took a hike, took a camera: Humpback Rocks

When I pulled out of my driveway I could see my breath float and disappear as it hit the warmed air. School was cancelled for the day and a sky as stark as the broken white road lines watched over the Valley as I drove myself to the hospital. Prayers and worry filled my mind, jumping between the two just as quickly as the large flakes melted on my windshield. I gave myself pep talks. This is a routine procedure. Out loud. Worrying will lead to an increased heart rate. Alone. I’m gonna be fiiiine. As if I was talking to a friend. You’ve got this.  Attempts to calm my nerves. In four hours this will all be over. 

Naked, except for a one-size-fits-all gown, lying flat on my back I stared up at a device that resembled a gigantic headlight. Heads covered in pale blues and greens with only eyes exposed bobbed in and out of my sight. While squeezing a syringe of valium into my IV the nurse to my left asked, “What do you want to hear sweetie?” Somehow I knew she was referring to music. “You mean like anything?” I asked, curious if we’re talking Spotify here or like “the doctor is going to sing you a lullaby” kind of thing. “Yep. Anything at all.” The next 10 seconds in my brain looked something like this: I actively thought in that moment how if I had been asked that very question on any other day of my life in relation to being on my deathbed (I exaggerate), I would’ve replied without hesitation: Wilco. But I stopped myself when I realized the doctor would be going INTO MY BEATING HEART while listening to the music I choose. Wilco can get weird if you’re not prepared for it. I did not want that man distracted by what could sound like old tv white noise, tambourines and keyboards being thrown on the ground and journeys inside of journeys of utter instrumental chaos while feeding a tube through my arteries. My conflict surprised me but instinctively I answered: “The Head and the Heart.” When I heard myself speak, I realized the irony in my choice. I think the nurse thought I was making a statement about my physical state but by the time she understood a male nurse found the album and clicked play. The first song starts out with a tick tick tick tick tick tick. I turned my gaze towards the gigantic headlight, couldn’t help but smile (it was the drugs) and drifted off.

The next time I opened my eyes I was still on the OR table. I’m still alive. The large black monitor to my left displayed an image of my heart. My moving, beating, living heart. Oh mah God. That’s my heart. There were several tubes inside it. I started to get anxious and I could feel my throat pounding. I looked up at the nurse to let her know I was awake. She fixed that quickly.

Day five of recovery after the cardiac ablation left me feeling frustrated yet eager and thankful. Externally, aside from bruises the size of my head and the color of mixed berries on both legs, I was doing fine. But my energy level was crippling as so much effort was going into healing me internally. It was comforting to know that my body was doing exactly what is was designed to do and that this feeling wouldn’t last forever but being forced into slow-mo was humbling. It put the plight of others in perspective. I consider myself an active individual but I don’t ever want to take that for granted. These legs and arms and organs will not always do the things they can do today and I don’t want to waste away my ability or my health. So there I was, Day 5 of recovery and I set out on my first post-procedure hike. My swollen thighs carried me to the top of Humpback Rocks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Through mud and ice a foot thick we, slowly, worked our way up to the gorgeous views. At the top we enjoyed leftover wings and treats that were sent to me from friends while I was stuck at home, couchbound. Being outside, breathing that mountain air, the feeling of being capable and strong and worthy of those feelings was healing that day. It heals me a little bit every day.

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Cell phone summary:Humpback Rocks Hike

