I’ve been in a weird mood for the beginning of 2018. I feel like it’s moving slowly and un-excitingly. One of the main things that I really look forward to every year is travelling and spending time hiking. This year in my new role at work, there will be big chunks of time where I will be working weekends and potentially holidays. With that in mind, I haven’t been able to plan many trips for this year yet. In an effort to cheer myself up, I’ve decided to reminisce on some of the best memories of 2017 (or at least the ones I have photos of).
I started 2017 finishing off a trip from 2016. Adam and I spent the New Year in Texas Hill Country hiking at Colorado Bend State Park and Enchanted Rock. These are some of the first photos I took in 2017.
In January of last year, I was finishing up my training for my first half marathon. If you read my Instagram post for this year’s half, you’ll know that I got injured two weeks before and ran a terrible and painful race. However, this race will always be my “first” half marathon and for that reason the excitement around the race expo and race day are still something to remember. More importantly, my mom, sister, Aunt Jennie, and cousins Jacob and Caleb all came down to visit me. While it was painful at the time to have known they came all that way to watch me run a disappointing race, it was still nice to spend time with my aunt and cousins who I only see about twice a year now.
Here are some photos of the race expo, Team Julia, and pre-race me. Look at that optimism. I had no idea how terrible it was going to go!
In February, I went on my first trip of the year. Adam and I have made it an annual tradition since moving to Houston, to go on one ski trip a year. For 2015 and 2016 we went to Breckenridge, CO. This year, we were planning on trying somewhere different but a group of Houston friends where all going to Breck and my best friend Evie lives in Denver and could join. It was a win-win situation. For this trip, we stayed at a big cabin out in the mountains. It was so cozy and scenic. One of the small memories I have from this trip was related to the house we stayed at having an elevation of 11,000 ft. Altitude sickness is a very odd sensation; nothing like falling asleep to a racing heart beat because you just walked up ONE flight of steps.
On the tail end of the trip, we spent a day actually exploring the city of Denver, with my best friend Evie. This was basically when I began to fall in love with the city of Denver and realized it’s probably my ideal place to live.
I like the last photo because both Evie and Adam were barely tall enough to see over the bar at the speakeasy. 😉
In February, my work BFF Paul moved into my apartment complex. He has a cat! The juxtaposition of my joy and the cat’s terror makes this the perfect photo.
The Houston CMU group also did a beach camping trip. We went to North Padre Island which is about 3 hours from Houston. This camping trip marks the first time I actually peed in the wilderness. All previous camping trips were close enough to campsite bathrooms. And look, I like camping, but this weekend was just too windy to be enjoyable. Very windy. So windy. Good for kites, I guess.
In March, one of my best college friends had her bachelorette party. For some reason, I was her maid of honor. After convincing her it was too expensive to ask people from all over the country to fly to Cabo, we landed on NYC. New York is very cold in March. Ooops!
Check out Hari, kneeling to get the perfect shot in the bottom left.
My parents made their annual Houston visit in March. We attended the Houston Rodeo, which if I’m honest, I think I’m tired of…all the food is really gross and I feel bad for the animals. But Texas!
In April, my family went on our annual family vacation to Belize. I feel pretty lucky that I’m part of a family that’s been going on family vacations for most of my life. As kids, every summer we would go to Ocean City, Maryland. As we got older, we would occasionally sprinkle in a trip to some tropical location. Over the years, we’ve been to Hawaii, Cancun, Florida, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. I’ve also started to persuade them to go on some hiking trips, we’ve been to Lake Tahoe and are planning to go to Vancouver this year. But for 2017, I was able to convince them to go to Belize, it’s got tropical beaches and tanning for Angela and adventure activities for me. Another win-win, AND it was a ~2ish hour flight for me! So maybe a win-win-win.
Evie also made a trip out to Houston in April. We went to one of my favorite parks in Houston, Brazos Bend State Park, where you can see alligators! I did get some good wildlife shots but let’s just focus on how cute Evie is.
Bridget and I went out for a girls’ night once in April to Julep. This is one of the few cocktails I drank in 2017 lol. I wanted to include the picture because I liked the carrot garnish.
The corresponding wedding to the bachelorette party from March, took place in May. The wedding was in Napa Valley, California. Adam and I took some of our spare time to check out some of the scenery and one of the local state parks.
Katia’s wedding was stunning.
Snuck in another camping trip out by San Antonio in May to Government Canyon State Park—checking another Texas State Park off the bucket list. We also rented kayaks and had a nice day trip down the Medina river. This river is not as crowded as the other tubing rivers out in Hill Country. Very serene and relaxing. The boys also found some rope swings and waterfall. Photos are all courtesy of Bridget.
