Memories I Will Have Forever From Virginia: Part One….McAfee Knob

Memories….they are made everywhere. Many of my memories are from here in Wisconsin where I was born and raised for the past 40+years of life. However, this past week I made some more memories with my husband on a bucket list trip to Virginia where I know my heart aches to be……in the mountains.

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We live in the flattest state around(in my opinion) and I have seen almost all there is to see here numerous times. So when the chance comes that I get to escape the grind of every day life to go to my happy place I am the first one packed and ready to go. So let me share with you the past week in the mountains of Virginia.

For this vacation we drove from WI to Salem, Virginia to begin our adventure. Now you may wonder…why such an off the wall city like Salem? Well, I had a bucket list dream to fulfill and I wanted to make sure I could do this before we packed in anything else. My dream was to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and get the iconic picture that you see in many, if not all, hiking magazines, on hiking websites and so on. Every time I would see this picture displayed I would tell my husband….some day I will get there. And as usual, he would just smile and say….I have no doubt you will. Love you honey!

The morning of our hike we left before sunrise to make sure we could find the trailhead and get a parking spot. I had read that parking was sometimes packed but was hoping it would not be too bad since our hike was happening Monday morning. We arrived with about twenty minutes to spare before the sun started peeking over the mountains. The lot had a fair share of cars but all looked to have been there overnight. The lot was easily located of the 311 and marked clearly.

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The trail itself starts across the street from the parking area. Again, clearly marked with signage once you cross the 311 carefully, since cars zip around this mountain road fairly quickly.

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The view going up was so beautiful.

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A bit up the trail you will come to a split. Signs are large and arrows point you in the correct direction. ***Now, I will tell you that many AT hikers recommend hiking the fire road up to the knob and then taking the AT back to the parking lot or vice versa since the AT is quite rugged. We did not do this. I did not train physically and drive for two days to hike any fire road for whatever reason what so ever. I came to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and back and I am so happy we did.

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The trail we found to be difficult. Remember….we hike flat ground in WI almost all our life. This part of the AT was covered in rock, boulders, and roots in many places. Very little was ground and being we were headed to the top of of a mountain it was clearly up all the way.

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Eventually you will come to a crossing that again is well marked and will lead you across the fire road.

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Then you reach an AT shelter where you head up another clearly marked trail.

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Eventually you see the trail start to have huge boulders and you weaving around these while you make the last stretch to the top.

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By this time I was tired. And I mean TIRED!!!! Hiking up the entire trail was difficult plus our GPS clearly did not agree with the mileage that was posted with all the information I had read regarding this trail. So if you attempt this hike and find your mileage is also different keep going…..you will be so happy you did. We finally reached the top of the knob and immediately we checked the mileage to compare.

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I soon forgot about this little issue because when I rounded the corner I felt like I wanted to cry. OK, maybe I did a bit. It was truly amazing in every way!!!!!!

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We had did it and we did it together. We arrived to find a few others but the longer we stayed the more others arrived. We ate a small snack and rested a bit before returning to the bottom by way of the AT once again. We saw deer, lizards, and many, many caterpillars along the way.

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When we finally arrived back at the 311 parking lot we had clocked a total of 9.5 miles and almost 6 hours of hiking with I would say about 45 minutes were at the top exploring, resting and having lunch.

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Most importantly……I crossed something of my bucket list that I will cherish forever…..my own iconic photographs on the top of McAfee Knob with the love of my life.

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A dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!

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Recent Random Thoughts

Hi, how is your week going? Mine is good….and almost over, yeh!!! Just a few more hours to go.

With no great workouts to share with you all since I am mostly just walking area trails and riding my bike giving my body time to heal, I thought I would share some random things today. My brain is often like a never ending trail to nowhere and sharing it sometimes helps relieve some of the “pressure” shall we say.

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I’ve been up to a lot but at the same time not so much….is that possible? Makes no sense I know but that is how I feel lately. Summer has not been what I thought it would be and now we are into August and we all know what that means….it’s almost over! It’s weird to think my mind still runs on the school calendar when my son has not been in grade school for years already. How do us moms break out of this and just take every day as it is….I haven’t figured that out quite yet but I am working on it? Which is why, as of the end of August, I consider summer over. However, I know in my mind we have plenty of nice days left in September and even some in October but ultimately it comes to an end so quickly.

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Speaking of September and October, I do believe I have over booked all our weekends once again for these two months. Fall is the best time in my opinion to hike, camp, explore the area and enjoy harvest time. Bugs are dying down some, colors start to appear, veggies are plenty, and it’s cooler so camping and hiking are much more pleasurable. Now I just have to find a way to tell my husband I only left him two weekends for hunting in the fall months….he may not like this very much!

