Category Archives: relationship

Wesser Bald and It’s Lessons

The Appalachian Trail crosses Wesser Bald Near Bryson North Carolina. On the top of this bald there was a live-in lookout fire tower. Somebody burned it down in 1979. It has been replaced with a 30-foot tall fire tower that has a 360-degree view. You can see a breath taking panoramic view of the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smokey Mountains. Click here for more information.

Our trip to Bryson to climb this tower is an example of what could work well for you to get your Honey on the trail. My Honey and I meet up with another couple in Bryson, shared a cabin and planed a weekend full of fun.

Chicago roommates
Chicago roommates

The girls had been roommates in Chicago and us guys were going to get aquatinted. This trip included an 8.8 mile hike for me, a mountain bike day for him, girl time for the ladies while we boys biked, a couple of unique restaurants and s’mores by the fire pit at the cabin.

My Honey would have loved all of this but the biking and gone willingly with just me. But it helps make the trip more enticing at times to add like minded friends.

There is an easier way to climb to the tower, but we took the advice of a 20 something ranger lady. This trail was about twice as long and steeper than the other route. This is good to remember who you are getting the advice from. We were in decent shape but 20 years older than the girl giving us route advice. So what she deemed to be no big deal was at least challenging to us. So word to the wise: consider the source.

To get to the trail head we used US19/74 from the Nantahala Outdoor Center and turned right at the Nantahala Food Mart on to Wesser Creek Road. Wesser Creek becomes gravel and ends at the trailhead. We started from the parking area and climbed the blue-blazed Wesser Creek Trail.

Hiking the blue blaze Wesser Creek Trail
Hiking the blue blaze Wesser Creek Trail

It is approximately 3.6 miles to where it intersects with the Appalachian Trail (AT). We turned left on to the AT and hiked another 0.8 miles to the fire tower.

Our first step on the Appalachian Trail together
Our first step on the Appalachian Trail together

We climbed to the top and were rewarded with a spectacular October afternoon view.

Sharing God's autumn glory with my Honey
Sharing God’s autumn glory with my Honey

More tomorrow about our hike down and another lesson we learned.

Pondering Your Path—Would your Honey like a hiking day better if from time to time you invited another couple so she can have some girl time?

When I Thought—She Might Be My Honey

I got a hunch on our third date that this lady might be the one. We had gone out for coffee at the Frothy Monkey on our first date. I took her to a Chaffin’s Barn dinner theater for our second. Now I wanted to see if she was for real about hiking and being outdoors.

One month later on another fun trail
One month later on another fun trail

Third Date—I called her up and asked if she would like to go to Edwin Warner Park near where she lived and hike. She responded eagerly which was a great sign for me. She had been there before and knew a perfect trail. I hoped she had experience there and believed it would be public enough for her to feel safe.  I was right and so pleased that she had recent hiking activity.

Exact Snack—Because I wanted to make it special, I asked her what she would like to snack on. She impressed me again when she was precise. No wishy washy response from this girl. No guessing at what she meant. She said that she would like raw unsalted almonds and organic raisins with filtered water. I had the almonds and water already. I snagged the raisins the day before the hike and was ready with my day pack.

Great First Trail—I picked her up at the gate where she was renting because the owner did not trust me with the code just yet. A few minutes later we were gearing up for a day hike in front of the Edwin Warner Nature Center. We walked and talked for a few wonderful hours. I didn’t want this to end…this might be the one. I pushed the envelope a little and asked what she did to develop a close relationship with God. She shared about her devotional life and that she had helped to lead a divorce care class. What a unique similarity—so had I! I was definitely going to pursue spending more time with her.

Healthy Dinner—It seemed obvious to me that neither of us wanted the date to end. I offered to take her to dinner and she accepted. We were starving and settled on the hot bar at Whole Foods. After we filled our dinner boxes with a wide variety of tasty healthy things, we went outside on the patio. The summer night was perfect and we talked on and on. This food choice was another sign that this developing friendship might be long term.IMG_0868

We are married now and pursuing our passions together. We are so blessed to abide in Christ together; to celebrate the outdoors together; and now to get to write together. I can hear the clicking sound of her fingers on her lap top from where I am writing my blog. She will probably beat me by publishing her blog first tonight but that is ok. I can’t wait to read her latest episode of Clive The Cat when I’m finished.