In May, I went on my first backpacking trip with Adam and Bridget! We went to the desert in late May. It was hot y’all. The drive out to Big Bend National Park is an adventure in and of itself. West Texas is a different place. There’s also a ton of border patrol when you get close enough to the border. The first few days, we backcountry camped in the Chisos Mountains. Temperatures here were a little bit colder, but the entire hike was up hill and it was still very hot. I wimped out a little and we ended up having to go back to the car in between the two-day trek because I couldn’t carry my entire pack for two days. It was still super fun and the Chisos Mountains are a really unique part of the world. The last day we car camped at the Rio Grande Village. In my opinion, this sucked, not really a pretty campsite. We did a day hike to the Rio Grande river which was very refreshing. The only showers in the park took quarters, we did not have any quarters and the park’s change machine was broken, so essentially, we bathed in the river. As much fun as this trip was, getting Chipotle on the 10 hour drive back to Houston and showering for the first time in 3 days were likely equally as enjoyable.
Honestly not much happened in June and I don’t have any photo evidence from this month.
My mom made a solo visit to Houston. There was a featured exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts that we went to see. The exhibit itself was really cool, but only took up about 30 minutes. We then felt compelled to look around the rest of the museum since we had purchased a ticket; this is where I realized I do not have an affinity for Fine Art.
Adam and I had our next hiking trip planned to the Smoky Mountains National Park. At the last minute, Evie decided that she could join. We were flying into Atlanta and literally convinced Anshul to make the drive for the weekend with us day of. It was a lovely trip with my best friend and Adam’s best friend! I made a video of the trip afterwards, that you should check out if you haven’t yet. (Video Link) One of my favorite memories from this trip was the story of Evie dropping her phone in the water. On the last full day, we were attempting to do a waterfall hike. Unfortunately, it rained the entire day. We didn’t let the rain deter us and we kept hiking to the final destination. It wasn’t just drizzling like it had done the previous days; it was really raining. We were drenched, shoes soaked, water proof jackets wicking streams of water onto our legs. The trail was narrow, rocky, and steep. We were slipping everywhere. It was nearing 1 pm and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. I was getting hangry. It was apparent at this point, that the rain wasn’t going to let up. We at least wanted to find some place where we could step off the trail to eat lunch. After every bend in the trail we hoped we would see a place where it widen out and we could take a break. Unfortunately, this was not the case. So, we shoved ourselves as close to the rocky wall as possible and attempted to eat hummus, baguette, and brie without getting too much rainwater mixed in. Not any easy task, all the way having interruptions every 10 minutes or so by people coming the other way, who had arguably made the right choice to turn around.
After lunch, we trekked on to the waterfall. However, the last part of the trail to get to the waterfall required crossing the stream, which at this point was now a raging river. This part of the river wasn’t just wading across some deep water, it was walking on a narrow section of rock seemingly in between two waterfalls. Upstream was a rock wall that had water gushing over it and downstream the river continued on off the rock ledge. We watched a few people leave their backpacks on the side and attempt to hug the rock wall over to the other side. I wasn’t optimistic of our skills and required everyone to turn around. We unfortunately never made it to the waterfall. We walked all the way back to the bottom of the trail. At this point it had stopped raining and miraculously all of our electronics were still okay. We decided to hang out by the river. Evie was using her phone to check her face when she somehow lost her grip and dropped her phone in the water. The water level had risen considerably and had quiet a current by this point. By some miraculous feat, she jumped into the water and was able to find her phone laying at the bottom and to all of our surprise it was still working! Unfortunately, the phone died later that day.
In August, Angela, Evie, Sam and I had a girls’ trip in Denver. 2017 was a good year of seeing Evie! This trip just added fuel to the fire of how much I like Denver. On this trip, I also introduced the girls to the wonders of hiking with baguette and brie, a Cantini family staple I’m told.
In September, I made my annual non-holiday trip back to Pittsburgh. Adam joined this time and we did some hiking with the family, Sam and Zach.
My last big hiking trip of the year was to Zion National Park. A big group of Houston friends went backpacking. We did two days on the West Rim Trail and then day hiking for Angel’s Landing, Hidden Canyon, and the Narrows. This was my second ever backpacking trip and it went a lot better than the first. I carried my pack for two whole days! I definitely was bringing up the rear but I more or less kept up with everyone. Backcountry camping really immerses you in the wilderness in a way that car camping can’t. I made a video for this trip too that I think you should check out if you haven’t! (Video Link)
I think October was fairly uneventful as well except for a few moments of Halloween festivities.
I don’t know if I would count this as a highlight of the year, but November marked Steve’s farewell as he and Andrea moved to Vietnam for 1-2 years. We miss them.
I also made my way back to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving. I was able to visit the Little Boston bike trail for some half marathon training runs. This trail is part of the Grand Allegheny Passage. I used to frequent this trail as a kid and it’s still one of my favorite places to go. Growing up, we would always take our bikes out to the trail and spend the day with my Pap, aunts and cousins. The trail is also beautiful in the fall.
December was mainly Christmas activities. I spent Christmas at home with my family. I also spent some time out in Eastern PA with Adam’s family after Christmas. And finally, I ended the year in Philadelphia ringing in 2018 with two really good college friends.
Writing this all down, reminded me what an amazing year 2017 has been. It also reminded me how much I enjoy writing and archiving memories. I want to do more of that in 2018. While, I’m not sure what exactly this year holds or how much time work is going to take up, I’m going to make a conscious effort to do more of what makes me happy. (This includes eventually getting around to making a Year in Food: 2017).