December 10./ #getyourassintonature

2017-04-01 10.21.23Six months ago, I participated in the #getyourassintonature tag on Instagram. I’ve had a lot of different feelings about participating – but I’m glad that I did.

At the time I took this, I felt like others in my life had started to put me into a box. People were treating me like I was reserved or quiet but I’ve never felt that that those word described me. I never wanted those words to describe me.

In struggling with those ideas, I felt the need to do something different. Something that challenged my internal perception of who I was.

I saw the movement and felt the need to participate. I needed to show myself that I was free to move beyond the constraints that I felt society had placed on me. People always speak about nudity and liberation but I didn’t feel the freedom came from shedding clothes. It came from leaving self-perceptions behind.

I felt like that no matter how I molded myself, I could always change. I felt that my life was my own and I could move in the ways that I willed.

It didn’t come from the nudity or doing something taboo. The breeze on my balls didn’t change who I was. It was the will to challenge who I saw myself as. I was afraid of becoming quiet or boring. And this was an act to say that that doesn’t have to be so.

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Exploring Edisto Island State Park (Edisto Island, SC)

Ever since getting the news that I’ll be moving to Hawaii this summer, I’ve been trying to explore South Carolina as much as possible. One of the ways that I’ve done this is by reading Falcon’s hiking guide on South Carolina. The book has 60 trails through the entire state and includes maps and other helpful information.

While trying to find a nearby hiking trail, I ran across Edisto Island. It’s about an hour south from where I live, which is a relatively short distance. There are very few trails in lowcountry South Carolina. If you want to see spectacular sights, you have to drive about 4 hours upstate.

Unfortunately, the route is mostly back roads. You begin on a freeway, then move onto a highway, then onto a tiny one-lane road with 60 mph speed limits. As you near the island, maw and paw restaurants and vegetable markets start popping up. Soon afterwards the one-lane road eventually opens up to a scenic byway.

Once on the island, beach houses litter the main road and a small entrance to the state park can be found. The fee was about $5 for my car and includes parking at the beach and at the campgrounds. I arrived late in the day, so I immediately headed for the trails at the campgrounds.

Overall the park features around 3 miles of trails. Many of which include paths deviating from the main trail and lead off into different sections of the forest. I was drawn to the easternmost trail which had the most boardwalks. Here are some images from the trip:

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The guidebook emphasized that Edisto Island is covered in mosquitoes and ticks. I prepared by soaking myself in deet but I didn’t encounter either of them. Most of the trail borders marshland, which makes the trail more scenic but in the summer months, I could imagine swarms of mosquitoes rising out of the water.

If you go, I would recommend bringing a swimsuit for the beach and tennis shoes for the hike. The trail has relatively low elevation gains and is well made. If you go earlier in the day, there is a nature center that you could visit.

Overall, Edisto Island is worth visiting because the trails are family friendly, the views are nice, and there’s versatility while you’re hiking because you can make your trek longer or shorter by changing routes. Even the beach would make a great stop after a few hours of exploration. If you’re in the area, I would definitely recommend visit the island.

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Hiking Table Rock (Pickens, SC)

Table Rock is the first major trail that I hiked in South Carolina. It’s located in the the north westernmost part of the state and is about a 4 hour drive from where I live. The trail is highly rated in my guidebook (Falcon’s Hiking South Carolina) and on National Geographic’s co-branded website AllTrails.com.

My friends Merci and Jasmine wanted to explore the area, so one weekend we decided to drive up to Greenville. We stayed overnight and arrived at Table Rock’s ranger station around 11 in the morning. Parking was only a few dollars and the ranger area is well-developed.

Before we started our trek upwards, we signed in and had our picture taken:

Immediately after signing in, there were a few small waterfalls to climb around. This area was surrounded by a wooden patio. It was perfect for beginning and ending our hike.

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After the falls, the trail immediately started gaining elevation. My friend’s dog Max was eager to be out and dragged us upward at a rapid pace. He was a very dedicated member of our group. As you see, the boulders were huge:

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Occasionally, there were breaks in the trees and you could see out for miles. The day we hiked was overcast and about 75 degrees. Perfect for hiking and keeping cool.

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Max brought whomever was handling his leash into warpdrive. Upon grabbing him, my pace increased at least 500 mph.

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The trail was well put together and heavily traveled. We passed a couple dozen hikers on our way up. Some of the more difficult terrain involved us climbing on our hands and knees. There were a few places we had to watch our footing to avoid sliding down the rock faces. It was interesting trying to get through these spots with a dog. Sometimes Max would climb half way up a rock and decide that he wanted to go back down. This was interesting for whomever was holding his leash.

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When I look at this picture, I head Max saying “Are you done resting yet humans? Jeez, we’ve still got a long way to go!”.

