Tag Archives: hiking

Christmas in July – Getting to Talk to Grandma on Time

Our Christmas Cabin
Our Christmas Cabin

Last Christmas was our second one together—we’ve been married almost two years now. We got to Celebrate Christ’s birth by combining lots of traditions and making some new ones. We celebrated with family before and after the big day. But on the 25th and 26th we rented a cabin in the Cumberland Mountain State Park in Tennessee. What a deal—there were running a winter half off special and we rented this cabin for a great half price winter deal and got two nights for $95.00.

We packed in the things you would expect: gifts, meal supplies, Christmas goodies, firewood, Bible, books, candles and of course, hiking gear.

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Jesus is the Light of the World—reading the story of His birth from Luke together.

Christmas day afternoon we headed out for the trail head of the Pioneer Trail Short Loop. Here is a great map of the area.

We thought we would enjoy a rainy stroll across a suspension bridge and complete the entire 2-3-ish mile loop in a couple of wet happy Christmas hours. This would get us back just in time for the family call to my Honey’s Grandma…well…or should I say Wow…that is not exactly what happened.

We left our warm toasty cabin in our rain gear covering us from head to toe. I was so delighted because my Honey is not fond of walking in the rain and was genuinely up for it this day. I love to hike in the rain so much that even at work I can feel the phantom weight of my backpack on my shoulders when a heavy down pour passes our office windows…and I smile…can’t wait for the next stormy adventure.

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A flood level Byrd Creek

We walked almost due West on the blacktop between the cabins until we reached a little access trail on the left just before the cul-de-sac.  When we reached the Short Loop we turned right and practically skipped the .2 miles to the suspension bridge. So happy to be alive and to be together on Christmas. Byrd Creek was so swollen under the bridge that it barely squeezed itself underneath.

I was practically giggling at our good fortune of getting to see such power, be in a storm and still be safe. (I wasn’t actually giggling…of course…because guys don’t do that, right?) I’m not a storm chaser but pretty close.

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Making an unusual Christmas memory

We turned left headed toward the famous bridge of arches that you see in almost every picture of this park. It was 1.6 miles away and we didn’t know if there where other bridges to cross except that one.

Shortly after turning left on the other side of the suspension bridge we got an inkling of what might be ahead—a runoff creek, the kind you only see in a storm, was so wide that we had to do a little stone hopping to cross.

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My Honey proving to be very agile crosses like a champ

We actually crossed 8 of these in that next mile—there are usually on two during normal wet periods but no limits on Christmas day!  My Strider Writer crossed every water obstacle like a champ! In several places the trail led down to the edge of the water and we had to make our own way through the trees to find the trail again.

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Hey Kemosabe! Where is the trail?

This was eating up a lot of clock and the scheduled time to call Grandma was rapidly approaching.  Hmmm…we decided to test the first bridge we came to at right about one mile and see what could be done to cross. Pleasant surprise to find this bridge…we might make it on time. It was completely in tact and solid but the far side was under three feet of water for the last 5 or 6 yards.  I went first with two hiking poles testing the ground ahead before each step—there was no current. When I crossed safely on what felt like poured concrete underneath, I turned around and went back to get Loral.  We plodded slowly through the ice cold water up to our knees to get to that call with Grandma.

This is my best “over the river and through the woods” story ever! We made it to the cabin door in time of the call. All the wet clothes went in a pile on the porch and into a thick warm blanket my Honey went. Within 10 minutes, (I wanted to do all I could to show my appreciation to her for coming on this foie that was out of her comfort zone) I had a fire started and a hot cup of her favorite tea in her hand while she talked to Grandma. It was a video call so we got to see and say hi to all those that had been able to make it to Kansas.

Mission accomplished…we got to Grandma on time!

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Do you have something going on that is turning out to be much different than what you had planned? How can you make the most of it? Is there a warm blanket, toasty fire or hot cup of tea that you could metaphorically add to make it better?

