Meet: The Appalachian Trail

This post is coming at ya with a little Appalachian Trail action. To clarify, these 600 words only cover about 40 miles of the 2,168.1 total.

If only this post was happening because work magically said it was okay to take 6 months off and go do some thru hike soul-searching. After doing the math I would have to work at my job for about 60 years before coming anywhere close to that kind of PTO.

While what we saw doesn’t come close to the amazing adventure of the entire length, the small section between Erwin TN, and Asheville NC is nothing short of the true wilderness experience that you imagine out on the AT.

AT Edit

The plan was to hike out and back from the Erwin TN on point. I had high hopes for my “last meal” aka the last consumed substances that weren’t prepackaged and heated in freezing temperatures. My dreams of egg whites and spinach frittatas were quickly crushed when we realized the only gourmet breakfast options in Erwin consisted of a McGriddle and dollar coffee; at least there was a bathroom! I felt like we were putting a little too much trust in good old McDs’ to power through two full days of covering ground, but it would have to do. If I am being honest my exercise addicted self was definitely most excited to spend my 9 to 5 trekking up and down the winding mountain hills.

AT Sign EditedThis arctic looking scene was an on and off occurrence as the sun was constantly hidden and exposed by the thick impenetrable clouds. For a stretch the trail would be a crunchy icicle and then a spring time scene with soggy leaves all padding the ground.

AT Spring Edited

Trail editedThere were a lot of things that made me nervous about this little adventure. Factors such as the fact that it was the dead of winter, sleeping exposed on a wood platform in the middle of no where, water and lack thereof, back woods bathroom situations, etc. While we were busy worrying about those things, we also were busy under estimating the physical challenge of hiking these altitudes.

After looking back at the trail guide we found out one of the peaks mid-way out on our route was only the second tallest on the entire trail. It was one of those hills you knew had to be winning that contest. The kind that makes a relatively in shape person  question any physical fitness they thought they had going into it.

On the steepest climbs towards the end of the days we started doing that dazed and confused thing, where you straighten up limp armed and wonder if this is the end. Okay, maybe not the end but you definitely consider if getting air lifted home is an option.

It really explained the ability of true hikers and the level of endurance it takes to manage that degree of activity on a scale 100 times larger than our dinky day hikes.

AT Bald Head EditedAbove is the Bald Head summit at about 5,600 ft. elevation, our second tallest climb of the trip. At this point you would be feeling pretty cold, like hands turning purple cold, but you would also start considering how amazingly gorgeous this world is. It was hard to believe that we were “only in Tennessee” seeing the kind of mountains you see in Outside Magazine.

AT Shelter Edited

AT 2 Edited

Despite the fact that our legs were a special kind of sore, this taste of the trail was enough to catch the itch to do more. We survived the elements, filtered the water, and scared away night-time scavengers. Something about following that narrow path, where every section is something being seen for the first time, makes you want to do it everywhere you go. You feel like you are seeing sites worth seeing. There isn’t a price of admission, lines, parking meters, or herds of people. It was the perfect chance to get out there and do something new, as well as insanely challenging. While I never would have pictured myself atop a mountain ringing in the new year in the pitch black of the wilderness zipped up mummy style nose frozen in a sleeping bag, it was one of the absolute most romantic best ways to celebrate the beginning of 2015.

…And next time an Asheville debrief…

-RV

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It Rained Today

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Today it rained. A lot. And like most Cincinnati days of torrential down pour, weather men and women everywhere were 100% sure it was going to be nothing but sunshine. This pop up weather really put people off. As in it absolutely ruined everyone’s week as I watched them trounce in dripping while at work.Want to know how I know it ruined their week? Because of the near tantrums that I witnessed as they demanded an umbrella. You could see it in their eyes, dripping wet, arms out starfish style whirling around disoriented like they hadn’t had food or water in 30 days.

That “OMG I must be dry this instant or I am going to lose it” look.

