Flood of memories

Flood of memories

A flood of memories took hold this morning after Lucy and I went to Bays Mountain. The first adventure Jason, Lisa and I had after we arrived in Kingsport almost two years ago.

This morning I needed more than just a run. I needed to get lost in the woods for a little while. So around 11, we started getting ready to go for a hike.

As soon as we arrived I spotted a chipmunk, which I haven’t seen since one of the first times we went hiking at Bays Mountain. The best part was Lucy had no idea what I was looking at, so I was able to capture a shot. A picture with food in his mouth.

I knew it was going to be a great hike after that.

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We first headed to the spot where that adventure took place. That adventure almost two years ago. An adventure that led us to a waterfall.

waterfall 3As soon as I heard the noise I became emotional. As soon as I stepped out near the top of the waterfall memories came flooding back.

I felt Jason with me . . . wishing he was beside me instead of hundreds of miles away.

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waterfall 1All of my memories from that day in May 2013 consumed me as I found a rock to sit on and take in the scenery. We had so much fun that afternoon exploring the outdoors of our new home.

IMG_3141 editWe created so many of our own little adventures that day. So many adventures that made me begin to beat my fear of heights, all with the help of Jason by my side.

The laughter filled my veins as I looked around, really looked around, and remembered the fun we had that afternoon.

IMG_3144 editI sat there on that rock for as long as Lucy let me.

IMG_3145 editFor as long as she allowed me to listen to the rushing water while sorting through my thoughts.

IMG_3146 editOf course those thoughts began tugging at the tears I somehow managed to prevent from falling. Happy tears. Happy tears of how far Jason and I have come since that day. Since that first adventure.

IMG_3151 editLucy finally had enough, so with a heavy heart we kept on hiking.

There was a smile on my face from that moment on, especially when the flood of memories continued of everything Jason and I have seen since we moved to Kingsport in May 2013. The smile was because a relationship that was already strong when me made that move together, has only grown leaps and bounds since then. That smile was because I have the heart of a man who will do anything to make me happy. This time a part has proven that on so many levels.

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IMG_3171 editThe further we hiked the Lakeside Trail the deeper in thought I became. There is just something about the outdoors that fully allows your mind to wander. Although I was deep in thought, the noises of the outdoors still captured me, as well as the beauty that lined the trails.

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IMG_3176 editI’m so glad I had Lucy with me. She brought me back into the moment as she too enjoyed the outdoors.

As always, here’s our hike through Lucy’s eyes.

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One of my hopes before leaving the house this morning was spotting signs of spring. I was so excited when I saw a tree along the water that was showing life again. The only tree along the path we decided to hike.

My trip was complete. I’ve been excited about spring all winter. It is one of my favorite seasons. There’s something special about watching nature come back to life.

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spring 2It’s hard to believe that tomorrow marks two weeks since Jason packed his car and headed to Florida to get us ready for our move. A move that would bring us closer to family and friends.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss Jason. There is not a day that goes by that I wish he was here with me, or I was there with him.

This transition period, however has shown me what I am capable of . . . what kind of strength I have. I have become independent on a level that has made me proud. A level of independence that has shown me I am much stronger than I have ever thought or gave myself credit for.

Today was a great day. A day that made me think of all the beautiful moments Jason and I have shared since moving to NE Tennessee.

Bittersweet

Bittersweet

The last two days I have been stuck in doors because of the rain. So, this morning after a good night’s sleep, Lucy and I headed to the Greenbelt.

The weather was gorgeous with temperatures climbing into the 50’s. There was not a cloud in the sky. It was the perfect morning to go for a 3.21-mile run.

As Lucy and I ran our old route, emotions were definitely tugging at me as I took in the scenery for all it was worth. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to the pure beauty of Northeast Tennessee.

This place will forever stay in my heart.

This area has given me a sense of peace that I cannot fully explain.

It’s definitely bittersweet.

