Thursday, August 6, 2015

Poole's Mill

I would like to think that I'm someone who is always up for anything. I love taking risks, exploring new places, trying new things, etc. Which is why when my mom suggested that we go tubing down some rock slides by her house I agreed immediately. Poole's Mill is a quaint little park area about 15 minutes from my mom's in Ball Ground, GA. You would never know it was there unless someone told you about it, because it's down a back road and the actual river is hidden behind the parking lot and a playground area. But when you cross the bridge over the river to the rocks it's like you've entered a whole different place in time. Adults and children were scattered everywhere in their bathing suits, laughing, splashing, sliding, and smiling. No one was focused on their iPhones or iPads, as everyone was having such a great time outdoors (although I did bring mine out just to snap a couple pictures!). Everyone you bumped into was so friendly, they all smiled and said hello as you walked past them, and some even picked up a conversation with us as we were laying on the rocks. The energy there was just so freeing. I truly felt like I was encapsulated by nature and what was going on around me. I tubed down the rapids a few times, which was so much fun (and I only flipped over once!). I was probably the oldest person I saw going down but I didn't care, it was nice to feel like a kid again. No worries except for when it's going to be your turn to go down the rapids. I was so grateful to be able to spend this time outdoors with my siblings and my mom, enjoying nature and each other's company. Sometimes it's nice to get away from our iPhones and laptops and spend a bit of time away from our daily routines to truly appreciate the world in which we live in.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Incline

Imagine the hardest thing you've ever done. Now imagine something about 10 times harder. That is the incline. 0.88 miles of 2,744 of the steepest steps I have ever walked up. It felt more like 5 miles honestly. I did the incline last year too, but since then they renovated the steps to make them safer, and in doing so they also got steeper. Great. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the incline really is the hardest thing I've ever done. My legs started hurting not even 1/4 of the way up (probably because I went on a 6 mile hike the day before) and by time I was almost to the top they were numb (which kind of made it easier to climb the rest of the way actually!). I stopped several times to catch my breath and drink water but I refused to give up, even after we reached the trail at the halfway point and my friend said that we could just go back down. Nope, I had gone this far and I wasn't giving up! I wanted to make it to the top in under an hour but unfortunately I made it just shy of that; it took me an hour and 2 minutes (I blame my friend for making me stop so many times!). But once I finally made it to the top I was so relieved and I felt very strong and proud of myself. After accomplishing a feat like that, you feel like you can do anything!
Once we'd all caught our breaths and took some pictures documenting our performance, we walked down the mountain on the Barr Trail, which feels like a piece of cake after walking up the incline. The trail also had a great view of the mountains and we came upon tons of wild flowering cactus, which I had never actually seen in real life before! Another great wonder of Colorado..
When we reached the bottom the first thing we did was go out to eat in Manitou Springs. You'd be amazed how hungry you get after walking up a mountain! Manitou Springs is another of my favorite places in Colorado. You don't see small, old-timey towns like that much anymore. There are tons of great shops and restaurants, and even an old arcade with tons of vintage video games like Mrs. PacMan, frogger, and DDR. Needless to say, we spent quite some time in there! Overall, it was a great day balanced with work and play, good food, and great memories.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

St. Mary's Falls

The number one thing I love about Colorado is that there's SO much to do. Where I was staying in Colorado Springs there must've been hundreds of trails to hike around me, all within less than 30 minutes away. I love hiking so while I was there I tried to get on as many trails as I could. On this particular day we chose to take a 3 mile hike up to St. Mary's Falls on Cheyenne Mountain. The beginning of the path took us up right along side the stream coming down from the falls, filling the forest with sounds of running water. As we moved up the mountain, however, the path strayed away from the stream and made it's way along the edge of the mountain, offering some great views of the trees and hills surrounding as. The hike up actually wasn't that bad, considering it was all uphill for over 3 miles. I think the mountain air gives me an aura of invincibility, as I speed walked up the entire path, never needing to stop to catch my breath or sip some water, leaving my friend and his parents in the dust. However, I did stop every once in a while to take some pictures and gaze at the beautiful scenery around me. My time in Colorado has taught me to really appreciate nature and the Earth, as back home in Fayetteville, North Carolina instead of picturesque mountains and trees around me all there is commercial buildings, restaurants, and houses. It makes me wonder what the world would look like had we not tore up the land to incessantly build upon it.