They stomp-sloshed (when a wet person angrily moves in your direction) into the office ready to tackle the next person they saw for an umbrella…

Wet person: Tell me you sell umbrellas here?! Don’t you know it’s pouring out there?!
Me: *Rain continues pounding roof as it has the past 2 hours* So sorry no umbrellas
Wet person: What am I supposed to do!!!? I am soaked!!
Me:…

Every single melt down I participated in I kept thinking, 1: these grown adults need to suck it up and 2: oh my gosh I am the soaking wet umbrella-less grouch too. Type A people just can’t resist a moment to control…just my opinion…coming from the girl brought two umbrellas today…just in case. It is such a blessing and a curse, and in the case of the distraught wet person, mostly a curse.

No I don’t think I would ever throw a tantrum at someone else because I got rained on, but I totally freak about similar moments on a daily basis. Those moments when even the most excessive effort to control everything wind up being out of your control. Things that you couldn’t have prevented no matter how hard you tried. Computer crashes. Recession. Money. Traffic. Car crashes. Layoffs. Other people. Sickness. Breakdowns. You name it.

So many of these little moments are 110% out our control and you have two choices. Cry about being soaking wet from a pop up shower, or do your darndest to find an umbrella, change into dry clothes, or whatever it takes to make your situation better. No one wants to pat the person who forgot their umbrella on the back.

These things happen, and you control the outcome not the event.

It rained a lot today and you are going to be okay.

 

 

The Skinny Confidential’s Lauryn Evarts on Healthy Basics

If you haven’t heard of the Skinny Confidential until now…you’re welcome. Chances are though you already have because Skinny Conf. founder, health & fitness guru, and author Lauryn Evarts is quite literally taking over. Seriously if I ever need to see something sickeningly adorable she’s my girl. As if her gorgeous self wasn’t inspiration enough, she makes the idea of eating blended vegetables actually sound like fun on the daily. **I’m talkin inspiration down to the lemons in the teal bowl. See below.**

She is known to give a very real opinion on health and how to actually make it a lifestyle, as opposed to just posting glamour shots of fitness crazies covered in sweat. Lauryn’s brand, The Skinny Confidential, is such a fresh take on the drab info we keep hearing on the same old subjects and with the recent publishing of her first book, it’s safe to say this girl knows her stuff. None of that Dr. OZ mumbo-jumbo here. Read more for the essentials to making your health not only a priority, but a lifestyle. Because we all want success in health, love, and life. Thanks for your feedback Lauryn!

Lauryn Evarts

What’s your foundation whether in business, fitness, or general health?

My foundation is balance. Balance is what keeps me sane and motivated. I also utilize The Skinny Confidential as a place to connect with my readers, and hear what they want to know.

The most important quality you value in yourself from when it all started to today?

The most important quality I value in myself today is self-discipline. I feel like with discipline comes opportunity. Lauryn-Evarts-Zella-1

Worst thing someone can do for their health?

Smoke, not wear sun screen and/or eat chemical filled food….eww to all of these.

Your take on being sick/injured and working out?

I think you should tailor your workout to the ailment that you have. If you broke your arm, then do squats. If you injured your knee, use arm weights.

Your quickest easiest get fit advice ever?

Eat clean. Work out. And practice wellness. Wellness is eating your vitamins. Getting enough sleep. Taking care of yourself and fueling your body with the right nutrients. Be nice to yourself.

Your take on juice cleanses? How long should they be? How effective?

Juice cleanses should last in my opinion three days. Juice cleanses are very effective when done correctly, and ineffective if misused. If you’re interested in a juice cleanse email me at Lauryn@TheSkinnyConfidential.com.

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What are some of the most common inhibitors you see when people struggle to formulate a health/beauty/fitness plan?

I always see people bite off more than they can chew. I think it’s really important again to stay balanced. I also see people who don’t sleep enough. Sleep is so important.

Best advice ever received in terms of personal health or in general?

The best advice that I’ve received is to be the best version of yourself. I think it’s really important to try your hardest in every aspect in your life.

Where do you see health and fitness going in the next 10 years?

I think a lot of people will mix it up daily and that gyms will become less popular and being outdoors will be more popular.

How can I start doing one thing today that will give me positive long-term payoff in regards to my health?

