Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Inaugural Ladies’ Homestead Gathering Retreat

October 31, 2011

I’m still basking in the memories of the retreat as they filter through my mind while I try to get back to life here on the farm.

When I sat at this table this summer, taking notes and dreaming about what it would be like to actually have a retreat focused solely on homesteading, my dreams couldn’t begin to conceive all the emotional/relational gifts that would be mine after a weekend together with like-minded women.

After my friend and I waved good-bye to the last car as it made it’s way down the mountain, re-checked all the rooms and buildings, and put our own belongings into the truck, my very good friend suggested we sit on the back porch to “breathe” before we headed down the mountain ourselves.

While we sat in the rocking chairs, breathing in the crisp fall air of dusk, surrounded by the incredible beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, we reminisced about the activities and conversations of the last 48 hours.

And then she asked me a very poignant question – Did the weekend meet the expectations I had for a Ladies’ Homestead Retreat?

Moments before we sat together on the porch, I had to make my way up the path to the Guest House to look for a walking stick that had been left behind.  In the quiet solitude and alone with my  thoughts, I had been thinking about all the “firsts” and “victories” that had happened over the weekend for these women and my heart welled with incredible emotion, almost to the point of tears.

This retreat went far beyond my expectations….

As we rocked back and forth in our weather worn rockers, I shared that with all those “firsts”  and “victories” came a sense of accomplishment when a new skill was learned; self-worth when added knowledge was given to a conversation; self-confidence when a fear was overcome or a goal successfully achieved; a belief in who they are as a person, that they matter, when hugs and words of affirmation were given after they shared a part of their “story.”

You can never ever buy or purchase those gifts for another person – you can only offer the opportunity to try and the encouragement and hand holding to let them know you believe in them with all your heart.

The cheering and the clapping resounding in the valley when one of the gals successfully split a piece of wood with an axe; the applause and “atta girl!” for the first time teacher of one of the classes; those light bulb moments when a concept or plant identification  was understood and grasped;  the “come on, you can do it!!” whether they were trucking to the top of the mountain or picking a chicken for the first time – these are the results of sisterhood, friendship, a community of like-minded women.

Time after time this weekend, my heart rejoiced as I watched each woman receive the gift of self-worth, self-confidence, “you matter.”

This was OUR weekend, we all made it happen, we all had a part in its success…

And we all shared in the joy and blessing of friendship.

In May,when I sat at that little table on the porch of a rustic log building and scribbled notes and ideas for a ladies’ homestead retreat, little did I know that the reality of those dreams would far exceed any of my expectations.

Thank you ladies, my friends, for an incredible weekend.


Tennessee Rock Trail – Mountain City, GA

August 22, 2011

Thought it would be a good idea to hike the trail we are recommending for the Ladies’ Homestead Retreat.

Yesterday a friend and I drove up to Mountain City, GA to Black Rock Mountain State Park to hike the Tennessee Rock Trail.

2.2 miles long and an ascent of over 1000′

There is a fee for parking and either you can pay it here or at the Visitor’s Center further on up the mountain.

We chose the Visitor’s Center because they have a bathroom…and a nice gift shop 🙂

Little blue square says “more difficult.”

Little black square says “most difficult.”

We chose the blue…and because that “warning” notice said there were yellow jacket nests in the other trail – no thank you!

Sooooo – the first ascent.  A lot of stairs going up!

To buy myself some “catch my breath” time, I was easily distracted by bugs.

Actually, I’d never seen one of these before.  Anyone know what it is?

It was beautiful!

Obviously this is a popular plant – see all the other bugs on it?

Once we went “up” for a little ways, the trail evened out and meandered through the woods.

It really is an enjoyable hike and in the fall, it should be gorgeous with all the fall colors.

After about 2/3 of the way along the trail, the ascent begins again…

But it was so worth the sweat and grunt…

There are a lot of big boulders at this look out and this is where we will stop to have lunch.

You will definitely have earned the rest 🙂

Is it any wonder why they are called the Smokey Mountains?…

After lunch, the climb back down the trail…all down hill!

If you have knee problems, you may want to take this part of the trail into consideration.

The trail begins and ends at this picnic spot so if you get down the mountain before the others, there’s a nice place to wait.

We did the trail in about an hour and a half.  But taking lunch into account, I’m planning on 2 and a 1/2  hours.

If you’re moderately exercising, you should be fine with this trail.  Most of the trail is very doable and it’s so permissible to take frequent stops on the parts that are a little more strenuous!

Another bonus – it’s minutes from the Foxfire Museum.

