It only took me 16 days… 2015 Recap and 2016 Goals!

This morning it was my turn to take Piper out.  Usually I have no trouble falling back to sleep after our chilly 7AM tour around the yard, but today I felt especially awake and decided to catch up on some long overdue blog reading.  I scrolled through my WordPress “Reader” for nearly an hour and thoroughly enjoyed reviewing the many year end recaps and ambitious 2016 resolution posts that bloggers I follow wrote 2+ weeks ago.

All of this inspirational reading served to remind me that I’ve been terrible about updating my blog lately.  I’m not sure why that is,* but whatever the case, I’m not going to beat myself up about it.  The whole point of my blog is to document the races, foods, trips and other events that I’m enjoying and if nothing “blog-worthy” happens for a few weeks, so be it!

(*OK, I’ll confess: My recent lack of posts is almost certainly because we’re binge-watching Sons of Anarchy.  It’s so riveting that I can’t multi-task and blog while watching it!)

Although it’s January 16th, my morning reading has inspired me to offer my own 2015 wrap up and 2016 goals.  Without further ado, here I go!

2015 was the year of the mini-vacation.  Matt and I traveled to 10 states and spent 28 nights away from home.  Piper joined us on several trips and spent the other nights slumber-partying at my mom’s house with her best friend, Hershey the Chocolate Lab.  Matt and I primarily traveled within driving distance, but also flew to Vegas for work at the beginning of the year and then to California for an epic drive up the Pacific Coast Highway in October.

Since 2015 marked another year of my ongoing mile-a-day streak, I began nearly all of my out-of-town mornings with a run.  This was a great way to feel good on vacation AND get a feel for my surroundings, regardless of whether I was in a big city, little town, or remote forest.  In 2015 I ran in places as diverse as Las Vegas (NV), Cape Charles (VA), Bethany Beach (DE), Avon-by-the-Sea (NJ), Skaneateles (NY), Promised Land (PA), Dorset (VT), and Carmel (CA).

When I wasn’t traveling, it seems like most weekends were spent racing.  In 2015 I completed 27 races and earned 7 new personal best times (1-2M, 2-5K, 1-5M, 2-10K, 1-10M).  The year finished surprisingly strong with 3 PRs in a row at 3 different distances.  I guess I did something right in 2015?!

And about that streak… I’ve now been running, hiking, or otherwise moving my body a mile a day every day since July 2013. My daily miles are now a completely routine part of my life and are just something I do, like eating or brushing my teeth.  As of today, I’ve been streaking for 930 days and 4,380.5 miles with no plans to stop anytime soon.

Looking ahead to 2016, I hope to continue many of the same habits, including trying to pack as many mini-getaways into our busy lives as possible.  Matt and I already have a weekend trip to Sedona, AZ planned (I am SO EXCITED!!) and I wouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves in California, Kentucky and multiple states on the east coast at some point later this year.

One thing that will be changing for 2016 will be my total number of races.  I’m not opposed to racing 25+ times in a year, but I know I’m going to miss at least 7 of the races I enjoyed last year due to scheduling conflicts. (For example, my brother decided to get married the night before the Broad Street Run!! But I forgive him. 😀)  I’ll also miss the Athlete’s Closet Winter Series this year as the series was cancelled.  Oh well!  Racing is fun but isn’t everything… maybe I can use that time to get some extra miles in with Piper!

Running with Piper is one of my biggest goals for 2016.  She was too young to really do many pavement miles last year, plus she pulled on the leash like a maniac which made runs much less pleasant than they should have been.  In late December I finally broke down and bought her a “Gentle Leader” head collar to put an end to her pulling and so far it has worked wonders.  We still have lots of training to do, but I look forward to lots of happy runs with my little GSP this year.

My final goal for 2016 is a simple one… improve my CORE STRENGTH!  In 2015 I did exactly zero strength work, but I’m fully aware that if my abs and arms are stronger I will be a better runner, even if I don’t change a thing about how I actually train to run.

