When I find myself needing to calm my soul and bring balance to my life, I go outside. Nothing creates peace and reminds me of the insignificance of the daily grind like a really good sunset. You know, the ones that set the sky on fire?
It’s a rare treat to have three working people, including the working student in the family, with the same day off work but it happened on Martin Luther King Day. Family hike time! Several ideas on trails to hike were tossed out over dinner Sunday night. We finally decided to head out west of our house to part of the Ouachita Trail and the Flastside Wilderness that we’re familiar with. This area is home to one of our favorite mountain bike training rides when we’re up for gravel, hills and more hills and the Slobberknocker Mountain Bike Race. It’s also home to favorite runs: the Full mOOn 50K, the Catsmacker and the Arkansas Traveller 100. We started our afternoon by loading the car with two dogs, three people, three water bottles, a dog bowl, flashlights, a big camera, a tripod and a backpack with hard salami, fresh mozzarella and cookies. Sustenance, it’s an important part of a successful hike. We parked at the trailhead just past Lake Sylvia for a quick, flat trip around the short paved trail to get our legs moving. Then we headed across the street to the Ouachita Trail knowing we had about an hour to hike before we needed to get in the car for the drive to Flatside. Though the trees are mostly bare this time of year, it gives the forest a unique, desolate beauty. At least that’s the way I think of it.
The line of sight from the top of Flatside Pinnacle, looking west over the Ouachita National Forest, offers one of the most spectacular sunset views in the state. As we drove up the forest road alongside Brown Creek, we were discussing the 223 miles of the Ouachita Trail, and the fact that the small one has only hiked about 30 miles of it. Her response? “Only 190 to go then.” A good attitude, one that has inspired plans to return this weekend and hike a few more miles of it.
The sunset calendar told us we’d need to be at the top by 5 p.m. We settled in about 4:45, fed the pups and laid out our own little dinner on the rocks as Joe set up the tripod and camera to capture the experience. There was discussion about the need to put the technology away and just enjoy the view but bloggers and photographers don’t do that. I tried, I put the phone in my pocket and got it back out several times. As the sun kissed the mountain range, I couldn’t help but watch my daughter, a halo of fading sunlight around her curly hair. These are the moments I want to remember, the ones I want her to remember. Having photographic evidence never hurts.
I’m winning! And not in a Charlie Sheen-Tiger Blood kind of way. I have a habit of sitting down and catching up on neglected blog readings in big chunks. Just before the Holidays I was catching up on my favorite outdoor blogs when I noticed that Buff Inc. Blog was doing a 12 Blogs of Christmas. Intrigued I read them all ranging from that recent cycling scandal to setting PRs to favorite hiking trails.
Each “episode” carried with it a small prize package that would be up for grabs by answering a question relating back to the blogpost. Of course I answered them all, not because I expected to win but because I was enjoying the blogs and the questions. It was a game which I was also playing with my spouse while we contemplated each answer though the How do you feel about governing bodies removing cycling titles? had already been discussed ad nauseam. My winning question: If you could transport yourself to the ultimate hiking trail right now, which one would you want to be on and why? My answer was the Appalachian Trail because it’s on my bucket list. High on my list.
I got the email from Buff a couple of weeks later letting me know I’d won a prize package of a new merino wool Buff for my collection of Buff headwear, a Deuter ACT 24 backpack and a pair of socks from Woolrich. Color this outdoor girl excited. My new backpack and Buff arrived in the mail in quick order.
I took my new backpack on a hike in the Buffalo Point Recreation Area. Outdoor boy wanted to hike to see a large Indian cave dwelling on the Indian Rockhouse Cave Trail. The day was warm for January, sunny and hovering around 60 degrees so I packed water, lunch, a towel, a trail guide and a light jacket in my new pack with plenty of room to spare. The pack allows for a water bladder, has lots of organizing pockets inside and out and a rain fly.
The multi adjustable straps were easy to fit. It isn’t women’s specific so I expected trouble with the shoulder adjustments as that issue has come up with many packs I’ve tried but I was able to get them comfortable with no problem. The new pack got to visit some very cool places on our short hike.
