Update

I don’t even know where to start. I’m trying to remember what I last posted about (yes, I know I could look).  A lot has changed since I moved back to Maryland from Vermont. I made the decision to move back home because I accepted a seasonal job in the park service.  I thought this might be a good career move for me (and maybe it has been in someway), but I really do miss the mountains. I work as a seasonal naturalist, which means I take care of the nature center and do any interpretive programming for the park. Sounds wonderful right?  I wish I could say so. But I’m not going to complain. I am employed, I have a place to live, my belly is full, and I got a pedicure today lol. I have been living with my parents the past few months, and they have been a great help.  I am moving in with my older brother and his family over the next week so that I can care for my nephew Logan this fall.  I also plan to get some sort of teaching job and will probably waitress or bartend to save money.  I want to save as much money as I can until next May.  I then want to bike the Trans American Trail from Yorktown, VA to Oregon.  It should take me around 3 months. I will be taking Pebbles and Boots (my chihuahuas) with me on this trip.  I purchased a Burley cargo trailer at an REI attic sale that will be perfect to tote them in. I’m really looking forward to this trip, and have a friend who is completing it now. I am also applying for a teaching preparation program that is located in Boulder, CO.  It is a year program that would start next August (right around the time I’d be done with my bike trip).  In this program, you coteach for a full school year and attend seminars every Friday.  At the end of the program you get your Colorado teaching license and 18 graduate credits. You have the option to continue your Masters at the University of Denver at a reduced tuition rate. I feel this is a good opportunity for me to apply for. I love to travel and go on adventures, but I need somewhere to call home. I need to feel connected to the community that I’m living in, and I don’t feel that in Maryland. Yes, most of my family is in Maryland, but I don’t think I would be happy if I stayed here. I hope to spend as much time with them over the next year.  I talk to Dixie about once a week now, and it is great having someone from the trail to talk to. I think many of us are still lost in life, but have also gained so much from the trail. I will also be biking with Rebel Yell and Mountain Goat next week on the C&O Canal Towpath. It will be great to catch up with them, and I will have a chance to test out the Burley trailer with the dogs. I’m hoping it won’t be too hot.

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Sunrise at Sandy Point State Park

Adventure through New England

I thought I had missed this post, but I realized this trip happened after I took Jake and Ellen down to the AT, visited the Sprague family in Wilmington, and rode 180 miles on the C&O Canal. During this time, I received an offer to work as a park naturalist at a MD state park, and after much debate I decided to accept. I was sad to leave my mountain home in Vermont, but thought this opportunity would be a smart career move. Fortunately, this move was much easier due to my good friend Dora at my side!

I decided to accept the position when I was visiting the Sprague family in Wilmington and Dora came up with a wonderful idea. She would help me move and we could adventure through New England afterwards. This was perfect since I didn’t get a chance to hike too much over the winter. Over the next two weeks we made plans to visit the White Mountains and Southern Maine.

On our way north, we stopped in Pennsylvania to visit a dear trail friend of mine, Rebel Yell. We ate at a family style diner called “Funcks” and updated each other on our lives and plans for the future. Of course we both have big adventures planned in the next few years. It was awesome to connect with part of my trail family again and was a great start to my transition of moving back to MD.

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Me, Rebel Yell, and Dora

When we arrived in Vermont later that evening, we had a great suprise! About 5 miles from my house we saw a young moose crossing the road. What a treat and good omen to start our trip.
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We efficiently crammed everything into the back of Dora’s SUV, and I contemplated how I managed to fit it all in my Jetta. We stopped by the Townshend Country Store for breakfast sandwiches and so I could check my mail one last time.
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After a tearful goodbye and “peeling the bandaid off slowly” as Dora stated, we headed up to the White Mountains of New Hampshire. We stayed in an old house near mirror lake (perfectly named).
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We decided to do some day hiking in the whites over the next two days and hiked Frankenstein Cliffs to Arethusa Falls.

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Being silly...cliffs in background

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Lonesome lake was another hike on our stop and the dogs even braved it in the rain. It was awesome going up to the hut and reading the trail logs from last year.
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After a few days we continued our road trip up to Bethel, Maine and stayed in a cute cabin.
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I was in love with this cabin, but a little sketched out and scared of the gas powered everything lol. We had a little incident with the water heater spewing gas, but we quickly solved the problem and let the cabin air out. I remember it being so dark at night when we turned all the lights off that we couldn’t even see our hands in front of our faces.

