Trekking Poles: Are They Right for You?

My intention was to get to Eisenhower State Park at sunrise to test my new Leki trekking poles, but I assumed that I couldn’t access the trailhead after looking up what time the office opened that morning the night before. Turns out you can go to the park any time and make a stop by the honor box on your way in. So, I didn’t get started until too late in the morning of a very hot Texas summer day.

I had hiked a small portion of Eisenhower’s trail many times, but never covered all of the 7 miles… which became almost 8 because there’s one section where they leave you hanging on which way to go and I detoured for a refreshing swim. I tried to recall what I had seen in the video I watched about proper form when using trekking poles.  I’m used to using ski poles and that’s what they felt like, minus the snow.  Once the awkwardness diminished, I felt a shift in my whole body energy and knew I’d found the sweet spot.

They really helped me truck up hills and confidently descend.

Reasons I selected these poles:

  • Lighter than the other poles I picked up on that aisle and similar in price. Having not done much research on them, I had no idea what exactly I needed in trekking poles, so I aimed for something in the mid range price area.
  • Comfortable hand grip
  • The lucky REI Employee attending clueless me said, “these are a popular choice.”

Later I read an article that says cork prevents the poles from absorbing and later releasing the hiker stank. I had dismissed purchasing a pair thinking the grip wasn’t as comfortable as the foam ones I chose. Hm. Shoo!

  • The collapsible length isn’t too bad (25.2 in.)
  • They felt comfortable in my hands and adjusted to the right height for my body type.
  • I’ve heard they make a good weapon against bears. Well, a good deterrent. You’re supposed to wave your arms and make noise to repel them. Not sure how one would work as a sword if you’re brave or unlucky enough to get that close. Also, I like to use them to move any growth covering the trail aside so that I will either spook any snakes off or at least see them sooner to have time to react.

The locking mechanism came loose once during the hike and the pole slipped to a shorter height. It was on flat terrain thank goodness or my clumsy butt may have sprained an ankle. Not sure if the locking mechanism is faulty or if I didn’t have the screw tightened enough. I’ll give them one more chance to test it out.

It’s difficult to judge the effectiveness of these particular poles due to being my first poles ever and especially, wearing an incorrect backpack. However, I went more miles before getting fatigued than my previous hike where I barely made it 4.  I’ve finally ordered a daypack that fits well and hopefully alleviates the shoulder pain and fatigue. As soon as it arrives, I’ll need to beat 8 miles.

I recommend poles to anyone a bit clumsy like me and/or need to lessen the wear on their knees. It seems they lessened my fatigue as I was able to hike almost 8 miles instead of 4 without them. Both days were really hot and I wore the same shoes and bad pack.

Here’s a quick but informative video from REI about choosing the right trekking poles for you…

 

The 10 Essentials: Boost Your Chances of Survival if you get Lost in the Woods

Beginners Hiking 101. Do YOU carry the 10 essentials that Search and Rescue Foundations Recommend?

Could you safely spend a night (or more) in the woods if you happened to get lost on a day hike? You could if you’ve packed the 10 essentials. Compiled by the Historic Mountaineers (they founded REI) back in the 30’s, it’s a list that is taught and shared often by reputable outdoors and rescue foundations. Survival to the most prepared.

“DID YOU KNOW…  Each year, more than 400 recreational outdoor enthusiasts are reported missing or injured in the State of Oregon? The worst thing you can do is assume that it won’t happen to you.”  ~ Deschutes County Search and Rescue Foundation. Not sure what the numbers are in north Texas, but the dangers are just the same… minus the bears and high altitudes.

I’ve always been an overpacker. I don’t see it as a weakness. I see it as being prepared. But you kind of can’t overpack… well, you CAN if your back can take all the weight on a hike! Not to be confused with 10 items, the 10 Essentials are what will keep you safe, warm and alive… because in hiking, anything can happen and anything will happen. Adjust your items according to season, area climates and what you can carry. REI offers a fabulous (and FREE!) Lightweight Backpacking course where they also discuss the 10 essentials… this list is highly honored.

1  Navigation. Because technology can fail, a map (preferably covered to protect it from the rain) and compass are your best bets. If you’re hiking at a State Park, grab a trail map at the visitors center or where you check in. REI offers a hands-on class to learn the old-fashioned find your way.  When you’re in the woods, could you find your way back without a compass? Knowing where you’re going before you ever set out will help with that internal compass… do your research! And tell someone where you’re going and when you should be back.

If you prefer the cellphone GPS route, will you be able to charge your phone battery when it dies? Backpacks are made to house solar charging panels which is cool, but then you must consider how the sun will reach the panel long enough to charge it to be able to charge your phone. There’s also the portable chargers that require an outlet to charge and for day hikes, they’re perfect and would perhaps get your phone through the night possibly into some of the next day finding your way back if you use your phone battery wisely. Turn on the low power mode function (I turn it on when beginning a hike) and leave the Stories and Snapchat alone until safety!

Here’s some great apps…

  • Garmin Earthmate: $29.95/year for downloadable topographic maps and unlimited cloud storage for them. Also unlimited route planning. Available for iOS and Android.
  • AllTrails: This one is nice (and free, unless you want to download topo and terrain maps) for finding trails near you. You can favorite the ones you love and record any to add to the 50,000+ trails already on the app. You can also add photos while on the trail, write and read reviews, and get driving directions there!
  • Hiking Project: REI also has an app that works even if you have no signal. This one also allows you to record trails. You photography buffs will love the website for the amazing photos and videos.

2  Sun Protection.

  • Cute hats/baseball caps are always in style!
  • Clothing is also available with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF).  Fashionable high tech sun protection!
  • The expert recommended sunscreen for the outdoorsy types is SPF 30. Don’t forget to apply behind your ears, the tops of your ears, backs of hands and up into your hairline a bit. Lip balm is also something I use faithfully.
  • And sunglasses. REI sells them with a 100% block of  UVA and UVB rays. Consider wraparound for protecting the corners of your eyes from not only sun, but wind.

3  Insulation. Weather changes happen. Know what potential changes could happen where you’re going… Check the weather. According to the Mountaineers, “Extra clothing should be selected according to the season. Ask this question: What is needed to survive the worst conditions that could realistically be encountered on this trip?”

  • Carrying a beanie or a Buff is highly recommended by the experts for head and/or neck warmth and they take up very little room in your pack. This one item packs a powerful warmth punch if it gets cold on you. May as well just leave in in your pack permanently.

  • Layer up for the cold.  Extra clothing items should be chosen according to where you’re going… such as extra socks and a synthetic jacket or vest.
  • Your lungs isn’t the only thing that needs fresh air for good health! Experts recommend ExOfficio and Patagonia underwear.
  • Merino Wool is a technical fabric that helps keep you dry, controls odors and body temperature. It is recommended for socks and leggings.  Base Layer tops also come in Merino wool.
  • DO NOT WEAR COTTON! That warning is in capital letters on a Search and Rescue Foundation’s site… so weigh that.
  • At least 1 extra pair of socks… 3 pairs for a thru-hike. One pair to sleep in and the other two to interchange on the trail. Recommended… SmartWool Outdoor Ph.d and Darn Tough Light Hiker
  • Rain Jacket or Poncho.
  • Gloves
  • Consider what shoes you will need. Will you be crossing streams to necessitate some sort of water shoes? Do you prefer boots that are heavier but have more ankle support? What would you do if they got wet? Or do you prefer more lightweight trail runners with less ankle support but break in easier and dry faster than boots? Vibram, Frixion or Conta-grip soles are recommended for rugged trails.

