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Celebration after Struggle

IMG_2027Our first night in a tent was in Florida in Fort De Soto campground in Pinellas County near St Petersburg FL. We had decided to take on back country backpacking one component at a time and see how she liked it. This would just be the overnight component in a 1.5 person backpacking tent. Breakfast would be back country style too but that was incidental. There was a real bathroom, electricity, and the car was parked right there. It was to be followed and proceeded by restaurant food and an indoor bed. This way we only tried on the tent for style and a little outdoor cooking.

That night we sat on the shore and watched dolphins and fish jump out of the water. When we were ready for bed the wind was blowing about 10 miles an hour in the tops of the palm trees. This was a melody to me but sounded scary to her. You never know what emotions sound will trigger.

ALPS 1.5 man tent-about 4 lbs
ALPS 1.5 man tent-about 4 lbs

My tenacious tweety reported sleeping good when she slept because she really like the top of the line Big Agnus sleeping mat I had for her and her Northface sleeping bag rated for zero was certainly adequate for the 52 degrees.

The times she didn’t sleep was from the night mares of alligators coming to “chomp her”. So saying she was a little sleepy in the morning is an understatement. Be prepared that your girl may not be used to outdoors sounds at first. My Honey concluded as we talked the next morning  that her thoughts were irrational. I shared that time and experience would make her accustomed to outdoor noises and it would then be much better. I got really transparent and told her that I had been scared by some sounds during my first few nights sleeping outdoors. She recovered so much that she was even looking forward to the next adventure in the tent because the sleeping surface was so comfortable.

We settled in at the picnic table with the Jetboil, coffee and tea. Got our devotional books and Bible out of the car and tried to enjoy some quiet time with God. It was difficult because of the sleepless night and some other lessons we learned on that overnighter that I’ll share later.

To provide a reward for this effort…to apply salve to an abrasion…to cheer a cloud covered heart—we struck out in the car for a day in Tarpon Springs. It is a completely Greek town and they were having a town wide street party and we needed it. We sampled fun new food, ate flaming cheese and bought goat soap. We took pictures by the sponge boats, in the tourist cut out of a diver and with the big plastic turtle. It was a fun day that matched in intensity the level of the bad night.IMG_2054

We overcame some tough moments and rewarded ourselves with some very special moments. She now enjoys the tent experience so much more but sure needed a special day back then. She needed a romantic day exploring a very european-Greek looking town…to walk arm in arm all day relaxed and happy to be together.IMG_2058

From this experience we decided to always pair something awesome we know for sure we both like with a new experience that might be challenging.

Warm and Cozy by the Fire

Inside the beach cabana—our "cave" by the fire
Inside the beach cabana—our “cave” by the fire

Yesterday, I had fun telling you about hiking after getting to Mossy Ridge Trail in Percy Warner Park. Today I want to pick up where we left off as we got back to Indian Springs Shelter #4.

My Honey under one of the rustically beautiful designs.
My Honey under one of the rustically beautiful designs.

We celebrated our relaxing day hike in the woods—about 5 miles at a leisurely pace where we could talk—as we took more pictures at the shelter with it’s carefully fashioned cedar logs. Then before I went to work on the fire, cozy spot and food, we plopped down at the picnic table and munched on a few almonds to give our “dogs” a break.

A great cold weather use for a beach cabana.
A great cold weather use for a beach cabana.
Our magic carpet

My honey took lots more pictures while I built a fire and set up the Cabana. With a couple of old blankets on the bottom, the floor of the Cabana and three more blankets inside, it was our magic carpet.

Within 30 minutes, the fire was crackling, the rain was making gentle music on the roof and the Jetboil was hissing a happy sound as the water began to boil.

Ready to hydrate


Our Mountain House Chili Mac took two cups of water to hydrate and provided a yummy 300 calories with 15 grams of protein each when we split the package. Our hot beverage was Spiced Chai with honey and stevia.

Boots kicked off and ready to relax!
Ready to eat! Looking so sweet:-)
Yum! Yum!
One must be civilized…

My Hiker-Honey was very impressed that I knew how to fold a napkin as I made an attempt to be civilized.

I’m so hungry, I could eat my fork!

We were so hungry that I will bring more food for us the next time.

We also decided that we would succumb to the “need” for s’mores on our next hike.

My Honey in her hiker’s habitat

My Strider-Writer learned that she can handle more cold than she thought and still have fun. She says to tell you that in order to get the feel for it and do it comfortably, you just have to get started and learn as you go. Wardrobe adjustments are one of her happy things.