took a hike, took a camera: Cranny Crow

Blake had a bummed bum so he stayed behind (heh!) and took a heavy dose of Netflix. He hated not going on our first hike of the year…but it was Super Bowl Sunday and I fully intended to eat my weight in wings so – movement of my body was a necessity. Since friends were coming over late afternoon and Blake was laid up at home, we wanted to stay close.  So we headed back 259W just passed Highland Retreat for Lost River State Park. Once in the area, we found the trailhead with ease, thanks to a park map loaned to me by a hike-loving coworker. On our trek up to the Cranny Crow overlook, we hiked on frozen mud and patches of snow. On our way back down, the frozen mud was nice and squelchy squirchy and the patches of snow had disappeared into the earth. It’s no secret that the West Virginia mountains are wonderful but it’s great to be reminded of it in person. Fresh crisp air, blue skies, layers of blue ridges fading out of sight, eerie howling animals in the distance – yep, West, by God. Before returning home, we stopped at Lost River Grill to enjoy a warm beverage to the sound of The Judd’s playing on the radio. Ella’s eyes lit up and we broke into a mother-daughter duet that even Naomi and Wynonna would envy. When the songs were over, our cups empty, our bodies warm and content we left to go welcome our Super Bowl guests and watch Queen Bey’s halftime show. Drooool.bsomeIMG_0686bsomeIMG_0692 bsomeIMG_0695 bsomeIMG_0691 bsomeIMG_0696 bsomeIMG_0703bsomeIMG_0730bsomeIMG_0707bsomeIMG_0712
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Cell phone summary:

Cranny Crow WV

(…some selfies, a crow pose at Cranny Crow, my new specs, Ella being Ella at Lost River Grill…)

took a hike, took a camera: Overall Run Falls

The park is burning and I have a horrible feeling inside me because of it. Beautiful, tragic photos of the glowing ridge line are spreading through my social media feeds like, well, like wildfire. And while I know the ashes will bring lush new growth and our mountains will survive, it breaks my heart to watch my favorite playground struggle like this. I’m sad for those old trees. I’m sad for the baby seedlings. I’m sad for the flowers that waited so long to burst open in the warm sun. I’m sad for the hungry, tired, fearful animals fleeing from the flames. I’m sad for the history that is being erased and made. I’m sad for the workers and volunteers who put countless hours of care into our trails. I’m sad for the work that is ahead.  And I’m sad to think this was caused by a careless, human mistake.

In December when it was warm enough to hike in light layers, we hit the trails on the north end of the Drive. This time to Overall Run Falls. It’s been a few months since this particular hike but a few key things stick out about that day: Ella slipped and fell on a rock (she’s ok) and thought it was the most hilarious thing in the entire world. We found a tree that looks like a hippo, I got to catchup on life and cackle with my sister, we saw a whole family of quiet, graceful whitetail deer, and my son gave sound social advice to my daughter as they talked about some struggles at school like ol’ friends.

As I sit to type this the view out my window is smokey and I can smell the tainted air. I hope you find time, real soon, to get out there and enjoy those simple pleasures like hiking, breathing with the trees, catching up with your family and watching your children bond. Let this haze be a reminder that nothing is permanent – go enjoy the things and beings that fill you up!

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took a hike, took a camera: Jones Run

I’m convinced that, in general, I can juggle more than the average Joe/Jane. Because I do, regularly.  I’m not saying that to brag and I don’t need a pat on the back for it or anything. It’s something I’m proud of. I can’t imagine my life any other way. I love all the things I do; I thrive when I’m involved; time management is one of my strengths and I enjoy feeling productive, active, motivated. Last week was different though. I had real things on my mind. Like, health things. Things that made me reflect on my life. Things that took over my brain and mixed-up the hours and made everyday routines a challenge.

On Friday I was at work and a bit foggy. Half way through the day the stench of a skunk hit me like ammonia. It knocked me out of my mind and plopped me in the present. There was a kid in my class who had been sprayed by a skunk before school. Poor thing had to walk around all dang day like that. And teenagers are not equipped to notice a skunk stink and not say something about it. That student had to carry that around all day. The least I could do was pull myself together and give them my 90 minutes of love and attention that day. As much as it sucked for that kid, I was thankful for that jolt.

Hiking is my skunk stench…in the best possible way. When I’m cloudy, a visit to the mountains helps me see things more clearly. When I’m antsy, focusing my energy on the steep incline towards an overlook cures me. When I feel like I’m being swallowed by to-do lists, the trails give me a release that I don’t feel guilty about. You know how it feels to stretch when you get off a plane? Or how perfect it is to chug milk after scarfing a warm cookie? Or the sheer relief of taking down the friggin’ Christmas tree on the morning of Dec. 26?  Well all of that plus fresh air and no cell service = zing!

