Thursday, May 23, 2019


Oh, what can I say?  I have been very deep in the process of moving, helping the children through the end of their school year, and finishing up the details of a wedding that is day after tomorrow.  Oh, and working three jobs.  I am ready for things to calm down!  After so many years of a very slow lifestyle, this has been a challenging nine months!

I was talking to an old friend yesterday about thresholds, and crossing them.  It seems to me, with my limited view, that we women have quite a number of them in our lives.  Womanhood, mothering, loss, new life, shifting seasons.  I have come to see that moving through those places almost always results in something better, newer versions of our older selves.  I had a moment of panic last week, knowing that things are about to change forever.

I had one of those before my first date with Bill, too.  It was as though I knew I was standing on the edge of something very big.  I took the children up to the Snail Place and we watched the sunset, me knowing it was the last time it would be just the four of us.  We stood there and really soaked it in, and the next day, I was on another mountaintop beside someone new, experiencing all kinds of new feelings.  It was a threshold, a crossroads, and I stepped into a new season of life that has brought us all such joy.

And so I'm getting ready to do all that again, stepping over another crack in a rock, and taking Bill's hand to do it.  I've moved East, the place of the future, and I'm walking new roads.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Always Waterfalls

Spurred on by a photo of a frozen waterfall, my accidental hobby of the summer became chasing them.  Nothing thrilled me more than to feel the spray, put my feet in the water, and enjoy the beauty.  Water was my primary form of therapy, and pairing it with hiking was the best combination.  Any chance I had, I planned a hike with a stream.  Looking back, I have always loved waterfalls.  Our area has plenty of them. 

On one magnificent day, we visited three!  The children still talk about it and ask to go back.  It's in my plans for this year.  The first was Tank Hollow Falls, which was very easy to access from the small town of Cleveland, Virginia.  There was practically no hike to it, which makes it a great spot to take folks who are not able to walk a long way.  We followed a longer trail up the hillside and through the woods before coming back down for our lunch.  The drive through the country was pleasant, too, even with all the times I got lost and drove around in circles. 

Next up was the Upper Falls of Little Stony.  I love this spot, and it had been twelve or so years since I'd last seen it.  It's down a forest service road outside of Coeburn, Virginia, and is a fairly easy walk.  This trail has several waterfalls, but we stuck with the top one.  The trail was marked as being washed out in several places, due to all the rain.  One waterfall was plenty!

The children and I spent a long time here, enjoying the stony pool, and watching some sisters swim in the water.  We walked behind the falls, which really thrilled them.  They asked to come back the next day as we were walking back to the trailhead.  I don't know when we had been so happy, before that day.

Lastly, we viewed Garrett Creek Falls from the car, but it was on private land.  It was huge, but I didn't get a good photo.  I'll have to drive by it again with my zoom lens!  Until next week, I wish you all well! 

Friday, April 26, 2019

High on the Mountain, Wind Blowing Free

Last Thursday, Bill and I had engagement pictures taken by Alison Little.  It was spur of the moment, but I'm so glad we did it.  I had agreed to be a model for her explorations of depression and anxiety, so she offered to take some photos of the two of us.  What a treat! 

We met up on Whitetop, our state's second highest peak, and her favorite place.  The wind was blowing wildly and fitfully, but it was so much fun.  This metal map needs its own post, but suffice it to say that it has Whitetop and Elk Garden, my favorite places.  Bill made it very early on, and it is a map to my heart.  He's a machinist, and this is his masterpiece.

I am SO giggly, have been for well over a year now, and SO self-aware, but Alison did such a wonderful job capturing the two introverts that we are.  Cameras make us both want to hide, as much as we enjoy taking pictures.  These are probably the first pictures of myself that I have truly loved.

See?  I'm not hiding!  It makes me smile so widely to think of it all!

This picture might be one of my favorites.  I feel so safe and so loved.  It is beyond anything I could have imagined for myself.  My children are so happy and loved, too.  All the years of loneliness and longing have melted away and make sense now.  I had to walk that trail so I could get here, and I am so excited to see what is ahead.  I am old enough to know that life doesn't get any easier, but it surely is sweeter these days.

Friday, April 19, 2019


Last June, I walked to Rowlands Creek Falls again.  I had been there with the children the year before, and it sparked so many memories and reflections in those early Autumn days.  For weeks, my dreams took me to other places and times, and then mixed them up.  The past became my future, and I wondered how that could ever be.  It filled my drifting mind and showed me small glimmers of hope.  This hike was a chance to consider all of that again.

