Saturday, March 31, 2018

March Books

I am stoked that even with our MoviePass membership, I am still getting in a decent amount of books. Let's be real, not having cable TV to keep me "entertained" gives me more free time to dive into a great book or seven ;)

There were FOURTEEN books in the first two months of the year, so when I add March's SIX that brings the total for 2018 to TWENTY! If you're interested in what I read (and how I'd rate them) or need suggestions on a book to grab, make sure to give my previous write-ups a quick glance when you have a chance! {January's Books / February Books}

  • One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus - I came across this title when I was on Amazon looking at another book, but it looked interesting so I got in line at my library for it. I didn't know anything about it, so when I read the description in the cover jacket I chuckled to myself and thought it sounded a bit like a mash-up between The Breakfast Club and Pretty Little Liars. I've said it before and I'll say it again, the young adult genre definitely seems to be my jam and this book was no different. It kept me entertained (and guessing) the entire time. I liked how the book was written - in the first person from the four main characters' point of view. I'll be honest, maybe it's because of all the Law & Order episodes I've watched over my years, I actually had figured out the mystery before it was spelled out at the end, but I still really enjoyed it. I would give it an 8 out of 10. 

  • Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur - I'll be honest, sometimes when friends mention books, I jump on the library's website and see if there is a wait list for the title. If there's a wait list I blindly assume it's a good book and jump in line. That's what happened with this book (which I knew absolutely nothing about until I picked it up). It's actually a collection of poems about love, loss, trauma, abuse, healing, love and femininity. The book is broken into four chapters, each dealing with a different theme. Since some of the poems are only a few lines long, this was an extremely fast read (maybe an hour total). It sort of reminded me of tweets or Facebook status posts. For going in completely blind and having zero expectations, I enjoyed it. I would give it a 7 out of 10. 

  • Let's Just Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson - I read Jenny's second book last year (Furiously Happy) and put this one on my "for later" list after that. Well, I finally had some time to start working through that list and thought I could use some 'junk food for the mind' and checked this one out of our library. This is a "mostly true memoir" about Jenny's life. At times I didn't know whether to laugh, gasp or call the authorities... but thankfully everything seems to have turned out okay ;) It sort of reminded me of the idea that people can't look away from car accidents... let's just say her life has been a bit of a cluster that continually will have you shaking your head in disbelief. I'll be honest - it is slightly crude, vulgar and disturbing, but written in a way that has to LOL'ing. I really appreciate her openness and realness (as well as her humor). She reminds us that we are not alone and that perspective is key! I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler - I don't remember how I came across this book or why it ended up on my "For Later" list at the library, but I needed a quick read before we left for our 3 week road trip and this one was available. I didn't know anything about it when I grabbed it but the title intrigued me. The book follows the author along her journey of being diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and her "acceptance" along the way. (I put acceptance in quotes because throughout the story there are definitely ups and downs, days that she feels rage or fear, calm or grief. I wouldn't say that in the end you feel a complete sense of acceptance, but one of realization that she must live in the now because tomorrow is never promised.) I know this may sound cold, but I didn't love the book. I felt like the best parts were actually the appendix (a list of things to NEVER say to someone experiencing a hard time and a list of potential things you could say). I totally understand that this is about her personal journey and maybe I am expecting too much, but I was left wanting more - wanting more of a conclusion, wanting more of her relationship with God (she talks about how she is in expert in the field of the prosperity gospel, but never really touches on HER beliefs), wanting more something. This was a quick read so I didn't feel like I had too much invested in it, but when I finished I was still a bit disappointed (especially after seeing all the amazing reviews on Amazon). I would give it a 6 out of 10.

