Some Spring and Summer Travel Pics!

Hello, hello.  It has been a long time since I’ve posted anything.  It’s a combination of feeling pretty good (i.e., not depressed) and being very busy, especially traveling.  Since the end of March, I’ve spent 6 weeks in California, 4 weeks in Colorado, and one in Louisiana.  I think I’ve got some coming before the end of the year.  Unfortunately, I had to recently cancel a trip to Maryland/Delaware.  I really wanted to spend some time with friends and places there, but it didn’t work out.  But, it’s given me a chance to catch up with some pictures, and I’ve got a bunch of good ones.  Below are just a couple of favorites.  Check out some more here.

Well, here goes – a couple of favorite panoramas from each place, in order of visiting.  And then a few critter pictures.  Click to enlarge.

Santa Barbara, California is one of my new favorite places!

 

You can still find yourself alone along the dramatic California coastline.

 

The Cache le Poudre river near my old home of Fort Collins, Colorado.

 

Pretty good view from the campsite one morning!  This is looking across Lake Granby, Colorado toward Rocky Mountain National Park.

 

The giant granite outcroppings of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park.  Wow.

 

This is one of my favorite outdoor pictures that I’ve ever taken.  This is during a hike beyond the “end of the road” in Kings Canyon National Park (between Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks).

 

Some elk in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Hey – nice rack!

 

A stunning wolf at the Colorado Wolf and Wildlife Center in Divide CO.

 

While camping near Grand Lake, Colorado, I went into town to get coffee one morning and this little one was out having breakfast.

 

 

A black bear cub in Sequoia National Park.

 

I finally got a great picture of Amy-Leigh!

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Some Spring Hiking in GA

I’ve been away two of the last four weeks for work, so I haven’t posted anything.  I have been getting out and about as much as I can while I’m here.  Enjoy some hiking pictures from around home (click for larger versions).

Dick’s Creek Falls…

…and the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River

Lake Chapman (Athens) at sunset

On the trail to Dick’s Creek Falls

Hanging out at the top of the falls

The River below Watson’s Mill Bridge, about 20 miles from Athens

Yep, me happy too

See these and a couple more here.

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Happy outdoors from the last month!

I’m sitting enjoying the first morning of the year where I could open up the doors and windows downstairs, one of my little traditions when it is nice and I’m having my morning coffee.  I haven’t been doing everything that I said I would put into practice in last year’s Thanksgiving post, with respect to spirituality and all.  But I have kept my promise to myself that when it comes to outdoors stuff, this will be a year of less planning and more getting out there.  I’ve had some great hikes this last month.  Here are some highlights.  You can click of the pictures to open them up in a larger size – that is good for some of the panoramas.

Second Colorado Skiing Trip

I went out for close to a week, and skied four days with one day off.  Unfortunately, I am still battling issues with boots that make it tough to really enjoy, so I had to focus on the beauty and the thrill of just being out there.  It was an interesting trip.  I spent the first couple of night in a cheap place with “motor lodge” in the title, trying to save some money.  It was okay, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.  I skied Winter Park the first couple of days.  I found some good food and drink in the town.  There was one place that specializes in putting green chiles on everything because the owner is from New Mexico.  I love green chili, and I found out that it goes great on a burger.  Good stuff.  On my day off, I visited some apartments near Central City (an old mining town that is now a bunch of casinos)  that I have been on a waiting list for.  The apartments were nice looking, and they had an almost 360 degree view!  I could definitely live up there.  Adjacent to the apartments is a KOA campground, so I can go camp there if nothing else.  I then picked up Stef in Denver and we spent a couple of days skiing at Copper Mountain.  All in all, a great trip!

I enjoyed these easy blue runs at Winter Park.

 

It was nice to see some sun on this trip!

 

Chaos after one of the lifts closed because of wind and they told us to walk back up the mountain.  Thankfully, they changed their minds and ran the lift slowly up.

 

A view of the apartments from the middle of the KOA campground.

 

Here is the view from the back of the apartments.  Wow!

 

And here is the view from the road on the way to the apartments.  Wow again!

 

Hiking around Lake Russell, Chattahoochee National Forest

I took off early one Friday afternoon to go hiking.  I had been to this lake several times, but I had never made the hike all the way around it.  I would definitely do this hike again.  The area was technically closed, but you could walk into it.  Amy-dog got to do a bunch of off-leash hiking.  She was good – she stayed relatively close.  She’s turning out to be a good little hiker-dog.