This hike was no exception. I decided on Jones Run Falls and invited Ben and his children to join me. We saw signs of “a giant animal” along the way but I wouldn’t dare speak the b-word. Partially because I don’t wish to encounter bears on my hikes and partially because Ben’s son, Aiden, thought my fear was hysterical. The hike down to the falls was mild and beautiful. We had lunch on the rocks with a waterfall backdrop then started back to the car. On our way off of Skyline Drive, just moments from the trailhead, we saw mama and her cubs just off the side of the road. Pretty cool, especially from the comfort of my car.

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Cell phone summary:Jones Run Falls Cell Phone

 

took a hike, took a camera: Cedar Run Falls

I’ve never fully understood what causes us to remember certain moments over others and what causes many moments to fall through the filter. It makes sense to remember huge events: my wedding day, the birth of my children, the day my Nanny passed, the day I purchased my own home as a single mother, that time a dog ate my face for breakfast (really, 50 stitches I won’t forget). But what makes us forget other seemingly huge things? Things like graduating high school, driving a car for the first time and signing divorce papers all happened in my life but I couldn’t tell you a thing about them. I remember a lot about my senior year of high school but not about graduation itself. My Nanny taught me just about all there is to know about operating a vehicle but I can’t recall the first time. I do, however, remember the first time I drove as a licensed and legal 16 year old…it was with my three little sisters. We went to the mall.  I have been married and divorced but it appears that those final final days have been blocked from my memory. The brain is so fascinating.

Just before sitting to write this post I was making myself lunch. I heated up my quinoa soup, topped it with Sriracha and put the sauce back in the fridge. As I was sitting at the table eating, I realized I didn’t know where the Sriracha went. Sure enough, it was in the fridge. I put it there, I guess. We all do this at one point or another. We get to work and don’t remember the commute. We take a second dose of our vitamins because we forgot about the first dose. We put the milk in the cabinet and the cereal in the dishwasher. We see a bruise and think “surely I should remember how I got that“. We stare at our car door wondering why on earth our house key won’t unlock it. I’m not alone here, right? We are distracted individuals. These types of things happen because they’re routine and we go into autopilot. Not much brain power is needed to do mundane tasks so they are forgettable. Things that really stick with us are the new experiences. The firsts. The first time I hiked Old Rag: epic. The first time I went white water rafting with a bunch of ballsy dudes: terrifying, but memorable. The first time I camped and hiked in Denali, Alaska: surreal. Epic, terrifying, surreal…not words I would use to describe my morning routine. Each of those adventures not only put me out of my comfort zone but they made me feel strong, independent, confident, capable and worthy of all of those feelings. Being little in the middle of big nature does that for me. Giant rocks, massive mountains, roaring river rapids – nothing will put you in check like Mama Earth.

I don’t know what my kids will remember about their childhood and I really have little control over what they’ll retain along their way. But I like putting them in front of memorable experiences. I like showing them what it’s like to feel small…and I like feeling small with them. Each summit – a badge of self-reliance. Each waterfall – a source of confidence. Every trail – a step closer to themselves. I hope they carry these memories with them and I hope more is learned from our days in the mountains than I could ever teach them with my words. 
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Cell phone summary:

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took a hike, took a camera: Misery Ridge. Bend, Oregon

I attended a wedding in Bend, Oregon with some of the best friends a person could ask for. While there, I also went on a hike. This is a post about all of those things.

Day 1: Arrivals and reunions. I was sitting against a wall in the San Fransisco airport when Lee & Jodi found me. We all had layovers there. Their hugs were healing and I knew this weekend would bring much joy. One last flight to Redmond would bring us to L’Tanya, who was there waiting – making friends with strangers, just as LT does. We visited two breweries then attended Nick and Nicky’s rehearsal/welcoming dinner where we met their friends and family from all over the U.S.bsomeIMG_4765 bsomeIMG_4776 bsomeIMG_4770 bsomeIMG_4766

