Kentucky: state of mountains, mines, and impeccable scenery. This region of Appalachia also happens to be one of the best places to rock climb on the east coast. Red River Gorge (RRG) features some fantastic routes in sandstone cliffs forged many moons ago by a tumbling river.
It was the perfect place to spend a long weekend.
Armed with bug repellent, climbing gear, lots of crag snacks, and two competent friends, I enjoyed hour upon hour in this wild space. Muir Valley, named after the “Father of the National Parks”, was a serene location with enough shade to make the Kentucky heat bearable.
I still sweated.
But it was so much fun to climb real rock – to be 100 feet above the ground hyper-aware of every movement and rock feature. The wildlife was present, but unobtrusive, although I did get to watch a snake eat a mouse.
The laid back, slower pace of life in this city has earned New Orleans the nomenclature The Big Easy. Streets cater to pedestrians, narrow alleys are ideal for intimate meals, and music seems to seep out from unexpected places. Compared to my recent stint in NYC, N’awlins was relaxingly mesmerizing.
The Garden District is a playground for celebrities. Who knew that the likes of John Goodman and Sandra Bullock regularly call this city their home? I took a walking tour of this neighborhood, marveling at the gorgeous architecture and delightful foliage of plantation-turned-mini-mansion neighborhoods.
City Park was another highlight of this fascinating city! The green space was well-kept and an intriguing place to meander whilst sipping a chickory coffee (bitter).
And now to end on a quote (of an author I’ve never heard of):
“Yes, a dark time passed over this land, but now there is something like light.” – Dave Eggers
My last gator sighting had been in the wild world of the Everglades.
I was overdue for a look at one of these fascinating critters.
Chock one up for Louisiana – it sure packs a punch when it comes to the local flora and fauna found within the beautiful landscape of the Bayou. I saw 7 alligators, including an adorable baby one I named Jeremiah! There were snakes, bugs, fish, and all sorts of interesting things to look at during my hikes within Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Besides another stamp in my passport, I gained an appreciation for this area of our country, discovering a serene paradise.
The smells were fruity and organic. The sights were varied and unique. The sounds reminded me that I was surrounded by many different animals, some that only live within the delta of this state.
During my Bayou swamp kayak tour the night before, I appreciated the peace-giving atmosphere of being enclosed by the baldcypress trees. I snacked on the Mayhaw fruit – a type of berry that tastes a bit like an apple – as I paddled within the wetlands. Unlike some of my other kayak adventures (Biscayne and Mammoth Caves), this one allowed me to truly get off the beaten path. Our guide was a local who grew up along the river, an expert as navigating his way around the swamp ever since he was just a little kid.
Louisiana may not have an official National Park, but it has so much to offer when it comes to natural places. I finished my morning hike with a bowl of gumbo from a local establishments, replete with seafood fresh from the wild.
February is the month of introspection and restlessness. Typically winter lolls about like a tantrumming toddler, beating its fists and creating headaches all around.
This year feels different. Perhaps it’s the mild weather (78° anyone???), or maybe it’s due to the plethera of random activities in which I’ve been dabbling.* In any case, I’ve been venturing outdoors more than usual, exploring nearby places with a renewed sense of vigor.
A metaphorical stone’s throw from my abode, The Cross County Trail cuts 40 miles through the entire county of Fairfax. This fascinating path crosses around and under surburbia, including well-populated areas and interstates. What a feat!
My walk/hike was muddy, sunshine-y, and friendly. People smiled at me in passing. I felt protected by a little envelope of trees, grass, running water, logs, and rocks. It was amazing to discover natural wonders so close to my own backyard.
And when it’s time to journey further, I’ve got a new set of wheels.
Unfortunately, my dear Honda Civic hydroplaned, spun-out, and then became a total loss. It’s been a rough year for him (see Accident of the Deer #1), I mourn his passing.
In the meantime, near or far, I am confident that I will continue engaging with all things beautiful in our natural world!