  • Optimists Die First by Susin Nielsen - Whenever someone suggest a book I put it on my "For Later" shelf at the library (as long as it is one they have). If they've been on that shelf for a while I forget where I got the recommendation for... which is the case for this book. The hubby and I actually grabbed the audio book for our three week road trip and figured we'd give it a listen while we were on the road. I didn't know anything about it when I grabbed it, but I have to say, I really enjoyed it (as did the hubby). It was a short "read" (the audiobook was very quick compared to others we have listened to in the past), but it packs a good punch. The main character, Petula, does her best to minimize risks because she fears the absolute worst. It is great to see her come out of her shell around the band of misfits she has assembled around herself and how they help each other grow and evolve. I thought it was a great story of love, healing, overcoming losses and finding new beginnings. I'm excited to pick up some more of this author's books. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • The Mothers by Brit Bennett - This is another audio book we grabbed for our three week road trip. I had heard great things about this book (it seemed like everyone and their mother were buzzing about it) but hadn't gotten around to physically reading it. I didn't know much about it (other than "the mothers" were church mothers who sort of gossiped about the characters in the story), but am glad I finally checked it out. The hubby and I both definitely liked it. I mean, one of the main characters, Nadia, grew up in Oceanside (and many real, local places were featured throughout the story) and then went to the University of Michigan for college (sort of like the opposite of what the hubby and I did). Not only was the plot engaging, but we especially loved it because of the personal ties we had with the stories (more the locations, not the cheating, abortions, etc). The fact that the hubby went to the same Art & Design school as the author didn't hurt either ;) It was a beautiful story about love, friendship, tough choices and forgiveness. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

With that, March has come to a close. My reading may have slowed (especially since we were on the road for the second half of the month), but I definitely hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, please let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my queue (and maybe I'll even remember where I got the recommendation, hehe)!

What was the best book you read this month?

Friday, March 30, 2018

Movies of the Month {March}

Even though we were gone on our road trip for the second half of March (and are technically still out on the road), we did our darnedest to take advantage of our MoviePass membership. Call me frugal (or even cheap... hey, ain't no shame - I own that title), but if we are paying $9.95 a person a month, I want to make sure we are getting our moneys worth! {FYI - On Tuesdays, our local theater movie tickets are on sale for $7, but otherwise the cheapest you can find is $10.70 for a matinee... which means if you go to more than one movie a month you are technically saving money!}

So, let's get into it already, shall we?! I mean, that's why you are visiting the blog today, right?! You all are sitting on the edge of your seat waiting to get our thoughts on the movies we saw... I guess you can call us the new Siskel and Ebert!

Primal Rage - Bigfoot Reborn

Okay, so if you know my hubby, you know he legit believes in Bigfoot. Not like "maybe they might exist", but he believes down to his core that Bigfoot is out there. So when there was a one night event for the premier of this "film", you better believe we had to hit up our local theater! I know I've said it in the past, but scary movies are NOT my jam. In fact, if there is a scary movie preview on the TV I normally close my eyes and plug my ears. Although this is a "thriller" I guess I knew going into it that it would probably be hokey and not something I would be concerned could ever really happen so I wasn't worried. Obviously since this was a one night event, if you missed it you probably won't see it in the theaters again, but I still figured I'd share our thoughts... First off, before the movie started there was Bigfoot trivia instead of your standard previews which was sort of fun. The movie itself reminded me of something I would see on the SciFi channel (and would normally have kept flipping past). It was an interesting take on the legend because the writer/ director made Bigfoot into a "bad guy" with tools and weapons and definitely was the aggressor of the film. Let's just say it was entertaining but I normally wouldn't have spent $12.50 to see it (but there were more people in the theater than I was expecting - maybe like 15 folks). At the end there was a little "behind-the-scenes" and Q&A with some of the cast members and crew. Learning more about the film did make it a little more impressive (they did their own stunts, they only had 8 crew members, the writer/ director was also the one who wore the Bigfoot costume, one of the main actors was in a car accident while filming was on a break and had to have his foot amputated, etc), but I don't know that I would have the need to see it ever again.


