Local Flavor: Oak and Earth Does the Dogwood Festival

It’s Bethany comin’ at ya for this post!

Funnel cake, hot pavement, trees blooming, music, and a bunch of people you vaguely know but don’t want to talk to. Must be a small town festival! Holy festivals, Batman! I’ve experienced all kinds of festivals and fairs in my lifetime. My favorite is still claimed by none other than the Dogwood Festival. I feel like every town has an annual festival that they are super proud of, and this is ours. In this post you’ll find a video of me chatting it up with festival goers, you will discover OakandEarth’s Dogwood Festival musts, and share in Dogwood experiences that were new to me this year!

I felt compelled to write about the festival because this festival celebrates OakAndEarth’s common roots! Our tagline for our blog is Common Roots, Different Routes. Our common roots are planted in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Siloam Springs is a charming town of about 15,000 people. We have beautiful parks, a downtown with coffee shops and antiques, and dogwood trees (ahhh, now you’re getting it, right?). At a typical Dogwood Festival there are a ton of booths with handmade goodies, fair food, live bluegrass music, and an awesome kid section that I find myself mindlessly wandering into each year. (I wonder what this says about me).

When I wandered into the kid section this year, I found a ton of happy families. I’m throwing it back to the early 1990’s for a second. After my family’s first trip to the festival, my older brother left in tears. Sugary treats, warm weather, music, why was he crying?? Simply put, he thought the Dogwood Festival would have dogs. “There weren’t any dogs!!!”. A clear rookie mistake that could happen to anyone. Names are not always as literal as we wish them to be.

Denver and I spent Saturday being slightly creepy, and asking random festival goers what they enjoy the most. Let’s take a look at the festival this weekend and what people think about it!

OakandEarth Dogwood Favorites:

–CHRISTIANA–

We caught up with Christiana at the festival, and she said her festival musts are the Kettle Corn and the book sale at the local library! She also bought some honey and a few other treats that she will discuss next week!
Dogwood2 Dogwood3 Dogwood4

–BETHANY–

My favorite treat will forever and always be the Tigers Blood snow cone. I get one every year, and this year was no exception! Tigers Blood is a mixture of watermelon, strawberry, and coconut. Good for a hot day, and also good if you desire an obnoxiously red mouth.

Dogwood022IMG_0004

Something I had never noticed at the fair before was a food truck that sold roasted corn on the cob! Okay, readers. If you’re going to learn anything about me, it is that I have 3 loves (listed in no particular order)– stew, corn on the cob, and Denver (my husband). At the festival, I got two of those fixes! The third will be relieved in few hours when I make homemade stew. But I digress. This corn on the cob is one food item that could make me shout a curse word to the high heavens. Thankfully I have some restraint (in public). For now, just enjoy pictures of me in what can only be referred to as  corn heaven.

Dogwood021 IMG_0098

 –TERA–

Tera was in Colorado this year! But she was with us in Dogwood spirit! She said her favorite part of the Dogwood is the atmosphere, and the Funnel Cake. Since she could not partake, Denver  stepped in a did the difficult task of consuming a funnel cake for her! Poor, Denver. *sarcasm*

Dogwood06 Dogwood07

 –SHELBY–

I met up with Shelby and her boyfriend Jeff in the later part of the day. Shelby is fun to go with, because she hops along to each booth with great intention. She snagged some honey, beautiful succulents, and some food! Her favorite treats are the Kettle Corn and Lemonade! How southern are we?

Dogwood015 Dogwood016 Dogwood017 Dogwood018

New to me!

While these are our  festival musts, I saw a few surprises this year! One being the corn booth (have I talked about corn enough?), another being a neat home made guitar booth! We also walked right up to a kids’ martial arts show in the midst of them breaking boards (see video for that goodness). As many years as I have gone, it’s neat to experience new booths.

Dogwood09 Dogwood010 Dogwood011 Dogwood013

 

Although the Dogwood may be a stereotypical small town festival, I like to think that it’s special in it’s own right. And I will keep going as long as it comes around. I hope you enjoyed getting to know a small part of our Common Roots as we bring in the spring season! I have some great ideas for my next post, and I look forward to connecting with you all again. As always if you have any suggestions or questions for us, please feel free! Christiana has a pretty neat spring themed blog coming at you next week, so be sure to look for it!

Peace, love, and Rocketships,

Bethany

 

#Momlife (Norah is ONE)

Norah Edited011

A WHOLE year of baby goodness has flown by. That was so fast and so slow all at the same time! Is that even possible? Yes. The days are long but the years are short…I think every mom would agree with me on that one!

In light of this milestone, I thought I would attempt to list a few “then vs. now’s” in order to reminisce and share what I have experienced. I’m also hoping I’m not the only one who is at the “removing dog food from child’s mouth,” and the “nightly trash can rummage” to make sure there aren’t any magnets, books, or dad’s glasses somewhere amidst the coffee grounds phase. Otherwise.. [insert nervous laugh here]

Let’s share some of my motherhood snippets.

Then…

Norah6-2

1. Lots of sleeping 

Sweet, sweet newborn baby cuddles, all day long. Norah was my tiny 5lb. 10oz. baby orangutan (see above pic for comparison). I remember thinking how I never thought it possible to love such a tiny little thing with so much intensity. We moms have a capacity to love so extraordinarily! Norah may or may not have been a pretty typical newborn (I mean really, you have to take all the newborn facts with a grain of salt). But man, the sleeping part, Norah had down! Girl loved her naps. I would just love to watch her sleep (and make sure she took another breath) *paranoia*. Babies are just so darn sweet when they sleep! The way they move their hands and their little newborn grunts make me want to squeee! Norah slept through the night very early on, and napped many times a day, and now? We’ll get there in a bit. But then? We loved us a nice 3-4 oz. bottle followed by a luxurious nap.

2. I have no clue what I’m doing!

Though the newborn stage was sweet, and I cherish my sweet orangutan memories, I was a big hot mess most days. I think the newborn stage has probably been my least favorite of the baby stages thus far. And I don’t mean this in the way that it sounds..I was so terrified at the thought of doing anything wrong that I was stressed most of the time.

Even before she was born, I was so scared thinking “I have no clue how to be a mom. What if I am a bonafide bad mom?” And when she came, she was so tiny and fragile! I felt like a failure when breastfeeding didn’t ‘work’ (for either of us), I worried she didn’t gain enough weight at her monthly checkpoints, I was paranoid when she slept, I tried to follow the newborn rule book to the ‘t’. Remember when I mentioned taking those rules with a grain of salt? Well. I was the opposite for a long time. I thought that when Norah wouldn’t do what the books said she should, that I was not doing something I should be, and I was failing at the mom thing. *classic first time mom syndrome* It’s quite comical to me now, but then, it was so not!

3. Milk drunk for days

The days of six bottles a day are long gone, folks (and also the days of spending $150 a month in baby formula..hallelujah chorus). I always thought it was so strange that Norah, and every baby, was just so satisfied with a big, warm bottle of milk. All day, e’rday. I am not a milk fan myself, so this particularly grossed me out. And after about two months of painful, dreaded, and unsuccessful breastfeeding, I opted for baby formula. Baby formula is odd (though a life saver), and it has a funk to the smell. And a formula smelling baby burp is just so adorably disgusting. I’ll never forget the short, day, of trying out Nutramigen–a formula for babies with cow based milk allergies. Thank the good Lord she did not need it because that stuff smells like fish dipped in Dorito batter, and based off Norah’s reaction to the bottles, it tasted like it too. We soon after settled on Gerber good start and loved it hard for a whole year.

