Having gotten quite outdoorsy in the past year or two, many of my friends ask if I've always been this adventurous, this on the go, this into hiking... and this list goes on... the answer is: not quite to this extreme but, yes, I've always had a passion for the outdoors. It all began when I was just a little critter and we would go on family camping trips to Allegany State Park, a New York State park about two hours south of Buffalo. I was so young/little that when my dad and brother failed to find crayfish in the creek, they stuck me in the bucket instead and proudly carried me back to camp exclaiming to my mom "we found a critter!"
Many of the New York State parks participate in the "First Day Hike" and I had previously discussed with my dad participating for our second consecutive year (who cares I don't live in New York). It just so happened I was at my not-so-favorite school one day, daydreaming about activities to do while home in Buffalo. I thought about how we always said we would go camping in the winter (PTSD to WTC Snow Camp anyone?!) but hadn't yet. A quick search on reserveamerica.com resulted in an unoccupied/unreserved cabin for New Year's Eve and New Year's Day: perfectly coinciding with the First Day Hike! It didn't take much convincing for both my mom and dad to agree to this plan. After all, what's better than bringing in the New Year surrounded by snow covered trees, starlight skies, and crackling campfires?
We headed down to Allegany State Park early New Year's Eve and arrived at our cabin on Summit Trail. Not ones to sit around and do nothing, my Dad and I ventured off to explore while my mom stayed at the cabin reading, relaxing, and knitting with the dogs. We drove all around the park checking out our favorite spots and investigating some of the new cabins and developments, such as the cabins near the Bova Ski Area. In addition to exploring, I was desperately craving some chicken wings as I had been in Buffalo for about a week and still hadn't ordered wings. Turns out my beloved Buffalo Bills' playoff hopes were still alive and well (who would've thought) so Dad and I drove over to a local watering hole to get my fix of chicken wings while watching the Bills game - really the best of both worlds. And while the Bills won and the wings were out-of-this-world delicious, whether the Bills made the playoffs all came down to the Bengals and Ravens game. Let's just say getting to the postseason was a special moment for ALL of Buffalo as it came via a miraculous last-minute victory by the Cincinnati Bengals to knock the Baltimore Ravens out of contention - thus securing the last spot for the Buffalo Bills - the first time we've made the playoffs since 2000. It still hurts to say that. I'm not sure how this turned into a post about football, oops! Buffalo celebrated the epic performance of Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals by donating thousands of dollars (upwards of $315,000 worth) to the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation and for me, a celebratory campfire.
We were up early Monday morning to celebrate the First Day of 2018 by going on a snow-covered hike from the Red House Picnic area along Red House Lake, out to the Arboretum and Butterfly Meadow, and finally to Camp Allegany where hot drinks and warm food were provided by Friends of Allegany State Park. As I looked up at the blue sky from the snow-covered path, I was able to take in the beauty of the snow flurries falling around me and reflected on 2017 and how to make 2018 another great year. 2017 brought me to so many places, I grew in so many ways, and I met so many amazing people. I thought to myself, how do I continue to develop myself to thrive in 2018 and thus set my intentions. While some goals are repeats for 2018 (52 Hike Challenge/Six Pack of Peaks), I have a whole new laundry list to work on checking off one month at a time. Spoiler alert: I didn't think it was possible for 2018 to "beat" 2017 but here we are on May 15th and it's been a heckuva year already!!
After the hike, mom headed for home while my dad and I called up my brother for him to head down to Ellicottville for some tubing fun at Holiday Valley Tubing Company. Lately, no visit to Ellicottville is complete without stops at the Winery of Ellicottville and Villago. Plus, this time it was for a belated birthday dinner! The surf and turf was mouthwatering good and everyone had a great time (always). Afterwards, it was time for another night of sleep on Summit Trail before heading for home in whiteout conditions that closed the Skyway... Gotta love a good Buffalo blizzard. Turns out my flight would be cancelled and my time in San Francisco visiting Jeannie and Hannah would be cut a bit short.
Not too worry, though, Jeannie, Hannah, and I still had the best time reuniting for the third (?) year in a row, this time in San Francisco. Despite the delays (and I might have changed my flight to ensure I would be back in LA to watch the first Bills playoff game in 18 years with my cousins), we still went to the wineries in Napa Valley, got sushi, and enjoyed each other's company and catching up. I need to take this opportunity to say CONGRATULATIONS to Jeannie for getting accepted to Medical School!!! While I'm so terribly sad she won't be in San Fran anymore, I am so ecstatic for her and can't wait to pop down to visit her at med school!!! “If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen.” Jeannie and I have the work hard part down!
And just like that, 2017 came to an end, winter break was over, and I returned to a very, very busy spring semester. But, most importantly, I've finally recapped the highlights of the year! Bring on 2018!!!