4  Illumination. Hands free, hands down… get a head lamp. One with a red light for night usage. Fear the wrath of a hiker who gets blinded by a head lamp in the dark. Another good reason… longer battery life than hand held flashlights. However, carry extra batteries and a bulb if your lamp is equipped with an incandescent bulb. Every person in the hiking party should carry their own light (and all other supplies… BYOS).

5  1st Aid Supplies. REI has pre-assembled kits so that you don’t have to buy everything separate. Of course, include any medications you are taking.

6  Fire. I carry a box of waterproof matches, a Bic and a small baggie of dryer lint. Or you can be fancy and buy a firestarter. But lint is lighter (or even Vaseline… doubles as a chafed skin soother) and takes up less space!

7  Repair Kit & Tools. I carry a Swiss Knife. It has many different shapes of blades, a pair scissors (sharp little boogers!), a cork ( for my bottle of wine celebration at the end lol,) a toothpick, and a tiny pair of tweezers. Think gear repairs, food prep, kindling making, opening that bag of trail mix that didn’t open on the perforation and has proven impossible to get even the tiniest tear going, or for getting beef jerky out of your teeth.  Also, wrap some fix-anything-duct-tape around your water bottle or trekking poles. The less you carry, the more room you make for other needed items (or luxury items such as a camera and journal).

8  Nutrition.  Pack at least an extra day’s worth of food. Since I really have to watch my sodium and sugar consumption, I’m considering purchasing a dehydrator to make my own dried fruits and whatever other foods I can dehydrate. If you go the freeze-dried route, you’re going to need extra water, stove and fuel. I always carry a few protein bars and some almonds and pepitas and dried fruit or trail mix.  200 calories per hour of hiking is recommended by the Deschutes County Search and Rescue Foundation.

9  Hydration.  1 liter of water = 2 lbs

According to the Deschutes County SAR, take at least 1 liter for short outings and at least 2.5 liters for all-day excursions. Remember that extra water will be needed for hot or cold weather, drink continuously during your outing. Don’t wait until you are dehydrated!”  So if you plan to do a day hike, you would need to expect to carry at least 5 lbs of water. Also, is there a water source along the way for refilling? I carry a filter. The Sawyer mini is recommended by REI and conveniently fits onto a Smart Water or a Fiji Bottle!

10  Shelter. It is not recommended to travel in the woods at night. Make camp before dark. Gather wood if needed and create a shelter. It would make you much more comfortable (and perhaps alive) to have protection from any potential rain and/or wind so you can get some good rest and be able to focus to get back home at sunup.  Even summertime’s in north Texas can produce chilly nights, and if you’re in shorts and a tank and have to hunker down for the night, it’s going to be a long one. The following are good options for protection from the elements.  Use your good judgement to choose which clothing and/or shelter items to pack.

I also carry a whistle (it’s part of my compass), a small bottle of bug spray and pepper spray because I’ve had too many aggressive dogs come after me or my rescue pup. What comfort items will/do you add to your pack?

Are you ready to go hiking?

Do you carry the 10 essentials with you on a Day Hike? Could you survive a night in the woods if you were to be stranded? Learn what the experts and Search and Rescue Foundations advise to carry with you at all times in the woods.

 

Preparation: How to Win at Hiking part 1

At Home in Nature

Isn’t it ironic that I drove 72 miles through Dallas traffic to take a hiking class? But REI has my heart with all their free classes and amazing knowledge and gear.  I am hungry to learn all the skills to do thru-hikes, so I registered for a Women’s Lightweight Backpacking Basics class.

Someone asked Liz, our Instructor, what her trail name is. She lowered her head, blushed a bit and smiled. She looked back up at the eagerly awaiting class and began the story behind “Trampy.” Apparently it has a less American trashy and more UK hike-y connotation, which is where the couple that gave her the nickname is from.

They considered her a beast, a force of nature on the trails, so… “Trampy.”

On the hour and a half drive home from Dallas, I daydreamed about who I will meet along the trails and who will give me a trail name and what will it be? Something cool I hope… like Flower Child Running or Super Woman. But it will probably be something like Klutzy Carrie or She-Who-Overpacks. After hearing all the places Liz has been… the PCT, the AT, the Mojave Desert, Big Bend… I thought hers should have been Mrs. President or Legend or something more dramatic than Trampy because what an inspiration she is!

I have to reign in my impatience, continue with classes at REI (more Dallas driving… ugh) and practice on day hikes until I’m ready. Part of that preparation is the need to change some habits like drinking more water, upping the endurance training, and getting fitted for and purchasing a proper backpack and the 10 Essentials to fill it with around 35 lbs. As much as I adore the pack gifted to me by my Aunt, it is not fit for my body type and is causing fatigue. Five miles a day on a thru-hike isn’t going to get me a cool trail name! Also my coffee drinking will have to be cut way back, which I hope I can get away with instead of totally quitting because it is something I enjoy VERY much. So I intend to start drinking the amount of water I’m supposed to be drinking daily (at least 1/2 of body weight on non-workout days) and having only a small cup when I wake up… AFTER a glass of water. And cleaner eating with less sodium. All least I think I need less sodium, not so sure after reading this article on trail nutrition.  I’m so grateful to have found it, because I’ve REALLY been struggling in that area because I hadn’t come across info on how to eat on the trail! So I’ll be off soon to try out the 50/35/15 fat/carb/protein ratio suggested by Brenda L Braaten and adjust accordingly. I may not need to alter my sodium intake, but I do need the endurance to earn that rockin’ trail name!

I hope it’s not “Princess something-or-other.” My need for “luxury items” such as toilet paper and deodorant and cameras and cute clothes for Instagram pictures and edible wild plants and medicinal herbs books is pretty strong. Liz told us all about how toilet paper is for poops not pees on the Trail and handed out dandy pee rags/bandannas to the class! Thanks REI! And I used to frown at my Mom’s resourcefulness of cut up old t-shirts for wiping! Shame on me. In my defense, I was a different person then.

But learning to pack light will be a minor inconvenience compared to the places and the magic I’ll experience.  And I DO always love a challenge!  I’ll gladly trade in changes of underwear for waterfalls and mountaintops and campfire gatherings with great folks.

I’m not leaving without my camera and leather-bound Journal though! What would you give up to be a Force of Nature? What could you not leave behind?

Are you ready to take a hike?

 

 

 

How to Create a Life You’re Proud Of

Armadillo Hill Trailhead - Eisenhower State Park

I never imagined that I was someone who could run a 5k or snow ski or kayak. Those were things other people did. People of a higher class… which included pretty much everyone as far as I knew. People that could run without stopping. Like it was a natural born ability, like Forest Gump. I never considered that skiing, running or paddling is a challenge to everyone of every class and race. I couldn’t see the forest because the trees were me… someone who operated most of my life in survival mode instead of enjoy life mode. Oh, I camped and took road trips to toobing or canoeing with family whenever possible, but my jobs had a stronghold on the frequency. Once, twice a year sometimes. Not enough to cure my anxiety. Growing up in the woods made me want more time in nature where I feel at home.

A few years ago, my cousin suggested that I start a Hiking Meetup Group because there’s some great trails in my area, but there wasn’t any active hiking groups.  Life got busy. Or maybe it was that I let myself slide and gained some fatigue and depression around the waist and imagined huffing and puffing up a hill on a trail.  So I forgot about it for a while until something showed me recently that I am good enough, I am strong enough, to strengthen my hiking abilities all the way to the Camino de Santiago.

