Holiday Roundup: Our Favorite Seasonal Posts

Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, presents are wrapped and nestled cozily under the tree, the kids are out of school, and their parents’ sanity is hanging by a thread (of tinsel, obviously). It’s Christmas Eve!! Would you like an early present? We thought so! Our gift to you this year is a holiday roundup of some of our favorite seasonal posts. We hope you enjoy!

The 12 DATES OF CHRISTMAS

Bethany’s “12 Dates of Christmas” post is sure to light up the holidays for you and that special someone. A list of 12 holiday inspired date ideas, designed to bring you together during the most joyous season of the year. Once you get out of your comfort zone, you’ll be surprised at how much closer it makes you as a couple. Don’t worry, she threw some binge watching dates in as well. After all baby, it’s cold outside. (PS – these ideas are good all winter long!)

diy holiday dreamcatchers

One of our favorite things about the Holiday season is decorating! If you’re looking for a fun DIY project to do with your kiddos while they’re out of school, or just with your besties, Shelby has the perfect thing – Holiday dreamcatchers!

This is such a fun project, and we are so excited about it! So, grab some cocoa, slip into your comfy clothes, put on your favorite Christmas album, and get ready to craft the night away!

Making Christmas Memorable

This most wonderful time of the year happens to be Tera’s favorite (Going in her house anytime from November to February is a little like stepping into the North Pole). With a growing little family of her own, she wanted to be certain they were making Christmas memorable, while keeping their main focus on the true reason for the season. She created a list of simple things you can do as a family that will make great memories, provide quality time, and can respect even the most frugal holiday budget. Check it out!

Oak and Earth Holiday Roundup

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little roundup, and that you’ll try some of the ideas found within. This season is all about making memories with those you love, while always remembering the true reason for the season.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” – Luke 2:11

From our families to yours, have a very Merry Christmas.

– Oak & Earth

3 Free Activities for You and Your Besties

This post is written in partnership with Frieling USA . All opinions are 100% our own.

Hello, readers! It’s Bethany here on Oak and Earth today.

Us girls of Oak and Earth love our coffee. With the leaves finally changing, we love to work in a coffee date outside in the crisp air! Little get-togethers like this make us giddy. In fact, we’re already planning another coffee date to watch the Gilmore Girls reunion! Is anyone else losing sleep in anticipation for this event?! Yes, I’m calling it an event. We’re getting so excited to plan this simple  get-together that it got me thinking about other free activities that bring us so much joy. Here’s a little guide detailing a few ways to bond with your besties on a dime!

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While coffee shop dates are a must have, we really enjoy gathering together outside of that! Try mixing it up and have your coffee at home on the porch, curled up in your living room, or even your bedroom! Wherever you gather, make it an intentional space. Create a fun atmosphere with pillows, music, string lights, magazines, or fresh air. We recently took to the front porch to chat in the gorgeous fall weather. To make it special, opt for French Press coffee like we did! Not only is this fun because it’s portable, but our Frieling French Press gives our coffee a really smooth and rich flavor perfect for our fall vibes. Just the way we like it! Setting aside time to talk and laugh and enjoy one another’s company is always what we need in the midst of all the craziness of the week. And trust us, coffee is even better when you can kick off your shoes and laugh as loud as you want.

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Being from the natural state, this is one of our favorite actvities. Whether it’s a five minute jaunt around the nearest lake, or an all day trip up the mountains, hiking is the perfect way to bond with your girlfriends! We love this time away from social media and technology to focus on our relationships! This allows you to get out of your head space and really relax.  An added bonus? Most hiking spots are free!

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Get out and explore! We love museums. Art museums are a fun way to bring out your creative side and immerse yourselves in culture! We have a beautiful (and free) museum in Northwest Arkansas called Crystal Bridges. If you don’t have a free museum near you, there are many that offer free or inexpensive mini-exhibits and showings throughout the year. This a fun way to learn more about your girlfriends. What kind of art do they like? What’s their favorite way to express themselves? It’s amazing the bonds you can walk away with. And the views aren’t bad either.

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Whether you’re lounging it up with your coffee, wandering up the mountains, or exploring the downtown culture, don’t limit yourselves to routine. What better way to get out of your comfort zone than with your besties! Did one of your favorite free activities not make our little guide? Tell us about it! Leave a comment below or keep the conversation going on @OakAndEarth or my personal Instagram, @BethanyMPoteet. We LOVE hearing from you all.  Now, excuse us while we go grab another coffee to survive the busy week!

Cheers!