Those were the days. Many different brands and trial runs of formulas (because they make approximately 1 billion types). Alas, a day I will not long miss, EXCEPT for the cute, adorable, milk drunk expressions we saw on an almost daily basis. Full tummy, happy heart, happier baby.

4. Sweet innocence

Norah4BW

I thought it was a good time to add another sweet, sugary baby picture. Givin’ me all the feels. Sigh.

Babies have a precious innocence to them. Everything is so beautiful and so new to them. The first time they discover their hands, the first time they roll over, the first time they discover their own voice (that may be when things start to change)..all of these milestones they hit are so precious and shows such a pure innocence about their nature. When they poop, it doesn’t smell, even if it does. Why? Because it’s coming from your sweet bitty baby’s bottom and it’s too cute to be gross. When they spit up on you? Adorable. They didn’t mean to spit that entire bottle on your shirt, they couldn’t help it. Baby toots are hilarious, not repulsive. ‘Oops,’ you tell them, ‘someone’s a little gassy today’. Everything they do is so precious. I mean it, too. I was just like this; Norah could not have been any cuter!

It is bitter sweet as they leave this stage of innocence as they grow and develop. It’s so fun to see them learn new things and develop their personalities, and sad at the same time to leave their newborn snuggly stage. Always precious, not always so innocent.

5. Let’s just hang out

And just like all the other newborn stages are over, so the stage of immobility has also come to an end.

Babies are so easy to entertain when they are still young. Stick them in the baby swing for a while, then tummy time on the floor, then perhaps the baby bouncer, then the cute playmat (with a lot of milk breaks and naps in between). The land of many baby stations is what we referred our home to for the first several months. Lots of rotating to keep them entertained? Sure. But still, much easier to keep an eye on them, and to always assure that they are in the same spot you saw them, oh, 20 seconds ago.

Don’t get me wrong, I still felt tired and busy. They do consume a lot of your day no matter what age! But as soon as Norah started crawling, we knew we seriously had no idea how busy and exhausting life with a baby really was. Though we’ve always been the type to like having an agenda of some sort, Norah really just rolled with it and sort of just “hung out” with us wherever we were. No opinions or defiance, just a ‘sure mom, I’ll be good in my carseat while we drive.’ Oh, the days.

Now…

Norah Edited007

1. But first, coffee.

I’ve found that the older Norah has gotten, strangely enough, the more tired I am on a pretty normal day-to-day basis!

Coffee in the mornings has become a morning ritual for us, and let’s be honest, sometimes in the evenings. There is just something about a baby with a new spurt of energy and activeness that takes tired to a whole new level. I think it must accompany the constant redirecting, constant feeding (ms. cookie monster), constant going, going, going. I truly love this stage of life with her, but girl is cray cray. Sometimes I would like to say, “okay, you’re fighting your nap today? I’ll just crawl in your bed and take one in your place.” So. Much. Energy.

Short pause

Sorry. I was just reminiscing on the days where naps for me were a reality. Time for another cup of coffee.

2.  I got this…never mind, no clue what I’m doing

Now don’t get me wrong, I have become a much more confident mom and woman over the course of a year. But let’s get real. By the time you get used to a baby stage, they change it up on you! Feelin’ good about your baby’s sleep schedule? Well unfortunately, they just hit their 4 month sleep regression. Got her feedings down? Bam. She just decided she would rather have more bottles later in the day instead of earlier. Think your baby’s tummy hurts because she’s been super fussy, so you try and figure out how to fix it, or if you are feeding her something that is causing it, and a week later she’s got two teeth popping through. *lightbulb*

One thing I have been able to do over the course of this year, is relax and be totally confident in my cluelessness. Every stage has presented its challenges, and always rewards that far outweigh them. I’ll never know what’s next for us, because I’ve never been through it! Maybe by baby #2, I’ll have some of these things down, but even still, each baby is different and picky in his or her own ways. It’s a constant learning thing for us. My name is Tera and I am clueless!

3. Eat all the things

We have moved out of the milk drunk phase, and moved into the clearing our pantry out phase in full swing.

It amazes me how much this child can put away at meal time, not to mention the constant snacking throughout the day (despite her most recent take to pickiness). It’s a great sign of growth, so I am grateful. But Norah is a disposal when it comes to food. So much so, that she’s even taken a liking to her favorite puppy’s food (don’t worry, we’re working on it). The girl is ravenous and will sometimes eat a majority of what is on my plate, even after having her own!

I understand now why the kitchen is just such a key space in your home. It’s because that is where your children corral all day long! I am constantly preparing snacks and meals for my daughter who is always wanting food for on the go. So cute. So ravenous.

4. GUILTY as charged

Remember that sweet innocence we discussed and reminisced? Those days are long gone. There comes a time when babies go from their sweet stage, and transform into these little heathens who are ALWAYS into something!

Tell me this is not just me. I love my daughter more than the world, but she is such a…well, we’ll call her an adventurous spirit. ‘I wonder what would happen if I turned this knob’; ‘I wonder what would happen if I put all my belongings in the trash’; ‘I wonder if my book would look good in the toilet’; ‘I wonder if I should wash my hands in the dog’s water bowl, and then proceed to turn it over onto the carpet…yeah, I probably should.’ These are all thoughts that I’m assuming have to go through my daughter’s brain on a daily basis. She knows that these things are not allowed, yet I still find myself redirecting her from these very things. A lot. The biting, pinching, hissy-fit throwing, stanky poop diapers…no longer as innocent.

Norah tests her boundaries with me. “Hot” she says, as she points to the fireplace. “Yes, very hot, do not touch it,” I reply. Slowly a tiny, guilt ridden finger gets closer and closer to said fireplace. I tell her no 100 more times, and the finger is ever slowly but surely moving closer and closer. Did I mention she’s staring at me with her “adventurous” eyes the whole time? Yeah. First they’re sweet, then they’re sour.

5. Let us explore the world

This is the most fun part of Norah’s stage of life, in all seriousness. She is so intrigued by life, and loves exploring! She loves animals, other babies, and she loves being outside. It’s truly a blessing to watch her bloom and beam with so much joy when she gets to have fun exploring.

Now, the house is constantly a mess from her indoor explorations, and I usually have 3-4 times a day where I am cleaning up the same piles of toys and messes. Exploring every single toy in our home, exploring on our book shelf and dvd collection, exploring her closet, exploring her bathtub…we do a lot of indoor exploring. I’m all about that exploring! I’m already tired; why not?! She has become quite the explorer throughout her first year. Very curious, and very experimental.

Norah Edited001-2

I love this about Norah. It’s part of what makes up her beautiful being. It keeps us on our toes, for sure, but it keeps life interesting, entertaining and fun!

