Travel

Hiking Clingman’s Dome

Scenery No 1

Part of my North Carolina plan was to start hiking.  I have a friend that I used to work with (shout out to Jan!) who moved here and started hiking.  She is so healthy now and I want to be like her. She is my inspiration.  Except I really do not like the outdoors, or sweating, or hiking for that matter.  I am an indoor, read a book, or binge-watch Netflix kinda gal.

Unfortunately I have found all my years of non-outdoor activity have made me rather soft.  Walking the parking lot at the grocery store can cause me to want to take a nap.  I am actually afraid that I am so out of shape that I can never recover.  Everyone says it’s never too late to start getting in shape, but I think I am the exception to that rule.  I am marshmallow soft.

Mike came to visit for his birthday and he gets hold of Jan who happens to be in town and we all meet up.  We catch up for a while and then the talk goes to taking a hike.  I start to get nervous because everything around here seems so hilly.  I am not good with hills or non-paved walkways.  But I figure I can tough it out, it is the least I can do.

They decide on Clingman’s Dome and off we go to the National Park.  I learned along  the way that it is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park at 6,643 feet.  Obviously, I realize we are not going to actually climb this peak, like from the bottom of it to the top.  That is not an adventure you start at 3:30 pm on a Wednesday.  There is a parking lot with a half mile walk to the top.  I was much more at ease as I know I can probably walk that amount without major injury.

IMG_1517

The drive to Clingmans is worth the experience.  The National Park is overwhelmingly beautiful and is beautiful from all angles.  As we climbed, in the car, the temperature dropped and dropped from a hot and humid 90 to a refreshing 70.  Ok, I was loving this trip so far.  We did not see any wildlife on the way in but we did see a black bear and a few elk on the return trip.  That was very cool.

After about an hour, we get to the parking lot at Clingman’s Dome.  Remembering it is only a half a mile, I put a spring in my step and we started off. Little did I know that, although it would make sense since this is a mountain, that the half a mile was all uphill.  Not just up a hill, but intense, steep grades that would make a grown man or woman cry.  Luckily, there were benches every few feet and I utilized them all.  Finally, I told my walking companions that I was never going to make it before sunset and that they should go without me.  They tried to talk me into continuing but I fought them on it.  So they eventually went on without me.

As I sat on the bench I watched a variety of people coming down from the top.  Each person shouting encouragement and saying how worth it the trip was.  I saw older than me people, some were handicapped, some were out of shape like me and many other varieties of shapes and sizes.  I was wimping out and became very disappointed with myself.  Quitting, especially this early on, was not what this adventure was all about.  So I started walking up some more.  After several stops, some short and some longer, I made it to the top just as Mike and Jan were heading down.  Their faces showed such surprise and happiness that I had made it. It was worth doing just to see them. They accompanied me to the top of the observatory where it is said you can see up to five states because you are so high up.

The scenery was breathtaking and surreal at the same time.  It did not seem possible to be over 6,600 feet up, on top of a mountain.  My brain was having a hard time believing what my eyes were seeing.  It was beautiful.  As I took some time to catch my breath, I realized that climbing this mountain, albeit not so much climbing as walking a path, was more than just taking a hike for me.  It was overcoming my fears of heights, and fears of having a panic attack due to the strain.  The fact that I even made it without collapsing made me so inspired to keep trying new things.

By the time we got back to the car, I was exhausted but in a good way.  I was thrilled that I toughened up and did it.  Mike and Jan were proud of me and that encourages me to do more.  At first glance, the mountain seemed to have won, but I steadied myself and talked myself into completing the journey.  I also prayed a lot for strength as I struggled up the walkway.  But it got done and I could not be happier.

Muhammad Ali said “Don’t count the days.  Make the days count” and that day counted in my book as an accomplishment that I can be proud of.  If you ever get the chance to “climb” Clingmans Dome, I highly advise you do it.

Observatory

Please note:  the photographs in this post were not taken by me.  I have some great shots that I took.  Once I figure out how to get them transferred from my camera, I will post separately.

One Night in Tapoco

Tapoco

These are photographs from the brochure. I will add my photographs shortly.

Have you ever tried something out of the blue and it turned out to be magical?  One night in Tapoco proved to be that for me.  Let me explain.

I had one night to myself between home stays and I thought I would treat myself to a night in a hotel. The night before the stay I made my reservation at the Historic Tapoco Lodge in Robbinsville, North Carolina.  I had been there once for a few moments when I was lost, and I thought then that I wanted to return there one day.

The Tapoco Lodge was built in 1930 by ALCOA.  It was used for company functions and corporate getaways during the hydroelectric efforts going on at the time.  It changed hands over the years and reopened to the public in 1955. Now the lodge has a rightful place on the National Register of Historic Places.