 

Component hiking-getting used to the backpack

Hiking the Volunteer Trail in Mt. Juliet
Hiking the Volunteer Trail in Mt. Juliet

The spot we chose for this bit of fun practice was Long Hunter State Park. We made our plan, packed the backpack and drove to 2910 Hobson Pike, Hermitage, TN 37076-4027. It is an easy trail that is about 11 miles long if you go all the way to the camp site at 5.5 miles. It runs along the edge of Couchville Lake with the water on your left or generally toward the west.

We use I-40 E and take the Mount Juliet exit (226). Then we head south on Mt Juliet Road (before you turn off of it the name will change to Hobson Pike). Watch on your right for some signs that make the way pretty well and turn left on Bakers Grove. Just about the time you get your truck straightened out you will need to turn left. This will take you about .5 miles to the trail head.

One of my favorite sources for info in our area is Cloud Hiking.  They have an awesome map of this trail and a really detailed section by section description of what to expect. If you are into blazes (I use them religiously) the trail we took was blazed white and the day loop is orange.

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The lake shore is very rocky in places. This made for a great place to eat out lunch.

In the parking lot we pretended that we were going to be gone overnight, went through the check list of activities in our heads and loaded our packs…well I had a large pack and she carrier a little day pack for this practice adventure.  After a bug spray experiment, we hiked the first .5 mile or so to the intersection where the day loop goes left. It circles around counter clock wise for 4 miles back to this intersection. It is only .7 or this day loop, however, to a great picnic spot with a nice view of the lake. You would only have to carry your picnic basket a total of 1.2 miles each way.

Go to the right like we did and it is 5 more miles to the camp site. From the parking lot to the camp site and back is 11 miles. Add a mile of the pavement out and back for a pretty decent practice 1/2 marathon that I used when getting ready for the Music City Marathon. The reasonably level trail makes the practice much more fun for me than the blacktop.

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Some prickly pear beside the trail.

In the camp site at the end of this 5.5 miles I’ve camped with some buddies a couple of times. I loved the abundant dry cedar dead wood. Both times there were plenty of fallen limbs for a decent fire. Nice benches and a fire ring make for some nice amenities in an other wise primitive camp site.

My Honey and I used this trail to do a little component backpacking on this trip. We have a couple of epic trips we want to take but like writing or anything else, you have to start at the beginning and prepare.  My Honey works out this idea in the world of writing at  cowriterpro.com. We needed to work out a lot of kinks in backpacking—one at a time. We have learned that to try too many new things at one time is a disaster.  This day hike was about getting used to a backpack.

Since I had always hiked with the guys and everybody packed to be self sufficient with only the occasional sharing of some kitchen supplies, I was experimenting with just adding her things to a complete pack. My Honey carried a few things in a hydration pack and got used to the idea of and the practice of getting anything else she needed out of the big pack.

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Just a hydration pack today

She was accustomed to carrying a large bag with most day use things handy in that bag no matter what was on her back.  So we practiced by eating a meal and by setting up a hammock camp for a quick nap and then loading it all up again.  It was a good learning experience for both of us and we just had a good time being outside together.

We learned that we both have to carry a real backpack. I can take a larger portion of the weight but she has to have at least a 30 liter pack too. Even if we got a 90 liter pack for me, it might all fit but the weight would be more than I could carry and still have fun…pack mule doesn’t work well as my middle name!

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My Honey soaking up the sun and resting her toes by Couchville Lake

We soaked up a lot of sun and had lunch on the rocky shore of Couchville Lake. We reclined luxuriously together in a hammock under a dense canopy for a little nap. We got some good exercise, practiced a component of backpacking and headed home when it got dark.

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Stopping for the simple details that make it special

Mission accomplished. Next trip-new lesson-repeat. we don’t really care how long it takes to master all the skills and get on with the epic trips as long as we are making progress. We build concept and skill on concept and skill. We are up to a week of camping—hiking combos from base camps and/or two nights in a row of primitive backpacking…and enjoying our progress.