Crux Fermentation (above) and Rat Hole Brew Pub (below).
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Getting acquainted with our cabin at Rock Springs RanchbsomeIMG_4810 bsomeIMG_4821 bsomeIMG_4822cbsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5084

Cell phone summary, Day 1:

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Day 2: The hike, gas station salvation, Misery Ridge and the naked hiker. We all rented a cabin in cowboy country. Literally, it was on a ranch. The morning came quickly and despite the raindrops, Lee and Jodi and I set off to do a hike before the wedding. The gas station by the ranch has everything: a wall of taps, a sweet lady that made us homemade breakfast burritos on the spot and good coffee. Real good coffee. Pulling up to Smith Rock (where Misery Ridge Trail is), as cliche as it sounds, I felt like I was looking at a post card. It was beautiful. At the summit we saw Monkey Rock, found shelter in a cave to share a brew and the rain let up, the clouds lifted and we could see for miles. It was like doing the hike on two completely different days. On our way down we passed a naked hiker who was on his way up to slack line. Being an East coast girl, I attributed his free-ballin’ to the West coast mentality. Meh, who needs pants anyway?

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Monkey Rock (way bigger in person than we imagined).bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4947bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4928bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4929bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4953bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4949bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4960bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4975bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4981bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_4991bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5008bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5021bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5025bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5034bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5068bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5048bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5000bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5046bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5055bwbsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5067bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5064bsomeMiseryRidge_IMG_5066

Cell phone summary, the hike:

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Still Day 2: “Look et meeeee: I’m gettin’ maaaarrrrried.” Nick marries Nicky. And it is beautiful. Nick has been like a brother to me…a brother in the sense that we annoy the piss out of each other, know exactly how to get under each others skin and have a love language that is riddled with insults and mockery. When I first met Nicky I loved her and I knew she would not only fit it well with Nick’s various groups but that she had what it takes to wrangle Nick’s Greek heart. Not to silence his joy or passion for life but to enjoy life with him…to fulfill their passions together. Guys, she’s a keeper. And I think it’s safe to say they are both very lucky to have found each other. So much❤.bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5101bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5090bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5105bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5111bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5118bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5116bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5096bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5094bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5122bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5123bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5126bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5128bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5135bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5138bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5140bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5151bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5164bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5162bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5159bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5157bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5165bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5167bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5173bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5176bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5191bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5193bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5204bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5209bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5212bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5219bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5221bwbsomeNickNicky_IMG_5222bwbsomeNickNicky_IMG_5224bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5226bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5233bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5244bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5243bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5155bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5251bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5276bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5256bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5261bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5268bsomeNickNicky_IMG_5266

Cell phone summary, wedding day:

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Day 3: Later tater. This short but extra sweet trip was hard to see end but I left fulfilled, renewed and ready to start planning our next reunion. #CHGfor-eh-vor!

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Cell phone summary, last day:

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took a hike, took a camera: Hawksbill Zombie Hike

On our last hike, the kids had the idea to do a Zombie hike. (um, ok!) Hurricane Joaquin interfered with our first attempt but our second attempt was filled with clear blue skies and beaming Fall colors. The hike included zombie-inspired snacks by my daughter, lots of strange looks from fellow hikers, a few strategic scares and a couple capsules of fake blood. Happy Halloween!fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4469 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4453 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4440 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4450 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4456 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4436 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4471 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4476 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4477 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4481 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4479 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4486 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4501 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4502 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4530 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4514 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4509 fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4543fclHawksbillZombie_IMG_4462

Cell phone summary:HawksbillZombieCellPhone

took a hike, took a camera: Miller’s Head & Stony Man

It was Labor Day weekend and one look at Skyline Drive would lead you to believe that everyone in the Valley had hiking on the brain. Rightfully so. It was a gorgeous day and somehow between my August hike and this one, Fall started. The top of the mountain  beamed with yellows and fading greens. Still lush but whispering change. We settled on a hike with only two cars in the lot: Miller’s Head, a short little number with a trail that leads up and down through the woods to a stone-built overlook. When we finished our hike we craved more so we tossed in a hike to Stony Man Mountain. A numbered trail with a corresponding booklet that shares a bit of information about each spot along the way. The view at the top does not disappoint…even when my eyes are fixed on my kids, through a lens.