Though it was warm on the day we took our Indian Rockhouse hike, a couple of days later the high temps had dropped 27 degrees and the sky was overcast. I was so happy I had packed my new Buff just in case because we were going to hike out to the most iconic rock outcropping in the Ozarks, Whitaker Point also known as Hawksbill Crag. It was a cool and breezy 34 degrees with gray skies when our hike began but my ears stayed nice and toasty thanks to my Buff.
The trail head marker is also a tribute to Dale Bumpers for his commitment to preserving Arkansas’ natural areas.
This one’s not about fitness, frenetic or organized or otherwise. San Francisco Part Trois: Golden Gate Park.
On a day of my conference when the morning was filled with work events and things to do but the afternoon was less hectic, we made our way over to Golden Gate Park hoping to get a short visit to both the California Academy of Sciences and the Japanese Tea Garden before they closed. We made it to the Museum in time to at least have a cursory go at most of the exhibits. While they were all educational and pretty cool as science museums go, the one that remains at the forefront of my memory is the Galapagos exhibit in the Islands of Evolution area. There is a major focus there on Lonesome George, the only Giant Tortoise of his kind left after whaling and hunting decimated his kind on Galapagos. And then, a few days after our return home, the news broke that Lonesome George had passed away. Now the education area is a bit of an alter I suppose. A tribute to what happens when we do not understand, when we underestimate our impact on the environment.
There is a lot of research being conducted all the time behind the scenes at the academy but one of the most interesting areas as far as visible innovative technology goes is the living roof, a “living tapestry” of native plants that also serves as an aide to climate control inside the museum walls.
While we didn’t have a lot of time to linger in the museum, the planetarium and the aquarium exhibits were among the better ones I’ve had the chance to visit.
We practically ran to the Japanese Tea Garden to make it before closing time, dodging and sometimes laughing at the folks who rented 4 person surrey bikes to ride around the park. Newsflash, they don’t handle hills well. It was the coldest day of our trip so we had to keep our coats on while wandering the gardens which seemed odd to me, I don’t wander gardens in the winter time in Arkansas.
The tea house has formal tea ceremonies on certain days of the week, I would have liked to have done that. We settled for just enjoying a hot cup and some sweets to take the chill off.
In 1949, this Buddha which was originally cast in 1790 in Japan, was gifted to the Japanese Tea Garden. We stopped to appreciate him in the early evening glow at the end of our visit.
We still had some daylight left after the gardens closed so we walked to Stow Lake for a trip around the lake trail and up Strawberry Hill to see the views of the city. There are two bridges connecting the lake trail to the island in the center: the Rustic Bridge and the Roman Bridge. We crossed over both bridges but the Rustic was by far my favorite.
There’s a boat house at Stow Lake where you can rent boats to row out on the lake. We didn’t have time to do that but enjoyed watching a few glide across the water.
The flowers blooming around the park were beautiful, like this calla lily. As we wandered out of the park toward the street to catch a bus back to our hotel, we saw people at play in the open spaces, a couple of folks even taking naps under the canopy of trees, and lots of people riding bikes. With the museums, the open spaces, the bike infrastructure, the botanical loveliness and the lakes, this is a perfect place to feed mind body and soul.
I estimate we were able to enjoy about 20% of this beautiful park. If the other 80% is as lovely as what we saw, it would be well worth a trip back to a city we enjoyed so much for another visit, maybe we could check off another big chunk of Golden Gate Park.
After a week of being sick, or at least not feeling 100% well, I was ready for a few days away from home and hoping to be healthy enough to get back to some semblance of my active lifestyle. The weather the morning of our planned departure was ugly. It’s the first day of our Wedding Anniversary getaway and it’s cold and raining. This is going make packing the car with the luggage, the bikes, the kid and the dog a potentially unpleasant experience. After dropping the dog and the kid off at Grandma’s house, the arrival at our lovely cabin in Mt Nebo State Park was met with limited visibility and a surprising inability to light a fire in the fireplace. All is well though. I can go relax in the enormous spa tub. Or swim in it.