Fortunately for me, core strengthening is a goal that I can absolutely accomplish from the comfort of my living room floor while watching Sons of Anarchy.   Otherwise core strength, like my nonexistent blog posts, might never happen!

2016 Resolutions:

  1. Don’t stress out about not blogging regularly. I blog for fun and want to keep it that way.
  2. Take lots of trips with Matt (and Piper) whenever possible!
  3. Teach Piper to run with me.
  4. Improve my core strength. (Bonus goal: Teach Piper that she’s not actually helping when she licks my face during a plank!!)

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Piper resolves not to dig in my garden in 2016…

08 Piper

JUST KIDDING!!! 😄

 

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Road Tripping up California’s Pacific Coast

Last week Matt and I road-tripped up the Pacific Coast Highway from L.A. to San Francisco. This 660 mile journey took us along some of the most beautiful coastline I have ever seen and included stops at several parks, landmarks, and California towns. Here’s a photo-heavy recap of our 5 days in California… enjoy!

Chino Hills State Park

We flew into LA-Ontario airport on Thursday, picked up a Mustang convertible, and made a beeline for the nearest In-N-Out Burger. I had never been to one and the (very patient) guy at the drive-thru was kind enough to explain all of the crazy ordering lingo. Thanks, In-N-Out guy! Next, we set off for a hike at Chino Hills State Park. This park was nearly empty (it was a Thursday, after all) and we enjoyed the sweeping vistas of Southern California from the top of Upper Bane Ridge Trail.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery (San Simeon)

105 Seals at play

Matt and I worked on Friday and then resumed our road trip that evening. By Saturday morning we were cruising up Highway 1, aka the Pacific Coast Highway. Our first official sightseeing stop was just north of San Simeon to see the Elephant Seal Rookery. I knew we’d see seals here but I didn’t realize that there would be hundreds of them flopped all over the beach! Some were splashing around in the water, others were fighting/playing on the sand, and most were just passed out in piles. Very cool!

Limekiln State Park (Big Sur)

337 Limekiln Falls

We continued up Highway 1 to Limekiln State Park. Like most (all?) CA state parks, you have to pay an entry fee (this is not the norm in PA), but the hiking, redwood forest, and waterfall made this stop well worth the $10 we paid to visit!

Big Sur Coastline

463 PCH

North of Limekiln the views really got amazing. (They seemed very nice before Limekiln… I just had no idea what was ahead!) The road started climbing and twisting along the steep cliffs and we were presented with breathtaking coastal views at every turn. All through Big Sur there are gravel turnouts near all of the good views, so we happily spent the afternoon pulling over every few miles to snap more photos.

Bixby Bridge (Big Sur)

505 Bixby Bridge

We stayed in Carmel-by-the-Sea on Saturday night and then returned south to Big Sur for more sightseeing on Sunday. We started at Bixby Bridge, a concrete, single-span bridge built by the CCC in 1932. Bixby is one of the most photographed spots along the Pacific Coast Highway and the turnout on the north end of the bridge was packed with tourists snapping photos.

After taking some photos of the bridge from Highway 1, we left the Mustang behind and hiked 1/2 mile up Coast Road, a rough dirt road that roughly parallels the highway. From Coast Road we got to see a different angle of Bixby Bridge and had the view completely to ourselves.

564 Bixby Bridge from Old Coast Road

Partington Cove (Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP, Big Sur)

Partington Cove from above

Next up was Partington Cove, a beautiful rocky beach at the bottom of a steep canyon. We parked in an unmarked turnout on the highway and hiked down to the Pacific on a wide gravel path. Although there were several hikers enjoying the scenery this area felt much more private and serene than the busy Bixby Bridge.