The Dark Crystal

This is another special presentation that if you missed earlier in the month you probably are out of luck. In fact, this film is originally from 1982! At one of the previous movies we had gone to we saw the ad letting us know this one would be re-shown in the theaters soon. I had never seen it before, so I figured why not?! (The hubby saw it "back in the day" and was pretty busy with work stuff so I ended up heading over to the theater on my own for this one.) Although I would probably say that The Muppets are a little more my speed, I did appreciate this movie for what it was. There was a little spiel at the beginning by Jim Henson's daughter and it really opened my eyes. This movie was all done with puppets... before CG, green screens or after effects to remove cords, cables, etc... At the time it was really pushing the envelop with the technology available (the animatronics in the puppets). Jim Henson wasn't even sure the concept would work, especially since it was one of the first movies with no humans featured in it. In fact, when they originally shot it there were no speaking parts at all but the test screens flopped so they had to go back in and dub words (and had to make sure they fit with the movement of the mouths - how crazy is that?!). If you've watched an older film recently, you probably can tell how slow the older movies feel compared to the constant stimulation of current movies, but even still I was entertained.


Kirk Cameron: CONNECT

I guess you can see a pattern here, right?! This was another special event that was only in the theater for two nights, so I thought it was worth the mile and a half drive over to our theater. Although this movie is about parenting kids in a social media world (and the hubby and I have decided to pass on grass when it comes to having children), I still thought the premise of the movie was interesting. Now I guess I should have expected it because it was Kirk Cameron, but the movie was very Christian based (which isn't a bad thing, just something I guess I wasn't expecting to be so much of the focus). With that said, I think they brought up quite a few great points (everything from the science of the brain to the lies culture has tricked us into believing). Obviously this won't change the way we parent Walt the Wiener Dog (no smart phone for him... EVER!), but I did walk away thinking about how I really want to focus more on my genuine friendships. When I'm with people, I want to be WITH THEM. I already try my best to keep my phone off when I'm hanging out with others, but this helped remind me how valuable those relationships can and should be. Let's put the phones down and CONNECT!


Red Sparrow

I'll be honest, I don't think I've seen a movie that Jennifer Lawrence has been in that I haven't enjoyed... She's pretty much a rockstar in my book! But I've gotta #KeepItReal (because you better expect that when you come to me for my opinion) and say this is not one of my favorite movies she's ever been in. I thought the twists and turns throughout the movie kept me guessing and intrigued (although the accents seemed a bit rough and all the sex/ torture are definitely NOT my jam). Spy thriller films are normally not my genre of choice, so I may be way off base when I say this because I don't have a ton of expertise in this area, but I felt like this movie was pretty unique and original (more psychological warfare than bang-bang shoot 'em up type action). Again, I wouldn't say it was the best movie I've seen all month (and probably wouldn't normally have seen it in the theater without our MoviePass), but it was entertaining enough to spend 2 hours watching.


Every Day

The hubby's dad came into town to take Ryan snowboarding for the weekend (they went to Mammoth) so I had a couple solo days. I figured along with getting ready for our road trip, filing our income taxes and everything else I do on a normal basis I thought I'd hit up the theater to see a couple of the movies I knew the hubby wouldn't necessarily want to see. This was the first one in that category. I recently had a friend suggest I read this book, but other than the approval from that person I didn't know much about this title. Well, if you guys read my book recaps you've probably noticed that I love me a good YA {young adult} read. This movie was definitely right up that alley. I thought the premise (a soul inhabits a new body every day and becomes that person for 24 hours) was definitely an interesting and intriguing one and I appreciate that it's an original idea. The movie is cute and I totally enjoyed it (but I wouldn't say it needs to be seen at the theater).


A Wrinkle In Time

Another one I figured the hubby wouldn't be dying to see so I hit up solo. Going into the film I only knew what I had seen on the previews. I heard it was based on a book (written in 1962) but had never read it. Overall I thought it was good (wouldn't say it was terrible, but definitely wouldn't say it was amazing). Love the idea that light and love are the way to overcome darkness and hate, not to mention embracing one's faults, but other than the overarching ideas I was left wanting more. It sort of felt a bit disjointed (like maybe they were rushing the storyline or leaving out chunks of the plot), even if it was visually appealing. Overall I probably wouldn't see it again, but think kids might like it a little more.