Anyhow, let me tell about some treasures I have found lately. First, I must give a big shout out to Fresh Thyme Farmers Market here in our area. We have fell in love with their meat department and if you know me, that is saying A LOT! I am not a meat lover but my husband is. I have a hard time buying it, preparing it and eating it but my attitude has changed a bit since this store has opened. We are loving their meats.

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I have also found an essential oil room freshener that I love and does not cost an arm and a leg. (I paid $7) I hate chemical fresheners and don’t want the overwhelming smell of a plug in oil freshener since I don’t want the aroma all the time. Which makes this spray perfect and I can use it when I wish and not gag when I spray it in my home like the chemical fresheners cause me to do. I know it says it can be used as a body mist also but I have not gone this route…I strictly use it for our home and vehicles.

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Once again I am attempting to grow my green thumb and I am going to try and grow a prickly pear plant or two. We fell in love with this fruit in Arizona and I recently kept the seeds from one we purchased here in WI. I would bet it’s not going to grow and if it does it may not survive but I have to give it a try. Here’s hoping for a touch of the southwest in good old Green Bay. On the flip side, if I do not succeed at growing one myself I can always plan another trip for fresh fruit. I know none of my family would object to returning to this area.

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Speaking of vacations, we are inching our way closer to our next one and I cannot wait to step foot on the A.T.( Appalachian Trail) once again. Back in January 2017 I made this dream come true and finally got to log some miles on the A.T. with my husband and son. Our next trip will bring us back to the A.T. only in a different state and I plan to log even more miles and hopefully make more wonderful memories. However, this time it will be just the two of us since our son recently started his new job and is not bale to join us for this adventure.

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That shall be it for today. Enjoy your weekend…..that’s my plan.

 

 

 

Some Of The Best Places Are Ones We Stumble Upon

While we were in Wallace, Michigan visiting the De Young Family Zoo(read about it here if you missed it) we were hoping to stumble upon a park nearby that we could enjoy a quiet picnic lunch together at. So we drove down a nearby highway thinking we were headed toward lake Michigan and were surprised when we realized we had turned the wrong direction. Which we then turned around and passed a sign that said public boat landing on a flowage.

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Now, if you know anything about my husband, he knows just about every boat launch in our area. However, in Michigan, he knows very little but said that the ones in WI sponsored by WPS are usually pretty nice so why not check this one out in Michigan. I had no reason to complain since I know very little about any of them and plus, I was hungry and wanted to eat lunch. So we ventured down this gravel road and came upon this.

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Wow, gorgeous!!!!!!!!!!!! A big lake, with a nice gravel lot, and a porta potty. And the best part….not another vehicle in the entire lot except for us. We both used the bathroom facilities and then ate our picnic lunch of chicken salad on pitas, fresh apricots, prickly pears, and Larabar caramel seal salt bites.

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Oh, I must mention, if you have not tried this flavor if Larabar bites yet, you must….they are fabulous. Good luck eating only one serving…..the two of us finished the whole bag!

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After lunch he knew I spotted the grassy trail we passed off the gravel road that seemed to lead around the lake and suggested we go check it out.

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Now, keep in mind, we were not in any way prepared to hike today since I was suppose to be taking it easy and letting my abdominal muscle heal. However, I saw the trail, he saw that I saw the trail, and my hiking boots are always in my SUV just in case….you never know when I will come across a trail I must explore. So after lunch we both sprayed down with more sunscreen and bug spray which also never leaves my SUV and we headed out for a look where this trail led to.

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It quickly got much more wooded and the trail turned from grass to dirt. And soon we found ourselves surrounded by big tall trees as far as we could see.

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I asked my husband if he felt we could possibly see a bear here…and he said it was very possible which made me stop and look around. One of my bucket list things to do is to see a bear in the wild while hiking someday. Although, today was not the day since we soon found ourselves swatting at numerous bugs. Plus, not having any hiking supplies, backpack, bug nets, water or bear spray we decided it was probably best if we turned around and head back to the parking lot where we left our vehicle.

We walked probably about 1.5 miles on this trail with no end in sight. You all know what that means…..we will return and come better prepared next time for sure. I never start a trail I can’t finish. And next time maybe we will stumble upon a bear…who knows.

All in all it was a very beautiful place to share a lunch and explore. Never be afraid to stop and take that turn if you not sure what’s down that road. You never know what you may miss by passing it by.

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Mother Nature May Be Testing Me!

