Backyard Magic (and a “Comfortable Runabout”)

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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.

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Calm and (relatively) clean.

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.

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Honda CR V (Comfortable Runabout Vehicle). His name is Sherwin… it means “swift like wind”.

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.

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Cray-zee, right?

In the meantime, near or far, I am confident that I will continue engaging with all things beautiful in our natural world!

* Axe-throwing, roller skating, etc.

 

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Fever of the Cabin

 

Cabin fever: irritability, listlessness, and similar symptoms resulting from long confinement or isolation indoors during the winter.

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This season has been a strange one, vacillating between cold-frigid-dry and mild-breezy-moist. The sun has peeked out for days at a time, and then retreated back to its cloud cover, refusing to dish out Vitamin D.

I was feeling the mid-winter blahs, so I rooted around for my hiking boots, and dug out my day-pack. It was time to hit the trails.

Enter: Prince William National Forest.

This gem is only a 30 minute drive from my house, assuming that I-95 is not a slogging mess of traffic. It wasn’t (hooray).

Things were quiet and closed down for the season. A few families were milling about, taking advantage of the higher temps, and letting their little rugrats release some pent-up winter energy. I took a peek at the trail map, and set out.

The landscape was a blend of white, blue, and shades of brown. The air smelled delicious, and I enjoyed clomping along the mucky trail. My favorite part was the semi-frozen creek along which I traipsed. Pretty is too nominal a word to describe the glistening snow covering, the icy edges, and the brave trickling stream that I followed for the majority of my day.

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I spy some green!

I got up close, taking pictures to help me truly see and understanding this unassuming body of water. I hunched down with my face near the ice cover, noticing the lattice work of the frozen water reflecting the winter sun. Fellow hikers gave me friendly nods, probably assuming I had lost an earring, or a piece of my mind.

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Ice, ice baby

I walked.

I hiked.

I skipped (for just a small portion).

I was glad to be alone, and glad to have my senses ignited.

Fast forward a week: I now sit inside, once again, lamenting the rain that ebbs and flows.

Perhaps I’ll root around for my waterproof jacket and beat the winter blahs once again.

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Sky Time

Throughout my travels near and far, I have experienced nature in the forests, mountains, valleys, rivers, oceans, and even underground in caves.

It was high-time that I took to the skies.*

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Me. Happy.

When my pilot friend (who also happens to be a flight instructor) said, “Let’s go flying”, I was 100% onboard – literally.

It was a crisp, clear day with views for miles. I observed the lacy patterns on the semi-frozen Potomac River that lay surrounded by snow-dusted grounds. The deciduous trees stood as tiny skeletons while pockets of deep green marked the clusters of their evergreen friends. The Chesapeake Bay was a sight to behold with its glossy surface reflecting the sun, making the light dance as we flew lazy eights above.

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The view from above, including the Potomac

I was experiencing my world from a completely new perspective, and thoroughly enjoying it. Things looked prettier from up high, away from the concrete and busyness on the ground. My birds-eye-perspective rendered everything as smaller, simpler, yet somehow even more beautiful.

And yes, getting a chance to take-off and actually fly a bit myself added to my sense of awe.

I was surrounded by air, far from the world as I know it, yet still experiencing the natural world in a phenomenal way.

I cherished every minute of it.

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Our plane

 

* The commercial flights I’ve taken wherein I share elbow space with other humans and have just a peek of blue sky out a too-small window don’t truly count as a “nature experience”

When the Sun Goes Down

 

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Goodbye sun, goodbye light

 

Sunsets on the Pacific are pretty stellar. The entire sky emits a gorgeous scheme of colors that reflect off of the ocean. Taking a horseback ride on the beach with dusk approaching rendered this Mexican moment even more glamorous. The sun hovered around the horizon casting long rays of light out onto the sandy shore.

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As night settled in, I was able to explore some hot springs along the beach. Steaming water bubbles up in a “secret” location. Anyone with a shovel and a lil’ bit of grit can essentially dig their own hot tub. Some places within the pit were too hot for even my feet to handle.

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Impromptu beach hot tub (excuse the poor, grainy quality)

Mexico, you’re a quirky country, with lots of fun things to explore… especially when the sun goes down.

Bonfire on the beach, anyone?

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My new amigo

Sea Lions and Sea Slugs

The waves picked up, barreling over my kayak as I struggled to paddle perpendicular to the shore. The salt spray blinded me momentarily until I was through the shore break and out into the relatively calm waters.

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It was a beautiful Thanksgiving day south of the border. An almost record high of 85° convinced me to brave the chilly Pacific waters. The bright sun was intense – a welcome relief from my recent dunk in the ocean. I bobbed on the sea for a spell, thinking about everything and nothing. My last experience in the Pacific involved a surfing lesson after my time spent in the Channel Islands.

It was then that I spotted a brown face and sleek body emerging from the ocean’s surface. A sea lion decided to swim on by, checking out this oddly colored piece of plastic floating in his waters. I watched, I listened, I enjoyed life.

Fast forward 4 hours.

Bike riding along the beach was a fun pass time, but I was on a mission: hunting for sea slugs. These fascinating creatures are squishy mollusks that release reddish ink when disturbed. After a zippy three-mile bike ride, I found one!

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His name is Holden. He wasn’t cooperating for the camera, but he did slug around my hand for a bit.

My Mexico Thanksgiving was full of unique experiences and living “treasures”. I took a moment to appreciate my special outdoor experiences and how blessed I am to continue trekking around the world seeking out natural spaces.

I was also grateful that the sea slug ink came off… eventually.