Tuesday, January 15, 2019
What: West African Dancing - Portland Maine (With LIVE drumming!)
Where: Portland New Church, Stevens Ave. Portland Maine
When: Tuesdays 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: $16 drop in class
Parking: On Street (there is no church parking lot)
Note: Each month the instructor starts teaching a new dance. If you show up every week during the month the dance will get easier... in theory! Oh... no picture taking is allowed without express permission, so to see pics of tonight's adventure you will need to check out Shannon's post! Or.. imagine me shaking my booty to African drumming!
FMI: visit the website for the classes here: embodytherhythm.com
I didn't even know that Portland had a West African Dance Class... but it does! How did I learn about it? FitMaine.com of course!***
I don't know what it is about African music and rhythm ... it has always resonated with me... I remember years ago I went to some kind of festival in Portland and saw 'Inanna Sisters in Rhythm,' a drumming group. After that I signed up to take a class from one of the women in the group... I went out and bought a djembe (I still have it!) I took a class, I think it was like 8 weeks long... and it was a lot of fun.
I have taken other exercise classes that involve dancing... or what I consider dancing, specifically Zumba and step aerobics. Both I really enjoy! (Though I haven't done step in a long time!) So.. the idea of combining live African drumming with dancing sounded FABULOUS! So I went!
I got there early... (I am usually early for things... I am my father's daughter after all!) And went into the church. I wasn't sure exactly where to go, but there was a sign that said 'Leave Wet Footwear Outside of the Chapel.' or something like that... basically take off your wet boots! The dance class is held in the chapel, which is straight ahead once you walk into the church.
The people here seemed very welcoming. There were a handful of us who had never been to this class before. I admit, there is power in numbers when going to something like this! I was happy to know that me and at least four other women were there for the first time. It was all women... not sure if that is always the case... there were some male drummers, but all of the dancers for the class were women... wait... did I just call myself a dancer? huh... look at that!
As I went into the class I thought about a conversation I had with a student today. The student shared with me that they want to participate in this year's musical, but they don't want to sing or dance because they 'can't' do either of those things... I interrupted and said that wasn't true... that I am sure they could do both... perhaps not perfectly but... they could in fact sing and dance! I told them I can't sing well, but while in my truck.. I am a Broadway STAR!! (Rent is my headliner by the way!) The other mantra I kept in mind was one from Zumba... 'there are no mistakes in Zumba, just solos!' I figured I would have plenty of solos tonight... and I was right!
So.. the class starts with everyone circling up and warming up... moving our bodies to get our muscles going and to stretch a little. (Mental note... flexibility is something I continue to need to work on!) After stretching the instructor showed us a few pieces of the dance... she told us the name of the dance that we would be learning... and I cannot remember it. And then she began breaking down the dance...
I liked that as the class progressed the instructor tried to break it down into Level 1s (we beginners) and Level 2s.. those who have been taking the class more or those super confident natural dancers. She broke the dance into small segments which we practiced...and then at the end we put it altogether. The energy really escalated at the end.... and it was one of those times where you catch yourself smiling big and even doing one of those screams you do at sporting events when great things happen!
I confessed to a couple of the women there that I have a competitive streak... (this would not be a shock to many in my life!) I compete with myself when doing things like this and I try to do it as good as or better than people around me...Once I let that go and just tried to enjoy it... I did! I watched the people around me.. not to compare dance skills but to watch and learn from them.... learn how to move my body, how to be fierce, to be in the moment.. to FEEL the music, the drumming... It didn't matter that I didn't ace the choreography... I was there, participating, moving my body!
I admit that I do these crazy things in my head sometimes... especially when exercising or dancing... because I have always been a bigger person ...and have always felt like everyone in the room is paying attention to my bigness...and not without judgment... there are times when I move my body I think about my body on a micro level, thinking of all the parts and what they must look like as I move....usually I associate my body's movement with jello... especially my arm flabs and my belly fat... my parts jiggle... Tonight... I was jiggling... and as I looked around that room... filled with women of all shapes and sizes... all of us had jiggling body parts... and it was beautiful! The dance we were learning, the instructor told us, was a wedding/childbirth dance... which maybe sounded a little 'heavy' for me... but... I reframed it... (I do that a lot!) to be about women and our femininity.... our curves, our softness...our ability to move our bodies... and the only way to not jiggle is to not move! And I refuse to not move.... so I suppose I insist on jiggling!