This one wasn't actually playing at our local theater (which is like a mile from our house - hence why it's so convenient to hit up the movies on a few moments notice), but I decided to head down the road to check this one out. I had heard folks comparing this to Mean Girls or Heathers (which I haven't seen), but I am glad I didn't take the comparison to heart. This isn't your typical teen drama, it's much darker than that. If you are used to fast-paced action films it may take a moment for your to get into this one, but it's worth the time. This one is nasty... but in a good way. I mean, as long as you are okay with two teenage sociopaths. And I am pretty surprised that this was the director's first film. I thought the cinematography was awesome, the use of chapters to divide the story was great and the acting was all stellar. This was Anton Yelchin's final film before he died in 2016. I enjoyed him in everything I saw him in, and this movie was no different. 


Game Night

The hubby and I have some couple friends who LOVE playing games, so when we saw this preview we knew we would need to see the movie. I'll admit, I didn't go in with high expectations. I figured it'd be stupid funny with a few funny parts, but I was wrong. The hubby and I both really liked it (and laugher throughout the entire thing). The plot was fun (and wasn't as predictable as I was expecting), the characters all seemed to have great chemistry, the one liners and wit were spot on, and they actually touched on a few more serious topics at the same time. Now obviously you aren't going to walk away with some earth shattering revelations, but we were thoroughly entertained and both would recommend it to friends.



This wasn't a move that we necessarily HAD TO see, but the hubby had a slow afternoon with work stuff and suggested we head over to the theater. We weren't expecting great things from this one, but it was interesting enough that we were willing to splurge the $2ish on it (or whatever our membership broken down per movie was at that point). There were actually a few more twists and turns in the plot than we were expecting and it definitely kept us entertained. Both of us walked away saying it was enjoyable, but definitely not one that we would have wanted to spend a full ticket price to see.


Love, Simon

If you read my February Books post then you probably saw that I read the book this movie was based on (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda) last month. I actually had seen a preview for this movie a few weeks ago, found out that it was first a book and had to grab it from the library. Before I get into the review, let me confess, I would say 99% of the time I enjoy the book more than the movie, and I'll be honest, I felt the exact same way in this situation too, but (and this is a BIG but) I still really enjoyed the movie! There were definitely some details that were changed in the movie (Leah's love interest, Leah and Abby's relationship, what exactly was leaked, etc), but for the most part it was similar enough to the plot of the book. The hubby went in knowing nothing about the story and really liked it as well. He said that it sort of reminded him of more indie type films like Charlie Bartlett. Even though I will always recommend the book over the movie, I am stoked that this movie is in the mainstream and that the experience of coming out (especially in this social media driven society) is being touched on. Representation matters and I am pumped to see the LGBTQ community getting more love.


7 Days in Entebbe

We were in Los Angeles for the marathon and could either hang out in our hotel or go see a movie... so we went over to the theater (it helped that it was only a quarter mile from where we were staying and could "check in" to the movie from our hotel room). Neither the hubby nor I were born when this event actually occurred so I didn't know anything about the specifics prior to going to see the movie (even though apparently there are quite a few movies on the topic). I realize it is "based on true events" meaning it isn't 100% accurate but I do still appreciate more historical films because I feel like I am doing a little learning while being entertained. I'll be honest, I didn't love it (although you feel for the hostages I didn't feel really invested in any of the characters). I also wasn't sure how the choreographed dance fit in to the story line (maybe it was to build the drama, but I didn't feel like it totally worked). All in all, it was a decent way to kill two hours and keep our legs rested for the race the following day but I would have been bummed had I paid for a full priced ticket to see it.


And with that our March movies have come to an end. I definitely saw my fair share of movies alone this month, but with the hubby out of town for a few days (or not really interested in some of the special events) it just worked out that way. In fact, I was able to see 11 movies while the hubby only saw 6. Even still, with our MoviePass membership, my movies cost approximately $.90 a viewing and the hubby's were $1.66 - still a MAJOR savings compared to actual box office prices!

What was the last movie you saw in the theater?

Thursday, March 29, 2018

GUEST POST: 7 Tips to Conquer Your Gym Fear by Holly

Let's be real, it can be extremely easy to get into a routine and stick with it. Comfort zones are comfortable, but you rarely ever grow while chillaxin' there. When Holly offered to share a few tips on how she recently stepped outside of her comfort zone to become a better well-rounded runner I was all about it (and hopefully you will be too!). So, without further ado, let's see how Holly conquered her fear of getting into the gym and what tips she can share with us so we can do it too.

