Nature

A Phenology Wheel

Happy March! Hard to believe we’re already a week in and just two weeks from the start of spring. While I’ve enjoyed the snow this winter, I’m absolutely ready for spring! ( ⏎ Did you notice I turned off the snowfall on my homepage? I’m summoning warmer weather!) And to help me enjoy these days leading up to spring, I’ve decided to create a Phenology Wheel.

PHENOLOGY WHEEL: My circular nature journal for the month of March 2021.

The definition of phenology is the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life. A Phenology Wheel is a circular journal or calendar that encourages a routine of Earth observation where you live. I’ve seen seasonal, monthly, and daily wheels—some super detailed and others just a quick sketch with notes. I opted for a daily wheel as I continue my promise to be more observant each and every day.

DAILY OBSERVATIONS: I take notes to remind me of what I saw and tried to draw!

My artwork is a bit rudimentary and my handwriting/notes a little messy, but it’s been a fun way to be both artistic and mindful. I’ll be curious to see how my drawings change throughout the month. I’m hoping I get a little better! Here are a few of the images I tried to capture:

MARCH 6th: Our security camera caught this little fellow resting on our front bushes early one morning.
MARCH 7th: This was a pretty little pinecone I spotted on my walk with Bella.
MARCH 7th: And this is Bella giving me the look that says, “Enough pictures. Let’s go, mom.”
MARCH 8th: Connor came home with a few purple Hyacinths for me to plant. I can’t wait until they bloom!

I’ll post my progress in another week or so. In the meantime, I hope my little project will spark your creativity. Let me know if you decide to create a Phenology Wheel and we can compare!

Until next time…

Travel

Miles with Connor

This week didn’t find me on the trails but in the air and on the road. Like many (thanks to COVID), it’s been a year since I’ve done this. But as I mentioned in my very first post, Connor is a senior and needs to decide where he’ll be heading this August (which is coming much sooner than I want it to!). My husband and I agree that there’s just no way we can send him off without physically visiting the campus and surrounding areas first. So, Connor and I bit the bullet, masked up, and made our way to his number one choice—Oklahoma University in Norman, Oklahoma. Connor chose to apply to OU for the School of Meteorology, which is based out of the National Weather Center Building housed on the OU campus.

THE NATIONAL WEATHER CENTER BUILDING at OU: Connor in his glory.

The National Weather Center Building is a partnership between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Oklahoma. Completed in 2006, the center is fairly new and one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world. This state-of-the-art building provides space for education, training, operations, and research and is home to more than 550 students, faculty members, research scientists, operational meteorologists and climatologists, engineers, and technicians. It’s also where Connor would spend most of his time.

NOAA and OU PARTNER UP: This huge building is where Connor would spend most of his time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t tour the inside because of COVID restrictions.

While we couldn’t help but be impressed with the weather building (and the Radar Innovations Lab, which was right next door), the older buildings on campus were absolutely amazing. At the center of it all was the Bizzell Memorial Library, which was built in 1929 with seven floors and more than five million books. The Great Reading Room was like something out of Harry Potter! Intricately carved bookcases holding dissertations of OU graduates line the walls, and anyone who enters must have their books out, phones off, and keep completely quiet.

THE GREAT READING ROOM: Students were in this amazing room, so I didn’t want to go in for pictures. The library has various levels of quiet from a little noise to complete silence, which is what this room requires.

Several floors of the library have decks that hold modern works as well as British and American Literature from the 15th century to the present. Fun fact…

FUN FACT: The administration hides $1 up to $100 bills in the books throughout the year, encouraging students to go on a treasure hunt! How fun is that? Our tour guide once found a $20.

As we toured the campus we saw London-style phone booths scattered around. Turns out these six (WORKING!) phone booths were brought there by former President David Boren as a reminder of his time at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. I have to say, the booths coupled with the Gothic-style architecture made me feel like I was in England. They also have an English-style pub on campus.

A LITTLE BIT OF LONDON at OU

The bells of OU are also pretty special. You can hear them here.

While the campus was pretty special, so were the surrounding areas. Our Airbnb was an adorable (very clean) bungalow located just 1.5 miles from the campus. This photo is from the Airbnb listing and was taken in the spring or summer, but it was just as cute this time of year.

CUTE BUNGALOW: This adorable Airbnb was very close to the campus. If Connor chooses to attend OU, we’ll definitely stay here again.

We had nice weather and a rental car, so we decided to venture to Oklahoma City (just 30 minutes from the campus) and took a walk on the canal that winds through downtown area of OKC called Bricktown. Once a warehouse neighborhood, it has been restored into an entertainment district.

