Walking

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.

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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.

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Reprint of an Old Article of Mine — The Indoor Girls to Being Outside

~~ Many years ago, I used to write for Associated Content.  I wrote all kinds of different articles.  I came across this one, which kind of fits with my journey/sojourn theme.  I thought I would reprint it.  It actually has some good advice considering I never did become that outdoorsy person I spoke about.  There is still time, right????

I do have a decent pair of hiking/walking boots.  They did not work so great on the beach, but I am not too bright at times :-)

I do have a decent pair of hiking/walking boots. They did not work so great on the beach, but I am not too bright at times 🙂

You may be asking what exactly an indoor girl is. Let me take a moment to explain my verbiage. I am the type of person who prefers climate-controlled environments, indirect sunlight, comfortable surroundings, and a chilled glass of fresh-brewed iced tea. I hate bugs, do not walk barefoot in the grass and I really, really do not like to sweat. I know I sound like a prima-donna, but really all I am is a wimp with outdoor allergies.

After all the years of purposely not going outside in the summer unless absolutely necessary, I have become soft and extremely out of shape. This month is Great Outdoors Month and I plan to start a new habit, hobby and health regimen all in one step. I am going to start hiking or, at the very least, walking trails in a park – which to me is hiking at this point. I am blessed with several wonderful state and local park systems to use (for FREE) to start my new adventure. If you are thinking of doing the same, I put together a list of things that might help you get outside too.

I have seen way too many crime shows on television where the lone jogger gets killed in the park. That is why I never jog, it is just too dangerous. Seriously, I plan to always take a friend with me. Maybe once I am secure in what I am doing and where I am going, I can go alone. It is probably a good idea to also tell someone where and when you are going. I sure sound paranoid, but it is always better to be safe than sorry!!

Shoes are very important and I don’t mean Prada pumps. A decent pair of hiking boots, and a good, thick pair of socks can go a long way to keep your feet for hurting. A little higher boot will also help protect your ankles from getting twisted if you accidentally step on something the wrong way. If you are not used to wearing boots like that, it may take a while for you to break them in. Wear them for short periods of time before your big hiking expedition. Once you get used to them though, you will appreciate the support and protection they provide.

A breathable hat is another item you may want to purchase. A hat with a wide brim will protect the top of your head from getting sunburned (which really does hurt by the way) and also protects your ears, face and hair from the damaging rays of the sun. I put my hair up in my hat and it helps keep pesky gnats away. Speaking of sun, you will need sunblock for any exposed skin. I am not an expert on SPF or what skin types need what, but that information is readily available on the internet or you can ask your pharmacist. Take the heeds seriously about skin cancer and the dangers of over-exposure to the sun.

I have always had a low body self-image, therefore, I do not wear shorts or sleeveless shirts. I am working on that, but you would be better off not taking advice from me on what to wear outside. If I had my way, I would have on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved flannel. Try advice from an outdoorsy friend on what is the most comfortable. If the weather is hot, be sure to wear something that breathes and absorbs sweat to keep you cooler.

No matter how long you plan to hike, it helps to take a few things in a sturdy backpack. If you have any allergies or breathing issues, be sure to always take your medicine. The last thing you want to do is get out in the woods and find you do not have your rescue inhaler or other medicines. Obviously, if you are allergic to stings, be sure to take your Epi-pen. Just knowing you have the precautionary items you may need can go a long way to easing your mind and allowing you to have fun.

This may be over-kill, but I take along a small first-aid kit in my backpack. It contains bandages, antiseptic cleaners, a Benadryl Itch Relief Stick (for bug bites), burn gel in case of sunburn, miscellaneous gauze pads, medical tape, a pair of tweezers (for slivers or thorns), antibiotic ointment, and tissues (which can be used for any number of emergencies). You can add or subtract from this list as you see fit. I get all my first aid supplies at http://www.firstaidonly.com, but you can just go to your local drugstore and get what you need.

The next items to throw in your backpack are water and snacks. Remember you have to stay hydrated when you are outside, especially in the heat. Take a couple of bottles of water with you. If you do not like the taste of water alone, you can buy take-along flavor additives. Gatorade, Crystal Light, Kool-Aid are just some of the companies out there who make these wonderful, easy-to-carry packets of drink mix that are perfect for a single water bottle. Granola bars, whole wheat crackers, dried fruit, trail mix are all good ideas of snacks to take with you. Especially in the beginning, it may not take long to tire you out and you will want to have some energy foods. Chocolate and sweets are not the best way to go in this situation, as the energy burst is not sustained. That is why whole grains are a good choice, their energy lasts. You are hiking to feel better, right? Might as well eat healthy snacks too.

Another item I pack in my backpack is a small, personal fan that runs on batteries. I know, I am such a baby. I tend to get over-heated very easily. Taking a short break, drinking some water and cooling my face have extended the amount of time I can be outside. Let’s face it, if you are used to sitting in air conditioning, hiking in the sun is going to take its toll at first. Be a little easy on yourself in the beginning and take those items with you that can create a bit of comfort. You can also buy neck wraps which you cool overnight in the freezer; they stay cool all day and help dissipate heat which helps keep heat stroke at bay. They are reusable also and may be a good investment for your hiking arsenal.

Don’t forget your cell phone in case of emergencies or to take pictures of the beautiful scenery you will be experiencing. A lightweight flashlight is a good idea. Lastly, you will need to take an open mind. Being outside in nature can seem overwhelming at first, but once you get used to the song birds singing, the humming of wings flapping in the wind, the smell of flowers, the cool breeze that comes just when you need it most, and the unbelievable peace you can experience outdoors it will all be worth it. Plus, you just may feel better!! Happy Hiking!!