I am going to save the details of actually getting to The Tapoco for another post.  You get there by “riding the dragon”.  My friends, that is a story in and of itself!

At The Tapoco you have several choices for lodging.  You can stay in the hotel or one of several cabins sprinkled throughout the woods. I opted to stay in one of the cabins. I was thinking it would be rustic but I was wrong.  The cabin was so absolutely cozy and inviting.  It was small (which is right up my alley) but it felt like home as soon as I walked in the door.  I never wanted to leave.  I am sure the hotel rooms are lovely, but I cannot imagine that they can even compare to the comfort of the cabins.

The timing of this visit was just after Thanksgiving and the lobby was decorated so beautifully with Christmas trees, sparkling lights, giant bulbs and wreaths galore.  A fire was blazing and I set there for a while enjoying the exquisite view of the river nearby.  Never have I felt so relaxed sitting in a hotel lobby.

Since the hotel is not an easy place to get to, their hours are curtailed during the winter months.  I believe they even close completely for the brunt of winter.  Luckily, I wanted to stay over a weekend night and they were still open.  As I walked the grounds on a cool, yet sunny, November afternoon, I noticed a rather large quonset hut which turned out to be an actual working movie theater.  At 7:30, the movies start.  I thought that was wonderful.  At 8:00, you can go to the communal fire pit and enjoy smore’s and popcorn.  Those are amenities you just do not get everywhere.

I was starting to get hungry and wondered what my choices were going to be out here in the middle of, basically, nowhere.  There are two restaurants on the premises.  You can enjoy a very fine and proper Appalachian meal at Jasper’s or you can sink your teeth into some good old-fashioned cooking at the Slickrock Riverside Grill.  Since I am more of a hamburger-kinda gal, I went to the grill.  The salad, burger and fries were some of the best I had eaten and very fresh.   You can sit outside enjoying the river or watch a game on the inside.   Could this place get any better?

Yes, it can.  The grounds of The Tapoco are breathtaking.  There are 120 acres of the most stunning landscapes you can find.  There are mountains, rivers, waterfalls, and forest all around.  You can choose from several hiking trails or go biking…it is your choice.  Beauty is all around.

Everyone I met there was truly friendly, even the maintenance man waved as he drove by in his golf cart.  The staff are trained in the art of customer service and it shows everywhere.

I know this sounds like a long-winded commercial for the hotel, but I was just really impressed.   It was one of those respites that comes along when you are so tired and overwhelmed.  My few hours there proved to be so healing.  Everything from seeing the Christmas lights to enjoying a small hike around the grounds helped to calm me and restored my focus.  A place can do that and I am so glad I got to visit this place.

I am sure summers are a little more chaotic due but the time I spent was time well spent and I would do it again!

Here’s to a respite for a weary traveler and for enjoying the little luxuries that make life truly amazing.

P.S.  I have pictures, but I cannot find them now. Once I locate them I will post them.

 

 

 

 

Phase Two: Fresh Starts and New Beginnings in North Carolina

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

Many things have changed since coming back from my journey.  Since everything was in flux, I was not really able to discuss the changes, but now I can.  This is actually Phase 2 of my Epic Journey.  The first part was the trip itself.  While I was actually doing the trip, I felt it was yet another of my failures, but in retrospect, it has actually prepared me for this new phase.  I learned things that I did not realize until later and the difficult experiences made me realize that I am not quite as soft as I thought I was.

Over the past few weeks, Mike and I have been cleaning out our belongings.  Getting rid of anything that is non-essential.  We had decided to live our lives more consciously and without a lot of physical entanglements.  I have lived in this same house for about 48 years and it has accumulated much stuff.  Getting rid of the stuff has proved to be much more difficult than I had ever imagined.  It is not so much the getting rid of it, but finding a home for the stuff when everyone is buried under their own stuff and just the sheer volume of things to get rid of has been quite a hurdle.  I decided a while ago that I was tired of the stuff owning me and now I am finally getting to a point where that will not be the case any longer.  If it does not fit in Devi, it does not go with us.

At the end of this week, we will be starting a completely new life.  We are going to be leaving this home and our home state for a new location in North Carolina.  During this entire process, Mike and I have talked and talked about everything and what we feel we need at this point in our lives.  Years of being one lost paycheck away from disaster has taken its toll, stress has made us sick and it seems we may have actually forgotten how to live.

Part of Phase One was to try a farmstay out in Oregon, but due to unforeseen situations, that never came to pass.  We decided that we would give the farmstay idea another try in North Carolina.  The idea is to connect, through an organization called Help Exchange, volunteers (that would be us) with people who are in need of assistance either on their farms or teaching facilities.  Tasks are detailed and volunteers are usually give room and board in exchange for the jobs they will do.  It is a great symbiotic working relationship because the people in need receive the assistance they desire and the volunteers are given the opportunity to give back while having a roof over their heads.  These stays can be short-term or long-term, it all depends on what is needed.

