sunset, which was great. Be sure to look up the sunset time before heading out and leave yourself a good hour to picnic beforehand.  You want to be sure to allot time to relax and get geared up to see every stage of the sunset.

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I prepared a simple picnic supper to enjoy.  Even though we weren’t the only ones at the overlook for sunset, we definitely had the best spread. 🙂  Packing the picnic was easy (we had veggie pasta salad, garlic bread and tuscan bean salad) and it was delicious!  We also brought a bottle of white wine and our GoVino wine glasses (which are amazing).

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Even Penny enjoyed the sunset picnic!  I packed her dinner and she sniffed around while we enjoyed the scenery (although she was fairly preoccupied with the bear that was lumbering around the woods on the opposite side of Skyline Drive #allthesmells).  She barked at deer, soaked in the mountain air and slept like a baby the whole way home. 🙂

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Blue Ridge sunsets are truly special.  These old mountains pack a gorgeous glow in the last minutes of each day.

If you live near a park, farm, field or mountain, I encourage you to do your own sunset picnic!  It was the perfect, mid-week vacation to get out into nature and enjoy each other, away from the stress and distractions of daily life.  Jon even said he forgot it wasn’t the weekend! 😛

It’s hard to believe we have been married for 2 years; time does fly!  I would say this was a perfect date in both of our eyes and was the best way to celebrate of our anniversary.

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico

Jon and I spent a long weekend in Las Cruces, New Mexico in early November and it was fantastic!  We hiked, did some sight-seeing, beer tasted and ate the most delicious food!

Las Cruces is located about an hour from El Paso, Texas and sits right next to the Organ Mountains (they look like a giant pipe organ).  We woke up early Saturday morning and hit the trails in the foothills of the Organ Mountains.  We drove out of the town area and were able to find lots of trail heads around.  Many people were out running, mountain biking and hiking- the New Mexico lifestyle is to get outside and enjoy the activities the outdoors have to offer!  Las Cruces is a small town, so the natural playground is it’s best attraction!

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Jon and I hiked in on a trail and quickly found ourselves “off-trail.”  Since the brush is not super dense, you can really hike wherever you want.  Just be careful to not step on a rattlesnake taking a sun bath!  We got lucky and did not meet anything larger than a butterfly- phew!

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We loved adventuring together and exploring a new place.

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This trip was perfect timing for a kindergarten teacher- I had just finished the first quarter and loved using my extra-long, election day weekend to get out of my comfort zone and routine!

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The variety of mountain views we see in this country is really astounding.  Jon and I are so appreciative of our opportunities to travel and hike in new places.

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Here is the butterfly we saw- it was so beautiful!  We also saw some cool flying beetles and lots of cacti!  I was loving the desert flora!

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After our hike, we went back to the hotel to get cleaned up and explore Old Mesilla.  This small town features old Southwest architecture and great local shopping.  We bought some local pecans (yum) and spices.  We also rocked our new cowboy boots that we had bought the night before in El Paso…we had to dress the part!

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We tried out the Spotted Dog Brewery in Mesilla and really enjoyed it!  It had a very laid-back and local vibe.  It was small and had great beers.

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Spending time with this guy was such a blessing.  After a crazy fall at work we seriously enjoyed our adventure together!

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Another brewery we went to is the Pecan Grill and Brewery.  This was a cool spot and we tasted the most amazing Pecan Beer there!  It was SO good that we packed a six-pack in our checked luggage.  I’ve never had a better pecan beer (it tastes like pecan pie but isn’t sweet).  I was in heaven!

We ate dinner at all of our favorite restaurants in Las Cruces: Si Senor, Habanero’s, and Andele.  We ate New Mexican food every night and were in heaven!  Jon loves the salsa bars most restaurants offer (#sauceman) and I had chili relleno every night (Habanero’s had my favorite version).

Here is Jon with his favorite food in Las Cruces- Habanero’s “Macho Chimichanga!”  This dish fed both of us and we had left overs…oh my.  It was so delicious!  One thing to know about New Mexico style food is that it is seriously spicy!  Even when you get something with mild salsa, the peppers are hot!  I made sure to order mild everything to save myself from too much heat; on the other hand, Jon was in spicy heaven!

