Adventure: Northwest River Park

Adventure: Northwest River Park

Northwest-River-Park

For our first camping trip with a toddler, we stayed local. We’ve been to Northwest River Park numerous times to enjoy the walking trails (though there aren’t a plethora) and to camp once. It’s a relatively small park, with only a few trails, but it’s so nice to have something this close to home!

Northwest River also has canoe and paddle boat rentals for those wanting to traverse the waterways, fishing opportunities, miniature golf for the kiddos (the course is a little lacking though), a camp store (with ice cream!), some really lovely pavilions for picnicking, and a very nice playground inside the camping area. Read more

Adventure: OBX Camping

Adventure: OBX Camping

Husband and I went camping for the first time this season — we’re embracing his newfound freedom (he has weekends off for the first time since we got married almost 5 years ago!). It was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. A beautiful weekend. A campground reopening after the winter. A few months ago, we organized all of our camping gear, and it paid off. At about noon on Saturday, we threw all the bins of supplies in the bed of the truck, each packed a backpack of clothes, loaded up the pup and set off to the south.

We lounged at the site, cooked bison steaks over a charcoal grill, walked the beach, hunted for pretty shells, climbed sand dunes, stopped into The Frontporch Cafe for coffee and chai, got homemade ice cream in Manteo, did a little antiquing, and Husband even went surfing while Ginger and I slept in on Sunday. All in all, a successful trip!

Camping at Oregon InletThe view down into our campsite from the dunes at Oregon Inlet Campground. It was wonderful to be there when the campground wasn’t crowded, it wasn’t hot, and there weren’t any bugs!

Camping with the pupGinger is a great little camper and we love taking her with us.

Foggy spring dayVery foggy our first day there, loved watching the fog roll in and out over the water.

Husband in OBX

Ginger puppy

Beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Playing with the dog at the beachGinger used to be terrified of the slightest puddle. She still doesn’t like waves, but tide pools are great!

Beaches in the Outer Banks of North Carolina

Birds in OBX

Beaches in North Carolina

Beaches in North Carolina

The sun setting

Camping with a dog

Ginger got stuck with a cactus spineGinger got stuck with a cactus spine in her nose, that was a first. She also got sand burs in her paws several times. Always, always, always keep a close eye on your dogs while camping!

I think camping at Oregon Inlet the first weekend it opens in the spring might become a family tradition…

Thoughts on Camping

Thoughts on Camping

I came across this recently, which I had written back in the fall when Husband and I went camping last. Reading my own words made me realize that as much as I love hunkering down in my home, I’m developing a bit of cabin fever. I’m ready for winter to be over and warm weather to come again…

I’m going camping. I’m going camping. I’m going camping.

This has been my refrain for days now, looking forward to the blissful 48 hours I get to spend in the mountains, away from life and all its responsibilities. A wet 48 hours to be sure, but 48 of them all to ourselves. And the Giga, always with the Giga.

I think this is my favorite part of camping. Right here. The first night. The tent is set up, firewood is gathered, the pup is settled, Husband is puttering around the campsite adjusting things. I’m sitting by the fire soaking it all in. This.

It’s the anticipation. The “we’re finally here”. The sounds of crickets and frogs and all kinds of amazing things — a sound the drowns out the voices of our temporary “neighbors”. It’s so loud it is overwhelming. And it’s perfect. Because we’re here, doing this. We have the whole weekend ahead of us.

Our campsite at Sherando Lake State Recreation Area

On this first evening, I’m dreaming about sleeping in the tent. In my dreams its just like my childhood, where I slept so soundly cuddled far down in my sleeping bag. The ground wasn’t too hard. The noises weren’t worrisome (I think it necer occurred to me that a bear might visit our campsite, which most definitely happened the last time we went camping). I was a small child, given the shortest spot to lay, by the door or on the step (yes, my “bed” in our pop-up was the step up to the boys’ bed), but it never bothered me. It was never cramped. I don’t think about fitting my 5’7″ frame with Husband’s 6’2″ body and a 65 lb lanky dog in a 2-person tent. In fact, I long for it.