Looking down Lake Russell from on top of the dam.

 

Amy checking on me.  “Dad, why are you so slow?”

 

I’m cute, even when I’m out of focus.

 

Signs of beaver!

 

The moon never looks near as big in pictures as it does in person.

 

Hike up Mt. Yonah

I have been wanting to hike up Mt. Yonah ever since I saw it in a trail guidebook.  Every time I drive up to the mountains, I see Mt. Yonah off in the distance.  I decided to continue my Friday afternoon hikes by climbing it.  It is only 4.4 miles up and down, but it is steep enough to get the blood pumping.  The hike reminded me a cross between Stone Mountain, GA and Rocks State Park, MD.  It was a crisp and windy day, or I would have stayed and watched the sunset (well, if I had a headlamp that is).  Amy was pretty tuckered out after the hike.  A good summary of the hike along with some good pictures can be found here (my pictures are washed out because the best views were looking into the setting sun).

Mt. Yonah looming off in the distance.

 

Amy dog posing, sort of.  I can hardly ever get a shot of her looking at me.

There was a little bit of scrambling.  Amy almost got stuck in between the rocks.

A look up the mountain from a clearing about 25% of the way up, and the first good glimpse heading up.

The summit is a big grassy bald surrounded by trees.  You have to walk along the edge to get the good views.

 

Like this.  There’s a heck of a drop-off just over that ledge.

 

A big old hunk of granite, just like Stone Mountain.

 

Washed out by the sun, but you get the idea.

On the way down.

 

A nice view of where you just were on the way down.

 

The mountain being lit up by the setting sun, from the parking lot.

 

Watson Mill Bridge State Park

Yesterday’s hike was supposed to be easy, a nice little stroll through the woods to recover from the Yonah hike (and the little fall I made from one granite boulder to another).  However, I got bored and we decided to go off-trail hiking.  This was fun until we wandered off park land, and ended up getting turned around (not quite lost – I knew where I was but couldn’t figure out how to get back to the park) and stuck between a bunch of electrified fences on farms.  Eventually, we found out a way out to a road, having to scoot under the electric fence.  It turned out to be more of an adventure than we were planning on, but was fun nonetheless.

The falls and bridge nearing sunset.

 

I think this is the highest I have ever seen the river downstream of the bridge.

 

All sunny at the start of the hike.

 

“We’re lost?  I’m still having fun!”

 

Links to more pictures :

2016 CO skiing #2: https://goo.gl/photos/1u7meHGoKcMvg86P7

Hike around Lake Russell: https://goo.gl/photos/1JtScbbpv7srb7FC7

Hike up Mt. Yonah: https://goo.gl/photos/mmJGGcqU6n1WfXr56

Hike in Watson Mill Bridge State Park: https://goo.gl/photos/ceuDEwPENwu3RdqPA

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Some musical expressions of the heart

After writing this morning’s post, I was listening to some music and realized that the subconscious had chosen to listen to a song that expressed things well.  This happened the other day as well.  So I share as a sort of music before-and-after.  Or, more accurately, and current-and-potential.

The truth is that while most of the parts of my life that have to do with only or mostly me (work, school, future career, health, spirituality, etc.) have all been trending upward, the parts of my life that have to do with others (family, friends, lovers) has been fairly stagnant for a while now.  Part of that is due to where my focus has been, but part is certainly just a reluctance to get “out there”, or whatever.

Anyway, a couple of songs along those themes that you would not normally hear back-to-back.  The sad one first, off of Sting’s second solo album.  The video cracks me up — he’s like a cross between David Beckham, Zoolander, a teen trying to cover up the fact that he has braces, and a vampire character !?  On a personal note, I may have just committed to developing this hairstyle.  Monthly updates are forthcoming.  And I will totally work on that clapping style at the end – I bet the ladies love that!  The funniest thing is at one point, it sounds like the VHS tape pinches…haha.  Pre-digital bitches!