610 Matt at Partington Cove

We sat and watched the waves crash against the rocks for a while, then took a side trail to a little waterfall. I didn’t want to cross the creek on the wet rocks so Matt took the camera across and got a good shot of the waterfall. (He’s very proud of this photo so I have to include it in my recap of Partington!!) 😄

McWay Falls (Julia Pfeiffer Burns SP, Big Sur)

After Partington we were getting really hungry… it was nearly noon and, due to a freak power outage in the entire Monterey peninsula on Sunday, we hadn’t had a real breakfast or any coffee. Ignoring our grumbling stomachs, we pushed on to the famous McWay Falls, an iconic waterfall 2 miles south of Partington.

711 McWay Falls

The waterfall was in the shade and therefore wasn’t quite as breathtaking as I’m sure it looks in afternoon sun, but the views from the trail were excellent. We hiked to the remains of the “Waterfall House,” a mansion that was donated to the state along with the surrounding land for use as a state park. The state could not find a public use for the house so demolished it in accordance with the donor’s wishes. We stood on the terrace of the house and took in the views that the previous owners would have had from their living room… not bad!!

Pebble Beach (17 Mile Drive, Monterey Peninsula)

After McWay we enjoyed a laid back, lazy lunch of nachos, beer and sandwiches at the Big Sur Taphouse. This was a great way to unwind after a busy morning of sightseeing and recharged us for our next stop… Pebble Beach!

797 Lone Cypress, Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach is a gated golf community just north of Carmel. We paid a $10 entry fee and drove along 17-Mile Drive, a scenic road that passes several landmarks and overlooks. After driving around Big Sur for free all morning, it seemed a bit silly to pay a corporation to see their coastline… but I immediately forgot all about that the moment the water came into view. We drove by gorgeous sandy beaches, rocky points, and, most notably, the famous Lone Cypress (above). Now I see why everyone told us we had to visit 17-Mile Drive!

After a day of sightseeing we somehow found the energy to go wine tasting in Carmel on Sunday evening. My favorite tasting room was De Tierra Vineyards. Matt and I sipped wine at a wine barrel table by an open window, discussing our favorite parts of the trip and looking forward to continuing the journey up Highway 1 on Monday.

Carmel to San Francisco

2560 Made it to the Golden Gate Bridge!

Monday morning we had a hearty breakfast at From Scratch in Carmel, then we drove through Monterey on our way north. We made quick stops in Santa Cruz and at several beaches and lookout points and finally arrived in San Francisco at around 4:30PM.

I had never seen the Golden Gate Bridge before so I was excited to finally glimpse its red towers in the distance. With all of the other trip planning I never actually researched where we needed to go to see the bridge, but as luck would have it we happened to turn right into the parking lot for the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. We hiked down to the beach and were rewarded with amazing views of the bridge… what a great way to end our California road trip!

939 Golden Gate Bridge

We spent Monday night at Fisherman’s Wharf and took a 6AM flight home the next day. Reading over this post I can’t believe how much we saw in such a short time! The California coast is truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited and I can’t wait to go back!!

Want to see MORE photos of our journey up the coast? Check out my full photo album on Flickr.

Lye Brook Falls (Manchester, Vermont)

047 Lye Brook Falls

During the last weekend of September (aka “Pope Weekend” for anyone in the Philadelphia area) Matt and I headed north to the picturesque town of Dorset, Vermont for a wedding. After a smooth 5 1/2 hour drive we arrived in neighboring Manchester at 1PM on Friday, eager to do some New England hiking before going into party mode.

We ended up doing two hikes during our short stay in southwestern Vermont. I highly recommend both if you’re in the area and feel like exploring.  Just make sure to bring good hiking shoes and a camera! This post covers Friday’s hike. Info on Saturday’s climb to Gilbert Lookout in Dorset will be posted soon!