Camp Gladiator paved the way to two 5k’s. Had a colleague not stayed on me to join Camp Gladiator, and had my stubborn pride not urged me to go back after having to leave the first workout I attended after 20 minutes, I would still be here staring at my vision board and dreaming of long, rewarding hikes and running across finish lines instead of actually doing it. But, where’s all the other outdoor adventure loving folks at?

Apparently Emily Downing has the same problem. “A common grievance I hear as the managing editor at  Outdoor Women’s Alliance is from women who don’t know where to find these adventurous ladies. Women are seeking community in the outdoors.” Which is why I started a hiking group.

I hope to help others get fit while connecting with nature and themselves.  Haley Littleton writes, “If we provide [others] with fearless and supportive communities, the possibilities are limitless. We nudge each other toward risk and failure, providing strategies and beta, and remind each other that we will be loved and accepted regardless of whether we are perfect. Sow bravery.” We light a path (pun intended) to vitality and vibrance. I want to teach those who are new to hiking and to learn from those who are experienced at it. I want us to laugh and sing out of tune while we huff and puff up a mountain.

Please join me on my midlife Journey of preparation to hiking the Camino de Santiago. 2020 is my goal. For now, I’ll be taking classes at REI and hiking as much as possible. My Facebook group is local, but I plan to hike in the surrounding states as well. The Pacific Northwest is calling to me, as is our National Parks. But one step at a time! First, to do more than 5-miles. I think I’ll start packing my nice leather-bound journal to refer to for intriguing blogging content. Here’s from the 5-mile I did at Cross Timbers…

 

I’m starting slow. Noooooo, it’s not because I’m 48, it’s because I’m progressing each time I go. I’m building onto the previous layer with experience and testing myself and equipment and how many miles per hour including stopping for a plethora of photo and video ops. Oh, and figuring out my GoPro… is it just mine, or is that thing a cantankerous devil?

So here’s what I learned from my 1st longish hike (5 miles) on the Cross Timbers…

 

  • Pack Off (or find effective alternative) and use it before entering the trailhead. Mosquitos and gnats were out but not too awful. I did get 2 ticks however.

 

  • Purchase a portable phone charger. I use my phone a LOT for tracking, photos, video and connecting to my GoPro so it came real close to dying! I turn on the battery saver feature which helps a lot though.

 

  • The up to 14% incline section from Juniper point to Cedar Bayou and back is comparable to a Camp Gladiator workout. Calves were sore for 2 days.

 

  • I drank almost 4 20-oz bottles so I’m taking 5 this time. Freeze 2 to keep others cold and refreshing. Research backpacking tents… can I strap one onto current backpack?

What is it that makes you feel alive? What steps are you going to take to design your life around that?

Creating a Life I Love
Trail Selfie

Follow me on Instagram

And Snapchat…

 

 

When Two Worlds Collide

Last year was a real bitch. Just before I was disowned by my Mom, it was necessary for my well-being to end the relationship with my best friend. I tried to talk about it with Mama.. because it hurt a lot… I loved her. But all Mama said was. “I didn’t like her.” She said this about most of my friends.  And she was right about most of them. But she never let on that she didn’t like me.

“Mama if I bring you a kitchen sink, would you have your carpenter friend install it,” I asked her on the phone when I was in the planning stages of visiting her last September.

“I don’t want a kitchen sink,” she replied.

I couldn’t comprehend why she prefers to do her dishes in a stainless steel bowl not large enough for a dinner plate so I asked why.

“I don’t want to have to deal with the plumbing.”

Ok. I can understand that. She does live alone and I agree, the less home maintenance, the better. And her dishwashing setup is kind of like a camping dishwashing setup, so no biggie.

Last year was the beginning of the reclaiming of little Carrie’s qualities of curiosity in everything, who asks questions to learn without judgement. I no longer want to find fault in my husband for cutting the potatoes to fry like potato chips instead of dicing them like I do. I long to see the world and experience every culture possible in my lifetime, so when Mama suggested I revisit the documentary on her homesteading lifestyle that I had abandoned years ago, I said yes. Mama’s a use-everything-leave-less-in-the-landfills kind of gal which is why she planned this trip with me, so I could use my photojournalism skills to share her knowledge. She even suggested when I should go… each seasonal solstice or equinox.

So I aimed to follow Mama around quietly with my iPhone and Nikon, watching and learning while trying to follow my own sticky note quote of “observe don’t absorb” at all Mama’s pokes about my technology “appendages”. I wanted to unlearn my habit of complaining, like stumping my toe a dozen times on her squatty potty because it seems very much in the way to me.  So I returned to my roots with the intention of becoming less critical while learning valuable survival skills that could be useful on my bucket list backpacking trips or an apocalypse. Mama knows what flowers and weeds you can and can’t eat, she knows how to live off the land. I wish she knew how much I admire that. I went to connect with her on a deeper level, but instead, quite the opposite happened.

Mama’s house snuggles right into a little valley in the Ozarks, it’s dark gray siding and metal roof almost blends right in amongst the trees that provide cooling in the summer and windbreak in the winter. Every evening, Mama walks to the top of a hill just to the north of the house to watch the sun set behind Grandma’s mountain. Not far off the back porch is the chicken pen where Randy the Rooster very vocally rules the roost. Mama lets him and the laying hens out every evening to roam the yard and eat fleas and ticks and weeds from around an old station wagon, a trampoline, Mama’s half a dozen or so raised gardens and the A–frame tiny house that we lived in while the main house was being built.

A-frame now.

The life I’ve created is quite different than the way Mama prefers to live. Her heart is in the mountains, in Arkansas where agriculture is more prominent than shopping centers, the opposite of where I live in Texas. Call me a contemporary flower child who wants a healthy balance of nature and commercialism. I’m someone who could happily live in a tiny house but would be grateful for a pizza delivery locale.

 

 

Day 1: Randy the Rooster crowed at 6 a.m. but I went back to sleep and dreamed someone said a pithy quote and I thought with delight, “That’s why I’m here!” But I forgot what they said.

After I had a little coffee in me, Mama grabbed a basket from her collection of a million baskets and we went into the backyard to gather greens to sauté and scramble in with our eggs; Clover leaf, Sour dock, Parsley, Lambs Quarters and Sweet Potato vine. I was so busy attempting to keep up with Mama while taking a photo of each plant, and labeling it I didn’t notice how many mosquitoes were biting me.  I used some of Mama’s Eucalyptus oil mixture to take the painful itch out and vowed to not go outside again without a heavy dose of Off.

The greens tasted kind of like spinach in my eggs. Not bad. Eating healthy is one thing we agree on.  We don’t agree on how to boil eggs. She likes the yolk runny and I tried to eat one, but I just couldn’t stomach it. Which is weird because I love over medium eggs with runny yolk. Anyway, I was grateful she had cooked the boiled eggs enough so that I could have some protein for our walk in the woods.  I sliced two and put them on top of my share of tomato toast… a cuisine my Grandma often cooked and I still love. Especially with homegrown tomatoes, which we had, yellow and red ones, from my cousin’s garden up the road. I put some of Mama’s freshly picked oregano on top and YUM.