So, half way through our run, we stopped, so Lucy could go to the bathroom, and I could enjoy one of my favorite places on the Greenbelt . . . a waterfall that was flowing pretty good today.

20150315_113227 editThis is one of my favorite sounds. The rushing of the water, the cascading of water down the rocks. The sound, and sight, pulls you in, clearing your thoughts, giving you a sense of clarity, all while mesmerizing you making it hard to look away.

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Although I know I will find a new favorite spot to run in Fort Myers with Lucy, I’m truly going to miss my home-away-from-home.

It’s my go to place, my therapy, my path that cures all stress.

I’m so happy Jason and I decided to move to Kingsport almost two years ago. It was a move that brought us closer as a couple. A move that gave us a deeper appreciation for the outdoors.

Our run this morning was so good for my soul. It gave me the clarity I needed once again to get through this time Jason and I are spending a part. Time that neither of us want to spend a part . . .

As always, here’s a glimpse of the Greenbelt through Lucy’s eyes.

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Lucy

 

The best man

As I lay in bed, my thoughts go wild, which instantly warms my heart.

Jason and his childhood best friend are out camping tonight, out in the wilderness bonding and creating lifelong memories, which I’m sure they will forever cherish.

I truly cannot put into words of how happy I am that he had this opportunity to be outdoors in this beautiful state that we now call home. After working his ass off, he has a night of peace in nature. I cannot wait to see how refreshed he will be when he gets home today. There’s a certain kind of calmness that takes a hold of him with just a few hours of hiking.

This is the first time Jason and I have been apart, other than work, since March 2013 when I went to Tampa to spend time with my brother and his family before moving to Tennessee.

So, as I try to fall asleep, my thoughts fill with wonderful memories that began again almost five years ago.

Yesterday we went hiking to Laurel Falls, one of Jason’s favorite waterfalls, to show John and Jen. It was a beautiful day and everyone seemed eager to be outdoors and experience those beauties that surround us.

The beginning of the hike was a little hard on me, due to car sickness I just couldn’t shake. On top of that, I questioned myself a lot yesterday, due to the two really hard falls I took the last two times we were out hiking.

Jason of course was understanding,  supportive and encouraging. We decided to hike up alongside the waterfall to check out some campsites where he and John could spend the night.

At one point, the anxiety struck,  my heart instantly sped up as I sat frozen unable to continue. Jason was right there. The embrace he gave me when it was all over meant a lot to me. The patience he shows me is incredible. Patience I lack in myself when those moments of fear grasp a hold of me, squeezing tight making it hard to breathe.  I hope one day those fears and anxiety will subside. I know what I’m capable of, I know there is nothing to fear when we are out hiking.

Today, August 16th is Jason’s birthday, a day that means a great deal to me. This day, this wonderful man who has completely captured my heart, entered this world. Every day since, he has impacted hundreds of lives along the way with his beautiful, giving heart. To say that unselfish heart loves me unconditionally makes my heart skip a beat.

I was and still am one lucky girl to have this man enter my world. To think after almost five years, he still makes me fall in love with him a little more every day, I believe speaks volumes of the relationship we have.

It’s the little moments when he makes my heart smile, those little moments when he has my best interest at heart.

To have a best friend as my boyfriend, my life’s companion, is by far the best thing.

I smiled this morning as Lucy woke me, knowing that as you opened your eyes you would be looking at a beautiful blue sky. That you would be kicking off your birthday with another adventurous hike with your best friend. I can’t wait to hug you and wish you a Happy Birthday when you get home.

Jason you are my whole world, the very best thing in my world. You have shown me and taught me so much over the years.

Happy Birthday baby. I love you more than you’ll ever know.

Little Stony Falls: a Virginia adventure

Since our hike was shortened on Wednesday due to an intense storm, I really wanted to head back out into nature yesterday, especially since the sky was blue.