I had a lot of fun doing this class. I will think about going again sometime... But.. I think.. for me... I get a better workout at Zumba... and the cost of Zumba is a bit less... (That being said, the $16 for the class is used for good things... part of the cost goes to supporting local groups and to help build a school in Ghana for music and dance!) But.. I am really excited that there is another option for moving my body and getting healthier! I encourage you to check it out.
***I should say here that I am a member of the FitMaine Social club... I do not get any compensation for spreading the word about this amazing website/social club/founder... but I will say that I love what Shannon is about and what she is doing! So... may of my adventures will involve folks from Fitmaine.com Social Club and others who participate in some of the activities! ***
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Trailhead: Ovens Mouth Preserve WEST (There are 2 trail heads...)
Click here to access more trail info from Maine Trailfinder.
Total Mileage: We did about 2.8 miles!
Directions: From Portland... go north on 295 to the Brunswick Exit, Exit 28. Merge onto Rt. 1 North. Stay on Rt. 1 for about 22 miles then bear right onto Rt. 27. Go 7.9 miles and turn right onto Adams Pond Road. (This side road is very narrow and easy to miss... it is right before the chamber of commerce.) You will go a short distance then have to turn right onto Dover Road. Stay on Dover Road for about 2 miles... and you will come to this sign. (It is small and hard to see.)
Photo from Google Earth
Turn/Bear left onto Dover Cross Road. The parking area will be about 0.2 miles ahead on the right.
(A little trick...If you enter 118 Dover Cross Road Boothbay into your GPS you will get to an address just before the parking area... )
Photo from Google Earth
The parking area is small, we managed to fit 5 vehicles in there... but all of us were together, as one hiking party, so we did not have to leave space for people to move our/around our cars. There were no parking signs along the road close to the parking area. Someone in our party did park along the road, but down a bit.
Photo from Google Earth:
As I said above... it was icy yesterday and the parking area was slippery and hard to pull into.. I have a truck and chose to back in (needed 4 wheel drive to back in.)
Fees: No Fees!
Now that all the logistics are out of the way... Let me tell you about my hike!
As of the completion of this adventure I am proclaiming myself to be, among other things, A HIKER!
I have shared here before and am sharing again... hiking has always been intimidating to me. I associate hiking with being out of breath, feeling lazy, feeling inadequate, feeling fat... feeling pressure to keep up... with falling behind... with regretting that I even started the hike...feelings of needing to constantly apologize for my inability to hike as well, as fast as others... .... As a person who, in many ares of my life, feels confidence...hiking fills me with angst, self doubt, and negative self talk.
I have always thought of hiking as an uphill climb through the woods ...with one goal... to reach the top.
I have said things like..."I don't hike." "I can't hike." "I don't like hiking." "I can walk for a long time, but hike? Nope." I
have even said, "I love being outside but I have no desire to hike."
There are some truths in what I have said...I haven't wanted to hike because I didn't think I could... I didn't think I was _____ enough... You can fill in the blank... (good, fit, strong, determined...etc.)
As I work to get healthier and want to be more active the biggest lesson I have learned... or maybe remembered... is it is about mindset. Granted... I am not going to wake up tomorrow and think I can hike Everest... because there is no way I am in physical shape to do that. That is not negative self talk... in this case, that is reality. But... I can get up tomorrow...or any day... and go for a walk... or a hike. I can walk or hike for 10 minutes or an hour, or three hours...or a set amount of miles...
And... it does not matter if I am leading the pack (if there is a pack) or if I am last. The person who finished first didn't hike any further than I did. I remember feeling that way when I finished both of the half marathons that I walked... I was definitely closer to the end of the pack than the beginning as far as finishers... but I was a finisher! I walked 13.1 miles... I wanted to do it, I trained for it...and fought with myself throughout those 13.1 miles.. but I did it.
Yesterday I hiked for about three miles. We were on the trail for a couple of hours. And it was AMAZING! Truly.
(I must add here that I have disliked winter fora very long time. I hate the lack of sunlight..and the temperatures, don't even get me started....!)
So... originally I was scheduled to do a session with LLBean's Outdoor Discovery School, learning to cross country ski on Saturday. Mother nature had other plans... There hasn't been enough snow in Freeport Maine to have a xc ski session. (Not enough snow in mid January? in Maine? ... I know!) When I had signed up for the class at Beans I had posted on my social media that I was going and invited others to join me. I was thrilled when four other women signed up to come with me! As the date approached and the snowfall wasn't significant I hoped to have a back up plan for getting together with these women.
As it worked out there was a hike happening yesterday... organized by the one and only, Shannon Bryan, from Fitmaine.com. As part of the Fit Maine Social Club, of which I am a member, she had organized a hike in Boothbay. (To learn more about the social club click here.)
