I Got Lost In Harriman State Park

I Got Lost In Harriman State Park

And the story only gets worse from there.

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When I lived in Virginia, the wonders of the outdoors were right at my finger tips. If I wanted to take a trip down Scenic Skyline Drive, it was just a 40 minute drive. If I wanted to spend the day hiking in the Shenandoah Valley, I could be there in an instant.

Now, back in northern New Jersey, I have swapped forests and mountains for concrete jungles and disgruntled drivers, and I have to say, it's been pretty disappointing.

But in an attempt to occupy myself and trick myself into believing I'm still in Virginia, I made my way up to Harriman State Park (the second largest state park in New York, about 40 minutes from my house) with plans to spend most of my day completing a nice, relaxing, eight-mile hike.

The first seven or so miles were great! I saw some baby deer, crossed a few streams, navigated a few rock scrambles. It was no Shenendoah, but it was pretty damn close. In fact, I was enjoying myself so much that I neglected to stringently follow the directions I printed out.

But I wasn't worried! I had skimmed them beforehand and I knew the general trails I was to follow and the general direction I needed to go in. "Me man," me thought, "me have good sense of direction!".

And after a few hours and about seven miles of walking, I finally saw a way out of the deep woods. "Wow," I thought, "I did this without really using directions. I am quite the nature man." I stepped out of the woods into what I thought (and what was supposed to be) the opposite end of the parking lot I had parked in.

Except I wasn't in a parking lot, I was in somebody's backyard.

Giphy

I kept walking until I got to the road, and there was no parking lot in sight. To my right there was a group of kids playing in a small lake, cozily nestled directly on the side of a busy highway. To my left there were a bunch of nice houses.

I took out my phone and checked my location. As I had initially thought, I definitely wasn't in Harriman State Park anymore. I was in a residential neighborhood in Stony Point, NY, on the complete opposite side of Harriman, and about five miles from where I parked my car.

Somewhere between the entering the forest, crossing over the Palisades Parkway, and making my way out of the woods, I had made a wrong turn. Rather than walking north to south and back north, I had walked east to west straight across the forest.

Shit.

And after a fruitless attempt bushwhack through the forest to get back to the Palisades Parkway, I had to swallow my pride. I exited the forest, sat down on the side of the road, and did the manliest thing I could think of.

I called my mom and asked her to pick me up.

Nature is awesome!

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5 Ways Impulsively Getting A Dog Saved My Mental Health

Those four paws are good for a lot more than just face kisses.

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Shortly before my husband and I officially moved out onto our own, he surprised me with a puppy in hand on the morning of our anniversary. Moving out, tackling college, and everything in between, I thought another huge responsibility was the last thing I needed. However, in reality, Oakley, the lab/Australian shepard/collie mix, was exactly what I needed to get back to "me."


He provides emotional support

One of the most obvious reasons is how much emotional support dogs, (and other respective animals) can provide. His paws have been accidentally stepped on, and he certainly isn't a fan of the forced flea/tick medication doses, but less than 30 seconds later, he is without fail immediately by my side again, tail wagging and ready for more kisses. Although he is not trained or certified as an ESA, it's without a doubt he has effectively (and unconsciously) combated random anxiety attacks or feelings of being alone.

He requires being cared for

You'll heavily judge every crazy fur mama, as did, I until you become one. Getting Oakley immediately got me consistently back on my feet and forced me to ask myself, "What does he need today?"Even simple, easy tasks like taking him out to run/go to the bathroom had me excited and forced me to find a motive in the day to day activities. I loved no longer having even the mere choice to be unproductive. Don't want to start your day? Well, Oakley needs his day started, so let's get moving.

He serves as protection

It's no surprise how far a dog's loyalty will go to protect their owner. For decades, specially trained dogs have had life-saving responsibilities assigned to them. Even being married, my husband and I's schedules vary significantly to where it is not uncommon for me to be alone. The slightest sound or shadow from outside our door immediately initiates barking. In the bathroom taking a shower? He's there. Knowing that Oakley is looking out, even when I get carried away with tasks like cooking dinner, always calms my nerves.

He's become something to look forward to

The nice thing about having Oakley is regardless of how my day goes, I know exactly how it is going to end. Whether I passed an exam with flying colors or got the lowest grade in the class, I know what waits for me when I open the door at home. After a long day, nothing resets my mood like walking into a face that is just as happy and excited to see me!

He encourages bonds with others

If you want your social interaction to sky rocket: get a puppy. No, I'm serious. You'll have people wanting to come over and visit "you" (let's be real… your puppy), like it's your last day on Earth. For me, this was exactly what I needed. Getting Oakley had family members constantly checking in to see how he was growing, learning, etc. Not only did this encourage more interactions with family and friends, but it also "livened" my husband and I's home life. Instead of the "normal" weekend nights consisting of Netflix and MarioKart, (which are enjoyable in their own respective ways), spending our nights playing Monkey in the Middle with our new four-legged friend has proven much more entertaining.

So ideally was it the right time to get a dog? Probably not. However, adding Oakley to my small little family combated anxiety and depression in ways I wouldn't have ever thought possible.

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Florida Native's First Snow Is A Doozy

Seattle's most snow in February since 1923 hits hard

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For all of us Washingtonians, the recent snow storm is something we were unprepared for. Seattle broke the record for the most snow in February since 1923. But for a Floridian who has never seen the snow, this week has been an adventure right out of a Christmas movie.


Snow in Tacoma, WashingtonMaddy McKeever


My friend and I reside under an hour drive away from Seattle in the city of Tacoma, Washington, and despite not being in the record-breaking city, we still had at least 7 inches of snow. The result? More than 40 people calling out of our store because of unsafe driving conditions (including myself), massive food and de-icer shortages, and a revitalization of the old Seattle driver stereotype.

Presented with a once in a lifetime opportunity, I decided to take my Florida friend on a snow day through the winter wonderland that was Wapato Park. He adored it.

My dog, Hyperion, in the snowMaddy McKeever

Despite having to carry my small dog a lot because of the depth of the snow, the trip went wonderfully. We all three bundled up immensely, none of us use to being out when it was 19 degrees Fahrenheit, even the dog.

The trip began with a stereotypical snowball fight, but quickly turned into a dazzling photo shoot. The landscape was like that of a painting: tall fir trees dusted in fresh snow, paths carved out by countless frozen footsteps, and friends slipping and sliding across bridges covered in blankets of white. It was truly a sight to see.

Wapato Park bridgeMaddy McKeever

I have still yet to experience the heat of a Florida summer, but my friend has now lived through a cold west coast winter. If he can make it through a park with dogs running all around and not fall face-first into the ice, all us Washingtonians can too.

We've all heard of Christmas in July, but it's Christmas in February this year. Anyone know of a good Valentine's Day movie set in the snow?


Wapato Park's frozen lakeMaddy McKeever

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