I recollect camping in the heat as a child, just like I remember camping in the freezing cold while in college, but it isn’t quite tangible to me anymore. I forget the sticky sweaty feeling of humid summer camping.

I look forward to waking up with the sun in the morning, somehow blocking from mind that it’s usually the sound of car doors slamming and children squeeling that wakes me at campgrounds. I forget just how hard it is to dress in a compact tent (skinny jeans are NOT the best option here).

I dream about hiking up the mountain tomorrow, about the view from the top and the euphoria of reaching it. I forget that I work a desk job now and am terribly out of shape, that it’s hot and sticky and we don’t have any water bottles. I anticipate the exuberance of the pup while forgetting that she will be pulling my arm out of its socket for at least the first mile or two.

Hiking Humpback Rocks Trail

Yes, the first night my eyes are full of stars. My heart is content, I am looking forward to everything the weekend will bring. Inevitably, it won’t be glamourous. The ground will be hard, the air thick, I’ll sleep fitfully. The hike will be steep, my thighs will burn and I will huff and puff throughout. Cleanup will be a bear. Everything will be sandy and nothing will fit exactly the way it did when we packed it at home. And, more than likely, it will all be soaked by the impending storm.

But when we leave, it will be with a sense of satisfaction. A knowing of having conquered the great outdoors. A rhythm that we only achieve when we get to spend days on end together. A wistfulness from having to leave it all behind. And when we arrive back to our real lives — the messy, over-ful, too busy, hard lives that we live — we will ache to return to our beautiful mountains. We will dream of the simplicity of life there. And we will forget all about the smell of bug spray, the stickiness of sweat, the constant grit of sand between our toes, the hardness of the ground, the reality of our physical condition. And we will wait with anticipation for the next chance we have to embark on such an adventure.

Camping and sunset on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Slowing down

Slowing down

We took some time to slow down amid a busy September last weekend.

Busy is just that, busy. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are achieving, accomplishing. It doesn’t automatically mean that we are being productive or growing or stretching. It just means busy.

We’re still figuring out the balance. The rhythm. Of this new life, new home, new phase.

We walked down to the neighbor’s the other night and sat in their living room as the rain pounded down and just talked and talked for hours. Husband and I walked home in the dark, dodging the last of the rain drops. It was late, but it felt good to be making connections, making time, being, talking.

In an effort to make some of that time for ourselves, we took off for the mountains last weekend. It doesn’t happen nearly as often as we would like, but our little mountain excursions help bring us a bit of sanity, of slowing, of breathing, of being. It’s good for us.

A few photos and a few thoughts from our trip…

Sunset on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Our campsite at Sherando Lake State Recreation Area

So green at the lakes

Thistle

Hiking Humpback Rocks Trail

The view from Humpback Rocks Trail

The pup made it to the top too

Enjoying the view, Blue Ridge Mountains

The way we celebrate

The way we celebrate

Husband and I celebrated three years of marriage last week. Certainly, it’s not long compared to my parents’ 36 years or my grandparents’ 60 years, but each and every year is something to celebrate.

I love that we are still new to this. It’s an adventure unlike any other and we are navigating it and enjoying it to the best of our abilities.

So to mark the completion of our third year, we chose to do one of the things we love best: camping.

We packed up the truck, the pup and a weekend’s worth of food and took off for the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is one of our favorite places in the whole world. Given the choice, we would move to the mountains in a heartbeat. (But there are little things to consider that keep us where we are, like employment.)

It was three days and two nights of bliss, just Husband, the pup and me. We hiked, we photographed, we made campfires and cooked delicious meals. The things I love to do, like reading and knitting are oh-so-much better done by lamplight in the great outdoors.

We even saw a black bear (I’m sorry to say I didn’t get a photo because it was only for a moment…then again, I’m glad he didn’t stick around).

Happy Anniversary, Husband. I hope and pray each year is even better than the last.