Her description of the hike, based on what she had read online, was that the trail at Ovens Mouth Preserve was relatively flat with some inclines and declines and would be about 1.75 miles.
The self doubt in me questioned just how flat this trail may be... how difficult... so I had followed the links in her description and it seemed pretty 'doable.' A couple of the women who were supposed to xc ski with me decided to come along on the hike! I was excited!
I was surprised to be excited...because I was also nervous. (I have heard that the things you should definitely do are the things that make you nervous and excited!) AND... temperatures have dropped significantly so that the temperatures Saturday morning were going to be the coldest of the season. Was I sure that I could handle the hiking AND the low temperatures? I wasn't sure... but I was pretty sure... I have been investing in outdoor gear for winter and someone at work recently told me 'there is no bad weather, just bad equipment...' so.. I was hopeful that the cold would not be a factor that would ruin this adventure.
So Friday night I tried to get prepared. I am going to do a separate, more detailed, post about my gear... but... I focused on the following (not necessarily in this order.):
1 - clothes/layers for the hike & clothes to change into after the hike (next time I will remember to take a second pair of shoes/boots to change into after the hike to give my feet a break)
2 - backpack
3- microspikes (which I will reference as Bad Ass Spikes!) and a pair of 'grippers'
4 - Water & snacks
5 - Gear for Gladys (Paw protection, leash, food & water, collapse-able water bowl, and a jacket)
6 - gloves and mittens, hats, snowpants, snowjacket, boots...
This is my gear, ready to go... The backpack had both sets of spikes, water, snacks, a bowl for Gladys, a pair of mittens and a second hat. (to help me accommodate for how warm/cold I was feeling.) In the other bag I had my clothing for after the hike, plus my gloves, neck warmer, and hat (the rabbit fur lined kind.)
I had seen Shannon post a photo of her hiking in winter and she had on a pair of bad ass spikes that made me think she could have walked across any frozen surface with ease.... I wasn't sure how much I would like them and how often I would use them... so I ordered a pair from Amazon... pretty much the cheapest I could find... (They worked REALLY well, until they broke! I will be investing in a stronger pair!)
These are called stabilicers... I have had really god luck with these. Great for walking around the neighborhood after a storm. I got them from Amazon, here, (pic from Amazon)
Ok... I was as prepared as I could be as far as the night before goes...
Then there was the morning of...
Saturday morning.... 13 degrees?! My oh my!
I had second thoughts... but then remembered on social media one of the women who was supposed to ski with me said it may be too cold for her to come on the hike and my question to her was.... 'if the ski adventure hadn't been canceled would you have canceled?' Her answer... nope... I would have gone skiing in these temps because I had paid for it and had made a reservation... so... my only reason for not going on the hike would have been because it was too cold... and I have bought gear for this.... so...
I had done some reading about taking dogs on hikes in the winter... and everything I read said that for a few hours most dogs will be fine.... I debated about booties or no booties... and decided on none... but I did use some paw protector salve on Gladys's paws and I think that helped a lot! She had zero issues! This is what I used for her. I have not tried other products, but this seems to work well for us.
Look at how excited she is for adventure!
There were ten of us (plus three pups) on the hike. Unlike my last hike, Bradbury Mountain, I was happy to be with other people. In some ways this hike seemed more daunting... mostly because of the conditions, being so cold and being icy. (Confession: growing up my dad may have referred to me as 'Graceful Gert' on more than one occasion when I would trip or fall!) But... it also felt great knowing there were nine other people with me... for support and encouragement...and safety.
We started out at the same time... and as it goes, I assume, with any hike... the group spreads out.
I didn't care where I was in the pack...I did care about staying with one of the other women on the trail. She is someone I had 'met' online through weight watchers. When she saw I was doing a hike not far from where she lived she wanted to come. I was excited to do this hike WITH her. We did stay at the back of the pack....a place I was very happy to be. I could stop when I wanted to take pictures or a breather... after all...for me, hiking is..will be.. about enjoying it and appreciating it...
(I am learning it is important to look down, ahead of you on the trail, to know what to avoid...but... for me it is more important to stop once in a while...and look around... just like with paddling I like to go slowly and appreciate what is around me.)
We started hiking... and there were some flat areas at the beginning...then we started going down...
And after we went down for quite a ways... we had to cross over this stream. We walked on the frozen ice to cross...I was nervous, but the Bad Ass spikes had proven that I wasn't going to slip and I walked right on that stream and had no issue!
The views were really pretty. I admit... I thought about being on the water in my kayak vs. being on the shore. (This is a hike, however, that would be fun to add to the Boothbay Trip I do in the summer! THAT is a day worth looking forward to!)