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After dinner we headed to watch the sunset.  Unlike a normal sunset, you watch the sunset in reverse in Las Cruces.  Instead of watching the sun dip below the horizon (which you can do…) you watch the sun’s reflection on the Organ Mountains.  It turns the red rock every shade of pink and purple- so beautiful!

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While this was the end of our time in Las Cruces, be sure to check out our posts about Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands National Monument to read about the other places we visited during our New Mexico weekend!  New Mexico is seriously beautiful and the food is to die for; we’ll definitely be back sometime soon!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Denver Weekend

Back in September of 2016, Jon and I flew to Denver for a long weekend.  We visited family (my younger brother) and dear friends.  It was a fantastic weekend that I am finally getting to document #thankstoteachersummer.

We kicked off our weekend bright and early Friday morning (we flew in late Thursday night) by exploring downtown Denver and visiting the flagship REI store.  This was a perfect way to begin our weekend out West!

If you haven’t visited this store- do it!  The outside space is just as incredible as the inside.  The store is designed to help you to not only see all the gear REI sells, but to try it out!  They have a mountain-biking track set up, a rock wall and they even use the river to test kayaking gear (crazy)!  Talk about try before you buy…it was really cool!  Since it was a quiet morning, we spent a good amount of time browsing and exploring the store (which felt more like an outdoor gear museum).  We ended up buying a new pack and used it on our hike the next day.  It is our new favorite day pack, for sure!IMG_0229

After shopping, we headed to lunch at the Denver Beer Company.  The indoor/outdoor feel was perfect for a fall afternoon.  We enjoyed some beers and food from the food truck.  Can’t beat that!IMG_0231

That night we headed out to a Colorado Rockies game.  We met up with Davis (my brother who lives in the city) and Alison and Todd (our dear friends from Maryland).  The game was a blast and we enjoyed cheering for the home team (Go Rockies)!

The next morning, we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park for a hike.  You can find my post about that adventure here.

After hiking all morning, we headed to Avery Brewing Company, in Boulder.  It was the perfect, Denver weather to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine.  I LOVE visiting Avery.  It’s a brewery that our friends highly recommended and they did not steer us wrong.  We loved the atmosphere.  I also had my favorite beer (perhaps of all time); their Fall Day IPA.  If you haven’t tried it: it is a nice IPA with just a hint of pine…it was refreshing and so delicious.  I always love a good, creative twist on seasonal beers, and this is a good one!

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Clearly I was in my happy place- beautiful weather, outdoor patio and delicious beer!  Not to mention great company. 🙂

Another great spot we visited while in Denver was the Denver Biscuit Company (another recommendation from Alison and Todd, they never steered us wrong).  We went to breakfast there, but trust me, you could eat these biscuits for any meal- they are unreal!  I took a picture of Jon’s insane biscuit sandwich and, yes, that is gravy…it was SO good!  If you are in town, you have to go.  And if there’s a wait, it’s worth it!

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Our last experience in Denver was visiting the Leopold Bros. Distillery.  This was another awesome place!  On your tour you get to hear all about the company and how they got to Denver, learn about the distilling process and tour the distillery (which was very interesting) and, of course, taste!  We enjoyed this tour so much and felt like we learned a lot, as well.  It would be a great stop for a happy hour tour.

Here’s Jon testing out the mash…don’t worry, touching was allowed and he wasn’t, “fouling the tank!”

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Here’s our tasting- they have such a variety of liquors.  There’s truly something for everyone (even people who don’t love liquor, like me)!

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Here’s our group enjoying the afternoon at the distillery.  (Sorry for the terrible photo quality!)

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Special thanks to our amazing hosts, Davis, Alison and Todd, for a great weekend out West!  We try to get out to Denver every year and love visiting with them.  We will have to schedule our next trip out soon!

Happy Trails,

K, J and P

Christmas Card 2016

Both Jon and I are serious lovers of the Christmas season and Christmas cards are one tradition we look forward to sharing with our loved ones each year.  Although this post is less about a life-enriching experience on the trail, we figured our friends and family would get a kick out of hearing how our Christmas card came to be.  When Penny’s involved, there’s usually a good story.