I was looking for the elusive bottom of the falls, as they are 150' long.  I had various attempts at bushwhacking, all fruitless and a little precarious.  Did they stretch the hillside and make it steeper scrambling back up?  All the same, I did carefully make my way down to enjoy it all.  I had wonderful empowering revelations along the way, chances to consider the new life before me and marvel at it all.  Joy mixed with pain, as a fair part of the Summer was.  I was so anxious to see what was ahead.  Optimism and caution wrestled back and forth. 

Standing in Rowlands Creek, my beloved sandals gave out.  It wasn't too bad--they were still able to make the walk in one piece.  But, retirement was swift.  As good as I am at getting rid of things, I put these in my archives, a memorial to many adventures.  It was almost a moment of jubilation, and I laughed at myself.  So much laughter in the months to follow.  After fifteen years, a new chapter was beginning.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Long Under Grass

No, no, there is no going back.
Less and less you are
that possibility you were.
More and more you have become
those lives and deaths
that have belonged to you.
You have become a sort of grave
containing much that was
and is no more in time, beloved
then, now, and always.
And so you have become a sort of tree
standing over a grave.
Now more than ever you can be
generous toward each day
that comes, young, to disappear
forever, and yet remain
unaging in the mind.
Every day you have less reason
not to give yourself away.

~Wendell Berry

After I stepped away from this space, I walked mile after mile, both behind a mower and on the trails that link our forests and streams.  Old friendships were rekindled, and new ones were forged.  Some of you, if you are still here, followed me on Instagram and saw the wonderful waterfalls and wide vistas.  I stood in countless streams, full of longing and doing some hard inner work that helped me to grow so very much.  It was a summer that I knew would never come again.

I completed the 52 hikes in record time, about six months after I began, and have kept going toward 100.  There were no repeats on any of the hikes, and I revisited some places I had not been in fifteen years.  One hike included 600 stairs, while others required climbing boulders down to see waterfalls.  A couple were easy.  I lost twenty pounds and gained a lot of grit.  I did a lot of looking back as I found my way forward.

On hike 33, I met the man that I am marrying in six weeks.  That was on the Endless Wall Trail above the New River Gorge.  I asked him to take my hand as I stepped over a precarious crack in a big rock.  Something in my heart never wanted to be away from him, and we have been practically inseparable ever since.  Our first date was hike 35 and Bill told me he loved me on hike 37.  He proposed at the Snail Place on a snowy evening in late January.

It has been a year of miracles, nothing else.  I cannot tell you how full of wonder the whole experience has been.  My faith that was lukewarm has been renewed, and I can say that God hears our deepest longings, even when we think we're the only ones.  There have been plenty of challenges, as life never stops, but the way has been easier to bear than it ever has.  I tried my best to go into it all with my heart and eyes open, and I have been richly blessed.  My children have found someone with whom their hearts are safe.

It feels like many things have come to fruition that were decades in the making.  National Forests and public lands have figured heavily into my story.  The renewed love of place that I experienced a few years ago has grown stronger.  I hope to share some stories of my hikes in this space, even as I am in the throes of moving, wedding planning, and work transitions.  A little quiet time each morning to write and reflect is still so nourishing to me, and our memories fade so quickly.

I hope to see you all soon!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Standing in a Stream

It feels right to take a little blogging break and throw myself into now.  I've never done that!  If you're looking for me, I'll probably be standing in a stream somewhere.  You can keep up with my 52 hikes on Instagram.  Happy Endless Summer!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Come Away to the Water

Come away little lass, come away to the water. . .

The rain is so, so rainy.  I don't think there are other words.  I met a thru-hiker yesterday who told me that even his food was wet.  He asked me about the weather.  I said, "Well, it's supposed to be good on Sunday."  "It's only Wednesday," he said.  Poor guy.  I know he got a ride to a shuttle, and from there?   I wonder if the rain hasn't driven a number of AT hikers off with its unrelenting presence.

Us, without tents and sleeping bags, we have kept on keeping on.  None of us seem to really care that it rains.  The children were thrilled to sit by the foggy valley and eat their sandwiches.  We were at Grayson Highlands State Park, after all, and there was the promise of ponies and waterfalls.  Seems the ponies must have escaped, or someone left the gate open. . .

We had our sights set on Cabin Creek Falls, and this was the perfect day for it.  Every day has a little bit of perfect in it, if you look for it.  Sometimes, you have to look backwards to see it.  Anyway, this trail had "several stream crossings" which turned out to be most of the trail.  We dodged the terrible rain that has flooded Western NC, but we've still been plenty wet.