And then a more upbeat tune from Widespread Panic, rapidly becoming one of my favorite songs of theirs.  I give you the studio and one live version of the Panic song (to appreciate the live version you must have decent speakers — DO NOT think that what is coming out of yur dippy computer speakers is what this band sounds like live.)  They are…well…exactly what they are…a bunch of old(er) (mostly) white dudes playing some uniquely funky (yet poppy) variation of southern rock in front of a bunch of screaming and dancing (and also mostly white) people who are typically doing either the hippie-I’m-on-drugs dance, the I-just-think-I-saw-Jesus-and-so-have-both-arms-up-in-exaltation-dance (which somewhat surprisingly fills in as the default heavy metal dance at times) or the favorite of white folk everywhere, the frat-boy-sway-back-and-forth-without-arm-movement dance, which is similar to the old-white-guy-dance except the old white guy hold his arms somewhat up and forward and snaps his fingers slightly off of the beat like he’s pretending to be a cool jazz musician.  It’s not a complete shock that Panic leads consecutive sell-outs of Colorado’s Red Rocks Ampitheatre, as Colorado is one of the least diverse places imaginable, as well noted by the following:

On a personal note, even though I was not a frat boy, I generally fall into the sway-back-and-forth dance category, unless, of course, I happen to be on drugs, in which case, I switch to full-on hippie craziness.  Luckily I stay away from old white man dance, or at least I have to date.  Weddings are an acceptable exception, according to standard white guy by-laws.  By the way I hope I didn’t offend any white people with these comments about white dancing.  But seriously, we suck.  I guess it is the cold medicine talking, after all I have step throat so I’m on drugs.  Two parts Gentleman Jack, one part Ny-Quill.  Yee-hah!

As usual, lyrics are below.  May all beings find love and companionship, and may white people eventually, for the love of god and all that is holy, develop some god-damned rhythm.  Enjoy!

Be Still My Beating Heart – Sting

Be still my beating heart
It would be better to be cool
It’s not time to be open just yet
A lesson once learned is so hard to forget
Be still my beating heart
Or I’ll be taken for a fool
It’s not healthy to run at this pace
The blood runs so red to my face
I’ve been to every single book I know
To soothe the thoughts that plague me so

I sink like a stone that’s been thrown in the ocean
My logic has drowned in a sea of emotion
Stop before you start
Be still my beating heart

Restore my broken dreams
Shattered like a falling glass
I’m not ready to be broken just yet
A lesson once learned is so hard to forget

Be still my beating heart
You must learn to stand your ground
It’s not healthy to run at this pace
The blood runs so red to my face
I’ve been to every single book I know
To soothe the thoughts that plague me so

Stop before you start
Be still my beating heart

Never to be wrong
Never to make promises that break
It’s like singing in the wind
Or writing on the surface of a lake
And I wriggle like a fish caught on dry land
And I struggle to avoid any help at hand

I sink like a stone that’s been thrown in the ocean
My logic has drowned in a sea of emotion
Stop before you start
Be still my beating heart

Climb to Safety – Widespread Panic

you can hear, hear it comin’
like a train out of control
it surely leaves you wonderin’
exactly where your ticket goes
scream at the conductor
he’s been deaf for 20 years
hear the other people laughin’
as it grinds to where it began

go to grab your nerve
you find that it’s been missin’
see you’ve lost your faith
in everyone you know
well i surely hope
that you dont plan on winnin’
there’s no payin more attention
won’t until you care
you are seconds from the impact
and were movin way too slow

you say time will surely mold you
into somethin’ you dont like
now your runnin’ like a rabbit
stick your finger in the dyke
look around your room
you find the bed is peelin’
your effective skin is fallin’ off your bones
well i must admit i know just how your feelin’

we must grab eachothers collar
must rise out of the water
to know as well as i do and
it’s no fun to die alone

after all that i’ve been through
your the only one that matters
(climb to safety)
you never left me in the dark
here on my own
(climb to safety)
i can hear the water risin’
let me be your ladder
(climb to saftey)
i promise you’ll be dry
and never be alone

tell me love has always scared you
like the things under your bed
baby we can walk on water
like some junkies swore they did
you call me on the phone
you say that it is crucial
stick your fingers in your ears till they explode
mind his business and roll along as usual

we must grab eachothers collar
rise out of the water
to know as well as i do and
it’s no fun to die alone

after all that i’ve been through
your the only one that matters
(climb to safety)
you never left me in the dark
here on my own
(climb to safety)
i can hear the water risin’
let me be your ladder
(climb to saftey)
i promise you’ll be dry
and never be alone

after all that i’ve been through
your the only one that matters
(climb to safety)
you never left me in the dark
here on my own
(climb to safety)
i can hear the water risin’
let me be your ladder
(climb to saftey)
i promise you’ll be dry
and never be alone

yeah yeah climb to saftey
whoa whoa climb to saftey (safety)
yeah yeah climb to safety

 

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2016 is scooting on by

Remote Cabin in Alaska_Plaid Zebra

Hells yeah, I could make something like this work!