Jason and I decided to go back to one of the waterfalls we have already seen, Little Stony Falls in Virginia. The first time we ventured on the trails was June 30, 2013, almost two months after we moved to NE Tennessee.

We took SR 72 into the Jefferson National Forest, which led us to the trailhead that begins at the Hanging Rock Picnic Area.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, the trail is 2.8-miles. By the time we finished our 4 hour and 12 minute hike, we traveled between 5 1/2 to six miles on foot with our 7-month old puppy, Lucy.

The trail follows Little Stony Creek, which according to the website, guides hikers through a 400-feet deep and 1,700-foot wide gorge.

I forgot just how beautiful the trail was. There are so many opportunities to exit the path and head closer to the creek to see some stunning rock formations with water gushing through and over them.

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I know that’s why our hike took so long, every opportunity we had we took a detour.

Although this path isn’t extremely difficult, there were times we had to hike a narrow path that if not careful would leave you falling a good distance. There were also boulders and large rocks along the path that we had to either climb around or over to continue along.

There are also a few bridges that took us over the creek, which provided some stunning views as well.

IMG_2164On our way back we ventured below a bridge to capture this beautiful sight.

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Yesterday I felt adventurous at times as I spotted things I wanted to photograph. I climbed up and down rocks off the beaten path, just to get a little closer. Thank goodness Jason was with me, he helped me climb back up boulders when it was hard to find places for footing.

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IMG_2178I think Lucy enjoyed our stopping points as well. Although we keep her on a leash when we are hiking the trails, it often comes off when we find our little spots of discovery.

IMG_2181I often times wonder what she takes in while we are on our hikes. Lucy is very observant, that I know for sure.

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IMG_2209The top and bottom picture are the same view, but of course Lucy snuck on my lap as I was getting ready to take a picture.

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There is a point in the path that passes by a little waterfall, which by this point is a good place to stop and enjoy some of the cool air from the water.

IMG_2201It had a lot of water running down the front of the rocks this time. The water continued along the rock at its base and flowed down over a ledge.

IMG_2200Our hike continued.

Eventually we came to another waterfall . . . The path at this point walked along flatter rocks closer to the creek. Some of the rocks were dry, while others were wet making them quite slick.

Unfortunately yesterday I took another spill, landed on my other hip and arm. When we were hiking on Wednesday my foot slipped in the mud. Yesterday my foot slipped on a rock, which was a much harder fall. Tears instantly welled up and began to fall as Jason and Lucy both came to my rescue. Lucy was instantly in my lap making sure I was okay as Jason was doing what he could do to help.

I have to say, although it’s no fun falling while out hiking, I would rather fall in the mud than on a rock. I have a huge black and blue mark on my elbow, which is incredibly tender. I have another swollen spot on my right leg from the blow, which is hard to put pressure on.

I am incredibly sore today, incredibly sore.

The fall happens so fast. At one moment I am walking along following Jason and Lucy and the next I am on the ground. To say I was beyond careful past this point is an understatement. Jason often times grabbed a hold of my hand when he could sense my hesitation.

So, before we continued on, we sat in front of the waterfall, enjoyed an apple, while Lucy enjoyed some lunch.

IMG_2215It was definitely a pretty place to stop. After a little while, we continued on. We had hiked all this way, there was no way I was going to stop. I wanted to see the waterfall.

Little Stony Falls is a 24-foot waterfall. Incredible sound.

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We climbed down the side of the hill to get an up-close and personal look at the gorgeous falls.

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Lucy of course observed the area as well.

IMG_2239And tried to follow Jason as he climbed on and around trees and rocks to make it closer to the falls.

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The temperature at the waterfalls always drops a few degrees, which can be nice after a hot and humid hike. Our poor Lucy, on the other hand, becomes extremely cold and finds Jason’s lap to cuddle on and grab some of his warmth.

Although I took a nasty fall yesterday, it was still an incredible day outside finding pure, untouched beauty in the forest.