Mowley the cool cat that looks like he’s wearing a tux always joins us for a walk in the woods. And Jenny too, Mama’s Blue Heeler that had one eye scratched to opaqueness by getting a little too feisty with a cat.  Mama lost the sprig of bee balm that she had picked somewhere along the way, intended for tea. I probably distracted her with my camera in her face. But the soft evening light was so beautiful, threading through the trees onto her.

 

Mama’s natural cooling system works pretty well. All windows are opened in hot weather and curtains are used for shading any sun coming through them. Cooler air came with the Autumnal Equinox.   At nightfall, Mama lit a fire in her fire pit in the front yard and invited her friend join us.  Shiner Bocks for them, Mangoritas for me. After some captivating conversation, I went to bed.  The damp night air was so refreshing. I turned out the light and opened the curtain to let the light from the Harvest Moon spill over me and my bed. I stared at the moon and the stars as long as I could stay awake, wishing I had my cousin Jeana or my Grandma who love to stay up talking about the world to bathe in the dreamy moonlight as long as possible. But I quickly fell asleep.

 

Day 2: 5:41 a.m. Really Randy?! After a few choice cuss words, I went back to sleep until 10. Mama made me check my vitals before I even turned my Keurig on. It rides well in my Jeep. It goes camping with me too. Which reminds me, how am I going to deal with my coffee addiction on a backpacking trip? I grumbled at Mama and let her put the monitor on my finger.

“You need to breathe,” she said. “Your oxygen is low.” It wasn’t surprising… I hold my breath a lot. I took a deep breath and got up to turn my coffeepot on.

I wasn’t feeling well, so I perused her enormous tea collection and settled on Tension Tamer to calm my nerves which I suspect was the culprit of my head and stomach ache. I was looking forward to but had performance anxiety about the photo shoot scheduled with one of my cousin’s kiddos the next day. Mama thinks it was from me spraying the Off too close to the greens we ate the day before.

Was feeling much better when Mama and I went to reminisce at my Grandma’s old place that is really shitty since cows have taken over. Where Grandma and I used to pull a mattress out onto the porch and fall asleep looking at the stars and talking about anything and everything was now caked over with cow patties. Grandma’s Mountain is behind the house. My cousins and Mama and I used to climb it sometimes. We’d walk along the top in the clearing and talk about how it’s rumored that a bear lives up there (while scanning the woods for evidence of said bear) then we’d find a safe way down the other side and into town and have an ice cream and call someone to come pick us up. These were the times that I dearly loved but I also like to be near modern conveniences, like food trucks featuring foreign cuisine and well stocked grocery stores.

After scouting my cousin’s place for the photo shoot the next day, we went back to Mama’s and had dinner. But I was still hungry.

“You’re always hungry,” Mama said.

“I’m always hungry because you don’t have any meat!”

“I have some liver in the freezer,” she said.

“I’m going to town to get some meat tomorrow,” I replied after making a yucky face at the thought of liver.

After shaking out my bedclothes to give any spiders the boot and shutting the door with a prayer that it would drown out Randy, I went to sleep with the curtain open again so I could drink in the moonlight.

 

Day 3: Shutting the bedroom door helped big time. But Randy has a big ego.  He has no time of day discrimination. I asked Mama if you have to have a rooster in order to get fresh eggs. “No,” she said. I decided I would not have a rooster if I ever get chickens.

After breakfast, Mama and Jenny and I walked the quarter mile down her drive to the mailbox.

“Let’s see what kind of junk mail I got,” Mama said.

As we’re walking back, Mama stops and offers me a tiny flower to eat from a Goldenrod plant along her driveway to help with my perpetual sinus issues.  She then tells me about how she waits for such plants to go to seed to collect them and sprinkle them around her property where she might want some to grow. That’s what I’m doing, I thought, sprinkling seeds where I want to grow. I was proud of myself for letting go of all the I-should-be-doings and allowing myself to find joy in these moments with Mama.

I even thought I handled the Off situation well. Her mosquitos are so bad that after so many bites, it becomes painful. So I sprayed the Off outside, near my Jeep, away from plants. When I was next inside, Mama ran to her room saying the smell was giving her a headache so I got a wash rag and wiped down every body part where I had sprayed it. Nope, she still smelled it. So I took a shower and offered to go to my Aunt’s if that didn’t work. I guess it worked, because she didn’t say anything else about it. I had to minimize my time outdoors there, but I refused to complain. Not even about how I felt like she was choosing the mosquitoes over me with all her water collection containers surrounding the house. But now I realize that I was the trespasser, not the bugs.

Thank goodness the photo shoot of my cousin’s senior ballerina went really well. The evening light cooperated just as I’d hoped. Katie’s tutu was illuminated beautifully by the golden rays.

My cousin assisted me by holding flashes and reflectors while we talked nonstop to catch up. We hadn’t seen each other for more than a passing moment in years.  Being only 9 days apart in age, we were close when I went to 4th, 5th and 6th grades there. We talked about how much of a culture shock it is to move there, as it was and still is for me and pretty much why I moved back to Texas. But Arkansas is SO beautiful and shinrin-yoku is very healing. As the sun dropped behind the mountains, I wrapped up the shoot and went back to Mama’s, Bonnie still in her racks on top of my Jeep. I smiled, thinking about my plans for the next day.

 

Day 4:  I ended up sleeping too late and had to rush to get ready and loaded up for Wild Bill’s Outfitters. They would be hauling me and Bonnie up the Buffalo to Maumee and I would paddle her down 9 ½ miles to Dillard’s Ferry where my Jeep waited on us. There was hardly anyone on the river. It was so quiet and serene.

My addiction to picture taking and exploring however, led me to paddle like mad the final hour in order to get off the river before dark. Overcoming Fear of the Dark Challenge = fail.  Future backpacking supply list… headlamp.

Which would’ve came in handy once I got back to Mama’s. Out of all of Mama’s 22 acres, her back porch is the only place where texts or calls can be made. So I went out onto the porch to send the hubs a goodnight text. The light wasn’t on, so I started to sit down in the rocker, until I felt a cat squirm. I stood up, apologized to Mowley while getting the flashlight on my phone to finally come on and stared right into the eyes of a tarantula inches from my foot. By the time I got the porch light on and went back out, Jenny had chased the tarantula away. As I started to sit down, I looked at my leg to where I felt something crawling. I slapped the walking stick off with a shiver and went back in my bedroom. Tolerance of Bugs Challenge Test #3 = Fail. Bugs – 2, Carrie – 1

No moonlight tonight. I promptly fell asleep. Goodnight Randy, Goodnight Mama. Go away Spiders.

 

Day 5:  My Elementary bff  knew I was coming to her neck of the woods, so we planned to have dinner together. It’s been 37 years (she’s an accountant, she just HAD to do the math!) since we’d seen each other.

     

No fair she doesn’t have as much gray hair! The hour and a half drive to where she has planted her roots was absolutely breathtaking. I can see why folks trade in Targets and Texas Roadhouse for the mountains. Maybe if we had a place on the Buffalo, I could do without choice restaurants and department stores. And bonus, we wouldn’t have to buy bottled water!

Mama and me had a great evening having wine and sitting on her porch just talking. With the porch light on, thank goodness. Scaredy lights Mama calls them. I suppose she humored me that night.

It was about bedtime when Jenny started alerting on something in the woods. “Coyotes,” Mama said and went into the woods trilling like an Indian to scare them off. I’d never heard her do that before and I found it very intriguing. It was a moment of insight into this strong woman who thrives here with just her cats and dogs and chickens and mosquitoes.

