Backward Glance

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I legitimately took this picture @ Biscayne. It could be on a postcard, yes?

It’s been a little over a month since I said goodbye to “normal” civilization, packed up a lifetime supply of Clif Bars, and moved permanently into a home that is 30 square feet. I can’t help but reflect back on how I’ve adapted to a completely different lifestyle. Has it been as fun as a barrel of monkeys? You bet! Have I had moments of wondering whether or not I was crazy for attempting such an endeavor? Yes – though they’ve been few and far between.

Every day is different. I’ve put in my fair share of “touristy” investments. Dollywood was by far the cleanest and prettiest amusement park I’ve ever been to. Ruby Falls made me wish that I was part of the original team that explored the cavern and found a 145 foot underground waterfall. What I find truly exciting, however, is the genuine honest-to-goodness outdoor, full immersion nature moments. This is why I decided to take my trip. This is when my happiness levels peak through the roof. This is what I wish all of my dear friends and readers could experience in real-time with me.

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Ruby Falls in all of its glory…

To those of you rooting me on at home: thanks for the packages, love, and well-wishes.

To those of you whom I’ve encountered along the way: thank you for the good conversation breaking up the long periods of solitude.

And to those of you whom I’ve never met: I appreciate your interest and attention.

4 weeks down, 43 to go!

 

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Chattanooga Choo Choo

Note: this post has absolutely nothing to do with trains – I simply wasn’t able to get the song out of my head whilst traipsing about the city.
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The view from Coolidge Park

I couldn’t resist a 2-hour drive from Knoxville to check out this hip little city. Chattanooga boasts some of the most gorgeous city parks, trendy boutiques, quaint diners, and accessible outdoor activities. From arrival to departure, Chatt Town didn’t disappoint, particularly with its fresh energy and eclectic gatherings.

On the edge of Lookout Mountain, I spent some time in a state park hiking. It was quite pleasant descending into the gorge and seeing smatterings of boulders as I made my way to a couple of waterfalls. The geology was incredible, making me wonder why exactly Earth looks like it does.

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The human is for scale

Well done, Chattanooga. Let’s meet again!

Outdoor Withdrawal

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Happiness!

For 5 days in a row, I spent most of my waking moments in the great outdoors. After averaging about 6 miles of hiking a day, it’s incredible how accustomed I became to being in nature. I appreciated the solitude that comes from hours of meandering and exploring through the woods.

And so it felt odd to remain indoors for a couple of days. My legs felt listless and time seemed to move at a slightly different pace. While the average American spends 93% of their life indoors, I have come to learn that I function best when I can traipse along trails or sit quietly in a meadow observing what’s going on around me. I have a theory that most people would be much more centered if they simply let themselves be outside more frequently.

As my buddy John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

High Places

The Smokies are perfect for those seeking deliciously satisfying views. There are numerous drives, hikes, and strolls that take you to fabulous summits.

A popular destination within the Smokies is Clingman’s Dome. It’s a simple half-mile walk up a paved inclined trail that lands you at the base of an observation tower. On Monday, I trekked upwards along with throngs of tourists only to be disappointed by the hazy, crowded overlook.

On Thursday, I did a much more strenuous 2-mile hike to the summit of Chimney Tops. This hike was a test of endurance, grit, and quad muscles. Not only was the view astounding, it was so much more rewarding because I felt I actually had to work for it.

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Epic

The easy way to the top wasn’t the best way; it was the effort and labor I invested in my Chimney Top climb that made the end experience so much more worth it. (Hopefully you’re understanding the life lesson in here).

Onward and upward…

Running Water

No, I’m not talking about that convenient spigot full of fluoride-infused water that most Americans take for granted – I’m talking about rivers, streams, runs, brooks, creaks, and “cricks”. Great Smoky National Park is full of running water, flowing rapidly (yet sometimes leisurely) from the mountain crests.

I’ve been pretty spoiled to be able to hike along numerous streams, observe waterfalls, and even camp next to a river. The sound alone of cascading water is enough to make you feel like everything is all right in the world. I have come to the conclusion that running water is crucial, both to the various ecosystems dependent on its flow and to my own well-being.

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The picture doesn’t do it justice!

Interlude

This trip has been an onslaught of new experiences. Even removing the national parks from the equation, I have seen and done more interesting things in just 3 short weeks than I ever thought possible.

Whether it was suffering through 120 decibels of bird screeches at an aviary or stumbling upon a tiny diner that hosted a bluegrass night, I have enjoyed the novelty of each event.

Here are some of my favorite interludes thus far:

  • Visiting a marina in Little River, SC to see my former Starbucks manager
  • Making a quick stop off of I95 to hike a trail at a Florida state reserve
  • Taking a tour of a fruit and spice park (we were allowed to eat any fallen fruit)
  • Exploring Charleston and meandering among vendors at the city market
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Fruit and Spice Park

I’ve come to the conclusion that our world is big!

I can’t wait to see more.

Everglades Recap

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Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 2 nights

Highs:

  • Petting a baby manatee
  • Going for a 15 mile bike ride along the canal and through the marsh
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Just cruisin along

Lows:

  • Deer flies (they’re relentless)

Favorite Hike:

  • Gumbo Limbo trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Fresh mango

Favorite Random Moment:

  • Watching a classic Floridian storm roll in from the Shark Valley observation tower

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    Storm’s a brewin’