IMG_2195Years and years of running water created these beautiful sights, instead of man.

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The best part about this hike is the sounds of water. The intensity of the running water in the creek changes many times throughout the hike . . . which in turn changes the sound. There is something extremely relaxing and calming about that sound.

 

Morning hike to Margarette Falls

Today started off on the perfect note . . . yep both Jason and I had a day off together. We hit the road early with our puppy, Lucy, in tow, and traveled to our perfect getaway, nature.

IMG_1906Today’s journey took us near Greeneville, Tennessee, to Margarette Falls, a 60-foot waterfall. The parking area was located off of Shelton Mission Road between Old Mountain Road and Peavine Way.

It’s been a while since we found a new waterfall. The past few months, when we had the opportunity to escape, we have gone back to some of our favorites, Jones Falls and Laurel Falls.

IMG_1905The path was absolutely stunning. Lush green vegetation of all sizes lined the path, as well as clusters of white and pink rhododendron flowers.

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IMG_1916The trail at many parts was rather rocky, some of which led to rocks that acted as steps, as we made our way up the trail. According to an app on my phone, we traveled from an elevation of 1,875 feet to 2,551 feet during our two and a half hour hike.

There is no better escape than going out into nature and fully experiencing the pure beauty that surrounds us. As soon as we stepped out of the car and I breathed in that wonderful scent, everything evaporated. Nature is my stress reliever, my piece of mind, my time where I become centered once again.

The best part about our adventures outdoors is taking Lucy along with us. I love how excited she becomes when she enters the outdoors. I have a new kind of appreciation when I experience things through my puppy.

Lucy is becoming braver, which gets me excited. Every detour Jason takes off the path, Lucy is right there at his heels eager to experience his adventure. Today she even took a dive into the water, accidentally of course, but it brought the biggest smile to my face. She’s always so careful to jump from rock to rock as we cross creeks, so she doesn’t get wet.

There was a certain point in West Fork Dry Creek, which of course we took a detour to, that had rocks separated a little further apart. My sweet little Lucy gave it her best effort jumping from one rock to another when she dove straight into the creek. Just as fast as she landed in the water she was already jumping to the next rock, her dry land.

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One of the many thing I enjoy about our hikes is hearing the water rushing down the incredible rock formations in the creek. The sound of water is so incredibly calming.

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Whenever there is an open space on the trail, we always head closer to it to see how the water is running through yet another incredible rock formation.

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It’s funny, Lucy is starting to understand this love of ours. She too stops at the opening waiting to see if that is where our temporary exit will be before continuing on the path.

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All in all the trail really was not that bad. With that said, it was much easier on our way back because everywhere we had to climb up hill we were now going down with ease.

This waterfall that we saw today was stunning. Oh, and the sound, wow, incredible.

IMG_1859Today it was one of the warmest days we have had this summer, it hit the 90’s, so my feet went into the water every chance we had. That’s the beauty of the hiking shoes I bought us last year, Merrell, they are so light weight and have an incredible grip once in the water. The only bad thing about these shoes is you tend to feel every rock you step on, which today was a good portion of the hike.

IMG_1898So far when we get to the bottom of the waterfall, we take Lucy’s leash off and let her sniff around and have her own kind of puppy fun. The good thing about this is we are usually the only ones enjoying the view, so we aren’t bothering anyone else.

IMG_1873She absolutely loves sticks . . . today she found some good-sized ones.

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I wouldn’t let her follow Jason this time around, so she stood patiently watching him climb the rocks to the left and right of the waterfall.

IMG_1895Although I love the hiking we do to get to our destination, my favorite part is arriving at the waterfall and finding a rock to sit on and enjoy the view and sounds.

IMG_1870I absolutely love the area that we call home. Tennessee is such a beautiful state.

The highlight of our 2.95-mile hike today was on our way back to the car. We decided to stop near the creek and sit on rocks. As I sat down a butterfly appeared and flew around my legs, which of course captured Lucy’s attention. The next thing that happened blew me away.