BRICKTOWN: The 1-mile long canal linking Bricktown with downtown OKC and the Oklahoma River was quiet during our visit.

Our last stop was Lake Thunderbird State Park, just 20 minutes from campus. It was really large with two marinas, camping areas, equestrian trails, and a bunch of other hiking, running, and mountain biking trails.

OKLAHOMA STATE PARK: Lake Thunderbird State Park covers 1,874 acres.

I’ll admit that traveling during this time of COVID had me on edge. But seeing campuses is a necessity before sending my firstborn off to school for 4 years (especially when it’s not right around the corner). And while he still has two other schools to visit (SUNY Albany and Western Connecticut State University) and might end up choosing one of them, it was really cool to see this campus and learn more about a state we’ve never been to.

Until next time…

Tidbits of Wisdom, Woodland Adventures

Easy Miles

My miles with Bella have been a little low and slow these past two weeks. Over the last few months, I’ve been working toward a virtual 25k, which I ran last weekend. So the week leading up to those 15.6 miles was a low-mileage week, as was this week. And I have to say, I felt tired this week. I’ve been steadily adding miles (more than 160 miles of running and walking for the month of January) and I think it finally caught up to me. Bella was also a little off this week with some tummy trouble, so it was a good time to slow down a bit.

Today called for a 6-mile run but I opted for less. Bella and I joined a friend for a short hike on a new-to-me trail in Montgomery County—a portion of the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail. Part of what we hiked is also part of the Montgomery County trail system that encompasses those 100 miles of trails I spoke of in my last post (and that we plan to tick off throughout 2021!).

I LOVE MEANDERING: The Seneca Creek Greenway Trail follows Great Seneca Creek in Montgomery County.

We did a short out-and-back hike, but it was very pretty as it meandered along the Great Seneca Creek with lots of pretty photo opportunities.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE: The creek bed was gorgeous with the sun highlighting the varying colors.

Despite the number of cars near the trailhead, the side we hiked on was very quiet. The opposite side of the creek seemed to have more mountain bikes. From time to time we could hear them hootin’ and hollerin’.

SUNNY WARMTH: While the day was cool, the sun warmed us as we hiked along the quiet banks of the creek. The trails on the opposite side (in the woods to the left) were occupied by a number of mountain bikers.

I will admit that early on in the day I beat myself up for not getting my 6-mile run done. After all, it was on the calendar! But in the end, this easy, pretty hike was just what I needed. And it was a great opportunity to find a new trail (not too far from home) that I can return to for a run.

And following the theme of easy … I ended the day with a cocktail from my favorite—McClintock Distilling.

EASY MILES, EASY EVENING: One of my favorite cocktails is McClintock’s Gardner’s Gin with fresh lime juice and a splash of Fever Tree Elderflower Tonic Water. The perfect ending to a great day.

Until next time…

Neighborhood Miles, Woodland Adventures

An Unexpected Adventure

Last week I talked about my 2021 wordwonder. I also mentioned that I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. And while that is true, I do still have goals. That’s not the same thing, right? Anyway, the 2021 goal that I set for myself was to run/hike/walk at least one new place each week. After several weeks of holiday downtime, in which I found myself discovering loads of new trails, that goal seemed like no big deal. I even managed a new location during the first full week of the year (Blockhouse Point, also discussed in last week’s post). But Week 2 of 2021 proved a little more challenging when it came to my schedule and I got off track. Or did I?

I’ve been super fortunate to have a few clients in my new business venture, MellaceWrites. So this last week found me running closer to home with less time to travel to trails. And for the record, I’m absolutely not complaining! I’m so grateful to have the work and be off to a wonderful start. So, instead of beating myself up for not meeting my goal, I found new ways of looking at things on my normal #mileswithbella. Like this funky mushroom growing on the side of this tree…

FUNKY MUSHROOM: This was growing about 6 feet up on this tree that I pass almost every day on my walks.
First time I noticed it was this week.

Or this branch that I never noticed before on these pine trees that I’ve photographed so many times…

PINE TREE ALLEY: One of these is not like the others.

Or seeing the sunset from a new angle as I moved off the path to let another walker pass safely by…

SUNSET PINES: Just seeing a sunset from a different angle can be a new experience.

My long run this weekend was also going to be on a familiar trail at Black Hills Park. That was until my friend and I arrived to find the trails closed for a managed deer hunt.