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Pondering your path—what big thing do you want to do? From hike the grand canyon to making an elaborate quilt filled with childhood memories to a long vacation through the castles of Europe…what component could you practice first? How could you make an enjoyable small project be a step toward completing the whole?

As Jesus once said, “Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn’t first sit down and figure the cost so you’ll know if you can complete it?” Then break the plan down in pieces and practice them one at a time.

Longing for the Spring

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Justin, Andrea, Loral and I at the Trail Head in Spring of 2015

It’s hot in Tennessee right now and I am enjoying it but really missing the Spring…I’m a bit nostalgic actually about a particular spring when we got to take a trip in 2015 with my daughter Andrea and her husband Justin. They are leaving Tennessee soon to go to Texas to seminary and they will be missed for so many reasons including the hiking.

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Me and my Honey—the monkey and the snail

I’m remembering a fun afternoon hike we did on House Mountain in Corryton TN. Justin gets all the credit for how well it turned out because he picked the spot. We were layered up a little because it was chilly standing still but a bit warm while climbing. The route changes elevation pretty quickly—I’m guessing about 1000 feet up over about .8 of a mile. The extra layer came on and off every time we stopped to see a pretty view or just to stop and visit.

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What a gorgeous view…and the scenery is not bad either:)

House Mountain State Natural Area is the official name and there is a great write up on it at backpacker.com. The entire loop is 3.7 miles but we took the middle trail to the ridge line and back down because of time for a total of 1.6 miles.

It is just NorthEast of Knoxville and depending on where you are in Knoxville it could be as little as a 20 minute drive. You take I-40 E out of Knoxville to Rutledge Pike then left on Iduema and then left on Hogskin parking on right.

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Starting a hike together—this day on the trail—soon on the highway going west

We loved the rock features and the views. I have to take my Honey back again to do the complete trail and honestly I need to go again to see the scenery. I was having such a good time talking and laughing with family that I don’t actually remember a lot of it. Sometimes these trips where you can’t remember the trail are the best kind. I was there for the fellowship and the trail just made a good setting for it. To focus on the relationship when we are hiking with someone else especially family is something we have learned to do.

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You never know when you will get to do it again—so cherishing the time together when you have it is a must!

 

Princess Loral Loves Part Primitive

My Honey is part princess—the kind that you would normally think of—glamours dresses, jewelry and makeup. She is also the princess who can rule over her feelings and desires to endure some hardship to get to see the beauty out in nature that she loves so much.  Read her guest blog for tips on how to make it work—successfully see beauty and still maintain a necessary level of comfort.

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doing the check list before our original primitave adventure—ta dah!

She loves beauty so much that we have had rewarding nights in primitive locations. Primitive meaning no facilities, no water, no electricity and only what you can carry for your needs. The reward for such hardship is going to sleep under a full moon, a starry night or the waves crashing on the sand melodically twenty yards away. Or getting to experience a romantic sunset and fire on the beach completely alone—just us. No neighbors, no noise, no city lights and no interruptions.

We have been doing component adventures where we practice as little as one piece at a time of an epic adventure.  We are still putting together all that we need so that I can take her, for example, for 8 days in the Yosemite Wilderness. I want to retrace the steps my buddy Randy and I did so she can see the breathtaking beauty that I did. We are working our way toward epic one component at a time.

There are many aspects of a grander trip that we are now combining as we increase our collective skill. We did our load plan and carefully filled our backpacks to be gone for 48 hours of completely primitive fun. The trade off for my Honey was sand, beach and gulf waves. But we have a total melt down the first night, packed it up the next morning and hiked back to the car…not sure what to do to fix this failure. After a good meal and some soul searching, we decided that with God’s help we would try again and have fun—and we had a blast. What a perfect experience on that beach that night!

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Beach camp fire deep in the sand

After this experience we coined the term partial primitive. We plan to do it again for three nights or so next time because it combines multiple one day loops and time in town. I get the hiking, making camp and living out of our packs in 20 hour chunks at a time; she gets to spend a couple of hours in town dressed in a cute sun dress being taken out to eat. Then we hike back in for adventure and romance alone for the next 20 hours in primitive land.