We wanted to feature Penny this year, since she is the new addition to our family, or “pack” (as we think she would call it).  That being said, I started dreaming of our perfect family photo in August.  I had Pinterest-inspired outfits picked out, poses planned and the perfect setting- the park across the street from us that we frequently run through.  Jon went along with the plans very graciously (pretty sure I drove him crazy).  The one thing I was nervous about, was getting Penny to look at the camera for the self-timer (I was not about to invite any one else into my crazy, dog-mama plans to take the photos, insert blushing emoji here).

Our photo shoot took place on a beautiful Sunday and we had to take 3 rounds of photos.  When I say rounds, I mean we went out to the park and back home 3 times (good thing we live close).  Every time we thought we had some good shots we would realize this or that and find an excuse why that one just wouldn’t work.  Jon and I are both perfectionists and, unfortunately, this was one of those times where we totally egged each other on.  I think both of us wanted to capture a nice picture of the two of us (because let’s be honest, I am not sending out a bad picture of the humans) but also wanted to capture Penny’s personality.  And this girl has lots of personality.  The photo we ended up choosing completely captures her sass and sweetness all at once.  And we love her for all of it!

The last outing, Penny really got into her element.  We ended up parking near some trees.  Penny quickly sniffed out some squirrels and began howling.  It was that instant that I demanded Jon put the camera down and start clicking.  I am so glad I did!  (Side note, Jon discovered the remote app for our Sony a6000, which worked much better than self-timer.  Can’t wait to take advantage of that more often!)   The pictures we captured are hilarious and truly reflect Penny in all her glory.  She is a great squirrel-huntress and that should be celebrated, right!?  We adore our coonie and wouldn’t trade her crazy hound behavior for anything.  Enjoy!

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Rocking her “Elvis Lip”
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All of this picture-taking is making me sleepy!

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Jon was not yet sold, at this point…but Penny is clearly in her element!

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We hope you enjoyed these out-takes as much as we enjoyed the process!

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

K, J and P

Penny’s Portrait

Recently a friend reached out on Facebook to let me know about an artist who was looking for coonhounds to illustrate.  Well, I quickly jumped at the opportunity and sent in some of our favorite glamour shots of Penny as inspiration.  A few weeks later, we received this gorgeous illustration of our happy girl!

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Isn’t she just the prettiest hound you’ve ever seen (perhaps I’m biased)?!  To think, this sweet girl was underweight, living outside, chained to a crate and listed on Craigslist to be given away just a little over a year ago is crazy.  She is such a huge part of our family and seriously has the best personality.   This illustration is such juxtaposition to that time in her life- she’s healthy and being featured as the happy girl she is, through and through!

Although I could go on and on about Penny, the true star in this story is the talented artist behind the Art of Coonhound, VieiraGirl.  If you would like an adorable illustration of your pet, feel free to contact her via her Etsy store and follow her on Instagram @vieiragirl.  She loves illustrating all dogs and you can even print your pup’s picture on cards, clothes, phone cases, etc.  How fun is that?!  It would make a great gift for any dog-lover.

Thanks again for the beautiful illustration, VieiraGirl!

K, J and P

Favorite Part

Our family has created a tradition, of sorts, when we are on trips.  At the end of each day we ask each other, “What was your favorite part?”  This simple question has come to be one of my favorite parts of the day when we hike, camp or go on a trip.

Although our approach to answering this question differs, Jon and I love re-capping the day’s adventures around the campfire or in the tent just before we fall asleep.  Usually I ask Jon the question and he begins rambling off a long list of his “favorites,” not exactly pinpointing a favorite but highlighting every moment of the day to be captured in our memories.  I am, usually, much more judgmental of the moments and can pick one highlight that was my “favorite part of day.”  Sometimes a certain view is the favorite, a meal or an animal spotting.  Other times a certain flower in bloom wins or the weather.  We also challenge friends and family who join us to choose a favorite part- this can be really fun(ny)!

When it’s all said and done, this small tradition makes a lasting impression on my memory of our experiences. Reflecting on the day’s many gifts is important because many times our days are so jam-packed with amazing views and adventures, it’s easy to overlook some of the most simple joys.  Shouldn’t every day have a favorite part?!

Happy Trails,

K, J & P