Pondering Your Path

Are you putting effort into making adventures special? Be a student of your lady—it pays off!

Right Idea Wrong Place

Enjoying a happy moment in our new nest
Enjoying a happy moment in our new nest

Falling in love with hammocks—It only took one trip on the Volunteer Trail near Mt Juliet Tennessee with our old hammock to fall in love with swinging between two trees. We enjoyed it so much that it didn’t matter that the hammock was heavy and filled my entire backpack. Relaxing together and staring up into the beautiful canopy of the forest above easily outweighed the difficulties.

Making a good thing better—We get into turning a thing over in our minds until we know how to make it better. We decided we wanted to find a hammock that is super light weight and compact. Then we would finish it off with a large, light weight fully sealed mosquito net that could be used when it’s warm and buggy.

Grand Trunk—I’ve had a Hennessy Jungle Hammock and I really like Eno but what won the day for us was Grand Trunk’s  54” vertical zipper opening in the mosquito net so you can get in standing up in 6’ plus of headroom. It works well with a double hammock and you can store gear in the bathtub style bottom under the hammock. Then you and your girl can swing in comfort in a double hammock and watch the sunset bug free.

Percy Priest Trial Run—I was enthusiastic to find a westward facing spot on the lake shore with trees just the right distance apart. I pushed through lots of under brush and cob webs and found just such a place.  My Honey hiked in behind me and helped me pack down an area of weeds and brush. We experimented with spacing and angles. When it was good enough for a first try we climbed in and zipped up the netting. We were ready to relax, eat a little picnic and watch the sun set.

Unwelcome guests—I was so focused and exhilarated by the fun task that I missed a thing or two. We climbed in our new nest and I watched with disappointment as a tick marched across my Honey’s shorts. In a flurry of activity we collected and killed everything that crawled that wasn’t human.

Ticked off—How did those get in here? I really was “ticked” off! Then It dawned on me what I had done. While stomping through the brush we walked under a grove of cedars and the ticks had hitched a ride by the dozen. We hastily ate our picnic, packed up and worked our way back out to the trail.

An unhappy moment running from the ticks
An unhappy moment running from the ticks

I’d like to check you for ticks—A famous country song that I think is funny came to life and wasn’t as cute as it sounds. We acted like two monkeys picking lice and removed several ticks from each other. I felt sad that she had not had a good time but my Hiker is so resilient.

Making improvements again—We wanted to repeat the first special moment so badly that we made a plan. Pick an open area that was naturally bare or prepared for camping. Stay away from low hanging cedars. Get in the hammock bug free to start with. She is helping me think because she is drawn to the beauty and the romance. She knows that it takes effort to make a special memory. Finding a perfect hammock place is like cooking a special meal. Plenty of thought and preparation to make it perfect.

Pondering Your Path—have you had an outdoor perfect idea go down with a flop? What can you do ahead of time to be better prepared? Could you scout it out ahead of time? Go set up and tear down to make sure ever thing works right? It might me a lot of work but how much is it worth to get to treat your Honey to an amazing romantic experience?

Building in Margin

Earth shaking power at Rock Island Falls
Earth shaking power at Rock Island Falls

When I hiked BL (before Loral), hiking was always an athletic event. Alone or with my buddies, I would push the limit of my physical ability doing lots of miles carrying 40-55 pounds. Now hiking with my Honey, we build in margin to allow for beholding beauty and investigation interesting interruptions.

Rock Island adventure—In Rock Island Tennessee there is a park that we now love, not only for the waterfalls but for the memories. We planned to visit three different kinds of waterfall environments and got three memorable interruptions in the package.