 

This week was a test from Mother Nature and clearly I am not happy about it. Wisconsin has been so chilly this week. Tuesday I found myself with a sweatshirt on, windows and doors all closed, and I was shivering in my own home…..AND IT”S JUNE!!!!! Now, that is not funny!!! The worst thing came when I turned on the news and heard the southwest region like Nevada, Utah, and Arizona (my favorite states to hike) were having a record heat wave. I simply wanted to cry…..like really cry:-(

Speaking of which, I actually just told my husband I was really feeling the need to hike a mountain lately. Is that odd or what? Some days I am content with the elliptical at the gym and some days I really need to push my body just to make sure I still have what it takes to do what I love. And let’s face it, there are no mountains in Wisconsin that could even come close to one in the southwest so he knew exactly where I was going with this statement. He simply looked at me when I said this and smiled. I guess that means he is not against a possible trip but then again, I honestly still can’t decide where to go back to….Utah or Arizona. We all agree, we have unfinished business in both states so time will tell where we end up. For now, I have to concentrate on our next destination….McAfee Knob and the Shenandoah National Park. Which, rightfully so, is a mountain I plan to hike and another bucket list destination I hopefully will be able to remove from the list in the near future.

For now I guess the elliptical, kayaking, and outdoor fun will have to be enough to keep me happy. Plus, after all, eventually it will get warm again here in Wisconsin….right???? Summer did officially just begin.

Here is look at what I did to increase my body temperature to a happy degree this week:

Saturday: kayaking the Chain O Lakes….paddled and swam for 3.5 hours (if you missed it read about it here)

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Sunday: gym: 30 minute elliptical

Monday: morning weights in the home gym, 1.5 mile walk with my daycare kiddos through a nearby wooded area.

Tuesday: home: morning weights

gym: 30 minute elliptical

Wednesday: morning weights in the home gym

Thursday: yoga at home

gym: 30 minute elliptical, weights, and stretching

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Friday: rest

After my post this past week regarding how hard it has been to remove artificial sweeteners from our daily diet, I received many questions what a daily day of food looks like for my husband. I have decided to try and document 2 days worth of food and post my findings in the near future instead of addressing each and every question. However, this may take a week or two to complete. I, for the most part, know what he eats in a day since I prepare his breakfast, pack his lunch for work daily, and dinner is eaten together. The hard part will be to remember to take a picture of the food and then find the time to write the post regarding his daily meals. Just know, I am working on it and hopefully all of you suffering with the same symptoms get as much relief as he has. Life is so much better when you feel healthy.

Have you been to either Utah or Arizona hiking?

If so, which is your favorite state?

Why?

A Taste Of Southern Living

Hello, hello!! It feels great to be home…although life has been crazy since we walked back in the door here, it’s still great to be home.

My family has spent the last week in the state of Tennessee and we had a great time living life southern style. I tried turnip green for the first time ever and loved them.

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We all enjoyed sweet tea at almost every meal.

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Southern hospitality is much better than midwest hospitality…let me tell you!

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And as a recommendation from a fellow blogger, one of the first things we made sure to try was pimento cheese spread. My son was very reluctant but ultimately, we ended up going through two packages of this fabulous cheese spread in the 6 days we were in the area. It is so yummy, I can’t wait to remake this recipe at home.

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And for me….well the temperature in this area in January is something to be so thankful for. I was thrilled to walk off the plane, pick up our rental vehicle, and see the temperature was 70 degrees at 6 p.m.. I told myself over and over all through the week, Karen it is January….and it is still COLD at home.

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In all honesty, this trip was quickly planned and we ended up replanning once before leaving home and once while sitting in airports delayed by ice storms all along the way. Originally, we were not planning on doing any hiking over three miles if at all, we knew we needed to do some business while in the area, and it was basically going to be a bonus if the area was snow free, warm and we could find time to have some fun. Well, we had much more fun than business and I am pretty proud of what we did with no training what so ever for this trip.

This is one amazing state to see and it was a great escape of the midwest winter I suffer through every year. I can’t wait to share more with you about what we all did in the area but for now here is s sneak peek.

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Looking Back At 2016

Hello, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. I know we did here and I am ready to get back to a bit of routine again. So without further ado….

It’s always fun for me to take a look back at what the past year has been like for me which is what I am going to share with you all today. Maybe you have been a long time reader or you are a new virtual friend, which if that’s that case, then you can catch up with the events that have happened these past months.

Here we go:

January: A routine doctor visit turned into emergency surgery one week later with the removal of a large abdominal tumor and a few other parts and pieces that were effected by this slow growing tumor. Thankfully, it ended up being benign and all that was left was recovery and getting use to my new life with some limitations.

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February: This entire month consisted of recovery. I could not bend, lift, shower by myself or sleep in my own bed forever. And everything was left to my husband and son. I had friends stay with me during the daytime hours so my husband and son could work and visitors stopped in during the evening hours. It was a longggg month!