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Not only was the trail fun to hike, there was always stuff around us to climb and explore.IMG_0888

Max still isn’t tired. But he does look a little content.

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As we got closer to the peak, there were more openings. This part was named “Governor’s Rock”. The grass / brush the grew through the rock was really comfortable. On a hot day, I would have been happy to stop and relax at this spot.

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Alas, the trail called and Max wanted to move on.

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We reached the Table Rock Summit around 1 in the afternoon. Which meant that it took around 3 hours to climb. When we reach the marker, we stopped and asked another hiker to take our picture:

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After the sign, the trees opened up and the expansiveness of where we were became apparent. We could see miles ahead. For someone who grew up on flat land, this was amazing.

IMG_0959IMG_0966We reached the end of the line when we ran into a pile of other hikers. Everyone was laying around enjoying the view. The sun was blocked by the clouds and the air was perfect. Some of the other hikers threw hammocks on the trees and others ate lunch. We arrived and relaxed. Here’s a picture of Merci and Max enjoying the summit:

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We spent some time climbing around the rocks. There wasn’t a lot of room but we explored the area as much as we could. Here’s a few more pictures of the view.

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The hike down was much more rapid. Overall, the trip was around 4 hours and about 7 miles long. When we reached the trailhead, we enjoyed the waterfall again:

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This was my first major hike in South Carolina and I’d repeat it in a heartbeat. The views were amazing, the trail was well-built, and the experience was awesome. Going with a group of friends made the trek more exciting and I enjoyed going back through the pictures. If you liked this trip and you want to see more, there’s links below. I just started a Snapchat, so if you want, add me @idreamtowakeup. I’m new but I’m posting a lot. Send a snap and say hi!

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“AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” by David Miller

Flipping through the last pages of a well-liked book is like coming to the end of a great friendship. Both people and books take you places and make you experience the world in a different way. When I reached the end of “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”, I felt as though I had hiked the trail with him and I was sorrowful that it had to end.

AWOL’s journey resonated with the wanderer inside and, if only for a moment, made me escape the humdrum of my daily life. In 2003, David Miller gave up his day job to spend five months grueling up the eastern United States. The Appalachian Trail (AT) is over 2,000 miles long and goes into 14 states.

When David got on the path, he took the trail name “AWOL” to represent the abandonment of his stable job. Perhaps also to show the escapism involved with hiking a 6-month long trail. He went AWOL from his life and set course for Maine.

This book is heavily descriptive and lingers on the what it’s like to live in the woods. It doesn’t romanticize hiking in heavy rain or sleeping in uncomfortable shelters but it creates an enticing environment where AWOL ventures into the wilderness. He encounters bears, snakes, handfuls of foot injuries, and a myriad of hikers. Nonetheless it is an interest read.

I highly recommend this for anyone who is caught up in the 9-5. Similar to Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, AWOL explains aspects of modern life that we seem to forget. He writes about the openness of hikers, and the community that he quickly finds himself immersed in.

After spending two weeks reading this book I’ve decided that I want to hike the AT. It may be a while before I do but it’s a journey I want to take in my lifetime. Again, I highly encourage you to read this book.

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How Traveler’s Communicate

While reading “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail”, David Miller talks about how hikers communicate and their willingness to talk about their lives. The long days of walking with strangers, teamed up with a common goal (to finish the hike), cultivates a different sense of community. While living in the city, talking to a stranger may seem bizarre, it’s common for hikers to discuss their personal lives with equally unknown hikers.

AWOL (David Miller) write in his book that many days are spent hiking 10+ miles with somebody that you just met. In your office, it’s unlikely that you’d talk about your aspirations openly but on the trail people are receptive. You feel un-threatened because you’re likely to never meet this person again. Eventually it becomes natural to say where you’re from, what you were doing with your life, what you want to be doing instead, and about why you’re out on the trail.

Although I’ve never been long-distance hiking, I believe that traveling has shifted my communication in the same way. When I fly to another country, I often have meaningful conversations with the person I’m sitting next to on the plane. There have been businessmen from around the world giving me life advice simply because I ask them. When you’re traveling, your communication changes.

You realize that the person you’re talking to won’t be in your life forever. Rather than having small talk, you immediately go deep. It doesn’t really matter if a stranger knows where you’re from or what you dream of doing. You’ll probably never see them again and so what if you do.

After you open up many times, you realize that even when you aren’t traveling it doesn’t matter what you say. You can be open with more people in your daily life because you know that it really doesn’t matter if they know about your ambitions.

Another bi-product is that you begin to have less idle chatter. When you meet people for only a couple hours, you decide to skip the ten minute conversation about the weather. Instead you opt for talking about your passions in life.