We hiked up Baldpate Mountain, and the dogs had a little trouble with this one. I was quickly reminded of the tough terrain in southern Maine. It was a lot of passing chihuahuas around boulders to make it up to the lookout. It was well worth it!
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I am so thankful Dora and I got to visit the Whites and Southern Maine. It allowed me to take in the beauty and appreciate it with a different perspective. I was not worried about how many miles I’d get in that day or where I was going to camp or resupply or thinking about how exhausted I was. I was able to be in the moment and I loved every minute of it! Thank you Dora for planning and taking me on this wonderful adventure. I love you and will see you soon : )

The 180 Mile Driveway

I supposed after driving 3/4 of the east coast, the remedy is to hop on a bike for 180 miles…at least that’s what I did. After spending a night out on the Appalachian Trail with Jake and Ellen, I was looking forward to another overnight adventure. I’m not much of a cyclist, but I had the motivation and a great partner by my side. Luke and I talked about riding the bike trail on the C&O Canal Towpath from Cumberland to D.C. a few months ago. What I love is when talking turns into doing, and somehow we made it happen! Luke was a champ at planning the trip and I take no credit there. Of course there were several things that were against us from the beginning. We were traveling to Cumberland by Amtrack, and before that by metro. Oh and did I mention we had 2 bikes with full gear and 17 lbs of Chihuahua. You didn’t think I’d leave Pebbles and Boots out of this adventure did you?

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Test 1

We rode our bikes from Luke’s house in Greenbelt to the metro station a few blocks away. The tricky part was that we had to have a carrier for each dog riding on Amtrack, but we really didn’t want the carriers after we got to Cumberland. It’d be extra weight and take up space on the bike. We decided to use a mesh carrier for Boots, and Pebbles rode in the plastic crate. In order to fit the plastic crate on the bike, we had to turn it right side up and fit it into the milk crate that the dogs would be riding in on the trip. Boots did great in the mesh carrier, as long as his head could poke out.

I never realized how much I’d be sweating during the transition from 2 metro trains, to union station, and finally onto amtrack. It was quite the experience lugging fully loaded bikes and 2 chihuahuas through all those hoops. Locating the elevators, handicap access, and maneuvering through rush hour crowds was a workout! I remember having to push my way out of a metro train as crowds were pouring in. I was afraid the doors would close and we’d miss our stop.

Someone we made it…to Cumberland lol. The amtrack staff was wonderful and no one gave me a hard time about the dogs. One person asked if I’d drugged the dogs because they were behaving so well. We got to Cumberland around 730 and rode our bikes to the hostel we were staying at…which used to be an old synagogue.

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The start


The next morning we loaded up our bikes, stopped by McDonald’s for breakfast, and bought groceries. We made the mistake of feeding the dogs some of our breakfast. This later resulted into Boots jumping out of the crate because he had to use the bathroom so bad. We quickly learned to let them out every time we stopped just in case they had to go.

The first day was full of adventure. We saw a black bear, hundreds of turtles, deer, beavers, birds, and snakes. We made it about 30 miles in and I got a flat tire. Luke changed it and we continued on.

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So many turtles

The next morning we rode to town and stopped at the bike shop to get another spare tube since we used mine up, and we bought a new tire. Luke was worried about how mine was looking, and as soon as we left the bike shop I heard a thump thump thump as I pedaled along. There was a huge bulge on my tire. Good thing we had a new one to put on and this happened in town. We got breakfast, resuppied some more, and had a late start of 11 am on the trail. I was very worried about finishing the trail in time. We had 3 days to complete 180 miles, and I was a beginner cyclist.
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We were able to get in around 56 miles that day and camped near Shepardstown that night. The next day we had 70 miles to do…our last day. I’d been having some knee pain, but we pushed through and finished around 8pm that night. At the finish we met a gentleman who rode on the same train as us, but did twice as much lol. He had biked from Pittsburgh to D.C.! We were still very proud of our accomplishment.

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The finish

I have not officially announced anything, but I am in the beginning stages of planning a touring trip next year. My goal is to bike the Trans American Trail which goes from coast to coast. It would take around 4 months and I am very excited about planning and training for this. The best part…the dogs will come! That’s right I’ll be getting a trailer for them so they can enjoy every minute alongside me (well behind me). More on this as planning progresses, but in the meantime here are some other pictures from our trip on the C&O Canal.

