How Hiking and Photography Saved My Life

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At 38 I lost my mom. She went to take a nap and never woke up. She was a breast cancer and stroke survivor. However, the radiation from the cancer treatments and decades of smoking  and poor diet led to congestive heart failure. They said her pace maker was still firing when the paramedics got there. She was gone.

She passed around 3 in the afternoon on a Friday and at just around the exact time she would have passed, my daughter, who was eleven at the time, suddenly came down with a very high fever. I did not know yet that mom was gone. I rushed Sarah to the doctor because it was alarming at how quickly this fever struck. It was literally out of nowhere. With the doctors unable to diagnose the issue, they sent us home and told me to keep a watch on her.  As we were getting ready to leave, my husband called the doctors office to give me the news.

I stood in the empty lobby at the phone on the wall as he told me she was gone. Stoic as always, I showed zero emotion. I had to keep it together. It is ALWAYS up to me to keep it together. Tears would come, but only when alone. I have always been that way. At the exact moment he told me, something very strange happened. I felt my own personal time speed up. It was like I was on a conveyor belt and moving up in line.  It’s also when change started to happen. Much needed change. That was 2004.

Over the next few years life would continue to throw curve balls at us. It was the one thing in our lives that was a constant since the day we were married. It had never been easy and it would stay that way.

As the kids started getting older and my husband had gone back to school to finally finish up his bachelor’s degree, I found myself consumed by family life and barely able to tread water. Working fulltime and doing just about everything else at home I was burned out and exhausted. Panic attacks became my best friend.  I began to realize the kids really didn’t need me as much and I started thinking a lot about my life and where I was and how I got there. Always, at the back of my mind, was that feeling I got when heard the news. That moving up the conveyor belt feeling. It was always there. I could feel it. Time was speeding up and I was running out of it.

2010–Dad is gone. The loss of my dad, six years after mom, caused an explosion. I suddenly felt like life as I had known it was completely over and I just wanted to run away and start over. There were many marriage and ‘almost grown kid’ issues and I was overwhelmed and confused. I still can’t believe I said the dreaded ‘I want a divorce’ sentence. But I did and he was stunned. Without going into all the details we did work through it. There were lots of tears and struggling to stay while simultaneously struggling to leave.

During this time I started walking regularly and taking pictures along my little city greenway.

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Taken with the Casio from my greenway.

 

I also started googling hikes and videos on hiking in Tennessee. I would ask my husband to go with me on hikes to which he always declined. So, one day I just decided I would go by myself. This one act of deciding to go alone completely changed the person I was.

I cannot put into words how going on my first, simple 2 mile hike alone gave me more confidence than anything else I had ever done. The first solo was to a waterfall called Burgess Falls.

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Burgess Falls State Park

 

I drove two hours from my  house to an area I had never been to. I remember being so nervous. Once on the trail I saw dozens of other hikers and even some other women hiking alone and I thought ‘Oh, it’s a thing! I’m not so weird then.’ I took some pictures with my little Casio point and shoot and hung around for awhile and then headed home. Changed forever and for the better.

 

 

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I still have it. This little camera means so much to me. I re-learned the basics of photography that I had learned years earlier in photography classes in college. I, at one time, had planned on being a photographer. But somewhere between getting married and having kids I had lost site of that. I had not tried to take actual pictures, not just snapshots, in years.

 

After that first hike I was hooked. Actually, I was obsessed. I started watching dozens of videos a day on hiking and then camping. I even found I enjoyed the survival videos as well. I was all consumed by the outdoors and photography.

I asked my husband for a Nikon for Christmas. Not an expensive one, but one that had more settings so I could really start to expand my photography knowledge. He got me a D3200. I absolutely loved this camera. Later, I got a D5400 that I still use today. I went nuts watching videos on how to do all types of photography. I joined two local photography clubs and even ended up winning one of the competitions. I was also taking some classes from various online sites from bloggers that I really enjoyed and sold some photos commercially.

