Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Ramsey Cascades

In keeping with my theme of hiking new trails this summer, my pal Seth and I made a jaunt over to Ramsey Cascades this past Saturday. I hear tell it's the tallest waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountains so I had to see for myself.

We entered through the Greenbrier area of the Smokies and made the four-mile trip to the falls. It was strenuous at times but worth it. The water drops 100 feet over rock outcroppings and sprays as it splashes. Good thing I brought a long-sleeved shirt as we sat on a rock to eat our lunch because it got a bit chilly.

This shot doesn't do the falls justice.
Craziness! Sign as we approached the falls.

The eight-mile round trip hike was pretty fun and we saw some cool things along the way. Most of the hike going and coming follows rushing streams and rivers.

I can listen to this sound all day!
This section of the park is perhaps the largest old-growth forest remaining in the Smokies. It's one of the few sections of the park unaffected by the logging industry many moons ago. As such, it contains some of the tallest and largest trees in the Smokies, like this big guy:

Don't judge me. You know you would, too!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Peru preparations, Paddington Bear style

I'm just weeks away from the Inca trek! Last night, I received a special gift from a young friend -- a Peru travel kit, if you will.

The tag reads in English and Spanish: "Wanted on Voyage"
"Please look after this lady. Thank you."

My young friend Peter recently read about Paddington, a young Peruvian bear who immigrates to London after his Aunt Lucy goes into a home for retired bears. He stows away on a lifeboat with nothing more than a small suitcase and a jar of marmalade so he isn't hungry. Around his neck is a label that reads, "Please look after this bear. Thank you."

In my special Peru travel kit, Peter gave me a copy of the book and my very own jar of marmalade. I'm ready to go!

Peter's serious face. Look after this lady...or else.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Overnight Mt. LeConte fun

I'm spending the summer hiking my way through East Tennessee. My mission this season: tackle all new trails. It's been a sweet blessing as I'm discovering more and more of my beloved adopted state on foot.

I deviated from my mission last weekend when I hiked up to Mt. LeConte with two friends. I've done LeConte before via the Alum Cave trail. But there was a new experience to this hike: I spent the night at the lodge on top of the mountain for the first time ever. Pretty awesome!

My friend Megan did a great job capturing our pilgrimage in this hilarious piece.
Check it out.

In the meantime, some of my favorite photos from the hike:

Megan, Sharon and moi in front of the dining room

At Cliff Tops. What can you do if you can't goof off, eh? :)

A beautiful view on the descent

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Throwback Thursday -- rainy day edition

Black Belt Conference, May 2013, Ft. Lauderdale
James Rich, third from right
I'm missing a certain Taekwondo instructor today.
Thankful for the gift of life and friends.
Today, let's choose to model courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit.
Live well.
Practice forgiveness.
Eat chocolate.
Make it count.

Friday, June 5, 2015

New beginnings

Tonight was wonderful as it was bittersweet.
I tested for my second degree senior black belt in Taekwondo. (The short sausage-making explanation: it's the last level of second degree and the final phase before I can test for third degree black belt.)

I passed, which was great. I also cried many tears. It was a hard test in several ways: it was my first one in six years without my master instructor James Rich. I miss him sorely and I felt his absence so much tonight. This test also is my last one locally at my school. From here on, all my tests will be before a national board of examiners.

Change is hard. But it is good. Tonight, I had a taste of my new normal. I had the privilege of testing before David Church -- the new master instructor at my school and one of James Rich's former students. I'm excited that I'll be training under him, Shea Church, his wife and another Taekwondo instructor, and Julius Agh, one of my favorite instructors, as I prepare for the journey to third degree black belt.

James Rich, tonight was for you, sir. It was far from perfect but I got it done. Thank you for all you poured into me these last six years. I'm grateful for new beginnings and the road ahead with Mr and Mrs. Church and Mr. Agh.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

Onward. Warrior mode, always.

My new A-Team: Mrs. Church, Mr. Church and Mr. Agh :)
I wouldn't have made it through tonight without the encouragement, support and prayers of precious friends. You know who you are. Thank you. You mean so much to me.

It was so awesome having a handful of friends come watch my test tonight and cheer me on. Megan, Julie, David, Elizabeth, Michael, Juhee and Patrick: You rock my world!!!

Julie and a very sweaty Lola
With the awesome Juhee.
David, Elizabeth and Michael -- some of my surrogate
siblings. Love you guys SO MUCH!!!
When it was all said and done, I went to have ice cream and cake with some of the coolest people on earth.
Sam and Mary Ann. Oh, we also showed off our muscles.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A kiss from heaven

I saw this magnificent full rainbow over my Taekwondo school after class this evening.
Right before this moment, my friend Chandra texted me a photo of a double rainbow she had seen in another corner of Knoxville with these sweet words: "Just saw God's majesty in a double rainbow and prayed His amazing and abundant grace over you."

God's majesty, indeed. What a (double) kiss from heaven!

Chandra's double rainbow
God, thank you for this beautiful reminder that your promises are true: you are trustworthy; you are with us in the hard places of life; you will not forsake us or abandon us; you are good; you smile upon us. Help us to believe who you say you are in spite of the doubts and pressures that are pressing in. Help us to believe who you say we are: beloved; held; yours.

"The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."
--Numbers 6:24-26

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tippy Top of Tennessee

I stood on top of Tennessee today!
My friend Seth and I took a trip up to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the state.
We then followed it with a 10-mile round trip hike to Silers Bald along the Appalachian Trail. Great preparation for my Peru adventure.

View from Clingmans Dome

With Seth
The last of the wild flowers in the Smoky Mountains were still in bloom and we met some animal friends along the way.

We walked through pine groves, mossy forests and across ridges. Here's a view from a ridge on the Appalachian Trail. I'm standing between Tennessee and North Carolina. I've always wanted to be in two places at once. I finally got my chance. :)

We stopped for lunch at a shelter for thru hikers of the Appalachian Trail. Our exploration of the shelter revealed a hiker registry. We found this inside:

I couldn't get enough of the views!

Check out the river in the distance
We arrived at Silers Bald after a steep climb the last quarter mile. There was not much to see but the rock marker was nice. The white arrows indicate the directions of the Appalachian Trail.

US Geologic Survey marker at Siler's Bald
On way back, Seth decided to check out the climbing potential of this rock. Brave soul!