Settling In…

Just a reminder, tomorrow is the last day to post your guess to the contest. Winner will be announced on Saturday!

A year ago today I embarked on an epic adventure. It was a journey full of spontaneous surprises and life lessons that have left me questing after more outdoor experiences.

For the first time I have a stationary “home”. I went from a 24 square foot teardrop trailer to a spacious 430 square foot apartment. My first morning in my new place felt odd. I had become so used to rehitching Clarence at first light and getting a head start on the day. It felt glorious, yet peculiar, to sleep in until 8 am.

And then I realized that I would be sleeping in the same location for quite some time.

It made me a little sad; I had such a great time wandering from place to place. I think the feeling of contentment will come gradually, as I furnish my new home and get used to stationary living.

Some things haven’t changed, though.

I still ate breakfast with my SporKnife, my one and only utensil on the road.

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I literally used this twice (or more) a day

I still spent some time noticing green things. Although my lodging square footage has increased, my natural square footage has dwindled to a mid-sized backyard.

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Not quite as grand an the Sequoias or Redwoods, but these trees will do quite nicely.

And I still have that sense of wonder – looking for the beauty in every precise moment and in every small thing.

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I like this space; it’s beautiful in its own way…

Bye Bye, Clarence

I gathered the paper work and removed the key from my ring. I knew this day would come, and was prepared both logistically and emotionally. A mere week after posting Clarence’s adorable picture on Craigslist, I had found a buyer.

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One last moment together

A little over a year ago, I purchased this teardrop trailer (affectionately named Clarence) in hopes of having a cozy haven during my national parks tour. Clarence and I have had some incredible adventures together, traveling cross-country and tallying up the miles.

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Throwback pic: Love at first site at the RV dealership (May 2016)

I’ll sure miss the lil’ stinker, but I’m relieved that he’ll be going to an excellent home. Clarence’s new owner, Nancy, is ready to tote him along on various excursions; she is thrilled to have such a well-traveled teardrop to call her home away from home.

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Passing the baton (aka keys)

So long Clarence. Good luck in your next phase of life.

Thanks for all the good times and for being the best teardrop trailer a girl could ask for. #NeverForget

Jelly Beans and Places Stayed

Time for another contest!

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A couple months ago, my dear blog readers had a chance to win either a big ol’ jar of jelly beans or a blog picture sent as a 8.5 X 11 print. The challenge was to guess how many miles I had hiked.

Our new contest revolves around the number of places I have stayed during my entire voyage. Here are the rules:

  • Leave a comment with your estimate of how many different locations I’ve spent the night
  • Each time Clarence, my teardrop trailer, was in a different site counts as an individual place
  • Next Friday, June 30, I will announce the winner

Reminder: if you don’t see your guess posted right away as a comment, don’t panic, I have to approve all comments before they become official.

Let the guessing begin…

Nature Break

I’ve been back for a week. The oppressive high temperatures in the NOVA area make me miss the dry heat of the southwest and the cool breezes of the coast.

I am intent not to settle comfortably into an indoor lifestyle. It’s trickier to get outside when abiding in a sprawling metropolis, but there are quite a few nearby regional parks at my disposal.

One of them is Morven Park, a historic estate located in Leesburg, VA. The Ridge Trail was a leisure 1.3 mile stroll through a forested area dotted with landmarks from the past.

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Yes, it was hot. Yes, there were ticks. Yes, I enjoyed every minute of it. The tree cover tricked me into thinking that I was a great distance from human developments.

I even saw some spotted turtles, who hung out near the path relishing the humidity.

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Burtle the Turtle

I guess this would be considered Park #48? 🙂

And the Award Goes To… (Part II)

Every park that I’ve been to is special in it’s own way. The diversity found within the natural areas of our country is truly astounding.

That being said, some parks piqued my interest a little more than others.

Introducing my favorites…

(1) Best Hiking: Redwood Forest

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Tall trees, lush greenery, coastal views peeking through the trees… can’t get much better than this.

(2) Best Desert Park: Joshua Tree

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Everything about this place captivated me. The rocks were unique, the sky was gorgeous, and the wildflowers were in full bloom.

(3) Best Lil’ Town: Bar Harbor (outside of Acadia National Park)

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An overlook in Acadia with Bar Harbor nestled neatly off in the distance. This town boasted excellent lobster, fun shops, and an overall non-touristy feel.

(4) Best Exploration: Channel Islands

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This piece of paradise was chock-full of fun places to discover. There were rocky coasts, sea caves, and historical ranches.

(5) Best Views: Glacier

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Those mountains. That sky. *sigh*

(6) Most Isolated: Isle Royale

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In the middle of Lake Superior. I commuted 3-hours via ferry to experience this wonderful wilderness.

(7) Best Waterfalls: Yosemite

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One of the many waterfalls in the Valley. The heavy winter snow resulted in a tremendous amount of falling water.

(8) Best Forests: Sequoia

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I enjoyed walking through forests full of these giants. The crisp spring air and snow-clad floor made the atmosphere peaceful and fresh.

(9) Best Pure Fun: Lassen Volcanic

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Snowshoeing and looking at geothermals was a grand ol’ time.

(10) Best Overall: Olympic

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Beaches, forests, mountains, and more!

Cuyahoga Valley Recap

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Beaver Marsh (I didn’t see any beavers)

Countdown:

  • 0 more parks to go!

Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 2 nights
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Family outing

High:

  • Biking along the canal
  • The Canal Exploration Center featuring historical exhibits on the Ohio and Erie canals
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Canal Exploration Center: one of the best museums I’ve seen this trip

Low:

  • Constant traffic noise
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Enjoying the shade on the Ledges Trail

Favorite Hike:

  • Ledges Trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Buckeyes: a peanut butter and chocolate treat unique to Ohio
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A platter of buckeyes. (I only ate one, I promise)

Park #47!

I did it.

I have officially visited every national park within the contiguous United States.

I felt such a sense of accomplishment adding the last stamp to my passport booklet in Cuyahoga Valley, a park snuggled neatly in between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Huge bridges overhead shuttled cars along the interstate while visitors and wildlife enjoyed this small piece of nature hidden within an urban landscape.

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Mission accomplished!

There was an incredible amount of history that I found fascinating. Who knew that canals played such an integral part in America’s development? I rented a bike and pedaled along the old canal, admiring abandoned locks and water fowl. I even saw a big ol’ snapping turtle resting on a log.

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My wheels for the day

There were some charming waterfalls that I had to myself briefly during the early morning hours. Water cascaded down and I took the time to appreciate every second. I was intent on eking out the last drop of enjoyment from my year-long nature exploration.

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Can you spot the turtle?

Only Ansel Adams, the famous photographer, could so perfectly sum up my thoughts as I officially wrapped up my trip.

I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful – an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”

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Finding magic and wonder in the marsh