Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Pay Day for The Soul


Getting out of town was tough this month. There were work obstacles. The weather was uncooperative. A truck carrying 40,000 pounds of broccoli got into an accident on Interstate 40 just 20 miles from my exit. The hurdles were many!

But waiting at the end of all that headache (and painfully full bladder on the I-40 "parking lot") was the serenity I so craved. My fourth road trip of 2019 took me to Radnor Lake State Park in Nashville. I chose this spot because of all the beautiful photos I had seen in other people's Facebook posts. I needed to see it for myself.

Finally off the road, I checked into my hotel for the overnight stay, dropped my bag in the room, threw my hair in a ponytail and headed for the park. Radnor Lake is sort of nestled in a residential area. The road to get there winds past massive homes and manicured lawns leading to the west entrance and a cozy visitor's center. The kind lady inside sold me a sticker, tore off a map for guests, and pointed me in the direction of "the prettiest way" to get to the aviary. You know I love the birds!

Off I went.


The first stretch of the cedar chip-covered trail, known as the Spillway Trail, leads straight into the woods where I stopped every few paces just to listen to the familiar chirps of Carolina Wrens, Tufted Titmice, and various woodpeckers.



The ground was still damp from overnight rain (the same rain that kept me home in Memphis the night before). The air was thick, helping to muffle any sounds from the road just yards away, sounds that were quickly drowned by the roaring water of Otter Creek the further up the trail I hiked.


The path wound further into the forest past the rushing creek and closer to Radnor Lake. I had walked less than one mile but already the worries of life back home had melted away. It was blissful taking photos of the glassy water, the occasional Cardinal, and the heavy clouds that were still threatening to unload. I was definitely in my element, throwing a smile and "good afternoon" to fellow hikers. I set up my camera to take a selfie. Not even a little embarrassed, I flung my arms out wide!



I followed the advised path to the Barbara J. Mapp Aviary which is up not one but two steep hills. Huffing and puffing, I arrived to check out the Great Horned Owl and Bald Eagles living at the top. The raptors were stunning. The owl winked at me a few times, I winked back (because that's what you do!) and made my way back down to the lake.

At the foot of the steep hills I spotted a trailhead that would take me off the paved path and deep through the woods. Yes, please!


There's no feeling like being surrounded by nature, but able to see people on the paved path below. I wanted to yell, "Hey! Get up here! That path is great, but this is even better... you have no idea what you're missing!" I kept that all to myself though, and embraced the warmth of what felt like a secret. I could see them, but they couldn't see me. The trail in the trees had the ambiance of isolation and peace, but it was also challenging terrain. No pavement. No blazes. Just trodden earth to follow, often muddy and covered in tree roots. I surrendered my shoes to the mess and followed the path as far as it would take me, which was right back to start.




I had covered a lot of ground, so it was time to call it a day. At the hotel I plotted the next day's activities.

Sunday morning found me back at Radnor Lake, and just in time to beat the rush. The sun was finally out and many others had the same idea: spend Easter morning soaking it up in the church of Mother Nature.

My plan was to see a different side of the park, so this time I stuck to the trail that wound around the lake itself. I was never alone on this trek and that was okay. Everyone seemed light on their feet that day in the warmth of the sunshine. The birds were busy, bees bounced between blooms, and the local wildlife was not shy!




Sunday's stroll was not about photography or keeping track of how far I had walked. It was about being in the moment. I stopped at one little deck that offered a scenic view of the lake and took it in. I wandered back through the portion of the wooded area where I first set foot on the trail the day before and found the birds' greetings just as sweet.

And under the canopy of foliage I probably couldn't identify, I was proud. I had done it. I was one-quarter of the way through the year and I had kept my resolution to get out and see more of what's around me. And so much of what's around me is amazing. I had planned and taken this trip by myself, no one to entertain me but me. And I had done it better. Better than I could have done it one year ago, even six months ago. Along with my "see the world" goal this year, I vowed to improve my health. I've been diligent about exercise and eating better (mostly), and I swell with satisfaction when those efforts pay off. And Radnor Lake was a huge pay day for my soul!


