Heading to Warmer Weather

SAM_2339

the beauty that surrounds our “home”, the Blue Ridge Mountains

People keep texting me and asking, “where are you now?” so why don’t I address that question first. We are still in Pickens, SC at Table Rock State Park. We needed to settle down in one location while we waited for our camper license plate to be sent. Long story short, we picked up the camper in Brevard, NC, received a 10 day temporary registration/plate then had to send all the sale paperwork to CT DMV who would in turn send us back our permanent registration/plate. While this turned out to be quite a complicated process, we have finally received the plate (thanks in large to my amazing father who went out of his way for us) which allows us to now hit the road!

SAM_2358

420 ft waterfall seen from Raven Cliff Falls Trail at Ceasers Head State Park

So, we will be heading out this week to Florida, to spend the holidays with Erik’s parents in Venice. While I am loving our stay here, I am also ready to move on for a few reasons.

1) I don’t want to get in the habit of staying in one spot for too long and getting too comfortable. While we had no other choice but to stay here this long, I do feel like I am getting stuck in a routine here a little. Not much, but, a little. The routine is amazing though.

2) Christmas is only a couple of weeks away and if I didn’t look at the calendar I would have no idea. We are not leaving the State Park often, so we haven’t seen any decorations, no Santa, no Christmas Trees, etc. I’m ready for some holiday cheer!

3) While the weather has been good, we are still needing to use a heater at night. This week it will be in the 30’s at night and 50’s during the day. I KNOW that this is way better than CT, but I also know in Florida I will be sitting by the pool daily and running in 80 degree weather. Those who know me, know I love the heat!!!!

4) We really are secluded here. They have blocked off our section, so even the handful of weekend campers we may get cannot even drive up to our section. Erik calls it our “private drive”. This has made for amazing privacy. A much needed change for us condo-living-folk. Exactly what we wanted. However, I am also a people person, and I cannot wait for daily conversations with our fellow snowbirds by the pool 🙂

5) Convenience. We are in a small town with the closest grocery store 16 minutes away and a Walmart 20 minutes away. There are no restaurants I would go to (which is fine because I really don’t like going out to eat) and I literally bought a hooded sweatshirt at Walmart because that was my only option. Ha! (I actually really like it) This doesn’t seem like much as I write it, but I am craving the Thai restaurant in Florida and a trip to ULTA and TJ Maxx to stock up on some things I’m running out of.

SAM_2348

All that being said, you would think I may be sick of this place. That is so far from the truth. The truth is:

1) the fact that we feel so comfortable here says a lot. It is our first time ever staying in a camper. We just left family and friends for the first time, and during the holiday season. We have met most the employees here and when I go on my daily runs a wave and a smile as each one drives by feels like “home”. My “routine” consists of morning coffee that I savor, running daily through lush woods that makes me feel like I’m in Costa Rica, physical labor I wished for for so long, and nightly campfires as we cook dinner over the flames. Mix in day trips to State Parks in the #1 region for outdoorsy people…not so bad of a routine!

SAM_2334

2) We were invited to the staff Christmas Party here at the State Park last night. Who would have guessed we’d jump right in to this lifestyle so easily?!?!

3) I ran to the top of Table Rock Mountain Sunday in shorts and a t-shirt. I can’t complain about the weather.

4) The first 3 weeks of our trip in total seclusion and no internet or cell phone reception was probably the best thing for me. It made me disconnect and really dig deep into myself. Those are revelations that are shared only with my personal journal, but a lesson and phase I needed to start this journey.

SAM_2367

5) Not being able to run to the store, order food, buy clothes, etc easily has made us realize how little we actually NEED. We went on this trip to get away from “stuff” and being so far away from anything has made us create lists of what we NEED and once a week we head into town to shop. The way we should shop.

SAM_2374

Every part of this trip will present us with a lesson to learn. These first 3 weeks have been nothing short of revolutionary for me!

SAM_2381

Advertisements

Working a Little, Living a Lot

We are two weeks into our adventure, and with each day I am realizing that I could have never planned this trip out. Every day something happens and I think back to the planning process and say, “I would have never thought that would have happened.” Like when I was stressing about wanting to have several campfires, but didn’t want to spend $5 on a stack of firewood each day. I would have never known we would be tearing down fences and be told to take the remnants because it’s great firewood. Or that we would find such fun in driving around the campground after campers leave and grabbing the left behind wood. Now, after many months of worrying about firewood, we have a stack that would get many through a whole winter.

