Saturday, April 29, 2006

I am SO in love...

…with myself.

…according to my co-worker.

This is a total fabrication. It’s so untrue that it can’t be farther from the truth! Yet this notorious and absurd accusation has actually helped me to learn a couple of new things about myself.

Co-worker was just joking around when she said it. While discussing life in general, she began, as always, complaining about how much she hates her husband. The subject changed over to me and the reappearance of a guy into my life from the not-so-distant past (It was actually more of a phone call and less of an appearance, but whatever.) I tell her that since things were never that serious between the guy and me, we might be able to hang out, but his chance at romance was lost way back when he decided he wanted to act like a jerk about a year ago. Co-worker commented on the fact that I seem to rule out all the guys in my life. I think about it for a minute…yep, it’s true. But it’s because I only meet wishy-washy jerks and not nice guys. She told me that there is only one guy that she never hears me trash and she thinks it is because he and I were so much alike that it was like I was dating myself and that was why I was happy with him. Whaaa? It’s true that this guy and I were very much on the same page but….

Co-worker laughed her comment off and says that she is only kidding and admits that I do always meet (sometimes well-disguised) losers and agrees that she would also be complaining about them if she were me, just as much as she already does her own husband. But it’s too late. The seed has been planted. Am I really that self-absorbed? Am I really in love with myself?

So I’m home at the end of the day, kicking my shoes off and stripping out of work clothes. Then I noticed my framed photos on the walls of my bedroom. Every one of them were ones I had taken myself on my travels. Hmmm. I walk into the kitchen for some cold water and walk right past an oil painting on the wall. Yeah, the one I painted. Could it be true?

I actually stopped to think about this! I consider myself a very humble person and consider myself pretty ordinary. I certainly am not vain. In conclusion, I answered no to the question. The pictures I had taken were of things I thought were beautiful and that’s why they were up, not because I had taken them. My oil painting is hanging up for two reasons. One, it’s the only one of my paintings that I have left since I gave all my others away. And two, where else can I put the thing except on a wall? Additionally, important to note is that I have nothing bad to say about the above-noted ex-boyfriend because he was never a jerk to me and we had a lot of fun and understanding between us, not because he was like me.

So, no, I am not in love with myself. But I do like who I am. I am fun, always laughing, appreciate the small things in life, am easy to get along with, and (usually) very patient. I enjoy being a learner in life, full of different experiences.

I also admitted to myself that I am a grounded, responsible, stable individual who is also a free-spirited dreamer. Sometimes I believe these two combined traits make me a well-rounded individual. Other times, these two sides of me clash and fight against one another. This sensible, responsible side of me that fears starvation and homelessness is the creature of habit that persuades me to save money and go to work everyday, even when I am very sick. That other side is dreaming about how great it would be to leave everything behind and become an island hopper that sells ice cream to tourists to support my beach bum habits. But the latter side will never win. I know which side I need to listen to. And I do. But I hate that bitch sometimes.

So that rang in my second realization of the day. With the mention of what kind of guys I have had in my life, I have concluded that I do not need nor want a guy who is just like me. I already know me. I want to learn and appreciate someone with differences. We can learn from one another. As long as he respects me for who I am, we don’t have to have every little thing in common. Besides, we’ll find our own things we like to do together.

I think the ideal man for me would be one who is more like the responsible side of me. One who will enjoy planning one really great vacation a year and will remind me that it’s too financially draining to travel around the world twice in one year. One who will enjoy a long drive and like to take a hike now and then, yet gives me a reason to want to stay home rather than a reason to hide away in a canyon on the other side of the country. One who will indulge me in a camping trip one autumn weekend so that I can see the colorful leaves falling from the trees, but will also indulge me in something that he really enjoys so I can share his passion.

I don’t need someone that is too much like me or else we might quit our jobs and hike across Europe in the Alps. Just kidding. I think the responsible voice would speak before that ever happened. And as I mentioned in a previous post, I am having fun in travel and adventure now until I meet him.

The point is that I know what kind of guy I am looking for. He has some common ground with me but he is different from me.

And the best thing about being with him after I find him, is knowing for sure that I am in love with him and not with myself! :)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Summer and The Competition

The Summer...
During her surprise visit to Georgia this past weekend, Best Friend and I had the opportunity to discuss our summer plans. We have so much on our list of things to do! We are going to try our best to accomplish the entire list. I have a feeling that we will be able to accomplish most of it at the very least (unless something terrible and unforeseen happens).

So far, here’s what’s on the table…
*A visit to Glacier National Park, MT and across the Canadian border to Waterton National Park.

*Visit to Seattle, Washington to see the touristy sites and then over to Olympic National Park.

*Hike Ben Lomond Peak, Utah. (This is the Paramount Pictures iconic mountain.)

*Back to my beloved Grand Teton National Park, WY to hike the Paintbrush Divide Trail to Cascade Canyon and down to Jenny Lake.

*Hike a slot canyon. (Not sure of which one yet but Antelope Canyon in Page, AZ or either Spooky Canyon or Peek-a-boo Canyon in UT are looking good.)

*Rock climbing along the new via-ferrata trail in Ogden, UT.

*Visiting Royal Peacock Opal Mine (to strike it rich, of course) in NV, while stopping along the way to take pics of the Donner Party’s wagon ruts on the salt flats and a pic of the Earth’s curvature (one of the only places in the world that it is visible). I will also be sure to grab another handful of salt from the Bonneville Salt Flats. (I left a ziplock baggie of it in Best Friend’s car the last time.)