TOTAL BUZZKILL: Plans for our 12-mile run were quickly squashed and we had to figure out a new plan.

My immediate reaction was one of disappointment. I really need to psych myself up for my long runs, so this was a real buzzkill. There is another park within a 20-minute drive, which was my first thought, but my friend didn’t miss a beat and suggested we try a new-to-me trail that was just across the road—the Hoyles Mill Trail.

AN UNEXPECTED ADVENTURE: For years I’d seen signs for this trail but never knew where it led. I’d forgotten about it until my running friend suggested we give it a try seeing as our original trail was closed for the day.

I had been looking forward to the original trail that skirts a beautiful lake offering views like this right from the start…

SUNRISE LAKE VIEWS: This is the view that greets us at the start of our run at Black Hills.

But our new plan didn’t disappoint when we were immediately greeted with this sunrise view…

HOYLES MILL TRAIL: We had gorgeous views right from the start.

From there, we ran along single-track trails, country roads, and more open fields. It was a fantastic variety of views and terrain and lots of water crossings, which I love.

HOYLES MILL TRAIL: This crossing had a bridge, but there were about four others that required careful negotiation.
HOYLES MILL TRAIL: The water crossings weren’t deep, but enough to get your feet wet if you weren’t careful.

The really cool thing about this adventure was that it took us through three different parks: Black Hills Regional Park, Hoyles Mill Conservation Park, and Schaeffer Farms, which is part of Seneca Creek State Park.

PARK/TRAIL HOPPING: Better than bar hopping…our 12-mile run was an out-and-back (6 miles out, 6 miles back).
SCHAEFFER FARMS: We ran to Schaeffer Farms before turning around. I’d been on some of these trails when I ran the Schaeffer Half Marathon in November 2019…a great race organized by EX2 Adventures.

And what’s even more exciting, is that these parks all link together as part of a much bigger Montgomery County trail system—one that encompasses 100 miles of trails, many of which I haven’t done (yet!).

So, while I was ready to accept that I had missed this week’s goal, I will admit that I’m really happy I didn’t. And I learned that a trail-closed sign isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, it led us to an unexpected adventure, and some new trails added to my “wonder list.” There’s a life lesson in there, isn’t there?

Until next time…

Tidbits of Wisdom

What’s Your Word?

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. I can never keep them, so why bother making them. I’ve also never chosen a guiding word before—a word that is to be my constant reminder to help guide me in my decision making and help keep me moving forward in a positive light. But this year is different. This year I felt a very real need to choose a word that I could live by for the next 12 months. And, in doing so, I found a word that I want to live the rest of my life by. My word is wonder.

I found my word with a little help from a good running friend. We were out on the trails the other day and started chatting about what word or phrase we wanted to adopt for 2021. I told her that I was thinking of explore or discover. Then she said, “I think your word is wonder. When I think of you, I see someone who is always finding the wonderment in things. I think that should be your word.” As soon as she said it I knew she was right.

The definition of wonder is “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.”

In my last post, I talked about how I’ve made a conscious decision to seek out the beauty that surrounds me. In doing that, I’ve discovered so many things that stop me in my tracks and make me think about just how wonderful our world is. I’m talking simple stuff here—coming around the bend in the trail to see the sun peeking through the trees …

Or seeing beautiful flowers dancing on the side of the road during a run …

Or seeing a mound of moss that somehow reminds me of the little garden gnomes from the Disney movie “Frozen” (I can’t explain it, but it makes me smile).

While there is so much that needs our attention in today’s world … so many heavy things … it is my hope that my word will guide me to view the world with a sense of wonder each and every day. And I vow to take that sense of wonder into everything I do—every word I write, every person I interact with, every bend in the trail. I hope you can find the wonder in your days, too.

Here are some pictures from my word discovery run the other day and another new-to-me trail: Blockhouse Point Conservation Park in Darnestown, Maryland. Enjoy!

BLOCKHOUSE POINT: This was one of the views from the Blockhouse Point Conservation Park trail. The park is approximately 630-acres and this particular trail overlooks the Potomac River and C&O Canal, which is the path you see below us.
BLOCKHOUSE POINT: Bella was a happy dog and a muddy dog by the end of this run. But muddy dog = a happy dog, right? The island in the background is known to have nesting Bald Eagles. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any on this trip. Hopefully next time.
BLOCKHOUSE POINT: I just loved this tree. According to the Montgomery Parks website, many of the existing trails in Blockhouse Point Conservation Park are part of the historic Civil War complex for which the park is named.
A THING OF BEAUTY: The trails border this horse farm, which gave me a great shot of these beauties grazing on the hill.
The Pack

Meet the Pack!