Norah’s first year has been the hardest and most rewarding year of my life. She has learned so much, but she has also taught me so many things! The greatest and hardest job on earth that one can have, I believe, is being a parent. It is also the most rewarding and fun! You learn to toss the rules aside (using them more as a guideline), and learn by experience. You learn patience on a whole new level. You learn how to be a teacher, and you learn discipline. You learn to change poopy diapers really fast and effectively. And you learn how to love well. #fellowmomsunite

Happy Earth Day, live healthy, love hard.

Xo- Tera

An Outlandish Obsession

In 2012 I decided to step outside of my comfortable OBU bubble to study abroad and become a Sassenach (Outlander) at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

photo 2

Just another Sassenach, in Edinburgh, Scotland (PHOTOCREDS: Becca Cahan – my wonderful penpal of 13 years)

I learned a lot on this trip about Scotland, the world outside of America, and myself. I had traveled before on mission trips to Nicaragua and South Africa but this was the first time it was just me, out in the world, figuring things out first hand. I can’t say enough good things about the experience. It really grew me both spiritually and in maturity and I would definitely recommend studying abroad or working abroad if you ever have the opportunity.

Well ever since my return to America in the summer of 2012, I’ve harbored a deep love for Scotland. It was William Shakespeare who penned the phrase, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!” and although he was obviously not speaking of Scotland, I think that it applies. Few countries have had such a turbulent history as Scotland. The glens and lochs are abounding with mystery and legends that I could never do justice, but that brings me to the point of this post (or the main point at least!): Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series.

10351532_679482812110931_145092558468731850_n

Outlander TV Series on Starz, Based on Gabaldon’s Book Series

Last August I stumbled across an episode of Outlander on the Starz channel and I was immediately hooked. I quickly got caught up on the series and eagerly awaited the new episodes every week. The cinematography alone is amazing, providing stunning views of my beloved Scotland, but the show goes beyond that. The drama of the Highlands pulls you in as you watch Claire (the heroine) be violently uprooted from her life and thrust into a world far different from her own. I’ll start out by saying if time travel, kilts, bad-A heroines, and romance aren’t your thing, you probably won’t like the series, but hey, don’t knock it till you try it!

So here I am, in the midst of the series at a cinematic cliffhanger, when suddenly I discover it is only a half series and the next half won’t be airing until April! (Lucky for those of you reading this now, you have time to get up to date before the newest episode premiers Saturday!) This simply would not do.

Enter the boyfriend: Jeff Rose. So Jeff sees my anguish, and being the caring sort of person he is, begins buying me the books. Seriously it was like he was my drug dealer. I was polishing those babies off in no time (there are 8). I just had to get my fix! Maybe it was all apart of his master plan… You see, Jeff and I are long distance, so maybe he was only buying me the books in a devious plot to spend more time together. The fiend! Whatever his motive was, I now possess the entire series. Those who know me best know I am an avid reader, not to be daunted by the large volumes and big words,  so let me tell you that if you can’t stomach getting into a series that spans over 30 years of drama in the lives of the main characters, and weighs in at approximately 1000 pages per book, then this series probably isn’t for you. However, I still highly recommend at least watching the TV series!

Now I don’t want to get into the plot(s) of the novels too much because I don’t want to risk spoiling it for all you potential readers/watchers out there. I actually want to focus on some ways that the series has affected me specifically.

So like I said, the series immediately drew me in because of my own experience in Scotland, but I was delighted to find that the heroine mentioned above, Claire, was in the medical profession. Now this got her in quite a bit of trouble with superstitious 18th century highlanders, as you might imagine, but I loved that Gabaldon wove in so many medical elements, because I am actually in the process of trying to get in to medical school currently. In the series, deprived of the medical advances of her own times, Claire turns to the wonderful world of Botany to aide her in caring for patients. This proved inspirational to me. I have always been a bit of a nature freak, so it seemed an excellent idea to me to learn more about medicinal plants and home remedies! Who knows when the planet will be plunged into total anarchy and we will all have to learn to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, right? Well…maybe. Regardless, I have taken up the study of Botany as a pastime, and it really is quite fascinating! My long-term goal is to be able to identify and know how to use these medicinal plants (and also edible plants)  in the wild, and not just in a photograph. It’s not an easy process but its definitely rewarding. This, in turn, has lead to me taking steps toward living a more sustainable lifestyle. I started by planting a small herb garden. Right now I only have mint, sage, and rosemary, but I’m hoping to expand in the future.

You know, I hear so many people preaching about eating organic, free-range, no hormones, no steroids, buying local, no GMOs… the list goes on. All of that stuff is great if you have the time, money, and know-how, but for most people in America making a drastic lifestyle change like that is simply not feasible.  So here is my two cents.. How about:

  1. Do your research
  2. Start small

Seems doable right? Things don’t happen overnight. (Except zits – they most definitely do) So what is my point in this possible rabbit trail? Well maybe I don’t have a single, salient point, but I think for me, trying to buy local when possible and attempting to grow/raise my own when I can is a good place to begin. For now, I’m definitely loving the learning process. And of course, loving the books that I just have to buy to aide in that process (can I get an “amen” from my fellow nerds?!).

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

An Outlandish Obsession

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

Starting small, with sage, rosemary, and mint

Processed with VSCOcam with f1 preset

King Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland (PHOTOCREDS: Becca Cahan)

In later posts, I plan to enlighten you on some specific home remedies, foraging recipes, DIY sustainability projects, and plant spotlights (like, “getting down with dandelions” or something… btw, did you know that they are edible as well as medicinal and can be used to treat infections, liver problems and more?!). but for now I just want to highlight a few books and blogs that you should definitely check out.

  • The Feast Nearby, Robin Mather
  • Medicinal Herbs, Rosemary Gladstar
  • Herbs, an A-Z Guide, Gardening, Cooking & Health, Reader’s Digest
  • The Country Almanac of Home Remedies, Brigitte Mars and Chrystle Fiedler
  • Outlander, Diana Gabaldon
  • http://shelfassurance.com/2015/04/books-on-screen-outlander/   (My dear friend Jessica’s amazing blog, most recent post highlighting OUTLANDER!!!)
  • http://wellnessmama.com   (I love this website/blog and have pinned countless things from the wealth of knowledge she has available here)
  • https://shelbybriley.wordpress.com   (My personal blog, mostly featuring my travels)

As always, live healthy and love hard!

– Shelby aka Sassenach

photo photo 1

IMG_2009

For photos of my travels and more check out my Instagram handle @hopelesswanderer_sb

LETS START THINGS OFF BY BEING FRANK, SHALL WE?

1) TO GET DOWN TO THE KNITTY GRITTY: THIS HAS BY FAR BEEN THE STRANGEST YEAR OF MY LIFE.

(You may now escape quickly  and quietly or secretly say “amen sister”, and see if we can relate.)

The truth is that this year I have felt like the woman’s hand in the above photo ^ as almost everything has seemed a  fingertip’s reach away that I somehow ended up losing grasp of. My education. My future career. My love life. My relationship with God. Even my love to cook! Ever felt that way? It can be slightly nauseating to put it mildly.