At Rock Island on the main overlook below the dam
At Rock Island on the main overlook below the dam

A nursing calf—I was so flexible on this particular soirée that we stopped at the ranger station first. We grabbed a map and listened carefully to the advice our young lady ranger had to offer. Before we got to the first waterfall we passed a cow pasture. My darling got excited because she thought she glimpsed a calf nursing. We pulled over and walked back to where she saw this tender site. I was really enjoying her child like wonder—she had never witnessed a calf nursing. We stood hand in hand looking over a vine covered fence at mama and her baby. The calf would gently head-but her mama’s utter and then drink for a while. This was something normal for me and I really didn’t see it when we drove by.  I mean, I saw a calf nursing but I didn’t see a mama loving her child. We gave quiet homage to God’s glory in creation. We had built in margin.

Powerful earthshaking falls—touched and now eager to see the falls, we finished the winding miles to the biggest falls where the force of the falls shook the ground. We liked this site but it was completely domestic—pedestrian and paved. Without ruining the moment we left for the trail where we could do a few miles and see more falls. Through the trees we could see a spectacular group of cascades on the other side of the river pouring down probably 70 feet into the banks.

Little Falls—almost skipped this one…little sign about little falls on an off shoot trail…glad we didn’t miss it…wet and slippery but unique. Over the top of a small cave ran a little water fall. We explored the cave and took turns looking through a port hole sized opening in the rock on to the forrest below.

Break time on a cliff—About three quarters of the way around the loop trail we were on, my love got more adventurous. Out over the river was an outcropping that just begged us to come sit down for a while. We carefully picked a spot and watched the swilling churning river down below. The beauty came from the power and speed of the river. Had we not built in margin we could not have stopped this long for an inspiring break.

Fog Light restaurant—The third thing our built in margin allowed us to do was to find this new really good restaurant. We weren’t looking for a restaurant…just a bathroom. In the bend of the narrow blacktop there was a sign that said Fog Light. No way this could be a restaurant out here? But it had to be one by the condition and location of the sign. We went to the porch and approached a man using a grill. He turned out the be the chef and owner. He let us use the restroom and invited us back at 5pm when they were open for dinner. He suggested we get there early and boy was it good that we did. We arrived at 4:45 and by 5:00 there were 60 plus people in line behind us. This crowd filled the restaurant instantly when the doors opened and the food was upscale foodie kind of good. With margin built in we were able to eat in a Chicago quality restaurant in the middle of nowhere!

The view from our table at Fog Light
The view from our table at Fog Light

Keep the flow loose we now say. Make plans that include real details and timeframes to satisfy the German in both of us but leave margin for our creative French natures. The level of enjoyment has shot up as we have learned to build in margin.

Do you schedule your day and your fun times so tightly that the least interruption causes you stress? Can you stop for 10 minutes to talk to a neighbor without being late for an important deadline? When you stop and smell the roses does it create stress because you know you “should” be somewhere else? What one thing could you do to build in margin to let a little joy leak in?

For more insights on life and enjoying the interruptions read my wife’s blog—Clive the Cat. She shares what our cat Clive is thinking about human behavior and how his wisdom applies.

Capture the Interruptions

Woodbridge Inn, out quaint spot to make the trip special
Woodbridge Inn, out quaint spot to make the trip special

A hiking adventure interrupts our plans—Several months back we needed to take a trip to a specialist in Atlanta GA. We planned in a couple of stops to make it special and voila! A hike to a beautiful waterfall in a very special place interrupted our plans!

Trip to the Doctor—My Honey fought against a bladder infection for five months. A close friend of hers shared that she had been cured 20 years before by an Osteopath in Atlanta. So we made the trip, got the treatment and the infections stopped!  We planned a return trip for a follow up. It is far enough away that the round trip can’t be done easily in one day.

Plans to make it special—We booked a German supper and bed hotel in a tiny little town partially because of the hotel and partially because of its location. Staying here allowed us to come and go past our favorite German sandwich shop in Ball Ground GA for a meal each way.