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March: I finally got the ok to return to work half way through this month. I also got the ok to keep the preplanned trip we had scheduled to visit Arkansas and do dome hiking. Although, my surgeon told me very firmly to stop when it hurts and don’t push myself. And in all honesty, when we arrived at the first trailhead I was a bit overwhelmed when I first put my hiking boots on. It had been a stressful, painful 9 weeks of HELL and I was not sure if I would ever be able to hike again….but I was here and it was warm, sunny, and I was truly happy for the first time in what felt like forever.

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April: By now things were progressing slowly and each day was getting a bit easier. Although, I had so many things I was still wondering….would I be able to paddle again, would the swelling ever go away, would I ever be able to do another abdominal crunch….etc.? Well, this is the month I gave paddling a try and I’m not going to say it felt great, but it was tolerable. I knew immediately I was a long way from a river with current but I was padding and it was a start.

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May: My husband and I went on the first camping trip of the year. Ahhh, I could feel summer right around the corner.

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June: I had the opportunity to go tubing behind a boat the first time in my life. And let me tell you, it was so much fun!!!!

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July: Family vacation to the North Shore of Minnesota. A first for us and definitely not the last time we visit here.

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August: Ahhhh, boredom will get me every time…..so, I had been patiently watching flight prices for a bucket list trip to Sedona, Arizona for almost an entire year. One day I happen to just be bored and thought, let’s take a quick check if anything has changed…and sure enough its finally affordable. I wasted no time…I emailed my husband at work and waited patiently for his response which took hours since he was in a meeting!!! And all he said was….”go ahead sounds good to me”….YEEEEESSSSSS! Three hours later we had three tickets, travel insurance, hotel, and a rental vehicle all booked. And when my husband and son arrived home later that day I greeted them with a training plan for the next 8 weeks. Steps, hills, and more steps:-)

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September: I finally had a chance to take a friend of mine hiking for the first time. I have been trying to get her outdoors to try different types of activity…..and she finally agreed to go hiking. She had a wonderful time, as did I.

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October: We celebrated our 23rd. wedding anniversary hiking in Sedona, Arizona. There are simply no words to describe how wonderful this place was.

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During this trip I also accomplished a bucket list summit which was captured by our son in a picture.

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November: As always in November my husband and I took our annual coach bus trip shopping for the day in Illinois. I love this day. I am not a big shopper but once a year I enjoy it completely.

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December: I returned to the gym full time for the first time since January. I dabbled here and there a few times while recovering from surgery and during the summer months but just was not willing to risk anything going wrong. I was told it would take a full year to completely heal and I waited as patiently as possible….gosh it feels good to be back.

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What a year….it brings tears to my eyes just seeing what my family has been through this past year, what I have accomplished, and the hurdles I thought I would never overcome. It’s no secret, if you know me personally, life has changed and will forever be changed……but that is not holding me back. It has made me adjust a bit here and there but I still wake up every day with a dream and I work to accomplish that dream someday.

Good bye 2016……bring on 2017…..I am so ready to start fresh!!!

 

Doe Mountain Trail -Sedona, Arizona

Doe Mountain trail in Sedona, Arizona was by far one of my favorite hikes in this area. With it coming out to a 2.6 mile loop which includes climbing up the mountain face from the parking area and circling around the entire top of the mountain before returning down the same trail we came up. This trail was absolutely stunning…..

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The mountain top itself is flat and easy to walk either through the middle or around the edge to get every angle possible of Sedona’s red rock area. The climb up itself is moderate I would say, and does have some areas of scrambling but nothing too serious.

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Just before reaching the top of the mountain you will come to a crevice that needs to be scrambled up. It’s short and fairly easy to do with little to no difficulty.

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For me the climb was fun, it’s when I reached the top that my heart was captured and I did not want to ever leave. Every direction I turned had views that were simply breathtaking.

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The top of the mountain also offers some pretty spectacular views also.

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A few things to note while doing this hike:

#1 While walking on top be careful of getting to close to the edge.  There are many different crevices that form jagged edges all along the top of this beauty….stay clear if your unsure.

#2 When you reach the top, make note of something near you, take a picture of the area, or mark a GPS with your location if you are carrying one. It is difficult to find your way back to the trail leading up with the top outer edge being so large. I took a picture of this sign located at the top and my husband marked the GPS which we ended up using to find our way back to the trailhead to go down again.

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If I had to choose one hike to do over again between the six hikes we did here…..there would be no doubt that this would be the one I would choose. It was absolutely a breathtaking experience.

*** To see more hikes we did in the Sedona area, click here and scroll down to the Arizona section and take your pick of which adventure you wish to read.