Stay away from fat-free and diet free products. They’re filled with chemicals and are bad for your health.

What is your biggest challenge that you face while working in a field of health/wellness/lifestyle?

My biggest challenge is that people are misinformed. The food companies are not providing the real truth of whats in food. I feel like people are eating chemical filled foods and don’t realize it. My advice is to know what the hell you’re eating.

Best advice you can offer to someone struggling to stick with it, or to find meaning in their fitness routine?

Just do it. Wake up. Work out. Eat clean. Sooner or later it will become a habit like brushing your teeth. Check out my blog here. And check out The Skinny Confidential book here.

If your were an animal what would you be?

Definitely a chihuahua. They’re bad ass and I’d want to hang out with my dog Mini Delites with Lauryn Evarts

Meet: Traverse City MI

Summer in Northern MI is was one of those places where you easily convince yourself the brutal winters and endless snow would be a small sacrifice for springs and summers like this.

It is a place where grand ideas of yoga studios located in the hearts of vineyards aren’t so impossible,  because buzzed yoga would be the ultimate outer body experience. It is where cherry flavored anything is better, especially with a body of water framing the sun’s good morning and good night. Basically Tim Allen nails it every time, Traverse City MI really is a little slice of northern heaven.

green path

 

lakefront2

 

lighthouse

This little light house where who knows how many weddings are held each year (because look at that it!!) is extra special because it is on the 45th parallel. What’s so cool about the 45th parallel?  Just when you feel like you are as far North as you can get (aka ice water for miles) in the “True North” state, plot twist,  you are only half way to the north pole from the equator. I’ll stay here on this steamy 70 degree day thx.

 

dune hill

While this giant mound of sand picture has the photographic sophistication of a pre-schooler (No Nikon 3500 sharp shooter for this girl), it is actually really magical because that couple in view had just asked us to take their picture. It is one of my favorite tourist moments, taking pictures for other tourists. The mixed emotions towards this picture continue because it does not explain how steep this bad boy was.

 

dunes

The dunes wound through brush and beach grass filled with hilarious people on the verge of heart attacks, cursing the distance of the path to the lake. By this point my gym shoes were filled with about 2 pounds of scalding sand, the lengths necessary to avoid a blister. I know it really doesn’t get more extreme than sand filled sneakers.

 

swans

After a 2.5 hour hike through sand mountains we thought it was a great plan to bike 5 miles to the top of a damn, where we waited Huckelberry Fin style in the forest for someone, who we would “know when we saw”, to drop of kayaks so we could journey back by water into Traverse Bay.

This marathon kayak adventure took us from the top of the dam through 8 miles of two rivers and one hot dog shaped lake. I managed to get excessive amounts of water shots from this leg of the journey during excessive breaks due to my toothpick arms threatening to fall off while conquering the hot dog.

These swans (they mate for life you know!) were so exciting to see at eye level after the couple at the dunes , love is all over Michigan, except for that poor guy bringing up the rear.

 

lake kayak

 

lake kayak city

 

vineyard

The vineyards, wineries, and cellars were sprawling and everywhere had the “best blend around!”

wine barrels

From the trails to the coastal bay views it was the closest to a perfect day that I could possibly imagine. The temperature forced us to stay in the sun drawing everyone into the light, what a true north summer is all about.

Meet: Augusta KY

solid barnThe weekend was spent strolling through this quaint little Kentucky riverside town. What is strolling? I can’t even remember the last time I strolled. With about two blocks of solid city there was a lot of time to walk…the long way…around the block. If there is one thing that is known about Augusta KY it is that the Clooneys rule this town, which means the city is frequented with George (who Cincinnati tries to claim as their own) homecoming events every few years.  I realized they were like any small town family as Nina Clooney came over while we shopped in her antique store and complimented my (resale) dress, and I pretend to not be dying of excitement. It was a weekend of full fat eating and absolute simplicity.

better benchIt’s the type of town you picture to have patios like this. Vintage furniture and perfectly accented brick weathered by river air.

coffee

resale shopThe stores were filled to the brim with disturbingly adorable things. Displays that convey without a doubt of the necessity of Siamese cat creamers in your life.

cellarHome to the oldest winery in the USA, I wasn’t surprised to see that the view from the cellar into the winery is exactly what heaven looks like.

wine

…and what heavenly beverages looks like.

james dean

Dina at the heaven winery lived up to expectations when she likened us to Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, a compliment I am sure to never receive again, but will be sure to repeat whenever possible. Being Marilyn for the day combined with Nina’s praise claims this my first ever A-lister weekend. The next day we saw this poster at the cafe which was all the affirmation we needed.