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back in town for a meal on the beach

This method we found to be inexpensive too.  No fee or a low fee for each night which gives us frugal hikers some wiggle room for a meal in town each day and a cheap hotel if a huge storm comes through. What a wonderful accidental discovery that is now another “our way” of doing some of our outdoor adventures.

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What compromise could you work out with your Honey? Do you have a fun “our way” of doing things that is parts of both of you?

3 Kinds of Debriefing after a Hike

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Sunset on Period Key—we try to work in a sunset every day on the trail.

1. Literally de-brief—we remove all clothing at the door and put them directly into the washing machine. This is a good practice that we didn’t always do. One time after a hike I was babysitting my then three month old granddaughter, Blakely. When my daughter returned and picked Blakely up from my arms, she noticed there was a tick crawling on her blanket. “Great,” I said, “I’ve given Blakely her first tick!”

This event helped to establish the habit my Honey and I now have. We put the clothes in the wash, check each other for ticks and get in the shower.  This process is super overkill but it even takes care of the bugs you might feel that aren’t really there—it’s a phantom feeling because you know they could be.

2. Debrief in the sense of the after action report—what happened, what did you like most and what would you like to change if you could. Read more about how to do this in writing at my Honey’s business blog cowriterpro.com. While the trip is the freshest thing in your memory, talk about it. My Honey and I purposefully use language that is uplifting or constructive. We try to repeat the good things or at least add them to a list of things to repeat. On the flip side we try to eliminate what we weren’t as fond of or figure out how to minimize any problems.

A positive point might be seeing waterfalls and getting in the water. This is a big hit with my Honey. We repeat seeing waterfalls as often as possible. Going slowly enough to see the details of the trail and enjoy the moment is a definite. We pick mileage and sleeping sites that allow us to enjoy the details. This, of course, requires a good map each time. Seeing the sunset each evening is also a must.  Make your list of what really makes the trail awesome for her.

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Enjoying the spray from Fall Creek Falls. This is a definite repeat for us.
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Having a good map is a real positive for us.

An opportunity for improvement in debriefing came after one of our first trips where we slept in a tent. The thing we liked the least was how Loral’s sleep was interrupted by the night noises. We can’t change that we sleep in the dark at night, however, we can mitigate. We discussed simply getting used to it. There are night noises in your house too but your mind filters them out because they belong. They are not signs of danger. When we introduce a new sound the mind has to define it as an ok sound first before we can sleep through it. Then we worked on education—what made the noise and is that dangerous. We discussed trying to be more tired, using ear plugs or a white noise app with earphones. We talked about stretching the tent more tightly so that it made less noise in the wind.

Do an honest assessment like this for each issue. The goal is to keep her enjoying the trip. If she looks forward to what was fun and can anticipate improvement of what she wasn’t as fond of, she is more likely to stay on the trail with you. You like the trail and will go back even if you were soaked, hungry and slept on a rock. She might not—so debrief with real results.

3. The third and final kind of debriefing is also literal. You are home now in a soft bed—you figure it out. I hope you have fun loving on each other out on the trail too, but you are back in your own love nest…get some sleep and celebrate the comfort.

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What are some lovable repeats? opportunities for improvement? I’d love to hear your story.

Details of the Trail

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Delight in the Details—cold clear water…SPLASH!

When I mainly hiked with my guy friends, we would plan mileage and time frames that would really push us—sometimes punish us. We seem to have a better estimate of our physical ability than was real. Getting deep into the woods was so important to the experience…so we would fly though the woods over many miles because we we always short on time. There was usually a cheerful shot out in the human caravan where Von might say, “Man, it would be awesome if we had enough time to actually enjoy this!” And we’d bat around ideas about how we might be able to do that. Or in a particularly tired moment Ralph might let out a pithy quip, “I’m not in any hurry, where’s the fire.”

I was about to do a close up when I realized that everybody was home!
I was about to do a close up when I realized that everybody was home!