When my three best friends and I first began to entertain the idea of starting a blog, it seemed like the perfect idea. I envisioned myself posting well-thought out, sophisticated posts on how I would love for my dream Christiana to be portrayed to the world. I realize however, that this simply will not do. I have an oath for you on my part; I have decided from the beginning to be completely honest and real with all (or any) who decide to find interesting a girl who does not have it all together, but IS in the process of figuring out THAT I WILL NEVER HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT, (And being ok with that.)

I will most likely wholly and dedicatedly present to you each week a hodgepodge of ME-ness. You will learn how to make a French cake, what it is like to live in South Korea for three months and question the meaning of your existence, how to fall in love with Jesus all over again, and most importantly learning together each day to be ok with letting go. Still with me?

2)  WHO ARE YOU ANYWAY, AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?

(I’m sure you’re wondering.)

Truth is, my life currently holds no super crazy powerful significance seen by the human eye. I am twenty-four years old and still living with my mother and our dog Pikachu. I graduated this past summer with a bachelor’s degree in English and Broadcast Journalism, and I am currently utilizing none of the above. I work 2nd shift at the front desk of a hotel. My vice and slight obsession is cooking and baking (particularly French pastries). Many weeknights after work I sing karaoke songs to my mom in the kitchen after work pretending to be Lana Del Ray.

What am I doing then, you may be thinking? Don’t worry, no offense taken, I do too most days. I am an aspiring actress. I am saving up money and hope to pack up my belongings and life to head for Los Angeles to pursue an acting career! Crazy, right? Tell me about it.

3) HOW WILL READING ABOUT YOUR MUNDANE EXISTENCE APPLY TO MY LIFE?

It may not. All I can do is present the truthful, strange, ME-ness that I have promised you. I hope that someone out there may find refreshing a voice to read that may sound familiar among the sea of everyone who seems to have a perfect life on social media. If you have ever felt like pulling your hair out for feeling as though you are just not quite living the life you had envisioned for yourself than perhaps you will relate. Maybe you and I can continue this long and arduous, (but totally worth it) journey of getting to know the deepest core of our soul as we are meant to know it and realizing our true purpose along the way.

Life is a journey that is sometimes crazy, filled with failed recipes and too many Lana Del Ray songs, but it is truly beautiful when you choose to shed it in a positive light and daily choose to keep moving to the rhythm of your own beat.

Care to join?

C’est La Vi!

-Christiana <3

head shot

Becoming a Weekend Warrior

Hello!

My name is Bethany, and you can learn a little more about me in the “About” page of our blog. I’ll be making all different types of blog posts (adventures, cooking, how to’s, music, art, fashion, life battles, stresses and more).This first post explains a life transition I have made. I’m on the slow road to happier life, and it starts with the weekend! In the post below, I give a bit of info on my lifestyle change, why I chose this path, what I consider a “Weekend Warrior”, and 11 steps to becoming one. Enjoy.

Meet me ( Bethany):

Me and a Mocha. A divine relationship.

Meet the husband (Denver):

Denver. I call husband.

Meet our marriage. (The Poteets)

Coffee

My Lifestyle Change:

This is my marriage of nearly two years. We both have college degrees, bills, and day to day stresses. What we DON’T posses is the mundane desire to stay in one place and do the same thing every day. What we DO have is the itch and passion to do things differently. So, we do. What do I mean by differently?

For a while I was feeling depressed about living every day the same way: Wake up early, go to work, come home to make dinner, eat said dinner, watch Netflix, sleep (or try to ), and repeat. Occasionally there would be some Olive Garden thrown in the mix (crazy, I know), or some frisbee. Most week days were the same. Week days are busy and tiring, because the bills must be paid! So then what about the weeekends? I suppose we did typical married couple activities. The thing is, I  don’t think we’re particularly typical. One day I found myself asking,  why follow the pattern that society puts directly in front of you? This is when I learned that there is no right way to live your life. Life is not absolute.

The Pizza Theory

It’s like society tells you it’s time for dinner and the only thing to eat is plain pizza. What “the man” doesn’t tell you is that there are so many toppings that make life delicious! Better yet, you don’t have to eat pizza at all. In fact, you can eat dinner any time you want. So why do we always choose what society puts in front of us (plain pizza)? If it were so simple to live life on different trajectories, wouldn’t everybody? Living differently is not easy. You will face questions and hurdles. What you need to remember is that the life you live is what you create.

Why have I chosen a new path?

“20 Somethings”, as we are so often called, have a few different paths we tend follow. There is nothing wrong with any of these normal paths. I graduated college with a BA degree in Corporate Communication and a minor in Art in 2013. After college I went straight to work, and I had a great job. What I struggled with for years was feeling like my creativity was locked in a cage. I like to play music, paint, take pictures, hike, and write. My husband likes to do many of the same things, meaning I was not alone in this struggle. I felt as if I was not dedicating any time to my hobbies, let alone my passions. So why the change and how did it occur?

My husband and I moved states (a discussion for another post). The move was only about two hours away from where we were first located. With this transition I found it hard to find a job. I have had a lot of time to consider what makes up a life. I haven’t quite made the life I desire, but I am finally making steps toward it. My husband works full time, and we are often busy during the week. So why not take weekends and create steps toward a happier or more fulfilling life? A life full of many pizza toppings, if you will. For Denver and I, that meant dedicating time specifically for creative activities. Since this change, we have traveled, gone to concerts, hiked, biked, climbed, painted, made music, worked on video games, and made time for friends and family–we are becoming Weekend Warriors.

What does being a “Weekend Warrior” mean to me?

A Weekend Warrior breaks the mold of the average 20 Something individual. For me this means going the extra mile to achieve short term goals and to fulfill creative desires. It is not for those who tire easily. These steps are helping me get over repetition and mundane behavior. So if you’re looking to mix up your life and achieve some small goals, you might be able to realistically apply these to your weekend. While this phrase does have the word “weekend” in it, I am aware that some people do not have weekend off. If this is the case, apply the steps below to the time you do have off. If you prefer to chase bullet points, short cuts, and pictures, this next part is for you. These are my magic steps. 

11 STEPS TO BECOMING A WEEKEND WARRIOR

1) Stop accepting plain pizza. (Plain pizza theory explained above)

This first step starts by realizing what you want your life to be. We only have one. So what would you like  to improve on? What do you miss during the week that you really wish you had time for? If you want more out of life than what people typically accept, you’re already on the right path to become a Weekend Warrior.

2) Pick some rad activities, and practice your hobbies!

For my husband and I, we love to go outdoors. We love to do this because it feeds our creative bones. When I am writing music or painting, surrounding myself in nature is key. Nature is inspiring, and it keeps you thinking. We are also dedicating more time to practice our hobbies! This might mean a night of jamming on the guitar or painting. For Denver it usually means working on video game development. Whatever it might be, make sure you fit it into your weekend at least once.

Reach DenveronClouds

3) Get a partner(s) in crime.

Even if you do some of these activities by yourself, let someone you’re close to in on your change. They might want to come along with you. If they don’t, they might encourage you to keep going when you feel like slipping back into mundane life. Surrounding yourself with people who will support you in your endeavors is necessary.

BethanyandDenverIMG_7839Colorado59Laughter2

4) Kill your phone.

