Hiking Haystack Mountain


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.


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.


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




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


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.



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.

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.



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.


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.

Half Moon Jamaica RoomIMG_0264IMG_0262



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.

Half Moon Jamaica beach


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



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.
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


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?

Half Moon Jamaica 3


Tahoe Ski Weekend

tahoe group

Well Tahoe, you were a treat!  We may have come back short one pair of skis (more on that later) and may not have tried your restaurants or bars, but your mountains, snow and gorgeous views did not disappoint. The fresh air and a weekend away were exactly what both of us needed after the past six weeks of going non-stop.

We spent four nights relaxing with Dane and Kristine in her family’s Truckee home.  Each night we found ourselves curled up on the couches, watching a movie (Jobs and Black Mask), sharing a huge bowl of popcorn and sipping wine. Their fireplace was constantly on while we were home, and our bellies were beyond happy with the many meals cooked together.

dinner tahoe

Kristine and I chose almond butter, banana, cinnamon, honey and Ezekiel bread as our morning breakfast while Dane and Bo whipped up eggs, bacon and toast. Our slope meals were not the heavy, three-hour long lunches we experienced while skiing in France and Switzerland, but they were better than expected. In fact, Kristine and I were both able to get our daily dose of greens slope side with huge, made to order kale salads. Bo was in his glory, putting the well-appointed kitchen to good use, especially the huge gas stove. Our group planned dinners based on what we were craving: roasted chicken, ribs and hamburgers were requested from the crowd while one-night dinner ended up being our two-hour post ski happy hour food fest which included homemade guacamole, a cheese and meat plate, apple and almond butter and wine. We enjoyed this so much that we ended up the one dinner reservation we made due to full bellies.


The weather the first day prohibited three of us from skiing since only the black runs were open in the afternoon at Squaw Creek. But, while Bo skied, the rest of us spent two hours exploring the shops, restaurants and fireplaces in Squaw Creek’s village. Luckily due to improved conditions our entire group was able to ski on both Friday and Saturday. I challenged myself by skiing blue and double blue runs all day, even trying my hand at some moguls and a bowl. Kristine witnessed my trepidation, or as she called it “assessing the situation” first hand, but unlike years past, this only occurred on two runs and lasted just a few moments.  The skiing in Tahoe was exactly what we hoped for – a beautiful mountain which has a great mix of runs for all abilities. We were able to ski for hours each day without growing bored or even doing the same run more than a few times. I especially appreciated the fact that even though it was ski week in California, when many kids have winter holiday from school, the slopes and resort were still wide enough not to feel packed.

ash and kristine

The resort itself exceeded our expectations twice during our visit.  On Thursday, they gladly refunded me for the one day of skiing I couldn’t enjoy since the mountain was open! Then, on Saturday, when my skis, unfortunately, were stolen or “borrowed” by another skier during lunch, they let me use a pair of demo ski on the house. While I was beyond frustrated to lose my K2 skis, which I’ve loved dearly the past two years, they helped ensure that it didn’t ruin our day.

Overall, I would highly recommend heading to Tahoe if you are looking for a beautiful, relaxed mountain getaway. During the winter months, the area is alive with ski and snowboarders while the Summer beckons hikers, bikers and water lovers to the lake and mountains.

Thank you again, Kristine and Dane, for hosting us this weekend!