Choosing to Celebrate Outside

It all started with a walk in the woods back in November 2014.  I told my friend Jenny that I wanted to hike a section of the AT (Appalachian Trail) from the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) to Springer Mtn, GA (South Terminus).  At that point, I had never set foot on the trail until that day but this adventure was now on my list. I figured if I could run 100 miles through the woods, surely I could walk 137 miles in 10 days or so.

  AT at the NOC.

AT at the NOC.

 

Almost a year later (December 2015), we took a day trip up to Springer Mtn, GA to scope out the end of the trail using a backroad less traveled which allowed us to avoid the 8 mile approach trail to the AT from Amicalola.  The dream was now set into motion and in July 2016, I completed my first ever backpacking trip covering 88 miles in 8 days with Jessa, Mary, Callie, and Kathy.  It was also the beginning of my trail fever.

 Jessa, Mary, me, Callie, and  Kathy - 5 Dirty BUTS

Jessa, Mary, me, Callie, and  Kathy - 5 Dirty BUTS

 Have bunny, will hike. Wayah Bald to the NOC

Have bunny, will hike. Wayah Bald to the NOC

 Jenny - Always ready for adventure!  

Jenny - Always ready for adventure!  

 At the Springer Mtn Southern Terminus

At the Springer Mtn Southern Terminus

Trail fever is a real thing.  Just ask anyone who has ever gone backpacking on the AT for at least a couple of days.  It was so real that prior to my birthday trip, I hiked ~18 miles in one day because I was in the area and wanted to fit in another section (Wayah Bald to the NOC).  This time bunny came along for the ride and we made it back before dark when the bears come out for dinner.  ;-)  

 AT on bridge across the Nantahala River at the NOC

AT on bridge across the Nantahala River at the NOC

Of course, the day hike was not enough to cure the trail fever and plans were hatched immediately to come back to the AT for the section from Neels Gap to Springer Mtn (~32 miles) just prior to my actual birthday.  The goal would be complete - 137 miles from Springer Mtn to the NOC. 

#BlogLikeCrazy while Hiking.

11/16/16  - Made it to Neels Gap at 9 ish.  Met Gumby Bear and 4 other thru-hikers staying at the hostel.  They had to be shuttled to safety because of the wildfires but still managed to hike more than 2,000 miles this season.  I am cold and tired so I am about to hit the sack.

11/17/16 - Crazy long day - 15 hilly miles (in my tent by 7:40 pm).  We got started at 9:30 am then spent a fair amount of time on Blood Mountain looking at the incredible views and eating a snack after the tough climb.  It was crazy hot but the smoke (from arson) stayed away until late afternoon.  We met up with a bunch of SOBO's (southbound thru-hikers -  Everest, Walker, Baby Bear, Thumper, Beast, Ash, TBD, and friends) who are going to be finishing up on Saturday.  Of course, there was a wild party at the Gooch Gap shelter where everyone bombed a beer to celebrate my birthday.  I feel like hiker trash even if only for a section.  I hope my hiking partner makes it tomorrow.

11/18/16 - I didn't miss social media for a second while hiking the AT.  It was an amazing journey that got started today at 6:30 am.  I slept ok last night except for the intermittent coughing and sliding around in my sleeping bag.  I was also amazed to see how bright it was outside because of the supermoon.  But away from the moon, I could see the beautiful stars only visible in darkness minus artificial light.  Well, we got underway hiking at 8:00am struggling up 4 plus mountains before noon with more than 20lbs on our backs .  Then it was downhill for 3 plus miles and we needed the reprieve from the heat.  The last 4 miles were the longest ever but I was determined to make it to the southernmost terminus of the AT.  Good thing we dropped our bags at the jeep so that the last 2 miles of our 17-mile journey were bearable.  

 Headed to hike with Ynot

Headed to hike with Ynot

 View from Blood Mtn 

View from Blood Mtn 

 Springer Mtn.

Springer Mtn.

The view from the Terminus was extra special at the end of a couple of days of strenuous hiking.  The entire trip was filled with beautiful overlooks, a wide array of changing leaves, conifer trees, flowing creeks, birds, chipmunks, squirrels, butterflies, sunrises and sunsets, and best of all cool people.  I loved every minute of the trip even when I was suffering.  At least I knew that I was still alive.  This is truly why I chose to celebrate my birthday outside.  To feel alive.