Looking forward to hiking this trail again with a lot more friends 🙂

In the Beginning – Part 4

November 11, 2010

The weather has finally turned cooler, the leaves are changing with the impending season of fall, and my thoughts return to the “falls” of yesteryears.  I admit that fall is by far my favorite time of year.  I’m sure growing up in New England has something to do with that love for this season!

I recently returned from a hiking trip with 2 of my girls and along the trail we were reminiscing about all the hiking we did when they were little kids.

I remember distinctly when I decided that I was going to give my children the opportunity to fall in love with the out of doors.  My friend Jan and I had taken our girls up to the lodge on Mount Rainier in Washington state to do some walking around.

It was a gorgeous day and the vistas were breathtaking.  Together, we walked along the paved pathways around the lodge.

I had Victoria in a backpack, Lauren (2) and Catherine (4) holding on to my hands.  Jan had Olivia on her back in a backpack.

Jan and I got to talking about all the hiking we had available to us and why did the fact that we had kids keep us from doing something that she and I both loved to do?!

On the drive home we decided we would start researching hikes around the area and what it would take to hike with kids.

We didn’t have a lot of money to spend on this new venture so we had to be smart about our purchases.

Jan and I each researched different hiking books.  We finally decided on a hiking book of easy to moderate hikes in the Cascades.  We also bought a book of hikes for children.  This book had some great tips about hiking with children.

Next, I went to Goodwill and bought backpacks for Catherine and Lauren – the ones who were walking!

I couldn’t afford great, expensive hiking boots for my girls so I bought the best ones at a discount shoe store.  I did want them to last for a couple of seasons since they would be passed down to the next child.  When other people found out we were hiking, they would pass their kid’s boots along to us.  It wasn’t long before we were the “go-to” family if you were looking for hiking boots.  I kept ALL sizes to be passed from child to child.

Each child had a hat, a whistle and a towel for their backpack.  They also had to carry their own lunch and water, occasionally, a special blankie.  I usually had a baby on my back and couldn’t carry all the extra stuff for them.

Jan and I decided that we would hike once a month from May – Sept.  We switched from year to year, taking turns putting the hiking schedule together.  When other friends heard about our hikes, they wanted to join us.  We handed out schedules but it was funny.  A few went once or  they wanted us to take their children with us on the hikes while they stayed home.

Wading in the water with the kids after we ate lunch. That's me in the white shirt with Michael and Victoria. Jan is behind me in the yellow shorts. Cascades, WA

We had 3 rules which all children had to obey when they hiked with us:

  1. No whining
  2. Take it in, take it out
  3. Never get so far ahead that you can’t see an adult

Sometimes when we had a large group (Jan and I were suckers for taking kids without their parents), I would make badges for the best hiker or there was a prize at the end for those children who obeyed all the hiking rules.

We had the best time and the kids were wonderful!!  Jan and I agreed that our own kids had grown so much in character from hiking.  They often surprised us with their stamina and drive and good attitudes in “not so pleasant” conditions.

Our goal - the lake. Even though the water was cold (glacier fed) we still let the kids get in if they wanted to - their choice. Cascades, WA

Some tips that helped to motivate our kids –

  1. We chose hikes that had a goal at the end – a waterfall, lake, or river
  2. I’d read that special snacks were motivators.  I would buy something they wouldn’t normally get and we would stop at different intervals to partake of the special snacks.  I.e., if it wasn’t too warm, I’d get chocolate kisses and we would stop every 20 minutes or so to eat 1 or 2.  This was used more so in the beginning when we were training them to “keep going!”
  3. Sometimes they could invite friends, although they found out quickly which friends were fun to take and which ones weren’t 🙂
  4. I’d buy special treats for lunch like juice boxes.  It didn’t take much for them to be excited about hiking until it was time for lunch!
  5. Jan and I always made a big deal about our hikes and the fun we were going to have out on the mountain.
  6. She and I each wore a whistle.  Whenever the kids heard that whistle, they were to get to us as fast as they could.  We’d have practice drills every now and then to see how the kids would do and they loved it.

Victoria had just turned 4. Mt. Rainier in the background.

Once my first two girls got the hang of what was expected for hiking, it was a snap for those that came along after.  The younger ones never questioned the rules – it’s just what you did when you hiked!

Jan and I began to learn the different flora and fauna for our area and taught the children to identify the plants and trees.  We talked with hikers we met along the trails, our kids always getting kudos for all the hiking they had done.

