Jacks River & Other Labors

Labor Day weekend was filled all of the good kinds of labor.

  1. Hiking
  2. Cooking/Eating
  3. Relaxing
  4. Laughing x1000000000

It was the last hoorah for Leah in the city and we were lucky enough to get a visit from Anna and her boyfriend Matt on their way to the Outer Banks. A&M flew in late Friday night and flew out early Monday morning so we had 2 short days to pack all the activities in. Because I came to Atlanta with such lack-luster expectations I always feel this pressure to make sure first impressions of the city are top notch. There are so many special things about Georgia that I believe are overshadowed by other big cities. Growing up in Denver I would day dream of one day moving to Chicago, San Francisco, or New York City. I never thought in a million years that I would end up for a short time in this southern metropolis, but now that I have I’m in love. So whenever I have visitors I feel like an un-official ambassador for the city sharing the sweetness and wonder of Georgia with the world.

All that to say, we did all of the most perfect, non-touristy things. Saturday was filled with hiking in the North Georgia mountains along Jacks River. Our intention was to hike to Jacks River Falls, a waterfall just south of the Tennessee-Georgia border. From what we read online there were 2 approaches to the falls, one from Dally Gap and another from Beech Bottom. With both trails clocking in a 4.5 mile hike each way we decided to choose to start at Dally Gap since it was closer to Atlanta. This turned out to be a poor choice, we also severely misread the trail information.

The trek started along a gentle trail flanked by large green trees, green vines, and green wild rhododendrons. I’m telling you there were some large trees along the trail and the mystery has officially be solved – when a tree falls in the forest and there are four people are around to see, it makes a VERY LOUD NOISE.

Let me explain…As we were walking along, minding our own business, we heard a loud cracking sound and glanced across the valley. There, ~ 100 feet in front of us a huge tree was crashing down across the trail like a domino falling after someone gave it a light tap. Other small trees were taken down as collateral and branches and debris littered the site. All I can say is, thank the lord we weren’t standing 100 feet further up or we would have been squished like pancakes.

So, Jacks River and the namesake trail winds through the valley following each other and frequently crossing paths. At the beginning we were doing really well with staying dry. Whenever we approached a river crossing we would strategize and then leap faithfully from one balanced rock to the next until we reached the opposite bank. We hiked for 2.5 hours before beginning to question the trail information. At this point we should have reached the falls and so far we had only encountered small ripples in the river. With the afternoon passing and dinner plans in Atlanta we made the decision to stop, turn around, and head back to the car. Turns out it was actually 9 miles to Jacks River Falls from Dally gap, with 42 river crossings! Holy river crossings!

For future reference, this trail would be a fantastic overnight-er. Overall, it was more like a saga of never ending occurrences. Aside from the tree falling and river crossings:

  • We saw a giant, black snake
  • I was stung by a bee
  • Anna tripped over a tree
  • Matt swung from a vine
  • Leah, Anna, and Matt went swimming
  • A threat of 30 pushups if we didn’t make it back to the car by 5 PM made us basically run the last mile
  • Google maps takes some very interesting back roads
  • No, panthers are not part of the wildlife in Georgia

The rest of the weekend we spent in the city – gorging on brunch, swinging in hammocks on my front porch, cannonballing at the pool, and feasting with a home cooked salmon dinner. My heart felt so full after my house emptied of guests on Tuesday. Even though I feel pressure to put together the perfect trip for whoever comes visit me I love the way it allows me to share my life with the people that mean the most to me. I love that Georgia has the outdoor escapes that define what Colorado is for so many people. By no means have I explored the entirety of what this peachy state has to offer, but with less than a year here I’m saying anything’s possible.

I’m ready for my next visitors.



July 11th marked my one year anniversary in Atlanta. ONE YEAR! Officially, I don’t use Google Maps every time I drive somewhere, I have an auto mechanic, a favorite margarita stop, grocery store, and ice cream shop. I am used to the crazy drivers on the downtown connector and mostly used to the humidity.

Cheers to 1 year, Atlanta! Cheers to 1 more!*


“Time flies when you’re having fun”

*More details on this to come

20% Chance

On Sunday, Leah and I went hiking. We packed our bags with water, sunscreen, and bug spray. A quick check of the weather report revealed only a 20% chance of rain.  

20% my ass. 

We drove to the East Palsides Trailhead at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, paid the $3 for parking, and took off down the trail. Not even 5 minutes in and the skies opened up – pouring down rain. 