Tonight there was no moonlight, so I closed the curtain by my bed.

 

Day 6:  I depended on Randy to wake me up but he didn’t so I slept too late again. But I still wanted to get in one more walk in the woods with Mama. That was one of the things I loved about living there… I tromped around in those woods for hours upon hours and never got lost once. I don’t know how I never got turned around because I have a terrible sense of direction but I never did. Maybe it’s a natural instinct that I’ve lost since adulthood. I want it back.

But I had overstayed my welcome. Me Snapchatting an old outhouse was the last straw for Mama.  She yelled at me for not respecting her privacy and I accused her of being cut off from the real world.

“I made it 5 days, It’s time for me to go home.”

“Am I really that terrible,” she replied.

“NO! It’s not about you!”

Even though I was SO angry at her for snapping at me, I walked up to her to hug her goodbye. I never wanted to be home so bad.

“Thank you for inviting me into your World, but it’s time to go home to mine,” I said.

Still hugging her, I said “I love you.”

“You didn’t look me in the eye when you said it,” she said.

Sight crippled by tears, I quickly loaded up my Keurig and laptop and cameras and headed back to Texas faster then I’ve ever headed back to Texas. Upon arriving home, and realizing I left my Bose speaker on top of Mama’s refrigerator, I sent an apology letter with some return postage money to send my speaker back. I apologized for wearily blurting out the phrase that hurt her feelings. I tried to explain that it was a personal challenge to stay 5 days to become less critical of her lifestyle which is polar opposite of mine. I tried to tell her that I accept her for who she is, that I wish she would accept me for who I am. But it went on deaf ears. I returned the letter from her that followed in a new envelope, asking her to rethink the horrible things she said in it from a place of love. I was simply doing the best I could while honoring who I am. One sentence opened up a whole can of hate. And many many questions about the reality of my mother/child relationship before that trip.

It’s incomprehensible to me that 2 people can see the same situation 2 completely opposite ways. She thinks I filter seeing the real her through my lens. I see it as preserving a moment, making memories to relish at any moment I choose to relish that precious moment. I thought we had a precious moment in conversation at the kitchen table where I looked her in the eye for longer than I normally look anyone in the eye and I thought I saw her and she got me. I thought we were getting closer but turns out, I was exhausting her.  It’s confounding that my love was misconstrued by someone I never ever imagined would treat me with such contempt. Why can’t my own Mom see our differences as a balance? How does she not see that I’m also a lot like her? Before that trip, we spoke on the phone at least once a week and could talk for hours. Why doesn’t she remember how much I love being in those woods with her and how I love to go pick greens for breakfast and cook them in her favorite iron skillet with vintage utensils and how I love getting my hands dirty while gardening and that I still use all she taught me to make herbal medicines and that I love going barefooted and jumping in puddles and recycling and upcycling? Why can she not remember the child who picked wildflowers for her? Who traveled 8 hours one way at least once a year to spend time with her since I was 18? 3 times last year!

Mama used to take a picture of me here each season when I lived there as a child.

 

How did I not see that she was upset with me? Why did she not talk to me about it?

My 1st 5k is tomorrow. It’s something I’ve always seen as honorable, but it was something everyone else did. I had no clue I could be athletic! That I could’ve been on the volleyball team in middle school! And in fact I was asked by the coach and I was stunned. But no, boys and parties were what I was taught to value more.  And what? I never imagined I could see the World! Finally, I got to travel abroad in 2014. I got to touch the Colosseum that I had written my Senior term paper about. I cried happy tears when I saw my cousin who is a Swiss citizen picking me up at the airport.

Maybe I’m unbecoming who I was taught to be and becoming who I imagine myself to be. Maybe Mama is too. She says she plays the role that she thinks I want her to be when I’m there.  So this raises the question… who is she? Maybe someday she’ll have the courage to show me.

 

 

 

Solo on the Buffalo

I didn’t haul Bonnie over 400 miles to not take her on the water. Besides, she needed the bug guts from the trip from Texas washed off. But my cousin was too busy to join me. So I called Wild Bill’s to inquire about getting Bonnie (my kayak, in case you didn’t know) on the river without another vehicle and driver to get me in at the put in and out at the get out.

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I was able to get there just in time to catch the shuttle up to Maumee for the 9 1/2 mile stretch. I’ve only been on short trips and I wanted to be on the river until at least sunset. 4 mile or so floats had previously only taken a couple or few hours and I wanted to stretch it out as long as possible. Note to self: find app that accurately estimates how much longer I have on a float. And remember that the sun goes down earlier in the mountains. I drove to the Highway 14 Bridge (Dillard’s Ferry) and parked my Jeep. A nice young man lifted Bonnie up over his head and slid her onto the trailer hitched to the bus that I and 2 other families and 1 antsy dog rode up to Maumee on. I was tempted to start singing Wheels on the Bus go round and round but was scared the kids would join in and never stop. So I didn’t.

I found it amusing that a majority of the way was gravel roads. That should’ve been my first clue of how isolated the trip would be.

The nice young man carried Bonnie over to the edge of the water (I need him on every trip!). Well, that was easy!

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I stood there and savored the view for a minute.

Wasn’t in a rush… I had all day to stop and take pictures and follow the sounds to a waterfall if I heard one before I got to the take out!

Surprisingly, the phone service was better on the river than at the put in. I Snapchatted a lot of the trip. I wished that I had researched and found a tracking app for paddlers before I left. Google only has car, bus, walk or bike for modes of transportation.  I had no idea how much farther I had to go and the only way I had of measuring that was by knowing how far I’d been. But I had till dark to get out of the river and Bonnie into the yak racks. So no worries. I mean I left Wild Bill’s at noon!

This is where I belong, I thought, over and over again. This is where I’m at peace. I looked for something like the place on the hill that Doug and I saw on our Memorial day paddle but there were no houses visible on this stretch.

I wondered where the 2 canoeing families were that got in before me at the start. The only other people I ran into was 2 guys in a canoe that passed me and 2 kayakers standing in the water fishing who tried to scare me with “we just saw a snake.”

“Hm,” I said. I spent 3 years of my childhood here. Stepped right over a snake once walking in the woods. “Have a nice day,” I waved as I slowly floated by.

I kept catching myself not floating downstream. The current wasn’t pulling me because the river was much lower this time than Memorial weekend, so I was having to paddle quite a bit. Or get out of the boat in order to get unstuck from the rocks.

As the sun started to get that nice late afternoon glow, the sky made the most amazing reflections on the water. The serenity was a feeling I never wanted to end.

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Yeah, I could live here. Maybe. If there’s nice places to shop not too far away. But head out of the clouds woman, you don’t even know how much farther you have to go!

I could hear some rapids coming up, so I sat up straight, did a little wiggle to get my rear in the seat correctly and paid attention. Oh, it’s just baby rapids! Then I saw where the water was converging from two different directions. And I was headed straight for it. Gurgle, gurgle. No time to even attempt to paddle out of it.  My first capsize!  I could barely touch and the current was strong, but I managed to get a foothold and flip Bonnie back over. The only things not attached was my water bottle and my paddle and I had somehow caught both of them from floating away after getting my head above water. I had had a paddle leash on my paddle, but the velcro was constantly coming loose and I had been meaning to fix it. I did that night. Don’t ever want to be caught up a river without a paddle!

I spotted this cool fallen tree that looked like a woman breaking free from her restraints. Just like me.