IMG_1912It landed on my sock.

IMG_1913The butterfly would land, take off, and fly around my legs, and then land again. I couldn’t stop smiling. It was incredible. It was my favorite experience of the day.

Another day I will always remember, our adventure to Margarette Falls.

Our hiking adventures are by far the best “dates” we go on . . .

 

Pleasantly surprised

I have been waiting for today all week-long, well since Wednesday when we made plans.

Jason and I went for a hike at a new park I found on Facebook, Laurel Run Park, in Church Hill, Tennessee. It was only about a 10-mile drive for us from Kingsport, making it a perfect afternoon getaway in nature.

According to the Hawkins County website, the 440-acre park was the backdrop for the movie “The River,” which was filmed in 1984. This park runs along the Holston River.

When we first drove into the park, we spotted a one-mile paved walking path, baseball and softball field, basketball court, tennis court, playground, amphitheater and picnic areas. This park definitely had a lot to offer.

Laurel Run Park has trails that take you to Bays Mountain in Kingsport, 37.5 miles of trails to be exact. We have been to Bays Mountain a few times. It may be worth the adventure to make the hike from Church Hill to Kingsport one of these days.

With all that said, our adventures of the day begins . . .

The sun was out and the temperatures were nearing 70 degrees, perfection doesn’t come close to explain our afternoon.

As soon as we hit the trails, we were surprised, well to be honest, scared of the noise that caught us off guard. Before we made it to the trails, a sign told us to beware of wild animals . . . Two deer, with a third in the distance, started to run down the hill towards us. As soon as they spotted us, their direction quickly changed, and they went back up the hill again. That got our heart pumping a little bit . . .

IMG_1298Shortly after we starting walking the trail again, we bumped into another hiker who asked us if we saw a bat in the area. Unfortunately we did not, but she told us she stood and watched it for a good 10-minutes as it flew across the water and enjoyed an afternoon snack.

It appeared that the wildlife who calls this park home, was enjoying the warm temperatures as well.

IMG_1280As always, we started to detour off the given path. The sounds of water always draws in Jason and I.

Jason of course found rocks to make his way across, as I stood there taking pictures and listening to the sound of water falling off the rocks.

While I was taking in the scenery, I spotted some of the trees in bloom. Although I still do not know what kind of tree produces this bloom, I was captivated. From this moment on, I could not help but take tons of pictures.

IMG_1293It was interesting to see the buds at different stages as we moved along the trail.

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Like I said, it definitely caught my attention.

The trail led us to an opening where we had to cross the water. Of course as Jason was guiding me from rock to rock, my foot slipped and one foot went in. The water was cold, but not as bad as I thought. Shortly after, Jason too experienced the temperature of the water as his foot slipped in as well.

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We continued on, one foot dry and one foot a little soggy.

As soon as we got back on the trail, it wasn’t before too long that our path changed directions as our feet led us closer to the running water.

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This of course led us to our surprise discovery of the day. As Jason hopped from one rock to another as I sat back and took pictures, he discovered a waterfall. It was a pleasant surprise. I had no idea the paths would lead us to another waterfall.

So as Jason continued to make his way along the river from rock to rock, I walked back to the trail and met him at the foot of the waterfall.

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Again, according to the Hawkins County website, this waterfall’s name is Laurel Falls. Apparently there is a second waterfall, Kiner Creek Falls another 20-minutes down the trail. We will definitely have to go back and find that one.

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This is always my favorite part about our adventures, running into these beautiful waterfalls. I almost always find a rock that I can sit on and listen. No two waterfalls we have seen are alike. The water is either rushing down the rock ledge producing an incredibly forceful sound, while others are not as loud. Today, this waterfall had a magnificent sound. So, as I sat here allowing my thoughts to go clear, Jason, the boy he still is, creates his own adventure. He climbed and made his way to the right of the waterfall to gain another perspective.