Sherando Lake

Camping

Collecting firewood

Hiking

Trickling waterfall

River rocks

Ginger

Tree bark

Cooking Thai curry

Campfire

Adventure: Florida Part 4 (Camping)

Adventure: Florida Part 4 (Camping)

When we reached our southmost destination, we set up camp for a few days to enjoy the warmth and beauty of the Florida Keys…

After sleeping in in our cushy guest bed (the room was exactly what you would hope for in a Florida guest room, white walls and tall ceilings, bright white linens, everything over-sized and cushy), we were treated to a delectable breakfast by our host and stayed to chat long past what we had planned.

We finally hit the road with a few hiccups here and there. It was a long drive to get to the lower Keys, but we enjoyed looking at all the little shops and marinas as we drove through key after key on Rt 1. Eventually, we made it to Bahia Honda.

Driving down Rt. 1 to Bahia Honda Key.

Unfortunately, to make it to our campsite, we had to go under Rt 1, a very low bridge and an even lower water main. Which meant taking the canoe off the truck. Husband thought we could make it, I wasn’t willing to risk it and I was driving, so the canoe came off. Oh well, at least we got a little practice in taking it off and putting it back on. Husband says I need to work on my muscles so I can be of more help, but I’ve gotta tell you, flipping a canoe up over your head is not an easy feat… Maybe something to aspire to.

Our campsite is lovely and cozy (and by cozy, I mean tiny). Above all, it is beautiful. Our view looks out over a little bay along the northern side of the key and our neighbors are obscured by thick foliage. The only things I would change are the somewhat rocky sand (I have a feeling it’s going to be a mite uncomfortable tonight) and the road noise (Rt 1 is directly behind us). I just hope the traffic slows down as it gets late.

Sunset in Bahia Honda

It’s dark here now, in fact we arrived with just enough time to set up camp in the dusk (not that we can’t do it at night, we’ve had enough practice at that). There was a storm cloud above us then, spitting droplets of rain down just to threaten us, but it has since moved on. And now the stars are out bright as can be, no clouds to veil them. The moon is a sliver, shining bright white against the dark sky. There is a small lapping of water coming from the little bay and the sound of burgers sizzling on the grill, the smell of charcoal ensuring me that we really are camping. A breeze keeps the mosquitoes away and keeps us cool in spite of the warm temps. It’s about as pleasant an experience as it can be.

I don’t think I slow down enough in day to day life, not really. Not enough to become reflective. I find when I’m camping that it hits me all at once–both the desire to be reflective and the reflections themselves. There’s something about the great outdoors, something about being slow, being still, that brings it out. I need more of that, or perhaps I just need more camping.

The last time we were supposed to go camping was the weekend Michael passed. I’m so sorry for that memory and that association, it is good to replace it with something new. For husband, the last time he went camping was with Michael, and the last time I went was with the whole Combs Clan. There are bittersweet memories there, and it is good to make simply sweet ones as the freshest.

Florida Keys

At the beach together

We’ve hardly been in the great outdoors for 24 hours and I already can’t count the number of bug bites I have. (Seriously, I tried to count them and gave up somewhere around 79.) And this is Florida, so it’s not just the normal mosquitoes, but also no-see-ums and fire ants. Yep, fire ants.

Beach

But in spite of looking like I’m coming down with mumps, measles or leprosy, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. Our day perhaps didn’t go as planned, but it went, and it went beautifully. The snorkeling trip we were scheduled to go on was warning of 2-3 foot swells…enough to make anyone sea sick and any novice snorkeler a little skeptical. So instead we stayed around here, snorkeling the beaches of Bahia Honda. We saw fish and coral and such, not as clear or abundant as Hawaii, but then again, that’s Hawaii–what could compare?

Snorkeling

Tropical fish

We saw the famed Key deer, tiny little things the size of dogs. And we saw alligators, which is always fun. We even took the canoe out for a paddle. Amazingly, I only burned on the tops of my hands (yep, the tops, that’s what happens when you dutifully wash your hands regularly).

Canoeing together

Canoeing

So now I’m sitting in the dark, or mostly dark, husband has a few candles burning that are actually giving off some pretty good light. We’re waiting for the hobo packs to cook in the coals and discussing the plan for tomorrow.