Saturday, April 6, 2019

A Promise To Jimmy

Jimmy Ogle
I took a guided tour of Elmwood Cemetery today. I've blogged about out twice before: the history there and how I find it to be a relaxing hidden gem in Memphis.

Tours are offered regularly, but today was special. Renowned Memphis historian Jimmy Ogle led the tour, rattling off a who's who of the interred, served up with slices of Bluff City history told as only he can tell it.


Early on in the tour, Jimmy made us all take a vow that I thought was incredibly fitting during my year of finding better ways to spend my time. He made us all raise our right hands and promise to take a staycation in Memphis, becoming tourists in our own town.

We all took the pledge through giggles and a few murmurs about what we have and have not yet done, toeing the ground.

The whole thing got me thinking: there are so many things I haven't done right here in Memphis. I've run my toes through the shag carpeting in the Jungle Room at Graceland, toured the National Civil Rights Museum, floated down Beale Street, seen priceless works of art at The Brooks Museum, smelled the flowers at Memphis Botanic Garden AND The Dixon, even walked the longest public pedestrian bridge across the Mississippi River. But there are countless other opportunities to take advantage of! Museums, historic homes, food, festivals... the list is endless.

As it is, I'm having a hard time figuring out where to spend my April getaway. I have a trip to Mammoth Cave National Park all mapped out, but I just need one day off work to make it happen, and sadly I can't make that happen.

I have no plans to scale back my regional road tripping this year, but I think I can certainly carve out a little more time to explore my city, too.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Up


65 and sunny. All weekend. It doesn't get any better than that for a road trip to Hot Springs, Arkansas for my best friend's birthday, and of course The World's Shortest St. Patrick's Day Parade!

Dawn, Krista, Angie & me
This was my third road trip of the year in my quest to visit more of the wonderful things around me. I made that promise to myself back in January. It was definitely the most ambitious trip so far.

Friday night, my friend Dawn and I packed up the car and hit the road. Hot Springs is about three hours from home, and as I learned, a super easy drive to get there, especially when you have a partner in crime to sing House of Pain with! It was St. Paddy's weekend, after all!

My biggest goal for the weekend was to go hiking in Hot Springs National Park. After a delicious breakfast at The Pancake Shop with what might be the world's best freshly squeezed orange juice, Dawn was off to a spa appointment, and my camera and I hit the trail.

The Arlington Hotel sits right across the street from a steaming hot spring and the entrance to the park.



Beyond this hot spring, the rest of the park is up. I mean literally. Up. So up I went.

There were stairs on what's called the Tufa Terrace Trail before you really get into dirt trails and towering trees. But once you hit the dirt, it's another world and I found what I crave so much. Peace, quiet, chirping birds, the occasional passing hiker with a friendly smile. It's still a little early for the trees to be full, the ground lush, but I can see it coming.


Walks like these help me clear my head. My mind sifts through all the clutter, discards it, and suddenly I'm light on my feet. I can hear my breathing again, feel my heart beating in my chest. Things that bring me stress don't seem as important. I start to identify birds by their song. On this day, robins chattered and a pair of house finches whistled a sweet and repetitive tune. Mockingbirds did their thing.

Before I knew it the Mountain Tower was in sight. At that point I made a new deal with myself. My legs were starting to feel the burn of this uphill climb, and I knew a second hike was in the cards for Sunday, so I skipped the tower in favor of another day when the trees were greener. Yes, I will be back here at least one more time this year!



I am really proud of myself. Five months ago, this hike would have been too much. Too far, too strenuous. Too much UP! But this past Saturday, I was THERE for it! I was thrilled to be outside in the crisp late winter air, smelling the damp dirt, feeling the steam from the hot springs, and pushing myself higher purely for the sake of enjoyment. And I could do it. And I could have kept going.

Of all the things they bottle and sell in Hot Springs, I wish I could package up that feeling for anyone who doesn't know.