IMG_1317When he decided to check out the left side of the waterfall, I decided to join the fun. It was fun to climb in between the rock formations to make our way behind the waterfall. Well, not completely behind, but far enough behind where we could see through the waterfall. My legs at this point, which are rather white because they have been covered all winter long, had a nice spray of cold water from the waterfall.

After a little while we climbed back up to the trail before exiting again to view the top of the waterfall. This part always makes me smile. I love seeing how the water cascades from the rocks above.

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We walked a little further and spotted another smaller waterfall before we decided to turn around and head back towards the car.

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As we made our way back to the car, we walked past a few other hikers. We always seem to time our hikes just right . . . it seems like Jason and I always have an opportunity to enjoy the waterfall, just the two of us, for a little while before we are joined by others.

As we were walking along the parking lot, my view shifted towards the playground area. My direction changed as I spotted brightly colored daffodils. A smile crept across my face as I took my camera out of its case. Spring is definitely upon us.

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This afternoon was absolutely perfect. I love exploring the outdoors with Jason.

The outdoors once again cleared my head.

IMG_1347I’m so glad I completed all of my articles before today, so I could fully enjoy the day knowing I had absolutely no work to go home to.

Until our next adventure . . .

A day with Jason

Yesterday I gave myself a day off, left my phone at home and paid no attention to the emails that kept filling my inbox. I even left my camera at home, which I wished I hadn’t by the time our walk ended.

Since I work from home, the work that piles up on my desk is only a couple steps away at all times. I have a hard time staying away from my office if I know work is waiting for me. I have a constant list of articles I have to turn in on my white board, or little pieces of paper scattered around my desk. I also have many documents set up with my budget for the publication and when they are due. Chaos and stress builds if I am not organized.

I worked straight through my weekend, so I would have all my work completed before Tuesday. It felt fantastic to have everything done, or at least caught up, so my tasks today would be simple before I had to submit my edited work.

Jason had yesterday off and I was determined to spend some time with him.

Our schedules are so different. He mostly works nights, which means his shift starts anywhere from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Jason sometimes doesn’t walk through the door until after midnight depending again on his shift and day of the week. Since he gets home late, it takes him a while to unwind. By that point, I have already unwind from my days work fighting to keep my eyes open.

A lot of times he comes home from work and I am already asleep on the couch. But with the Olympics on, I’ve been up when he walks through the door watching the coverage. An hour later, my head begins to roll as my  eyes start to fight against me.

It’s rare we go to bed at the same hour and wake up at the same time for that matter.

I try to get up at a decent hour, so I can start making phone calls early or meeting people in person for interviews, so I have a good portion of my day left to write.

 

Yesterday was much needed . . .

We were both determined to spend time outdoors yesterday, something we haven’t had much of a chance to do because of the cold, snowy conditions. With blue skies and temperatures in the high 50’s, we put on our shoes and headed to Steele Creek Park in Bristol, Tenn. We really wanted to go to one of our favorite waterfalls, but after taking a walk at the park we were happy we didn’t. The temperatures were still a little to brisk for us.

As we walked along the path that went around the lake, we soon found out that our bodies are still set to Florida temperatures. When the wind started to blow, we grew cold and our hoodies went up and hands went into our sweater pockets. When the wind subsided, we were fine and the hoodies came down.

It seemed we were not the only ones experiencing cabin fever. The path filled with runners and their dogs, mothers and their children and others who were strolling with their friends or family.

The majority of our 4+ miles of walking were done in silence as we strolled the path next to each other. An occasional conversation was had if something sparked our attention or a memory was had. That is one of the things I love about our relationship, those moments and minutes of silence that we share are never awkward. It’s nice having Jason as company, while also giving myself the time I need to clear my thoughts and take in the scenery.

It felt so good to be outdoors away from the four walls of my office with a small view of the world outdoors.