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Pebbles getting exercise

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Pebs waiting for Luke

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Not sure about the water

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Paw Paw Tunnel

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Water source

Wilmington, NC

I had now driven from Vermont to Pennsylvania, and ended up in the mountains of Georgia. I successfully dropped Jake and Ellen off on the Appalachian Trail, camped a night with them, and by the grace of God (and two wonderful strangers) made it back to my car. My next stop was Wilmington, NC to visit the Sprague family! Yes, I was literally going from the mountains to the sea that day.

After arriving at my car around 1230pm, I was estatic when Google maps told me my drive was estimated to be under 7 hours. I had expected an 8-9 hour drive and boy was I happy when I saw the number 6 pop up on my screen. I drove the rest of the day and was able to make it before Boyd went to bed that evening. Now many of you are probably wondering who I’m talking about. I met the Sprague family about 5 years ago on a babysitting website. I was interviewed to watch their 18 month old son Boyd. Little did I know that when I decided to take that job that I’d be meeting my second family.

I arrived in the evening to a very excited Boyd that ran up to my car and past me clearly looking for Pebbles and Boots lol. After working with children for years now, I have learned not to take these occurrences to heart. I gave him a hug and released the hounds! After he went to bed, Dora and I got to work. We were planning some activities to do with Boyd’s class the next day.

We decided to do a lesson on the soil cycle and of course you can’t do that without live worms. The kids loved it! I enjoyed being back in my teaching element and seeing the excitement and natural curiosity of the children. In the afternoon we made birdhouses out of pinecones.

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Rolling pinecones in the seed

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Worms!

The next few days consisted of water balloon fights, playing at the beach, a soccer game, The Jungle Book, a campfire, and genuinely enjoying time together. I am so thankful to have Dora, Nathan, and Boyd in my life.
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Practicing yoga

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The Approach Trail…Again!

It’s a rainy dreary day here in Southern Maryland, which means the perfect day to blog! I’ve been wanting to post a few things, first being my trip down to Amicalola Falls State Park.  I drove my two dear friends, Jake and Ellen, down to the start of the Appalachian Trail so they could begin their thru hike. Driving down to Georgia brought back so many memories of the trail. We drove parallel to the trail for parts of our drive and thus passed through several trail towns I hiked through or passed. We made a stop in Asheville, NC to see a hiker friend of mine, Sunshine. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a hold of her a few hours before we’d be there but she had given me her address so we decided to stop by and see if she was home…she wasn’t lol. However, we did get to meet her roommates and they were very welcoming and let us use the restroom. We learned that Sunshine was at work and would be home later so we drove around town and found a beer and burger special at a local restaurant. Finally during dinner, she had contacted me and we met up for an hour or so and she also met us for a fancy hotel complimentary breakfast the next morning. It was great to see her!

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We left town around 10 am and continued towards the trail. We arrived at Amicalola around 2 ish and hit the trail officially around 250.

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Jake and Ellen

As I walked under the arch for the second time, I had flashbacks of what my experience was like the year before. Freezing cold temperatures, a 40lb pack, and being alone. This time it was warm and sunny, my pack was 23lbs, and I had company and my two dogs with me. Pebbles and Boots were having a great time until we hit the first stair on the trail to go up to the waterfall. I looked at the steps and looked at them and thought…shit they aren’t going to go up them, I’ll have to carry them. So I did. I carried an extra 20 lbs of Chihuahuas up 600 metal stairs.

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Amicalola Falls

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Top of Falls

We took our time and made it to Black Gap Shelter, about 7.5 miles in on the Approach Trail. Originally we wanted to get to Springer Mt. Shelter, but our late start and decreasing daylight led us to the decision to stop early. I wasn’t complaining! I had forgotten how hard this was lol. I was tired and ready to relax. It was a very humbling 7 miles that reminded me it’s still difficult.