*Jeeping in Moab (If we can get a small group together to do that. I’m going to be on a too-tight budget this time for just Best Friend and me.)

*Time permitting, visit Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah/Colorado border and drive up to Flaming Gorge Recreation Area north of there along the UT/WY border.

The Competition...
Okay, most of you already know about my Hotness Plan. I have been working at this for a while (but not too hard). The original adventure plan for the summer was to go on the Bahamas trip I won, but it has been pushed back to a later date now since I decided to live out west all summer. Well, thinking that I was going to be on the beach, I knew I wanted to look my best in my bikini. (yeah…I am actually going to wear one!) That was the first motivation of my Hotness Plan. The second part of the motivation hails from my desire to push my endurance limits so that I can enjoy more hiking and such.

Anyway, I informed Best Friend that I wasn’t going to slack off much from my Hotness Plan even if we weren’t going to the Bahamas because I still wanted to be hot for the summer. So she proceeds to tell me that I won’t be any hotter than her. The slamming begins. She tells me that she is going to be hotter than me because she is curvier. I laugh in her face over this preposterous statement. I have an hour-glass figure, thank you! (It just needs fine-tuning, that’s all!) I challenge her to a competition. Let’s have someone else settle this score!

She suggests that we poll people. In Utah, where she lives and knows 100 times as many people than me? Nope. I’m not going for that! We need neutral outsiders, I say. She agrees. We think of how to lure in unsuspecting men. I think we should advertise a bikini mud wrestling between us. As much as I love her, it’s going to be hard for me to humiliate her in such a defeat. But not too hard. Let the smack-down begin!

I think we should charge an admittance fee, also. It would help finance our spectacular summer.

By the way, my dear Best Friend, you are only curvier than me if you count fat rolls. Zing! ;)

Monday, April 24, 2006

My "Exciting" Weekend

This weekend was so exciting that I didn’t know what to do with myself! I went to the most interesting place on planet Earth!

Okay, so all that was a lie. I didn’t have a very exciting weekend nor did I go anywhere extremely interesting. But I did have a nice surprise, a mildly interesting trip (if you can call it that), and an overall good weekend.

The surprise
Best Friend, the flight attendant, called me on Friday and told me that she was in Atlanta and was flying back and forth from Atlanta to Florida and was to spend the night in Destin, Fl. On Saturday morning she was going to fly back to Atlanta and then in to Macon, Ga., where she would spend the night. Why Macon? Well, of course, if she is anywhere in Georgia, I would go and see her. Too bad that it was in Macon (nearly two hours away) as opposed to Atlanta (fifteen miles away to downtown.)

The mildly interesting trip
I had never really been to Macon before, except to the Macon Coliseum for a couple of events. I had never taken the time or interest to really check the town out. For me, Macon was always the Crap! I’ve still got a little over two hours before I get to Savannah point. Though, in the past, I had found the cemetery that I could see along the river from the interstate amusing and had thought about stopping by once before.

So on Saturday afternoon I began my southward journey on I-75 to Macon. Not knowing the first thing Macon and having no idea where her hotel was located. I decided to take the Riverside Drive exit because it seemed to follow closely along the interstate, yet accessible to all the main streets of town. It was a good guess because I found her hotel rather easily. It was the tallest building in little Macon, so not too difficult.

After picking up Best Friend from the hotel, she and I started out in search of good eats. We became sidetracked by the previously-mentioned cemetery, which turned out to be two really huge cemeteries…Riverside and Rose Hill Cemeteries. We took a quick drive thru of the Riverside Cemetery, but Rose Hill was most interesting. It was well-kept, yet overgrown with wildflowers. It was very hilly and actually a really scenic place along the Ocmulgee River. (Though I am sure that when we had the floods of 1994 and the Ocmulgee rose so high that it washed some of the graves away, it wasn’t such the serene, pretty place. Eww!) Rose Hill Cemetery is the resting place of several important or well-known people. A couple of the most well-known are Duane Allman and Berry Oakley of the Allman Brothers Band. We didn’t find any Allman Brothers, but we did see the grave of the designer of the General Steam Engine in that was used in the Great Locomotive Chase.

After dinner, we decided to actually drive around in the town. I found that Macon is a nice, historic town, with red brick roads in places, old Victorian buildings, and antebellum mansions. We came across the birthplace of Sydney Lanier, who was a poet that wrote lines about Georgia’s beauty. One poem is The Marshes of Glynn (describing the notable marshes of the Georgia Golden Isles) and Song of the Chattahoochee (written about the river that was later dammed up into the nasty lake that now bears his name). I also saw the most beautiful church that I think I have ever seen in my life. The architecture, the detailing, the stained glass, the rich red was so beautiful that I wanted to live in it. haha. (Well, maybe not live there. It might crumble. haha)

I actually wished that I had brought my camera to take some pics.! Oh well, guess I’ll have to stop by there again for pics. on one of my trips to Savannah. I can always complain about the Crap! I’ve still got a little over two hours before Savannah after I have snapped a few shots.

An overall good weekend
Not only was the trip to Macon nice for the sightseeing, but because Best Friend and I made more of our summer plans. This is going to be the greatest summer of my life! I am not sure if two months will be enough to do all that we have planned! On second thought, if anyone can get the most adventure out of their little time, it’s Best Friend and me!

