Spring in the Mountains

It is spring in the mountains. There is only a mist of green on the trees at higher elevations. We miss the bright glowing colors of fall leaves…but are enjoying the treasure hunt to find wildflowers blooming on the forest floor.

We know the first three: buttercup, lily of the valley, and lady slipper. We will look up the rest when we get home.

Spring Flowers_buttercups

Spring flowers_lily of the valley

Spring flowers_lady slipper

Spring flowers_red

Spring flowers_white

Spring flowers_pale purple

Spring flowers_purple flowers

Spring flowers_pink

Signs and Symptoms of Pre-Hike Jitters

Everyone knows this condition is common before a newbie hiker’s first multi-day backpacking trip. No one is surprised to hear that the hiker is feeling anxious in the weeks leading up to D(eparture)-Day. Friends and family are happy to contribute to the Pre-hike Jitters: pointing out dangers, asking how the hiker will deal with emergencies, hoping no one gets lost, wishing them “Good Luck” as if no amount of preparation will alleviate the need for luck to survive the walk in the woods.

But experienced hikers know this condition is not confined to the early days of adventuring. Symptoms seem to creep, slowly overtaking even the long-time hiker. It starts so innocently: making lists, then compulsively checking them over and over. 20160422_225448_WEB

Next comes spreading out gear and dreaming of new items that would make the trip “safer” or would be more “comfortable.” (Beware gear envy which is a very expensive, highly contagious disease among hikers! But that’s another topic for another day…) jitters_gear

Checking the weather forecast makes sense. But then the ATweather site becomes a fixation, and the hiker clicks on location after location, needing to be assured there won’t be storms or cold snaps. (And what about hurricanes?? They are not just an imaginary danger…read about that HERE!) Jitters_AT Weather

Soon that ace-hiker is grinding teeth all night long, worrying even while sleep. Owww! jitters_grinding molars_ow

And stress-caused bubbles and blisters may erupt on hands or face. Sigh…jitters_skin conditions

Even the family dog is infected…worrying about the full pack with portends extended separation. jitters_family dog

DON’T WORRY! Pre-hike Jitters are absolutely NORMAL! There is only one sure-fired cure. Get out there and start the adventure. It’s miraculous how stepping into the woods with pack on back turns jitters into excitement. Let the adventures begin! AT ADVENTURE begins

Goodbye, Comforts!

We head back to the Appalachian Trail this weekend to backpack for a month. We love being in the woods and are excited to set off on another adventure. However, this time we aren’t newbies. We know we are saying goodbye to many comforts of daily life at home. Before leaving, we chose to consciously say goodbye, reminding ourselves that we will enjoy these things even more deeply when we return home again.

aughter will miss the stuffed animals she sleeps with every night. She will spend even more time than usual outdoors, but on foot rather than on her kick-scooter. While backpacking everything must be as lightweight as possible since it all gets carried on our backs. This means daughter has limited access to costumes and her “weapon” collection. Her “gandalf” hiking staff, sticks and imagination will have to do…  stuffed animals_comfort_friends

kickscooter_outside fun

costumes_imagination

I said goodbye to my art supplies, carrying only a few nice pens and some sketch paper. I will miss my cozy chair near the window with a big pile of books at hand. Somehow the hard ground and limited time on a kindle just aren’t the same! And extra clothes stuffed in a sack doesn’t really replace my comfy pillow on a soft bed.  creativity_art supplies

comfy chair_stack of books

soft pillow

Both of us will miss taking a shower and choosing from a large selection of colorful, clean clothes every day. We will miss seeing my folks each week, including organ lessons from Grandma. And our form of sweet treats and location of rambling conversations will certainly be different!  daily shower

colorful clean clothes

sweet treats_rambling conversations

In the morning, we will say goodbye to our dog. She is already sad because we filled our packs. She knows we are leaving again. After our drive to the trail, we will say goodbye to hubby/dad.  sad dog

Partings bring sorrow…but adventures are sweet. Goodbye daily life…see you in a month!

The Pursuit of Happiness

“Happiness is the settling of the soul into its most appropriate spot.” – Aristotle

According to the founding documents of the United States, along with Life and Liberty, the “Pursuit of Happiness” is an inalienable right. Common wisdom says each of us needs to find our happy place: the place where we feel at peace, where we relax and let the worries of the day slip out of our mind. For some this renewal is found at the beach, for others it is felt in the mountains or the woods or the barn. Sometimes we need to retreat to our happy place alone. But other times, we want to share that joy with our loved ones. But what happens when my favorite pursuits are “meh” to my partner…and vice-versa?

By now you know that I love to be in the woods. I am invigorated by a day hike. I find peace by backpacking for weeks at a time. I am fortunate that my youngest daughter finds restoration in nature. (I’ve blogged about that HERE and HERE.) We are a good hiking team together. happiness_hiking partners_zaleski state forest

For me, there is something hopeful about seeing a path leading to unknown destinations, heading further and further into the woods and mountains. I enjoy the anticipation of what lovely things I will see around the next corner or over the next hill. I love to feel the ground under my feet and see the details of trees and rocks as I slowly hike on by. happiness_hiking trail_zaleski state forest

For my husband, walking in the woods is a means to an end, a way to get to the destination. His mind tends to focus on the goal. Even though it brings him no great pleasure, he occasionally joins me on a day hike, knowing this is my happy place. He supports me in my pursuit of happiness defined by weeks in the woods, driving daughter and I to our starting point, taking care of things while we are gone, and picking us up when we are ready to return home. happiness_hiking together_my passion

On the other hand, my hubby loves to explore the world by flying his small plane. Many times he takes to the air for only an hour or two. Occasionally he takes an epic adventure, flying across the country to see new places from above. happiness_flying_cessna 172