Michael in the left bottom corner. This is the day he hiked for 2 miles all by himself! Mt. Rainier, WA

Jan and I both homeschooled our kids and this outdoor classroom had the greatest impact!  We also used the car rides to the trailheads for teaching – spelling games, math computation contests, music with grammar lessons or names of presidents.

Discovery!! Lauren (5) squatting down, Olivia (Jan's daughter), Victoria (4) in the white shorts, and two boys I don't remember. Cascades, WA

I loved sharing my appreciation for the outdoors with my kids and it’s been wonderful to see that appreciation carried with them throughout their growing up years.  Hiking with my children when they were small had so many benefits.

I personally loved the break from being inside and sitting at the table for school lessons.  When we were walking, there were a myriad of questions, “Mommy, what’s this?  Why are the mountains so big?  What is that bird?  Where does the water go?  Where does it come from?  Why is there snow in the summer?”  It was endless… and wonderful!

Catherine - had just turned 8. Cascades, WA

I loved the exclusive time with my kids, discovering, and exploring.  I wasn’t competing with a phone or the pressures of running a household when I was out in the woods with them.  They had my undivided attention.

It was a great time to spend with my friend, Jan.  Not that we had a lot of time for any deep conversations but just the fact that we were sharing this time together made our friendship stronger.

The physical benefit to our kids – unbelievable.  One time we were hiking in the Cascades and Michael was 2.  He really didn’t want to be in the back pack so I let him walk.  He hiked for 2 miles along the trails, climbing stairs that were steep, and he never complained!  I was amazed.  Competition with his sisters started young 🙂

Michael (age 2) in the backwards baseball cap. We were crossing a marshland. Mt. Rainier, WA

One of the greatest benefits from hiking?!  Those sweet, sleepy, tired faces after a warm bath in the evening.  My kids slept great and usually slept a little longer the next morning, and that meant a little bit of cherished alone time for myself.  Well worth all the planning that went into hiking with my kids.

I know I’ve kept track of all the trails we did through the Cascades and the Olympics in WA, but my favorite way to remember is to listen to my girls and Michael tell the tales – the time we got lost and walked a few extra miles; the time we went over the mountains to Eastern WA and hiked a VERY remote trail, crossing 20 some streams and how unhappy the daddy’s were because we were out of cell service and got home late;  the time our battery died way up on the mountain and we had to make a sign to see if someone would stop to help us; the time Lauren threw up on the way to the hike because the road was too windy; playing in the lakes until it felt as those your feet would fall off because they were so cold.  Priceless, precious memories…

I highly recommend hiking with kids.  Yes, it takes a little extra planning, and yes, it takes some training to teach them proper hiking behavior but in the end, it is so worth the effort.  It’s an activity you can share with them no matter the age. The memories for both you and them will last forever.

Len Foote Hike Inn – Day 2

October 28, 2010

Saturday morning….

I’d been awake and waiting for others to start moving around.  At the first rustle and the glow of an i-phone showing over the edge of the top bunk – I knew it was time!  I get so excited about morning and especially this morning cuz we were going to hike again!

There’s a ritual at the Inn.  Just before sunrise, they walk by all the rooms gently beating on a drum.  It’s really a nice mellow sound.  This is to let everyone know that the “show” is about to begin and if you want a front row seat, then you better get moving …

And what seats we had!!

Nothing like morning faces for early morning pictures,

and a flash doesn’t help either 🙂

Lauren and I were reminiscing about her Senior trip to Maine and the morning we were up at 4am to hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.   At 1532 feet, it’s the highest point along the N. Atlantic seaboard.

I love watching the transformation of all the beautiful mountains and…

…within minutes, the scenery changes.


So soul quenching….

We began to take guesses as to where the sun would first peek into this new day.

Right smack in the middle of those two mountains!

The colors were phenomenal!

The hues on the horizon changed so quickly…

The illumination spilled over into the valley….

Good morning, Dahlonega!

The experience of watching such an incredible sunrise is truly indescribable…

Watching the landscape and the ever changing shadows…

As the sunlight seeps into all the nooks and crannies….

Stretching her light to the heavens….

It was absolutely breathtaking…


And we were so grateful to be able to share this moment with one another.

When the sun was well on her way to her zenith, the breakfast bell rang!

Megan got creative in identifying her mug 🙂

After a breakfast of biscuits, garlic grits, scrambled eggs and sausage, we headed back to our room to get ready for the hike back to civilization.

First, we had to strip our linens and put them and our towels in the hamper on the porch.

Let me explain these canvas bags….I thought  it was a brilliant idea.