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The hikes I have done both solo and with friends have increased in difficulty so much from that first hike to Burgess. I have camped now solo and do not hesitate for one second to strike out on my own and hit the trail. Some days I enjoy hiking with the small group of ladies that have since joined me, but some days I just want to go out on my own. It dawned on me how hiking has turned me into a fiercely independent woman. I wait on no one and have stopped placing expectations on people who do not share the same enthusiasm for the outdoors. I am talking about the husband. He will go on hikes now. However, he does not enjoy them and I can see it all over his face. So, we have come to an agreement that he knows I am doing this and I know he likes to sit at home and watch football, which I cannot stand. So, it works out. I am pretty sure he doesn’t even worry about me out there anymore.

I heard something several years ago and it was one of those ‘Ah-ha’ moments. And I remember thinking ‘YES!’ It was this paraphrased:  what a horrible thing it is to place our happiness on someone else’s shoulders. We hear things like ‘does he make you happy’ and ‘can you make him happy’ our entire lives and never question how either of those can even be possible. I remember feeling relieved that my happiness was entirely up to me. It was so freeing. It’s also something I wish had resonated with me in my twenties. It would have saved a lot of heartache.

Mary Oliver said it best:

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Taken at Dunn Overlook in Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hike to Buzzard Point

Tennessee Hikes, Uncategorized

Date of Hike: November 11, 2017
Length: Total 10 miles (out and back–not a loop)
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous (in certain areas but mostly due to length)

The intention was to hike to Snow Falls. It changed midway when another hiker told us to skip the falls and head to Buzzard Point.

Laurel-Snow is absolutely gorgeous. I have hiked to Laurel Falls on two other occasions so I was a little familiar with the area. The hike starts out on the Richland Creek trail and you follow it just like you would if you were going to Laurel Falls.

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Just follow the trail and look for the marker that leads you up the hill on the right. Continue on that trail until you come to the washed out bridge. Yep, you read it right. The bridge that was placed there in 1976 is long gone. They completely removed it a couple of years ago. Now, there is only a log and it’s a little sketchy getting across. I think it’s about a mile and a half in that you will come to this. (UPDATE: The bridge has been restored!! No more climbing over a log!)

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I am sure these scoutmasters would be thrilled to know I captured this lovely picture. There are a couple of ways you can do this (oh, and no need to look upstream or downstream for an easier way…there isn’t one). The log is it. You can walk on across it if you are stable enough. I was not. I actually sat side saddle on it and just scooted myself over it. It was very easy to do it that way. Much easier than any other way I could see. It was a little difficult on the way back since the tree was slanted on the way back. Always be sure to unsnap your backpack when doing any type of fording. Your backpack can pull you right under the water. If it’s loosened you can get out of it if needed.

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As you can tell this is a rugged trail. There are a lot of rocks and roots. It beautiful but it will be slow going.

You will come to this cute little water feature where someone has painted crosses on the rock.

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And you will see this sign:

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To get to Buzzard Point just follow the Snow Falls sign. If I’m not mistaken this is the last sign you will see indicating you are going towards snow falls and you will see none that say anything about Buzzard Point (at least none that I saw). I had no idea we were going anywhere near Buzzard (it has been on my list for a few years). We had walked for a good while when a couple told us to skip the falls and head to BP. So, that’s what we did.

After walking for a while we finally came to the metal bridges. I knew there were suppose to be some I just wasn’t sure where they were. Once you head down the hill towards a HUGE rock you might get confused on how to get to the bridge.

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You will need to walk up on the side of the rock. Look closely and you can see the rusted, metal posts sticking up from the rock.

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Just keep following around and then hold your breath when you see it.

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See what I mean? I could have stayed here all day taking pictures. The view from it was amazing.

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The rest of the hike was full of awe at how spectacular the area was.

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Finally, we got to the trail leading between the two rocks (again no sign saying anything about where we were). The only sign was one that pointed us back to the parking area. Say wha? Yeah, made zero sense.