Hey there! I’m Holly, a New York runner of five-years, running everything from 5Ks to marathons! (I just completed my first marathon at Walt Disney World earlier this year and my sights are now set on New York in November.) Among my other loves are books, Star Wars and superhero movies, documentaries on Netflix, and any/every outdoor activity.

Photo Credit: RunDisney (via Facebook)

Now the nitty-gritty! Until this point, my gym “safe zone” has exclusively been the treadmills. “Strength training” was a word never uttered, similar to “he-who-must-not-be-named” (Any Harry Potter fans? Anyone? Ok, moving on…). But, if you’re like me and love to read anything on running, you can’t miss the idea that strength training makes you a better runner. So that is what my mission has become!

Day 1 came. Into the gym I went and out of the gym I went, having run a beautiful 5k and doing absolutely nothing else! Why? I WAS SO INTIMIDATED!

The rest of the gym was all torture-type machines, giant heavy objects, and people who knew what they were doing (SEE IMAGE FOR PROOF!). They would be watching me closely and critiquing me! (Yes, a tad overdramatic, but I couldn’t shake that feeling) What’s a runner to do?!

I’ll tell you! Because fast forward a few weeks, I feel stronger and my “chicken wings” are showing enough definition that my boyfriend even pointed out my triceps! How did I become the girl who now itches to be doing squats and planking to my heart’s content? Here’s the tips that worked for this newbie!

1. Start small! Besides the obvious risk of injury by going too hard or heavy too soon, use this time to build your confidence as well as your muscles!

2. Create or find a sequence that works for you! Pick exercises you like because if you despise what you’re doing, you’re going to look for any opportunity NOT to do it!

3. Develop a routine and stick to it! I’m an early riser so at the same time each morning I’m in the gym. This consistency doesn’t give me a lot of time to think up a reason to chicken out!

4. Set up your zone in the gym! Create your space to work in and it will help you block out the other gym-goers. I set up my station facing the window - the view is better! And by grabbing my weights, bands, and balls right at the onset, I don’t need to break my flow to go hunt among people mid-workout.

5. Make a kick-butt playlist! Happy and inspiring jams = happy workout! It’s science! And a mid-workout dance party is just another opportunity for cardio!!! Hello 80’s pop hits!

6. Rock your favorite gear! When you look good, you feel good! And if you’re still worried about people looking, you’ll know it’s because you’re rockin’ neon shorts and striped socks!

7. Treat yo’self! Need extra incentive to stick to it? I do! And because I actually started having “Leg Day” on my schedule, once I hit my workout consistently, I picked up a sweet new hat to rock on those days!

Hat from Sparkle Athletic

So that’s what works for me! Simple tips so that I actually look forward to doing the hard work! Believe me, I am nowhere near a fitness guru, but I am happy with where I’m headed and determined to keep going! After all, there’s some gear still on my wish list as motivation!

And if you’re a NYC-area runner, love Disney, or are eyeing a certain 26.2 mile block party in New York, I’d love to hear from you! I can be found on Facebook (Holly King) or Instagram (@itsajolly_hollyday)! And if you see a girl sporting neon and a trucker hat headed towards a gym at 7:30AM, say “Hi,” it just might be me!

Um... so let's just say this was just the kick in the pants I needed. I used to be "decent" at strength training (I don't have a gym membership but had a regular routine that I did at the house) but I would say it has been MONTHS since I done it. It's time to get back on the pony FO SHO! Like Holly (and everyone under the sun) stated, running is so much more than just running. We need to strengthen ALL of our muscles (and not just by consistently pounding them on the pavement)... So I'm putting it out on the InterWebs for accountability - I will get back to strength training once a week!

Do you belong to a gym?

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

GUEST POST: Running with a Dog by Michelle

Wednesdays are normally reserved for Walt the Wiener Dog, but I thought this guest post from Michelle was perfect. Walt isn't much of a runner (he ran a quarter mile before he was "over it" in our recent Santa Mile), but I'll never give up on him!