Then on Sunday, I went over my folks’ house and we grilled out the trout that Dad, Brother, and I caught last weekend. It was really yummy. The warm high 80s temps and the bright sunshine during our cookout this weekend has really set me in a summery mood.

I say, let the summer games begin!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This Girl Just Wants To Have Fun!!!

Okay, so I am single. Yeah, I know it's hard to believe after reading about how awesome I am through my blog. Ha ha! See? And a great sense of humor, too. It truly is a mystery.

But I think that I have come up with a couple of possible explanations.

One possibility is there aren’t enough datable men in my area. It’s true that Atlanta has a huge gay population which rules out a significant number of men simply because I am not of their preferred sex. Also, to be honest, I don’t think I really like Georgia boys anymore. It seems like any men that I meet and have been interested in, have been from elsewhere. Many of the single Georgia boys are clueless or rednecks. (The good ones are already taken.) But Georgia Boys, if you’re reading this, feel free to prove me wrong…or boys from elsewhere please feel free to prove me right, too! It’s all good either way. ;)

The other possibility that springs to mind seems to be the more likely one. Maybe guys just don’t want to date an outdoorsy girl. Maybe I’m viewed as too tomboyish. Oh well! All I can say about that is…Yes, men, I may be able to do the same things as you (I didn’t say better, though). I may be able to tolerate sweat, peeing outdoors when necessary, skipping out on makeup when I am sleeping in the forest, and touching the slimy fish I catch. I can start my own campfires. I can carry heavy loads on my back. I can pitch my own tent. I can drive a jeep over steep rock walls. And I can do it all without your help. But there is always at least two sides of every woman. And that other side of me, which I spend most of my time being, enjoys long, warm bubble baths, wears perfume and make up, shaves her legs everyday, complains about carrying my groceries to my downstairs apartment, and even wears thongs. Does that sound girly enough for you? If not, that’s just your loss because I don’t know how to be anyone else but myself and I refuse to try.

I finally realized this a few months ago. And I completely startled myself when I discovered just how okay I am with this. I have looked hard and tried hard to find that special someone and obviously that wasn’t working. I just decided that it’s not worth all the worry and hassle.

I am an active and fairly happy person. I live for doing things on the weekend and experiencing cool travels and adventures in my spare time. My life is pretty good, after all. One day it dawned on me that I was spending too much time wishing I wasn’t viewing a magnificent sunset alone or wishing I was spooning some hot guy instead of Best Friend on a chilly camping night at Grand Teton. Everything was perfect except for those thoughts spinning in my head. When this realization struck me, I decided to live to live and not live to find love. Love will come one day. Until then, it’s time to take advantage of all the adventure and fun life has to offer. I am going to have some awesome tales to share with my grandchildren one day! And to honest, I am the only person I know besides Best Friend that is living their life this way.

On my Realization Day, I decided that I was going to (finances willing) go stay with Best Friend in Utah for the summer. I did this in the summer of 2004 and had the greatest summer of my life, traveling all over the West, hiking, whitewater rafting, and horseback riding in canyons. I felt a flutter in my heart, much like that experienced during the first kiss, when it occurred to me that I should have another summer like that. I am so excited about it! Best Friend and I have so much planned that it’s almost crazy. We will see so much and do so much and really live. And to be honest, I felt almost happy that I wasn’t in a serious relationship so that I can do this guilt-free. I feel happy to know that I am not accountable to anyone else but myself. I can do whatever I want!

A couple of lines from Cyndi Lauper springs to mind…
Some boys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world.
I wanna be the one to walk in the sun.
Oh girls just wanna have fun!

I want be the one to walk in the sun this summer. (And chances are that out there in the desert, I will! :)

Does this mean I have given up on love? No. Does this mean I don’t want to get married? No. Does this mean I think all men are jerks? Yes…err I mean, NO! NO! (Just the ones I have met). What it does mean is that I simply am not intentionally going out looking for someone. I don’t want to try to make someone be the one. I refuse to settle. Being trapped is worse than being alone. My plan is to go out have one hell’uva summer, experiencing new things, seeing new places, meeting new people, enjoying every second of my life and time out there. I am going to enjoy not being tied down right now. I am going to live my life to the fullest until I find him. And when I do find him, we will live our lives together to the fullest. (whatever that will mean to us) Anyway, the old saying goes that you always find the one when you’re not looking.

That being said, I’ll probably meet someone this summer, get married in nearby Las Vegas and live happily ever after.

Guess I win either way!

Monday, April 17, 2006

Gone Fishin'

On Saturday, I went trout fishing in the mountains north of Helen with my dad and brother. We decided to fish on Chattahoochee River. I have two things I want to say before I continue with my fish tale. First, trout fishing is the only kind of fishing I enjoy. I think it’s partly because I have an excuse to wade through beautiful mountain streams. Any other fishing is just plain boring to me! Second, I want to point out that we fished on the ‘Hooch (as we like to call our most famous and loved river) north of the dam. I would never eat anything that came out of that river after it has flowed through Lake Lanier. Ewwww. I know too much about that lake and what happens to our river as it flows south to the gulf.

So anyway, I got up at 4:00 a.m. to be at the river by sunrise. That’s peak biting time, ya know! I was so sleepy on the hour drive there, but as soon as I stepped out of my brother’s SUV and had the fresh, cool mountain air hit me in the face and took in the sound of the rushing water, I was ready to go.