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Jake and Boots

The next morning, I left camp early and headed out to Springer with Pebbles and Boots. I was sad to say goodbye to my friends and wished I could stay on the trail with them. I had to get back to my car at Amicalola and thought it would be an easy hitch from Springer Mt. parking lot. I was wrong. My poor research and lack of planning left me scrambling for a ride back to my car. I didn’t realize it took almost an hour to get back to the park by car. When I got to the parking lot there was a couple who were going up to Springer and they mentioned if I was still there when they returned, maybe they could help me. With limited service and after several dropped phone calls, I found a shuttle that would be there by 130pm. It was about 930 am and I still had planned to drive to Wilmington, NC that day to visit the Sprague family. All I could do is sit under a tree, enjoy the sunshine, and be aware that this was going to be a long day. Thankfully the couple came back and agreed to take me down to the highway and I could hitch from there. They were on their way to visit their son in Mobile, AL and were traveling in a van that had all their camping gear in it. We had great conversation and I’d learned they do their travels in this van and have been hitting the high peaks in all the states. I believe they’d gotten about 45 of them, but due to altitude sickness, they are not sure if they will finish. I could sense the disappointment when they talked about this, but I was so amazed and excited to hear about what they had already accomplished! It turned out when we got to the highway, her husband made a left instead of a right where they planned to go. She said, “I knew you were taking her the whole way when she got in.” I tried to stop him knowing this was way out of their way, but we just continued our great conversation and before I knew it we were back at my car. I believe we got there around noon. I thanked them and gave them both hugs. Awesome people and wonderful trail angels!

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Steve and Gizzy

I was thankful to be apart of Jake and Ellen’s first steps of their journey. I spoke with Ellen yesterday, and it sounds like they are doing well. Ellen is now known as “Padfoot” and Jake is “Hoot.” They’ve made it to Franklin, NC and are hiking with two of the same people that were camped with us on the first night. I wish them well and can’t wait to hike with them as they get further North. Good Luck!

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Family photo on Springer

Next post will be about my trip to Wilmington, NC and after that I’d like to talk about my 184 mi bike ride I completed on the C&O Canal Towpath!

Stranded

What a perfect time to blog…when I’m stranded outside of Dean & DeLuca in Georgetown. Let me explain…

Luke and I decided to take Pebbles and Boots on a bike ride today on the Capital Crescent Trail. We biked from Bethesda to Georgetown and as soon as we got off the bikes in Georgetown, something on Luke’s bike snapped. Apparently it has happened once before and is not a quick fix. We decided to grab some food while brainstorming what to do next. We found this heated outdoor patio outside of Dean & DeLuca which seems to be a high end grocery store with made to order food. I grabbed some sushi and Luke had a sandwich made. He decided to bike back to the car on my bike, and is coming back to pick me up. So here I am, occupying a table with two Chihuahuas on my lap watching the people go by. 

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This adventure deserves a Georgetown Cupcake : )

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The Unknown

The “unknown” is probably one of the scariest things in life we face. Not knowing how things are going to work out or if they’re going to work out can be terrifying…or exciting! It all depends on perspective. I’m only 27, but I’ve experienced a lot of change in my life. There have been times I’ve been terrified by change and there have been times I’ve been excited. However, I’ve come to learn that no matter what change comes your way, the end result is the same…life goes on.

I remember when Jarret and I moved down to South Carolina, I was so excited, but once we pulled in the neighborhood, I started crying. He asked what was wrong, and I told him I was sad and scared because I was so far from family and friends. It was a new experience for me. I had never moved somewhere I knew nobody. Of course I was fine, and I met people, and Beaufort soon became my home. However, those few seconds of crying were due to the unknown. I didn’t know what I was going to do for work. I didn’t know if I’d like the area. I didn’t know where we were going to live. I didn’t know if I’d make friends. It was all so scary to me.

Since then, I’ve moved on my own several times. The mountains of South Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and now Vermont are some of the few. Not to mention living in the woods for 6 months, that was full of the unknown.

I find myself scared again. I don’t know what I’m doing after Stratton. I know what I’d like to do, and the direction I’d like my career to take, but I don’t know how I’m going to get there. For some reason god decided to bless me with the worry gene, and it can be a good thing or it can be debilitating. Too much worry can prevent you from living the life you want. I struggle to keep it in balance, but I am thankful it is the only health issue I deal with.

The major conflict I have is wanting to live closer to family, and obtaining a career in outdoor education. There is some opportunity around Maryland, but I’m not sure there is room to grow here. There is plenty of opportunity out west around Utah, Colorado, California, Oregon, and Washington. However, I’m scared to make a move like that on my own, and am I being overly selfish by considering it?

I’m ready to settle down somewhere for awhile. Seasonal work is fun, but I’m always looking for the next thing. I’m ready to have a home base again and feel that sense of community. Although the unknown can be scary, it sure makes life interesting!

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Webster Cliffs