Right about the time we finished our meal and got snuggled up under our blankets by the fire, the rain became ernest in its decent. What a dreamy experience to hold my Honey by the fire with the rain pouring down and hear her happy sighs as the stress of a busy week just melted away.


Boots kicked off and ready to relax!

Here is the trail talk from yesterday

Here is her wardrobe wisdom

Here is the recipe for a romantic day hike

Percy Warner Romantic Day Hike

If you got to read yesterday’s blog, you saw a recipe for a romantic day hike. We did that hike! And it was very satisfying for both of us. I highly recommend some variation of it and would like to share more information about that hike with you today and tomorrow.

If you look up Percy Warner in Nashville TN, has a pretty informative page under parks and recreation. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks are managed by the Metropolitan Board of Parks and Recreation. They cover 2,684 acres and it’s just 9 miles from downtown Nashville.

We get to it by getting off of I-65 south at Old Hickory Blvd West. We followed that for 5.3 miles and turned right on Chickering Rd. Then we turned left into the park after being on Chickering Rd for .6 miles. Here is what the sign looks like.IMG_3060

It feels a little like you are going into the golf course. At .2 miles into the park you will cross an unidentified road and go for .2 more miles. Here you will turn left and this is what the sign looks like.IMG_3063

It is a narrow road that does have two way traffic and will take you to Indian Springs Shelter #4 in .5 miles. The shelter is within a few yards of 36.065810, -86.884202 lat/long.  You will pass three other shelters but this one is closest to the trail and at the end of the road. Someone could come and park right behind the shelter because there is one more back in the woods about 60 yards back. The road is cabled and the shelter is not listed on the website as a place you can reserve but two cars drove past to take a look.

Nov 1 is the start of the first come first serve season and there is no fee. Up until Oct 31 there are $30, $50, and $100 rental options. 4 of these 5 shelters have a fire place.

We got to the shelter around 12:00 noon and left all of our meal and fire supplies at the shelter and struck out for a list of short trails that would make a circle starting and ending at the back of the shelter.  It was so pretty and ended up being 1.4 miles.  IMG_3086

When we go back to this section of the park again we won’t start at this point or do this loop quite like this because some of it said horse trail only. We  found the horse trail only sign at an intersection about .6 of a mile in…

IMG_3074 (1)

When we got back to the shelter, there was still time for more walking so we went exploring. After walking out toward the exit on the blacktop for about .2 miles, we came up on a makeshift entrance to the Percy Warner Horse Trail. It looked like we could use it as a quick way to Mossy Ridge Trail which is a hiking trail. Sure enough, .2 miles alone we came up o Mossy Ridge Trail and we followed it for .9 miles. When it crossed a picturesque narrow blacktop, we got on the blacktop and hiked 1.5 miles back to the shelter.IMG_3091

The wind was blowing gently and the colorful leaves were dancing and chasing each other through the trees to see who could get to the ground the fastest.  It rained lightly for a little while, but we were prepared. We snacked on Isagenix Lemon Food bars as we walked and drank lots of water. We talked a lot about the future, plans for the week and how grateful we are that God put us together.

Stay tuned tomorrow for how we used a beach cabana at the fireplace to make a cozy spot…

Wardrobe Advice for Your Honey on a Fall Hike

Guest Post by my Honey—Loral Pepoon

bandana on the trail always

I don’t like to be cold, and I wanted to have a good time because I knew how much my hubby was looking forward to this hike on the last day of his favorite month. It was supposed to be in the 50s and raining for a portion of the day.

What I wore on my lower half

I especially don’t like my legs to be cold. Last year on a day in the Smokies when the temperature was in the 60s, I had tried a pair of yoga pants from Old Navy as a base layer and a fall pair of loose hiking pants, and I was cold.

This year, I added silk long underwear from Land’s End under the yoga pants, and those same fall hiking pants. Since I am about 10 pounds heavier, the pants were more form fitting. I also had to wear thin rain pant as a top layer to keep me dry. I didn’t expect them to help keep me warm, but I think they did.

I was never too hot to be uncomfortable, but if I had to repeat it, I think I would take off the yoga pants, and just do the silk long underwear, the fall hiking pants and the rain pants. It seems as if you have higher quality material in your clothes, less layers are needed.

I also have amazing footwear. I have Ahnu Hiking boots that are water proof, and wore a pair of smart wool socks from REI.


