Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Day for the Dogs

Today was a day for the dogs... four of them to be exact. After a 10K morning run, and a second breakfast where I discovered that I like strawberry cream cheese on blueberry bagels it was time to give the dogs some fresh air. We loaded up the car and headed toward Grayson Highlands State Park and stopped short at the AT road crossing on hwy 58.

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Monday, October 10, 2011

Fall Colors Damascus Virginia

We loaded all the dogs into the car today and headed over to Damascus, VA to spend another beautiful day in fall colors.

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Entering Damascus, VA Northbound on the Appalachian Trail

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Tennessee/Virginia Border

Cori and Dudley

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Colors in North Carolina

I had the pleasure of taking a four-mile hike along the Tanawha trail with a friend of mine during fall colors.

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Blue Ridge Parkway: View of Grandfather Mountain from Beacon Heights Parking Lot

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View of Hawksbill and Table Rock from Rough Ridge

Viaduct from Rough Ridge

View from Beacon Heights

Monday, September 19, 2011


Two years ago today I made the arduous climb to the summit of Baxter peak on Mt. Katadhin. It was cold and extremely windy. My body was tired but my soul was renewed. As I made the climb down I was lost in a bittersweet reminiscence of the past six months of my life; excited by how my experiences had changed me, and of the new person I was becoming, and sadden by the thought that my journey was now coming to an end. I had no idea of what I was returning to once I stepped off the AT, but I new it would be a life different then the one I had left behind.

Two years later I have come to realize that stepping off Katahdin was not the end of a journey but the beginning of one. Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail opened up a door into a world that was truly my own. The road before me was no longer brightly blazed and defined with the expectations of others. It was unmarked and overgrown, left for me to figure out my own way through. I was only beginning to (re)discover who I was and who I wanted to be.

This new path has not been an easy one, but similar to the AT it has thus-far been filled with incredible memories, and of constant lessons that life is what you make it, that attitude is everything, and that life is whispering the way if you stop and sit still long enough to listen. I have learned that for the most part, I was always headed in the right direction even if I didn’t know it.

I have learned that it is always good to have a plan A, plan B, and plan C, but it’s even better to let go of those plans and adapt to what life presents when life doesn’t seem to go as expected. Rather, planning provides a means to mentally prepare for the road ahead by simply pointing me in a direction, and allowing me a means to take those first steps forward. After that, life unfolds and it becomes this dance between myself and it, requiring me to accept, adapt, and constantly readjust in order to move peacefully forward. I have come to understand that although things don’t seem to be going quite as I anticipated, somewhere down the line things will fall into place in a way that I cannot even begin to imagine or comprehend.

I have learned that I have an extraordinarily, everlasting need for self-challenge and adventure, both physically and mentally. I’m not always sure of what this means, or exactly where it comes from, but it always seems to weave its way into my life. It’s that feeling of I don’t know why I need to do this, but I need to do this. There was a time I never really questioned this sense of need I just followed it, and from it good things always resulted. As life progressed new responsibilities that came with becoming an adult entered my life, relationships formed, and competing I don’t know why I need to do this, but I need to do this moments seemed to form as well. For a while I sacrificed some needs for others but a big part of me felt suppressed. Hiking the AT allowed me to reconnect with this sense of self-propelling need for constant challenge and adventure, and made me remember what it felt like to follow those I need to do this moments. It is a part of me that I didn’t even realize I was missing. It was also the part of me that had been screaming to get out. More recently and perhaps more importantly, I have come to realize that this is possibly one of the most important aspects of my inner self and a part of me that I cannot live without adhering to. Yes, life does often present seemingly contradictory I need to do this moments, but with some reflection I am learning that they are simply that, seemingly contradictory.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Daniel Boone Scout Trail


"Bees/yellow jackets on the Cragway Trail." Well thank you to the nice person(s) for the warning and saving me a possible shot with an epi-pen and a mouthful of benadryl. The original plan was to hike the Cragway Loop on Grandfather Mountain today, but getting attacked by stinging insects didn't sound like fun. Instead the four of us, Cori, BA, Hershey, and myself, decided to only hike half the loop, taking the Daniel Boone Scout Trail to the Cragway junction then back. IT was a beautiful day with a nice view of Calloway Peak and Boone Fork Bowl at the junction.

