Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Home to dust, cacti, and rocks. Capitol Reef National Park is a little know plot of land stuck between Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and Canyonlands National Park. Southern Utah is filled with a collection of canyons and desert and starry night skies. This was our destination as we hit I-70 early one Saturday morning to kick-start our #springbreak2018.

The plan was to car-camp the first night, followed by two nights out on the Lower Muley Twist Canyon. After checking in at the Visitors Center to register and get a permit for backpacking we decided to change our plans. [You need a permit to backpack at Capitol Reef, but they are free and as far as I could tell, there’s no limit on the number of permits that they give out]. The ranger told us that Capitol Reef was at 25% of their normal rainfall for the year. In a place that’s already strapped for water, this means there is even less to go around. She shared with us that Lower Muley Twist had no water – aka probably a bad idea to go there, unless you want to carry three days worth of water! That sounds heavy. The ranger did have reports that the Halls Creek Narrows trail had water, so it was there we set our sights on.

That first night we camped at a small, limited resource campground – Cedar Mesa – where our friends were able to find us after dark. We woke up the next morning, split up our food among packs and drove to the trailhead. The first part of the hike brought us down from the rim of the canyon to the wash at the bottom. From there, the hike twists and turns as it followed the dry river bed. It was so very sandy! Try carrying a pack with your next two days’ supplies along the beach. Despite the extra challenge, it sure was beautiful. That first day, we broke for lunch at this red rock and then kept trekking down the trail until we got to the mouth of the Halls Creek Narrows where the first drinkable water appeared.

With the sun rising on the canyon walls overhead, we cooked up some oatmeal and selected what would come with us on our day hike through the narrows section. The day before we ran into another person who told us that he encountered some deeper water that he had to wade through. So, we left our campsite preparing to get a little wet. Shortly after entering the narrows we ran into another person who said he found water that we all the way up to his neck! This was a very tall man. You bet we were a little nervous because we didn’t know who to believe about how deep the water would actually get, but we pressed on anyway.

In the narrows, the canyon walls loom directly overhead. They make you feel small, your problems insignificant. The quiet echo as your voice bounces off the smooth rock and the trickle of water at your feet. These are the sounds of the narrows.

I’m not sure where one of our travelers found water up to his neck because we never waded past our hips.

The last night of the trip, we camped out beside the dried wash. Stars overhead and sand underneath.

A break from school, a break from the real world, an escape into nature.

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The Foothills Trail

After two months of preparing and fundraising the hike is over.

11 hours and 40 minutes of walking and my toes have crossed the finish line. It was tough, my hips hurt, my knees hurt, my shoes are tied too tight, I really want to lose the backpack from my shoulders, and there’s pizza at the hotel. 67 people were crazy enough to join me on the trail today. All kinds of people – young and old – laced up their boots to tell cancer to take a hike.

Today, we followed a path that wound through the hills. Past rushing waterfalls and bubbling creeks. We began in the dark before the sun rose with head lamps illuminating the way. While there were threats of copperheads and bears, we had no such luck in catching a glimpse of either one [thank god because I’m terrified].

We did this for all of the children fighting for their lives. For those that have endured the chemotherapy, radiation, infusions, surgeries; for those that were brave, yet lost. These children are far stronger than I for they have walked a unique trail through the halls of the oncology floor.


The Foothills Trail is beautiful. I’ll let these photos do all of the talking —

 

 

Max Patch Mountain

When I first realized that I wouldn’t be spending Thanksgiving with my family I decided I wanted to go camping. Lately, I’ve been using Instagram to inspire all of my adventures and I had seen pictures of this place called Max Patch. Not only does the name sound fun, but the photos people were posting were beautiful so I decided I just had to see it for myself.

Max Patch is a bald mountain located near the Tennessee and North Carolina border. About 1.5 hrs from Asheville, North Carolina and ~4 hrs from Atlanta. It was originally cleared to act as a pasture for sheep and cows, and was occasionally used as a landing strip for small aircraft. Today, they maintain the space with controlled fires and mowing so Max Patch remains a “high” east coast mountain that when standing on top you can observe the rolling vistas of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Due to the fires in North Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee there was a fire ban where we were headed and since I don’t own a ton of camping gear my friend Lydia and I borrowed a bunch of stuff – camping stove, sleeping pads, and a lantern mainly. [Shout out to Lydia’s friend]. When we woke up in a cloud on Saturday the camping stove came in clutch. From the safety of our sleeping bags we ate chicken noodle soup from a can for breakfast and honestly, I don’t think homemade soup would have tasted any better.

The rest of the trip flew by as we packed up our things and headed out on the Appalachian Trail. The trail runs right over Max Patch so we chose to go North and hiked part of the way towards Lemon Gap – now I just want to know why it’s called lemon gap… But when we returned to Max Patch the clouds had finally lifted and the view I had come to witness opened up in front of me.

It. Was. Amazing.

Some adventures aren’t glamorous. Sometimes you need all of your clothes + sleeping bag to stay warm. Sometimes you can’t see all of the vistas and sometimes you eat chicken noodle soup for breakfast.

My advice though? Keep on, keeping on because all adventures are important and from the – sometimes – wise Craig Huey, “we are in training”.

For what you ask? For life, and whatever it chooses to throw at us.

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 

Lake Norman, NC

I give mad props to all of the bloggers that post multiple times a week. Some days it’s just impossible to sit down and write anything – even now, I’m sitting on my stoop writing in whatever spare minutes I have this evening. 

This weekend I made spontaneous plans to visit friends in North Carolina because when your best friend is only 4 hrs away you go. 

First thing of note. Apparently I need to get my cars air conditioning fixed because I drove the entire way with my windows rolled down. I was a sweaty, wind blown mess by the time I arrived. 

Actually, that’s basically it. I really enjoyed being carefree and less worried about everything. I’m so thankful for the breath of fresh air – even if it occasionally also came with a mouthful of lake water. 

Tomorrow it’s back to reality – 

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.

 

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.