What I wore on my upper body

I went out and stood on my patio a bit before we left home to gage what I needed—and I was cold. I wore silk long underwear, a long sleeve t-shirt with a hood, a high quality very thin coat from REI, a form fitting, stretchy jacket, and a thin, but high quality wind breaker/rain jacket for rain from EMS (Eastern Mountain Sports).

I WAY over did it. I took off two layers—the two jackets in the middle after less than 10 minutes on the trail. Again, with the silk underwear, fewer layers are necessary.

I also had a stocking cap and  touch tec gloves, which I also took off.

Finally, I had a bandana wrapped around my neck. I had that the whole time, and it really helped with breathable warmth when necessary. I will never go on a hike without one now.

I learned that it is important to be warm during the first 10 or 15 minutes until your body warms up. If I had to do it again, though, I would bring one extra jacket for warmth, and still bring the hat and gloves, just in case.

I had also underestimated how helpful the windbreaker/rain jacket was for warmth—I thought I just needed it for the rain. My rain jacket has great velcro up around the neck and strings to adjust the hood to tighten it. It also has velcro around the wrists. That feature is so helpful. When I didn’t feel like wearing gloves, I could pull my hands up in the jacket to keep them from getting wet.

What I learned

My husband was pleasantly surprised when I said that I learned that I could get warmer comfortably, which meant I could go out when it was colder. I told him that as long as there wasn’t ice on the ground, I could probably be comfortable down to about 30. He was thrilled—and asked to record my words. Now I have said it here…so I have to at least try.

Recipe for a Romantic Day Hike

Come on Honey, let’s go!

Here is an actual list for a chilly fall day hike and the concept description—kinda like a recipe.

Warmth—stocking cap, base layer shirt, loose mid layer, jacket, rain gear, hiking pants, silk socks, smart wool socks, hiking boots, gloves.

Light—small pocket flashlight and solar charger with flashlight.

Fire—lighter, wind proof matches, starter block, kindling, eight sticks of fire wood (starter and firewood less than $8 at Kroger).

First Aide—first aide kit, emergency blanket, Tylenol etc.

Food—protein bars, Mountain Home Chili Mac with Beef, Jetboil, fuel, long handled spoon, large bowl to hydrate food, Nalgene bottle with measurement markings, paper towel, bowls and spoons, tea, honey, cups.

Navigation—directions to the park, GPS app in phone—Map My Run, back up solar charger for phone, map of park, detailed directions I typed out for each trail.

Hygiene—Sunglasses, tissues, paper towels to clean up before and after meal, hand sanitizer, emergency toilet paper.

Hydration—2 Liters of water each, day pack with bladder, filter just in case, water for cooking, water to put out the fire.

Memories—plenty of space for pics in phone memory and camera, blankets for the fire, pillows, stadium chairs, beach cabana for the fire.IMG_3084

Day hike concept—Sleep in a little, have our quiet time together with God, pack and drive to the trail head. Pick up fire wood on the way and get to trail about 11:00. Leave the meal and fire time supplies in the car and hike for a couple of hours. I wrote out some directions to a new trail that is not well marked…we’ll see how well I did. If it is short, we will explore and do some more miles. When we finish the hike and return to the truck, I’ll start a fire in the shelter fireplace. We’ll take a lot of pictures all day. I picked a shelter that has a short wall all the way around so that if it is windy we can sit on blankets in front of the fire out of the wind. We’ll make a late lunch using the Jetboil to heat water and rehydrate our meal. Then we will fix our tea and snuggle by the fire until we feel healed enough from the rushing demands of the week. Will douse the fire and head back home. Maybe we’ll get back in time for another game in the World Series.

She may want a list

When I opened my laptop, there was Half Dome in Yosemite as my wallpaper. What a trip that was in September of 2014 with my hiking buddy, Randy. I want to do more trips like that for sure. Yet, on my mind right now, in contrast, is the next day hike with my Honey. No one can confuse an epic week in the rugged back country of Yosemite ending in a climb up Half Dome with a day hike in a city park…but somehow…in the dreamy ether of my mind I can see how they both satisfy the poets soul within this adventurer.  I need the epic, difficult and huge to challenge me and cause my adrenalin to surge. I need the calm casual heart warming moments with my Honey on the trail even more. I can’t give up either but I am sure that time with her is of higher value.