When we checked in, they handed each of us a canvas bag and inside was a set of sheets, bath towel, and washcloth.  It was great for use when we needed to go to the bathhouse and didn’t want to carry our whole back pack or fumble around trying to contain in our arms all the various items we would need to use.

And they got washed right along with the rest of the sheets and towels.

When all the housekeeping had been taken care of, it was time to get ourselves ready to head out.

Lolo had started to get a blister before our hike.

So I had gotten special band-aides for blisters.  These had a gel-like pouch on them which went over the blister.  The heat from the body helped it to form over the blister and kept it from anymore friction.

And just to be sure, we added some extra protection.

Time to hit the trail!

Another glorious day in the woods….

Even overnight, the trees seemed to have changed, a little bit brighter.

Lolo and I commented how different the trail seemed going the other way.

We talked about all the hiking we did together when the kids were small, laughing at some of our favorite memories.

Lolo and I ended up hiking together and we had the most wonderful conversations!

In the quiet and peacefulness of the woods, we shared our hearts without any disruption from people or cell phones.

It was a perfect day for hiking, the perfect place for quality time with my daughter, and the perfect moment to tell her how much I loved her…

Precious time together which happens less frequently as they grow older.

As we continued walking, I found myself slowing down to enjoy all the subtle sights…

The colors of the leaves were just too difficult to ignore!

All the creeks were filled with leaves, making the water hard to see.

Some of the leaves decided to hitch a ride 🙂

And just when I thought I could restrain myself from taking another picture….

I’d find another leaf…

And I just had to stop….

I never worried about losing my way.  The green blazes were everywhere

and so were the people who were headed up the mountain.  We met quite a few people who were going to hang out with the trees and the colored leaves.

And in way too short a time, we began to hear the voices from crowds of people and motorized vehicles.

Admittedly, we were tempted to turn around and quickly head back into the woods.

Our time on the way back out?  2.5 hours in 5 miles, slowed by a camera-happy, picture-snapping hiker.

See the shirts the girls are wearing??  You can only purchase them from the Len Foote Hike Inn!

So next time you see someone wearing a shirt from Len Foote, ask them how they enjoyed their hike!

…or where the Goodwill is where they shop 🙂

We were just a little ready for lunch by the time we reached the bottom and by the time we took off our packs, we were really hungry!  We decided to brave the crowds and head to Dahlonega to find something to eat.

Did I mention how hungry we were?

We enjoyed a quiet ride home as we chatted about our hike and the fun we had during the last two days.

Conclusion?  We’re going to do this more often.

Next hike?  The day after Thanksgiving!

Len Foote Hike Inn- Day 1

October 26, 2010

A friend had told me about the Len Foot Hike Inn and I was intrigued.  It sounded like a great hike and my girls were old enough to handle the “moderate” rating of the hike.  I made reservations at the very beginning of April since they recommended 11 months in advance.

Finally, the day arrived and we were so excited!  Lolo helped Mae Mae get her hiking hairdo on…

Everything we needed for the next two days had to be carried in our backpacks.  I’ve since made notes about what I WON’T need the next time…

Before we started on the Len Foote hike, we thought we should see the waterfalls before Saturday came.  With all the gorgeous fall colors, we knew the “peepers” would be filling the Amicalola State Park.

We walked to the bottom of the stream…

And then walked up ALL the stairs…

Till we made it to the beautiful, very tall,  falls!

It’s hard to get perspective with a camera.  See Mae Mae and our friend at the bottom of the picture?

But we did our best to capture this incredible view.

The blue of the sky, the brilliance of the trees – it looked as though Someone had plugged in the day!

After we took all the pictures we wanted, we walked back down ALL those steps and drove over to the top of the falls.

The view was spectacular!

Finally we arrived at the parking lot for the Len Foote Hike Inn.  We visited the restroom, checked our backpacks, and loaded up for the 5 mile hike to the inn.

And we stepped into the quiet solitude of the woods…

After the first mile, tired of listening to our growling stomachs, we stopped for lunch!

Food never tastes as good as it does outside in the woods 🙂

We had a visitor who joined us for lunch…

a Hover Fly.

And to prove his namesake, he hovered so I could snap this photo of him!  It’s funny how he tucks his little legs up beside him and his wings are so fast, you can’t even see them!

The trail was marked with a lime green blaze.  The Appalachian Trail was blazed with blue.

We met some wonderful new friends along the way.  These ladies were from the Atlanta area and headed to the Inn also.  One of the gals had this hike on her “bucket” list and her two friends came for moral support.

The scenery changed constantly.  We loved the “tunnel” feel of this grove of Laurel and Rhododendrons.