The interruption—While leaving the hotel parking lot my Honey announces that she has to go back inside. She wanted to use the restaurant bathroom and there were some decorations that she wanted to take a picture of. This was the interruption. Why did she not go before we left the room? What was so special about the bathroom decorations that we need pictures? I’ve learned to just go with it because wonderful things happen when my Baby makes a deviation. This was all a bit hard for this guy to grasp but we were on a meaningful  journey and I was particularly relaxed that morning.

We take pictures of decorations in the bathroom...
We take pictures of decorations in the bathroom…

The Adventure—She came back to the car with a newspaper and she was excited. She said that she was walking past this newspaper stand and she felt the Holy Spirit tug her heart to stop and get one. When she opened the newspaper at random there was a beautiful water fall and an article about Amnicola Falls. It was only 30 minutes away and we love hiking to waterfalls. Zoom off we went. When we got there, we took our left over German sandwich to a picturesque spot and ate it in a swing by a creek. Then we hiked to the falls, explored a little and stopped at the gift shop for a snack.

Very happy on our "interruption"
Very happy on our “interruption”

The surprise—I had not noticed where we were. The name had not rung a bell yet…until I saw the Appalachian Trail marker. I started to smile…could it be? We went inside and sure enough: this was the starting point where the kick off party is every year for the north bound through hikers for the Appalachian Trail.  The hikers have to hike about eight miles to get to the beginning of the trail and hike back past this park so it’s the start but not really the start. I love the AT and have done part of it. I plan to hike it all in sections during my 60’s. What a cool surprise!

A prophetic foreshadowing form me...
A prophetic foreshadowing for me…

Had it not been for the “interruption” we would not have experienced God’s providence to bless us with a special place  “accidentally”—a place where we had wanted to go for years.

What interruptions are you experiencing? Could they be the hand of God? What blessing could be there for you? Look for more insights on interruptions on a blog my wife writes about the lessons we learn from our cat—Clive The Cat.

Adjusting to an Injury

IMG_2531
Riding up front in our “Gondola”

Injury—Do you have to stop enjoying the outdoors when one of you gets injured? If the injury isn’t completely dibilitating, maybe not. It’s very important to heal and to protect yourself from making it worse; but maybe…just maybe…you can get creative and still have fun.

Frozen shoulder—Our recent injury happened about 6 months ago when out of the blue, my Honey’s right shoulder lost at least half it’s mobility. This came with a significant almost constant pain. At first we backed off of everything because we didn’t know what caused it or how to find healing. After a few unsuccessful attempts to find a solution, we found great care with a long term solution through Dr. Boles at Exodus Chiropractic. While searching for a medical solution, she had the growing awareness that while her should was healing, it was going to hurt no matter what she did. With this attitude in force we started getting creative so we could still have fun outdoors.

Sleeping injured—with a frozen shoulder as “part of the equipment” we picked a tent site where we would not have to carry our supplies too far. This made it easy to haul a dozen blankets to make a really thick mat for sleeping comfort. She didn’t have to carry anything and we could still sleep under the stars in comfort. It is so important to sleep well under healthy conditions but even more so when you are healing.

Gondola Style Kayaking—The next morning, I took my injured bride to a small lake where we put in our two seater kayak. (Well, I guess I should say, My friend Richard helped me put in the kayak and she watched. She will help me again soon.) Eager to see some beauty, my Honey let me lower her into the front seat of the Kayak. I sat in the back and did the paddling. She crossed her legs so that one toe hung in the water and we glided over the glass like surface of the lake hoping for extraordinary sites. We stealthily followed a large Blue Heron from one spot to another and really enjoyed his huge wing span as he flew over our heads. We enjoyed the novelty of watching hornet activity from a safe distance. The nest was bigger than a basket ball and about 40 feet in the air. The sun kissed her face with warmth and the shady spots were welcome too.

Large hornet's next high in the trees
Large hornet’s next high in the trees

If it’s possible, creatively work around your injury and keep drinking in the outdoor experience. It might be just what the doctor ordered.

What is holding you back? Can you adjust your expectations, be creative and still spend happy moments outdoors?

We Did it Our Way!

It’s not my way. It’s not your way. It’s our way!

Natchez Trace where we learned to do it OUR WAY!
Natchez Trace where we learned to do it OUR WAY!