Lists are important-

I actually sat down to tell you about lists and how important they are to us when the picture of half down triggered a mental moment to muse. But I digress…lists, lists, lists. My Honey likes them and wants me to make one for each trip. I’m not inclined to make a list naturally and I have struggled with it and fussed about it for a while but I have made a decision—if she wants a list, I’ll give her a list—it’s one more way to keep her coming with me.

As I have worked out the idea in my head—how to make lists for her—I have realized that I like a packing list for a hiking adventure.

Why a list?

  • It gives a framework of what we are actually going to do.
  • It allows me to sit and think through what we will need for each task or fun activity.
  • It gives her enough information so that she knows what to expect from the trip.
  • It lets her know what to take.It gives her a sense of security that we will not forget something important.
  • It protects me from being embarrassed because this Boy Scout turned Soldier was inadvertently unprepared.
  • It helps ensure that there is no unnecessary misery or discomfort.
  • It helps ensure we have the goods for a good time.


The basic categories I include in all lists.

  • Warmth—what do I need to wear from head to toe at each phase of the adventure.
  • Light—what do we need so we can see.
  • Fire—so we are able to start a fire in any condition.
  • First Aide—so we can deal with an emergency and a splinter.
  • Food—so we have meals and trail snacks.
  • Navigation—directions and equipment to the trail and on the trail.
  • Hygiene—clean up for the body during all activities.
  • Water—what do we need to stay hydrated.
  • Memories—what do we need to make and record special memories.

Physically Fit for the Trail?

Running along the dock in Chicago

More tone, more strength, more fun—Imagine dropping your pack to climb down 400 feet into a depression to get to the bottom or a water fall. You take in the cool spray and enjoy the scene. You climb back out when you are ready, put your backpack on again and head down the trail talking and laughing as you go. Now imagine the same detour but your knees hurt as you descend. The sights are pretty but you have to rest for more time than you want to. When you catch your breath, you are dreading the climb out. At the top of the hill you flop down beside you backpack red faced and exhausted. It’s the same detour from the main trail; what was the difference? Your level of fitness! It will determine how much fun you have.

Cardio preparation—I’ve been in both conditions I described above. For a season I ran six days a week doing about 28 miles a week. I could hike anything and go like the energizer bunny. That season is passed for now and my Honey and I have learned that jogging just 20 minutes three times a week makes enough of a difference for us to have a good time on most day hikes. As we look to the future, we want to hike for a week in the Grand Canyon. We will train hard and carefully for that starting at least four months prior.

My first 5K…I know I really like him now
My Honey Says: “My first 5K…I know I really like him now”

Quads are King—My knees used to really hurt on the down hill portions of some hikes and my Baby has some trouble too. After talking to other hikers and runners, I started using an app for legs to strengthen the muscles around my knees. This not only fixed the pain but gave me a lot of power to climb and carry more weight. My Honey is working on hers now too anticipating good results.

Match the trail choices to the level of fitness—Pick a trail that matches where you are now. Please don’t wait. Start with a short day hike on fairly level ground if that is what you can handle now. Perfect fitness never comes so do what you can enjoy and continue to work on your fitness. There is a trail for every fitness season of your life.

Flexibility—stretch and warm up slowly. When I wake up and after a long drive, I am the stiffest. Taking time to get lose is really important to me and my Honey. A cool down time that includes more stretching is needed both after a jog and after a hike.

Be that couple that has a good time and doesn’t get hurt by giving adequate attention to your level of physical fitness.

Exploring Nooks and Crannies

Spectacular views and cozy moments come while discovering nooks and crannies—those out of the way places and small tiny spaces. IMG_1432

We keep our eyes open for places to feel cozy. Places where we can snuggle up together for a picture or take fun shots of each other. We enjoy stopping in a place just the right size to get out of the sun and rest a little while. Sometimes we stop to get in out of the rain. My Honey is really cooperative with my excessive photo snapping. Ladies, your guy might really like the way you look in all states of trail disarray. There is something meaningful about you struggling with him to get to a perfect spot. If he is like me, he will want to memorialize it by stopping time with a picture.DSC00248.JPG

She likes the overhangs that are just the right size too.IMG_2329

Take a load off and reflect on your day, your relationship, rest from the trail or just talk about the Royals in the World Series (shameless plug). Stop to see an unobstructed view.

Caves can be fun that aren’t too wet and dark. The critters that live there—hide there, the people who explore and our pets at home all like being in or under or between. Click here to find out what our cat thinks about nooks and crannies. He is very sophisticated and has clever insights.