I recently told the hubby that I want the next pup we rescue to be able to go on runs with me. With that said, Michelle has some great tips for running with your dogs that she'd love to share (and that may come in handy for us sometime in the future... when we have more space...). So grab your four-legged friend, snuggle up and get your read on!

I've been running and racing with my dogs for over eight years. A dog is what originally got me off the couch and onto roads and trails so I wanted to share some tips and tricks I've found beneficial for racing with your four-legged friends!

Similar to people starting an exercise regimen, take your dog to see a vet before starting any intensive running. Start slow and easy. Make sure to find a training plan that works up distance gradually, just as you would if you were starting out.

Gear matters! I prefer the Hurtta Padded Y Harness over a collar to keep pressure off of the dog's neck. The Padded Y Harness allows for full shoulder extension, has comfortable padding to cut down on chaffing, and comes in super bright colors with reflectivity sewn in. I also prefer Stunt Puppy’s Hands-Free Leash. The waist belt is super comfortable and moves as my dog moves, which allows them to comfortably change positions to run in front, beside, or behind me.

If you are planning to run a race with your dog, always check with the race director to make sure the rules allow for them - never assume! Enter your dog and pay the fee if there is one. Make sure to learn the rules about water stops or aid stations (for example, find out if you need to bring water and/ or a collapsible bowl for your dog and if they can be watered or fed near the aid stations). Always move to the side and allow runners full access to the aid stations. And this should go without saying, but ALWAYS bring poop bags and pick up after your dog! I try to have my dogs go potty before the race, but we all understand that accidents happen, so be like a boy/girl scout and be prepared.

While running with your pup, pay attention to runners around you and their intentions. I always start at the back of the field and work my way into my desired pace. While passing runners, I keep my dog close to avoid potentially blocking others. Also, getting to a place where people are only passing on one side is very helpful. If it is a trail race, be very considerate of other runners on single track spots. Some runners will allow their dog off leash at trail races, so be aware. 

For dog themed races, be aware that most dogs at these events have never been in large crowds and may be stressed or over stimulated. Don't let your dog wander up and get into the face of any other dog. Do not allow rude greetings and give other excited dogs the space they need. If your dog seems overwhelmed by all the action, grab some treats and back up a distance. Sit there a while and treat your dog, letting them relax before moving closer to reduce stress.

A starting line can be hectic, but there are ways to help your race start out on the right foot. First, be prepared for your dog's reaction to a mass start. With all the excitement, dogs tend to get SUPER excited and pull like sled dogs! Since most races are held in the morning, be aware of the potential for wet grass and pulling pups (which can create a slippery situation). Also, most runners with dogs will have them on leash, so keep your dog close to avoid tangling leashes.

Having a four-legged running partner can be very rewarding and can be that extra push you need to lace up your running shoes and hit the road. Hopefully these tips help you and your dog(s) to have many fun and fulfilling miles together. 

If you'd like to follow Michelle and her running pups on your favorite social media platform, make sure to bookmark her blog, Running With Reds, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. I can't wait to put some of these tips into practice!

Do you have a pet that you run with?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

GUEST POST: Craters of the Moon by Maria

As you guys should know by now, the hubby and I LOVE adventuring (I mean, the reason I am sharing guest posts right now is because we are out on a three week long road trip up and down the West Coast). Well, when Maria volunteered to share about one of her recent adventures to a National Park I HAD to take her up on it! I had never heard of Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, but after reading about her trip (which is full of crazy rock formation, volcanic lava flows, trail running, and cave exploring) it's definitely being added to our ever-growing list of places we MUST visit!

Hi, readers! While Carlee is away on her road trip I’m stopping by with a little tour of one of my favorite trail runs. As part of a trip to Idaho for last summer’s total solar eclipse, my boyfriend and I took a day trip to Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve — we couldn’t pass up the chance to visit a new national park and run across terrain unlike anything we’ve got back home in New York City! If you want to follow along on Strava, you can check out my run here.

Starting to look a bit extraterrestrial here...

