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

 

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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 <3.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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Say Cheese, Pumpkin.

I have never made a cheesecake. And after this shoot, I can now say: I still have never made a cheesecake but I have seen one made. Seen it right through my camera lens. I first met Isabelle at the Blue Nile (RIP). She was the friendly bartender and I was the loner at the bar, staring at my planner, eating nachos and replying to emails. She would make me a white Russian and keep me company from time to time. Since then, through various social media, I’ve come to know Isabelle as a true lover of kitchen-time…and insects, and the wonderful little trinkets of this weathered-world that go overlooked by the masses. I knew she was a perfect candidate for October’s Celebrating Life shoot.

Last Saturday, Isabelle invited me over on a chilly fall morning to help….er watch her do some baking in her adorable apartment in the heart of Harrisonburg. When she greeted me at the door it’s as if she was holding the smells of fall mornings hostage. A warm, comfortable wave of baked  pumpkin hugged my face and my cheeks rosied at the latch of the door lock behind me. What a great reflection of the soul a home is. I let myself get lost in her comforts before getting down to business. I mean, pumpkin cheesecake is surrrious business.

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"That's Logan's little pile."

“That’s Logan’s little pile.”

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As Isabelle measured and tossed ingredients into the mixing bowl, she told me about the glass jar of vanilla on the table. Her sister makes homemade vanilla each year as gifts for the family. When they are finished with the jar, they return it to her to refill. She also shared that she got most of her ingredients locally at the Friendly City Food Co-op which is walking distance from her place. She described that she loves to give her adored knickknacks away to spread joy because they’re just things that she’ll find joy in replacing on her next round of thrift shopping. Some of her things hold sentimental value…like the artwork on her fridge. And her cat. When I asked about her home and her style inspiration she put it simply: “it’s all about color and comfort.” And I guess she nailed it…because it all visually worked and I was dang comfortable. Isabelle loves baking and sharing the sweet goods of her efforts with local friends. On the evening of this particular day, she would head off to the Shendandoah Mountain Bike Festival to volunteer her time shuttling bikers and sharing her homemade cookies at the cookie table (<—every event needs one of those!). She talked about her dreams of opening a local, French-inspired bakery. She spoke kindly of her family and her parents and her life. I have only one wish for my time with Isabelle that day…and that is that I could’ve stayed just a bit longer. She is a joy to be around and her loving, positive outlook on her life is refreshing. And yeah, the cheesecake was dank!FriendlyCityLensPumpChs11FriendlyCityLensPumpChs12FriendlyCityLensPumpChs18FriendlyCityLensPumpChs20FriendlyCityLensPumpChs7FriendlyCityLensPumpChs22FriendlyCityLensPumpChs23FriendlyCityLensPumpChs21FriendlyCityLensPumpChs24FriendlyCityLensPumpChs25FriendlyCityLensPumpChs26FriendlyCityLensPumpChs27FriendlyCityLensPumpChs30FriendlyCityLensPumpChs29FriendlyCityLensPumpChs31FriendlyCityLensPumpChs35FriendlyCityLensPumpChs33FriendlyCityLensPumpChs36

I hope you find some time today to enjoy a friendly face in your community, bake something that makes the smell of your home hug someone’s face, support a local business that bakes goods with love and purpose or, perhaps, indulge in a hefty slice of pumpkin cheesecake. Here’s a recipe that look a-friggin-mazing. And here’s one that doesn’t even require and oven (and it has lovely photos too). Happy National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day!

And be sure to check out more from my Celebrating Life series!

 

Ashley & Her Dumplings

There are a few roads and chunks of land in Rockingham County, just west of Rt. 42 near Linville, that act as a time machine for me. Gravel turns, belly-flipping hills, broken fence posts, chicken houses, touched-by-time barns, cow-trampled dirt, a storm following the ridge-line in the distance…they serve as photographs to moments passed. To me, these moments are treasures. Little golden trinkets of knowledge practically useless to speak of, yet undoubtedly priceless in the making of me; parts to a whole. This chest of images was spread out before me last week as I drove passed these real-life photographs, on my way to photograph a new memory.