In a cave hike we saw a bat that was so ugly it was cute. We saw stalagmites and stalactites.


This new pace I am learning to love. My normal mode is to burst down the trail or hustle through a cave with energy and speed trying to beat a time, get a good workout or beat the sun before it sets. I would only catch a glimpse of glory as I flew by. Leaping from one rock to the next as if the forest or cave floor was too hot to land on. I would say to my buddies that I wish we could slow down a little and get to look around but we rarely did.

Hiking with my honey has given to me so much meaning that adapting and going slower has produced joy. Do fewer miles and see more details of nature’s extravagant beauty. We laugh that I am the monkey and she is the snail. This is so true in the difference in our natural speeds. But as we have hit a speed closer to hers, it has satisfied my need to linger over the grand and epic sights. I enjoy the trail so much more. So stop in the nooks and crannies and let your eyes drink in nature’s visual nectar.

Lessons from Being Lost


When I was a child, I spent every minute I could in the woods. As I have grown older it has become harder to find the time and less enjoyable to be in the woods with my sweetheart at home. So we started this journey to find what works for us and meets our yearnings for the outdoors together.

In the last two blogs I told of one of our adventures where I really…actually…embarrassingly…got my Baby lost in the woods. We were dating then and thank God I still get to take more adventures with her after that. It was a short stroll. No significant distance and no obvious hazard. I was lulled to sleep by the fact that it was asphalt in the city and went unprepared.

There are some serious take aways from that night. I realized that I have to prepare at a higher level. It’s critical to have a prep plan as if I might be away from my truck for several hours. I suggest you only take the first step on a minor hike after the day pack is prepped with these things:

Plenty of water-we took a water bottle each that night but now I keep a two liter platypus in the day pack. This turns out to be too much on most little trips but at least we are ready.

Paper map-there is no replacement for having a paper map in a plastic bag in case you lose all power.

Jacket-we each tie an extra layer around our waists  because of awareness that the cold can come unexpectedly from wind, rain and from sun down…if you can’t get back.

Flashlight-the light on my cell phone is now reliable because of a solar power pack I carry. I also carry a flashlight as a backup to the backup.

Backup power-I bought two solar power packs that will each charge my cell phone twice. It is also the back up flashlight because of a light built in the design.

Some of these may seem like over kill or just the results of someone who has had a bad experience…they may be. I’ve been miserable and I’ve been comfortable. I like comfortable so much that I prefer to be over prepared. Even more importantly, my Love prefers to be comfortable.

Romantic Date Night turned Lost in the Woods!

DSCF4836Yesterday, I left my story where we were huddled on a bench just outside the reach of the pouring rain. I had failed to take enough water, a jacket, a light or a map. We were freezing, exhausted and I was sure that I had ruined this relationship for good.

As 5 am rolled around we got so excited. An employee of the golf course showed up but our hopes were dashed when she hurried inside and locked the door behind her. She looked like she had been spooked by two crazy people. Hmmm? Wonder what could have scared her…

When there was no hope of a bathroom break, my date purposefully walked out to a secluded place behind a large tree and did an emergency potty break. Finally a second employee arrived and he would at least talk to me. I convinced him we weren’t crazy and that we needed a ride. We brain stormed a little and he decided to call the park office and ask for a ranger.

A very understanding park employee came right away in his marked vehicle and took us right to my truck. It was about 200 yards away as the crow flies and about 1.5 miles by blacktop. I took her to Starbucks for breakfast and we laughed all the way.

All that night she never got upset. Instead she empathized with me by telling me stories of all the times she had gotten lost. I expected her to at least be angry or to demand I solve this problem immediately and take her home. She didn’t cry, get mad, call me names or despair! I knew that if our relationship could survive this that I was hanging on to her. I knew that God had created this beautiful women with an amazing ability to be long-suffering.

Now we were charged up on super strong coffee and I took her home. She still wanted to continue with our plans for the next night to work at our church with Can Do Ministries. We were to be buddies for an autistic child so his parents could go out for the evening. I couldn’t believe she was still talking to me. I couldn’t believe I was still awake. I drove an hour to my apartment, got ready and worked all day. With some kind of supernatural energy, I drove an hour to pick her up and we had a wonderful night being a friend to an amazing child.

The moral of this story is three fold: pray for amazing patience from your girl to her guy, secondly don’t underestimate the power of distraction when out with your girl and thirdly, don’t forget your training just because you are in the city on asphalt.

Find part one of this story at: Romantic Date Night Hike!