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Sunsets in Augusta are slower and warmer. The end of day warmth fills the town that has been shut down for hours. No one works past 5 and everyone knows how to take a step back and slow down.

river

-RV

Crashes and Burns

bike

Learning how to ride a bike was a life changing experience for me, probably in the same way it is for most buck toothed little kids just trying to shed those burdensome training wheels. I would get so frustrated with them, knowing they were just getting in the way, totally slowing my roll (Ha!). They would cause you to teeter back and forth eventually hurdling you against every effort into the inevitable ditch filled with jagged rocks and mystery road sludge. The calamity dust would clear and the toppled bike wheels were left awkwardly rotating in the breeze, it was a daunting site for someone who just smashed their face in a pile of abandoned road garbage.

I learned how to ride on the side of a mountain by the way. When one small mistake would send the awkward bike and I over the edge like a projectile missile over a creek and into vicious two-way traffic. This was a lot of pressure for someone who was still nursing head to toe wounds after days of wallowing in the ditches. Looking back I think the pressure was a good thing, a heavy reminder to think before you act; how to not be an idiot during risky times.

Eventually the feeling was less scary, you learn to balance through the teetering and suddenly it all feels normal. Soon I was buzzing around, ready to hit the open road. The freedom to just go was enough to overcome scary hills and new pavement, the kind of anticipation that keeps you up at night.

Question: Where will you ride tomorrow? Answer: wherever I darn well please!

One day I was feeling exceptionally professional as any new bike rider with a perfect two wheeling record would, zipping around sharp corners only using the back breaks, visualizing Harrison Ford escaping the collapse of the Temple of Doom, or in this case carbon copy houses and slap happy Labrador Retrievers bouncing in the yard.

I had just made it to the bottom of a mountainous hill when a cul-de-sac out of nowhere appeared summoning the ditch diving past as the entire bike spun out in a violent combination of skin grating impact and aqua blue plastic grinding on asphalt.

I laid there sure I was dead, or at least missing a limb. The world came back into focus and there they were, the awkward tires creaking in the wind a reminder of the not so distant past. Just as quickly as it came, my confidence evaporated into thin air. All sense of feeling came flooding back at once as the sting set in, the crumpled bike, my exposed knee caps. This was one of those mistakes during risky times, the ‘omg that just happened’ gulp.

I’m not trying to make this a “get back on the bike tale” because I hate those, obviously I had to get back on the bike I was miles from home. It’s more of a, “it’s absolutely terrifying to get back on the bike, and for good reason” story. This is exactly how transitioning out of school world and into the working world has felt. Endless situations of trying not to be an idiot during risky times.

For a split second all of the freedom in the world is at your finger tips (excessive do life your own way blog posts). A bad day at work, or slight mistake during an interview, and the freedom starts to pull away.

Confidence slowly grows with practice and one small incident causes it to come crashing down challenging you to try it again. Those little moments of failure have a way of building the confidence back up into something stronger than it was before. Next time you avoid the cul-de-sac or take it slow, adjust and make better decisions, get a clearer vision. Rounding the bottom of the hill at full speed will always be nerve-wracking, a reminder that you are trying and attempting a challenge, but mostly it is a sign that you are learning.

Downsizing

Some are kept awake by the stresses of their day, a big presentation at work tomorrow, or a fight with a friend. What am I agonizing over in the late hours of the night you ask? I am losing sleep over pondering a little too obsessively over everything I am not doing. Even though a million things are being done, the pondering always veers in the other direction.