Spending many months in foreign countries has changed how I talk with others. Sometimes people complain that I only have deep existential conversations. They also talk about how open I am to share my life. These are directly caused by traveling and meeting so many people for such a brief period. I dive deep into conversation because I want to know about your life. There’s no point in complaining about the Charleston heat, I want to know what you’ve done with your life and what you’ve learned.

Perhaps it’s a cursed traveler’s mark but AWOL had it right in his book: going to new places changes how you talk with others.

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Exploring Cypress Gardens

firstA few months ago, my car died and I’ve been stranded with a poor public transportation system. The only times I go out are when friends make trips to the store or when others let me use their car. So when I woke up to a text, “let’s explore something today”, I jumped out of bed at the offer.

My friend Cory and I decided to explore Cypress Gardens, a local area that offers 170 acres of gardens and swamp. The park is a series of trails that surround a wooded swamp. When I first arrived in Charleston, my friend Kate recommended I go to the gardens for photography. While nothing was blooming, I had the opportunity to photograph Cory instead.

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This swamp was filled with trees, lily pads, and apparently…

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Cory is from California and I’m from Minnesota. Neither of us have seen an alligator outside of a zoo. Now we’re going to walk trails that could have them laying next to us! Maybe we should have known from Cypress Gardens’ logo, or the map they gave us, or that we live in South Carolina.

Nonetheless, we drove a half an hour to visit the park. We weren’t going to leave just because of alligators or “other animals” (still wondering about that).

IMG_8008This trail was marked with the sign from the earlier photo. As you can see, it’s wide and clearly defined. Having no previous experience with southern wildlife, we both cautiously started on the trail. On the left the swamp is about 3-4 feet from the path. This means easy access for an alligator to grab us and drag us to our premature deaths.

Around 200 feet down, the trail narrows and becomes less defined. This is where people reevaluated their decision to walk down the trail. I don’t blame them because there was another two less official signs, one read “CAUTION Alligators and snakes may rest upon trails. Never approach an alligator.” The other probably said, “Walk this trail and you’ll surely meet your end!”. It may as well have.

But, we weren’t going to be deterred from a great experience!

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If you didn’t know, alligators sound like bullfrogs, or at least that’s what I’ve been told.

As we walked down the ever-narrowing trail, the sound of bullfrogs became clear. It was like everything was quiet so we could focus all of our attention on our inevitable doom. I don’t understand why the trail was so close to the swamp, it’s like they were trying to feed us to the alligators.

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This of course didn’t stop us from occasionally pausing for photographs.

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The trail felt like it lasted forever and it didn’t stop narrowing until we got much further ahead. Bushes and fallen trees obscured the path so we didn’t always know where to step. It was evident that this trail wasn’t frequently used because there were spider webs all over the place.

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It looks innocent enough… but how about closer to its actual size…

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After seeing one, we realized that there were spiders covering bushes along the entire trail. Then we stepped into a web that stretched 4 feet wide, as if the spider had hopes of catching a bear. There weren’t any bear encounters on this trail thankfully.

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Occasionally the trail would dart right and it would look like it was coming to an end… but it wasn’t. It only brought us closer to the sound of bullfrogs and other potential predators.

The end of the trail was completely covered in bushes, half-downed trees, and broken bridges/walkways over the swamp. It brought us to large mounds of dirt that we’d have to climb around. Oh, I forgot to mention the caution tape.

Along the way, in the middle of the woods, there was caution tape between trees or shrubs. Parts of the trail walked directly next to this stuff, which reminded me of police investigation tape. So while we were hearing bullfrogs, dodging giant spiders, and trying to stay on trail, we had to observe caution tape… on a hiking trail with alligators…

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Eventually our adventure came to an end. We found an opening back to pavement, as if a blessing from the gods. It was abrupt and opened into a wide, and heavily traveled, path. Our trail almost vanished behind us with how obscure the way was.

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From then on we sailed smoothly through the rest of the park. Joyous that mosquitoes weren’t gnawing at our legs and that the spiders were gone. Here’s a few more images from rest of adventure…

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This was a burial site right after we exited the woods. The cross stood 15 feet high with three gravestones at its base.IMG_8153

Look at how happy we are to be out of the woods!

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If life gives you a trail of alligators and spider webs, I would suggest finding bug spray and wearing pants before going on it. No matter what happens in life, you’ll always have an adventure. Bug spray or not.

This morning I woke up to an invitation to explore something new. I darted out of bed in anticipation of finding that new experience. This is how life should be; waking up with the excitement to explore the world and going out to do it. Days like today remind me that I’m alive and that there’s plenty of the world left to explore.

I hope all of you find that in yourself each day and go out into the world to fulfill it. Right now my legs itch (hopefully not from poison ivy) and I’m exhausted, so I’ll cut this off here. Have a wonderful night everybody and don’t let the sound of bullfrogs scare you away! Life is too short to skip adventures like this!

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