Did I have a plan? eh yes and no
Did I have places to stay lined up? .. yes sort of..
I booked a few places, I looked at maps, directions, and trails..
I even looked at the distance between each location.
Just Val the Volvo and I.
Its January 31st..
10:30pm.. rushing between packing and finishing up sewing a quilt..
It was as if a timer had started ticking away and I had a deadline.
Reassuring my mind that I was good.. that I was calm.. but the anxiety would come up.. and down.
I was thinking too far into the next moments instead of what was in front of me.
This was apparent when I put that sewing machine needle right through my thumb.
My brother’s exact words, “Are you okay, that didn’t sound like the normal sound.” I just stared calmly at my finger with the needle through it and undid the needle from the machine. He asked what I needed, and I asked him to get my mom. I didn’t want to be the one to pull the needle out of my finger. Once she pulled it out I washed my hands, wrapped up my bleeding finger and found a new needle and continued finishing the quilt. It was important to me to finish this quilt before I left because I needed to mail it out.
11:30 pm .. Playlist on shuffle and GPS ready to go; I knew the weather was about to be cold, icy, snowy, rainy..but I was determined.
February 1st Day One Shenandoah National Park.. nope.. New River Gorge National Park
bright and early, I got to Shenandoah.. and the park was closed.. well the entrance I went to was.. and I was exhausted going on 24hrs plus of no sleep. I setup notifications and alerts for the park.. and it didn’t look like it’d be opening up anytime soon. So I drove to the nearest Walmart and took a 30 min power nap before I drove to New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia. I drove straight to the first trail on my list .. which would bring my up under the bridge overlooking the gorge. There was a nice layer of fresh snow with no footprints or marks yet. I was so excited to be hiking after driving for hours. I didn’t care that there was snow or that it was freezing, I was just happy to be outside moving around.
For me being outdoors doing anything rain, snow, or sunshine just resets me. It is a space where I can think freely and get through all my thoughts I have going on. It’s a space where I can reconnect with myself in every way.
I was just simply enjoying every single step.. until I heard a noise.. I looked up at the trail a few feet in front of me and noticed some paw prints.. I did a quick little google search .. saw what I needed to see..I turned around and power walked my booty out of there. I wasn’t trying to have a bear situation on my first day of the trip. With that I had to now figure out where I was going to go next. I decided to just head to the visitor center area as it was close by. There I was able to walk around, learn about the park and then find other options to get the same view of the bridge and the gorge that I was originally looking for. This first national park, I drove and hiked; Day one of my trip I saw fresh bear prints, and had to adjust and change up so much that I had originally “planned”.
February 2nd Day two, Kaymoor Miner Trail. Within the first five minutes of parking my car by the trail map.. a random gentleman came up to my car and asked me if I was there for some hiking group. Not going to lie, I was definitely a little afraid at first, he came out of nowhere. The man leading this one man tour had shown up a few moments later, providing me all the information on himself and his work/life history. We were all going the same direction, so naturally I just ended up joining them. I am beyond grateful for that experience because I learned the history about this trail, other good locations to hike, and more about West Virginia. These two were great! Now for the Snow covered 821 steps. This is where we parted ways. It was just me and the steps.. no one else was around. The way down was easy.. it was a beautiful day.. I hiked down to the abandon old buildings and climbed around reading the different signs..walking along the train tracks to the river, snapping pictures and just enjoying the moments. The way back.. I was standing in front of the 821 steps again.. this time I’ll be honest I wasn’t exactly stoked. Let’s just say that was my challenge for the day, mentally and physically.
Just from talking with those two men and the little bit of time I did spend at this NP, I realized I needed to spend more then two days in each place if I was going to be able to see all I wanted to. I mean I only gave myself one night and one day in the next National Park and that was a real bummer. This was the first place I had booked.. it only had one night available and it was the cutest little cabin overlooking the mountains.
February 3rd, Great Smokey National Park
It was freezing.. but I was determined to hike as many open trails as I could. I had a whole day and I wasn’t going to waste it. Due to ice.. most trails weren’t open first thing in the morning and conditions weren’t great on a few of the other trails. Driving around no service, I just read actual maps of the park and found a handful of little spots to explore. In most hiking situations and National parks.. service is super limited if not non-existing. So when hiking alone I normally always send a text to the family chat letting them know that I was about to start hiking and that I would text when I was done. Thats me being “responsible” or at least checking in with someone.