Stubborn to still go for our hike we continued on, believing that the rain would “stop any moment”. As you may guess, the rain didn’t stop. If anything it grew to a faster pace with fat drops of water falling from the sky. We side-stepped rivers of water in the middle of the trail and jumped over waterfalls flowing down the hills. We tried to find cover under some low-lying tree branches, but nothing seemed big enough to block out the water. At one point as we were huddled together trying to wait it out, Leah asked me, “what would Bear Grylls do?”

A valid question I thought. If we had been stranded in the wilderness we would have definitely needed to find some way to get dry. Lucky for us, the car wasn’t far away. Standing there completely soaked and with no signs of stopping soon we chose to end our hike. We walked back to the car and drove home. 

We easily could have chosen to be miserable, to complain about the rain, to run for the car at the first little splatter. Instead we chose to stick it out, to embrace what life was throwing our way and follow the plan. 

But, wait! We gave up right? In my last year I’ve come to realize that sometimes we aren’t prepared to stick with our original goals. We need to be flexible; willing to move and change as the landscape of our present situation evolves. I think it’s possible to keep the same goal in mind, but to envision another route of getting there is what needs to be made of putty.  This can sometimes be hard to do as we don’t take to change well; I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s all going to work out. A mantra throughout my days. Cheers to the mess, the soaked hikes, and unexpected detours. They make life more interesting don’t they? 

Everything’s going to be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end 

– John Lennon 

Garden Essential Maintenance

While I was riding the MARTA to work a couple of months ago, staring out the window, dreaming of things I would rather have been doing, I started to scheme about how I might get better at caring for flowers. As you may have gathered from some of my previous posts, I love plants, but don’t necessarily possess a knack for growing them. So, in the attempt to cultivate a green thumb I spontaneously signed up to volunteer with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I’ve become a GEM (Garden Essential Maintenance).

Basically all that means is that one morning a week – Thursdays – I weed flower beds for 3 hours. Its pretty glamorous I know. But in all reality, I really enjoy it. The horticulturist I work with happens to have also lived in Boulder, Colorado for some time so there’s a lot to talk about. We not only reminisce on the best places to hike, grab brunch, or enjoy a cold one, but he also explains the art of gardening.

I’m learning to deadhead flowers to make room for new growth, to recognize poison ivy so I’m not a miserable person, to shear sea grass with giant scissors, and to find peace among the dirt.

One of the most common weeds I pull is a seedling for a Tulip Poplar. Over time, the tiny plant transforms into a giant tree. The gardens typically don’t allow this tree to grow bigger than a baby bud because it does get so large, but they do house one of the largest in Atlanta. It’s so tall that they have it grounded and above the tops of the leaves lives a lightning rod. Apparently when tulip poplars get struck by lightning they explode. Can you imagine anything more spectacular?!  In my opinion that would be a pretty neat thing to witness – from a short distance away of course – but according to Dave, “It makes quite the mess”. He doesn’t want to clean it up.

This week, I’m thankful for quiet moments in the garden. For the chance to learn and for the chance to get a little dirt under my fingernails. Thumbs crossed when I have flora of my own it will be half as beautiful as this garden in the woods.


Tick Tock

The days feel long, but man, the months are flying by. We are entering into our last week of April and I sit here asking myself the same question that my parents asked a couple of days ago, “What’s new Madeline?”

When they asked me I sort of paused and then answered, nothing really – I’m just plugging along. I hated myself for giving them this answer, not only because it is so uninformative, but I have always been the kid that would share, in great detail, the most boring parts of their day. I love story telling. Maybe it comes from my love of reading, because I certainly enjoy that too. If you give me a good book I could easily have my nose in it the entire day imagining far off places, other worlds, and different times. So, I love to weave together stories and let people in on the happenings in my life. I guess it’s not surprising then that I started writing a blog – ha! But, it is surprising, that when I have the chance to tell them about my week I can’t think of what has happened. Let’s see –

I worked a lot (it pretty much takes up most of my time) and this particular week I’m anxious about an exciting opportunity. I’m preparing to present my research project at a national conference in Minneapolis that isn’t for another 2 weeks, but for some reason – in my head – I think its happening next week. I’m in panic mode. I know it will all be fine, and everyone has to start out somewhere, but a part of me keeps comparing it to a kindergartner trying to participate in the middle school science fair. But really, I’m thrilled to be going and I’ve never been to Minnesota.

That’s just one thing of many new things. Next time I answer with “nothing really” hit me with a slap on the wrist and “I know you can do better than that”.