It is what causes projects to be perpetually half finished. It can lead to excessive applications to jobs that aren’t remotely interesting, and other obscene things done during regular sleeping hours over lots and lots of stale coffee. I, like many in this post grad life, am so wrapped up in the vortex of commotion and uncertainty that is the excitement of being busy.

You really can’t even call it excitement, because half the time it isn’t exciting at all, it’s downright miserable. It’s that time when you have to be in three places at once, find yourself working 5 jobs, and answering a phone interview while babysitting 4 screaming kids for a little side cash. Then you’re at home wondering how your life wound up like some B list Katherine Heigl ‘I am woman movie’ and everyone else you know is somehow taking advantage of the novel things in life, like weekend trips and lunch dates. And the last thing on the biblical to-do list is to relax because there simply isn’t time.

It’s basically one of the hardest post grad lessons ever, to try to start focusing on something you actually want to do.

arizona

A few ways to take it down a notch…or 50

Pick the top three: narrow down the commitments that are most interesting and cut the negative ones.

Say no: after years of saying yes to everything it’s finally time to get a little bit more selective and refined. For example… never buying wine from a gas station again…just say no.

Do something unproductive: read the lame magazines, start a new Netflix show, or cook something that didn’t come out of a freezer. Anything but something that contributes to the growth of your future. Preventing burn out and the impulse to turn to self-help books.

Stay focused: pretty shiny enticing opportunities are always going to be there. Spend time on the ones that make sense. How it will this mesh with life right now.

Lack of focus leads you to jobs that don’t make sense, dead ends, anxiety, and worst of all feeling inadequate. You could have all of the success in the world, but if you are too busy multitasking 500 side projects, the success won’t mean anything at all. It sounds like such an over achiever problem to have, and that’s because it is. Trying new things, a social life, taking weird classes, all of it involved you taking interest in something new and all of it was equally exciting.

When the structure of school is gone and the real world starts creeping into focus, the new focus needs to be creating that structure for yourself. Little did I realize college funded my ability to be absolutely spontaneous, to try anything without totally risking it all, and to do it all at once. Life beyond college demands more of a game plan. It goes against the grain of every Tom Petty quoting 20 something and that’s OKAY seriously, Tom Petty wasn’t trying to say you should forever remain a 13-year-old.

It starts the process of growing up//growing into who you came to be these past four years. While letting go of the constantly filled calendar of events may feel as if your vast range of intellectual interests are being discounted, channeling all of these interests towards a more focused objective makes the process of downsizing an adventure within itself.

-RV

White Girl Can’t Run

I had never felt more one with the elements than during the time spent in Dominical Costa Rica. Like I was 24 hours away from abandoning bras and shoes forever and spend my days taming wild iguanas as a career path. No hair brushing at all which meant that for the first time ever dreadlocks weren’t out of the question either. The other most awesome part of Costa Rica was the running.

Prior to the trip, I had been running like a mad woman. Partly due to a slight exercise addiction and the other part due to the half marathon I was supposed to run later that month. Only this running was better than anywhere else. Miles of rich brown sand beaches darker than those cheesy Florida sparking ocean fronts and mangroves dipping from the shore line splattered with rickety fishing boats. It was the first time that the possibility of getting attacked by a gorilla sized vulture was a possibility and the chances of a wild dog tagging along for a mile or so was definitely going to happen.

So after feeling like Mowgli for an hour every morning Costa Rican running was obviously the new favorite pastime. This led to registering for the first ever Dominical 12k to” support the possibility of getting a lifeguard and for the wild dogs” so said La Casa del Sol who was putting on the race.

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Volunteers were gathered through a real life game of telephone where you just ask around and hope people will show up. I showed up race day ready for a our very own Central American Flying Pig turn out and a killer beach run…not quite.

The group totaled to a little less than 80 people with about 40 bystanders all of whom were definitely the person who was forced to drive the runner to the starting line at the crack of dawn. The starting line was drawn in the sand with a piece of drift wood and the signage was held between two trees which were held between two shirtless locals who they called Tito and wait for it… Jake. None of that start time nonsense a little whistle was all we needed and we were off.