It was so much fun! We walked a while down the river, carefully balancing ourselves over the river stones and scrambling along the banks over downed trees and other obstacles when the rapids were too much. We found many good fishing holes and (as an added bonus) we didn’t meet any other people along the way.

We have nicknamed my brother the “Babe Ruth of fishing” as he likes to brag that he is able to call his shots. Dad was upriver from us and Brother and I traveled ahead searching for a nice hole. Brother stops and points. “Here,” he says. “You want to watch me reel one in?” I sighed, “Yeah, yeah, yeah…Let’s see what you’ve got.” I was planning on continuing downriver to find my own hole, but stopped to watch him instead. He threw his line and immediately got a bite and reeled one in. With the smug look of an “expert” on his face, he turns to me and encourages me to fish here (and critiques my technique as I try). I cast a few times, noticing a couple of trout following my spinner as I reeled in. Brother tells me that I am going to get one. I cast out a couple more times and lo and behold, a Rainbow Trout took the bait and clamped down on my hook. I pulled my rod and reeled it in. I caught him and he didn’t get away! Yay! I was so proud! I guess I should clarify that this my first trout catch of the day. Earlier, I had caught a nice assortment of sticks.

It’s still fun to play in the water…errr, I meant to say…it’s still fun to fish even when you don’t catch one, but it makes it much more fun when you have a little luck and are reeling in more than just twigs and leaves. (Though I swear one of those sticks was as long as I am tall. It was a keeper!) Maybe I’ll try my luck with fly fishing on the Tallulah River next time.

I'm too sexy for my waders...
too sexy for my vest...
too sexy for my hat...


Having fun in the 'Hooch

By looks of it, Dad's line is hung up again while "Babe Ruth" is calling his shots.

The one I caught that didn't get away!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Outdoorsy Girl's Top 10 Reasons to Disappear into the Wild

10. The absense of all noise except a rushing stream

(Roaring Fork Creek, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Tennessee)

9. Becoming a part of the sunset, rather than merely viewing it through your windshield on the way home from work.

(Great Smokey Mountains National Park, North Carolina.)

8. Finding snowpatches in Summer.

(Monte Cristo, Utah in June of 2004)

7. Spending time with friends.

(me with Super Villain on the Appalacian Trail on the summit of Blood Mountain, Georgia....SV, I know you only look at my pics. anyway, so this is for you! haha.)

6. For the exercise.

(Anyone who says that hiking with a large backpack isn't getting a workout can kiss my grits! Cumberland Island, Georgia)

5. Kicking back and taking in great views.

(Along the Appalachian Trail, Georgia)

4. Viewing and frolicking in waterfalls.

(Dry Falls, Nantahala National Forest, North Carolina.)

3. Witnessing natural wonders.

(Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming)

2. Seeing cool animals.

(Moose in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming)

1. Getting the hell away from this!

(Atlanta, Georgia)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Today is a personal celebration of sorts, for I have been stalker-free for a month today!

Yes, until one month ago, I had a stalker. Not one of those I have a crush on you so I will follow you around and "happen to be at the same place at the same time as you" stalkers. He was an Oh my God I hope he doesn't kill me type of stalker. Here is my story...

In November, we had parent-teacher conferences. I knew that this day would be a great day to dress down and get some dirty work done, such as rearranging the supplies closet. I happened to wear my Merrell low-top hikers, which happen to look quite similar to sneakers with a good-gripping sole. Merrell rules! I will never own another brand of hiking shoes, boots, or sandals. If I want comfort, such as on this paricular day, I am in one of my pairs of Merrells.

One of the creepy dads came for his son's conference. It is important for me to stress that the only thing I said that was not in relation to his son's progress or behavioral issues was in reply to his comment about my shoes. He said, "You must be a hiker." I responded with, "Yes, Merrell is the best!"

This somehow gave him the impression that it would be okay to "talk to me privately" not about his son, but about where I go hiking, to which I always gave a vague response such as, "You know, the mountains." He is divorced from the boy's mom and his only day for pick up from school was on Wednesdays At least I only had to deal with him on Wednedays. The next thing I knew, he was slipping me his business card with phone number and creepy email address that included the words "secret santa" in it. I kid you not! He told me to contact him about a hiking trip. Of course, I didn't. Everytime I saw him he would say something like, "Everyday I think today could be the day you will email me and then you don't." He moved on to "volunteering" to do things in the classroom and staring at me and making me uncomfortable.

The uncomfortable feeling progressed into fear as time went on and he began waiting for me in the parking lot and refusing to take NO for an answer. I talked with my boss. I talked with co-workers. I let this weirdo know that he was making me uncomfortable and acting inappropriately. This did not make a difference. No one seemed to take my concerns seriously. I talked to a police officer that was a parent of student in another class. He informed me that there was really nothing I could do since Stalker, as a parent, had the right to be at the school his child attends. I told the police officer about the time Stalker waited for me in the parking lot and called out to me when I was walking to my car. I turned to go back into the building so that he would not know which car was mine, but he ran to catch up to me and grabbed me by the arm and said, "You still haven't written me or called. You must just be too busy?" I told him that no, I wasn't busy, but don't have interactions with parents outside of their children's business. He refused to accept this answer and said, "You are just too busy with the holidays about. We will go somewhere after the new year." According to the police officer, this one time did not constitute a stalking. In anger, I explained that the only reason this was a one time deal was because I now knew what vehicle he drives (a van with no backseat by the way!) and will not leave the building until he is gone, even though he waits around an hour for me and this causes me to be late to my second job at the tutoring center. This did not matter. I was terrified and no one cared.