Lye Brook Falls Hike

Trailhead: Lye Brook Falls Service Road, Manchester, Vermont (Google Maps Location)
Distance: 4.6-ish miles round trip
Trail Map: U.S. Forest Service Lye Brooks Falls Guide [PDF]
Terrain: Rocky out-and-back; gradual uphill out and downhill back
Highlight: 125 ft. high Lye Brook Falls, one of Vermont’s tallest waterfalls

I first learned about Lye Brook Falls from the US Forest Service web site. Here’s how they describe the hike:

The trail, marked with blue blazes, enters the 15,680-acre Lye Brook Wilderness following along Lye Brook. Utilizing old logging railroad grades and old woods roads, the trail travels up a steady gradual slope. Downed trees from a 1995 cyclonic storm and a few small stream crossings make some of the trail challenging, which is in keeping with Wilderness management practices. A century ago, this area had been heavily logged, with railroads, charcoal kilns, and sawmills dotting the landscape. The land has reverted back to its natural state, but those wishing to explore can still find the remains of many of these turn of the century industries. The spur trail at 1.8 miles on the right, leads to the 125-foot high Lye Brook Falls, one of the highest in Vermont. Slippery rocks make the falls extremely dangerous and climbing the falls is not recommended.

Sounds cool, right? It was! The Lye Brook Falls trail is just a short drive from the factory outlets in Manchester but (thankfully) you immediately feel like you’re in another world. The trail is well marked and the sounds of the Rt. 7 highway quickly fade away and are replaced by the babbling of Lye Brook and forest noises. (Namely chipmunks… those guys are LOUD!!) 😀

Be forewarned that the trail is extremely rocky in some areas, so good shoes are a must. The view at the falls makes all of the uneven terrain totally worth it though!

Vermont has been having a major drought so Lye Brook Falls didn’t feature a ton of rushing water, but the sheer height of the falls was very impressive. The rocks just kept going up and up and up!! When we got to the falls we initially climbed down to the bottom, but the falls were so tall that it was hard to actually see the top from way down there. We returned to the trail and climbed up for a ways which gave us a much clearer view of the waterfall. It was beautiful!

After our hike we returned back to civilization, checked into our B&B and met up with a big group of wedding guests for a late-night welcoming party. It was a great first day in Vermont!

049 Lye Brook Falls

Weekend Getaway to Skaneateles, NY

Matt and I have been having a great summer so far, with lots of long weekend vacations including the Hunting Camp, Bethany Beach, and a 4th of July celebration on the Jersey shore. We still have a few trips ahead of us, including the Poconos and Vermont in September and a combined business/pleasure trip to California in October. (We’ll be driving up the Pacific Coast Highway in a convertible… I’m SO excited!!)

339 Bonfire by the lake

Our most recent weekend getaway took us to the gorgeous Finger Lake region of New York. We stayed with my brother and his fiance’s family at their house on Skaneateles Lake. I hadn’t been to the Finger Lakes before this and wow… I never knew what I was missing!! The views were breathtaking, the water was crystal clear, and the whole area had a relaxing, laid back vibe that was perfect for a mini vacation.

273 Piper waiting patiently for me to throw the stick

Piper is now a total water-loving fiend, so naturally she came along with us and spent hours in the lake. The water was so clear that I could stand knee-deep and still read the logo on my shoes. Unreal!! In fact, the water was SO clear that I actually went swimming… a rarity for this “dark-water” fearing girl!

The house that we stayed in was built in the 1890s. It was floor-to-ceiling dark, varnished hardwood and featured a wraparound porch, 9+ bedrooms, a huge kitchen, and, of course, amazing lake views out of nearly every window.

The sides of Skaneateles Lake are very steep so in order to get down to the house and lake front we drove straight down a half-mile long cliff driveway. This made for a fun start to my run on Saturday morning!! A creek bisects the property as it tumbles down from the main road to the lake. My brother, his future father-in-law and I followed the creek’s course up to the road and scaled several waterfalls in the process. The water was perfectly clear and I loved how it slid effortlessly over the shale rock formations on its way down to the lake below.