I’m posting a few photos from the hike I went on yesterday with some friends. Sweetwater Creek State Park has an easy trail that winds along the creek. We were attempting to cross the creek by jumping over rocks and we were less than successful, but it was a good time out in the sunshine.

This might be humorous to some people –

I was dog sitting this weekend and attempted to do a yoga video in the living room only to have the dogs decide to wrestle right on my mat. Thanks Bailey and Douglas you’re pretty darn cute, but yoga is impossible with you two around.


Jazzy Monday

Today I discovered –

That if I breath through my nose more while running then I will swallow less bugs.

That my crock pot is worth way more than the $30 plus shipping that I spent on it when I came home to the most divine smell this evening. I ate dinner within 15 minutes of walking through the door and it wasn’t a bowl of cereal (though I do love a good bowl of cocoa krispies)

I like listening to jazz music after 9 PM.

Questions I’m asking myself –

Why didn’t I bring sunscreen to the UGA spring football game on Saturday? Because, ouch!

Is it a bad idea to buy a used tent?

The Bigger the Hoops

Whoever coined the term “Hotlanta” must have left right after August because as I was sitting in my living room writing this I was surrounded by a pile of all the blankets I own and the thermometer read 21 degrees.

Not. Hot. It would probably help if the heater in my apartment wasn’t quite so old and could properly vent air. Or if the pilot light didn’t randomly go out when I have 3 people staying with me. Despite my heating incapabilities we managed to stay warm.

… I should probably start from the beginning …

Back in November before I knew it would get cold here I convinced my friends to come to Atlanta for my birthday. In past years its been as cold as -7 so hotlanta would be a welcome change. Naturally they said yes, I borrowed an air mattress and the rest is history.

The weekend was filled with countless festivities – good food, good cheer, and unforgettable moments. We laughed those deep belly laughs that make you feel like you just finished 100 sit-ups without doing an ounce of work. We out-stayed our welcome at brunch one carafe at a time. We danced till we dropped (or our partners dropped us), and we sat in a coffee shop playing Life for hours, despite holes in the butts of our leggings and lingering hangovers.

My apartment was full, but my heart was bursting at the seams. Somehow all of the people in my life made me feel significant and so very loved. I had friends celebrate with me in Atlanta, my mom in Nepal face timed me, my house church called from their ski trip, my FaceBook wall blew up with kind words, and my inbox was full of best wishes and friendly messages.

One of the fears I faced as I left Colorado was of lost connections. I feared that I would lose my close friends and that my relationships would suffer. I worried that they would go on without me and that I would go on without them. In some ways we have – we don’t see each other on a daily basis, hell we don’t even text on a daily basis. Yet, in other ways we have not – they are still the first people I call with news, good or bad. They encourage me on my darkest days and I them. When we three-way call I can’t help but grin – I hope they can hear my happiness through the air waves. It has taken a different kind of effort to sustain our friendship, but, if anything, it has made it stronger, more resilient.

They say that if a friendship lasts longer than 7 years it will last a lifetime. Technically I’ve only known these ladies for 6 years, but I don’t think that matters. We’ve already passed the test and we’ve come out on top. Cheers – Y’all know who you are.



Some locations and pictures from the fabulous birthday weekend activities:

  • Hiking @ Stone Mountain
  • Picnic lunch @ Piedmont Park
  • 3 words – PONCE CITY MARKET
  • Atlanta Beltline
  • Bottomless mimosas @ The Lawrence
  • Tequila-filled confessions @ St. Louisa’s Church and Ping Pong Emporium
  • Joystick, Blake’s, the Dark Horse, the Warren
  • BRONCOS win the Superbowl
  • Pancake breakfast + bacon
  • Cook Out – this was a questionable decision


Sunny and 65

Yesterday was January 30th and perfect in almost every way.

I probably would have changed that sentence to read “perfect in every way” had I not spent ~6 hours of my Saturday hanging out with mice, but c’est la vie, I did and unless time travel becomes a thing soon then there’s nothing I can do to change that. I’ve been feeling a lot of pressure to get shit done. Now, almost all of this pressure comes from within, from my own personal desire to achieve results and to do my best work.

Something my sister Anna is constantly reminding me of is that no one will tell me when to go home <—I’m working on this

But I also had some very unexpected news this week which prompted me to spend a few extra hours in the lab. You see, on Wednesday I heard from the University of Colorado Medical School that I am invited to interview for their program (eek!). TOTALLY unexpected, especially since two short weeks ago I posted about how I was taking back control of my self-worth from the very same medical school admissions boards. I feel like this is God’s way of saying, “Hold up – you’re not quite done with that uncertainty yet”.