Craters of the Moon is the accessible part of a truly enormous lava flow: it’s a series of outlooks, points of interest, and hiking trails that are also linked by paved road so you can drive between them. Last summer I was leaping into marathon training and didn’t think the distance would be a problem, but coming off a few days of hiking and running, and not factoring in the elevation gain here made us pretty grateful to have the option! Here’s the map from the Parks Service, with each of the volcanoes, rock formations, and points of interest helpfully marked. We parked right by the Visitors Center and set off for the North Crater Flow Trail from there. Even the first overlook (a short paved path with our backs to the road and parking lot!) was incredible, and the trail quickly headed out into the volcanic rock and got a lot more challenging. I’m not sure I’d climbed and descended elevation like this more than once before this trip!

Hm, maybe we’re actually on Mars?

The black and red rocks actually reminded us a lot of Iceland, a strange sort of déjà vu to have in the American West. There were a few overlooks to stop at on the side of the highway but we drove straight to the park so we could get out and running as early as possible — that made our first views on foot even more breathtaking. There was a chance of rain the day we visited (glad it hadn’t ruined our view of the eclipse itself!) but the area is usually pretty dry.

These are some sturdy trees! The trail was always easy to find, but that didn’t mean it was easy to run.

North Crater Flow is exactly what it sounds like. We hit some ups and downs past admiring hikers - some pretty surprised to see us running with hydration packs instead of taking the trails more slowly! - and then a sharp descent into the crater itself. Check out the stairs! The trail never felt unsafe but I was glad to have something besides lava gravel to run on.

This is only a few steps down, with plenty more to go... this one!

The bottom of the crater was a place to stop and catch our breath: the craggy lava formations meant we had to slow down so we wouldn’t twist an ankle. The view was also worth stopping to take in. The crater is so old that part of one side has flattened out and we could see distant mountains as well as the steep sides from the bottom.

I felt like a tiny little bug down here, and didn’t even know what we were going to run across next!

We ran (with power hiking mixed in, as often happens with trail running) up the other side of the crater. When we first started trail running, we were a little reluctant to walk or hike the steeper bits, but we’ve learned that it’s necessary and even smart, so that we have the stamina to keep going for longer adventures. A little hiking doesn’t take away from the fun of running across mountains, and, if anything, those breaks give us the chance to see and run even more areas! As we headed down to the next crater we ran into the first person we’d seen running the other way - another trail runner!

“More runners!” she greeted us. The rain and wind were starting to pick up at this point but her enthusiasm was contagious and we smiled and greeted her back. “The best way to see the trail!” She confirmed before continuing past us. Runners are an inclusive and enthusiastic bunch to begin with, but trail runners have been especially great to cross paths with. Perhaps it has something to do with seeing relatively few people out on the trails (as opposed to the crowded city roads I’m used to!), so we feel more genuine about greeting others. I’d never get anywhere if I stopped to say hi to everyone I see on the roads at home, but since the Moon is a little emptier a quick greeting is worth it!

I’d never be able to climb out if I fell down here!

We continued on to the rest of the “Big Craters”, as they’re helpfully labeled on the map. They feel utterly prehistoric and breathtaking - and as the wind whips around up on the top ridgeline it’s easy to imagine you’re the first one to ever see this wild landscape. Even though the craters were daunting and the photos barely do them justice, their size also meant they were so huge that the trail along the top edge was comfortably wide.

This red landscape just demands to be called “Mars”. I’ll admit the black lava flows feel more like the Moon.

The views and adrenaline from the ridges and downhills more than justified every struggle uphill. These elevation changes are no joke - and as the nasty weather rolled in I started to question if I was dressed appropriately. Fortunately the storm left fairly quickly, and our day went on mostly as planned, but don't make the mistake we did of assuming conditions will always stay the same! A better jacket or hat would have gone a long way, and since we’d brought a little pack along it would have been easy to take with us just in case. Rookie move!

The last of the Big Craters, boyfriend for scale.

I’m a big fan of solo travel, but there’s something to be said for having a travel buddy and some moral support on tough days! Even getting through the nasty weather we encountered was better with company; traveling as a pair definitely improved my Craters of the Moon experience, and while I’ll always love running solo, finding a running buddy or group can make the miles fly by. Plus, they can also take photos of you scaling volcanoes.