There were six dogs at Skaneateles including Piper. We tried to get Piper to follow the yellow Labs as they confidently jumped off the dock but she wasn’t so sure she wanted to take the leap. Instead, Piper entertained herself by retrieving EVERY SINGLE STICK we could find on the edge of the lake. After paddling each stick safely to shore Piper would proceed to chew it up until it was unrecognizable. (Unfortunately she also found the S’mores stick stockpile and chewed those to smithereens… oh well, she was on vacation!!)

In addition to fun at the lake and house, we also visited the local winery two (two!) times and had dinner in the cute little town of Skaneateles, New York. Our hosts recommended that we stop by Doug’s Fish Fry for dinner and they were spot on… best fried fish sandwich I’ve ever had!! I was too busy stuffing my face to take a photo, sorry. 😆

We wrapped up each night with a big bonfire by the lake. The weather was pleasantly cool and breezy and the views of the full “blue” moon were ridiculous. We sat by the fire as this moon rose up over the horizon… I sure was happy that I still happened to have my camera on me!

Matt, Piper and I thoroughly enjoyed our weekend at Skaneateles Lake. Thank you to our hosts and hopefully we’ll get to return next summer! I know Piper has certainly spent many happy nights dreaming about sticks and blue water ever since… 😄
131 Piper galloping thru the water

 

The Hunting Camp, 2015 Edition

912 Piper on the ATV

Last weekend Matt, Piper and I took a mini vacation in the central Pennsylvania wilderness. We stayed at Globe Run Rod and Gun Club – fondly referred to in my family as simply “The Hunting Camp” – for our seventh year of outdoor fun. 😄

I’ve blogged about our Hunting Camp adventures in previous years so feel free to check those posts out for more background (2013, 2014). For this year’s recap, I’m going to summarize the Hunting Camp in “Five Things Friday” style.

Five Things we enjoyed at the Hunting Camp in 2015

1. SWIMMING

Matt and I were excited to discover that Piper LOVES water!! She paddled around the lake with my brother’s German Shepherd, Lady, and even swam WAY out into the lake with Hershey to flush a flock of geese. (I don’t think Piper knew what was going on until the geese actually took off!)

I’m not a fan of swimming in “dark water” but it sure was fun to watch Piper take the plunge!

2. BOURBON

I don’t know anything about bourbon so for fun we had a bourbon tasting on Friday night. Our family members each brought various bourbons (we ended up with 11 bottles!) and it was fun to try them all. The verdict? Basil Hayden was my favorite (probably because it had the lowest alcohol content), but ultimately I think I’ll take a glass of wine over a bourbon any day!

3. HIKING

There are miles of wooded trails at the Hunting Camp and the adjacent Rothrock State Forest. Every day we took at least one hike with the dogs and on Saturday morning I ventured out on a solo 6 mile run in the state forest. My brother saw a black bear at camp just before Matt and I arrived on Thursday, so naturally I spent the whole run worrying about what I would do if a bear appeared around the next bend. (Run the other way? Make a lot of noise??) Luckily the largest animal I saw on my run was a squirrel so I was OK.

4. FOOD

Matt and I were in charge of dinner on Friday night and we had fun with it. We made BBQ baby-back ribs, panzanella, potato salad, cornbread, and strawberry-rhubarb crisp. YUM! The other days we feasted on sausages, burgers, hot dogs, shepherd’s pie, and lots of chips and guacamole. Good thing we did so much hiking! 😃

5. RELAXING

One of the best activities at the hunting camp involves no activity at all.  The huge rocking chair-lined wraparound porch is the perfect spot to relax with a book (or Kindle or iPad). The porch is also a great place to watch the dogs (all four of them!) who spent hours in the yard wrestling, playing chase, and chewing on sticks. By Saturday afternoon the dogs were exhausted!!

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After three days of fun we drove home late Saturday night with a very tired, very happy Piper.  We all had a great time and can’t wait until next year!

