When I first moved to the NC High country, I made it my personal mission to explore as many trails, parks, overlooks and backroads as I could. I kept my hiking boots in my car and would frequently hit the trail in the evenings (before daylight savings time). I quickly discovered the popular locations and picked my favorite spots to hike. Usually the less trafficked trails were my favorite since I go into nature to get quiet, clear my head and really breathe in the space. Some of my favorite spots are Elk Knob, Grayson Highlands, Linville Gorge and Doughton Park. But just like your favorite song might change over time, my favorite treks often rotate.
Lately, however, I haven’t hit the trail as often as I did in 2016. 2017 was an especially turbulent year for me and I hurtled myself headlong into working hard. Maybe too hard since I got shingles at the end of October and everything came to a screeching halt. I’ve found myself taking more time to myself and replacing hiking with journaling, indoor exercise (mostly due to the long, cold winters here) and lots of sofa time with my partner and fur baby. All of this was great during the winter and these introverted inside activities really helped me get through!
Summertime outdoor activities in the High Country vary from hiking and climbing to tubing and kayaking. This past summer we invested in kayaks and since we live just 12 minutes from Todd and the New River, we made the most of this summer kayaking (despite the rain).
Just as seasons change and we have to adjust our habits and routines, our interests also change over time.
I find myself valuing stillness and downtime far more than I did just a couple of years ago. I’ve always been high-energy and if something is hard, well then I want to do it even more.
Earlier this season, I had a close friend who was planning a two month hike on the Appalachian Trail. Immediately I was ready to tackle the challenge. I had already been getting into shape through cross-training at home during the winter and I wanted to have a big hike under my belt as a badge of honor saying “I did it. I hiked 50 miles straight!”. As I trained for a week on the AT, I encountered several sports-related injuries and after a 9 miler that left me laid out for two days, I began to reconsider why I wanted to backpack.
I felt like each step was about achieving more and doing better and getting there faster. I wasn’t enjoying the journey anymore, instead I was just interested in the end result–the score.
I realized that it’s okay to accept that maybe I don’t want to be an extreme hiker or backpacker. I like to get out and hike occasionally, but I also really enjoy time at home and more importantly, I want to enjoy being outdoors not for the number of steps I traversed or the calories burned, but for the sake of taking in the natural beauty and enjoying the moment with myself and companions. Additionally, as an artist and musician, many of my creative outlets require time and space to create. Recognizing this and honoring that space has been a huge challenge for me as an achiever.
Thus, my adventure seeking as a resident of the NC High Country has shifted. I’ve enjoyed the outdoors in other ways. By shooting at amazing locations and venues to long drives with my partner and short hikes to overlooks to walks with my dog behind my house here in Ashe County, I still get that needed recharge of being in nature even if it’s in little doses. I get to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway three days a week and the mere fact that I live in the NC High Country is an outdoor adventure in itself.
The important thing to remember is that as we get older and our lives get fuller, it’s vital to recognize where to soften and where to stand strong to our old beliefs and ways of being.
Until next time…