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I held my hand up to the sun and measured approximately how long I had left before it left me. I still didn’t know how far I had to go to the Highway 14 bridge and my Jeep. I figured I better stop lolly-gagging. I pulled up Google to get an idea of where I was at. From the looks of satellite view, I had three more bends to go around.

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5 o’clock, 36% battery left, 2 hours to get to get out. And hubs just texted to check on me. I started paddling.

After 3 bends, I couldn’t see the Bridge.  Where’s the confounded bridge?!  It was starting to look like dusk. After the 4th bend, I prayed that I wouldn’t get stuck on the river after dark, all alone, no one in sight.  I thought of the movie Deliverance. I considered quoting from it… because I talk to myself a lot. “I bet you can squeal like a pig…. WEEEEEEEEE!” But I didn’t want to put that out into the Universe. So I went back to my happy place there on the river, on the water so clear and cool.  My arms started to burn but I didn’t stop. It seems like forever and a day to get around a bend. I looked behind me kind of hoping that the two guys who had passed me earlier in a canoe would be there, but they weren’t. Never saw the two families who rode with me on the bus either.

5 bends, no bridge. How could the satellite map be deceiving? Jeesh, I guess I need a river map reading class. 6th bend. Please be the bridge, please be the bridge. My arms were on FIRE. FINALLY.  The BRIDGE! Not one person at the get out. Although there was a line of canoes that renters had left.

6:54 p.m. and the sun was long behind the mountains. I walked up to the Jeep, drove right down to the waters edge, loaded Bonnie up… I’m getting pretty fast at it… especially when I have biting mosquitoes pushing me… and headed out. Didn’t have any phone service until the top of the hill by the road so I called Doug.

“Oh my God, I’ve been so worried! The location app said you were still way back on the river and haven’t moved for an hour and a half,” he said.

“Noooo, I’m loaded up and heading back to Mama’s.”

Next time, I’m taking the 8 a.m. shuttle instead of the noon. And now I know about how many miles I can travel in an hour on a slow flowing river. Figuring in photo stops and exploring. But then again, the not knowing part is what makes an adventure exciting!

 

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Roots

The details that Mama remembers from our hitchhike over 44 years ago is remarkable.  I could read this story over and over and over. I long for more experiences like it.  That adventure has to be the reason that deep in my bones I need to travel… and specifically, to go on a backpacking trip. It was a time when I felt safe in Mama’s and Nature’s arms.

Then society took me away (she cried when school took me away from her) and promised pretty shiny things, if I sold my soul. And I did it thinking that it’s what I wanted, that it was the only way to survive. But there was a seed that was planted deep within me when I learned at such an early age that life is beautiful on the road and in nature. That seed went into hibernation until decades later my soul cried ENOUGH! Mama had long ago moved to Arkansas permanently while she could only watch me from afar, still in Texas since 16. But now the seed is screaming for me to fight my way back to my roots. To freedom and joy and wholesome people.

What follows is my edited version of what Mama typed up for me. Most of it is her words. I only filled out her shorthand, corrected grammatical errors and punctuation and changed it to first person.

 

Hitchin’ with Hippies

Mama left Daddy on a bicycle, taking almost 4 year-old me, along with a change or two of clothes and my favorite doll.  She pedaled us to her friends where we slept in her son’s room.  They gave her dibs on cases of pop bottles to sell for cleaning out the garage. She’d take what we could carry each day or so, buying a treat for her friend’s son and me and pocketing the rest. We walked a different route each time, going out of our way to pick up other discarded bottles (a nickel each). We enjoyed the outing and new scenery. It was good to get out of the house.

When Mama’s friends were moving to an apartment in Sherman we moved our stuff right along with theirs. But then the manager told us that two families could not live in one apartment.

The last night in the house, Mama left me with them to take a walk to decide what to do about our situation. This was a time when leaving your husband was very frowned upon.  She wandered all around the neighborhood thinking how we’d spent many nights earlier that Spring outdoors… at the Catholic cemetery… or in the alley under a big bush where all the dogs knew and protected us.  Or when it was too cold, we stayed at the hippie-house where my Aunt’s friends lived.

So she decided not to go back to Daddy. Mama pumped gas, washed windshields and checked oil, usually with me on her back, at a then new self-pump gas station. She made good tips and people wanted to feed me. The station sold milk and juice and ice-cream and honey-buns so we’d have those if we needed a meal.

As Mama walked and pondered these things, she figured she could save enough by cold weather to rent a place for the winter. She noticed someone crossing the street and looked up to see a big blond, frizzy-curly-haired-bearded man with kind smiling eyes. She didn’t even notice one eye was glass.

Gene said he paid the rent and bills at the house on Baker street to which he pointed. Anyone who needs a place to stay was welcome to. He’d watched Mama roam the neighborhood with something obviously weighing on her mind. He’d seen her walking with me and on her bicycle with me in the seat (often napping) behind her. “I have a bicycle too,” he said, “no car.”

We went to check out the house where Gene paid the rent and bills. We sat on the porch for a bit with Gene and PanDukey, his friend’s dog. We walked back to Mama’s friend’s house. They had bought pizza for supper. We watched their son while the adults moved a load… bedstead on top of mattress on top of car. They were spending the night at the apartment and said we could stay the day or two that the rent was paid up at the house. Water and gas were on although they had sold the kitchen appliances.  Mama was so grateful for their hospitalities, so she waited until after they left to load our few belongings into her backpack and bike basket and put me in my seat on the back. We rode around until about 11pm then we went back to the house where Gene paid the rent and bills.

They offered food, but we weren’t hungry. Gene said we could have the couch. Mama had told him the truth of her situation.  He was a gentleman from the beginning.  She slept on the couch with me protectively cuddled in the crook of her arm. In those days, Mama was eternally alert and slept with one eye open, literally [just a crack]. Some people came in, looked at her and said, “who is she?”  And, “what a pretty baby!”

Gene gladly bought groceries and fed whoever drifted in and out. One friend came often, baking yeast bread or cornbread and stew or beans, macaroni and cheese, goulash,  something. Mama often cooked cereal or bacon or sausage and eggs for breakfast before Gene went to work, making extra if anyone spent the night.  And she often made her Oatmeal Carrot Health Cookies, that only me, her and one other roommate liked.

Mama arranged to get her sewing machine to the house where Gene paid the rent and bills and began patching jeans for many of the people who lived there. She replaced back pockets and worn out knees with psychedelic prints. She split seams to add material for bell bottoms. She began cutting squares from unwanted jeans for quilts and saved their seams for making rugs after she read an article in Mother Earth News (an underground magazine when it began.) She made me shorts sets from scraps and patched Gene’s clothes. She made me a red, white and blue shorts set with pockets from a bag of scraps that my great Aunt’s had given her from working at Levi’s the year they were doing patriotic prints in preparation for the 1976 bicentennial celebration. This is what I’m wearing in the picture below with “Papa Bear.” Mama doesn’t remember when or why I gave him that nickname. I was at ease with him… like with my Uncle or my Great-Grandad.

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Papa Bear, me, and PanDukey, 1972

Even though Papa Bear rode his bicycle to his construction job, we sometimes rode for the heck of it. For miles and miles. We’d pack a lunch and not spend a cent. Was an enjoyable time of our lives. Papa Bear brought home bits of bright colored paint that had been thrown away and painted his bedroom a gorgeous royal blue and the window sashes a bright yellow, red or green.