Did we have fun? You bet we did! Did we miss a lot of the details? Well, that’s true too.IMG_3308 (1)

Over time, we developed a better sense for what we could do comfortably. And with better knowledge of the trails we planned in more time. Randy would point out, “This will be like a different trail when we do this in the winter.” He point across the valley at an enormous Hemlock tree and say, “Come here, this is beautiful—look at that!” The details were so varied from one season to another that it was a new unique experience but we still missed so much of the beauty.

Mushrooms so pretty they could be flower
Mushrooms so pretty they could be flower

How do we see more details? My Honey changed the pace. My buddy Walt told me, “She will change your life forever!”

IMG_3436 (1)Most of my hiking now is with my Honey and we go much slower. As a direct result we both take in great detail. She and I see things the other does not and share them. We stop and take lots of pictures and examine the little things as well as imagining how there must be 1400 different shades of green on a mountain side. I can’t wait to hike some more with my buddies and share this new skill.

Is Papa Smurf home?
Is Papa Smurf home?

Recently when we were at Fall Creek Falls State Park in Tennessee, we met Wes and Olivia and became new friends. Olivia said, “I used to hike fast until I started hiking with Wes—he sees every detail.” He responded, “It’s the details of the trail that make it worth while.”

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Wearing his bright yellow boots!
Wearing his bright yellow boots!

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Are you happy with what you get to see when you hike? Could you hike the same trail again more slowly just to see the details?

Frozen Head State Park – Tennessee

 

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We rolled in around 5 pm to Frozen Head State Park – Tennessee

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The Ranger’s office was closed but Ranger Joe saw us studying the map, stopped his mower, jumped down and came to see if he could help.  He let us in to use the bathroom and he answered our questions. He said, “Emory Falls is the best short hike for this time of day”. “It’s a 3 mile round trip.”

I asked where there was a good primitive campsite at the highest elevation where we would have a cool summer night. He pointed out Tub Spring camp because it was around 3,000 feet in elevation and it had a real spring. So even in the summer when the seasonal water was gone, there would be water at this site. “We hope to go there this summer,” I told him. He headed back to his mower and we went to follow his advise.

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So happy to be out of the car and on the trail.  We were coming back from Knoxville so we had our hiking legs cooped up for a couple of hours.

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Debord Falls at about .6 miles down the Panther Branch Trail. Down in volume from the spring time but still fun to see.

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My Honey reaching for a bit of refreshment! I love that she has unleashed her desire to be in the water. We plan to always take water shoes and bathing suits from now on. It would have been fun to wade in and splash around a bit.

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Having fun under Debord Falls! Kind of like a photo booth…with water.

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A cairn marking the way for something. It was in the middle of the creek no where near the trail. Maybe someone wanted the water to know where to go when it comes back after the next rain.  Cairn proved to be valuable for me in Yosemite in the granite fields. There is no sign of a trail so you just look for the next Cairn.

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Back out to the Panther Branch Trail for .4 more miles to Emory Falls.

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Love this root art along the way!

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My Honey looking up at me from the bottom of Emory Falls.

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Pausing for a moment of worship.

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Back at the truck we found new beauty unfolding.

One more example of seizing the moment. We had just a few hours but there was a trail near by. We wanted to do so much more but we will go back. We had heard that this is like the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park but without the crowds. The elevation is about half of the Smoky Mountains but the trails, bridges and water falls are just like the Smokies. If you had blindfolded me and started me on this trail with our knowing where I was, you could have told me it was a new trail in the Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park.

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Seize the day, seize whatever you can 
‘Cause life slips away just like hourglass sand” Carolyn Arends

 

 

The Secret to Getting Your Honey on the Trail

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My Honey’s Journal illustrates a great method for brainstorming questions. Hear from her at cowriterpro.com

The Secret Lies with Writing

Almost all of us have had to write a term paper or research paper in school. Many of us went on to a write a thesis. You probably write in some way at work—from email correspondence to grant proposals. From Lean Six Sigma projects to financial reports. From a bill of lading to an inventory count. We have all done some writing.