The falls themselves were spectacular as well. I'm not sure how tall they were but it seemed like a pretty big drop from the base of the cliff. Once we got to the base of the falls we had to take these little stone steps up to the top, but unfortunately they only went up about halfway and from there if you wanted to go to the top of the falls you had to climb up the rocks, which I definitely was not prepared to do! After taking some pictures and absorbing the beauty of it all we turned around to head back down the trail. And then it started thunder storming. The rain was freezing and it must've dropped about 20 degrees. We started running down the mountain in order to get back to the car as quickly as possible. Luckily after about 5 minutes the lightning stopped but it rained the entire way down. Soon my hands went numb but I continued to run through the woods as fast as I could. It was actually pretty nice to run through the trees. I felt like a bullet in the wind! Of course, as soon as we got to our car it stopped raining and the sun came out (just my luck). But even with the rain the entire hike was so worth it. Sometimes, you just gotta take what nature gives ya!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saddle Up, Pedal Down

I have only been on a horse once in my entire life, and have never ridden a mountain bike (my bike is a pastel beach cruiser!), so when my friend's mom told us about riding horses through the mountains and then riding a mountain bike down Pikes Peak Mountain I was a bit skeptical. I think terrified might be a better adjective honestly. When we got to the meet-up location the tour guide even seemed worried that I had never ridden a mountain bike before, and quickly sent me to practice riding one around the parking lot. It was a cold and rainy morning, which made me even more scared to bike down the second tallest mountain in Colorado, but I was hopeful that the weather would get better.

We rode in a riggidy van up to the Stables at the Broadmoor. The path up the mountain was terrifying, as our driver seemed like he was right on the edge and the wind didn't make things much better. But luckily we all made it to the stables in one piece, where I was very anxious to get out of that van. We each got paired with our own horses, I got hooked up with a brown, friendly horse named Reba. The stables were run by some very nice people, and our tour guide was dressed in a cowboy getup, which I didn't know if he did ironically or because he really dressed like that. Either way, he was a funny old man who led us through the in and outs of Pikes National Forest on our horses, telling us stories about the mountains and the stables. It was a great ride not only because of the views but going through the mountains on the horses made it a one-of-a-kind experience. It gave me a whole new perspective of the mountains and the forest, one that I couldn't have gotten had I just been in a car on the main road.

After an hour walk with the horses the sun had come out and we returned to the stables where our guide picked us up in his van and took us to the drop-off location a couple more miles up the mountain. The ride down turned out to be a whirlwind of fun with great views and awesome scenery all around us. I was nervous that the path was going to be on the very edge of the mountain with only one foot of space for our bikes, but it was actually a very wide gravel road with rocks and trees separating it from the edge. I quickly got used to the bike and we ended up flying down the mountain, stopping every once in a while to take pictures and really take in the views. The whole experience was very rewarding and taught me that fear is not an excuse to not do something. In the end, it turned out to be one of the coolest things I've ever done and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

View from the top of the drop-off location

Biking through this tunnel was terrifying!

A beautiful waterfall along our route

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mountain Sound

Greetings from the mountains! I have just arrived in Colorado Springs, where I will be spending ten days with one of my best friends from high school, hiking, adventuring, and sightseeing as much as I possibly can while I'm here. I was here last summer as well so I hope to see some new things, as well as maybe take a visit to some favorite spots from my last trip too.

On my first day my friend had his summer class so I went hiking with his mom at Cheyenne Mountain. We took a 2-mile trail that took us to the top and provided a stunning view of the surrounding mountains and Colorado Springs. It was absolutely breathtaking to see the sloping hills and crests of the mountains. Where I live in North Carolina it is mostly flat all around and all that you can see in the distance are fast food restaurants, gas stations, and pine trees. I liked this view a lot better! It led me to wonder what my town would look like without all the buildings and houses. I wish there was a way for me to go back in time and see.

After the hike to the top we drove up the mountain to another trail at Helen Hunt Falls. I love waterfalls so this trail was very exciting for me! The trail started at the base of the falls and worked its way up to the top, although the hike was only about a mile. On the way we got some more great views of the mountains, and of course the top of the waterfall was very beautiful as well. Overall, it was a great way to start my trip here in Colorado, providing me with panoramic views of where I was staying and giving me glimpses of where I would be next. I hope these photos will encourage you to spend a little bit of time outside with nature as well!

My flight over was mostly bare green fields and long country roads. 

Cheyenne Mountain

Views from the top of the trail

Helen Hunt Falls