Shepherd’s Pie with Gratifying Gravy

I ventured for my first time to Balsam Mountain in the Catskills (  Boy, did the weather forecast get this one wrong!  That morning you could certainly tell Autumn had left us; as we got closer to the mountain we could see everything above 3,500 ft elevation was covered with a fresh sprinkle of snow.  As weather would have it, it started to snow as we were driving, which made us all a little hesitant about continuing on to our destination trail, but we’re troopers!

The area of McKinely Hollow was unrecognizable after Hurricane Irene destroyed the area in 2011.  In addition, there were so many downed trees on this mountain from the Hurricanes.  The entire trail head was rebuilt (more like a bushwhack until you met up with the original trail).  Only a half mile down the trail is a lean-to, an area I played in since I was a young child.

The trail was beyond peaceful, following a meandering stream in the magical forest of the mountain. As we gained elevation, we noticed more snow, until the ground was completely covered.  We were hiking into a winter wonderland and loving every second of it!  The silence the fresh snow brings to the forest is the most beautiful sound and brings such peace to my soul.  It was a steep, steady incline up the mountain (pictures don’t do it justice).  When we reached the summit, the clouds parted above us giving way to blue spots and when we reached the view, the sun peaked out to warm our faces.  The trees surrounding the view were snow-covered and made the most beautiful natural frame!

Needless to say, we certainly worked up an appetite after this full-day winter adventure!  I’ve been working on my Thanksgiving recipes, and this would certainly be a delicious addition to any table (no one would be able to tell it’s vegan and gluten-free)! Continue reading