Already at the end of January, 2016.  This month went by quickly.  I’ve stuck fairly well to my 2016 goals so far.  I’ve definitely been eating better overall and getting outside more, which were my two main things.  I’ve been sporadic with meditation and yoga, so I will work on getting those to be more like habits.  But all in all, things are going well.  I think that this might be the year that I open up some, in terms of getting out of my shell and finding some friends around here.  Maybe I’ll even date again.  I just haven’t worried about it much because I haven’t had a lot of luck in that area since moving to Athens, nor have I really cared about it that much.  The “Colorado girlfriend” is the closest thing I’ve had to any sort of actual relationship since moving down here.  It is more meaningful than the handful of FWB’s that I’ve run across in Athens.  I guess I was in a bit more of a partying mode when I first showed up, but it ran it’s course.

I’m not lonely, and I’m not scared of continuing to be what most people consider alone.  I have so many interests that I rarely get bored, and I feel like I’ve got some good friends, even if they are mostly scattered all over the place.  I’ve been considering making it worse; I’ve been looking at real estate and have found that I could easily afford several acres and a moderately new manufactured home for less than what I’m paying for rent now.  However, I will stick in town until I’m done with schooling, because there is a chance that I would be relocating when I’m done anyway.  Before that, I had spent some time looking for undeveloped land where I could live out of a camper, but most counties don’t allow that anymore.  Oh well.  For some reason I guess I don’t share Jimmy Buffett’s excitement, “Thank God I don’t live in a trailer”.  I might end up quite happy in one.  Who knows – if I end up getting a job with the Forest Service or BLM or some agency like that, perhaps I will end up living in a trailer…for free…on public land that I would be working to manage and protect.  Now that would be a pretty cool outcome of all of this!

Thinking about public lands and conservation and management reminds me of my grandfather.  It has been about a year (perhaps almost exactly) since my grandfather passed away.  I was thinking about him a couple of nights ago when I was working on a series of free online Wilderness Area Management training courses.  Perhaps he’s out there somewhere and can see the direction I’m taking.  I hope so.  He and my Dad were the biggest influences in terms my getting outdoors.  And the mountains held a call of their own.

I’m battling a so-far-not-too-bad case of step throat.  Not sure how I caught it since I work from home and don’t get out much.  Can you get sick from texting a bunch of people?  I pretended that I was in the blizzard this weekend by having a few drinks and calling or texting lots of people.  It was just as well that I didn’t go skiing last weekend; I’m sure that would not have helped my condition.  I’m hoping that I get over this quickly so I can ski in Colorado on the upcoming weekend.  Fingers crossing.  Knocking on wood and all.

Well, that’s it for this morning.  I’m thinking about you, Pop.  Hope things are well on the other side.  If you have any info on a cute introverted outdoorsy scientist type who wouldn’t mind living and working in the great outdoors, send me some vibrations or something.

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Put on your snow-face!

Yes, that’s meant to be like “o-face”, in case you were wondering.

I have to be honest – I miss being in blizzards.  I had to cancel my trip to ski in North Carolina because of the ice and all the power outages.  it just seemed dumb to attempt what is normally a 5-hour drive under those conditions.  So, I’m having a nice relaxed morning here in Athens.  We got a dusting of snow last night, and judging by the cars zooming by outside my front window, the roads are fine here.  I’ve got snow on the brain.  I guess growing up in a place where it snows so rarely, it is truly something special.  Snow always makes me feel like a little kid.  I remember waking up and peeking out my window to see if there was any snow, knowing that if the grass was covered there was a very good chance that we would get a snow day.  Alas, I travel to Colorado next weekend to ski, so I will again get my temporary snow fix.  To me, it is as addicting as that other white powdery substance  is for many people.