I kept (and still keep) this creep's card on my desk. I called Best Friend and told her where it was located just in case I wound up missing (or worse) and told her to tell my uncaring police department to check this creep's van for my fingerprints if this should happen. If he would have attacked me, I would have left my prints all over his van.

An attack seems so extreme, but I really began to fear this. He became angry with my refusing to go "hike" with him. Not to go into detail, but he even made attempts to get me in trouble at work and bad-mouthed me to another parent! I would run off and hide in another classroom when I saw him coming and he would ask around for me and try to follow me. He stared at me so creepily and sometimes threateningly. I am usually not afraid of anything (except as everyone knows, snakes). I had only one really awful feeling about another human once in my life and it turned out he was a stabber. (See my post from Feb. "Stabber on the trail!") I was always watching over my shoulder. I would dread Wednesdays so much that I would not sleep a wink on Tuesday nights. I cried myself to sleep. I would get sick to my stomach. I had nightmares. I was jumpy everyday as I walked across the parking lot to my car, looking over my shoulder, finger on the trigger of the pepper spray I bought just for him.

It turns out my intuition was right-on about Stalker. The reason I am stalker free today is because this creep is under investigation for sexually abusing his own children! His ex took out a restraining order against him for the children and therefore he cannot pick up his son anymore. What a sick mo-fo! And furthermore, after chatting with the ex, she informed me that I should be very careful because he is really crazy and tried to kill her once. He beat her up pretty badly. I knew he had it in him to try to kill me. Anyone who would try to take my life, wouldn't get me without quite a fight. But it is still so scary to think that there is a possibility that someone out there may want to murder you. I will always trust my inner instinct! Always.

So today I celebrate my sanity (what little I have. haha) and I am thankful for a peaceful day's work, where I can do my job and go home and leave it behind. I again appreciate a life where I feel free to wear Merrell hiking gear without running to my car armed with pepper spray. Life is good today.

Monday, April 10, 2006

I forgot to brag on myself!

It occurred to me that I forgot to mention one of my biggest accomplishments of the C. Island backpacking trip...

I faced my greatest fear. I did, indeed, against my deepest hope, see a snake on the island.

I felt that old familiar panic beginning to rise from my chest up to my throat, threatening to cut off my oxygen supply. Again, I felt that familiar vertigo buzzing around in my head and felt tears beginning to form in my eyes. I felt my muscles tense up and threaten to leave me in that catatonic state of panic, wishing to run, yet unable to move. The familiar nausea swept through my body. My mouth contorted into the familiar position that it does just before that familiar high-pitched scream escapes it....But that scream never came. And for the first time EVER in my life, I did not freeze, but continued to walk.

I could not believe it! It hardly slowed me down.

Okay! Okay! So the snake was extremely tiny. It looked like a fallen slither of palm leaf. I didn't quite realize what it was until I was just upon it. But damn it, it still counts! It was still a vile, wretched serpent, no matter the size and despite the fact that my mind barely had time to process what it was I was seeing until I was nearly past it already. It still counts!

That's one small step for overcoming phobias; one giant leap for Outdoorsy Girl's bravery.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Back from the Virginias

I’m back from Trip #2 of my Spring Break! I had a wonderful time, but I think this time I am here to stay for a while. I am so exhausted!

I spent a little time in Virginia and West Virginia with my Mom. After Cumberland Island, I wanted to do something a little more like sightseeing and a little less like physical exercise. As I mentioned before, I was inspired by the feral horses on the island and heard about the Mt. Rogers area of Virginia being home to wild ponies. I wanted to see them for myself, so that became the basis of my trip. The rest of the places I visited just sort of worked themselves out. All of the places we visited were written on my Things to see before I die list and I had learned of all but Day 4’s visit from Backpacker Magazine.

Day 1:
We took a scenic, winding mountain drive to Grayson Highlands State Park, Va. It is adjacent to the Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area and is known also for the wandering feral ponies. It was such a beautiful area with grassy balds allowing panoramic views of the mountains around. The Appalachian Trail cuts through a section of the park. I would really love to go back and make the 4 mile hike to the summit of Mt. Rogers, which at 5,739 ft., is Virginia’s highest point. But that will be for another day for this day was meant for pony spotting.

There was no guarantee that ponies would be anywhere in the area, but considering my luck with spotting wildlife, I knew without a doubt that we would find them. (A friend of mine even calls me Snow White because of animals’ attraction to me! Ha ha. Also, I have “Bear Magic”, which I will share in a later post!) Finally, after straining our eyes over meadows and balds, I spotted a couple of ponies grazing. We moved in closer for pictures, but they were extremely shy and moved away. They watched us as intently as we watched them. Later, we took the trail to the top of the bald for sweeping views and that’s where we hit the jackpot. There were 6 ponies grazing the area. They weren’t as shy as our first pair. They looked at us and continued to graze, basically ignoring our presence. All but one, that is! This adorable little fellow was super friendly and actually galloped over to us! We were able to pet him, take pictures with him and he tried to eat my backpack. I fell in love with him and wanted to take him home! I couldn’t squeeze him in the car, so he had to stay. However, for population control, there is an annual round-up of the ponies and the friendliest, healthiest picks are auctioned off as pets. Guess which pony will be going home with someone? :)

Day 2:
We enjoyed another scenic drive through mountainous terrain into West Virginia. The roads were clear, but we passed by snowfields. It took me a minute to figure out what that white stuff was since we never see it in Georgia…oh yeah, I remember that stuff…I think it’s called snow. Is that right?

