Botanic Day Adventure

I studied the plant. It looked simple enough – full glossy leaves splayed open with a thin but sturdy stalk running along the length. I peeked closely, searching for the pod-like fruit, knowing full-well that I was staring at the most toxic plant in the world.

The Castor Oil Plant was just one of the truly interesting things I saw at the United States Botanic Gardens. I was expecting pretty flowers and lots of color, but not so much intriguing vegetation with unique stories.

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Just hanging out (in the heat) in a rose garden

I wandered around the Conservatory, taking in the beauty and diversity of the flora. The World Deserts room brought back fond memories of my time in the Southwest. I marveled at the cactuses, saying hello to old friends that I had encountered during my miles of desert hiking. The Mediterranean room was crisp and refreshing, reminiscent of my visit to the southern coast of California.

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Cactus gathering

The Garden Court featured commerce plants – cacao, bananas, citrus, cotton, and many others. I enjoyed reading each placard, soaking up the information about each unique tree or stalk. When I joined up with a tour, my curiosity about economy-based plants was satiated; lots of questions = lots of answers!

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This endangered plant is nicknamed Cabbage On A Stick.

The heat finally started to get to me, so I ate a sushi burrito for lunch and hopped on the metro to go home.

Day adventures can be fun and I still get to sleep in a real bed in a real house.

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Don’t know what these are called, but they’re quite nice-looking. 🙂

Sugarloaf Mountain

Nothing quite beats climbing on real rock. While I thoroughly enjoy my local rock climbing gym, gripping raw granite while puzzling my way up a cliff face is a whole other type of adventure.

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Taking a break and scrambling around off-rope

During my year of travels, I only climbed a handful of times. Getting back into climbing shape has been a gradual process, so Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland seemed like the perfect place. This local crag is short-ish (35 feet?) with easy routes and a simple approach. It was supposed to be hot, so Lauren, my climbing buddy, and I headed out early to avoid the heat.

On the hike to our spot, we passed a wild raspberry bush. I couldn’t help but pause for a little taste. They were cool, tart, and delicious – one of nature’s little surprises.

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The next couple of hours passed along quickly; time was eclipsed by the flaking of rope, placement of gear, and the motion of scurrying up the rock. There is something so beautifully methodical about climbing outside. At the same time, the climbs I did at Sugarloaf felt so natural and rhythmic. I let myself relax, happy for the shade provided by the tree cover.

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Look at all those fabulous cracks.

I was reluctant to leave, but knew that the high heat of the day was fast approaching. This trip rekindled by love for outdoor trad climbing. Over the past year, I’ve put in quite a few miles hiking in the wilderness – over 320 to be exact. Now, I feel like it’s time I put in some vertical miles. There’s simply so much rock to conquer!

Beach Respite

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Corolla sunrise

Beaches are beautiful. I’ve spent a lot of time on the coast this past year. From snorkeling with the fishes in Dry Tortugas to exploring tide pools in Olympic, the ocean is a magical place.

That’s why my trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina came at an opportune time. Nothing beats the post-trip blahs like a gorgeous landscape and sunshine. As I floated on my back, cocooned by the salty Atlantic water, I closed my eyes and relaxed like a little star fish. There’s something incredible about letting all your senses be lost in a natural space. Three pelicans jolted me out of my revelry, swooping down nearby to pick up an early lunch from the sea.

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A couple days later and a couple shades more tan, I was pretty darn happy. The freckles littering my arms were a pleasant reminder of my time on the beach. If I close my eyes, I can still recall the scent of the delicious salty air…

* sigh *

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And the Winner Is… (Part II)

Congratulations KENT! 

On our most recent contest, you guessed that I had stayed in 110 places during my trip, which is pretty darn close to the actual answer, 100. I zoomed around quite a bit in my little teardrop, but also frequently hunkered down for a couple nights in one spot.

Kent, leave me a comment on this post with your email (I won’t publish it), so I can get in contact with you regarding your grand prize.

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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…