I saw much more snow in the mid-Atlantic than I did in Colorado.  Part of that was just the amount of time that lived there.  Part of that was where I lived in Colorado (Fort Collins is in somewhat of a rain shadow because of the configuration of mountains to the West).  The two years I lived there were fairly bad for snow.  I remember that the ski areas opened later than normal both years.  I was in only one big storm when heading up to the mountains with my girlfriend.  It was pretty scary at times.  The roads were very slick, and the traffic was stop-and-go.  Every once in a while, a wind gust would break a car loose and it would slowly slide to the side of the road, where it would be stopped from a several-hundred foot plunge straight down by a guard rail.  Luckily our car did not have that problem.  Once we arrived at our destination, somewhere in Summit County (where I go ski all the time now), I remember staring out the window of whatever diner we were eating at, just watching the snow and being mesmerized, the way that happens when you get lost in a campfire.

During the first couple of years living in the mid-Atlantic, I met one of my best high school and college friends and his fiancée to ski over New Year’s weekend at Bellayre Mountain in the Catskills of New York.  We got something like 38” of snow over the two days.  I remember that when riding up the ski lift, we would be completely covered by the time we reached the top of the mountain.  My little Honda Civic got stuck going up a very long and icy hill.  I had to get some help for a local plow operator to make it back home from the ski area that day.  I remember that I woke up very early and brushed the snow off everyone’s cars the last morning before we headed home.  But I left a strip of snow down the middle of roof, making each car have a two-foot high white mohawk (or should I say snow-hawk) of sorts.  Even driving up to 80 mph on the way home, the snow-hawks remained for a couple of days.  That was my first big-time snowstorm.

There were also a few other good storms over the years my first few years in Delaware and Maryland.

But there was nothing like the winter of 2009 to 2010.  I was still married and we lived in a farmhouse at Fair Hill.  There was one early storm, dumping 8 to 12 inches before Christmas.  The snow didn’t last long due to warmer temperatures, rain, and wind.  However, we got two massive snowstorms / blizzards two days apart in early February.  In total, they dumped between 5 and 7 feet of snow.  Several things really stand out from those storms.  One is the beauty.  It completely transformed the landscape.  A good covering of snow seems to make everything sparkle and shine, almost like creating a new world.  It is everything is clean and perfect for a short time.  Once the storms had ended and the sun came out, it was great fun to hike around in the fields, me making “first tracks” in the snow and a three-strong troop of doggies following in single-line formation behind me in my tracks.

Another is the raw power of nature.  Snow dropping at more than an inch per hour and 40-mile winds have a way of reminding you just how tiny and insignificant humans really are compared to some forces of the natural world.  I think about climate change and what it must have been like for peoples who lived in areas that slowly became more inhospitable during long cold periods or ice ages.  Were they aware of the changes or were things so gradual compared to their short lifespans that they didn’t notice the increasing cold and the decreasing growing season and wildlife?  if they did notice, did they attribute the changes to gods or devils?  It amuses me the way that the weather people personify storms during the lead up to the climax over their multi-day storm-gasms, e.g. the weather channel girl says with a hint of excitement in her voice and a gleam in her eye, “Deadly Winter Storm [fill whatever name here] is about to unleash its fury on the mid-Atlantic states”.  I can’t blame her – I get turned on by storms too.

Another thing is that it forces you into the moment.  There is nothing like sipping on a warm coffee or cider drink, sitting next to a fire, and staring out the window watching a blizzard outside.  Lastly, since you’re stuck indoors for a couple of days, it is a great time for making babies, or at least practicing Smile

Sure, in some ways it can be a lot of work.  We had to shovel for hours after those storms, we had to dig out tunnels to the barn to check on the horses and to give the doggies a way to move around.  But to me the effort is all worth it.

To my friends in Maryland and Delaware: I’m thinking of you.  I hope you are safe and warm and comfy.  I’m also a little jealous.  Wish I was there!

For those of you who aren’t sick of snow, here are a few pictures from those 2010 storms.  Enjoy!

Hard to enjoy looking out this window.

This is just the first of the two storms.

The mailbox is disappearing!

Here is me post-holing.

Roxy-dog and Maggie joining in the fun!