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And my Favorite LMAO picture of the day:

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More photo's here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Easing into Nature

Some of us thrive on the outdoors. We depend on the life that it breathes into us. Others, run for the nearest building at the very mention of spending time in the "wilderness". So when one of my not so outdoorsy friends asked me to take her on hike I was excited at the chance to show her why hiking in so great. The challenge; not to scare her away. Like me, she's a gym rat and (unlike me) an athletic rugby player so there was doubt that shes tough but experience also tells me that weight lifting and team sports involvement doesn't necessarily equate to being in good trail shape.

 I settled on taking her on a short, three mile hike at Elk Knob State Park, Todd, NC. The park is fairly new and still under development but there is a 1.5 mile trail that leads to the 5, 520 ft. summit of Elk Knob. I've heard about the trail from  friends and its been on my hiking to do list for some time now. The trail is nice, hardened, with a fairly gradual ascent until the last quarter of mile. At this point the trail detours from the planned route which is yet to be completed and follows a steep, old forest road to the summit. It was at this point that my friend loudly expressed how hard it was. I yelled back to her that the last quarter mile is always the hardest, and I'd see her at the top. Then, I turned around a snap a photo of her struggle at which point she promptly waved a very selected finger. I began thinking I may have ruined her.

At the summit we were rewarded with spectacular views of The Peak, Three Top and Bluff Mountains, Mount Jefferson, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Mt Rodgers (Va.), and the Iron Mountains in Virginia and Tennessee. Oh, and we were also greeted with a swarm of noseums which unfortunately shortened our time at the summit.

We enjoyed our decent back to the parking lot. Despite the lactic acid build-up in her quads, I'm pretty sure she had a good time. If my assumption wasn't enough to go on, I got a text message yesterday afternoon telling me she was taking a friend of hers to Elk Knob to hike the Summit Trail. Mission accomplished.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding Balance and New Challenges

If I had endless sums of money and no desire for a career life where I can contribute to the greater cause of environmental conservation then my life's ambition would be to become a trail bum. Hands down. No questions. I have daydreams (and night dreams) about setting off on my next adventure. There's something about not knowing what lies ahead, the unexplored, that pumps adrenaline through my veins and pushes me forward. There is something about the simplicity of trail living that awakens my soul and makes me feel at home. And, there is something about this rugged simplicity that makes me want to challenge myself, to prove to my ever doubting self, that I am truly capable of anything. Then a huge hail storm or thunder storm, or snow storm (or all three simultaneously) comes rushing through the high country, forcing me to awake from my pleasant dreams, and I find myself ever so thankful to NOT be hiking, NOT to be outside, and NOT to be staring mother nature in the face daring her to push me harder.

Yes, I want to be a trail bum, but I also want what so many of use grow up daydreaming about, a career that matters to me, some creature comforts (I REALLY love my iPod, my Garmin Forerunner, and my dog - in no particular order), and a somewhat permanent place to call home. I want to know that I am doing something important with my life. That I am contributing to the greater good. So how do I reconcile the overwhelming desire for adventure on foot with the same overwhelming desire for a career? School breaks and vacation days. Ideal? Not exactly, but it's a start for now. Realistically, long distance hikes will be few and far between and I have spent over a year searching out ways to fill the void that trail life use to take up. Day hikes just haven't been the same and overnights are such a tease. I was in need of a new challenge, something that would force me to push my limits. Answer, running.

I can hear my mother bickering in my ear "You're going to ruin you're already wrecked knees." Yeah, she's probably right. There were days during my thru-hike that I didn't think I'd reach Katadhin. I waited for that morning to come when I would wake up and my knees would be the size of watermelons and I would take the inevitable greyhound home. But that day never happened. It's taken over a year to get my knees feeling decent again, and once they did I knew it was time to hit the trail, well, treadmill. I started in January and there was lots of snow on the ground.

It's now April and I'm gearing up for my first 5k race. I'm not in it to win it, at least not yet. I'm in it to know I can do it. After that, the next challenge is on; to pick up speed at to get competitive.  So far, my knees are doing great.

I'm not giving up hiking. With spring rolling in I have a list of extended day hikes (12-20 miles) that I hope to accomplish on my Sunday's off. In regards to those long distance hikes, the Benton Mackaye Trail (288 miles), the Long Trail (273 miles), and the John Muir Trail (211 miles) are at the top of my list. If I learned anything during my hiking career, it was this: it's nice to have a plan, a vision of what you would like to accomplish, but leave the detailed planning to faith. One day the opportunities to complete these longer journey's will present themselves and I will find a way to go with the flow.