Rainbow Falls Trail and then Alum Cave Nature Trail were amazing. I saw waterfalls, massive rocks that you could “walk/climb” through.. caves.. all while walking over sketchy ice sections. It had been so cold in the morning when I started even my little wisps of hair were frozen. There was so much to explore outside the national park in the town I stayed in and there was so much more for me to see and explore inside the park. Before I was heading out.. I was already planning the next time I would be able to come back and do more.
Its always the down time moments for me…
the ones after the hikes.. in the AirBnbs .. my drives in between spots.
My mind goes and goes.. I overthink, I feel every one of my emotions.
My mental state the past month had been so up and down.
The moment I decided I was all set with the hiking portion of my trip, was at the end of day three, when I had gone from the solitude of the mountains to the hustle and bustle of a small city/town.
February 4th, Congaree National Park
I decided I was going to hike every single trail in this national park in one day. I grabbed a park map.. and I made sure I had enough water and snacks (AKA a protein bar and fruit snacks). The first person I met when I entered the park was one of the rangers and he was great. The wild thing about each person I interacted with during the “hiking” portion of my trip, I feel like was supposed to be there. Each of the conversations and individuals had connections to places I had lived in and to places I was heading to.
I didn’t accomplish my goal to walk/hike each trail here. I missed two trails. Due to fatigue and only being fueled by fruit snacks and a protein bar.. my legs were ready to take a nap. The whole time I was walking around the park.. I created this little “scavenger hunt” matching the trails on the map with the number markers of each trail. Each path had something different.. people bird watching.. wild hogs, some other wildlife, a lot of mud and flooding. I really was grateful that this park was marked so well.
I had to go off the trails a few times due to the flooding in some spots but the next marker was always visible or at least easy to find.
My “ding dong” moment of the day happened when I finished for the day; I was looking at the big map in the visitor center making sure “my scavenger hunt” matched the map correctly. The park guide that had taken over at this part of the day came up to me to ask what I was doing. So I explained to her that I had created this little game for myself .. and she laughed at me. She pulled out another map and asked if I had gotten this one.. I opened my bag.. and pulled out the exact one she was talking about. This map in fact had all the information I had spent all day hand writing down. Her and I just laughed at me for a solid ten minutes.
My last night in South Carolina .. is where my emotions and everything got the absolute best of me. I had a rush of emotions.. I honestly was in tears.. I contemplated not staying there for the night and just starting my drive. I had spent four days in the woods all alone.. and I was ready to be surrounded by someone I knew.
The mental rollercoaster I had been on since the start of 2023 was all coming full circle. I get in these funks where I start to overthink my relevancy..I guess my existence. I do a lot of things alone and I think all I wanted honestly on each of these hikes and moments was anyone/someone to have joined me. The more I do things alone.. I realize how rad it would be to share moments like these with someone else once in a while.
Experiences.. living presently in each moment.
Endless Beach towns. Boats. “Wild” oh shit moments.” Baseball games. Local Fairs. Air Mattress city (Low-key my favorite). Supercross. Daytona round two. New People. New gyms. Weekend trips. Seashell hunting. Unforgettable moments/Experiences. Endless learning. Airbnbs. That work life balance. Spring break “Chaperone.”
Before I get into it.. lets just laugh at me for a moment.. I went to a Fair as an adult .. ate too much sugar, went on all the spiny rides and ended up getting sick in a trash barrel. I know as a kid my mother warned me about this type of situation.. and it wasn’t until I was Thirty-three years old that I'd experienced it.
I also posted a lot more on social media in the months of February/March then I had in a really long time. When I came back to social media .. I wanted to continually learn how to post and share some moments/experiences, while still keeping a good chunk private. What I do choose to post and share is authentic and real. I just think it is super important to limit the access to my every moment.
This past couple months I ended up learning more about areas of myself that I was holding back in. I realized how much I hold myself back from showing emotions to a lot people in my life. ALSO massive shout out to AUTHENTIC REAL INDIVIDUALS.