Papa Bear came in from work one day with a banged-up elbow. He’d wrecked peddling his 3-speed so he took a couple of weeks off to heal.  So we slept in. Mama and PapaBear had a leisurely breakfast while I snoozed in and out with the kitten I’d talked him into letting me bring into the house.  My reply to his why… “it’s lonely.”

Papa Bear asked Mama what she planned to do that day. Laundry. Instead of going to Grandma’s as usual, we went to the laundromat.  School had been out only a few days. It was hot so we walked around back to climb onto the roof where it was shady.

“Why don’t we take a trip while I’m on the mend,” Papa Bear said.

“On bikes,” Mama asked.

“No. Hitch’n,” Papa Bear said. “To Arkansas.”

It was a glorious day. Sunlight danced around me as I flitted from Mama to Papa Bear.  I climbed onto his shoulders for a ride into the laundromat to gather the clean wet clothes.  Mama liked this idea of his. Seemed good.  She hung the clothes on the backyard clothesline while Papa Bear and I checked on the few garden plants.

Then we rode to Gibson’s where Papa Bear purchased soda and graham crackers, dried beef, peanut butter, Vienna sausages, sardines, raisins, prunes.  We got chopped dates from the baking section and chocolate chips to add to our jar of trail mix.

Someone had given me a square psychedelic zippered suitcase for Christmas. We packed the food in it and had room for a loaf of whole wheat bread.  I carried it the entire trip. As we used up something from it, I’d have a flower, rock, or something to put in its place.

Papa Bear had one of those big serious backpacks with an aluminum frame and room for a bedroll on the bottom. We had two blankets, one pillow. Mama and Papa Bear had one change of clothes and one long sleeved shirt each.  They had two changes for me and my doll, I didn’t need more because I never wet the bed when we were with Papa Bear.

Mama carried a roomy cloth shoulder bag with personal hygiene items… a toothbrush and deodorant were all Mama required – and our vitamins – I was taking 2 chewables with iron a day… Mama took brewer’s yeast, A, C, and a multiple, and perhaps some alfalfa leaf.

While we were packing, a girl who’d been busted and her parents kicked her out came by to see if she could stay at Papa Bear’s. I asked her to feed my kitten and “don’t forget to pet her,” I added.  She drove us out of the city limits so we wouldn’t have to walk.

“What’s hitch hikin’, Mama,” I asked.

“Well, you stand by the side of the road, stick out your thumb to let people know you’d like a ride and see who stops.  If it’s a nice person and they’re going your way, you get in,” Mama said.

“How can you tell if they’re nice,” I asked.

“You look ’em in the eye,” Mama said.

We didn’t even get a chance to thumb it. As I prepared the stance, a white 4-door sedan with a man driving stopped to pick up us while our previous ride was still at the turn-around. Papa Bear sat in front.

He took us to Durant. I held my suitcase in one hand and stuck out my thumb just like Papa Bear showed me. It was a young family this time. A girl older than me and a boy younger. We piled in the back. The girl and I changed our doll’s clothes and played with whatever toys they had all the way to the south side of McAlister.

Two men in an old pickup containing masonry tools gave us a lift through town. We rode in the back and loved the wind in our hair.

This is where we walked for awhile because there wasn’t much traffic. Papa Bear had a goatskin Canteen for water. Or was it made of goat’s stomach? In any case, it held quite a lot, expanded. I liked to drink from it.

We took the opportunity for a lunch and potty break in the woods. Then we walked some more cause hitch’n was illegal on that stretch of road. A Highway Patrol stopped to chat with us. Papa Bear did the talking.

“Just walking,” Gene said, “’til just before nightfall when we’ll stop for the night wherever we find a good spot.”

Mr. Highway Patrolman thought I was precious. He told us to be careful.

It was hot. We may have walked 20 minutes when we got a ride to I-40. As they let us out, two vehicles pulled over to get us. The first was another family. We piled in back. When they let us out, the second car picked us up saying he’d tried to give us a ride before. He gave me a dollar.

It was getting dark as we walked to the rest area. There were hippies around a picnic table. Scrumptious smells wafted on the air. One of the girls beckoned to us.  She wanted to know if we were hungry. I nodded my head. They were cooking wheat which would take a while. We waited maybe 20 minutes but it needed a little more cooking time. Mama was so hungry she ate it anyway, but I didn’t like it so I took some of their offered cheese and made a sandwich.

We had an enjoyable visit with the Hippies. They were good wholesome people.  Mama mostly listened to the interchange between me and the two girls. They made me think, so I enjoyed myself in my quiet and studiously amused way. Mama loved watching me, learning me. The way I responded to new situations… serious and wary to begin with and remaining so if I wasn’t at ease but loosening up when there was peace. The more at ease I felt, the more I opened up, sometimes in quiet conversation or showing off, according to the vibes I picked up. [I’m still this way.]

Papa Bear spread a blanket on the ground, we covered with the other, all sharing one pillow.

The nice Hippies offered Breakfast.  They were headed west and we were headed north to Beebe, so Papa Bear and Mama and I walked to the Highway where I stuck out my little thumb while wearing my best grin.

A man let us out at the Texaco on 65 at Conway. Papa Bear called his parents and I bought something with my dollar.

Me on the stairs wanting to go back upstairs to the Blacklight Room of the Fayetteville Head Shop was Mama’s last memory until a spot near Mountainburg.  There, Papa Bear left us for a while by a wide shallow creek about 15’ across and a little way up.  We sat in a 1-foot or so waterfall, then explored for plants, bugs, interesting rocks, water-worn glass, etc.

Shortly after Papa Bear returned, some boy came and took us to another creek.  There was a faint path up a rather steep wooded hillside.  We walked up to what we called a “cave” that was just an overhang of rock, but it was shelter from sun, wind or rain.  Papa Bear checked a spot where he found a pot, pan, spoons, bowls, a bag of potatoes and onions – which we used and left dried pintos for the next hitchhikers.

Papa Bear did the cooking.  Mama and I were satisfied with very little but he was always hungry.

Mama enjoyed the night on the ground on Papa Bear’s spread out sleeping bag.  We used our dirty clothes for pillows and the extra blanket for cover. She felt safe there in the wilderness and put me between her and Papa Bear, cradled in her arm.  We could see the moon and stars through the trees.

We had fried taters and onions for breakfast and left a pot of beans cooking in a small depression in the ground with a wire rack over it.  It was out of the wind and next to the rock wall to reflect heat.

Next morning, four or five of his young friends came to take us to the closest swimming spot.  Mama didn’t like his friends.  They were empty.  She and I were in the middle of the back seat.  She took our vitamins out of her bag, gave me mine and put hers in my hand – as I aimed them toward my mouth the kid on her left dropped something into her hand just as momentum landed them into her mouth. She quickly washed them down with whatever she had (probably beer.) She’s sure I had Dr. Pepper [and I’m sure too because Dr. Pepper was one of my first words.]  There was no bottled water in those days.  As soon as she swallowed she realized it was a hit of acid Papa Bear had gotten at Ft. Smith.

But nothing seemed out of the ordinary within her as we parked and walked to the swimming hole.  She and I went into the water. Papa Bear was examining a leaf and called her over.  She got all caught up in the veins of that leaf while the color’s danced.  Rainbow colored good natured vibes surrounded her.  All was fantastic and well with the world.  She heard, as if it was from a TV playing in another room, “Mama.” Then another, “Mama.” The third time obviously expressed a need for help and she realized it was me calling her.  I was covered with biting ants and was prepared to jump into the deep water.  She immediately came back down to earth.