SAM_2329

Much of what we stress about never happens. Such a waste of time!

Like how I worried so much about Gunner barking and upsetting the neighbors. What I didn’t know is that we would have THE WHOLE CAMPGROUND TO OURSELVES!! Literally, 1 out of 75 spots are taken. He can bark all day and only the passing Ranger will hear it.

As you can tell, things are going quite well for us. We have been working on some interesting projects. We couldn’t have asked for more fitting jobs. Our first couple of days we spent building a stone walkway with Mike, a maintenance worker here at the park. The walkway leads to the Nature Center and the major Trail Heads. Given the location we would see several people an hour, and it was so rewarding to hear each person compliment us on how good it looks. Such a satisfying job. We also loved the fact that there will always be a part of us left behind at Table Rock State Park. We can come back years down the road and look at the walkway, remembering how we fit each piece like a puzzle! We were able to learn a lot about setting the stone, and also about Mike. He was so interesting and we listened to his stories of walking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail, all of which he walked several times along with his wife. So amazing.

SAM_2220

We celebrated Thanksgiving with a hike to the top of Pinnacle Mountain right here in the State Park. This was technically considered “work” since we were scoping and clearing the Ridge Trail along the way. Again, this was a day I worried about for several weeks prior to the trip for no reason. I was concerned I would be homesick being away from home for my first holiday ever and spending it at a campground. Luckily, I think the excitement and beauty of our surroundings made it ok. Plus, we were able to celebrate Thanksgiving with both my family and Erik’s the weekend before we left, so I didn’t feel like I was missing it. So, Thanksgiving was a day full of hiking, cooking, and football.

SAM_2255

SAM_2246We spent this past Saturday exploring Greenville, SC. We first stopped at Paris Mountain State Park, the other park we considered staying at. We really liked it, but we were happy that we chose Table Rock. The campground was much more crowded and small. Also, you cannot beat the views we have here. However, this park is a known mountain biking park and we could see why. The trails were fast and winding and looked real fun. We will go back there soon to ride!

SAM_2269

After a nice hike, we went into Downtown Greenville. This is an area I have wanted to visit ever since I saw it listed as the #1 Place to Live in Outdoor Magazine. The minute we walked into this city we LOVED IT. I don’t know if it had something to do with the fact that we have been in such a secluded area for so long, or if it really was THAT beautiful, but I think it was the later. Falls Park on the Reedy was so enchanting. I have never seen a city like this. It seemed to be so well planned out from the river to the waterfalls, to the restaurants and the layout of the streets and signage. There is a restaurant for every taste, flavor, want and need. From first glance we fell in love with Greenville, SC faster than Asheville, NC…something I didn’t expect!

(Click on pics for slideshow)

Back at the campground we continue to work jobs we love. I have been given the task of painting letters for a sign, which has been so fun for me. They brought it right to our campsite so I spend time at night, listening to our music, campfire going, Christmas lights lit, losing myself in the task of staying within the lines.

SAM_2314

We have also been cutting down small trees around cabin 5 and cabin 7, giving each better mountain and lake views. Just what I had wanted, physical labor! I usually run every day, sometimes in the trails and at times on the road that goes around the park. This road route offers some great climbs, which don’t seem to get any easier. The trail route I usually do combines two separate trails, Carrick Creek and Lakeside Trail, both amazingly beautiful in their own way.

SAM_2325

The mix of having the whole campground to ourselves, jobs that challenge us physically and teach us something new, a camper that feels like home, our backyard the most beautiful state park I have ever seen, free use of all facilities, maintenance equipment, boats, fishing equipment, etc….this mix has made for an amazing first two weeks.

What I really love is how I am just surrounded by such love and reminders of friends from home. We drink coffee every morning out of mugs given to me by best friends. The cards I received from friends hang on the walls of the camper. The key to the trailer is on an awesome key chain given to me another bestie, Trish. I wear head bands, tanks and shorts given to me by clients. I burn candles from friends while we play board games given to us by Annette and Mom and Dad. We eat sweets at night that my book club girls gave me. A prayer flag and Tibetan statue surround the sink given to me by Loren, so I think of her every day. I write in my journal every day given to me by my best friend Bridget. I could go on forever. The point is, all day, every day I use something or see something that reminds me of home. This makes me happier than anything. While enjoying the solitude and alone time with my boys, I am still surrounded by so many of my loves at home!

SAM_2310

With that, I would say that the only negative has been NO CELL SERVICE and only Internet at the visitor center. I think this has been a blessing and a curse. I don’t want anyone to think I am not thinking of them or not reading their emails/texts/instagram messages but I literally cannot get any reception for more than 30 seconds. Very annoying, but forces us to disconnect, which is probably a blessing. So, please don’t take it personal that I have not reached out. In a few weeks we will be in Florida and I will catch up with you all!!!

IMG_20141201_162400

Settling in at Table Rock State Park

Setting out on this journey has been a roller coaster of emotions. The prologue was the toughest. Are we making a mistake? Will this camping thing be a flop and will we hate it? Will I miss my friends and family terribly and be miserable? What am I giving back to society? How can I be so selfish? How can I watch my clients sob before me asking what they will do without me and still selfishly move forward?

An email I received from a client justified why I can do this and feel ok…not ok, amazing, about it. Because I can inspire people in another way as we set out on this journey. A way a little different from “normal”. Maybe make people ask, why not me? How can I preach a life of living with passion and following your heart if I do not chase my own heart and my own dreams?

SAM_2167

Summit of Table Rock Mountain!

Picking up the camper from Shirley and Jim was a reminder of why we are doing this. As they handed over the keys to us they said they will probably mourn the next few days. They have been camping their whole lives and Jim’s health enabled them to continue. They also said that they had been to the State Park we are staying at, but could not hike all the way to the top of the mountain because of their health. This reminded me why we cannot wait for “the perfect time” to do this. There will never be a perfect time. We can’t keep waiting, because we never know what the future holds. We have talked to so many retirees who look at us with such hope and bless us for doing this. Almost every one says, “Good for you. Do it now, while you can.” Most of them have worked their whole lives for retirement, only to retire with bad knees, bad hips, or an unfortunate illness that does not allow them to do more than drive to locations, hoping for some scenery.

So, we drove away from Jim and Shirley’s telling each other that we would LIVE and enjoy these next 5 months in honor of them. I already felt such great energy in the camper, knowing that it came from such a beautiful couple who enjoyed so many years of camping. This particular camper was not able to be used as often as they would have liked, so we will pick up where they left off.

SAM_2189

This camping experience has been amazing so far. It is exactly what we have always wanted. We had basically a campground to ourselves for the first 5 days, answering the dream Erik always had: “I just want a tiny house in the middle of the woods with 2 acres of land”. Well, we have a beautiful State Park as our backyard, with over 11 miles of hiking trails, 2 beautiful lakes, waterfalls, and greenery that makes you feel as though you are in the rain forest.

SAM_2198

The best part? We are staying here for free!!! Electric, Sewer, everything! We are volunteering to help out around the park for a free stay. Our first job was….hike the trails! Literally, that was our job. We were asked to just take note of any areas on the trail that needed to be cleared up or back. So, we did.

SAM_2195

We hiked the Lake Trail, Carrick Creek Trail, and to the top of Table Rock Trail. Such a beautiful park!

SAM_2159

Last night the Ranger stopped to give us keys to everything. Anything we needed at maintenance we could use AND a key to the boat house. We could use the kayaks, canoes, paddle boats, trolling boats for fishing….anything! How freaking amazing. He also went over what our jobs will be this week. We will start by clearing brush from around the cabins, then we will head up to the Ridge Trail (a 2.5 mile climb) to do some trail work. EXACTLY what we wanted. Physical labor in and around the trails. We plan to work our tails off to give back to such an amazing State Park that has been so hospitable to us. Every Ranger has been more than accommodating and staying here at no cost has been such a treat.

SAM_2139

Coffee out of mugs given by dear friends just taste better 🙂

We spend our mornings with our coffee, listening to Coffee House and Howard Stern on SiriusXM or watching our Golden Girls DVDs. We then hit the trails for some hiking, go to the Visitor Center where Internet is available along with rocking chairs on a porch overlooking Lake Oolenoy and Table Rock Mountain. It feels like it is straight out of a story book. We spend time listening to Y2Country on the outdoor speakers (LOVE) with the lights hanging off the camper giving us the look from Parenthood we always wanted 🙂 At night we play games (Scrabble, Yahtzee, etc) and we discovered our antenna picks up about 15 TV stations, so we watch TV before calling it a night around 9:30pm!

SAM_2136

The boys sleep in while I meditate and make coffee to get the morning started!

Time seems to FLY while we are here. The one thing we have predicted to be an issue is Gunner. He has been great so far, but has not left our side. When we start working on Monday we are concerned that he may be a nuisance. We did have a family of 5 just move in next to us last night and with the noise they are sure to make, I am worried he will bark and cry the whole time we are gone. We already warned them and they said not to worry. We’ll see.

Rainy Day Project.  Quotes, Nieces, and my Grandmother camping!

Rainy Day Project. Quotes, Nieces, and my Grandmother camping!

A rainy day today. I will make a trek into town (20 minutes) to Walmart while Erik cleans and watches football. I am not sure I will ever be able to sleep in a tent again. This camper is so cozy and cute. I cannot tell you how many times I have looked at Erik and said, “I love camping” or “I am so happy”.

Follow your heart. You will be amazed the opportunities that fall into your lap as you go. Everything seems to fall into place when you chase your dreams.

The Adventure Begins

We are beginning our 5th day of our adventure and it has been more than we could have ever dreamed of. We have had just about everything thrown at us and we have done a good job at rolling with it. We arrived in Asheville, NC on Tuesday to be greeted by record lows. The 15 degree weather ousted the previous low record by 10+ degrees. So, instead of the hikes we envisioned, we bundled up and checked out Downtown Asheville, strolling through the quirky, artsy shops. Asheville, you are beautiful but the weather Gods are demanding we come back again to check out your real beauty.

SAM_2056

Wednesday was the big day!  Heading to Brevard, NC to pick up the camper!  We woke up early and took the scenic route down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The views were unreal, the woods surrounding the car made it hard to keep our eyes on the road. We stopped several times to take pictures, giddy like kids in excitement. Our journey was stopped short 15 miles in by a road closed sign. Oh well, turn around and see those beautiful views from another angle. Rolling with it 🙂

SAM_2078

Picking up the camper from Jim and Shirley was seamless. They were the sweetest retired couple, with a property we dream of owning some day. As Erik got instructions from Jim, Shirley and I chatted it up. After a stop at the DMV to exchange title, we were ready to go. Erik was a little nervous about towing the camper, his first time towing anything. But, we figured an easy 40 minute drive to the campground would be a good way to warm up. Ha!  We literally took a road that winded down and around the mountain….a road that would feel sketchy even in a car!  Erik handled it like a champ and we now know what this Pathfinder/Fun Finder combo is capable of.

SAM_2082

SAM_2087

But wait, the worst was yet to come. We found the campground, turned into then entrance, only to find a sign saying “Campers must use West Gate Entrance, road too windy”. At this point we had no experience turning or backing a camper and performing a “K” turn that was asked of us was impossible.  We had 2 options: continue on the road we were warned to not take, hoping no turns could be worse than the road we took down the mountain. Or, try to back the camper into the busy road we turned from. We decided to go forward, which quickly brought us to turns so sharp and steep that I thought we would lose the camper. Luckily, we made it and found a parking area to turn into, while we contemplated what to do. Keep charging ahead, or attempt a K turn.  Just then a fisherman pulled up and we asked him to help. He owns a 32 ft trailer and within a few minutes had us on the road, heading back to the main road. We used the West Entrance, found our spot and luckily we could mostly pull the camper through. We hooked everything up,and began to unpack.

SAM_2133

We are obsessed with the camper and we are settling in very nice. Table Rock State Park is so peaceful and beautiful it feels like a dream. Another post will get into my thoughts about camping, etc but here are some pics for now. We do not have Internet or Cell Phone reception at our campsite, so blogging/texting is very tough.  I do INSTAGRAM as often as possible, so follow me there at “theworldismygym”  Click on the pics below for slideshow