-Bethany

Kancamagus New Hampshire Fall Autumn foliage

FALL in love with New Hampshire

At the beginning of October, I had the opportunity to travel to the White Mountains of New Hampshire to see my pen-pal of 15 years, Becca Cahan, get married. New England natives, Becca and her – then fiancé, now husband – Tom, wanted to get married amongst the gorgeous Fall foliage that New Hampshire is well-known for, and coincidentally, where they got engaged.

Jeff went with me on this adventure, and I have to say, adventure is definitely the right description. We flew into Boston on Friday, September 30th, rented a car, and drove straight to New Hampshire. Thanks to a series of weather-related delays, we were unable to attend the meet & greet that evening, but we arrived safely late that night and with plenty of time to recuperate before the wedding the next day.

We went to breakfast at the most adorable little diner and got a taste of the New England experience, which I very much enjoyed. After breakfast, we ventured out to get the lay of the land, as we didn’t have much time before we had to get ready for the wedding.

You guys. I fell in love.

I am now convinced I need to buy a picturesque little New England home, and temporarily move to New Hampshire every Fall. I have never seen colors like that before. It was simply spectacular. There really is no other word to describe it. No wait, I thought of some: breathtaking, mesmerizing, iridescent, awe-inducing, shocking, gorgeous, unreal, insane, absolutely beautiful.

From the foliage, to the mountains, to the wedding, to getting my feet back on the Appalachian Trail, it was an unforgettable and wonderful trip. Becca’s wedding was of course, a dream, and I was so happy and thankful to be there, apart of it, and apart of the gorgeous New Hampshire Fall; if only for just a moment.

Fall New Hampshire New England foliage

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Wedding New Hampshire Fall foliage Becca Cahan

Becca and I on her wedding day

As always, live healthy and love hard!

-Shelby


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Life in the Ozarks: Spring Update

Spring and Autumn have always been my favorite seasons. Some of the things I love the most about Spring are the rise in temperatures, the abundance of daylight, and all of the new life – especially the flowers!

This year has been pretty rough.. so I was very grateful to get some much needed downtime this past weekend. Some friends and I stayed at an amazing cabin in the Ozarks and really had the opportunity to appreciate all the beauty the natural state has to offer this time of year. We were NOT disappointed.

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The beautiful cabin of a family friend, nestled in the Ozark Mountains

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The cabin was made from refurbished wood, sourced from several different buildings, and was absolutely beautiful

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I’m a sucker for a good porch… Just add coffee!

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We explored a new area of Lost Valley and Jeff was not enthused.. Kidding! He is the biggest nature lover of them all! He was just helping me test my new lens! (Which i am in love with)

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Last sunset at the cabin

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Sometimes it is crucial to take a step back out of your busy life, unplug, and just rest. I hope you all take the opportunity to get out, and do some exploring of your own this Spring! If you need a quick reference, try my guide to hiking the Ozarks.

We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature. – Thoreau

As always, live healthy, and love hard!

-Shelby

Hiking the Ozarks

Local Flavor: Hiking the Ozarks

Hey guys! Shelby here. So the girls and I have been talking about adding a reoccurring  segment to the blog which highlights great aspects of this little state we call home: Arkansas. If you’ve noticed our tagline (common roots, different routes), well this is where the “roots” come in.  We’ve decided to call this segment “Local Flavor” and because I’m a bit of a nature freak, I’m going to start it off by telling y’all a little bit about hiking the Ozarks.

My entire life I’ve been captivated by nature. It’s only natural (no pun intended) that I would enjoy hiking. Since moving to Arkansas in 2006, I’ve had many opportunities to hit the trails, and for the past two years have explored the Ozarks even more with my own personal trail guide (and boyfriend), Jeff. What I’ve found there is splendor and peace.. stillness and chaos… the untamed wild. If you have the opportunity to see it for yourself, please don’t hesitate! In fact, for your convenience, I’ve prepared a list of the best hiking/exploring in the Ozarks, so you don’t even have to wonder! Only wander. Ok, I’ll stop being cheesy now, but we do hope our wandering inspires some wandering of your own! In no specific order, here are my top ten trails of the Ozarks.

(Note* this is not a trail guide per-say, just a list, and completely based on my personal experience and opinion. Feel free to comment below with your experiences and/or tips and tales.)

  1. Hawksbill Crag
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Hawksbill Crag

Easily the most photographed spot in the state, the hike to the crag, formally known as Whitaker Point Trail, is easy and only about 3 miles round trip. Treat yourself to an amazing view! Best seen at sunrise. Fun fact: our very own Tera was proposed to atop this crag!