We actually have a couple of exciting stays lined up for the next few months.  There are about ten opportunities just in the location we are looking at, so the opportunities seem good for now.  We will be nomadic for the next few months; if we like the options, we may stay that way indefinitely.

As the blog starts the next phase, it will still be about self-discovery but now it will also be about something more than just me.  We will be meeting people who are living outside the box and who will, hopefully, teach us how to do the same.  My eyes are going to be opened to new ways of life that I never even imagined before.  The plan is to live lighter, live healthier and to live simpler.

Leaving everything we know and leaving my ultimate comfort zone is proving to be a challenge.  But I could sit in the same place for the rest of my life and play it safe like I have done for so long.  I could watch myself get more and more depressed because my fears and doubts would be running my life or I can step outside and start living.  It is time to start living and helping others.  I wanted my Epic Journey to give me answers to how to live my life, it seemed to only give me more questions, but now I see that when asked the right questions, the answers start to fall into place.

I wanted to thank everyone again who supported my trip.  It was life changing and I could never have done it without your support.  I hope you will stay tuned to find out about this new adventure.  We should be on our first short farmstay by the weekend.  I am looking forward to it (I am scared to death) and I hope you will walk this new path with me.  Thank you for listening.

Nothing Remains The Same

Change

As I wrote those words, I realized how much my life is about to change.  I am afraid, naturally.  I am excited, obviously.  I am unsure, understandably.  Change is never easy but it has to be taken on in order to grow.  So that is what I am doing right now….growing!!  I hope I come out the other side a better human being, because I sure could use the improvement.

I am sorry that the final part of my Epic Journey had to be postponed.  I have had a lot of people tell me how much they were looking forward to reading about it.  I hated to disappoint you!!  As I have stated many times before, life just sort of stepped in and it has required that I act like an adult (much to my dismay) and do what I have to do right now.  I will finish the journey and I hope to be blessed with other trips also.

Even though I have always tried to “change things up” by trying different jobs, going back to school, starting (and closing) my own businesses, as well as other things, I have basically always stayed where it was safe.  I stepped out always with one foot still on solid ground.  It worked for me for many years, but now I need to jump off the cliff and not rely on the safety of the past.

Here is to new beginnings, to flying without a net and to being open to the uncertainty of the present and the future.  I have no idea where I am headed for sure; I do have some ideas but nothing is cast in stone just yet.  Each new page on the calendar brings me another day closer a fresh start.  Here is to change, may it bring the experience, understanding and knowledge I seek to be a better person.

I Can Never Thank You Enough …. There is More To Come

Make-A-Wish Donation Receipt.

Make-A-Wish Donation Receipt.

Thanks to all of you I was able to make a donation to the Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana Make-A-Wish Foundation.  I promised that part of the proceeds collected would go there, and the funds are being electronically sent as I write this.  I volunteered for this organization for many years and even though I do not currently, I love what they do for the children they help.  So THANK YOU AGAIN for giving me the opportunity to help them!!

I just wanted to take a moment to thank everyone again for your support regarding my Epic Journey.  As many of you know, the journey is not complete.  I promise there will be more to come.  Unfortunately, life, as it does, has interrupted the journey for now.  But it will continue and I hope it will be much more interesting now that I am a little smarter about traveling.

I hit some road blocks before, during, and after the trip.  I am sorry that the original trip did not go as planned, but I still learned a lot.  I still have much to learn and I hope you will continue to be interested in the blog.  The changes coming up in my life are the biggest challenges I have ever faced, so it should be interesting 🙂

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

I do not own this image, but I am respectfully using it in my blog.

Thank you again to everyone who helped with this trip.   If I left anyone out, please know it was honestly by accident.  I appreciate everyone and I am honored that you cared enough to take the time to help and encourage me!!

  • To everyone who shared my blog with others
  • To all the people who came into my shop and dropped money in my travel jar
  • Carson
  • Cindy
  • Debbie
  • Carol
  • Chris
  • Randi
  • Gary
  • Rita
  • Jill
  • Terrie
  • Cathy
  • Mike
  • Mary
  • Joyce
  • Ed
  • Wayne
  • Janet
  • Joan
  • Chuck
  • Jon
  • Patricia
  • Kelley
  • Jan
  • Amy
  • Ernie
  • Kimberly
  • Lisa
  • Marty
  • Avery
  • Dawn
  • Jenny
  • Debi
  • Dani
  • Melanie
  • Tracy
  • Rick
  • Theresia
  • Rich
  • Catherine
  • Denise
  • Branson
  • Patti
  • Bill
  • Robert

Once more, thank you and please stay tuned for another exciting adventure!!!

Where Does Food Come From? — Hint: It Does Not Start in a Grocery Store :-)

The beautiful farmlands of this country!!