Apples are one of those things that remind me of my Nanny. She was a hard working woman that started picking in the Timberville orchards in her pre-teen years. She used to buy and peel apples for me when I visited her on the weekends as a child. I decided on National Apple Dumpling Day as my Celebrating Life shoot for September in honor of her. When Ashley Sauder Miller told me about her grandmother’s apple dumpling recipe, it took me about four seconds to reply to her…I was sold.

It has been five years since Ashley lost her father and only three years since she lost her grandmother but they are very much alive in her home. For Ashley, her rooted appreciation for cooking didn’t come solely from her grandmother. While Ashley wrangled three of her four children to the kitchen counter, kept multiple conversations going at once, measured ingredients and made me coffee, she reminisced about her dad’s presence in the kitchen when she was a child. She told me a story, one I’m personally familiar with, of the aromas that fill a home during a big cook…and the sounds. These things create connections to your younger self. Just as the salty air and sound of the sea; just as the smell of those ol’ jeans you wore to the last bon fire; just as your sweaty little puppy-dog-smellin’ son after playing outside in his fort all day. Her dad did this for her…he created memories and connections…and meals.

Her content children helped with both dumpling prep and dumpling devouring. They left and rejoined us and went to play again and then helped some more. Those kids don’t even know the information their noses and ears and tastebuds are recording with each moment like this. None of us do I guess. Her son, Sullivan, returned to the kitchen to tell me about their recent visit to get milk from Mt. Crawford Creamer and then he helped mix ingredients with his hands and spoon and then he zoomed his bike around the front porch. Her youngest daughter, Taitum, carried unrelated cabinet findings to a pile in the center of the kitchen floor as her way of helping…all while eating, what seemed to be, an everlasting apple. Her other daughter, Finnly, who was home from school sick, helped stir the sugary, cinnamon-y, glazey topping on the stove then retreated to the sofa for some r&r ‘toon time.  And poor Teagan, the oldest, was stuck at school all day. Wamp.

As Ashley chopped, boiled, mixed and baked, loved on her children, wiped noses and laughed and talked the echoes of her father and grandma filled her kitchen in the form of smells and sounds and love. John and Zona were surely smiling from above…with their mouths watering.

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John, Ashley’s dad, holding her as a baby.

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An old photo of Zona, Ashley's grandma, oversees the apple dumpling making.

An old photo of Zona, Ashley’s grandma, oversees the day’s dumpling making.

Happy Apple Dumpling Day!
Go enjoy the smells and creations of your loved ones!

And be sure to check out more from my Celebrating Life series!

NOH8-inspired Photo Shoot

The NOH8 Campaign is a photographic silent protest in response to the passing of Proposition 8. The NOH8 photos feature people with duct tape over their mouths (to represent their silencing) and NOH8 painted on one cheek (to show their protest).

Friends in the Friendly City were invited to this hour long NOH8-inspired photo shoot to show support and help Harrisonburg scream in silence.

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…that’s a wrap…
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Participants: These photos are for you. Download and use them to show your support on the NOH8 Campaign website.

Tres-giving

I am not complaining about my bulging waistline. Really, I’m not. It was a labor of love that I would do all over again tomorrow. I am so so thankful that my day was filled with three separate events, each with amazing family and delicious friggin’ food. I paced myself. I did. But as you scroll…you’ll see why there is more of me here this evening than there was this morning.

#1: Harrisonburg: Lunch

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#2: Luray: DinnerfclIMG_1967fclIMG_1960 fclIMG_1962 fclIMG_1963fclIMG_1978 fclIMG_1964 fclIMG_1966fclIMG_1969fclIMG_1984 fclIMG_1979 fclIMG_1971 fclIMG_1972 fclIMG_1974bw fclIMG_1988 fclIMG_1990 fclIMG_1977fclIMG_1987fclIMG_1998 fclIMG_2000 fclIMG_2002fclIMG_2008 fclIMG_1993 fclIMG_2010fclIMG_2020fclIMG_2016

…love comes in droplets...

…love comes in droplets…

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#3: Woodstock: Dessert Drop-in (cakes made by a sweet lady named Peggy Keller)fclIMG_2039 fclIMG_2029 fclIMG_2057 fclIMG_2053 fclIMG_2022 fclIMG_2025 fclIMG_2026 fclIMG_2024fclIMG_2035fclIMG_2041bwfclIMG_2051 fclIMG_2048

Happy day everyone.