After a long stretch on the flat beach where I had already considered where my international 12k running career would take me next, did I see a volunteer point up the mountain in the distance as the direction we were supposed to follow. Forget the fact that someone standing in the middle of nowhere was the only source of direction…I’m sorry up a mountain?

Not just up a mountain but up a vertical spiral of loose rocks and dirt. The brisk pace that was going on was abruptly ended as the natives skipped by oblivious to the fact that we were about the scale the equivalent of 5 miles up the Top Thrill Dragster in 200% humidity. My career as an international 12k beach runner was quickly fading in the distance as the only other white person I had seen for miles and I found wound up off course and in a stream with a drifting abandoned shoe.

One of the pointing volunteers appeared out of nowhere and just froze doing his best mile marker arrow stance. Another mile up and I was walking faster backwards than I could have run. A group of barefoot 20 somethings blew by and I hear…

“Muchacha blanca no se puede ejecutar”

My one year of college Spanish told me that this meant “the white girl can’t be executed.” Whoa, I’m just doing this friendly 12k for the lifeguards and wild dogs. I used the next half mile trying to understand if this mountain would be where I was going to spend my final moments due to sheer exhaustion or a good old-fashioned Costa Rican mountain execution.

I asked the next person who trotted by if I was going to be executed and she was bilingual enough to tell me that the phrase meant,

“White girl can’t run”

Thanks for everything Spanish 103, for all of that time pronouncing to run as correr all these years. I hadn’t thought I couldn’t do something until someone told me so as I drug my sorry ass up the side of a mountain.

The entire experience made me think about the discussions I have had lately with fitness instructors from all different backgrounds on motivation and how to do what you set your mind to. How you literally are the only person who can make yourself do it no matter what it is, for example running up a 90 degree angle in a sauna. That there is a huge difference between can’t do it and won’t do it. We all can’t have the geographical inclination to scale mountains like a stroll around the block, but you can still try and see what happens. Those who won’t will simply never know.

-RV

Sidewalk Sadness

It has been a long time since a post I know but it actually hasn’t because they are all on the other site I write for which can be found here!

This is also going to be a little random…

All last week I was walking the block to my car and was appalled at what I was seeing. It was like everyone dog and their owner had lost control of their lives and decided that it is now okay to simply squat it out (in a bad way) right in the middle of the sidewalk.

I understand the urban living of and surprise dog remains are one in the same; a good grassy spot isn’t always easy to find. But it looked like 40 dogs did a conga line down the street after a 5 day Blue Buffalo binge…sorry, but it had to get graphic at some point.

Why Clifton why?

sidewalk

 this adorable guilty looking thing

I was not only carrying laundry, groceries and a purse that contains my entire life, but I was dodging some foreign slobbery creature’s remains. A creature that I even think I would like to have from time to time, def not today.

The worst was right outside our building entrance. Like the first floor just dangled the dog out the window and hoped for the best. How can I see someone walking their dog around the block during the apocalyptic like conditions, in a poncho, and umbrella yet our building residents seem to let em let loose 2 feet from the front door. So I resorted to a new low, I scooped foreign dog nastiness. There was no shovel so it got even more pathetic when I found an old dustpan that was set out for garbage day and flung the goods to the nearest green.

As I sat in shame days later still dying over what happened and the new lows that were encountered, who even knows where that dustpan had been, when universe literally reached out and gave me a hug.

Turns out Spain (article here) is having my same issue and has even resorted to hiring a paid detective to snoop out these shitty (pun intended) owners who can’t handle their creature. The detective has the right to fine these perpetrators up to $300 which when I think about my level of laziness when the weather is bad sounds harsh, but still you can get paid to call these non-pooper scoopers out and claim detective status on the resume…win!

I feel obligated to link this back to health and wellness so moral of the story is…community wellness is a real thing and from Spain to Clifton, it’s sucking right now. If everyone is walking around the block resentful of other dogs letting loose at random no one is feeling all that healthy or happy.

-RV