Okay, so that’s a bit dramatic. Something we have learned to do is to leave our phones on silent, stash them away, or don’t bring them at all. Sometimes I’ll turn my phone on airplane mode so it makes it impossible to get on the internet during my activities. When we hike we like to take pictures. So we will take our camera and phone and capture some amazing things we want to remember, and then we shut everything down. A moment of silence can go a long way. It can be easy for a phone or camera to ruin your experience. Don’t forget to be in the moment.

5) Be prepared to be exhausted. (Totally worth it)

So for many activities we start early and end late. Part of living the weekend to the fullest is being tired.  What helps is planning it out to have a day to recoup. Having a recoup day doesn’t always happen. If you can’t get this recoup time, you can’t complain. It’s a part of it.

IMG_4596

6) Make good Playlists.

Playlists can drive any weekend home. A really good playlist can put you in the mood to achieve great things. Trust me. (Future posts include some tunes I’ll recommend, and how they can amp up every day activities).

7) Be willing to drive…a lot.

We have gone from Arkansas to Colorado and back in one weekend (12 hours one way). We have also done this with Austin, Texas in one weekend  (9 hours one way). Both driving expeditions were to travel to see my favorite artist LIGHTS. They were both tiring but incredibly epic weekends. These endeavors are incredibly exhausting and induce a lot of driving, but it’s worth it to get to see something or do something you’ve always wanted to do. Sometimes we just have to work with the time given. These particular weekends were planned out, and the trip to Colorado required asking a half day off of work on Friday to kick it off. Life is too short to not go the distance. It helps that Denver and I enjoy driving.

IMG_4948 RearView Colorado5IMG_7977

8) Be able to deviate from your original plan. (shiz-stuff happens)
Remember that you have to go the extra mile to obtain greatness. This is why being a Weekend Warrior is not for everybody. It’s not for people who require a lot of sleep, and it’s not for people who will break down if the plans don’t pan out perfectly (definitely guilty of that). When you’re doing multiple activities, the weather doesn’t always flow accordingly. When you get up and drive to see the sunrise and it rains so much you can’t see the sun, or when you’re hitting an ice storm on the way home from Austin, put in some awesome tunes and thank God for all the blessings in your life. Learn to laugh and go with the flow. Yes, these are real life occurrences during our adventures.

YourPortal

 9) Face some fears.

Take this time to strive for something you have never done. Do something you’ve been too scared to do. Go places you’ve never been.

Bethany1 IMG_5016 Crag IMG_1633

 

10) Fulfill random thoughts.

You know when you have a thought like:
What if we got waffles right now?
What if we make a fort??
What if we leave said fort up for 2 months?
Want to sleep on the floor?
Do you want to go watch the sunrise in the morning?
Do you want to have a picnic?

DO THESE THINGS. My motto is–random thoughts are good thoughts.

12) End on the basics.
When my husband and I were choosing activities, we decided to go back to basics. What makes you inherently and uncontrollably happy? Forget what other people are doing. Live your life the way you desire, and take pride in being different. What makes you happy?

Colorado78 Biking1 Wander2 DenandBeth7

 

I hope this helps you think outside the box a little. These steps can easily be adapted to different lifestyles. Get on the road to a happier and more creative you. I am open for questions, and I would love to get to know you!  If you end up doing anything different with your weekends, let me know! I would love to hear about your adventures. I’ll end with this quote from my favorite musician:

“You have to be uncomfortable in order to be successful, in some ways. Because if you stay in your comfort zone, you would never do the things that you need to do.” -LIGHTS

Peace, love, and rocketships.

-Bethany

Fog

Hello, I am Tera! You can read a tad about me and my sweet family in the about section of our blog. Mostly you will learn about me through my posts! My page will probably have lots of glorious (that’s what we will call it) motherhood moments, an occasional recipe from my once monthly home cooked meals (okay, I’m not that bad about it), Diy crafts that may or may not have turned out, and sometimes just random thoughts that I feel like writing about (I can sense your excitement already)!

Originally, I had a post in mind that would have been light hearted, fun, and (in my opinion), somewhat humorous. Thus is the life with a child and I love every day of it! But, I’ve since decided to post something quite different; it’s me being raw and vulnerable with you all, and just…real. My intent is for this to [hopefully] be relatable and encouraging for what readers come my way–and I pray that it will be!

When tough times come our way, I automatically think to myself: “Okay, what can God be trying to teach me through this?” Sometimes these situations ease quickly, and a sigh of relief can be breathed. Sometimes, much like we have found ourselves at current, these times are a lot like a thick fog in which you cannot see what is ahead of you except for one. step. at. a. time. Through a lot of prayer, I feel like what God is trying to teach me the most in our current obstacle, is to have all of my t r u s t placed in Him. Now I know, you’re like “really, Tera?” Yes, really. Trust. Such a simple word with SO much depth to it. This is something that (for me, anyway) is so easy to say and to think in my brain…”Okay God, I trust you with this.”; “Do I trust God? Of course I do!” But I have found that allowing my heart to believe in this and to rest in it is totally different. I still want some control with my life, my family, my successes. There is still a teensy part of me that wants to have a back-up plan “just incase” God doesn’t show up like He says He will. And He has! Over and over again He remains faithful to me, even despite my doubts! It’s my selfish human nature that wants control, and it is something God has called me out on.

My husband and I both felt God’s calling to move to Colorado for ministry in a church plant at the beginning of last year. Through a lot of planning, raising support, and more prayer, we found ourselves here in the Springs by August. This took a big leap of faith for us (me in particular). You see, we had a [beautiful] daughter in February of last year–you will hear lots about her on my blog in future posts–and moving to a place where we knew nobody while also being a new mom, was not appealing to me. Fundraising for our living expenses, was not appealing to me. Moving away from our family and friends, also, not appealing to me. God really pulled us both out of our comfort zones (let’s face it, He loves doing this!), and though it was scary and held a lot of unknowns, we took that leap of faith and felt a great sense of peace about it all. We raised our support in less then two months, felt as if we were already making life long friends before even moving out here, and we just knew it was God’s hand on us through the whole process. This was one of those quick *sigh* of relief moments. Hashtag blessed<<< We were this family. Through different circumstances that I will not go into detail with here, almost 8 months after our ministry began with this church plant, we found ourselves suddenly no longer a part of this family. [Side note: This was nothing immoral or wrong done by us, just merely different views amongst a few things.]  This is one of those thick fogs that we are just trying to see through to our next step. This is where the trust lesson comes in for me.

You see, trusting God to move out here was the easy part. He wanted us here; those doors were flung open for us (He was not so subtle with this)! The hard part is where we find ourselves now: with no job, no understanding of God’s plan for us, no direction. A whole lot of questions and confusion: Why would He call us here for such a short time? Where are we supposed to be now? What just happened (ha! this is literally a question we have asked ourselves)? What next? This is where that teensy part of me is wanting to control the shots, and to take care of everything and make it all better. But through a lot of tears and prayers, God has shown me how important to Him my utmost trust is. To know that He is who He says He is, and to trust God for His undying faithfulness, not for my circumstance.