So with this background you are already prepared with a plan to get your honey on the trail. You just have to write it down. You thought it was a secret hidden from you? The secret is in your own experience revealed. The plan to get your Honey on the trail is a writing plan. My Honey explores many uses for writing at cowriterpro.com.

Let’s say that you have a research paper to write for your high school physical education class. It is the only pen and paper requirement to an otherwise active outdoor class. It is 50% of your grade and you want to do well.

You start asking questions:

Who am I writing to? just the teacher or the class?
What is the topic I have to write about?
Do I get to pick or is it assigned?
When is the document due? a week? at the end of the year?
What result do I want from my reader? a good grade?
Why is this important to my reader?
How much money can I spend to get this written?
What research do I need to do to write it well?
Who can I interview who has the knowledge I don’t have?
Who has written this document before?
What medium is the writing to be done in?
How will I know if I reached my reader?
Where will I do my best writing?
Under what conditions will I do my best writing?

Ask the right questions: You see how the questions just flow? You could probably ask even more if you were really about to write the paper. And you are really about to get your Honey on the trail with you! The secret is asking lots of honest questions with her in mind and they will be the right questions. Write them down—take 10 minutes and just let them flow. Be easy on your self and just write all that come to mind.

Answer them honestly from the hip at first: Put down the answer no matter how absurd it might seem to you at the time. I had no idea how I was going to tie together all the criteria my Honey had for what she thought might be the ideal trip. I had a little bit of incredulity going in my chest at first as I pondered my answers from her perspective. She hadn’t been backpacking like I was doing it and it had been 20 years since her trip through Europe with all she owned in a back pack.

Do your homework: Go find out all you can first before asking her. If you are like me, you could just go on and on and ruin a good thing (my Honey’s eyes would have glazed over at first). Listen to what she talks about and glean all you can from conversation.

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My Princess Editor—lover of fine things…and Hiking with her Honey!

Ask her: Go to the source and verify—ask. You can’t really assume you know. I was talking to a couple a few weeks ago and in her presence he said to me, “She’d never go hiking” and she looked at him with a sudden turn of her head and said with a surprising amount of energy, “You never asked me to.” I have discovered that most Honeys will go have fun with their man outdoors if he has a plan and has done his best to consider her perceived desires and perceived limitations.

Believe her: It was so tempting for me to say to her, “It doesn’t work that way” or “that’s just how it is” or “I’m the expert, just follow along.” So many things were second nature to me and experience taught me that for me there is only one way to do many things.  Did you see that “for me” back there in that last sentence?  You are wanting a “you and her” thing and if you will make the vast majority of it a “her” thing at least to start with, you will be well along the way of making it a permanent “us” thing.

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Transforming into hiking—our favorite thing

Write the rough draft: The first “well planned” trip drew in my Honey with cords of love because she say how hard I tried to make it fun for her. She honored my effort much like going with me on any other date that I had really put some thought into. Realize that it is a rough draft. Don’t make any judgement calls during the first outing. Roll with it with the most flexibility that you can and save the learning for later. This is about trying what might possibly be an extraordinary and difficult thing for her.  Laugh at yourself when most of it falls flat.

Rewrite and produce a better second draft: Keep what worked and decide if any of what didn’t work is worth keeping. As you produce a second trip, try to implement her ideas. I demonstrated to my Honey as often as possible that I heard her. I heard her—I was listening. No pretend “uh huh” sounds—real listening. Part of what drew my current avid hiker in from the beginning was seeing me order some little thing that would fix a problem she had. Present your sequel and reveal the loving improvements to the plan.

Fine tune parts of your document at a time: Don’t try to produce a masterpiece the first time or two or twelve. Work on bits and pieces. We did a romantic fireside meal to introduce her to rehydrated food eaten crosslegged on the tent floor. I packed lots of amenities in the truck that wouldn’t be on a backpacking trip. I focused on making everything else pleasant when I set up the romantic nest by the fireplace in an outdoor picnic pavilion. This way the one new truly backpacking component would be introduced in a likable way.