Both of us are at least 40 and I’ll be 50 this December. We both have figured out by this point in our lives how to do all that need to be done. Our methods and strategies have worked well for us. So well that we attracted each other. There is no struggle to learn how to do things out of necessity. We weren’t learning how to do laundry, clean the kitchen, pay the bills, maintain a car or cook a chicken. We aren’t first timers at much of anything. This conviction that we have figured most things out is exactly what got us in trouble. When two people with deeply established life patterns get together, both of you can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing without a crash.  It just doesn’t work for very long. Difference surface and sparks fly.

On a camping trip in Tennessee at Natchez Trace State Park our differences came to a boiling point. We had been carefully taking turns doing things my way one time and then hers another. We hit a point while making camp that night when neither one of us would budge. My method of picking a flat surface to set up the tent conflicted with her method. Maybe we were just tired. I don’t know why we got ticked off by this on this night. We had been so happy to be there. We were camping with good friends from church. It was going to be a great night…but…we both hung on to our way as the “right” way. It quickly brought on a rush of emotional water like being downstream when the Corp of Engineers opens all the gates on the dam at Rock Island.

After almost an hour of talking, we were exhausted and getting nowhere. My Honey tried one more time in the verbal chaos to explain what she was feeling. I listened carefully to her word picture. She talked of what our life could look like if we focused on doing this a new way—our way. She reminded me what it was like when I first joined the department I’m in now at work. I had experience and expertise that got me promoted but my way of doing things from the old department couldn’t be used here. Most of what I knew and had done was transferable but I had to work with my new team mates and develop our way of doing things. There was nothing wrong with my way and there was nothing wrong with their way. We just had to have a new way developed to get things done that would work for everybody.

I slowly got excited! A clear understanding was emerging as the fog lifted. This was a business…the business of love. It was not an indictment of me or my methods when she didn’t want to just do it my way! I wasn’t rejecting her when I didn’t want to do it her way. God was inviting us to a deep relationship as husband and wife achieved by developing a new way called “our way”—taking parts from each of us and making something completely new—a mosaic made up of both of us beautifully reflecting Gods light.

This water shed moment is one we will never forget. Every thing has become “before Natchez Trace” or “after Natchez Trace.” It was that significant when we learned to create OUR WAY.

Leaves on the roof of our big tent; view from our sleeping pad
Leaves on the roof of our big tent; view from our sleeping pad

An Easy Teaser Hike Whets the Appetite

IMG_2809Today, we were to start a one or two night adventure on the trail. Early in the week we made a change because that “time of the month” came early(staying flexible is critical, guys). My honey is exhausted so we picked a seriously scaled down event. One with a short distance, flat terrain, smooth surfaces, near a bathroom, ending with a restaurant meal, a Royals baseball game and good sleep in our own bed at home. (She’s from Kansas City and they are about to win the ALCS!) So I settled in ready to enjoy this time outdoors with her and moved my expectations of something bigger further out in my mind.

The hike was amazing! We hiked for 2.5 hours around Radnor Lake in our city and the trees were beautiful. We took lots of pictures of the lake and the colorful leaves. The temperature was a perfect mid 70 degrees, no rain in sight and more importantly, we were together. We saw lots of turkeys, a turtle, lots of chipmunks and several deer shelling acorns with their teeth.

IMG_2837To my delight, she said, “this is so pretty it really makes me want to go next weekend”. She went on to explain that this beauty, easily found, made her realize that she loves this so much it will be worth some hardship next weekend to see more of it. The plan is to spend two nights and most of three days hiking and camping in almost back country style.

IMG_2816I could have been irritated that we were being so domestic. We were passing lots of people; we were on asphalt part of the time and the location of the trail was so “remote” that we had to wait in line for a parking spot. If I had let my heart go there, I would have missed the magic of being with my bride. The experience of hearing her laughter and enjoying the perfectly timed kiss.  Please don’t miss what it right in front of you. Don’t be so focused on missing the grander adventure that you miss what will really make you happy too.IMG_2787