Our first stop was at Seneca Rocks. Backpacker claims the rocks a climbing mecca here in the south. I am not a rock climber, but am extremely interested in it and hope to give it a try someday. Whether a climber or sightseer, Seneca Rocks has a lot to offer. The formations were beautiful as well as the valley they loom over. The National Park Service has a Seneca Rocks Discovery Center located at the base of the rocks, and I have to rate it the best information facility I have ever seen for a National Forest. (It was the information center for the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks District of the Monongahela National Forest.)

There were a couple of unexpected nice treats at Seneca Rocks. One was an old homestead site you could check out to see what life was like around the mid 1800s in the area. It was well kempt and reconstructed nicely. The second nice surprise was the trail that led up to the top of a viewing platform at the top of the rocks! I knew there were trails you could take that walked you around the base of the rocks, but this one took you right up to the top. To my surprise, my mom wanted to take this trail even though it would be a 3 mile round trip and climbed 1000 ft. in 1.5 miles! We did it and the views were spectacular. My mom was so proud of herself that she made me call my dad to tell him she made it. Ha ha.

Unfortunately, the quickest route up to Spruce Knob (WV’s highest peak) was closed for construction, so we weren’t able to take in any views in from there. Maybe next time. I really do want to come back to Seneca Rocks. Maybe next time I’m there I’ll be a climber! You never know!

After leaving the rocks, we took a trip to Blackwater Falls State Park. The waterfall was very pretty. Backpacker Magazine said that the Blackwater River is well known for paddlers and kayakers. It was a little too chilly for that as there were still snow patches covering the ground, but it was a perfect, quiet day in the park to take in a nice waterfall.

Day 3:
Day number 3 (Still in West Virginia) began with a trip to Babcock State Park. It was a side trip on the way to the New River Gorge, but was such a beautiful little park, that we actually spent a more time than planned there. The center attraction of the park was an old scenic gristmill. Other than landscapes, my favorite things to photograph are structures from old such as gristmills, covered bridges, and lighthouses. This mill didn’t disappoint as its waterwheel was still intact and it picturesquely clung to the edge of tumbling, clear, Glade Creek.

The main destination on this day was the New River Gorge. The New River, which is actually one of the world’s oldest rivers (it is believed that only the Nile is older), is well known for its whitewater rafting and kayaking. It’s also known for the steel wonder than spans its great depth, the New River Gorge Bridge. The bridge is the longest steel arch bridge in the Western Hemisphere and the second tallest in the United States. (Royal Gorge Bridge, a suspension bridge in Colorado is the highest. I’ve been there, too. :) ) There is also a Bridge Day which is held here yearly for base jumpers who are brave (and crazy) enough to bungee from the bridge. If you look on the back of West Virginia’s Statehood Quarter, you’ll see the New River Gorge Bridge. My pictures are very disappointing in that the bridge doesn’t look that high, but I can promise you that seeing it is quite impressive.

We took a two mile hike recommended by a ranger to Diamond Viewpoint on the Endless Wall Trail. The overlook offered deep views into the gorge standing on sheer cliff drop offs. You had to be careful not to wander too close to the dizzying edge. I almost forgot to mention that another hiker joined mom and me on our hike to the cliffs. Our companion was a sweet dog, a Black Lab/Retriever mix, that met us in the parking lot. I guess it was that Snow White factor kicking in again! He walked the whole way out and back with us, whining loudly when he thought I ventured too closely to the cliffs. Maybe he was a guardian angel?

After the hike, we took the winding drive down into the gorge. We went under the NRG Bridge and then across the river on a smaller bridge that gave excellent views of the NRG Bridge spanning the river. I stood there for a while and watched a couple of kayakers wipe out on the rapids. I was worried for one guy that flipped and stayed under for quite a while. Luckily, he resurfaced. Even I say they are crazy. There is no way you’ll ever find me in a kayak on that river. But you could very easily find me rafting the river, though some of the rapids I saw made my past whitewater rafting look like wusswater rafting!

Day 4:
After the previous day’s adventures, we traveled back east to Virginia that night. Cumberland Island must have really caused me to lose track of time. Maybe it was the dehydration. Ha ha. Either way, I had thought that the New River Gorge would have been our last adventure before heading south for Georgia. I had thought that it was Saturday already, alas it was only Friday! My mom really had her heart set on making this trip last until Saturday. I searched the map to find something interesting. We were near Virginia so how hard could it be? Not at all! I decided we needed a history lesson so I plotted the way to Appomattox Courthouse Historical Park.

Of all the American History periods, the American Revolution and Civil War are by far my favorites. I saw where the first shots of the Civil War were fired in Charleston Harbor at Fort Sumter and have been several times to Gettysburg, Pa. which is considered the turning point of the war. Now was the time to see the place where it ended, to stand in the place where General Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant, to stand upon the grounds where our nation was once again united.

The park was very nice and had a lot more to see than I had anticipated. Many of the buildings were original and the ones that were reconstructed appeared to have been rebuilt using the original materials. It was very nice and the park employees were very informative.