Happy New Year and welcome to Miles with Bella! You may already know my 6-year-old black lab, Bella, the inspiration behind this storytelling adventure, but she has two four-legged siblings who I’d like to introduce.

THE PACK: Cora, Pip and Bella wish you a Happy New Year!

First, we have the beautiful guardian and matriarch of the pack, Cora, a 13-year-old Hound-Rhodesian-Ridgeback cross (at least that’s what we think she is). We adopted Cora from a shelter in North Carolina where she had come in as a stray. She was about 4 months old and quickly grew into a 90-pound beauty with quite the personality.

Next is lap-warmer extraordinaire Pip, a 6-year-old Shih Tzu-Maltese cross (again, our best guess). I found Pip when he was about 4 months old. He was wandering around an apartment complex and came running up to me—a matted ball of fluff with the biggest eyes. I worked with the local vet clinics and animal shelters to see if he had run away, but after two weeks there were no takers. So, he became a Mellace. These dogs are the furry loves of my life and well-loved members of the Mellace family.

My human loves will make appearances in my adventures, so I should introduce them, too. Vince is my soulmate and husband of 21 years. Loving, patient, and, thankfully, a dog lover! Connor, our 18-year-old son, is in his senior year of high school and awaiting word from colleges to see where he’ll be heading next year to pursue a degree in meteorology. Sophia, our 15-year-old daughter, is a sophomore in high school, a horseback rider (taking after her mom), and hoping to pursue a degree and future career in marine biology in a couple of years. These amazing humans are my cheerleaders when it comes to all the adventures in my dog-filled life.

MY TWO-LEGGED KIDS: Sophia and Connor chasing waterfalls with me in Thurmont, MD.

So, what prompted Miles with Bella? Bella came to us in May 2019. While I have never turned an animal away, let’s just say I was reluctant to take another dog into our home at the time. Cora was getting older and has always been a challenge with other dogs. For years I tried to get her over her leash aggression, but we never quite got comfortable with walks and socialization. She LOVES her humans unconditionally, but she’s very particular with other dogs. After years of having just Cora and Pip, I was afraid another female dog (young and brave) might really upset the apple cart—but we decided to give it a go. With the help of our dog trainer (the BEST on the planet), we introduced Bella to the pack, and here we are.

SHARING: It didn’t take long for Cora and Pip to accept Bella.

Bella’s entrance gave me the opportunity to have a dog I could walk and run with. Something I haven’t had in years! (Pip is great for shorter walks, but not quite up for my woodland adventures.) Bella, meanwhile, hadn’t been walked very much by her previous owners and was thrilled with the prospect of accompanying me. We started with morning walks and then I introduced running. She was a star. Today, she accompanies me on most of my miles, but I will (reluctantly and much to her dismay) leave her home when I head out for more than 6 miles.

Before Bella, I would run 3-4 times a week. On the days I didn’t run, I didn’t walk either. Bella changed that. When we aren’t running, we’re walking. She has been the impetus behind me getting more time on my feet and, therefore, way more time to recognize the beauty all around me. And while I’ve always been good at taking pictures when I’m out running (I’m the self-proclaimed trail paparazzi), I’ve become more thoughtful about chronicling my outings.

RECENT #MILESWITHBELLA: Exploring a new-to-us section of the AT in Pennsylvania.

The pictures help me appreciate the fact that I have my health and can be outside enjoying my surroundings. I’m grateful for my two legs that help carry me forward (slowly, but forward!) down the trail, through the park, or through my neighborhood.

NEIGHBORHOOD SHOT: These gorgeous pines are part of our neighborhood route.
I like to capture them in different light throughout the seasons.

My miles with Bella have taught me to slow down and appreciate what I have and what surrounds me. We’ve seen beautiful sunrises, stunning sunsets, amazing vistas, and met some wonderful people along the way. My goal is to continue these miles and pictures and continue sharing for those who wish to see them and read about our adventures. Maybe there will be some tidbits of wisdom, maybe not! But I can promise you some beautiful scenery and unique ways of looking at things.

I hope you’ll join us!

P.S. You can also follow us on Instagram or Facebook.

The Pack

Coming Soon!

Tag along on my adventures with Bella, a 6-year-old black lab. I’ll share photos and words of wisdom (at least I like to think of it that way!) from our time on the trails, walks around town, and travels (when we can safely do so again). I hope you’ll join me!