Miller’s Head
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Cell phone summary: MillersHeadStonyManCelljpg

took a hike, took a camera: Hightop Mountain

When August rolled around, it came and went. I was forced to part ways with the summer of pool-side fun, sunshine-on-the-mountain-top memories and accept the return of the daily hustle as the school year begins again: early mornings, long afternoons and night that comes too quickly. It all happened so fast I almost forgot about the hike Ben and I did to Hightop Mountain. Here are the bullets…

-Ben brought my Nikon along and got it to work long enough to shoot a roll of film
-the narrow, lush trail made me feel like I was walking through a fairy tale
-day-old pizza, bugs, wind, amazing views, a new friend: Lucky Lucy
Kilaurwen Winery and some Harrisonburg goodies I packed
-a pitstop at Brothers Craft Brewery on the way home. <slurp>
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Cell phone summary (of Ben’s prints from the Nikon).Hightop Mountain Film

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took a hike, took a camera: Hawksbill

A harmless invite and there I was in a panic. “Meet us at the park,” she suggested. “The kids can play.” Time paused a moment as my world zeroed in on me: my son doesn’t play at the park. My son doesn’t play at the park! He’s a teenager. Teenagers don’t play at parks. Little kids play at parks. And he is not little anymore. When he stands our eyeballs meet. He will soon surpass me in height. Seemingly impossible considering I just paced a path into the living room floor after mid-night feedings, rubbing his back, shooshing him the way mothers do to relax his ten pound little body back to sleep. That tiny life that I raised, that I’m raising, is too big for park swings. One day you wake up and everything is different.

I am peeved by mottos instructing us to “live like there’s no tomorrow.” Sayings like this are far removed from their intended meaning and used as an excuse to live an irresponsible and reckless life. Living like there’s no moment after this moment, in the literal sense, is not realistic. Tomorrow my electric bill is due, therefore today I have to plan how to pay it. And that probably means I’m going to say no to dinner with friends a time or two in order to work to earn said money for said bill.  If everyone lived like there was no tomorrow, the world would be in complete shambles. The laundry would never get cleaned, the seeds would never be planted, shelters would never be built, books would never be written, families would fall apart, everyone would be broke and uneducated and the world would turn black and die! I exaggerate, but really, who has the time and resources to truly live like there’s no tomorrow? Not me.

Every now and then, I am reminded that time isn’t waiting for my electric bill to be paid. It’s not waiting for invites to the park. It’s not waiting…it’s moving. So there are times when even if I’m tired, even if the dishes are dirty, even if I haven’t had a moment to shower in three days, even if it means we’re having Nutella and granola bars for dinner…I just go and do something that deposits memories in the bank. That’s what the sunset hike to Hawksbill was for us. It was a long day and I was tiiiiired with endless to-do’s to check-off but we went anyway. We couldn’t have timed it more perfectly and arrived at the summit with thirty minutes to spare before the sun fell below the blue ridge. The looks on my kids’ faces at the vast, spectacular view are the moments I live for. Uninhibited awe. We snacked and explored and sat together and said prayers for people who need them. With the setting sun came almost immediate darkness so we strapped on our headlamps and headed back down the trail to the car. With nearly no light pollution and tree leaves covering the starlight, the walk back was the darkest dark I remember. My daughter squeezed my hand and chatted with me the whole hike back. The boys searched for deer and frogs with their flashlights and clonked their every-growing teenage feet behind me. It was the coolest hike of the year.

While you can’t plan every second and you can’t realistically live like there’s no tomorrow, you can enjoy right now. You never know when you’ll give them their last push on the swing set. You probably won’t remember the last time you helped them wash the shampoo from their hair, the last time you had to walk around the grocery store with a babydoll in your cart or the last time you cut up their dinner. But the last time will come for all of these things, as it should. Their childhood is moving and changing and fading and with good effort, it will be a fond memory they tell stories about one day. I hope to keep giving them stories to tell.❤

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