I have literally never felt more badass than this.

After the North Crater Flow trail, we climbed up some “splatter cones” and learned a little about geology — in addition to being runners, we’re both rock nerds! The Craters of the Moon signage is thorough and helpful, and whether you’re running or hiking there’s plenty to see and learn even if you have a basic understanding or interest already.

Then we changed our plan a bit: instead of continuing on foot to the next section, we acknowledged that we’d misjudged the weather and ran back along the more direct vehicle road to pick up our car. That way, we could grab some dry clothes and not be even further from our car and shelter if the weather got worse. The run on flat pavement felt so easy after the steep climbs and shifting volcanic rock! We drove back to the next trail we wanted to run, to the “tree molds”.

The trail to the tree molds was more of a rolling hill than crater climb, which made for a nice change!
Just a few miles down the road the terrain was already really different.

The Tree Molds Trail is a quick jaunt down to the molds - which aren’t a fungus! They’re molds, or casts, made from trees that were destroyed by the lava flows when they were first active. As trees were engulfed in the lava, then incinerated, they left behind an imprint of their bark in the cooled lava. The trail ends on the plain where the molds are found, and you can just walk around (or climb the bigger formations!) looking for them and other cool lava sightings. As you can imagine we spent quite a while frolicking out here.

This is from a tree that was lying down and left an imprint of its bark in the lava — not an alligator!

But some trees left a mold of where they had been growing upright.
No running near the molds, too easy to fall down into one!

Stuck, for just a moment.

After running back from the molds, we had a snack and continued on to our last stop. We decided to finish off with the cave trails before heading back to Boise: we didn’t want to be out too late with the return drive ahead of us. There are several small caves in another part of the park that we were able to visit. I’m not much of a caver, but after some little kids got up the courage to go into one, I gritted my teeth and did too!

This sign is a little intense for your average run, yet here we are. Proceed with caution indeed!

I’m glad we left these trails for last because they made a great cool down (and not just because the caves were pretty chilly!). They were quite popular with tourists and the trail was actually a paved path across a treacherous lava field. The tree mold area was safe to explore on foot, but the cave area asked pedestrians to stay to the marked path, so it got a little crowded. Worth it for views like this and a nice way to slowly wind down our trip.

What storm? The blue skies rolled in faster than the morning’s rain!

We were going to close out our visit to the Craters of the Moon with a stop at the visitors center to stamp our “National Park Passports”, which is one of the dorkier and surprisingly fun ways to track travel around the US. Every national park has a few unique rubber stamps and a page in a “passport” book to fill in. It’s the “gotta catch ‘em all” but for hikers, runners, or anyone with an interest in seeing the National Parks around the country! Monuments and Preserves, like Craters of the Moon, also count, of course. But we had one last pit stop to make on our way out...

Now that my legs were rested from our walk around the caves, I insisted we stop at the roadside speedometer meant to keep visitors to the park from speeding. Since there was relatively little traffic, and a clear view for anyone who might come by, I set my mind to using the speedometer myself! I did a few practice runs to find out where the radar would pick me up, and got down to business. The trick seemed to be starting far enough back that the speedometer would notice me - which makes sense, since in order to flash a speed at a driver it would have to clock them pretty far away. Boyfriend and I alternated playing photographer/traffic lookout, and with my trusty GPS watch to confirm my paces (and Strava to brag!), we capped off our day of trail running with a little speed workout.

Almost speeding!

And with that shiny new “PR”, we headed back to Boise. I hope you enjoyed this mini travel guide! You can keep up with me on Strava, Instagram, or Twitter, and also check out my young blog - Miles and Words! You’ll find plenty of travel talk and running recaps, including more from this trip to Idaho. Coming soon: a half marathon in a small town outside of Bordeaux, France, sandwiched in the middle of a trip to London and tour of Spain’s Basque Country!

Um... like I said at the beginning of the post, this is somewhere that we have got to see at some point! I've never been to Idaho before (and never really had it on my list of places I wanted to visit), but after Maria's recap I'm very interested and intrigued! Can you believe this sort of place exists in "potato country"?! It literally looks like you're on another planet!

Where is your favorite National Park?