Don’t forget little Reena-Jean (aka Bean-Bean and Beaner).

And the horses, Hooch and Whiskey.

The calm between storms.

White-out conditions during the storm, part deaux.

“Umm…how are we supposed to go to the bathroom?”

Mailbox down!  Mailbox down!

Does this shadow make my ass look big?

Tunnel out of the house to the barn.

Your truly after fixing the mailbox.  I actually enjoy shoveling snow.

The plows could only keep half of the road open because the wind kept blowing the snow across.

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Some more winter North Georgia hiking

 

I’m going try and do a better job of writing about excursions and trips as they happen this year.  Today I want to share some pictures from a hike at Unicoi State Park, GA.

image

 

Like much of the GA mountains, the drive is under 2 hours.  It was cool, but not cold.  A nice southern winter day.  Amy-Leigh and I walked along the Lake Trail, which not surprisingly winds along the shoreline of the lake.  We then took a side trail that followed one of the feeder streams, walked up the road and checked out the campground, took another side trail to see the Squirrel’s Nest (a strange camping area consisting of elevated platforms that you can camp on; see picture below), and then cut back to the car.  All in all, a nice easy hike to stretch the legs and breathe in some clean mountain air.

We then searched for an old informal spot along a river within U.S. Forest Service land where some friends and I used to camp during our college days.  It was a great spot, and free!  On one fateful night where the camping gods shone some good luck on me and friends, we were surprised by a Forest Ranger who came up and demanded to look in the cooler that I happened to be using as a seat.  I was suddenly very nervous as I wasn’t sure whether it was the food cooler or the beer cooler.  The latter would be bad since we were all underage.  It turned out to be the food cooler, and thankfully he didn’t ask to peek into the other cooler.

I missed the turn-off at first and drove a ways down an unpaved Forest Service road, only to come across an awesome waterfall!

After that, we headed back and I found the correct spot.  As part of a stream / riparian corridor restoration project, they had put some big boulders around where we used to park and there were “no camping” signs everywhere.  Alas, all good things come to an end.  I hope the restoration is good for the river.  As the old Roxy-dog used to do, Amy-Leigh crashed and slept and snored all the way home.  I love taking doggies that used to be indoors all the time and taking them hiking.  They love it and they remind me what a special and wonderful world the outdoors is (are?).

So far in 2016, I’ve been spending my weekends outdoors.  And the trend will continue.  I ski in North Carolina this weekend (and they are supposed to get a foot of snow!) and then I’ll be back skiing in Colorado the following weekend.  I am definitely putting that part of the plan into action.

Here’s hoping that everyone is getting to do things that they enjoy this year!

 

 

A typical view while walking along the Lake Trail.

I’m not so sure why Amy-Leigh is so serious here.

 

 

Yes, a river runs through it.

Ditto.

You just knew that there would be a trademark shadow picture, didn’t you?

The “squirrel’s nest” camping area.  Interesting.

You never know what you might come across when you head off down a Forest Service dirt road.

Amy being all serious again.  As if to say, “are you sure this little VW hatchback will make it down this dirt road?  It’s getting dark, you know.”

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First skiing of 2016

Skiing in Colorado officially kicked off my winter last weekend.  Yay!

Looking down an easy run at Winter Park / Mary Jane

 

I had some boot issues and traded the ones I’ve had for a year now (ad are only getting more uncomfortable every time) for another pair that are supposedly better and a better match for my foot.  Hopefully these work out.  I got to ski one day by myself to warm up, and was joined a few days by my Colorado ski buddy and part-time girlfriend.  I hope to go back next weekend or soon thereafter.  I’ve also been thinking about getting up North Carolina to ski, but the best areas are about a 4.5-hour drive.

In other news, I found out that the deadline to apply to the other public lands management and recreation online masters program for Fall 2016 admission is not until May (something I read made it seem like it I might have already missed it, but no I’m good).  I plan to have both applications to my two top schools in by the end of Q1.  Maybe I’ll be back to school this fall!

Some white knuckle driving in the rental Ford Focus on the way to Winter Park. The little car did well.

There was some sun in addition to all the snow that usually occurs when I visit (I am a snow magnet).

Saw this at a local shop or eatery.  Someone after my own heart!

