Hiking Haystack Mountain

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When Vermont delivers sunshine, blue sky and beautiful 80 degree temperatures, there is nothing to do except lace up our hiking shoes and head out for an afternoon hike. Over the years we have done a few short hikes in the area but nothing like yesterday’s hike at Haystack Mountain.

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Haystack Mountain is the a 3,445 foot mountain located in Wilmington, Vermont just 30 minutes from my family’s home in Manchester. The hike to the summit is 2.5 miles and includes a portion on an old farm road followed by a steep climb through the dense forest.  Knowing that it was a warm day we carried two water bottles per person and two extra for Samantha, their Samoyed who accompanied us on the adventure.

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During the hour and a half hike towards the summit we crossed a few small streams and carved out logs.

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Staying on the trail was easy since there were trail markers every few hundred feet.

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The second half of the trail was far more technical than the first, requiring us to stop a few times and catch our breath as we scrambled up the rocks.  Luckily in this same section we were able to start seeing glimpses of the view waiting for us at the summit. As the trees grew thinner we could look out across the valley as well as be rewarded for our efforts with a slight breeze.

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An hour and a half after starting our hike we reached the summit and were rewarded with incredible sweeping 360 degree views of New York and Vermont.

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View from Haystack Mountain
We relaxed at the top for a few minutes before heading back down towards the car. By the time we reached the car we had covered 4.9 miles and were drenched in sweat.

 

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Four Days in Paradise at Half Moon Resort Jamaica

Half Moon Bay Jamaica

After four days of rest and relaxation, today is my first day back to work and the real world which included a 5:30 AM alarm. The good news is that our quick trip down to Half Moon in Jamaica left me rested and energized. This trip was unlike any trip I’ve taken before. There were no husbands, no large group of friends, no excursions or even dinner reservations. Instead, the relaxing girls trip for two included lots of sleep, long conversations during beach walks, reading by the pool and making last minute dinner decisions based on the recommendations we received that day from the staff or guests. We chose to stay at an all-inclusive property for this trip as it allowed us to minimize expenses and relax more. While I realize many people would say that staying at an all-inclusive resort doesn’t allow you to get the true taste of the island, for this trip we prioritized rest and relaxation over culture.

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In case you all are planning a tropical trip anytime soon, I highly recommend using Expedia to search for resort specials. We changed resorts just weeks before our trip as we received a price drop email informing us that the top resort on the island, Half Moon Bay, had cut their price in half. The zika virus has limited the number of people traveling to the Caribbean and therefore many resorts are offering unheard of discounts. If you’re curious whether it’s safe for you travel to Jamaica or other Caribbean countries, I recommend you consult the CDC website as well as your doctor, which is what both Amy and I did before this trip.

Half Moon Jamaica Bikes

So while I dream of yoga overlooking the ocean and the delicious rum drinks, sit back and enjoy a glimpse into my long weekend trip to Jamaica.

Our Room

Steps away from the beach, our junior suite included two queen beds, a deep sinking tub, large living room and a balcony perfect for watching the sunset. Decorated in traditional, Jamaican colonial style the space was very comfortable. We were greeted with a local delicacy, rum cake, as well as a full mini-bar which was included in our all-inclusive plan. While we didn’t spend any time in the living room, we did spend a few hours reading on the balcony during the afternoon rain storms and each enjoyed hour-long bubble baths in the evening.

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Beach

There are two large beach areas at Half Moon Bay, one closer to the main property and another one about a mile walk from the main area.  Due to the proximity, we spent our time on the main beach which allowed us to enjoy lounging in the beach chairs, swimming in the clear water and sandy walks from our villa. This main beach, Sunset Beach, is the swimming beach and also where all non-motorized water sports are rented. Snorkeling, kayaks, pedal boats and beach floats are included in the resort rate. While we didn’t rent any of these due to the choppy waters, watching others navigate in a kayak for the first time or try and stay on their float provided hours of entertainment. Since this beach is also near the main bar, you are able to easily bring both food and drink to your beach chair. The other beach, Sunrise Beach, is strictly for walking, lounging and motorized water sports. There is no swimming at this beach nor chair attendants.

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Half Moon Jamaica beach

Pools

There are three pools on property, each with their own character. The pool we frequented, the Hibiscus Pool, is popular due to the swim-up bar. This pool also has a staff who will bring you water, towels and even freshly chopped and cracked coconuts throughout the day. The pool is quite large and naturally has an adult section towards the bar and a children’s section near the fountains and shallow end. The other two pools are the nearby 50 meter Olympic lap pool which features five lanes and the smaller Oleander Pool which is on a terrace near Sunrise Beach. While the pool wasn’t heated, it was warm enough to enjoy in the Jamaica weather which was 85-90 degrees each day.