I must admit I am nervous, but also very excited – I get to be in Colorado in two weeks! The funny thing is that they originally scheduled me for this upcoming Friday February 5th…. Two of my best friends, plus Anna, are traveling from Denver -> Atlanta for my 24th birthday. So LOL, they would be in GA and I would be in CO. Thankfully I’ve switched the day and will be gracing the mountains with my presence the following week. The birthday shenanigans can continue – Cheers.

Anyways, I’m taking a couple of days off in the very near future so I figured it would be good for my sanity if I spent a few extra hours doing science. Even better for my sanity was that I managed to finish everything mid-afternoon with enough time for a run on the Atlanta Beltline.

Now, the Beltline is probably one of my favorite places in this city. It’s an old railway line that has been transformed into a walking, running, biking, yoga-ing, skateboarding, anything outside path. There are parks, restaurants, and tons of art that line the trail. Yesterday was beautiful so everyone and their mom was out on the beltline rendering it a little bit interesting at times as I was trying to dodge bikes, kids on scooters, dogs, and people taking up the entire sidewalk. On the bright side – it added brief moments of rest to the run and kept me on my toes. Oh, and I got to do a ton of excellent people-watching. Win win win.

I love having the ability to get out and discover my new city. I love that I now have favorite places, favorite coffee shops, favorite restaurants, favorite bars. To more sunny and 65 afternoons, unexpected surprises, hanging with loads of strangers and extra hours at work, because these moments shape us and mold us whether we think they are or not.

*Side note – I’ve challenged myself to read 20 books this year and I’ve just finished my first one (I know… I have to pick up the pace), but I’m looking for suggestions! My latest read was Full Body Burden by Kristen Iversen. It’s about the Rocky Flats plutonium trigger manufacturing plant in Aurora, Colorado – super interesting and I fully recommend it.

Direct Hits

The morning is bright after a cold and gloomy Saturday. It’s still a bit chilly out but with the sun on my skin I pull on my backpack and head for the trail. The shadows dance across the arch that welcomes hikers to the Appalachian Trail, ~ 2180 miles of wild.

We are here for the day, not making even the smallest of dents in the distance, but here we are nonetheless. The plan is to climb the 700, or so, steps at Amicalola Falls State Park and then head out for a jaunt on the A.T. Approach trail. The park ranger has warned us that the stairs are very strenuous, gaining 1000 vertical feet in under 1 mile. She laughs when my dad and I tell her we know what that kind of gain is like from hiking 14ners back in Colorado (aka – it should be no problem). Apparently we must “RESPECT THE STAIRS”…

Off we go, snow crunching under our boots with each footfall. We reach the steps in no time and begin the ascent. Ice clings to the metal grates the closer we get to the falls, passing each landing I am counting the number of steps in my head – 1, 2…10…100. My breath catches, I exhale, “wow”. The falls are giving off a blue hue that is magically brightened by the rising sun and the snow covered ground. Now this is something I’ve never seen before.

We push on and with the passing hour the day has begun to thaw. As my dad and I walk out past the state park and toward the A.T. the ice wrapped trees begin to break free.

crack  crack  crack  crack

Ice is falling to the ground, carrying tree branches and leaves along for the ride. Occasionally skimming my shoulder or even less occasionally achieving a direct hit on my head. Though it stings I can’t help but laugh – it’s become a game for us and adrenaline is pumping through my veins. How many times can we dodge an icicle?


Our hike continues – dodging falling objects and jumping puddles – and I am reminded why I enjoy being outside and exploring so much. One of my favorite quotes comes to mind by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

“Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air”

Isn’t our world a beautiful thing? I am so thankful for little adventures and the chance to breath fresh air. It helps me reset my intentions and reminds me that all things are possible. The grandeur of nature humbles my struggles because my worries are insignificant when compared to the span of the horizon.

The constant pressures of life are big and I know mine aren’t decreasing but rather increasing in number. So what am I doing to handle the stress?

Building a bigger beaker

Meaning: Imagine measuring life using a beaker. Now fill it with all of your emotions – I’m mostly thinking of stress versus happiness. Depending on the size of your beaker your stress might take up 1/2 of the space (maybe even 3/4!). That doesn’t leave very much room for your happiness so instead of trying to decrease your stress, build a bigger beaker. The recipe for success?

  • Do more of the things that make you happy
  • Do less of the things that don’t

At the end of the day if something makes my heart feel full then it was good and I’m thankful for that.