We don’t want to leave–that’s always the quandary, isn’t it? We go traveling with such excitement to reach our destination, and then, inevitably, we have to go home. So why do we even do it to ourselves? I suppose because in the moment we enjoy it, in the moment we find rest and relaxation, and we receive joy. And even in the planning for it, we find motivation, anticipation and, yes, joy.

And the truth is, it is good to go home. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we don’t want to, we aren’t looking forward to it, but when the time comes it will be good too.

Meanwhile, we’ve planned our trip so we have just as much fun on our way back as we did on our way down. We’re headed up to Miami Beach to meet up with Luisa for an indulgent dinner tomorrow and on to A.’s where I feel most at home. We get a day to relax and another day to spend with good friends before we head on up to visit another dear friend of mine and finally see Charleston before we make the last journey home, a mere 7 hours at that point.

But right now, right this moment, I want nothing more than to spend a month here, perhaps the entire winter. It’s one of those delicious parts of traveling, where every place seems better than the last. Where each one becomes special and sacred. But I must go home, all must. We have jobs, responsibilities, relations, lives to return to. So I think the best thing any of us can do is to take a little piece of that place home. Maybe not physically (although souvenirs are great too!), but mentally, even spiritually.

Sunset in the Florida Keys

From the Keys I can take home the restful pace of life, from Vero Beach the peace and fulfillment of dear friends, from Ft. Myers the pleasure of a little indulgence… Those are all things I can carry with me, things I don’t have to leave behind when I leave the warm sun and sand to head back to a rainy, dreary place. Metaphorically speaking, I can take some of that sun home with me.

When I’m refreshed and rejuvenated with an elusive peace within my grasp, I can be a better person, a better friend, a better employee, and perhaps most important, I can bring those qualities to my home, for my husband and for all those who set foot in our house.

Adventure: Florida Part 1
Adventure: Florida Part 2
Adventure: Florida Part 3

Adventure: Crabtree Falls

Adventure: Crabtree Falls

There are few ways I would rather be spending a rainy Saturday. Right now I am holed up in a warm(ish), dry tent with a (mostly) dry puppy at my side, a mug of hot tea, a (purple) solo cup of wine. And I have my iPad to write on. It’s heaven.

Sure, it’s raining outside, it has been all day. It’s wet and muddy and just plain yucky. But I am dry and warm and listening to the rain kersplat on the tent roof with confidence that I will remain dry and warm. Husband is cooking hobo packs over the fire (yes, in the rain) and we couldn’t be happier.

A few days ago we learned that husband would not have to work this weekend, so we made semi-last minute plans to head for the mountains. And head for the mountains we did.

We booked a camping spot near a hike we had talked about taking for months and we headed out in the wee hours of the morning.

The Blueridge Mountains.

Four and a half hours later, we were there. In the glorious mountains. Someday we will move to these mountains, or other mountains, somewhere. We will make our living off the land, cattle, hay, horses, produce, B&B, anything.

For now, we will savor them while we are here, knowing our time is short.

There was a lull in the rain, just long enough to allow us to set up camp. Then we headed for Crabtree Falls, the tallest waterfall this side of the Mississippi.

It sounded like a great idea and I had been wanting to see it. It wasn’t until we were halfway up the climb that I realized that if these were the tallest falls, we would be hiking, vertically, for a very long time.

Crabtree Falls

The hike wasn’t difficult exactly, but definitely steep (and slick). When my heart began pumping so hard I could feel it pounding out of my chest, I knew we were in for a good workout. As I struggled to keep up with husband and puppy I was reminded of a very specific request I made to God when I was still single.

Hiking Crabtree Falls.

In college I was often the one to take the reins, plan the adventures, spur my friends on toward camping trips and hiking and snowboarding and many of the lovely things we did. But in truth, it is not in my personality to be the spark plug, to instigate others toward adventure.

