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

(Always) "be prepared" --- Girl Scout Motto

Even though I don't remember much about my girl scout experience besides selling lots of cookies every year and wearing the uniform, one thing has always stuck with me.  The Girl Scout Motto - from the 1947 Handbook -- "BE PREPARED."   The trunk of my car is a testament to this statement for better or worse.  

Whether it is pulling together a gear list for a backpacking trip, organizing a drop bag for a 100 mile race, or packing for work travel, I try to think of everything that could come up and bring along a simple solution.  Here is a sample of 7 items I always take with me on the road beyond my usual outfits.Some of these items cover basic needs but others are particularly great in an emergency.  I can think of a ton of things that could be made out of duct tape like an ankle brace or a drinking vessel or a clothes line. It is super versatile and cheap. This is just one example.  There are actually books on thousands of uses for duct tape. For the other items, there may appear to be only one use but my mcgyvering mind sees lots of possibilities. Hopefully, you will too in a pinch.  I am happy to share my complete list or provide a consultation upon request.

Backpacking                                                   

  1. Duct Tape                                            
  2. Puffy Jacket
  3. SmartWater Bottle/Water Filter
  4. Headlamp/Light/Lighter
  5. Phone/Camera/Backup Charger
  6. Snacks
  7. Coffee

Ultra/Trail Race

  1. Liquid Calories
  2. Hydration Vest
  3. Phone/Camera
  4. Buff
  5. Electrolyte Tablets
  6. Desitin Cream
  7. Coffee

Work Travel

  1. Comfortable Shoes
  2. Big Scarf for cold rooms
  3. Safety Pins
  4. Lavender Oil
  5. Phone/Camera
  6. Lysol To Go
  7. Coffee

Northern Exposure

Almost everyone I know from South Carolina has relatives up north.  Many were a part of The Great Migration of more than 6 million African Americans from the South between 1915-1970.  As a matter of fact, all of my dad's siblings and his mother moved to NY/NJ while my immediate family stayed in South Carolina. My grandfather had died tragically in a truck accident which may have precipitated the move up north for the others. Why my dad didn't leave with the rest of the family is unknown at least for now.

At any rate, the separation of the family created the perfect opportunity for travel and exploration as I was growing up.  I looked forward to the long car ride from South Carolina through North Carolina, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania to New Jersey.  It was amazing to see all of the cities along I-95 but it was quite interesting to see fields of grazing cattle so near the city.  A lot of the area looked just like the countryside where we lived in South Carolina.  But don't tell my cousins that.  I did notice, even as a kid, that after a few days in the city there was a strong pull to be in nature.  Luckily there was a huge park just down the street from my grandma's house.  Weequahic Park (wee-kwah-ic) has 311 acres with a lake and lots of green space, basketball courts, trails, and a playground. 

 Fishing at the Lake - 80 acres

Fishing at the Lake - 80 acres

 

 

 

Newark_098.jpg
 From grandma's house to the park

From grandma's house to the park

When my brother and I would go to visit my grandmother for the entire summer, we spent most of our time at this park.  We would ride our skateboards down to the park and just hang out all day exploring the park with our city cousins and friends.  I am grateful for my time in the city because of the exposure to a different way of life including opportunities that lie in big cities but I will always have a need to connect with nature even if it is a park nestle between tall buildings.  

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.