Ironically enough, our neighbor had given me a book not too long ago, called Ruthless Trust by Brennan Manning. An excerpt from the first chapter stuck out to me, and it reads: “Brennan, you don’t need anymore insights into the faith,” he observed. “You’ve got enough insights to last you three hundred years. The most urgent need in your life is to trust what you have received” (p.1). We can drive ourselves crazy trying to find understanding of these situations that just do not add up in our heads. They sting, there’s hurt, frustration, confusion..we pray for God to show us the reasoning for it all. What we forget sometimes, is that His wisdom far exceeds our own. God knows exactly what we need to know about certain things, and what we don’t need to know (though our human nature is quite nosy and we tend to think we deserve to know all the details). He knows we don’t need all of the details to get us where He wants us. This is where He wants our trust! I have found this to be so true in this season my family is in. I find it impossible to have trust and knowledge mutually. If we knew all of the details of our future, would we need to trust God with our lives? Would it give us the chance to grow in our faith, or would it harbor our faith and go lukewarm? Though my mind was going a million miles a minute (does it ever really stop? I don’t know), trying to make sense of my life and trying to find solutions for my problems, I felt God tug on my heart and say “Tera, trust Me. I have not forgotten about you.” That was the point in which I finally decided to lean on Him, and trust Him because of who He is to me, not because of what my human emotions were feeling in the moment. I learned to pray for trust over clarity; that it was more important for me to trust God now, than it was to possess more knowledge. That wasn’t going to change my circumstances, and may invite bitterness to creep in. There were ugly tears, guys. It was not a beauty pageant moment on my part to say the least. But I was real with God, and I laid it on Him; all my frustrations, confusion, hurt, doubts. He can handle it all, He even tells us to load it on Him– and He still meets us with His gentle grace. He picks us up, brushes us off and fills us with His strength and peace. He tells us “I am right beside you. You can do this.” What an awesome God.

I cannot tell you that God clearly spoke to me and gave me direction on exactly what is next for us. I can only tell you the peace I felt when I finally gave the questions and the frustration and the unknown back to God. To feel the weight of these things come off my shoulders and to know that they are not unknown to Him, that all of this comes together in His overarching plan for our lives, gives a great sense of peace to me, even though the fog is still so dense! There is no greater feeling than the sense of intimacy with God when you are hurting. He wants to walk with you through it all…better yet, He wants to Lead you through that scary dense fog of unknown future. Sometimes, in order for Him to lead us through to that next step, it requires a daily devotion of trust in Him. It may be one small step at a time, but each time we choose to trust and take a step, God is slowly pulling us out of the fog. We have to allow Him to use certain things in our life to teach us, refine us, build our faith, and have the opportunity to experience Him at work when we are seemingly helpless. I challenge you, next time you feel like you are walking through the thick fog, to choose to trust God with the nitty gritty details and the scary unknown, hold His hand tight, and say “God, lead me through it.”

“Trust is our gift back to God, and He finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it” (Ruthless Trust p.2).

Peace and love,

-Tera

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

I (Shelby) have always been “athletic”, and always thought of myself as being tough. It’s something I’ve been rather proud of myself for, which is really quite ridiculous since I have never really had to work at it. I don’t mean to say that I don’t work hard in athletics; I do. I am very competitive and want to be the best I possibly can be when I commit to something. What I’m saying is, its not like I rose from the ashes of a horribly uncoordinated childhood, being picked last by every team, never winning anything, and then worked my chubby rear off until I was a varsity track/basketball/softball star. All this to say, thanks to genes, I’ve always been athletically inclined. Surely hiking 40+ miles of the Appalachian Trail with my dad and brother would be no big deal, right? Right? Wrong Shelby. Very wrong.  It was, in a word, an adventure. One definition of adventure is, an unusual and exciting, typically hazardous, experience or activity. They may as well have included a photo of the Appalachian Trail. Hiking the AT was one of the most humbling, strenuous, exciting, trying, beautiful, painful, LOTR quote inducing, majestic, and memorable experiences of my life. It all began at Amicalola…

photo 1

photo 3 photo 4

photo 2

We had arranged to be shuttled from Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, GA, up to Hog’s Pen Gap and then hike our way South back to Amicalola because Dad said, “I’m like Treebeard. I always liked going south; somehow, it feels like going downhill.” (If you don’t know that is from Lord of the Rings, you should probably stop reading this and go acquaint yourself with the best epic of all time. I won’t be mad at you. I promise.) The distance we were set to hike was approximately 46 miles. However, if I thought the adventure was going to begin when we hit the trail, I was quickly proved wrong. No, for me the adventure began when I sat down in our shuttle driver’s, let’s call her Jan, when I sat in Jan’s kennel of a vehicle. If the smell wasn’t enough, about 3 minutes into the drive I realized, (and no, I am not making this up) that I was sitting in dog poop. To say I was disgusted would be a vast understatement. I was in shock. Could this be real? I needed a second opinion. Unable to see the offending area myself, I tapped Seth’s arm and whispered, “Is there poop on my butt?” His face at that moment is difficult for me to describe. Torn between disgust and hilarity all he managed to do was nod. So here I was, in the back of Jan’s filthy car, finding myself at a loss for words or action. What was I supposed to do? “Excuse me madame, but I’m sitting in dog crap.”  I really have to give my brother props for what happened next. Ever a gentleman, Seth took a tissue and wiped my butt. I didn’t think that that would be my reality until I was at least 90, but here I am, 23, and its already happened. So my day was off to a (literally) crappy start, and I sat for the next hour, vastly uncomfortable, trying not to think about the hard facts of life.

As it turned out, Jan advised us to put in one gap over at Tesnatee Gap, one hill over from Hog’s Pen Gap. It knocked a mile off our trip and she said that it was a bit easier to start from. My first reaction was to take offense, but about 5 minutes later I probably would have kissed her feet. And so it was, on March 22nd, 2015 our adventure began. That first hill was the worst. I never realized how much walking could hurt. I was gasping for air, thighs burning, cursing myself for butting in on what could have been excellent Father-Son time for my Dad and Brother, and was genuinely concerned that this trip would be the death of me. Treebeard and my Dad were definitely wrong about going South. Why was I doing this? I wasn’t on a soul journey, didn’t particularly enjoy not having a toilet, and definitely wasn’t a fan of having 30 lbs. strapped on my back. Also, I love my bed. I mean LOVE. Its the most comfortable mattress ever to have graced the earth, and I willingly gave it up in favor of sleeping on the ground for a week next to two sweaty and pungent boys. But it was too late to turn back now, and so I plodded on. And on. And on. I got passed by a herd of pretentious boy scouts, a man who was way too peppy and cheerful – obviously a lunatic – for my liking, and a woman who weighed no less than 300 lbs. Granted, they were going downhill, but still, my self-esteem took a major hit. By the time we reached the top, I had concluded that modern society has made us a bunch of weaklings… but I think the view was worth it. A never-ending haze of blue ridges stretched out before us that was simply breathtaking; and not just from the altitude change.

DSC_0075

One hill down, 6000 more to go!