The beautiful farmlands of this country!!

As a child, I had no idea that food come from anywhere other than a grocery store.  I did not know that meat did not come packaged in plastic, that potato chips were really made from potatoes, that milk came from a cow and many other food misconceptions.  I was in my 20s before I even realized that you could make homemade macaroni and cheese, that it did not have to come from a box.  Over the years, I have tried to educate myself on food and I am much more enlightened.

I even tried growing my own vegetables.  Let’s just say, a gardener I am not!  But it made me appreciate farmers and their farms more.  That is why I really enjoyed traveling through the “heartlands” of Iowa and Nebraska.  The fields were beautiful and my appreciation was high.  I am so glad that I know where food really comes from now.  I just want to thank our farmers for their hard work, dedication and give them some much needed gratitude.  There would be no life without them.  Thank you Farmers of America!!

The traffic (or lack of) was much to my liking!!

The traffic (or lack of) was much to my liking!!

The sky did get scary a couple of times, but nothing really happened.  Just looked menacing.

The sky did get scary a couple of times, but nothing really happened. Just looked menacing.

I thought this might have turned into a tornado.

I thought this might have turned into a tornado.

More storm clouds!

More storm clouds!

Rays of light from above were trying to shine through and eventually did.

Rays of light from above were trying to shine through and eventually did.

The sky then turned very blue.

The sky then turned very blue.

Wind power -- love it!!

Wind power — love it!!

The greenest of green fields.

The greenest of green fields.

Acres and acres of this view -- it was incredible!

Acres and acres of this view — it was incredible!

Love the open road!!

Love the open road!!

Sedona, Arizona – One of the Most Beautiful Spots on Earth

When I first posted a few pictures from Sedona, Arizona, I may have been a little bit harsh about the area.  What I forgot to realize was that just driving through the actual town (which was a nightmare) is only part of the story.  The other part of the story is the natural beauty that surrounds the town.  The scenery was breathtaking.  Once I stepped back and really looked at it, I was amazed.

The start of some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever enjoyed.

The start of some of the most breathtaking scenery I have ever enjoyed.

The start of the amazing red rocks and red soil.

The start of the amazing red rocks and red soil.

Then come the rock formations and the amazing sky.

Then come the rock formations and the amazing sky.

A scene from the bustling downtown area.  Too many people and cars for me.  But a lot of REALLY interesting shops and restaurants.

A scene from the bustling downtown area. Too many people and cars for me. But a lot of REALLY interesting shops and restaurants.

This is one of the amazing views right from the downtown area.

This is one of the amazing views right from the downtown area.

Here is Devi loving the view.

Here is Devi loving the view.

Amazing red color all around.

Amazing red color all around.

The road back to the highway.  The sky out west is truly a wonder.

The road back to the highway. The sky out west is truly a wonder.

The area of Sedona was truly amazing.  I apologize for not being more impressed with it right away.  The road there was a difficult one for Devi and I was very worried about her, so much so that I lost sight of the wonder all around me.  But in the end Devi made it and when I relooked at the photographs I could see the landscape with amazement.

A New Worldview

Travel Expands

I am finding that since I started thinking about traveling, am reading about traveling and have been on the road, my worldview has expanded.  The world seems different to me now.  It is a much bigger place then it was before.  It scares me and invigorates me at the same time.  They say travel changes you and they are right.

California: Harsh Yet Beautiful

Lush green groves.

Lush green groves.

I had mixed feelings about California.  The Pacific Coast was stunning, the traffic was horrible, the drought was (and still is) devastating and the scenery was amazing.  The California that I remembered from my youth was not the California I saw on this trip.  But nothing stays the same, everything changes.  Plus memories tend to soften over time.  I was surprised at California, but I enjoyed my time there also.  It was sad, beautiful and a wonder all in one.

Devastating effect of the drought.

Devastating effect of the drought.

Devastating effect of "man" on the land.

Devastating effect of “man” on the land.

Rain is needed badly.

Rain is needed badly.

The California landscape may be stark in places, but there is still a lot of beauty.

The California landscape may be stark in places, but there is still a lot of beauty.

It definitely was temperature HOT!!!!!

It definitely was temperature HOT!!!!!

California:  Harsh and Beautiful

California: Harsh and Beautiful

Look at that temperature!!  WOW!!!

Look at that temperature!! WOW!!!

Picked up Route 66 while in California.

Picked up Route 66 while in California.

California, yes it is amazing.

California, yes it is amazing.

Post shout out:  I pray for all the brave men and women who are fighting the fires in the West (not just California).  We did not see a fire, but drove through the smoke created by one and it was amazingly thick and made it hard to breathe.  I cannot imagine fighting one of these fires up close.  I pray for the safety and that this drought might end soon.