And here are the falls.  With my zoom lens, I can't do a whole lot, but you can see other photos here on my instagram.  They are about 25' high, and there are cascades that go on for some time, which is really breath-taking in person.  It was gorgeous.  As always, there was a wet rock to sit on and take in the view.  I always take great care, too, to stress to the children how very dangerous waterfalls are.  Nature school, you know, awe with an ounce of caution.

This was the trail leading from the falls along the Cabin Creek loop.  It was either sheer rock face or a set of tree root stairs.  The trail became even more rocky and boulder-ly for a bit longer.  I told Roan I expected goblins or trolls to come out of the rocks at any time, just like in The Hobbit.  Soon enough, we began a gentle climb back to the meadow and the ponies at Massey Gap.

Here's a little sticker I got in the mail.  I'm doing a 52 Hike Challenge for 2018, invited by Stacey.  I'm up to nine, starting at the end of April as it was convenient.  I seem to average 2-3 hikes a week right now, so I'm not too worried about meeting my goal by the end of the year.  Hiking and walking feed my soul right now, and I work in some every single day, rain or shine.  I told Willow that hiking would be a great treasure for her some day, and I hope that prediction comes true.  The land has so much to teach us.

Monday, May 28, 2018

High on a Mountain

Clouds so swift,
The rain's pouring in . . .

~"You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" :: Bob Dylan

Despite a dismal forecast, I hauled us up to Whitetop for our own little holiday.  It was raining, and had been raining, but the air cleared as we sat in the car having some cake.  Traipsing through wet grass and huge puddles (moats?), we watched a gentle breeze send the fog away.

See?  It was so lovely!  There was no chill in the air at all, though I don't guess I could have felt it through the sweater and raincoat.  We met up with some guys who were old high school buddies, reuniting on Whitetop after forty years.  They loved Roan's stories of knives, cap guns, vintage toys, and obscure mining history.

It was such a good day to be up there. Everyone we met was in high spirits, perhaps because the weather had turned so swiftly. That is the way of it in the High Country. It's hard to make firm guesses about conditions, but I think that is part of the fun, if you are ready for it. 


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Nature School :: His Place

This little smiley fellow rode up those old, steep, ever-shrinking roads to see his mountain yesterday.  Six years have passed since this first photo, but he still just as quick to give a grin.

We had in mind to experience something beyond the rhododendron gardens, which was a good thing.  They were closed!  We walked up the Appalachian Trail into the spruce-fir forest over some very interesting trail construction.  It's obvious erosion and foot traffic are big issues in the sensitive habitat.

We ate lunch with baby trees, of course, on a mostly wet rock.  The bigger trees are alive, but their growth is at the top.  It is a comfort to see the future at their feet.

Coming out of the woods, we set our sights on Round Bald, which is across the road from the saddle called Carver's Gap where everyone parks.  I couldn't pass up this photo of Roan.  We gave a couple dollars to keep his (and your) mountain beautiful before we climbed the hill.

Sitting on a big rock, which must be The Place, we took in all the views.  Roan High Knob sits to the right there, not quite in the photo.  The road curving upward leads to the Rhododendron Gardens and the former site of the Cloudland Hotel.  Many things hinge on Memorial Day around these parts, so we were just a little too early.

My dad says that flying over our area in a plane helps you to see how sparsely populated it really is.  Views like this do that, too, I think.  I need all the big views I can get these days. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Rivers and Streams

With the lark in the morning
And the dew upon the dawn
Well, a-home we came a crawling
With our sickness and our song

~"McCormack's Wall" :: Glen Hansard 

Most mornings, I take a walk to my special places right outside my door.  I walk through the wet grass to the fruit trees, remembering and dreaming.  Music has been my nearly constant companion, and I do often carry my phone with Spotify playing (yes! I have a phone now!).  If Glen Hansard has had anything to do with it, I've been listening to what he's had to sing.  At least one of them even became prophetic for me.  I first learned of him when NPR covered the excitement around Once back in 2007.  The songs drifted in and out, but they were always there in the background.  I guess songs that stare hard feelings in the eyes are the kind of soundtrack I need right now. 

I don't know what I am trying to say here, what I am trying to filter out or include.  There is no sadness in leaving an awful marriage.  There is sadness in cleaning up what is left over, in starting again after such a long time.  I get told how brave I am, and I think that I had no other choice.  There was no one else to do it.  I am weary.  I have become more social, more pro-active, tougher.  I have felt that I needed to be purposeful in my actions, since life felt more like things that happened to me, rather than I things I chose.  That has had mixed results, of course, as putting ourselves out there opens us up to risks.  All the same, it is good to take them.  I'd hate for my life to pass and think that I had not tried.

I guess I am still waiting for the next step to find me, even though I have taken so many steps into the future.  There's a song for that, of course.