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset photo 5

That first day was definitely the worst. Our bodies were adjusting to the abuse we were putting them through, and on top of that, Mother Nature decided we needed a little extra struggle, in the form of precipitation. All day, everyone we met had been telling us, “Oh man, you’re gonna love Neels Gap! Its so great. There is a store and cabins and food. Trail Magic!” and so on, and so forth. Although I hadn’t the slightest idea what ‘Trail Magic’ was (drugs? weird hippy hiker jargon?), I was genuinely excited. I imagined a picturesque stream with a little mountain store and quaint cottages. Tents pitched here and friendly folks gathered around camp fires, swapping stories and food and rinsing hands and faces in the creek. Alas, reality was not so kind. We did find a cute mountain store and a nice picnic table area by an overlook, but thats where the similarities ended. First off, it was raining and cold, which always  puts a damper on things. Secondly, and I am trying to say this in the nicest way possible, but almost everyone there looked and acted like they were high on something. Dad especially, was less than enthused. The staff, to say the least, were not helpful. No one seemed to be able to tell us where we could make camp. Directly across the street was Blood Mountain, and we couldn’t camp there because in that area you were required to have a bear canister. It was already getting dark, and so with frustration mounting, we trudged a mile back uphill in the direction we came from, and made camp in the rain. As we crawled in our sleeping bags that night, Seth said to me, “This is not what I expected. When I thought about hiking the AT over my spring break, I didn’t imagine it like this.” I completely sympathized. All day I had been catching myself daydreaming about Hobbits, Highlanders, and post-apocalyptic heroes. Reality was somewhat less romantic.

The next morning, we awoke to fog which gave way (thankfully) to sunshine. So it was with much higher spirits, we started Day 2 of our journey. It began with the ascension of Blood Mountain; elevation 4,461 ft, highest point of the AT in Georgia, and very aptly named (Ok, so the name has nothing to do with the horrendous act that is climbing the thing, but hey… it works). I won’t lie, it was torture. But there was a sweet payoff at the top. The view was amazing and I finally got to sign my trail name in the book at the Blood Mountain shelter. Everyone on the AT has trail names. Dad’s was Bullet, Seth’s was Blue Child, and mine was Sassenach (from the Gaelic meaning Outlander, which I thought appropriate). After descending Blood Mountain we came to an area with the most beautiful huge trees. Passing through Jarrard Gap we began the last leg of that day’s trek, which circled us around a hill/mountain/whatever where there were constantly amazing views of those blue ridges. It would have been nice to make camp up there, but we needed water, so we pressed on to Lance Creek which was depressingly crowded. However, some of our less obnoxious acquaintances at Neel’s Gap had given us the tip off, so we scrambled up an overgrown path behind the “campsites” and actually found a really nice spot to make camp that hugged the ridge over the creek. It was beautiful. Much more along the lines of what Seth had envisioned. Oh, and did I mention it was sunny all day long? I don’t know about you guys, but its almost comical the affect the sun has on my mood. I even had enough energy to set about the task of making a campfire! It was definitely one of my favorite days.

DSC_0093 DSC_0092

DSC_0080 DSC_0077

DSC_0076 DSC_0091

DSC_0082

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

photo 1-1 photo 4-1

photo 3-1

On top of Blood Mountain!

Day three, in my opinion, was the worst as far as fatigue. Weather wise, it was absolutely amazing! We awoke to a fantastic sunrise on the ridge and it stayed sunny and warm all day long which is both a blessing and a curse when backpacking, but definitely preferable to rain. When I first slung my pack on, it felt so heavy. Theoretically it was getting lighter every day, but it certainly didn’t feel that way, no matter how many cliff bars I ate! Many of you reading this who have backpacked before will probably have realized by now we were caring a ridiculous amount of stuff with us. My bag weighed 30 lbs. starting out, and Dad and Seth’s both weighed about 50 lbs. One of the things we brought that Dad was so excited about was pancake mix. Sounds great right? Well maybe… if you like pancake soup. I’m just glad I stopped him from bringing the powdered eggs. Regardless, we packed the pancake mix back up and Seth lugged it around for another 2 days. Dad kept saying he wanted to try it again… but eventually he got so disgusted (and I think he felt betrayed) that he dumped it all in the fire in a fit of rain induced anger. But I’m getting ahead of myself. So we ate our pancake soup, packed up, and headed out, heavy packs and all. We had to stop and filter/treat water at the creek before we really got going and then we headed up the trail, and I mean UP, for a really long time. On the AT you have a lot of highs and lows (both literally and emotionally/spiritually). The climb is the worst, but when you get to the peaks its just amazing. And honestly, you can’t help but feel a little bit proud of yourself when you reach them. I kept asking myself, what is it that drives so many people to hike the AT? Is it this? The peaks? Definitely not. You can drive to scenic outlooks, no hiking required. Of course, everyone you pass on the trail is headed to Maine, and only a small portion finish, but what brings us all out here? And what drives those chosen few to complete all 2,000+ miles? Surely not just to say they did it? I remembered a quote I had heard a couple months ago by Mark Obmascik that said, “I just love all this . . . The sights, the smells, making the effort and pushing yourself and getting something that’s really hard to get. I’ll fly on a plane and people will look out the window at thirty thousand feet and say, ‘Isn’t this view good enough for you?’ And I say no, it’s not good enough. I didn’t earn it. In the mountains, I earn it.” And maybe thats it. Maybe its about earning something. Or maybe it just has to do with being in the wilderness. As Cheryl Strayed so poignantly put it, “It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B. It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”

On this particular day, early on we encountered a rather portly gentleman, who excitedly told us that a ‘Christian man’ was set up at a place called Gooch Gap feeding weary hikers. Being a big fan of food myself, I decreed that we would make it to this Gooch Gap no matter what the mileage! Fortunately for us, it was only about 8 miles. Sidenote: let me tell you, 10 miles ceases to sound so small after you’ve done any backpacking. We reached the halfway mark between Lance Creek and Gooch Gap (about 4 miles) around 2pm or so; a place called Woody Gap. There, alongside a road that passed through the gap, there was (wonder of wonders!) a bathroom! With toilet paper and everything! So then, feeling much more human, we set off on the last 4 miles to Gooch. There was one really scenic outlook we passed at some point in the day called Preachers Rock which we took a little break at, but other than that we kept a pretty good pace. When we finally did make it, it was like I had stumbled into some weird dream. I was able to take off my pack and put on my sandals. Nothing, I mean nothing, feels as good as taking your hiking boots off after backpacking all day. We finally met the ‘Christian man’ we had heard tale of earlier, and his two children who were running the operation. The man’s name was James Evans and he said that their purpose there was simply to serve in the name of Jesus. They had really created an environment in which everyone could mingle and feel refreshed and just not have to worry for a minute about what needed to be done. It was lovely. I had a salad to start with. You’ve never tasted a salad until you’ve tasted a salad on the AT. It was phenomenal. As was the taco soup and COBBLERS (yes, two cobblers! peach and cherry!) they had prepared. If anyone is interested in learning more about their ministry, its called Benchmark Adventure Ministries, and more information can be found at http://www.benchmark.org. I strongly suggest checking it out. So we went to sleep well fed, and were able to wake up the next morning feeling well rested. AND they even had breakfast for us! (Foggy rain isn’t half as bad if you can get hot chocolate under a giant tent) And you know what people were calling it? Trail Magic. So the mystery was finally solved. Trail Magic turned out not to be some strange drug after all.