Half Moon Jamaica swim up bar

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Spa & Gym

As soon as you walk through the gate to Fern Tree Spa you are transported to an oasis of relaxation. The 68,000 foot space includes multiple relaxation rooms, over water bungalows, lush gardens, sauna and steam rooms as well as a full gym. We avoided the rain showers on Friday afternoon with three hours in the spa, including an hour of reading in the large relaxation room and time in both the steam and sauna rooms. While the spa is not included in the all-inclusive package, we both decided to add a 60-minute signature Swedish Massage which included lemon grass tea and a foot bath before the massage even started. An added bonus, ff you choose to have a massage, this allows you access to the spa area for the rest of your stay.  The gym was modern and well appointed offering a cardio room, weight room as well as two studios where 4-8 group fitness classes take place daily. We enjoyed over water sunrise yoga on our first morning which was breath taking and one of the most memorable of yoga experiences. The 60-minute Vinyasa flow style yoga was taught in a three-walled bungalow over the ocean, allowing the view and sounds of the water to merge with our practice. The teachers strong Jamaican accent was also a relaxing touch as she guided us through the poses.
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Half Moon Jamaica Spa 2

half moon jamaica yoga

Food & Alcohol 

As part of our all-inclusive plan we truly had everything included whether that was a meal, beverage, snack or mini-bar treat. The highlights included the breakfast buffet which included freshly cut fruit, omelet station, made to order smoothies, mimosa and bloody mary bar and all the breakfast options anyone could imagine. Each morning we dined a la carte while sipping coffee and chatting. For lunch, we walked to the beach shake, Monchies, to enjoy freshly grilled Jamaican specialties like jerk chicken and fish. Paired with a Red Stripe, this was our favorite meal at Half Moon Bay. The dinners were only okay compared to the breakfast and lunch. While the new Sugar Mill Restaurant is beautiful and highly recommended, our meal wasn’t the best. Our final meal at Il Giardino, the Italian restaurant was by far our favorite dinner. In regards to the alcohol, this all-inclusive resort does not skimp when it comes to the liquor drinks. The liquors used were all considered mid to top-shelf choices and many of the fruity drinks included fresh fruit.  The wine by the glass options weren’t to our liking though their wine by the bottle offerings were far better and included in the all-inclusive.

Half Moon Jamaica restaurant

Half Moon Jamaica breakfast

Half Moon Jamaica Food

Staff

The staff at Half Moon Bay took the resort to the next level. From the moment we were greeted at the airport to our wave goodbye when we left, everyone greeted us with a smile as well as asking if there was anything they could do or anything we needed. Bartenders offered specialty cocktails made based on our tastes and you could tell that everyone on site was passionate about their role in making the resort experience enjoyable for guests!

Half Moon Jamaica bartender

Is it too early to plan our next trip to Half Moon Bay?

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A #Wellth Overnight in Montauk

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It is hard to put together a more perfect 24-hours than the one Wellthily, Zappos, BluePrint, Indie Lee Jost Media, and Gurney’s Montauk put together for twenty New York City based health and wellness influencers last Friday and Saturday. We were whisked away to Montauk, a beachtown on the Eastern edge of East Hampton, for an overnight of getting to know each other, connecting with brands and rejuvenating our bodies and minds during yoga, spa and beach time. It was my perfect version of the grownup girls sleepover – juice cocktails and healthy bites replaced the pizza and Diet Coke of my childhood while we spent hours sharing our stories and wellness journeys instead of playing Never Have I Ever or watching TGIF on television. We had the opportunity to brainstorm with the Zappos and Wellthily team as they shared their newest, brilliant venture with our group. Beginning next month, anyone who vacations at Gurney’s won’t have to worry if they forget to save room in their overnight bag for running shoes or a sports bra. Throughout the resort, iPads will allow guests to order workout gear to their room similar to the way guests order room service today. In addition to the on-demand workout gear, the iPads will also help guests discover local fitness classes, running routes, nearby juice bars and more with the swipe of a finger. Isn’t that brilliant? I can’t wait until Wellthily and Zappos are able to roll this program out to more hotels worldwide!

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The newly renovated Gurney’s Montauk is nothing short of fabulous as they have not left out a single detail. Inside each ocean front room guests enjoy a cozy yet refined space complete with overstuffed chairs, huge spa showers,  nautical decor and the comfiest of beds. Just steps away from the bed is a large deck that allows you to watch the sun rise and set from your personal outdoor sofa and lounge chairs. Throughout the resort there are roaring fireplaces and fire pits, a saltwater spa and pool waiting to refresh guests, multiple food options and miles of sandy beach.

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Saturday morning an early alarm woke Zoe, my weekend roommate, and I up just in time to watch the incredible sunrise from our porch. We donned our fluffy, cozy bathrobes for the quiet porch time before heading down to the beach for a long walk and shake out jog along the water.

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Our morning activities included yoga, brunch and facials. The hour yoga class, led by Julie Mae Weber,  included partner moves that I’ve never dared tried before! They were such a wonderful stretch and a fun way to shake up my yoga practice – though the ocean breeze and gorgeous views didn’t hurt either.

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Brunch exceeded everyone’s expectations including everything from adorable fruit and granola yogurt parfaits, omelets, fresh fruit galore, coffee and juice. We spent an hour losing ourselves in conversation and laughter with new friends.

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Last but not least, I had the chance to discover the all-natural skincare line, Indie Lee. Indie joined us for the overnight and shared her story and inspiration behind the skincare line which is now sold in luxury retailers across the United States. Her passion for both beauty and self-care resonated with me as well as her evolution into natural skincare. Lately I’ve started swapping out products for more natural choices, especially my skin care regimen so I loved hearing about the ingredients in her line as well as the reasons that she chose to move towards a toxin free beauty routine when dealing with a life-threatening brain tumor.

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It was the perfect getaway that has me wishing for another as well as wanting to share Gurney’s and my experience with all my friends and loved ones!

 

 

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