367 Piper in a clearing copy

 

Whirlwind Spring Recap

Matt and I have been going non-stop this Spring with yard work, running, family gatherings, weddings and work trips.  As a result, I’ve been pretty bad about blogging (I need to use our rare down time to relax!!).  Nevertheless, I do want to share what we’ve been up to so I’ll attempt to use this post as a catch-all recap of our Spring…

After returning home from California in mid-April, we spent a weekend in New Jersey to celebrate the marriage of two of our college friends, then I raced three weekends in a row (Rick’s, St. Tim’s, and Elwyn) before we embarked on another work trip, this time to Baltimore.  We were in Baltimore for three days and got in some good meals and two nice runs around the Inner Harbor (which is beautiful!!).

After Baltimore we were home for a few weeks during which I ran three more races (Victory, Rocky Run, and Radnor).  We also celebrated Mother’s Day, my mom’s and brother’s birthdays, and Memorial Day, AND started on a major home landscaping project… ripping out and replanting all of the overgrown shrubs along our front walk (more on that in a future post!).  For my mom’s birthday I did a photo shoot of her on her new horse and then Matt and I had my mom and stepfather over for a fancy dinner of grilled salmon and avocado with roasted corn relish and Mexican rice pilaf.  (And don’t worry, that recipe will be up on the blog soon!!).  🙂

After Memorial Day we had the pleasure of taking care of Matt’s parents’ German Shorthair, Bella, for a few weeks.  Bella patiently watched us dig up stumps in the front yard (fun!), went running with me at Ridley Creek State Park, and, best of all, got to come with us to the Hunting Camp where she got to experience the central PA wilderness.  We were at the Hunting Camp for 3 days, during which we hiked and ran over 20 miles.  Matt and I also made a big taco dinner for everyone on Saturday night but we were too busy cooking and eating to take photos of the food, sorry!

Matt and I left the Hunting Camp late Saturday night so that we’d be home for our first wedding anniversary on Sunday.  We celebrated by sleeping in, doing some yard work, then spending the afternoon wine tasting at our wedding venue, Sweetwater Farm and Grace Winery.  The winery recently started hosting dog-friendly tastings so Bella came along and happily flopped on the ground between our chairs as we sipped our wine.  After the tasting we had dinner at La Porta, our favorite local restaurant, and then returned home to — you guessed it — MORE yard work!  🙂  Good thing we both like hauling rocks, compost, and stumps around!

The Tuesday after our anniversary we headed out of town again, this time for a work-related trip to a nuclear power plant to do a nighttime lighting demonstration.  It was a productive visit but between the Hunting Camp (4 hours away) and nuclear power plant (5 1/2 hours away) it meant that we spent close to 20 hours in the car in less than a weeks’ time.  And the road trips weren’t quite over yet…

On Saturday we were on the road again, this time to Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey for another fantastic wedding celebration.  The weather was perfect and we spent the night in Asbury Park right next to the boardwalk and the beach.  I loved waking up to the view of the beach and sand right outside our window.  New Jersey is pretty nice!

That’s about it for my whirlwind Spring recap.  Now that our travels are done (until 4th of July, at least), I’m hoping that we might have a little more time to kick back and relax.  First I need to make it through the Media 5 Mile race on Friday night!  🙂

How’s your Spring going so far?  Has it been busy or relaxing?

A Weekend in Wine Country

As promised, here’s a review of the weekend that Matt and I enjoyed in California’s Temecula wine country earlier this month!  I’ll pick up where I left off in my last post – Las Vegas, NV.

On Friday afternoon Matt and I finished up our work week at the Sands Convention Center around 5PM.  We picked up a rental car at the airport and set out on a 4 hour drive over the mountains and through the Mojave Desert to Temecula, California.  The sunset was beautiful!!