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Bethany, Me, and Christiana, hanging out on a foggy morning

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Overlooking the crag

2. Steel Creek (along the Buffalo River Trail)

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The Buffalo River is known for its towering bluffs

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This trail is more about the river and bluffs than the actual hike (in my opinion). Stunning views of the famous bluffs, a superb (slightly secret) swimming hole, and a wonderful quaint campground that will have you rushing to stake your ground and set up your tent!

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Can’t wait for fall in the Ozarks!

3. Big Bluff

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View from Big Bluff overlook

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Jeff and I at Big Bluff

At 550-ft tall, Big Bluff is the tallest sheer bluff face found between the Rocky and Appalachian mountains.  The hike, round trip, takes 4 to 5 hours to complete (6 miles RT), and it is  worth every minute. The Buffalo makes a wide horseshoe turn right below the bluff, making an incredible panoramic view, best seen at sunset. If you are so inclined, you can also set up camp right on the bluff in one of the many shelter areas.

It is important to note the the trail to Big Bluff is called the Goat Trail, and actually spurs off of the more prominent Centerpoint Trail. From the Centerpoint Trailhead, it is about a 1-hour hike downhill to the spur trail that takes you out onto Big Bluff.  This is where the trail opens up into a large, rounded flat area with a fire ring that directionally is at about one o’clock on your right.  The spur trail (Goat Trail) to Big Bluff is off to the right of the fire ring.  From here, it’s about a 1/4-mile hike out to the start of Big Bluff!

Note* also on the Centerpoint Trail (if  you don’t take the Goat Trail) is the tallest waterfall in mid-america, Hemmed-in-Hollow.

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Hemmed-in-Hollow

4. Indian Creek Trail

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The Eye of the Needle

I personally have never hiked this trail, but Jeff has and was insistent that it make the list. According to him, it is one of the most scenic hikes in the state. Huge bluffs, amazing rock formations, beautiful streams, caves, and waterfalls; the landscape is epic. The hike is intense – possibly the most high risk in the Ozarks – but in his opinion, totally worth it. Some of the notable features are Copperhead Falls, The Eye of the Needle, Tunnel Cave, Arkansas Cave Falls, and more. For those who have a big heart for adventure, this trail is for you.

5. The Narrows

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The Narrows, affectionally referred to as “The Nars,” is thin ledge of limestone rock rising up amidst the Buffalo River and Richland Creek Valley. This ledge is the last vestige of a once mighty mountain high in the Boston Plateau. Many moons ago, Richland Creek scoured the mountain away and then slowly moved across the valley to it’s current location at least a 1/4 mile away. As Richland Creek meandered away, the Buffalo moved in and took out the other side of the mountain, leaving this narrow strip of hike-able rock.

6. Lost Valley

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Eden Falls

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Bethany and Denver, being cute crossing the creek

I think I’ve been to Lost Valley three times now, and there is always something new to see there. Less of an epic overlook than some of the others on the list, Lost Valley is more about the hike and less about the destination. Acclaimed as the most popular trail in Arkansas, it features waterfalls, amazing rock formations, and few caves. Make sure to bring a flashlight (or preferably a headlamp) if you want to explore the caves fully. Also note that the waterfalls flow best after a good rain. This trail is great for beginners!

Another thing I personally like about the trail is its abundance of medicinal plants! The wide variety of species found there include, bloodroot, crested iris, columbine, mayapple, comfrey and Ozark trillium, just to name a few.

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My brother Seth and I, exploring

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Denver and Bethany at the base of Eden Falls

7. Richland Creek Wilderness Area

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Richland Creek

This one has a special place in my heart, because if it wasn’t for the Richland Creek Wilderness Area I would never have met Jeff. We met after he hosted a hike/exploration of the area that I heard about through the Instagram Account, Igersarkansas.

Located deep in the Ozark National Forest, miles from civilization, and home to hiking trails, swimming holes, cascades and waterfalls, wildflowers, fall color, bluffs, rock formations and so much more, the Richland Creek Wilderness Area is one the most scenic areas in all of the Ozarks or Ouachitas. Designated by Congress in 1984, this Wilderness Area offers 11,801 acres of the most rugged and scenic beauty of the Boston Mountains. Home to Twin Falls, Richland Falls, Hamilton Falls, and more, this place is a real wilderness worth exploring.

