Category Archives: Hiking

The end of the beginning …

is here.

The end of the first day of the year, that is.

A day when many will implement their newly made resolutions only to give up on them in a few days.

What is it about midnight on the eve of the dawning of a new year that makes people promise things they don’t intend to do?

I’m as guilty as the rest of humanity.

But not this time.

Not this year.

I am making no resolutions of any kind.

I am going to take each day, each moment; each good, bad, unbelievable, mediocre, mind-blowing, life-altering, emotion shattering, ego-bursting, uplifting, encouraging, incredibly beautiful, intensely disheartening, inspirational, creative moment as it comes.

When it comes.

Living life.

In real time.

Jesus has my back and for me, that is enough.

I didn’t start this day on resolutions, instead, I started it outside, under a cold, blue sky.  The cold was painful, but the beauty of creation in the winter made me forget, for the most part anyway, that I was cold.

It was a good day to be alive.

Icicles hanging from the Gorge walls … Guest River Gorge trailicicle

Little Stoney, full from recent rainslittlestoney_jan14

Light at the end of the tunnel … Guest River Gorge trailguestgorgetunnel

The forks of Guest River … whitewater rafting in its primeguestriverfork

The Bridge over Guest Riverguestgorgebridge

One of the longest weeks on record …

is happening now.

In real time.

I was so disappointed this morning when I woke up to realize it was only Thursday.

I fell asleep on the couch last night and woke up just in time to get in bed before nine-thirty.

My body was convinced I was dead since I haven’t been in bed before midnight in months.

But I wasn’t dead … just exhausted.

And it isn’t even a full moon.

The Harvest Moon comes in September.

God help us all.

I have sleptwalked (is that even a word?  I don’t think so, but I’m past worrying about vernacular correctness), twice this week and once, spent some time (how much time is still undetermined) sleeping in my back yard … not camping, as in sleeping bag, campfire, guitar player, roasting marshmallows, but …

On.

The.

Ground.

With the spiders and other things that creep in the night.

Never, I heartily assure you, is it a good feeling to wake up outside when you started out inside and then wonder how you actually made it to the yard without falling off the porch and breaking half the bones in your body.

I am, it seems, fairly agile in my sleep and maneuver as well or better as when I am awake.

I now have nightmares about my nightmares.

Scary.

And then …

I  hit a deer on the way to work yesterday and in doing so, messed up my car enough to put it, for the moment, out of commission.

The deer, other than a probable bald spot (this deduction coming from the amount of deer hair on my car), seemed no worse for the wear.

It is the first time, ever, that I have hit a deer.  It made me cry right before it made me puke.

Never mind that the deer jumped up, looked directly at me as though cursing me to hell and back then bounded over a fence, I was physically ill.

Twice.

The September raptor migration along the spine of Clinch Mountain is coming up and I need my convertible to completely enjoy the experience of driving up the mountain.

Top down.

Wind in my face.

Sun on my skin.

These are things that are of utmost importance to me.

My weekend warriorness (again, not a real work, but whatever) kicks into gear once Autumn gets here.  Five  A.M. never seems quite so early on Autumn Saturdays as it does when I get up during the week to go to work.

Go figure.

Two of my sweet little patients have passed away.  It takes me about two minutes to fall in love with them.

I have said before I am too softhearted to be a nurse and yet … well, here I am.

I haven’t taken a photograph in over a week.  Not because there hasn’t been anything to photograph, for each day offers something magnificent, but because …

I don’t even know.  I don’t have a good excuse.

I am too tired to even try to come up with an excuse.  Judging from the posts and messages from facebook friends and tweeps, I’m not the only one feeling the weariness.

It’s been a busy, busy, busy … well, you get the picture, week.

Ok, let’s be real here, a busy month.

My teacher family and friends are wishing they were, even now, at retirement age.

Talk about wishing your life away.

But even though I am exhausted, I am thankful.

I am more thankful than I am tired and that makes up for all the other stuff.

Most of the time, anyway.

Autumn is Southwest Virginia

Autumn is Southwest Virginia

Autumn in Southwest Virginia

Autumn in Southwest Virginia

Autumn in Southwest Virginia

Autumn in Southwest Virginia

Anyone who tells you that aerobics …

is the only way to get fit is blowing hot air.

I will get plenty of flack on this, but as my dad is fond of saying, the truth will stand when the world’s on fire.

This is as far from my regular blog post content as one can get and still stay in this atmosphere, but it, at this moment, is what was on my mind.

I have no intention of downplaying the important role in a good, sweat-inducing, breath-heaving, nearly dying from (ironically) a heart attack,  cardiac workout.

It has its place.  But it’s place in the day to day struggle to get strong isn’t the only one.

It will, with a well balanced diet of protein and complex carbohydrates help you lose unwanted pounds.

But the real kicker is the large muscle groups.  When worked regularly and defined, the simple act of walking from one place to another on developed muscles will burn fat.

Just this week, I had someone say to me “I wish I could be more like you”.  That is not a phrase I hear very often so I take it very seriously when I do.  I gauged my words carefully as it is as important to not damage as it is to encourage.