As a group we paused along the way... mostly to wait for everyone to be together. (The old mindset would have hated being waited for... and would have been apologetic for holding people up... but not this time! I was happy to see people who had waited, people who felt we were worth waiting for! No apologies needed!)
There is something about being outside...even in crazy low temperatures... that is good for my soul! (and my body and mind!)
There was a lot of ice... beautiful!
We got to a point in the hike that has a beautiful outlook...a small outcropping of rocks. The perfect place for pausing, getting some water and snacks...and appreciating what we were doing...together.
This is bunny... a very small but fierce dog... (Fierce in that she led the hike!)
Gladys was very happy to have a break and get some water and snacks. She even shared her snacks with bunny!
This picture... maybe this is what hiking is about... getting to a place that is only accessible by hiking...and stopping to take it all in!
(photos of me were taken by Shannon!)
Then the wind came up... BRRRR... being out of the trees, that wind was brutal!
There was a bridge that connects the eastern and western parts of the trail... we walked on the bridge, but did not explore the other side.
(Photo by Shannon!)
(selfie by Shannon! It's tradition!)
It was at this point when I started to realize that on a hike.. if it stars with going down... it likely ends with going UP!
No Gladys... the other way.. we gotta go UP that incline...
Let's follow Shannon!
This was about the spot where my Bad Ass Spikes broke! I was glad I had my backup pair, the grippers....because we still had some icy ground to cover.
(Pic taken today)
The metal plate with the spikes broke...
The grippers were not nearly as good as the bad ass spikes... but way better than just boots... I WILL be investing in a quality pair of the Bad Ass Spikes because I think they are key in winter hiking! (And I will always make sure I have a back up set of some kind with me! (I think I will save the non broken set of spikes to keep as a replacement if the pair I by next ever breaks while hiking.)
After hiking further, with A LOT of up... a lot of roots to go over, a lot of left and right as going up... we stopped at another lookout point...
Our Fearless Leader, Shannon Bryan!
We hiked on...
It was really pretty...
The sun...the snow... the trees.... not a bad combination.
Here are some pics that Shannon took.
It is so strange for me to see pictures of me...hiking... in the winter...
But... seeing these pictures...and knowing the terrain we covered... I have no more reasons to say I am not a hiker... I AM A HIKER!
This is my hiking buddy! She did GREAT! This hike was not easy, it was not flat and we did it!
I don't want to speak for her... but I think there were times she wondered what she had signed on for... why she had signed on to do it... and thought about finding an alternate, faster route back to the cars....wondering if she could finish... but she stuck with it! And I am so glad! (She doesn't realize it but a year from now we will return here and because of her commitment to herself, her health, and to her fitness, we will do this exact hike again, and it will be even more fun because it will be easier.)
Look! That's me... hiking!
Me & Gladys in the elements!
My hiking buddy... looking fierce!
As we got towards the end of the hike... I was really happy! Happy that I had hiked...on ice and snow... happy that I had FUN!!! So... I decided to make a snow angel! Gladys wasn't sure what I was doing and if she should be concerned!
My gear worked! I wasn't cold!
I did get a little sweaty...and did bring clothes to change into... next time I will remove my undermost layer for my shirts before replacing outer layers because I did feel a bit chilled ... same for my socks.. I will change my socks after...and will also take a different pair of shoes to change into...
This hike was a huge success! I am excited for my next hike! (After I get new BAD ASS spikes!)
This hike did not end with reaching a summit with spectacular views... the views were amazing throughout the hike.
And... it helped me learn that hiking isn't always climbing mountains... it's exploring the woods, on trails... and seeing beautiful things while sometimes pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones!
After our hike we all went out to eat at a local pub. I had a GREAT burger at Newcastle Publick House.
It was so great to hike with these women...break bread with them... learn more about them... and find out that we all have things in common... our desire to be outside, needing encouragement, and wanting to enjoy it! I like this community!
So...my advice... find like minded people and GET OUTSIDE!
After I got home and settled in... AND had a HOT shower... I was hungry and made myself a fruit plate... apple, grapes, strawberries, cheese, crackers, and...CHOCOLATE Hummus... (One of my favorite things!)
What's YOUR next adventure?
Ovens Mouth West white loop trail (2.4 miles) is one of the more challenging trails with several steep rocky sections that lead to rewarding views of the Ovens Mouth of the Cross River.
Did you see that.. it says 'one of the more challenging trails with SEVERAL STEEP ROCKY SECTIONS!!!
There's some validation!