8. Sam’s Throne

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Sunset at Sam’s Throne

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My brother Seth, Bethany, Me and Denver

A brief bit of lore: “It is believed that Sam Davis, born around 1795, came to Arkansas from Mississippi. It is told that Indians captured his young sister and fled with her into the Arkansas hills. Sam set out to find her traveling up the White River to the mouth of Buffalo and thence to the mouth of Big Creek. Coming up Big Creek he lost track of the Indians, so stopped and settling at the mouth of Dry Creek, above present Mt. Judea. Sometime after Davis had settled on the Big Creek farm he went into the woods hunting cattle. His hunt took him to the head of Pud Cove. While standing there calling cattle, he was shocked to hear a woman answer him at some distance. The voice sounded strangely familiar. The two kept calling and walking in the direction of each other until they met. The woman was his long lost sister who by then was the wife of an Indian chief. She too, had recognized a strange familiarity in the voice she had heard. In Sam’s latter years he had become demented. He was known for many strange actions during that time. In this case, Sam would take a ladder, climb up to this knob, pull the ladder up, and there stay for days. During those times he could sometimes be heard preaching “to the wind.” He also planted peach trees there, which lived and bore fruit for years afterward. Sometimes it would take considerable persuasion on the part of his family and others to get him down from the knob. In time, this knob became known as Sam’s Throne,” (source).

This one is not so much a hike as it is a must-see of the Ozarks, overlooking the Big Creek valley below. It is so accessible that you really have no excuse not to go see it. This location is very popular for rock climbers, photographers, and star-gazers. Fun fact: there is a geocache hidden here! See if you can find it when you make your trip, and tell us about it if/when you do!

9. Pedestal Rocks Scenic Area

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Image from “Explore the Ozarks

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This is a great place to explore, and offers two awesome loop trails, each leading to its own scenic area. There is also a waterfall, Kings Bluff Falls, which is one of the tallest in the Ozarks. The scenic area takes its name from the “pedestal rocks,” massive natural stone columns or “pedestals” that rise up from the valley floor. Formed by natural erosion of the rock bluffs, they took thousands of years to form and have attracted human attention almost since the first Native American hunters entered the mountains.

10. Devil’s Den State Park

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Yellow Rock, overlooking Lee Creek Valley

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Me, exploring one of the many crevices

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Camping at Devil’s Den

Last, but not least, I give you Devil’s Den State Park! This Park has miles of hiking and multiple use trails winding through Devil’s Den and the surrounding Ozark National Forest. Caves, crevices and bluff overlooks can be explored here. You can take a wet-water hike up Lee Creek, or trek the 15-mile Butterfield Hiking Trail! This trail, from the park through the Ozark National Forest, leads backpackers deep into the hills and hollows of the rugged scenic Ozarks. Two of my favorite trails here are the Devil’s Den Trail (for the Cave lover) and the Yellow Rock Trail (for the overlook junkee).

This is my favorite on the list for mostly nostalgic reasons. Only an hour from home, my family and I take an annual camping trip to Devil’s Den to see the fall colors. My Dad’s family also camped here when he was a boy! Most recently, it has also become even more special to me since Jeff asked me to be his girl atop Yellow Rock about a year ago (insert swoon here).


So there you have it! Get out and go explore this beautiful place we call home. As always, live healthy and love hard!

– Shelby

Sam’s Throne

*Photocreds for the vast majority of the photos go to my wonderful boyfriend, Jeff Rose. Book him for your next session!

We Aren't In Arkansas Anymore Toto…

WHAT A WHIRLWIND-

The past two weeks of my life have been!

For any of you reading this who don’t already know-

I recently moved from my small, safe, lovely little hometown in Arkansas to one of the biggest and most difficult to live in cities in the country….

LOS ANGELES.

Me getting ready to leave Arkansas and head to the airport!

Me getting ready to leave Arkansas and get to the airport!

“Be careful, or you will be swallowed up in that city.”

“Are you sure this is what you really want?”

“Why don’t you try somewhere smaller first and slowly transition to L.A.?”

“Go for it!”

“Pursue your dreams with head held high!”

“Be careful and stay true to yourself.”

“First follow God, and all other things will be added.”

“Never forget where you come from!”

-Before Moving, I heard it all.-

I think that somewhere mixed in the extremes of all of the feedback, support, thoughts, negativity, and encouragement that I have received are two underlying truths-

Picking up and moving your life to a place where you know no one, have no family, no friends, and are not guaranteed any “success” is probably one of the most risky, unclear, and illogical moves that a person could make.

Picking up and moving your life to a place where you know no one, have no family, no friends, and are not guaranteed any “success” is probably one of the most exhilarating, life altering, leaps of faith that a person could make.