Luckily the next morning provided us with a lovely sunrise from Sunrise Point and a trip down the mountain to Wal-Mart because we forgot the memory card for the camera and coffee. Both would be necessary for the long day of hiking we had planned. After the early run to Wal-Mart and breakfast complete with coffee, we hit the trail. Getting on the Rim Trail was easy considering we could see it from the back porch of our cabin. Heading west, it only took a few minutes to intersect with the Gum Springs Trail. We were at the top of a tall waterfall and a steep hike.
We knew we’d be coming back that way again so chose to stay on the Rim. Skirting the edge of the mountain, looking out over the shadows of the morning light in the valley we came upon Lover’s Leap and then the intersection for the Summit Park Trail. We decided to take the Summit Park Trail since neither of us had been on it and I am so glad we did.
It was a bit more strenuous (great for me!) and rugged than either the Rim or the Bench trails. Named for a hotel that was in full swing on the mountain at the turn of the last century but unfortunately burned to the ground in 1918, this trail was worked on by the CCC company V-1780 made up of WWI veterans. They worked on Mt Nebo from 1933-1935, lending their skill and style to the trails and to many of the structures still in use by Mt Nebo State Park, such as the cabins including the one we stayed in. While almost all of the trails follow routes that existed from the latter years of the 19th century during the mountain area’s heyday as a summer resort, the CCC left an indelible mark here. One that I appreciated so much as we walked the carefully laid stone path through boulder fields, up and down the rock steps , imagining what it must have been like to build all this using hand tools, mules, sweat and determination. When we reached a sign that said “Stone Bridge”, we knew we had to take the cut off trail up to see it. We were rewarded with another beautiful example of the master craftsmanship of the CCC men.
This Stone Bridge would be the trail magic for me, my favorite spot of the day.
A few more miles of hiking back to and around the rest of the Rim Trail including a quick stop at the Visitor’s Center which is not far off trail, we made it back to the cabin just in time for lunch and to plan out the afternoon hike. Of course we’d have to include the Gum Springs Trail, the small section of the Summit Park Trail that we missed in the morning and even though I had been rather intimate with the Bench Trail recently, we wanted to check out the hike in camping for future reference.
With close to 10 miles of rugged hiking under our feet for the day and more than a fair share of waterfalls, we retreated to the cabin to enjoy the sunset, which was magnificent. There are overlooks in the park aptly named Sunrise and Sunset Point, but in the winter, I would gamble that sunset is better viewed from cabin 61. Following our photofest and complete and utter awe at the beauty of the sunset, we dressed for dinner and my sweetheart took me down the mountain again, this time for sushi. Tomorrow’s adventure: Mountain Biking at Old Post. Happy Anniversary to us! Another good year of memories made and looking forward to sharing more sunsets like this one
For the past several years, Christmas Day has brought with it a tradition I share with my husband. Because we are a blended family, Christmas and all the chaos surrounding it has often been especially challenging. At some point we kind of gave up trying to conform to the schedules of all others involved and took it upon ourselves to retreat from the firestorm, give up having a family Christmas on Christmas Day and head outside together instead.
For 2006 we were on top of Pinnacle Mountain just in time to see a beautiful bald eagle “buzz the tower”.
Christmas Day 2007 meant another trip to a favorite, Petit Jean State Park for the Seven Hollows and Cedar Falls trails with lunch in between.
In 2008, we took a trip to Mt Magazine State Park just before Christmas to celebrate the anniversary of our first date. Christmas Day had us hiking at Pinnacle again, but bushwhacking the backwoods, scouting the area for the mountain bike trails we were hoping to build.
Lake Catherine State Park was the destination for December 25, 2009.
2010 was a year we managed to keep our family close, but still go hike on our own by renting a cabin at Lake Ouachita and hitting the dirt while others enjoyed the comfort of central heat, couches and a warm fireplace.
Each trail we choose has its own Christmas magic for us: the story of seeing that soaring eagle never gets old, listening to the beautiful waterfalls at Lake Catherine, seeing Grampie in his Santa hat at Ouachita, or spending the day dreaming about a place we can ride our bikes. This year we chose a trail in a park I’ve only visited in the heat of summer. Mainly because Woolly Hollow State Park has a really nice swim beach complete with a great snack bar. Did someone mention nachos? After a short drive from Little Rock to the park near Greenbrier, cleaning up after one car sick dog and figuring out a new remote control for the camera, we were ready to get on the trail. We started at the Cabin Trail, used the Cold Creek Trail to connect to the Huckleberry for what should be about 4.5 fairly easy miles if we had calculated correctly. The trail magic for this year…the new puppy.