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Cozy and comfortable—ready to eat a rehydrated meal. Learning one component at a time.
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Jetboil—boils 2 cups of water in two minutes. My favorite stove.

 

Let it go: Most writing has to just be considered done at some predetermined point. You can always keep rewriting and tweeting. You can succumb to the ideal you have in your head and never have a good time unless it is like you pictured it or like it was on your best trip ever out with the guys.  You thought that everything just gets better “When you put a girl in it.” That is true but let go of the preconceived ideal because you are creating a new and you don’t know what that is yet. The ideal you will create together will be so much more beautiful and rewarding that what you could see at first.

On the cabin porch just before heading back to Nashville
Combining indoors and outdoors

Our journey has produced some of the greatest memories of my life. We have laughed, loved and lived to an extreme I didn’t know was possible. We have combined outdoor and indoor facets of grand adventures in ways I hadn’t dreamed up. We have enjoyed simple, slow and short events as well as longer trips with epic qualities. We are headed toward trips in the future that we will both declare to be epic life adventure list trips.

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Make your list this week. It is an easy step that will set your mind planning and unlock the secret. When will you start your “writing assignment” so you can “publish” meaningful hikes with your Honey?

Fall Creek Falls Tennessee State Park—Part 2

In yesterday’s blog I got to share Fall Creek Falls Tennessee State Park—Part 1 and how we crossed the suspension bridge and climbed the 70 stairs. How we meet and talked with our new friends, Wes and Olivia. After a few well spent minutes we stepped back onto the Gorge Trail chattering back and forth about what we had just learned and how we could share this wisdom.IMG_3370 (1)

We hiked the 1.2 mile Gorge Trail and stopped at all three of the open overlooks and passed on by the closed one that is letting nature restore herself.  The Gorge Trail then intersects with the Grassland Trail. We turned right to go up to the overlook at the Falls parking and down the .5 mile trail to the bottom of the falls.

IMG_3465Before we went down, we stopped and my Honey fueled up with a gel pack of Isagenix Amped Fuel Apple (visit our exercise performance store at http://HikingWithYourHoney.isagenix.com  I saved mine for the bottom and got a zip back in my zoom for the climb out.

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Fuel for the trail—Amped Fuel Apple—Zoom!

Hydrated and fueled we eagerly began the strenuous climb to the bottom of the falls.  There is a hand rail most of the way if you need to steady yourself.

IMG_3522Wow! We looked up 256 feet to the top of the falls and wrestled with thoughts of getting in the water. There were some swimming and we wanted to get in but had not brought swim suits, water shoes or towels.  From now on we will carry those supplies to every water fall just in case.

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Rover says, “how I’m gonna get down?”

There was a daughter and daddy up on a large bolder with their dog and he looked like he was saying, “woof, how am I going to get down off of this rock, bark.” They had lifted him up there but he finally settled in for a nap.

IMG_3537About that time Loral stands up and announces, “I’m going!”  “Up the slippery rocks to the falls,” I asked.  With the determination of a general at war and the glee of a girl in a toy store she said, “I didn’t come all the way down here to miss the water falls now.”IMG_3547 (2)

She almost scampered over the dry rocks at first and then slowed to carefully pick the best footing. Showing accumulated hiking skills she bear crawled in places and scooted on her bottom in others. Carefully—remembering the fall on the ice so many years ago in Chicago—but with determination to experience the prize, she inched along.IMG_3548

Reaching out her right hand to touch the falling water she faced me across the pool under the falls and giggled with delight. Moments later the flow of the water shifted just slightly at the top and she was now laughing hysterically as the water completely soaked her with refreshing coldness.

My Honey is a writer and an editor for real—for a living—and compares hiking to writing in a fun blog called, Why Write? Write to Go on a Journey.  Well put Honey! I just read it and there are some great parallels!