To say I am grateful.. wouldn’t even begin to describe how I feel about this experience.
I was fortunate enough to have two individuals, open up their home and provide a spot for me to stay these past couple of months. Having my own car and joining a local gym helped acclimate me quickly to this place. The gym environment was unlike any I have ever experienced. There was friendly individuals everywhere. Absolutely WILD. Although maybe it’s because I am so used to being the “not approachable or conversational individual” at the gym.. I just go to the gym to workout my mind and my body, not to be social.
Something to know about me, is that if I can be my weird normal self around someone, that genuinely means I am comfortable with them, & I trust them. Now after not having a gym partner or someone to constantly workout with for years.. I had a gym partner.; and when a good friend is your gym partner you 100% get used to it. We shared headphones 80% of the time, we laughed, we worked our asses off, and we had little dance moments inside the gym and walking out of the gym.
When it came time to leave.. but not “leave leave”.. I packed my stuff, waved goodbye and left. No hugs .. no emotions.. just “thank you(s)” and a quick goodbye. It wasn’t until I was literally 10 mins down the road that my emotions took over.
I sent a text that honestly felt like one of those did we just “break up” moments haha.
I chose not to hug them goodbye or anything like that because I knew I would cry. Goodbyes for me are hard. I had gotten attached to these two. It honestly felt like we were roommates by the time I was leaving. I had gotten so used to being in that area the only thing that was missing was my bed and my dog. My routine came naturally.. morning walks, yoga (in a different park each time), the gym, working; life was just naturally flowing.
After only one night at my Airbnb about forty-five minutes away, I decided to cancel the rest of the days at this place (forget the fact that I would lose money on it) and book a cheap studio back closer to Saint Pete. I have spent so much time alone in past few years that I am able to understand when I need others around me. I think it was time for me to be in my own space, at the very least but not be fully in solitude again just yet.
At the end of this trip.. my biggest realization was that I really don’t let others all the way in. I show up and listen to others in my life but I don’t always allow that in the reverse. Its not that I don’t want to.. I just try not to attach to others. I talk about letting everything flow.. in and out.. people, places, and things and in some ways that has only increased my ability to be “not-attached.”
THE DRIVE BACK NORTH
After my last stop in Florida I had about a nineteen hour drive alone to accomplish. This drive was unwell. I was over-caffeinated, under-slept and my mental was running low. It took everything in me to not turn Val around and head back south. At one point of this drive after a large latte, that I am not quite sure I needed.. I turned off/stopped sharing my location with every individual I had been sharing it with.
I think it was because I got to a point where I was sick of others bullshit.. I was sick of hearing/reading people say..“I’ll call you back.. or I’ll text you back” in the past month. In that moment I figured FUCK it acted a little dramatic and went ghost mode.. which propelled me into thinking about the individuals in my life. I was trying to understand who was there because they genuinely wanted to be and who was there because they always needed something from me. This was an aggressive mind game I think I was having with myself. I’d say I was being a bit dramatic mentally.. but then again maybe THIS IS ME placing judgements on myself.
I have learned the value of my own time. sometimes I get to a point where if I feel like I am continually reaching out and making the effort to talk or see others and it isn’t reciprocated.. I just go back to my keep to myself .. “bother no one and stop reaching out mode.”
These thoughts were clearly coming from somewhere and I was finally allowing them to come to the surface. Not really the mindset you want to be in on a nineteen hour drive.. or at 3am when all you are thinking about is how good a warm shower and how comfortable your bed is going to be. The day I got back (7am) I took a mental health day, I walked Gus Gus.. I journaled and I stayed away from interacting with a lot of people .. i even went to the gym and did a leg workout (it had been a week since I step into a gym). I was genuinely drained.. I had to get myself “adjusted” back into this environment. There was so much going on up here.. I am not quite sure I was ready to just get right back into it all at once.
To end I will say.. I have been paying attention more to what is going on around me or where I am at when I am in the low moments and when i am in the high moments. Ive slowly been pulling away from a lot of different areas of my life that i let back in this last year. I have been learning how to recognize when i place judgment on myself and my thoughts; and how to stop doing that..or try not to do that.
Taking it all one moment at a time.
Trusting the Journey.
& Following my heart.