I told them that only a few years ago, I was one hundred pounds heavier.  I was.  I am not proud of it, but I was.  I told them what I told myself … I had two choices and they were to do nothing or to do something.

I chose something.

Nobody can make anyone else get off the couch, turn off the tv, stop thinking of Lance and Lylac as close personal friends instead of the Soap stars they are.

There is only one person than can instigate anyone  to decide to make a difference in themselves and that is themselves.  And whatever choice they make should be respected.

Not everyone has the heart, the drive and the dream to achieve more than what they have at the moment.

Each to their own.

But as for me, I wanted something different than what I had and went for it, worked for it, sweated for it and while I have a ways to go yet, I am closer than I was when I started.

I will never be “hot”.  I will never be the person who turns heads, but then that sort of thing isn’t important to me.

I want to know that if tomorrow, God said to me, I want you to go into the mountains and photograph them to show the glory that I have given to all, I want to be up to the task.

I do this for me, not so that someone will look at me, but so that when I look at myself, I can say that I am strong.

I am me.

I am Gina and I did it even when I didn’t want to.

I am a hiker.  A photographer who takes any trail, especially a new one I find, and push myself beyond my limits to get to the top.

This works my leg muscles.  One of the large groups.  My thighs become toned and as they require energy to take one more step into the high places, I have not only indulged in building and encouraging my muscles, but by walking at an incline, gotten that nasty little cardio workout in as well.

The stronger the muscle, the more energy it needs and where do you think it gets that energy?  From stored fat.  The more you utilize the large muscle groups and refine them, the more fat you burn.  The more fat you burn, the leaner you get.

An hour with Penny the queen of advanced aerobics who is, by the way, cute as a damn button, will make you sweat and raise your heart rate.  All good things, however, if you have strong muscles in your legs, abs and back, perfect Penny will take a back seat to the ongoing calorie burning process of muscles on a mission.

It may seem like  daunting task to build these muscles, but it is incredibly simple.

Walk to the mailbox for a couple days in a row.  And then walk past the mailbox for a couple days in a row.

Before you realize you are working your muscles, they will already be burning excess fat for energy in order to keep up.

I used to do yoga.  I liked it for about the first five minutes and then I was bored beyond tears.

I found, instead, that with strong muscles, I am more limber than I would be if I did yoga every day.

One doesn’t have to assume the double dog chasing a ratty Frisbee in order to attain strength and balance.

A bit of time every other day (because when you overexert your muscles, you must give them time to recover) working the thighs, glutes, back, shoulders and abs will, in short order, begin to use fat faster than panting to a Jenny Craig video.

I’ve been a nurse for nearly three decades and I can assure you that muscle burns fat … and once the fat starts to go away, you will feel more like walking, biking, swimming and will find yourself, despite your initial resistance to it, doing cardio workouts without even being aware.

So you will burn fat, strengthen your muscles, eat healthier and wake up one day and say damn!  I am looking fine.

If you must be a couch potato, don’t complain when everyone else is having fun.  Either live with it or deal with it.  Your choice.

don't be afraid to to climb

don’t be afraid to to climb

if it were easy, there wouldn't be any reward in it.  Be adventurous

if it were easy, there wouldn’t be any reward in it. Be adventurous

life involves a risk or two ... be adventurous ... be strong ... be yourself

life involves a risk or two … be adventurous … be strong … be yourself

Wet roads and 18-wheelers …

isn’t my first choice when it comes to driving conditions, but considering what I have found myself driving in from time to time, it also isn’t my last.

I like to drive.

The mindless task of following the road is among my favorite things to do.  It doesn’t matter, really, whether it is barely a ditch carved out of dirt, a steep ribbon of pavement curving and winding into a mountain or long stretches of interstate that seem, at times, to fade into infinity.

My thoughts flow freely, my mind wanders aimlessly and I feel as uninhibited as the birds in the air when I am behind the wheel.  If the weather is so that I can put the convertible top down, the pleasure is multiplied tenfold.

The destination isn’t all that important; going somewhere specific,  heading nowhere in particular or coming home.

It doesn’t matter.

Heading home today from a weekend out of town, it didn’t occur to me to concern myself with the rain falling in torrential sheets, pooling on the already wet road.  It didn’t make me nervous or anxious or fearful … even when coming up behind the tractor-trailers spewing a nearly blinding mist up in the road, it didn’t occur to me.

I figure, at those times, the two choices are to either take my place behind them and suffer the constant barrage of what they throw up from the asphalt or speed up and pass them.

There was something ethereal about the verdant greens along the sides of the interstate, beneath the falling rain.  I had a hard time finding fault as long as I could see the yellow line and, at the same time, take in the sulking, brooding gray of the heavy sky above the greenery and blooming things of late April.

My intentions were to spend today hiking in the Smoky Mountains, however, the weather did not cooperate.  While I don’t mind taking a risk or two to get to the places I wish to see, I’m not going to invite disaster.