That said,

LIFE IN L.A. IS NOT ALL A GLAMOROUS RED CARPET AFFAIR CAKE WALK-

(Although there is quite amazing choices of cuisine here.)

What happened was:

My mom flew with me here for the first week.

She spent her week of “vacation” driving around L.A. with me getting lost and loading cars with heavy suitcases in the heat.

One day in particular, we spent an entire afternoon in IKEA trying to find things for my new apartment. It was our first time to ever go to one, and we were both overwhelmed.

There was floor after floor of desks, lamps, kitchen ware, bedding, and after three hours and no map, we had apparently barely scratched the service.

We had gone there to find me a small, plain, black desk for my room.

To say the least, we left desk-less, slightly exasperated, and starving.

THEN:

In the distance, across the street, we could make out the red and yellow letters.

It felt like a sign from the good Lord himself.

Then as we looked closer, it was true.

It was an IN-N-OUT Burger.

A major plus of moving here...

A major plus of moving here…

My mom and I sat there in that packed-out place like we had arrived at the gates of heaven with with our greasy and delicious in-n-out burgers and animal fries. (LOOK THEM UP IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT AND YOUR LIFE MAY JUST HAVE CHANGED.)

And as we sat there we watched the people around us, some dressed in tough-guy jean jackets, some girls in high stilettos, realizing how far from Arkansas we really were.

And then, it seemed in the same instant, it hit us.

As we sat there with  messy fingers and ketchup stained napkins, we dabbed mascara from our cheeks and tried to contain our crocodile like tears.

In just a few short days, this place, as exotic as a jungle compared to my hometown would soon become my home.

I would be staying here.

Alone.

And things got real the night before she left.

She stayed with me at my new place that night so that she could make it to the airport in the morning.

We had to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to make sure she got to LAX in time for her early flight.

I stood there with my mom on the curb that morning, cars already zipping past. Her with her suitcases and me in my pajamas with a scared heart.

She got into the car and i stood there until I could barely make out the outline of the car in the distance through the traffic.

I took a deep breath and there in my p.j.s with ruffled bed hair and groggy eyes, I realized that for the first time in my twenty-four years of life, I was truly on my own.

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It’s been a little over a week since that day and I have:

GONE-

Out to dinner alone

To the beach

To a bible study

To watch a photo shoot

GOTTEN-

Lost

Honked at

Confused

MISSED MY-

Sister’s birthday

Grandmother’s birthday

Rice cooker

Spices

Best friends

Big fluffy bed

FELT-

Overwhelmed

Frustrated

Lonely

Enamored

Underdressed

Blessed

Thankful

Sunshine on my back

The sand beneath my feet

TASTED-

California wine

fresh, fresh, fish

local produce

dry air

salt of tears

IN-N-OUT

EXPLORED-

my neighborhood

local cafes

MADE A FEW:

Mistakes

Amazing, authentic, Christian friends (YES, EVEN IN THE ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY.)

BEEN INSPIRED BY-

God’s presence in a time of worship

A random act of kindness

Beautiful sunsets

The sound of my mom’s voice on the phone

God’s love that follows wherever you go.

AND THE LIST GOES ON..

The past two weeks here have exposed places of my soul that I had never explored.

I’ve felt afraid.

I’ve felt restored.

I still can’t see a defined horizon line of the future.

I have never felt this alone,

and this afraid-

but I DO know this:

God was with me back in Arkansas.

AND GOD IS WITH ME HERE IN L.A.

LA PIC

I am excited to find out what adventure is in store for me here in this city,

with my head held high and never forgetting where I came from.

SO IF YOU are sitting here thinking about your own personal dream or personal journey, something or some place you have felt a tug on your heart about for the past few weeks, months, or years..

I AM HERE TO TELL YOU:

It IS worth it.

You WILL feel crazy.

You WILL doubt your decision a hundred times.

People WILL try to talk you out of it.

There will NEVER be the perfect time.

You SHOULD pray about it with patience and an open heart.

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Whatever It Is:

TAKE THE JUMP OFF

THE DIVING BOARD.

JUMP BLINDLY.

FOLLOW YOUR HEART

IN THE DIRECTION THAT IT PULLS YOU

AND YOUR COURAGE WILL BE WAITING

IN THE DEEP.

<3 Christiana

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.

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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.

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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?!).

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An Outlandish Obsession

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Starting small, with sage, rosemary, and mint

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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

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

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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 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.

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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?

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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

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…

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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.

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One hill down, 6000 more to go!

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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.

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“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

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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.

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Preacher’s Rock

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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.

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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.

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Long Creek Falls

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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)