At times we slid across the icy path, or walked close to the edge as our feet crunched in snow that still had not melted away from last week’s storm. We saw ducks, geese and many turtles, even some trees that beavers had got a hold of.

The best part was hearing the water run along the rocks in the creek. I forgot how much that sound calmed me down.  We also saw a manmade waterfall. As Jason climbed up the small hill, I stood on the boardwalk and let the wind hit my face that generated from the water falling. I became mesmerized, again lost in my own thoughts, until a splash caught my attention. That splash was Jason telling me to climb up the hill and look at the view of the lake. It was very pretty.

It felt great to not work at all yesterday. Jason has Friday off too, a rarity! Maybe if I put in a full day tomorrow, I can take that day off too.

Sill Branch Falls

Our second afternoon adventure led us to Sill Branch Falls, which was along the same road as Pine Ridge Falls on Clark’s Creek Road. This road was found off of Highway 107 in Unicoi County, Tennessee. The trailhead was right off the side of the road.

IMG_0277There were two trailhead signs right off the parking area. There were also signs every where warning us of bear activity. The trail, which led us to the waterfall was Sill Branch North.

IMG_0289This path, although uphill at certain sections, was not difficult to hike. Jason and I found ourselves going off the path down towards the creek, where there was more to see.

IMG_0279Every view we saw was breathtaking.

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Every time we got back on the path, we headed back down towards the water again. This is always where our adventures begin, always were the most fun is had.

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The pictures below is where we spent a lot of our time Monday afternoon.

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IMG_0306 After a while we got back on the main trail, which took us directly to Sill Branch Falls, a beautiful waterfall.

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As I sat and admired the view, the thought of “I wonder what it looks like after a good rainfall” crossed my mind. When Jason and I first started going to all the waterfalls at the start of the summer, it was always after a good rain.

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The trees in the Cherokee National Forest kept tugging at my attention today while Jason was exploring. Everything is so green, so tall over our heads.

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Our hike also included some critters, some creepy crawlers . . . reminding us that you can never be too careful while out hiking.

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I have to admit I stood back aways while Jason took a picture of the timber rattler, I’m not a big fan.

Overall it was a fairly easy hike to the waterfall, one that offered plenty of rocks at the bottom of the falls to sit and enjoy the view.

The GPS coordinates for the Sill Branch Falls parking area, which we plugged into our Garmin were: N 36° 7.812′, W 082°  32.156′.

Laurel Falls, an anniversary hike

Jason and I went back to Laurel Falls today, which is located in the Cherokee National Forest (Pond Mountain Wilderness) in Hampton, Tennessee. It was truly a perfect day, a great way to celebrate us being together for four years.

Although the rain came down as we started our hike, we kept going. I’m so glad we did, the rain stopped and our adventure continued.

After hiking about a mile down the trail, it turns into rocks, well stairs almost, that you have to hike down to get to the waterfall.

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The hike up is always a little more rigiourous than the one heading down to the falls.

This beautiful waterfall is 40 feet high and 50 feet wide. The first time we hiked to Laurel Falls it was after a good rain and the water was pouring down the rocks. This time it was completely different.

Laurel Falls, Sept. 9

Laurel Falls, Sept. 9, 2013

Laurel Falls,  July 22, 2013

Laurel Falls, July 22, 2013

The sound of the waterfall was completely different today, but with that said, it was still incredible to see again.

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IMG_0222Since there was not as much water at the bottom of the waterfall today, we made our way across to the other side to see yet another perspective of the waterfall.

IMG_0226We then made our way out into the middle and stood directly in front of it. The water was cold, but it felt great.It’s always a rush to get directly in front of a waterfall. This is where you feel and hear the power of it all. There is no other sound quite like it, no other sound that gives you that sense of calmness.

Now this is where the fun began. The last time we were here in July, a couple of guys who were camping, showed Jason a trail that went directly up. That trail starts alongside the waterfall. Well today was the day, today I climbed up this trail on all four’s at a few points until Jason and I reached the part that became a little more even alongside the waterfall.