The Park System tends to be very good at dual usage and using what’s on hand to get a job done.
Our route took us all the way around Lake Bennett with a beautiful view of the park and the swim beach from across the lake. But this was my favorite spot of the hike:
Merry Christmas! Next up- New Year’s Day traditional mountain bike ride. We’ve been invited to paddle on New Year’s this year. Choices, choices.
My days really are getting longer and longer.
Issues at work and surrounding work have meant multiple 12-13 hour days for me lately. I’d say I’m exhausted and in need of a vacation but I’ve realized recently that I am such a freak about “vacations” that I usually don’t come away from them all that rested. I’m going to try. Headed to the DC area this week. It was a surprise present for my Squeeze so he can visit his best friend. His best friend since 6th grade people. That’s a long time to keep liking someone. I plan on long walks, possible solo museum trips, some running, podcast listening and magazine perusal while they sit in a corner and act like 5 year olds. I expect pranks. And laughter. And that weird language that only the two of them speak.
Back to the workout log:
Thursday Sept 2: 5k-ish run in 27 minutes and change. Good time for me, a sucky time for most runners I know. Stupid runners with legs that are longer than mine and can turn over fast.
Saturday Sept 4: 2.5 hours of jog-hiking at Pinnacle. Up and over 2x and back and forth to the OT trailhead.
And a couple more hours of trail work. I dug a trench with a pick ax. There will be no dwarf or Hi Ho references.
Sunday 5: we went to the zoo. in memphis. yes we did.
Monday 6: in celebration of Labor Day, I Labored. Not in my own very needy yard but in my neighbor’s. Because they don’t or won’t clean it up. Our front yard looks at their back yard which is wooded. When trees start growing in the street and the water can’t get to the drain, I clean it for them. It took most of the day. And all of my energy. But I’m not bitter.
Tuesday 7 back to morning workouts
warm up with CORE and Jump Rope
4 Rounds: 1 min per station, 1 min rest after completed circuit
Single leg plyo jumps 90lb
single leg squat on box
wall ball 15lb
wall sit with 10lb plate
push press 25lb Db
Wednesday got an I don’t think so at 4:50 a.m. Tuesday night was unpleasant due to work stuffin.
warm up 300 jump ropes, 3 x 12 x 33lb bar overhead squat, 5 x 5 hang clean 65lb, 75, 75, attempt 85, 80
Group Hang Clean 10 x in 1 min: 1set x 55lb – 3 x 60lb
1:00 treadmill run 1 x 7.5 mph x 5% incline, 2 x 5.6 mph x 10% incline , 1 x wall sit
400 m backward run
single leg jump on 12″ box 10 x ea leg
warm up CORE
endurance bench press 10 rep:10 sec hold:10 rep : push up position plank 30 sec
db curl and press 10 x 20lb : overhead tricep extension 30lb to Fatigue (avg 6)
walking push ups, no wts : 1 min plank
During July we had a wedding. And I had a working trip to Montana. And we spent a weekend driving to and from Oklahoma to help the newly-marrieds move. And on 4 weekends we were either picking up or dropping off the small one at a camp an hour or so up the road each way. And I continued to work my usual 10 hour days throughout. I got a little tired. So I tacked on a camping trip to the first weekend in August. Bright idea, eh? I have a sore throat I can’t shake, I’m constantly exhausted and my resting heart rate is hovering around 40 beats/minute. I may need a rest. But there is no rest for the wicked?!
The wedding: Perfection. The bride was lovely, the groom was dapper and the reception was absolutely capital F-Fun.This probably deserves a full post of pictures which my SIL julia did a great job of taking. But I don’t know where J stored them.
Montana: was spectacular. I can’t wait to find an opportunity or reason to return. On each end of work sessions, which were 3 very intense and long days, my boss and I wrangled a day to enjoy the beauty. Before the meeting started we headed to Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. I think the drive might have been as lovely as the caverns.