There was a snake on the path back to the cave.  Next day, Mama wouldn’t go with the friends so she and I stayed around camp.  The creek wasn’t too far and we got chiggers but it was better than being with them.

All the food was gone.  My square psychedelic zippered suitcase was now the carrier of odds and ends of souvenirs. Then it was time to go back to Texas, and Mama was ready.  She didn’t enjoy the time at Mountainburg.  She wanted to put me on the old blue bicycle and just ride.

She doesn’t remember the trip home.  Regretfully, I don’t remember anything of the whole adventure except one snippet of a memory of a mobile phone in the front floorboard of a car driven by a man whom I vaguely remember. Mama said he let me call Grandma.

The last nice man to give us a ride let us out at a stoplight by the RR tracks on Armstrong.  We walked home to the house where Gene paid the rent and bills.  PanDukey had had pups.

#findaway

After the pain in my little pinky-toe subsided somewhat from kicking my kayak, I apologized to it, picked it up a 6th time and put her back into loading position with a prayer that she wouldn’t slide to the ground again instead of into the racks attached to the roof rack on top of my Jeep. I was determined to learn how to load it by myself, without any help. I come from a loooooong line of stubborn women my Grandma used to say.

About this time last year I was hiking at one of my favorite places to hike… Eisenhower State Park. I had asked Doug the previous week to file the divorce papers but I couldn’t stop thinking about him. The voice from my C25k app said “begin running” but I started hyperventilating and more in confusion than the inability to run when you can’t breathe, I stopped. I felt so surreal, like the emotions weren’t even mine. Not wanting any hikers to be alarmed if they were to come upon a hysterical crying woman, I took a hard right down a creek bed and found a big fallen tree to lie down on as if it would help me interpret these feelings. I had been so sure divorce was necessary, but now I wasn’t so sure. I don’t know how long I laid there until I felt I could get back to my Jeep without losing it again. All I knew to do was to call my husband. And despite all the times I’ve kicked him, he still always answered my calls.

I HAVE to be doing this wrong, I thought as I stared at my kayak lying on the ground. There has to be a way. YouTube! And of course there is a tutorial on loading a kayak by yourself.  And a very simple solution! I rounded up my Dollar Store rugs I use for camping, laid them on the back of my Jeep and went at it again. 6th time’s a charm! Go me! That’s probably about how many times Doug wanted to kick me to the curb, but last year was the first time he ever told me to go.

“What do we do,” Doug asked while hugging me, still trying to catch my breath after my hyperventilating hike.

“I don’t know, but we have to find a way to make it work,” I said.

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Click here to find out our solution to can’t live with him/her, can’t live without him/her. Maybe I should turn it into a YouTube tutorial.

 

 

Restart

“Carrie, a new you awaits if you continue taking the steps to see the World by way of travel blogging,” said the sky last night when I went out to see the Full Moon…

FullMoon-Rebirth

 

Well, that’s what-looked-to-be-a-fetus-in-a-womb-in-the-clouds would say, right? If you know me, you know I’m into signs and symbolism. And synchronicities.  Yesterday I had came across Caz Makepeace’s blogpost about starting strong.   I’ve got the college education, the publications and the photography experience to get travel blogging off the ground, but oh those pesky little loud fuckers called fears… your heart knows what it wants but your brain is saying… “but look at all the other things you’ve started and failed at?” Well let me tell you something mind of mine! I learned from every one of those experiences! And it’s not about winning a medal, what I won are lessons.  There is ALWAYS always a lesson. This is where you pull your self-worth from. Watch your mouth. Take failure out of your vocabulary. If it didn’t fly off the shelves and it’s something that you want to continue pursuing, step back and see the lesson and start again.  Take a breather if healing is what you need before you make the necessary changes to try another way.  Do whatever it takes to find that determination again and plan your restart. Or pick up something else entirely new if that feels like the right thing to do. It’s up to you!

 

I have two loves. Well, not counting Doug. Travel and Portraiture. I’ll never give up on either. Bella Sol has KO’d me I don’t know how may times, but I get up fighting every time. No, seriously, she’s thrown such curveballs at me that it knocks the breath out of me but I’ll never hang her up. That’s how much I love photographing people.  That’s how much I believe in it. I believe people want their portraits lining their stairwells just like in the old days. Pride will never die.

Tattoos never die either.  Wanderlust is tattooed on my chest and  I intend to continue my 100 Strangers Portrait Project all over the world!  I shall follow my blisses Joseph Campbell! Next month’s Autumnal Equinox Event will prepare me for the life of my dreams.

What event you ask? I will begin a documentary series that my Mom and I tried to get going back when I was in college but, after being turned down for grants to fund it, it faded away for over 10 years. But honestly, I wasn’t mentally ready back then. Now here I am, 2 years away from half a century old and unemployed and telling midlife crisis to take a hike!  What have I got to lose? I’ve got an amazingly supportive (and handsome as hell) husband, no mortgage or Jeep payment, a kayak, and I figure I’ve got at least 20 more good years to explore the globe.  So someday somewhere somehow I found Erin and she directed me to her page where she features travel bloggers that ditched their 9 to 5’s and are living abroad. Erin jetsets the world with her husband and two children and I thought hmmmmmmm… I’m a photographer and a writer, why can’t I fulfill my dream by doing what whole family’s are doing? And then I connected with one of the couples featured on the Bender’s page (goatsontheroad) who helped set me up with WordPress and lo and behold shesgoingplaces.com was born. But I still have lots of work to do.

A lot of mind blowing self work. Balance my chakras, do some shinrin-yoku…

MamaInWoods_Shinrin-YokuMeme

 

 

 

… eat only what is available to eat, visit a shaman for healing, renew the relationship with my Mom while documenting her life as a single woman who lives off an EXTREMELY modest means.  Who knows what berries you can/can’t eat from the trees or what plants are used in medicine and for what.  I’m going to share how she lives by immersing myself there for 1 week every Solstice/Equinox. So this anxiety ridden, stressed to the max, weary-of-society’s-demands flower-girl-at-heart woman will be going to woodsy Arkansas to challenge my impatience, channel the turtle and learn to slow down to Mama’s piddle-around-pace.  I will carry my rose quartz heart to assist with relearning unconditional love. For one week per quarter I will live as close to nature as is possible while still having plumbing (but no kitchen sink… eek!) and a roof over our head. There will be some jaw clenching going on while adapting to living conditions that I have felt above ever since I begged my Mom to leave me in Texas as she moved back to the mountains when I was just barely 16. But Nature always calls you back. And the Ozarks are calling me. And so is backpacking.  Along with the shedding of the leaves this Fall I will be shedding all the unnecessary stuff engrained in my brain since childhood and preparing for my 2020 goal to walk the Camino de Santiago. I also intend to visit the Philippines next year.

And now, how fitting… It is raining. I stepped onto the grass, struck a Mountain pose then hands to heart, thanked the Universe for washing away all the old negative me to make room for the new.

All this self improvement and following the Wild Woman… aka Mama… around in her natural habitat will give me the epic material to officially start my blogging career.  Stay tuned for the Grand Opening Launch the last Friday of September! Until then, I will continue to honor #blogpostfridays.

See my best travel photos on Instagram and up to the minute posts of my Journey and other daily shenanigans on Snapchat…

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