Nick Carroll Headshot

“You must’ve been sad. All alone on Christmas,” she said sympathetically while placing my shredded cheddar cheese into a blue plastic bag. 

“I was alone on Thanksgiving and my birthday too!” I boasted.

“And I can’t wait to be alone tonight [New Years Eve]!”

She wasn’t amused. 

I was.

What the kind-hearted cashier didn’t understand is that I enjoyed celebrating the holidays in 2020 all alone.  

Technically, I’m never alone as my 4-legged shadow, Nittany the Pooch, follows me everywhere. But from the standpoint of visiting family and friends, I chose to follow the flippin’ guidelines, being smart and safe. 

Don’t be mistaken, my fame as a local celebrity garnered invitations from highfalutin galas like the one at the Greenbrier on New Years Eve. However catching the ‘vid and passing it around like a joint at a Doobie Brothers concert wasn’t on my resolution list. 

I already went Barry Sanders on the virus, juking and dodging Covid when it invaded our office several weeks ago. Luckily, I managed to come away from the Covid blitz completely unscathed.

No need to press my luck and hit a whammy: I’ll keep my health and pass my free spins.

So what is the best way to celebrate the holidays in isolation? 

I hit the hiking trails around the region. 

The best part of exploring on the holidays? 

No people. 

On Thanksgiving my TomTom pointed me to the Paw Paw Tunnel and I spent the afternoon trotting the C&O Canal. 

Instead of taking the short and easy path through the tunnel, I took the high road over the mountain.

Once I reached the apex, it was time for a selfie as the Potomac River flowed lazily between the mountains off in the distance. 

The picturesque background was selfie worthy of any single guy to prove “hiking” in your profile means you actually go hiking. 

On Christmas day, my routine was somewhat similar, but this time I took my horse to the Oldtown Road. 

Okay, she is a canine. But still, she runs like a horse. I coughed up 6 quarters to take my 1-horse open sleigh across the Oldtown Bridge and gallop along the towpath.   

After reaching the ruins of the Oldtown Aqueduct, I heard a beaver slap its tail on the water. Meanwhile a large group of birds chirped loudly in a nearby bush while the icy waters of the Potomac River babbled in the background.

It was beautiful. No people. No artificial noise. Just sounds of nature. 

New Year’s Eve was a similar experience. 

This time I was decked out in my new trail stomping gear, with fresh kicks on my feet, headlamp on my forehead, and several layers of warm clothing. 

My sidekick was sporting her new light-up collar and we blazed a trail late at night. 

We were in some dense forestry as the year 2020 went curtains, as the sounds of thunder echoed off the mountains from gunfire signaling 2021 had arrived.  

An owl tried to keep pace with the blaring barrage of bullet sounds, increasing his hoot volume to the maximum output.

I believe a peregrine falcon (or some other large bird) shrieked from the excitement as a herd of deer started running in the woods.

Alone in nature with my dog, what a way to start 2021.  ο

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