We arrived at Ponte Vineyard Inn in what felt like the middle of the night and went to sleep immediately, oblivious to our surroundings.  (Between the long week in Vegas and still sort of being on East Coast time, we were exhausted!)  It wasn’t until I woke up early the next morning and peeked out the window that I realized we had arrived in a beautiful fantasy land of vineyards, sweeping vistas, and gorgeous weather.  I snapped this photo through a crack in the drapes before going back to sleep for an hour to dream about wine and hot air balloons.  🙂

4 View out our window Saturday morning

Matt and I officially began our first day in Temecula with a 3 mile run that took us past 4 wineries, orange groves, and a horse farm.  Then we set out by car to Mount Palomar Winery where we feasted on an outdoor lunch at Shorty’s Bistro before enjoying a leisurely 6-wine tasting in Mount Palomar’s relaxing, flower-filled courtyard.  True to its name, Mount Palomar is situated on a high hill with breathtaking views of wine country.  We wandered up to the terraced gardens and took a few photos – the blue California sky with perfect fluffy white clouds was unreal!

We next visited Wiens Family Cellars, which is conveniently located less than a quarter mile from Ponte Vineyard Inn.  (Which should have been an easy walk except I was in heels and it was a deep gravel road… good thing there was wine waiting for us at Wiens!!)  We did another 6-wine tasting at Wiens while snacking on cheese and crackers before trekking back to Ponte (where I promptly changed my shoes!).  Then it was time for our final tasting of the day at our ‘home’ winery, Ponte Family Estate.  We took our time working our way through Ponte’s selections (our favorite was their 2011 Zinfandel Holiday Reserve), then headed back to the room to relax (and blog about the Security 5K) before enjoying a late dinner at The Restaurant at Ponte.  All in all a great day!

On Sunday we visited Miramonte Winery.  Like Mount Palomar, Miramonte is up on a hill overlooking the vineyards and they had a beautiful outdoor space that encouraged relaxed, comfortable wine tasting.  The Miramonte bar tender served our Sangria with a little champagne and ice and we liked it so much we bought a bottle to bring back to Ponte with us.  Once we returned to Ponte we walked over to the other neighboring winery, South Coast, where we split a few glasses of wine over lunch.  Then we took a guided tour of Ponte’s vineyards, tasted some “young” wine straight out of a steel cask, and sampled a port wine that was still in the process of barrel aging.

All of that tasting and touring made us tired, so we settled down with our books (well, Kindle and iPad, to be exact) in Ponte Inn’s courtyard for some reading accompanied by Miramonte’s Sangria.  Reading, sunshine, and sangria made for a lovely afternoon but I have to admit that by the time we made it to our 8PM dinner at Ponte’s outdoor restaurant, I was super sleepy and just felt like drinking water!!

On Monday morning we said goodbye to Ponte paradise and headed back to the real world of business meetings.  Fortunately we finished up our meetings (and made it thru LA traffic) fairly quickly which gave us time to explore the area around our hotel in Irvine.  I did a quick web search and discovered that we were fairly close to Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, so we drove to the access point at Woods End Wilderness Preserve and set out on a hike on the rolling hills above Laguna Woods.

The weather was pleasantly hot (80°?) and we jogged a little before being startled by a loud noise on the side of the trail.  We stopped and discovered a huge orange rattlesnake casually sunning himself on the edge of the trail… eek! (I guess he thought 80° was pleasantly hot, too!!)  We gave him a wide berth and continued on our hike (keeping away from the trail’s sunny side), but I was a little freaked out so we didn’t make it much further before I voted to turn around and head carefully back to the car.

Tuesday marked the end of our west coast adventure.  After some meetings in the morning we headed to LAX (again, somehow managing to miss all LA traffic, which was awesome!) and returned home.  I always like arriving home after a long trip, but I have to say that California was pretty amazing.  Our weekend in Temecula wine country was completely relaxing with beautiful weather, good wine, and, of course, good company.  🙂  I thoroughly enjoyed our time there and I would go back in a heartbeat!