We were staying in Bozeman, home of the University of Montana at Bozeman. Apparently a few years back the students decided that a hike close by the U needed a monument of sorts. So this white rock “M” was laid out at the pinnacle of this steep trail that can be seen from several vantage points in town down in the valley. I climbed it, as fast as I could, while the boss stayed in the car to take a phone call about her new house. 35 minutes up and back. Must say I was rather impressed with myself : ) We also managed to find that Bozeman is completely and utterly littered with trails. Bikes and pedestrians everywhere with some sidewalks but not many bike lanes. Goes to disprove my theory that people in Little Rock can’t walk or bike due to lack of safe sidewalks and lanes. Apparently the trick is to teach DRIVERS to share the road. Sigh.The campus is lovely. I even found that I could share an afternoon respite from mind numbing science to sit with Walt Whitman. Nice.
On the day before departure we rented a car for a trip 90 miles South to Yellowstone National Park. Oh. That’s it. Just Oh. Whenever I am in unfamiliar territory I have to wonder, when you grow up looking at this lovliness…do you ever really see it? Do people who grow up here find the same kind of peace and tranquility when they visit the plains, a sandy beach or a flat delta farmland? There is nothing like snow capped mountains or standing at the top of a deep canyon over a waterfall to make one feel small and insignifcant in this world and yet after the initial shock of my own smallness here, I want to climb-scale-run-hop-roll in the snow at the top. That desire is somehow empowering.
Toward the end of an exhausting but sight filled day- we looked out the window of the car as we were driving alongside the Yellowstone River and caught a glimpse of these guys playing in the white caps of the rapids. They are much larger than they appear! We had to stop and take a walk down to see them.
And then out of nowhere, just hanging out on the side of the road as if he was just waiting for some buddies to come by was this fella. Not the biggest bloke we’d seen all day, but one of the mellowest. He just watched as the traffic went by. Don’t you wonder what the animals think? Car after car filled with people, just staring at him and taking pictures. I would like to think he is thinking, “what a bunch of morons…don’t you know there could be millions of us in your own backyard if there weren’t highways and parking lots everywhere?”
July was BUSY. August shows no sign of slowing down. Just this weekend We’ve done hours of trail work, seen a minor league ball game, gone for a bike ride, had a sweet brunch and shopped at the Argenta Market for T-Bones from Creekstone Farms Humane Processing and had the best chocolate milk ever. No, I mean Ever. J says that in Heaven, this milk is available any time, in unlimited quantities. Thanks Seven Doves Creamery. I gotta go get more milk. I’m thirsty. I think the buck would like some too.
I’ve been pretty busy lately. Work and Home seem to be hopping along and free time is at a premium. Because my family seems to be addicted to Facebook, I am required to be also. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it.
Last weekend were were here.
J and I were there to do the last of the Adventure Sprint Races put on by the Ozark Extreme Team and the small one came along hoping for a caving adventure with the bats. J has been very ill the last several weeks and we’re just getting back into training together. He was a trooper. The race began about 10 a.m. with a super dooper trek thru some of the best trail areas in the park. We hit checkpoints across several different trails (and roads) on foot before getting to the mountain bike portion of the race. About 2 miles into the bike, my chain broke. J fixed it for me but pretty soon, the whole rear derailleur broke free from the frame and I was forced to “scooter” my bike. Eventually the decision was made that we couldn’t possibly finish with me pushing my bike and we had to “quit” after 4 hours of hard labor. That was a tough call. Very tough. I felt like we were doing well especially considering J had really Manned Up for me after being so sick. Oh well. At least it was during a short race and not the “big one” coming up.
Later that evening we took the small one for a 2 hour guided hike with the park interpreter Casey. She appreciated it because it meant a slow hike. We, are not slow hikers. In the end we stayed back to explore a cave and got mulitple bat fly-bys! So cool.
The next morning we had that yummy french toast in the picture and headed out for another hike on Yellow Rock trail. What a gorgeous day we had. We could not have asked for better weather. I mean seriously, August in Arkansas and it was PLEASANT. That just doesn’t happen people.
And now, back to the regularly scheduled program…a busy life.