Hiking on the wet, steep, rocky trails alone would have been careless and while I have my moments of carelessness, I try not to make a habit of being so on purpose.

I started home in the rain and muck with a song on the radio and the highway stretching out before me.  When I came to the last few miles, a narrow country road (in my mind, “my road”), an offshoot of a country highway, I was stunned.

In the two days I have been gone, it seems that Spring exploded on Big Moccasin; the fields edging up to the base of Clinch Mountain are greener, fuller.  The high grass, dancing in the wind and the wildflowers, now abundant, unfurling their vibrant, colorful blooms without shyness or fear of frost took my breath away.

The sheer magnitude of the beauty of it, of home, of Spring, brought tears to my eyes.

I was reminded, once again, that no matter what I may have seen today had I stayed where I was, it wouldn’t have been any more beautiful than the height of spring in my own back yard.

On a larger scale than the peaks and valleys of Clinch Mountain, perhaps.  But not more beautiful.

It just goes to show that springtime in the mountains, irregardless of which mountains, is a stimulating treat for the senses.  As for the rain … well, nothing smells quite so wonderful as the Spring mountains after a rain, now does it?

Gallery

I know a trail shoot was succesful …

This gallery contains 25 photos.

when I come home filthy, covered in mud, bleeding from my brush with thorns and other sharp things of nature and smelling of the earth that I was crawling around on.  There are few things in this life that renew … Continue reading

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If it isn’t going to snow …

and snow BIG, then I am officially done with winter.  I am filled to overflowing with frosty windshields in the early, still dark mornings.  I am finished with the cold wind whistling through trees that have been bare for too long.  Winter weather advisories that never come to fruition and the forecasters who get my hopes up are now on my short list.

snowfall

Since I love lists so much, it is time to make a new one; a warm weather one.  This new and improved list will not include heavy winter coats, gloves or scarves.  It won’t include three layers of clothes or multiple pairs of socks worn under fur-lined boots.  It also won’t include walking home because the ice is too thick to drive in.

basset_snow

I was recently reminded by a friend that boating season is just around the corner.  It took less than two seconds for the image of skimming across the lake with the sun hot on my skin and the wind in my face to fill my warmth starved brain.  I foresee cold drinks and much laughter as we frolic in the lake.  Actually, I suppose I should clarify; I foresee much laughter as THEY frolic in the lake as I’m not really box-ankled about jumping into water that I can’t see through.  I’m more of a “float-on-the-top” kind of gal.

cherokeelake

cherokeelakejumper

I look at my pale, winter skin and think of sunning myself like a lizard and admiring my tan lines (after the redness fades).  I love the sun and, unlike many people I know, don’t mind the 90 plus temperatures of a steamy Appalachian summer.  I long for the thunderstorms that come out of nowhere, bringing with them the stunning display of lightning and sky that only God can provide.

lightning

I look forward to long hikes along shaded trails and wading in the clear, cold pool at the foot of my favorite waterfall; speeding with the top down over curvy mountain roads to get there.  My sister’s pool with the shimmering water and full-sized slide call to me like a siren’s song.  Trips to the ocean and embracing the sunrise in the wee hours then sipping boat drinks at sunset will find their place at the top of my list.

2-46

littlestoney_020913-161

beachday1 542

Yes, I am officially done with winter and realize as I write this post and compose my list that I am going to need more paper.   Now, if I can only get Mother Nature to cooperate, all will be well with the world and I can stop shivering.

gulfbeauty

I thought I was prepared …

for the sheer depth of joy that would come with the total immersion of mind, body and spirit into the wilderness.  I wasn’t even close.  In three short months, I had forgotten the thrill of knowing the exhilaration of finding that there is nothing between me and nature except the air I breathe and my Pentax.   I had forgotten how awe-inspiring creation is when I can see it up close and personal.  I had forgotten just how alluring the smells of the earth in winter could be.

Today, however, I was reminded.   The sights, sounds and smells took me from my present self and put me in an altered state of mind.  One that thrives on finding out where the trail leads, then, when the trail has run its course, the adrenaline punching adventure of veering off to become one with the hills and valleys, the streams and creeks of my mountain; for today, it was on my mountain that I wandered.  My mind was peaceful, my thoughts were clear and my body strong as it responded to the challenges and physical demands of making my way through thickets and briar-laden brambles on steep, rocky hillsides.

The mind-numbing exhaustion of the past few weeks dissipated like fog under a summer sunrise.  With every step, I felt my energy level rise and my stress level fade into oblivion and it didn’t escape me that I can find myself in this same state of mind over and over; that nothing can happen to me in a week’s time that I can’t undo with a hike into places both known and unknown.  My mind is already full with thoughts of where I will go next week. I am blessed beyond measure by the simple things in life that God knows I have a need of.

Even now, I feel as though the energy inside me will simply burst forth, creating a display of light and shadow all around me.  I suppose, since there happens to be no other, more enjoyable outlet, I will expend that energy on laundry.  Pity.

underwater

Psalms 96: 11-12 ~ Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof. Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice.