Sweet Sunday

While this wasn’t a weekend of wilderness badassery (yep, that’s a made up word) I did have a pretty great Sunday that induced enough smiles that I feel the urge to write about it here. All too often, my on campus weekends involve a lot of, how shall I say this, wasted time. Whether it’s reading the umpteenth fashion blog of the moment, freaking out about the kinds of bizarre issues I could encounter next year through Teach For America’s “Teach For Us” site (Biggie Mals, I’m so sorry they stole your cell phone!) or attempting to make my lazy bun hairdo into something stylish and vaguely French, time wanders away from me all the time.

Today, however, was the exception. With a forecast of 57 degrees and sunshine, it would have been absurd not to take advantage of the day. And thus began the Sunday of awesome.

First stop: Loveless Cafe

I saw the sign

It was my friend Kathleen’s first ever visit to the Loveless so I wanted to do it right. We called ahead to get put on the list (a must on weekends, even after our 20 minute drive, we still had a 45 minute wait when we checked in) and spent our wait time wandering the shops. Don’t worry, we merely browsed but I’m so sad that Curious Heart, one of the boutiques, closed! When we went on parents weekend, WD got the coolest spider ring there, I’ll ask her to send a picture of it.

Breakfast (and biscuits) were totally delicious. I switched things up with cheesy grits and it was a great decision. Usually no matter how many leftovers I bring home, I feel like a giant biscuit who needs a nap. To combat this, Kathleen and I took a 4 mile walk in Percy Warner Park.

it's not quite so green right, now but still very pretty

There were so many puppies and adorable families out and about, it was wonderful. After Percy Warner, things got a little less exciting as Kathleen had to go to work so I decided to go to the grocery store. I won’t bore you with the details but today, even grocery shopping was top notch because the specials of the week were right up my alley. 2 for 1 Eggo waffles? Done. 3 for 2 break and bake cookie dough? Of course. Don’t worry, I also bought clementines and blueberries, so it wasn’t all bad. After groceries, I rewarded myself with delcious fro-yo from Sweet Cece’s. Normally I’m all about chocolate or red velvet cake flavors (yes, red velvet is a real fro yo flavor) but today I went with tart yogurt with tons of blackberries and strawberries. Yum to the max.

best afternoon treat ever

Cliffs Notes version: Being the Princess of the Wilderness is a tough life (just wait until TFA starts up, the schedule is in for quite a shakeup) but planned correctly, it can be pretty sweet.

And we’re back

Okay people, the complaint office is officially closed because this blog is getting back on track, pronto. I know I haven’t been the best (I actually may have been the worst) blogger these past few months, but for those of you who are curious here’s a few of the things I’ve been doing instead of blogging:

1) Owning the Nantahala, bump rock included

Captaining the bell, best canoe in the world

So, turns out that bump rock is actually not nearly as big, intense or scary as I remember it. That coupled with at least minimal improvement in paddling skills was definitely a big help. Also, the bell is amazing, it has these crazy padding and straps (okay now it’s sounding weird) that help you balance better and you feel like you can take on Niagara Falls in that thing.

2) Learning to lead and clean a climb at Jackson Falls

cleaning a climb, no big deal

These two activities are so mentally strenuous that it’s bananas. Seriously, my legs were shaking when I led my first climb, it was not good. I just get so nervous when I’m cleaning a climb and I have to take myself off belay. I always throw in a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers for good measure because when you’re hanging in the air suspended by webbing and a chain someone drilled into a rock, putting in some good words with the big guy upstairs isn’t the worst idea.

On a positive note, it’s awesome to learn so much more about climbing because it’s going to help me out in my future plans…

3) Getting accepted into Teach For America!

Colorado here I come!

Next year, I will be teaching English in either Denver or Colorado Springs and it’s going to be quite an adventure. Being a teacher is definitely going to be a lot of tough (but rewarding) work but hopefully I’ll have some time to ski, climb some rocks, and hike to the top of Pike’s Peak to eat the yummy doughnuts that Catherine has told me all about. Applying to TFA took up a lot of my Fall, but it’s worth it now because I have at least a start point on the post-college life plan.

4) Going to Disney World, Hogwarts, and the Land of Seuss

I heart Sam I Am

Cinderella's Chateau

You're right, I'm the one in the Tigger hat..

I'd totally be a Ravenclaw

5) Took Madeline on a backpacking trip

Bunny and Madeline hitch a ride up the Fiery Gizzard

Madeline came to visit as a fictional exchange student from Villa Maria School in Stamford, CT and after taking her to a sorority meeting, I felt she should be the kind of sorority girl that I am, one with a wild(erness) streak.

And most recently, I led a backpacking trip! I’ll post a more detailed description of the trip later this week but here’s a picture to whet your appetite!

Backpacking 3 represent

Well, that’s all for now but I promise an update will be coming in days, not months.

It’s good to be back.


Robinson Crusoe would totally be a Wilskills Instructor

So, I’m back! I know, long hiatus but that’s okay because I’m here and once again ready for the wild, so long as the wild is ready for me. I’ll write a seperate post on the instructor trip and joining the Pigeon River Swim Club but for now, let us direct our attention to a more literary persuit.

Catherine (fellow instructor, wilderness/sorority girls unite!) and I are in an English class together and our latest read is Robinson Crusoe. I was reading his adventures yesterday (by the pool on my kindle…typical) and the more I read, the more I realized that Robinson would rock at Wilskills.

Paddling: Robinson makes his own canoe/oars and paddles around his deserted island. When he is shipwrecked, he fashions a raft out of wood and paddles it back and forth to collect supplies for 2 weeks straight. He could do the Hiawassee in his sleep.

Backpacking: Robinson takes month long hiking trips to explore the island, uses only innate sense of direction to guide him.

Caving: Stores all of his supplies in a cave, hides out there during the rainy seasons.

Okay, so he didn’t rock climb but give him a break. The guy is shipwrecked alone, it’s not like his goats and parrots can belay him.

Back country cooking: Robinson not only has to find all his food in the wild, he has to make his own pots and pans. No white gas for him. Also is a raisin enthusiast despite his lack of access to superior Begosians.

the best

In short, Robinson is a first rate outdoorsman and I wish that he was coming on our trip this weekend. Yay Paddling 3! More later, on to Geology lab…

I’m an instructor!!!!

Readers, I am so excited to announce that I am now a WilSkills instructor!! Alex, Maya and Benson came to my door in Towers and I literally jumped up and down when they told me I got it. When I went into this semester, I  really didn’t know what to expect and how involved I would get in Wilskills. Then, I made it my goal to pass and prove that I could be legit and outdoorsy. I wanted to be an instructor, but I tried not to get my hopes up too high because I know it’s a competitive process. Okay, I can’t stop smiling and I need to finish my story for my portfolio (it’s about canoeing with Wilskills!) so I’ve got to peace out, but I’m glad that I could make this a really happy blog post! Also, I feel like I can now officially say that I am an outdoorsy girl, hooray! 

too legit to quit

So, this is embarrassing… Backpacking Part 2

Readers, I apologize. Several of you have pointed out that I have not finished my recap of backpacking and I’ll admit, in the swirl of Versus and such, I shrugged it off. I told myself, I’ll post tomorrow, no big deal. Except that right now, the cosmic universe has come together to give me as much work as possible but no matter, I am determined to finish strong with this blog. So hold on to your hats because it’s time for the remainder of a wild backpacking trip.

Saturday morning, we drove over to the Deep Creek trailhead, and got ready to go. True to form, I think I won the award for most layers in the group and I brought lots of extra clothes in my bag. I would later come to hate all of those clothes, not because they were unstylish, but because they were useless to carry.

I was also the only one wearing gloves or a hat, but hey, I get cold, that’s just how I roll. Even though I knew that the backpack would feel really heavy later in the day, I felt SO legit when I put it on.



You’re right, I really am pretty much a wilderness gangster with that backpack. Once we were all packed, we were ready to hit the trail. In the very beginning, things were going quite smoothly. The sun was shining, it wasn’t too cold and was definitley  getting warmer. But within the first half hour, our group would face a major problem ala Harry Houdini. We stopped to see a waterfall, and somehow Nick and Tiffany got away from the group. We tried to look for them around the area, walked a little further on the trail, then returned to the bridge by the waterfall, but no luck. Eventually we spotted a fellow hiker who told us that they had seen our two lost people way back on the trail, so Matt and Reba ran (literally) to get them and Rachel, Catherine, Harrison and I stayed on the trail, guarding the packs and enjoying a wonderful combination of sunshine and dried apricots.

Once out whole group was reunited, we ate lunch and then continued on the trail for the rest of the day. It was a good combination of uphill and downhill and I actually couldn’t decide what I thought was harder, hiking uphill because it made my legs yell at me for not exercising more or the downhill which made my ankles yell at me for tripping all over the place. Somehow the poise I acquired in climbing didn’t translate so great into hiking, but you can’t win them all.

It was really warm hiking in the sun but once the sun set, it was back to all the crazy layers, mittens and the wild hat. At our campsite, we had a bit of a rice snafu (there was a hole in the bag and then the water got tipped over, murphy’s law of dinner). I couldn’t believe that we were going to bed at 8 o’clock but it was cold and I was very tired, so I didn’t protest when we all started getting into our sleeping bags.

We got up early so it was still pretty cold in the morning and I can’t say me feet were overly anxious to get back into hiking boots but I wasn’t sore (pre-emptive aleeve was the best decision I could have made). After breakfast, we started our trip back to the van. On day one, one of the motivational phrases that was thrown around was, “Don’t worry, tomorrow is downhill.” 


We decided to take a trail called “Martin’s Gap,” which sounded innocuous enough. Also, it led to a trail called “Sunkota” which I personally thought sounded awesome. The part we could see was uphill, but I figured that it wouldn’t be too bad.

Also untrue.

Martin’s Gap was a mile and a half of total uphill. I actually don’t think there was a single downhill on the entire thing, just a few glorious ten step stretches of level walking before the uphill madness started back up. My morale started waning on Martin’s Gap for a variety of reason. Not only couldn’t I get the song, “I’ve been working on the railroad,” out of my head, my entire body was furious with me for putting it through this. Every time I thought we were at the top (I seriously couldn’t understand how the trail just kept going, it was like an evil energizer bunny) another uphill would start. In my head, I started weaving a tapestry of curse words about Martin’s Gap, the most tame of which was “Martin and his gap can go to Hell!” Which is probably around when this picture was taken:

I was a little upset with Martin at this point...


But once we ate snacks and lunch at the top, I was in much better spirits. Dreaming of that Snickers bar really kept me going on Martin’s Gap and I have to say, it was as awesome as I dreamed it would be.

group shot


The hike down wasn’t too bad, except I was getting tired which led to increasing levels of clumsiness and tripping. Overall though, I was proud of how I did hiking. I may not have always been the happiest camper, but I didn’t complain (I channeld that into my internal Martin rant) and I didn’t hold up the group which was something I had been worried about in the beginning. Back at the van, I was so excited to change into comfy, not synthetic clothing and everyone was tired but very happy. 

not the best hair moment, thank goodness for bandanas


On our way back, we stopped at a Thai restaurant in Knoxville and I discovered that I really like chicken pad thai! I was kind of the lame-o of the gropu because I ordered mine at a spice level of 1 and everyone else did 5 and above (Reba asks for 20!) but it was really good. I’ve never loved a noodly dish so much, I was so hungry! 

Well, that is the tale of backpacking. I have to sign off now because I actually have to finish my Wilskills exam, yikes! Sorry for the delay with this one, it’s totally my bad but better late than never!

Backpacking recap part 1: On the road and oatmeal epiphanies

Okay, disclaimer, this is the second night in a row that I’ve forgotten the pictures. I took them with this very fancy (i.e. not Rite Aid disposable) camera and since I also used it for our Versus cover story, I put all of the pictures on the VSC server. Unfortunately, I keep forgetting to email myself the pictures, so all of them remain locked in the office. I also realized this halfway back to towers and though I briefly flirted with the idea of going back to the office and getting them, it was quite cold and I was quite tired, so that just didn’t happen. 

But, positive note, I don’t need those pictures for this post because this is the preface of the backpacking saga. So many wild things happened on this trip that I cannot condense them into just one, or even two posts. But enough about how epic this weekend was in my outdoor education, let’s just jump right in and start at the beginning.

We accomplished pack out in an extremely timely manner and all hopped in the van to head off on our wilderness adventure last Friday. Rachel borrowed Liz’s boots for me for the weekend and I also borrowed a backpack from the storeroom. I had WAY too many clothes, but as I mentioned earlier, I had no idea what kind of clothes I was going to need with this crazy November weather, so I thought to myself “Why not, let’s just bring them all. Clothes aren’t that heavy.” Oh how naive I was on Friday, it’s almost unreal.

The drive itself was long but uneventful for the most part. We listened to a bunch of Reba’s CDs, I texted Chelsea when we drove through Cookeville (aka the city of champions) and I passed out against my backpack somewhere after Knoxville. What was truly wild was our drive through Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. Confession: I had never been to either of these places, I had merely heard of their lore and the stories I had heard did little to live up to the wildness of those two towns. 


favorite building in pigeon forge, though the Titanic is a close second

We drove through at night which meant that there were Christmas lights and neon palm trees everywhere. I’m still baffled by the amount of pancake houses, wedding chapels, and mini golf courses we saw. There are no words.

Initially, we were going to camp at Deep Creek at a campsite that was a 1.7 mile hike in. That plan didn’t happen though because it was pretty late when we got to the Great Smokey Mountains National Park and I’m pretty sure even the most hardcore among us would have voted for sleep over a night hike. We got to sleep in tents which was so nice and warm! After lake Wilskills and the tarp vandals on the last climbing trip, that tent felt like a suite at the Plaza. I was warm, I was sheltered, it was perfect.

The next morning, it was a little chilly so I changed into my typical ridiculous camping outfit which consists of under armour leggings with about five shirt layers. Practical for sure, but I had my awesome Hilary hat and my mittens that could probably fit on the abominable snowman, so I was doing fine.

Breakfast was oatmeal and I steeled myself for a rough eating endeavor. Reba, Rachel and Matt had cut up apples and sauteed them in apple cider mix, so I decided to add some of those to my tupperware bowl. Then, Catherine suggested that I add the cider mix straight to my oatmeal (we forgot raisins and brown sugar…oops). And after that, my perspective on oatmeal would never be the same. Every bite was a warm, delicious explosion of apples. I thought to myself, “Wow, this is so good, I just want to keep eating it!” I ate the whole bowl without a single complaint, I believe I even smiled. It was definitely a 180 from other times where I’ve just grabbed a granola bar at breakfast and bypassed oatmeal all together.


what saved oatmeal

Okay, so here’s a minor tragedy that I discovered today. In the spirit of procrastination, I googled Swiss Miss apple cider mix, hoping that maybe I could find it at Harris Teeter or Kroger and I got some awful news. Swiss Miss discontinued their apple cider mix! Just when oatmeal and I were working out our differences, forces bigger than either of us found a way to try to keep us apart. Well, oatmeal, I think we could have a good thing going and I’m not giving up, discontinued products be damned. I will find a new mix and either over break or when I get back and am trying not to go crazy with finals, I will recreate the perfect, apple oatmeal.

Post oatmeal and packing up camp, our crew drove to the Deep Creek trailhead, which is where our story continues. However, I cannot do that story justice without my pictures, so that will need to wait until tomorrow. But, just to keep you on the edge of your seat, I will leave you with a clue to where this story is leading, which is an epic battle of Vandy girl versus nature. And at one point, I looked like this:


How did I get to this point of flushed, bandana clad, angry looking, spandex wearing exhaustion? Oh, dear readers, just wait and see… 




Back from Deep Creek!

Bunny and I are literally about 5 minutes away from passing out  but I just wanted to update everyone that we are home safe and sound! It was a tough, but memorable weekend involving drama and intrigue including

  • The disappearance of Nick and Tiffany on day 1
  • How is it possible to literally hike uphill both ways?
  • Earth shattering epiphany : I enjoyed oatmeal

My brain is ready to give up (the rest of my body gave up about 5 hours ago) but tomorrow, I will upload some pictures once I figure out how to get them off of my fancy camera that I borrowed from Versus. On that note, I am signing off. Good night!