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Today, happiness is settling into the Classic City and settling into my future

When walking out of the Gyro Wrap, one of my favorite Athens eateries that I first visited way back in high school, I heard R.E.M.’s Radio Free Europe blaring from some nearby speakers.  It reminded me of my undergrad days in Athens, when one could hear R.E.M. playing all around campus as students and townies studied, hung out, kicked around a hacky sack, etc.  It is a beautiful, crisp winter day here, and I’m happy to have settled into Athens.  I’ve been doing little things around my place, slowly adding to the decorations and making the place “mine”.  It, and this town, are feeling more and more like home.

I realized today while eating lunch that I think I’m settled on my future direction as well.  I have been going back-and-forth for some time between public lands management, parks and recreation, and more economics.  I think a mix of parks and recreation and public lands management is where I’m headed.  It is closest to what I love.  It is a broad field and there is a lot of diversity in the types and locations of jobs available.  I don’t know if I will ever love “work”, but I think there is a chance with this and it is certainly closer than what I do now.  The funny thing is that the main reason I can still stand what I do now is because I work a lot on recreation.  But I’d rather be doing something else in the field, particularly if it involves public lands as well.

Every time I’m out hiking or camping or paddling or skiing on public lands, I think, “this is what I should be doing”.  My favorite class in undergraduate studies was called “Wilderness Area Management”.  The favorite one in graduate school was “Public Lands Management”.  Why has it taken so long to figure out that this is what I should do?  I’m pretty dense some times, I guess.  I’ve talked before about the head and the heart.  The intellect lives in the head, and feelings live in the heart.  Well, perhaps instinct lives in the gut.  I think I need to use my head less and my gut more (although my gut has been shrinking recently, there is still plenty to go around)!  I think that on some level, I’ve “known” this for some time; it has just taken forever to get my brain to get on board.

I’m likely back to school this fall or next spring.  in the mean time, I plan to get out in the outdoors, travel some, and see what I can see.  It starts in a couple of days, when I head to Colorado for some skiing.  Yea 2016!

Today I leave with you two great songs from two different Athens bands.  One R.E.M. and one Widespread Panic, the band I saw for the second time New Years Eve and, although I’m not too much into the jam bands, continues to grow on me the more I listen and the more I see of them.  This is a pretty good intro if you’ve never seen them.  Enjoy!

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Starting off 2016 with some mountains and waterfalls

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North Georgia, like much of the south and east, has had a very rainy December.  I was up early and decided to check out one of the waterfalls in the North Georgia mountains.  I had a very nice hike on a brisk January morning.  Finally, it feels like winter!

View of Amicilola Falls from the base

 

It was fun to make my first visit this year to a state park to be Amicilola Falls State Park.  First, it has one the tallest cascading waterfall in the southeastern U.S.  As you can see from the pictures, it was in full force following the recent rains.  Second, this is the unofficial start of the Appalachian Trail.  Hikers can park here, perhaps stay at the Lodge, and then take a 7.5-mile trail from there to the top of Springer Mountain, the official start of the A.T. (I am hoping to do a one-night backpacking trip from up to the Springer Mountain Shelter and back some time this winter).

 

May be A.T. be with you

 

Third, there is the Hike Inn, a hiker hotel that one can only reach by hiking.  Not only is this some place that I would visit at some point, it reminds me of my grandfather, who had a coffee mug from the Hike Inn that I typically used as my mug when I stayed with him.

I arrived very early and it was just a couple of degrees above freezing, colder than I expected.  I bought a long-sleeved shirt from the gift shop as I bought my Georgia annual state park pass, and was okay once I started hiking uphill.  Luckily, I got up to see the waterfall before the crowds arrived.  I then headed back a different trail over the other side of a ridge, and was alone (yea!) on the return trip.  It was a wonderful first hike of 2016.

The creek along Creek Trail

 

Some rapids in the foreground and Amicilola Falls looming in the distance

 

The Falls from a trail bridge

 

View from the top

 

I then drove to Helen, GA, the biggest tourist trap of the North Georgia mountains, for some lunch.  I was going to do some hiking, but my Dad called and reminded about UGA’s bowl game, so I watched that instead.

A good hike, a good (well, sort-of) bowl game victory, and a nice drive.  A good start to 2016!

I hope yours is going well too!

–Keith

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