IMG_3497I climbed over and joined her for a few happy wet moments. Up, up, up the .5 mile trail to the top of the falls. We stopped in two places where the mountain splits to feel the earths cold moist air rushing out and refreshing us.

IMG_3485 (1)After we crossed the wobbly wooden bridge on Coon Creek and the really solid one over Fall Creek, we turned right on the Woodland Trail. It is an easy stroll for .8 miles back to the Nature Center. My honey was soaked to the bone and speed walked like “Grease Lightning” most of the way back to the top of the stairs. Back down the stairs and across the suspension bridge to complete the 3 mile journey. IMG_3519

I asked her on the way home what she felt under the falls. She said that it was so exhilarating. I asked what made it exhilarating—expecting a list like how the water was cold and refreshing or how the water pelted her skin or maybe how good it felt to be able to climb safely to that spot.  Instead, she said dreamily, “It felt so good to feel the love of God pouring over me. To know that I am receiving His blessings and that just like this falling creek, there is so much more in store for us in our future!” That’s well said, Honey!

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When you’ve put out a sizable effort, do you make sure that you get the most out of the moment? We’d come all that way and my Honey wasn’t going to miss that water falls experience—do you have a story to tell where you “soaked” up the whole experience?

Fall Creek Falls Tennessee State Park—Part 1

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Fall Creek Falls Overlook

Today my honey and I went to Fall Creek Falls State Park on our way back from Frozen Head State Park yesterday. We came in to the park from the north entrance and stopped at what looked like a main visitor center. We went directly to an overlook and got to talk to another visitor about good ideas for the day.

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Cane Creek Falls Overlook

We went inside the Betty Dunn Nature Center and gather more good trail information.  What we had just enjoyed was the Cane Creek Falls Overlook right beside the Nature Center. This is just off of the parking lot. Then we walked down to Cane Creek Falls. Both of these are enjoyable and can be seen in just a few minutes if you are just passing through.

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Cane Creek Falls

We settled into the 3 mile adventure that we now had planned by crossing the suspension and climbing up 70 stairs to get on to the Gorge Trail. It is 1.2 miles of a 2 mile loop that would eventually take us past Cane Creek Overlook, Cane Creek Gorge Overlook, Fall Creek Falls Overlook and the now closed Rocky Point Overlook.

At the top of the 70 steps we met Wes and Olivia from Middleton Ohio. They are a wonderful couple in their 70’s who encouraged us to keep hiking. Wes said, “I like to hike with my Honey.”  When we took our picture together, they were so cute – Olivia was a bit apologetic about how the picture of her might turn out but Wes declared, “You take a good picture.”

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Hiking septuagenarian’s Wes and Olivia – sharing tips about life and hiking with me and my Honey

As we lost ourselves in conversation Olivia shared the importance of a good system of give and take to make a marriage work. They have both been married before and are now working on year 26 with each other-thankful to God for the blessing of each other. She said, “Nobody is perfect but if you focus on the positive things it makes it work.”  It is interesting that when we are their age range we will have been married 26 years too.

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A mushroom that I had never seen before. Picture taken at Frozen Head State Park

She used to be a fast hiker like me but when she started hiking with Wes, she slowed down because he is like my Honey in that he likes to see every detail. I got to share this detail from our Frozen Head hike the day before:

They shared how they had met a couple in their 80’s while hiking in the Smokies.  Olivia advised, “If you will take good care of your bodies and make good food choices, you’ll probably pass us up and hike for 40 more years.”  They projected that if they could be having a good time on the trail in their 70’s that we might pass them up in hiking longevity. We left our encounter encouraged by like minded new friends. We left motivated to take care of ourselves so that we can be hiking in our 90’s like Olivia promised to pray that we would.

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For this porting of the trail, we went out the Gorge Overlook and came back Woodland

Tomorrow, I’ll share the rest of our discoveries and some beautiful scenery shots from Fall Creek Falls.

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When you are out exploring the world, could it be that you will meet an encouraging new friend? I challenge you to stop and chat—see what happens:)