An eerie realization struck as later it dawned on me that I was standing there on April 8th, the day before the 141st anniversary of the surrender on April 9, 1865. The 9th day of April in 1865 was a Sunday, Palm Sunday, just the same as April 9, 2006. Also, I was informed by a park employee that we were having the same temperature and weather (cool, rainy morning at first and then clearing) as we were having on this day in 2006. It was an almost ghostly feeling as I walked to the exact spot that the surrender ceremony took place.

After visiting Appomattox, it was time to hit the road back to Georgia.

This was a wonderful trip for mother and daughter and a bit more relaxing that the previous island adventure. Virginia is such a beautiful place and it holds our country’s most hallowed, historical grounds. From the first English settlement in our country to the reuniting of our country…it all happened in Virginia.

It’s not hard to see why West Virginia is dubbed the Mountain State. Before this trip I had only visited around the Harper’s Ferry area and passed through the state on the way to Pennsylvania. I feel lucky to have experienced more. Everything from standing in awe of the bridge spanning a beautiful gorge, to waterfalls, to old mills, to rocky cliffs, the Alleghany Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Shenandoah River…it was…well, almost heaven. (Sorry, couldn’t resist! :)

One of my first pony sitings at Grayson Highlands, Virginia.

Wild pony? I think not! He was my new best friend. (I hate this pic. of me, by the way, but I'm posting it for the pony!)

Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

The beginning of the Seneca Rocks Trail to the viewing platform.

Mom chillin' after the steep hike up to Seneca Rocks.

Blackwater Falls, West Virginia

Glade Creek Mill in Babcock State Park, WV.

View into the New River Gorge. If you click on the pic. to enlarge it, you can see a bit of the bridge to the left.

The bridge soars high above the gorge below.

View of the New River Gorge Bridge taken from a smaller bridge that crosses the New River.

The McLean House at Appomattox, Va. This is where the surrender was negotiated and agreed upon. The McLean home was used rather than the courthouse since it was Sunday and General Grant refused to step into any Confederate Government Building.

The room in the McLean House where the formal surrender was written and signed.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Cumberland Island National Seashore

I’m back from my backpacking trip on Cumberland Island. We (my brother and I) had perfect weather the whole weekend…low 80s, gentle breezes, lots of sunshine. For the most part, it was an incredible experience. For the most part, we had a blast. However, there is one part that was not so good and even left us wondering about our fate, but I’ll get to that later…

Day 1:
We arrived on the island at the Sea Camp Dock on the ferry Saturday morning at 10:00. We did our orientation with the ranger and let her know that we were headed for the Hickory Hill Campsites in the backcountry. The nearest (untreated and sulfur) water was about a mile away. There are of course no restrooms or showers in the backcountry. Everything we needed for survival, we carried in packs on our backs. My pack weighed in at 45 pounds and Brother’s at 55 pounds. The hike to the campsite was nearly 6 miles. That doesn’t sound far, but considering the heat and the weight we were carrying, it is much more difficult than it sounds. But we did it, sipping water through our hydration packs the entire time and pausing to snap pics of the beautiful scenery. We saw armadillos for the first time. (I had seen one ran over along the road before, but not a living animated one, so that was cool!) We also spotted wild turkey along the trail, but no horses that day.

We reached our campsite less than 3 hours later and set up camp and had a tasty dehydrated meal. Then we set out for a four mile hike to the beach and back. We had to take a longer route via the Duck House Trail to the beach because we were told by the ranger that our closest beach access, Willow Pond Trail, was flooded and the alligators had taken over. We relaxed at the beach a while before heading back to camp. There was no one else there. It was so peaceful and serene. The beach was overtaken by many different kinds of birds…pelicans, oyster catchers, seagulls, sand pipers, etc.

After an early dinner back at camp, there was an early bedtime. I was wiped out. There was no one around us for miles. I fell asleep listening to a hooting owl. Brother cursed about this owl the next morning, but I liked listening to him hoot.

Day 2:
After breakfast, we started a day hike of many, many miles (approx.13 miles) to the northern tip of the island and back. Our first stop was nearly 3 miles away at the Plum Orchard Mansion. The mansion was built in 1898 by the Carnegie family which at one point, owned 90% of the Island. (Their other mansion, the Dungeness, was destroyed by fire and only the foundation stands now. But I’ll mention more later.) Plum Orchard is beautiful and huge. We ran across some wild horses roaming the grounds here. Then we were off for the settlement and First African Baptist Church. After what seemed like forever we made it there. It was hot now and we couldn’t feel the breeze. What was worse, was we were realizing that our water supply we had carried was quickly diminishing. I never would have plotted that hike had I known “the settlement” consisted of a couple of modern houses. (only a few people live on the island) I had envisioned old historic structures barely able to stand. What’s worse is that this church was completely overrated. This is the church that John F. Kennedy Jr. married Carolyn Bissette. Their wedding was the first time that many people ever heard of Cumberland Island. This tiny church which appears so cute in photos and is seemingly standing on nice shaded grounds was in the open sun backed right up against a house that had roosters roaming around and crowing. I had dreamed of walking up to that church and taking pics and all I could think was this is it? I cursed the Kennedy's because I know that they didn’t have to walk there. Soon afterwards, we started toward the beach on the North Cut Road. I knew it was a little longer but I knew that if we walked along the beach in the wind and near water that we could wet ourselves in that we would stay cooler and thus less thirsty. We walked for such a long time. The sun was sinking low and we still had a long way to go. Panic began to settle in, but I reminded myself that survivors are the ones that don’t panic. I watched Brother’s gait. He was wobbling. His face was red and when he spoke, it was in a whisper. I felt tears welling up in my eyes. I knew he was dehydrated and that help was very far away. I began to pray.