I had asked God to give me a husband who would take that burden off of me. You see, it wasn’t that I wanted to give up the adventures. Quite the contrary–I was determined to continue having adventures after marriage or I wasn’t interested in being married. Specifically what I told God was that I wanted someone that I had to work to keep up with, not someone that I would have to drag around with me. Yep, God heard alright.

I was booking it to keep up with husband and puppy. Neither heat nor chill nor rain slowed us down!

Bright orange mushrooms along the trail.

I have to say though, I don’t think there’s any better way to spend a rainy afternoon than on a waterfall hike. Sure, it was wet, and slippery, and muddy. But we were laughing and chatting and getting our hearts pumping. And the view from the top was gorgeous.

View from the falls.

View from the falls.

And now we are sipping wine in our dry tent, or at least I am, while dinner cooks over the fire.

Camping.

Lovely.

Adventure: Upstate New York

Adventure: Upstate New York

Last week, Husband and I took an unexpected trip to upstate New York.

The trip included some very somber moments, but it proved to be the break that we needed. Between Husband’s garden, our regular full-time work, Husband’s catering and all the business of summer, we haven’t been able to spend much time together. We were craving time.

And we got it. 10 hours in the truck together up and 10 hours back (first road trip in the new truck was a total success!), plus a few hikes, waterfalls, and some good nights camping.

It was my first time camping with Husband’s family, and it was great (in spite of the rain). I even learned a few things, like how difficult it is to squeeze into skinny jeans when dressing in a tent…

Ready for an overload of trip photos?

On the way up, it began to rain…and of course we don’t yet have my tonneau cover installed.

tarping truck

We hiked Watkins Glen

Hiking Watkins Glen

Watkins Glen waterfall

When we reached the bottom of the glen, I saw this little Perry’s ice cream stand and got really excited. Having lived in Upstate New York for all of middle school and high school, I had come to love this local brand of ice cream. Alas, this stand didn’t have anything chocolate! So we spent the rest of the week hunting down another spot for Perry’s–successfully! I got mint chocolate chip…

Perry's ice cream!

We went to the farm where Husband’s dad grew up…

Family farm

And Husband checked under the rocks for crayfish.

Looking for crayfish.

We saw a few more waterfalls…

Waterfalls

Waterfall

More waterfalls

Waterfall

We explored the town of Horseheads, and found a delicious little Italian pastry shop (and iced chai!)…

Italian pastries

Iced chai

And Husband managed to steal the camera from me for a while…

Me

And I managed to sneak away for a quick swing on the playground…

Swinging

And, finally, we had plenty of late night campfires at Robert Treman SP

Camp fire

Overall, I’d say it was a good trip.

Long week

Long week

I’m on my third cup of tea already this morning…not a good sign. Basically, it’s just been a long week.

As I went through my morning routine on auto-pilot today, I was thinking back to last Monday morning. I was in New York. Yep, New York.

Road tripping with Husband.

Husband’s grandmother had passed away, and we were taking a last-minute trip to upstate New York for her funeral. Husband and I quickly threw together our camping gear, bought a few road-tripping snacks and took off.

This was my first time camping with Husband’s family–it was a strange mix of a pilgrimage back to where their grandmother was from and an impromptu family reunion, mixed with grief, celebration, laughter and tears.

Although bittersweet, Husband and I made it our mission to spend some good quality time together and time with family. An unexpected little breakaway from real life.

Trekking upstate New York farmland.

There were moments of solemnity, like visiting the graveside of Husband’s beloved father. And times of remembrance, like trekking across the pastures on the farm where Husband’s father grew up. And there was joy, as we all sat around the fire, laughing and enjoying one another.

There were moments of reality, like when it started to rain on our campsite as we attempted to cook dinner and when my MIL’s truck broke down and needed a tow.

New York covered bridge.

And there was surrealty. Spending uninterrupted time with Husband on the ten hour drive there and back. Even a few stolen moments to visit waterfalls and hike a glen.

New York Waterfall.

It was an exhausting, uplifting, enjoyable and grief-filled five days.

But now, we are back. And real life isn’t waiting for us to catch up…