DSC_0115 DSC_0123

DSC_0125 photo 1-2

DSC_0149 DSC_0140

DSC_0186 DSC_0176   

DSC_0153

Preacher’s Rock

 photo 2-2 photo 3-2

Day four was pretty rough. Although the fog proved amazing for photographic purposes, after it passed, the section of the trail we hiked that day was not the most scenic. I most enjoyed the area immediately following Gooch Gap. There was a nice creek flowing there and thus, quite a bit of green, which is really nice when you’ve been seeing mostly browns and blues. Seth and I took turns cranking this infernal lantern we had bought which was supposed to charge our phones. It worked for a couple of days, but once the battery got down, I swear, no amount of cranking would have brought it back to life. I don’t care if you had the Hulk cranking on that thing. Our goal was to reach a place called Hawk Mountain Shelter where there was also water and campsites. We finally reached it, and probably could have gone farther, but there was something incredibly enticing about the idea of stopping before 6pm. So we did. At first, I thought we were going to end up camped out right next to strangers because, I kid you not, the place was swarming with people. Maybe Dad was right that hiking South allowed us more peace on the trail, but we did pass hikers going the opposite direction all the time, and no matter what direction you’re going people are going to camp where there is water. So we meandered down to the stream which was surprisingly large! And to our further surprise and delight, found a campsite right by the water, hidden from the main trail by a fairly dense patch of rhododendron. I’ll admit it, leave no trace or not, I took a creek bath. And you know what? It was fabulous. No, I did not pollute the creek with chemicals (shampoo, soap, whatever), but I did rinse off. It was freezing, but so so worth it. The best part about camping by a stream is  you don’t have to worry about how much water you’re cooking with or drinking. Its amazing how much we take for granted with indoor plumbing. I have mad respect for our ancestors. It was a hard life back then. We don’t even come close to realizing how easy our lives are today. We made a campfire, and just enjoyed the evening for a bit. Cocoa in hand.

DSC_0221 DSC_0203 DSC_0244

DSC_0268

So day five arrived, and with it, rain. We awoke to a very soggy campsite, and a very grumpy Dad, who right then and there took out his aggression on the treacherous aforementioned pancakes. Apparently the rain sealed the deal, and he decided there was no hope of hot cakes on this particular trek. I’m pretty sure that improved Seth’s spirits though, because his bag happened to be carrying the breakfast supplies. We further lightened his load by eating oatmeal and drinking more cocoa. Over the course of the night, somehow Seth got it in his head that we had to finish the hike today. I’m not sure if it was the rain, or the food, or what that did it, but he was determined. The only teeny tiny insignificant detail was that it was 16 miles to the finish line. Up until then we had been hiking about 8 miles per day. It doesn’t take Einstein to do that math. Twice the distance in the same amount of time. I didn’t think we would actually go through with it. I thought after 8 miles we would all just give up and make camp for the night and finish the remaining 8 miles Friday. I thought wrong.

The day began much like the other days, made a little more gloomy by the fact that we were wet and muddy, but the rain eventually stopped and we crossed a dirt road next to a strange little cemetery. At that point the terrain began to change. All of the sudden there were conifers everywhere, moss, and just more green everywhere you looked. We came to a place where the ground sloped down ahead and beyond there was a valley of green and the sound of running water. We had only been hiking for a couple miles and didn’t really need water but we decided to get some nonetheless. I took the opportunity to get out my camera and the boys went ahead to start the filtering process. It was nice to be alone for a moment in the deep quiet of the woods. It was so different from what we had seen up until that point. I meandered down the trail and when I got through the rhododendron, was thrilled to emerge at  gorgeous waterfall! Long Creek Falls to be precise, although I didn’t know its name at the time. It was stunning. A perfect creek with huge rocks and trees and everywhere you turned so much green! I wish I could build a cabin and live there. I took so many photos and even got the boys to pose for a group shot. Unfortunately, Seth didn’t have as magical an experience as I did at the falls. While chasing his water bottle lid downstream, he slipped and soaked one of his boots, forcing him to hike the next segment in Chacos. It was undoubtedly the most gorgeous segment of the trip (for me), but I was quite annoyingly rushed through it in our push to reach the end. We followed Long Creek for quite a way downhill, then eventually crossed it before we began the four mile ascent up Springer Mountain, Southern terminus of the AT. It was beautiful. As we walked through the deep shadow beneath the whispering pines, the steady babble of a stream to our left, I felt apart of the ancient stillness that only exists in the woods. I love a sweeping vista as much as the next person, but there is much to be said for the humility and enigmatic lure of the forest. It is a quiet, unpretentious beauty. I knew I would always be a part of it, along with all who sojourn the Appalachian Trail. After awhile we began to ascend out of the lush green and back into the blue ridges. From Hawk Mountain to the summit of Springer it took about six hours to hike 8 miles, so we were actually making pretty good time (at least for us). We decided to eat a bigger lunch than usual, and go for the final push to Amicalola. The end was in sight. Bed! Hot food! Running water! It was like a siren call… dangerously alluring. I signed the registry and Springer Mountain with our trail names and a quote from J.R.R. Tolkien, “Home is behind, the world ahead. And there are many paths to tread,” which seemed fitting. After taking some photos there, we began the approach trail to Amicalola Falls. I won’t go into detail, because that last 8 miles really wasn’t pleasant or entertaining, but I will say, after much toil and struggle, we eventually made it to the falls, which were amazing. Unfortunately it was night, and my feet were falling off, so I didn’t get to really enjoy it, but they were really quite something. When we got to our car, my legs were shaking, and it was all I could do not to collapse there on the pavement. Seth did. And said he thought he could just go to sleep right there. I didn’t doubt him for an instant.

DSC_0323

DSC_0284 DSC_0360

DSC_0346 DSC_0288

DSC_0374

Long Creek Falls

DSC_0393 DSC_0396

DSC_0397

Springer Mountain. Blue Child, Sassenach, and Bullet

And so, after 5 days and 45 miles, my time on the AT came to a close. I can’t say that I will ever attempt a thru-hike. There are so many things I want to see and do in the world that I just don’t know if sacrificing 5-6 months to hike the AT from Georgia to Maine is really a priority, but who knows? I definitely am interested in completing the whole thing via section hikes like this over the years. It definitely seems more feasible. My advice to all of you out there considering a backpacking trek of any distance is to pack light. I promise, you will only regret those extra pounds. Baby wipes are awesome, as are sandals, and good hiking clothes that are breathable and moisture wicking. Another essential, especially if hiking the AT is a good rain jacket. I had one, Seth and Dad did not. I was a happy camper (generally speaking) when the torrents came. The boys got wet. And cold. Not things you want to be on the trail. So my last piece of advice would be to get out there and try it. It really is a neat experience and I’m definitely glad (and proud) I did it. If you’ve hiked the AT or any other long distance trail, please comment and tell me your stories! I’m sorry if this post was a bit long, but I promise it could have been longer. As always, please comment with what you liked or didn’t like about the post. We are a new blog and want it to be something that people enjoy reading. Thanks for dropping by and happy trails!

– Shelby (aka Sassenach)