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Once you get to the top of the rocks there will be what looks to be an old logging road. To get to Buzzard Point take a left and walk until you can’t. There were several groups up there when were there. Lots of scouts and hiking groups were checking it out.

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Stunning Views! I want to go back and camp this fall so I can get a sunrise and sunset.

Once you are up there you never see a sign pointing you to Snow Falls. We didn’t even try to find it since we had to get back before dark. All and all it was a beautiful hike. I just wish the trail had been marked better. Once you leave the turn off point where you can take the trail to Laurel or Snow there is nothing else telling you where you are in the process. No mile markers or anything but the occasional ‘main trail’ sign and an arrow here or there.

If you go just give yourself plenty of time (it will take longer than you think). Take plenty of water and snacks.

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Happy Hiking!

My Favorite Backpacking YouTube Channels Part 1.

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I love YouTube. I mean, I REALLY love YouTube. As a matter of fact, I watch more YouTube videos than I do regular TV.  This hiking obsession of mine took root in several channels. So, I thought I would post them here in case someone else has caught the hiking bug and is looking for everything from DIY hammock gear, to amazing photography and cinematography, to just good old fashioned trip reports.

I will start with my number one channel.

  • It’s the man, the myth, the legend…WHOOOOOO BUDDY! It’s Shug!

Yep, you read that right, Shug. Shug’s real name is Sean Emery and he is a professional clown. Can you see where this is going?  A clown that hikes…hmmm…has it peeked your interest? Shug was one of those guys I kept hearing mentioned on other channels. Finally one day I just typed his name in to see who this person was that seemed to be some sort of hiking god. Well, after watching one video I was hooked. In fact, I started watching his videos in bed at night while going to sleep. My husband was concerned at the fact that I was watching some guy and laughing so hard it would keep him awake. He is seriously funny. He is also a hammock guru. The man knows just about everything about hammock camping. He has several videos on how to get the perfect ‘hang’. He is also a very accomplished backpacker having backpacked and camped most of his life in North Carolina and Minnesota.

  • Sintax77–Also a Shawn. What are the odds?

Admittedly when his videos first popped up as a suggestion on YouTube I had a hard time getting into them. However, I hung in there and really started enjoying his style of editing and now I can’t wait for his videos to come out.  His filming and editing have come a long way from just a few years ago. He does awesome trip reports and his gear reviews are really helpful (especially to newbies).  His wife, Sara, is also in a lot of the videos and it’s good to get a woman’s perspective on the gear as well.

One of the most extreme hiking videos I have ever watched was his High Winds Hiking and Winter Camping in the White Mountain video. You have GOT to check it out. Intense, to say the least.

Also, check out his website for detailed trip reports.

  • Adventure Archives comes in at Number 3.

Andrew, Bryan, Robby and Thomas are four incredibly talented cinematographers. A lot of the music in their videos is written by them and almost all of the music has an Asian feel to it.  I suppose that’s one of the reasons I am drawn to their videos. The editing is so well done and the music takes you right along into each scene that makes the wilderness seem like a completely safe place.

  • Joe Robinet is at Number 4.

Joe is one I have been watching for a long time. If you want to learn the art of bush crafting then this is one of the best channels, in my opinion, on YouTube. I have learned so much about shelter building and fire making and just overall how to have a good time in the woods, without being stressed, from this channel. He and his trusty dog, Scout, head out the woods alone, most of the time, and take us all along for the journey. He’s one whose video production style has changed and gotten better over the years. Joe was also a contestant on the second season of the TV show ‘Alone’. You can check out his website here.

  • John Amorosano rounds out the top 5.

Now, don’t think because he’s number five in my list that his channel isn’t worth checking out. All of these channels have different things to offer. John’s videos are hands down, some of the most beautifully filmed that I have seen on all of YouTube. I found his channel while researching the John Muir Trail. I have watched his videos over and over.

That’s it for part 1. Part 2 will be up shortly so keep checking back.

Happy Hiking!