We trudged along silently not expending the extra energy on words. I thought I heard something on the beach and I turned to look around. There was a white truck driving on the beach! The truck drove up next to us. The driver asked, “Are you okay?” We talked with them a moment. I knew this was a miracle: A.) because we had not seen a person since Plum Orchard. B.) There are very few vehicles on the island, save the handful of residents and park rangers. Btw, the “roads” here are just wide sandy trails. C.) It came at the feeling of deepest hopelessness. These men had been working on the north end of the island and were heading for “civilization” (what little exists) to the south end. They offered us a ride on the tailgate to our trail head. They drove us approximately 3 miles to the Duck House Trail. From there we climbed the giant sand dunes and walked 2 more miles to camp. We thanked them over and over. We offered them money. I had $80 in my backpack and would have gladly handed every cent of it over to them. But they refused to take any money. I was moved to tears by this experience. I pray with all my heart that they will receive a miracle like this in their direst need.

On the Duck House Trail, I continue to watch Brother’s wobbly gait. About ¾ mile down the trail, he stops and informs me that he thinks he is going to pass out. I tell him to sit down and give him the last of my water. He refuses at first to drink the last of my water. I insisted telling him that I did not feel like I was about to pass out. We had a little over a mile back to camp where we had fresh water waiting and I felt fine, just exhausted. We stopped at the stinky sulfur spring and collected water in our empty bottles to treat back at camp. We wanted to make sure we had extra for the hike back to the Sea Camp Dock for the ferry the following day. We wiped off to cool down in the spring. The smell luckily went away and did not leave our skin smelly. I felt fresher. We made it to camp shortly after that. It was nearly dusk. I immediately drank a bottle of fresh water and lay down on my sleeping bag. I was asleep in less than 3 minutes. That was the best nap I ever had in my life.

Later we woke up and treated the water we collected. The bad smell was almost completely gone after treatment. It tasted like the water we drink on vacation in Florida. We complained about the Tampa’s water while we vacationed there in the past, but that evening it tasted like heaven. Funny how perspective changes. Brother tended to the many blisters on his foot. It was a bloody mess, no joke. I had one small blister where my sock rubbed the ball of my foot. I felt so sorry for him. We ate and collapsed again. We would be waking up early to backpack out.

Day 3:
We woke up very early and packed everything up except the tent. Our alarm had gone off at 4:00 instead of 5:00 a.m. Damn it! At least we had time for a little nap before it became light. I woke brother up later to inform him it was twilight and we finished the rest of our packing. It was just light enough to see the trails when we began the hike.

We made it back in just over 2 hours! We really booked it! I felt bad because I took the lead and hiked at a rapid pace making sure I was not to miss the 10:15 ferry. In my hurry, I had forgotten poor Brother wobbling along on those blisters of his. I slowed my pace and let him lead so he would not feel rushed. We made it to the Sea Camp Dock at 9:20!

The ferry ride was sweet. I leaned back and closed my eyes in the sun and thought about the trip. I was so proud of myself. I was tired, but still feeling good enough to do more. I had walked the entire length of the navigatable portions of Cumberland Island. If I had more time I would have liked to walked to Dungeness Ruins, the cemetery, and by the old rusting cars once owned by the Carnegies. But I had already done that years ago. I’ll be coming back to the island again. Now you can rent bikes there. Next time I'll rent a bike and I’ll ride back up to Plum Orchard and ride around the south end of the island’s ruins and ride the beach with my hair in the wind same as the wild horses’ manes blow wildly as they gallop the beaches. For now, I am proud to know that I have accomplished much and took some nice photos of the beautiful weekend. As far as this being the true test of my Hotness Plan…I don’t know if I look hot, but I feel hot. I am capable of doing much more physically than before and I feel hotter for that.

When the ferry landed in St. Marys at 11:00, I felt like a new woman. I knew food, Gatorade, and a hot shower were not far away!

Tomorrow I am driving up through Virginia around Mt. Rogers (Va.'s highest peak) with my mom. I have been inspired by the wild horses and hear that the Mount Rogers area is full of wild ponies. We will be back by Saturday. Then I plan on being a slug until I must get up and go back to work Monday.

Beginning our hike down the Parallel Trail, Brother pauses a moment for a photo.

Here's me carrying my pack which is almost half my size.

Armadillo rooting in the ground.

Here I am just after reaching our campsite. No shower. No make up. No boyfriend. No wonder!!!!

Giant sand dunes line the beaches of Cumberland Island. I have actually hiked to the top of one to get this picture.

Pretty colorful shells are all over the beaches.

The beach was covered in hundreds of birds this evening.

Dinner time at the campsite!

Beautiful Plum Orchard Mansion.

Here's one of the wild horses walking the grounds of the mansion.

I'm on the front porch welcoming everyone to my humble home. haha.

Here's that blasted church I nearly died to see. Those blasted Kennedy's probably got a limo ride there!!! Ughhhh!

Wild horses among the dunes.

A refreshing moment for my tired feet.