When hubby is flying, he finds freedom in knowing that he is not accessible. When the night is clear, he loves the feeling of flying among the stars and watching the lights twinkling across the horizon. When the winds are calm, he finds peace as farmland or mountains or canyons slowly unroll under his wings. happiness_flying_farmland

Unlike some wives, who are afraid of going up with their pilot husbands, I don’t mind climbing in the cockpit with my husband. I know this is his happy place and he wants to share his joy with me. From the air, I notice the signs of humans, a very different feeling than being comforted and awed by nature itself. I don’t often choose to fly with him, but I support his pursuit of happiness defined by flying above the world. It may not be an inexpensive hobby, but it is worth the cost for him to find peace and happiness in a stressful, busy life. (And I love that our youngest daughter is discovering the joy of flying with him. She is gaining the best of both of our worlds!) happiness_flying together_his passion

It seems to me that this mutual respect is part of the inalienable rights described in the Declaration of Independence. I can’t define his happiness and he doesn’t define mine. We each have the individual right to our own pursuit of happiness. And we gain joy as we support and encourage each other along the way.

Surviving Epic Tragedy

We tend to think of an “epic adventure” as something life changing; something we dream of for years; something worthy of being included on the “bucket list.” Sometimes, however, the big epic that changes our lives is a tragedy. No matter how prepared we like to think we are, we will never be ready for certain experiences. It is impossible to control every aspect of life and guarantee safety. In the aftermath of epic tragedies, it is often the small things that help us survive.

(Stick with me here…there are fun discoveries at the end of this post!)

Eight years ago, one of our teen sons died unexpectedly. Yes, that rocks one’s world (and not in a good way, of course!) I’ve learned a few coping skills: focus on the next breath, and the next breath, and the next one. Interact with God (or beliefs that are bigger than yourself). Find friends who will sit beside you in silence and let you grieve. Listen to the stories of others who have survived similar losses…and eventually share your own story with the world. (I have most recently written about this HERE and HERE.) James n Jill_the Rock_silly

It is a challenge each year to figure out what we want to do on the anniversary of James’ graduation to heaven. Looking back, it has been different each year. Since our son was full of mischief, loving to tease and make others laugh, we usually choose to pursue small things that bring us pleasure and that will make us smile. We want to focus on his colorful life, not dwell on the agonies of our grief.

This past Friday was a good example. Hubby took the day off work. We knew we couldn’t bear to sit at home and stare at the walls. So we hopped in the car, with youngest daughter in the back seat, and took off for a long, meandering drive. We enjoyed discovering old houses in older towns, relishing those that have been well-cared for, saddened by abandoned, falling-down shells. We cranked the music and sang along. (Gut wrenching but also made me laugh when a song played at son’s funeral unexpectedly came on.) We talked and we rode in silence. We ate fast-food supper, and then started a search for dessert. Oh my! Just LOOK at the wonderful place we found in a small rivertown.

There was a little sign by the side of the highway for Griffith & Feil’s Soda Fountain. We went on a search for it. And found this gem in the historic downtown area of Kenova, KY.  The atmosphere was delightful. The history was intriguing. The staff was friendly. And the treats were “dee-lish.” old-time drugstore_checking out history

old-time drugstore_soda fountain

old-time drugstore_soda fountain2

Old-time Drugstore_historic

We will certainly visit this little treasure again. Now we have happy memories to layer onto this oh-so-difficult day on the calendar. Sometimes it is indeed the small things that move us from survival to thriving again after an epic tragedy.

Be Prepared…Pull Out Your Hiking Gear!

We had a nasty windstorm last weekend. A friend and I enjoyed a late lunch together at a cozy restaurant in town; too busy talking to notice the weather. After she received a text that their barn was damaged by wind, we quickly said our goodbyes and headed to our homes. I should have seen trouble coming when I needed 4WD to keep from being blown off the road. Even the power lines were oscillating in a violent way I had never seen before.

So what does this little stormy tale have to do with hiking? Everything, of course!

When our power went out, hubby and I jumped in the car and headed to town for light and hot food, assuming things would be fixed by the time we got home. But we returned to a dark, cold house. Rather than stumbling around, trying to figure out where to find candles and a lighter, I headed straight upstairs to the storage closet. Voila! In our backpacking bins, I dug out headlamps to set beside the bed for the night. Hiker Gear_Headlamp

We were concerned that both of our cell phones had low batteries. But then I remembered that there was a fully charged “battery brick” in the hiking bin. Problem solved! battery brick_cell phone charger

In the middle of the night, hubby realized the power was still off. Concerned about all the food in the rapidly warming frig/freezer, he moved everything out to the back porch. Below freezing temps would keep things safe til morning. (The food filled a wheelbarrow. I was quite thankful we have no bears in our neighborhood—it was too much food to hang from the rafters in the bearbags!) wheelbarrow_no bear bag_food

I’m used to eating peanut butter and graham crackers for breakfast. Good thing since the power was still off in the morning so we had no way to fix hot food. I was desperately missing my morning mug of hot caffeine however. Then I dug through the gear bins one more time. Ahhh…my jetboil backpacking stove brings water to a boil in an instant! Savoring a mug of tea calmed my nerves and started my morning off right. backpacking gear_jetboil stove

We realized no power meant no hot water (darn all-electric house). We talked about driving to the YMCA to shower, or driving to family on the other side of town, but didn’t really want to bother. I considered using the hiker solution…but decided no one in town was ready to ignore unwashed hair and body odor. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that…

Eventually the power finally came on—15 hours after the storm knocked down wires all over the city. Some neighbors had noisy generators. But I’m glad we were fully prepared to “rough it” in peace and quiet. After all, we own backpacking gear!