Don’t be fooled by that smile on R’s face.  Look at Mae Mae’s face and harken the caution seen there!

The trees’ foliage was spectacular – reminded me so much of New England as we hiked through all these colors!

Noticed this pretty little flower along the pathway.  I believe it’s a Stiff Gentian.

I love being in the woods- exploring, wondering, thinking, listening to all the sounds, watching the way the light from the sun plays among the branches and leaves…

The Sassafras tree was everywhere with it’s funny shaped leaves – the ones that look like mittens are my favorite.

The mountain side undulated up and down as we hiked along, some hills steeper than others.

When the hills were a little more of an incline than we were used to, we stopped for a little rest 🙂

And then when we all were in a really great hiking rhythm, we hiked right into the Inn!

We’d made it!  5 miles of hiking in 2.5 hours!

There was an earned feeling of accomplishment 🙂

After we checked in, we headed to our bunk house.  One set of bunks in each room – we had adjoining rooms.

The accommodations were simple, clean, and a very welcome sight!

First things first after checking out our beds, the bathroom!

Real towels and hairdryers…but the best of all???  HOT SHOWERS!!

And…composting toilets.  The girls wanted me to tell you all that the pictures can’t begin to tell how it “felt” to sit on one of these toilets.  There was a constant cool draft that flowed through the big tube of the compost toilet.

After we took care of all the important tasks, we headed to the dining hall where we were told they had snacks waiting for us.

Corn bread and Sweet Potato Soup – it was wonderful!

What I really wanted was something to drink…

These were our cups the entire time we were at the Inn.

Oh, and another thing…no garbage cans anywhere at the Inn.  What you carried in to the Inn, you carried back out – even your garbage 🙂

We explored the Inn area before the Educational Tour at 5pm.

We learned that all the buildings were built on stilts so as not to disrupt the contour of the land and cause erosion.

And the view – worth every step along that path through the woods!

We took time to chat with some of the other guests who had arrived at the Inn.

Found this hanging in one of the trees…

The educational tour told us all about the formation of the Inn and how they are striving to be eco-friendly.

This is one of their worm bins and it was FULL of Red Worms – impressive!

Before dinner, R taught us all how to play horse shoes….

Such form…

…and finesse!

I like when my girls have an opportunity for a “first.”  Now they can say they’ve “tried” to play horseshoes 🙂

We were really excited when we finally heard the dinner bell ring at 6p.

An amazing meal was set before us – of course, was it so amazing because the cook was that good or because we were famished after our hike??  Umm, yes to both!

We had Black-eyed Peas, Collard Greens, biscuits, Caesar Salad, and Pork Loin with caramelized onions.

The meal was delicious!!!

This picture isn’t very good but I had to show you.

These 2 guys are playing the banjo and guitar and doing the kitchen dance.

Wanna know why?

Remember I said the Inn was eco-friendly?

After each meal, they weigh the scraps that are left on all the plates.

If there are 0 ounces, the kitchen staff does the kitchen dance!

Guess what?  We had 0 waste at our dinner meal 🙂

After dinner, we all went outside to watch the sunset.

While we were waiting, the girls decided to take a closer look at this formidable structure.

This structure took 2 years to be placed in just the right position.

During the Summer Equinox, the sun, as it rises, hits the circle at the top …

…and illuminates this room behind the structure.

There are large rocks placed on the ground around the structure to point out the directions.

Mae Mae is standing on the rock facing East…

…and Lolo is showing us the way to the Northeast!

Afterwards, we decided to check out the Community Room.

And a rousing game of Yahtzee broke out!  NOT!  We were all feeling the effects of hiking all day and we were ready for a hot shower….

And comfy beds!

Sleep well, my beautiful girls, for tomorrow we do the same!

Narceus Americanus Millipede

September 2, 2010

Over the weekend, a friend and I went hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The trail we took was covered with a canopy of trees and wound its way along the river.  We each had a camera so it was definitely a “stop/start” kind of hike.  I love looking for the unusual and we were not disappointed…

We came upon this bug as the sun was beginning to set.  It was about 4″ long and moving rather slowly in the the leaves and underbrush.

Apparently, they’re forest foragers and help with the decomposing process.

The outside…so beautiful in its striped coat.

So many legs!!!  We both laughed as we joked about having to cut the toenails of all those feet or having to put socks on in the winter 🙂

We tried to touch it and it curled up into a little ball, head in first for protection.

After a bit, he uncurled and went on his way, doing what millipedes do in the middle of the forest – an integral part of the ecosystem.

For more in depth info on this fascinating creature, check out this link.