IMG_0220This is looking down the trail from top, which really doesn’t give it justice . . .

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Jason and walked out onto some of the rocks at the top of the waterfall and watched where it all accumulated before falling down the front of the rocks. This was a rush, an absolute rush.

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The picture above and below, was my favorite view of the day. It was stunning to see how the water hollowed out part of the rock. Jason and I both agree, that is definitely something you want to see in person.

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I still cannot get over the hike we did to get there. I have to admit my heart started pumping as the trail became narrow and I looked over the ledge and saw how far up we were. That’s where Jason came in, he sensed when I needed a little encouragement, he became my strength and I hiked on and am so glad I did.

Like always, we kept our adventure going and continued to follow the trail. Jason heard from a few people that there was another waterfall and we were determined to find the second one.

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Another waterfall that we witnessed alone . . . another breathtaking view . . .

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IMG_0203It was a rather wide waterfall . . . and it was kind of tough to get it all in one photograph.

Well, we kept going after this and found a few campsites along the trail that had a great view of the creek. As we sat on a few rocks to take a break, I found some beautiful flowers along the edge of the water.

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It was a great day, one that pushed me to my limits once again, making me overcome my fears. My confidence is soaring, especially when I saw the continuous smile on Jason’s face. One of the best parts of the hike was an embrace Jason gave me after completing one section of our hike, as well as his remarks. Yep, I have a great man in my life, one who I fall in love with more a little every day.

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How can you not have a good day when all of this is your view? When all you breathe is the fresh air after an afternoon shower?

A perfect day, a perfect way to celebrate our anniversary. A day I will remember for years to come.

Directions from 1-26 to the trailhead:

  • Take exit 24 to Elizabethton on Scenic US 321                          8.4 miles
  • Turn right at 19E Jcts staying on 321                                           5.2 miles
  • In Hampton turn left on 321                                                          1.3 miles
  • Look to the right for the parking lot and trailhead area.

Alternate hike:

  • In Hampton turn left on 321                                                           0.8 miles
  • Take a right on to Dennis Cove Drive                                            3.3 miles
  • Take the windy road up the mountain to the Appalachian Trail Crossing at the Dennis Cove trailhead where you will find a parking lot on either side of the road.

Gabe’s Branch Falls

Today our adventure took us to Kentucky for another unique waterfall, Gabe’s Branch Falls in Harlan County.

Before we arrived at our destination, we stopped off the side of the road and took in the beautiful view. That view was of Black Mountain, the highest point in Kentucky.

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Although it was hazy when we stopped, it was still an incredible view.

Black Mountain, Kentucky

Black Mountain, Kentucky

We continued on this breathtaking, curvy road that had beautiful rocks and lush green trees surrounding our path.

We then arrived at Gabe’s Branch Falls, which really did not involve too much of a hike.

IMG_0175After parking we walked straight down, which led to a overlook of the top of the waterfall, which pooled into a water hole where individuals could swim.

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Before heading down to the waterfall, we followed another trail that was clearly marked. This led us to incredible rock formations with water flowing through them that continued to the waterfall.

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It was stunning to see the hollow sections of the rocks.

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IMG_0134After we were done walking on rocks across the water we decided to follow the marked trail down to the waterfall.

IMG_0169The waterfall was beautiful. It is definitely one Jason and I want to go back to once there is a good rain.

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According to information on the Harlan County website, the falls is 15 to 20 feet tall in the northern mountains of Harlan County on Gabe Branch near the Leslie County line. The water falls into an 8 to 10 foot deep swimming hole.

While Jason and I were sitting on a rock near the waterfall, he spotted a snail . . .

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There’s just something about this little creature that is fascinating.

I’m glad Jason’s cousin Christina and her family showed us a new spot today!

Another great day out in the wilderness!