Once the holidays are over, it’s time to put away the pie, the candy, and eggnog, shake off any ideas you have about winter hibernation, and get outdoors, regardless of what the thermostat says. Kristy Albano (GSM’15), a student in the Graduate School of Management’s Professional Evening MBA program, recently launched a new blog that focuses on being active outdoors.
Titled Travel the East, the blog features all kinds of hikes and adventures that require winter boots and layers, but it promises huge payoffs: Doctors say that even moderate exercise outside in the cold makes your heart work harder, and people generally burn more calories as the body automatically adjusts to produce more heat to stay warm. As an added benefit, being outdoors in the winter also gives you some much-needed vitamin D from the sun and improves mood, and outdoor exercise can encourage you to stick with an exercise regimen.
For Albano, trekking outside in the winter has more discernable benefits. For starters, the landscape and scenery are much different from what most people are used to. “Just the element of snow alone changes the look and feel of your outdoor experience,” she says. “Walking trails are much less crowded.” And while there is less wildlife out and about in the winter, “it becomes easier to track animals with their footprints in the snow.”
Albano’s passion for outdoor exercise started years ago during a childhood spent in suburban Long Island. But it wasn’t until she moved to Boston in 2012 to take a job at Fidelity Investments that she discovered the widely varied hiking environments nearby, each of them vastly different from the suburban and city life she had experienced. When she started scouring the web for information about hikes in the area, she couldn’t find much.
“I love to get away from city life,” says Albano, who runs Travel the East with her fiancé Matt Pickering. “We like to find places to recommend to other people. A lot of people in New England don’t even realize these places exist. Just from our experiences, we’ve gained friends and become healthier. And we have found enjoyment spreading the word to others.”
Among the spots the couple have featured on their blog are World’s End in Hingham and its breathtaking rocky coastline; Vermont’s Quechee Gorge and its waterfall; and Saugus’s Breakheart Reservation, a 640-acre area filled with easy walking trails—although Albano and Pickering didn’t know that on their first visit there. They arrived prepared for a long, rigorous hiking experience and felt a little foolish when they found they really didn’t need the backpack filled with frozen hot dogs. Their favorite spot to date is New Hampshire’s Welch and Dickey Loop Trail, a 4.5-mile route that takes hikers to the peaks of two mountains. They post at least once a week, and content is shared through the Wicked Local town newspapers.
The couple begin many of their reconnaissance missions by combing through Google Maps for new-to-them parks and trails in the area. That’s how they found Mount Blue Spring in Hingham’s Wompatuck State Park. A hut located about two miles inside the park houses faucets from which filtered spring water is available at no cost. Besides hiking, the duo plans to spend the winter ice fishing and skating on local ponds, skiing, snowshoeing, and improving their winter photography skills. Readers can expect to read all about their adventures (and get ideas for adventures of their own) in the coming months.
Before setting off on a winter hike, Albano and Pickering follow the rules of staying warm and dry. That means dressing in layers (with a waterproof, windproof jacket as the outermost layer) and having a good pair of snow pants, as well as waterproof boots. “Even if there is no snow, the trails can still get wet and muddy, so you want to prevent letting moisture in, especially in colder weather,” Albano advises. To track the weather, she relies on local weather stations (Albano’s found they are more accurate than national websites like Weather.com) and also uses a radar app on her phone to track weather patterns.
Every week, Albano hears from blog fans who have explored a site she reviewed or have recommendations of their own, she says. To encourage more reader interaction, Travel the East recently started to feature guest bloggers, like a Pennsylvania-based photographer who hiked New Hampshire’s Mount Washington and the photographer behind the hugely popular Boston photography Instagram account @ig.boston.
Travel the East is a place where Albano and Pickering can review places they have been, and share tips and recommendations that can help future hikers. “We love photography and the outdoors, and especially finding the hidden gems that tend to be lesser known,” Albano says. “Our blog’s goal is to share those experiences and photos from our adventures so that others can also be inspired to explore the beauty of getting outside and traveling.”