 Gumby Bear, Creature, and Me

Gumby Bear, Creature, and Me

 Start of climb to Blood Mountain summit

Start of climb to Blood Mountain summit

 Blood Mtn Summit

Blood Mtn Summit

 Near Three Forks - US60

Near Three Forks - US60

Baits and Crickets

Fishing was a major leisure time activity for my family.  When I was growing up, my dad would take us fishing many places around the state.  We would sometimes go deep sea fishing on his boat but mostly we took our little bamboo poles to Mr. McClain's pond just down the street from our house.  But first, we needed to get some lures to make our hooks a bit more appetizing for the freshwater bream, catfish, or bass.  Although my dad used plastic flies for catching the big guys, my mom mostly used live earthworms (aka baits) or crickets. Sometimes we would go digging for our own earthworms or catch crickets from our yard. The trick was then to scoop out just one, grabbing it strategically to get it on the hook so that it was not too easy for the fish to get it off without getting caught. On a good day when the fish were "jumping" we would catch enough for everyone to have 2 whole fried fish with a side of rice and tomatoes and cucumbers.  I think these meals were more delicious that usual since we worked for our meal.

To keep the family tradition of regular fishing trips,  my dad built a fresh water pond on our land near my mom's current home.  A short walk down the trail behind her house is an amazing outdoor oasis.   Last time I was there, I saw many small bream and my mom caught a huge catfish.  It still amazes me how small things that we take for granted can bring so much pleasure and relaxation.  This pond is a part of our family legacy of outdoor connectedness that I hope will provide rejuvenation to my family and friends for years to come.

 

 

Blackberries, plums, cherries and peaches

Growing  up in the country has its advantages.  We had wild fruit all over my neighborhood and my mom would make desserts for us if we made it back home before eating them all.  My favorite homemade dessert was peach cobbler but my favorite fruit to eat while picking was blackberries.  Not too tart and not too sweet, I could eat  them until I was sick.  Of course, my mom loved for us to pick blackberries so that she could make a blackberry dumpling but she was not too happy to see our shirts forever stained from our berry picking adventures.

It was amazing to have the freedom to roam around the neighborhood picking berries, cherries, plums and peaches but real dangers were a part of our reality as well.   Where there is food, there is wildlife trying to get their share.  Luckily, my dad had taught us about snakes (poisonous vs. nonpoisonous ones).  And yes,  I saw many snakes during my childhood including that one faithful day when I was about 10 years old.   I was picking blackberries near our garden at the end of a very large backyard when I stuck my hand deep into the berry patch to get the biggest blackberry I had ever seen.  And as my had got close to it, I froze.  There was a giant rattlesnake curled up asleep within inches of my purple little fingers.  I knew it was poisonous from the diamond pattern and the triangular shaped head and I was terrified.  While holding my breath, I quickly eased my hand to safety and ran to tell my dad about the big snake that almost got me.  Of course, in one fell swoop my dad chopped off the head of the snake and saved his little explorer.  And I went back to berry picking but making sure to look before I reach after my near run in with mr. rattler.  Blackberries are still one of my favorite fruit and I still think about that snake encounter everytime I go wild berry picking.  Most of all, I think about my dad and how he was there to save the day.  

 

 

Why the Blue Butterfly?

              Caterpillar of the Blue Butterfly

             Caterpillar of the Blue Butterfly

The blue butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) symbolizes transformation. And my life has been a series of transfigurations to grow from a scared little girl into a fearless wild woman.  It began with extreme self-care which included being physically active (mostly running), eating well, and spending time outside in nature.  Finding my tribe to connect with socially was another big part of my rejuvenation process.  There is just something about runners that is incomprehensible -- and trail runners take that to the next level. Experiencing other cultures through travel also helped to heal that place in my soul created by life's hurdles and trenches.  I learned how very privileged  I am as a female living in America through visiting other parts of the world.  Now, my goal is to inspire other females to create the highest visions of their own lives.  Therefore,  I will use this forum to share my outdoor adventures as well as feature the adventures of some really incredible women and girls.