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!!!!!!!!!!!

Appalachian Trail to the Boulevard in the Smoky Mountains National Park

The second hike we did in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park would be the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) to the Boulevard.

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This was a bucket list dream come true for me. I have always wanted to hike on the A.T. and this was my moment to do it.

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We started this trail at the Newfound Gap parking area where there is once again, ample parking with great photo opportunities right from the parking area.

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Here we did find that the restrooms were open in January unlike the other trailheads in this national park.

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A few things to note about this trail. Unlike the Alum Cave trail, which was at a lower elevation, this trailhead was much colder. We found snow in the parking area,

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and it did not take long for my husbands fingers to freeze.

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So if it’s warmer down below, be prepared to have layers on up above. We were not prepared for this at all, especially since we did not even think we would be hiking in the national park while visiting Tennessee. Although, we did have enough supplies to safely do what we did and not put ourselves into danger.

As for the trail itself…..it’s strenuous with a capital S!!!  You will be boulder climbing at times on the edge of cliffs, stumbling on tree roots and everything in between. If your anything like me, you will love every second of it.

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When we arrived at the signs that said we had made it to our goal,

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we had the pleasure of being greeted by some friends of nature. I am amazed being so far back in the wilderness, these two deer were very friendly and not afraid of us at all.

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After taking a short beak and photographing these fury friends we headed back to the trailhead……standing around made me very chilly and we needed to get moving again.

My family hiked a total of 6.3 miles on the A.T.

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and I have the memories and the photos to look back on and remember forever.

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This trail is not for children, it’s is strenuous and is hard on the ankles with many spots that accidents could happen. The first mile or so you will see people, after this you will be alone and come across few if any individuals.That being said, if you get the chance and are in good shape, go for it, I am sure you will not regret it.

 

I Can Cross One More Thing Off My Bucket List

Hello Hello, we are back from our trip to Sedona, Arizona and let me just say, it was a dream come true.

I have tons of photos to scan through, tons of laundry covered in red rock dust to do, three little ones begging for my attention, a stack of mail to read, a yard covered in more leaves and…….well, you get the point. So for right now, know that I am working on blog posts to share with all of you. Everything from pointers we learned while in this area to some of the most spectacular hikes I have ever been on in my entire life.

As for that bucket list summit, it’s done….here is the proof.

 (photo taken by our son, Quade Byrnes)Mom Cathedral End low logo-1

Warrens Cranberry Festival With The Girls….

I had the pleasure of escaping for an entire day and attending Cranberry Fest  in Warrens, WI Saturday with two friends of mine. We very rarely escape for a girls day and I really think we need to do something about that because we had a wonderful time. We boarded the tour bus from DePere, WI at 7a.m. and were off for a day of fun.

We arrived at the festival about three hours later and the grounds were already swarming with loads of people eager to spend some money. As far as you could see up the street it was shoulder to shoulder festival goers and we wasted no time jumping right in.

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At Cranberry Fest you will find just about anything and everything you can imagine. From farmers market veggies,  IMG_2716

to flowers,  IMG_2715

mimes,

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crafts,

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good food, IMG_2719

and the best thing we found the entire day, frozen wine!!!!  Heaven in a cup I tell you:-)IMG_2725

It was a gorgeous day. After 7 hours of walking, shopping, eating, drinking, and laughing our way through tons of craft vendors, we again boarded our bus for a relaxing trip back home.

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We already have our fall destination picked out for next year but hopefully we can work in one more girls day before then.

Have you ever taken a bus trip anywhere?

Have you ever tried frozen wine? I highly recommend it!

My Birthday Will Be Filled With….Wishing, Wondering and Waiting

As I celebrate another birthday today, I can’t help but wonder what the next few years will bring. Would I ever want to be 20 again, no way! 30, maybe. Each decade that has passed has brought much different pros and cons.

In my 20’s I was newly married and a mom first and foremost. We were new homeowners. And honestly, every penny we spent I kept track of. Would I go back? No, I am happy all that is over with. I loved being a new mom, love our home, enjoyed being a new wife and I got us through some rough times financially just starting out. I can honestly say I am happy that stage of life is over.

In my 30’s I was obviously still a mom first and foremost. Although, I was able to concentrate on me a little more at times. We were still happily married. I had been now self employed for quite sometime. My husband went through a major job change after 17 years, which was stressful for us all. And finances were much easier than the decade before. This is the decade I also came to realize I wanted more out of my life and started making changes to my lifestyle to achieve my weight loss. Would I go back to this decade, possibly. I’ll be honest, being a parent to a son between the age of 14-16 was the worst. If I could skip that part in this decade, I would go back.

Which brings me to today, my 40’s. I am still a mom but with more of a “part time position” with him being an adult now. We get along fairly well and enjoy doing things together. Which is a great feeling for me. I sometimes feel like he is now watching over me instead of the other way around but I am ok with that. I am still happily married. I have been self employed for 18 years now and still enjoy what I do. Yes, it has some ups and downs, but what job doesn’t? I have no problem putting myself first again now that my son is grown. I am still eating healthy and working out, which brings me great joy and satisfaction. I will admit, I think my hormones are starting to mess with my mind and body because some days dragging myself to the gym is hell, but I still do it. I feel more pressure to accomplish the things I have on my bucket list, but slowly I am getting them crossed off. I am much braver now than I used to be. I don’t worry about what other people think about me or the things I do as much as I did when I was younger. I also feel like it’s my time to make some big dreams comes true, before I am too old to do so. This may take some time, but I am working on it. All in all, so far this decade has been pretty good to me. Especially when I look around and see others my age and compare lifestyles. I feel blessed to have the life I live.

So for the next year my goals are simple. Stay active, enjoy life with my husband and son, eat healthy and work toward my one dream. All of you that are close to me will know exactly what that dream is. The rest of you will just have to wait until it comes true for me to share it.

I will make my wish, blow out my candle and wait to see what happens in the next few years.