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Creative Outlet 102

What a journey we’re on y’all.

I wanted to take a moment to revisit my original creative outlet post, which outlined my goals and plans for this blog (life) of mine.  It’s been a little over two months since I jumped in headfirst to a world of creativity, inspiration, motivation, and connection.  It’s such a fantastic, positive outlet for me.

I want to live intentionally, and occasionally that means taking a step back and making sure that’s what is happening.  Accountability is everything.  Original goals below, with an update in blue.

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Fulfill need to create, inspire, and engage. YAASSSS.  Hikes, blogs, volunteering, interacting – it’s amazing, fulfilling, fun.

Find new adventures.  Explore.  Hike new trails.  Jump in lakes.  I have to admit this is my favorite of them all.  We live in a absolutely incredible place – mountains, lakes, views galore – I appreciate it more now than ever.  It’s hard not to get out and have an adventure. But really, it comes down to that time with my kids.  And myself.  Surrounded by God’s beauty, away from technology and the stresses of everyday life.

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Learn from others, share what I know.  What started this whole journey was being inspired by others, mostly due to social media and bloggers.  I love learning about a new trail, boutique, coffee shop, restaurant, farm….the list is endless!  However it’s also empowering and wonderful to know that I may have something, however small, to give back to this amazing community.  As Marianne Williamson said, “It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” 

Read. Read. Read.  I try, try, try!  I have a tendency to read less during the school year because life is well, crazy.  I am still reading, it just takes me a lot longer…(currently reading A Man Called Ove, and it’s been over a month…don’t judge).  

Practice kindness.  Volunteer.  Help others.  This is where I feel like I need the most work.  There are so many opportunities that it can be overwhelming.  One of my goals was to make a simple calendar where one could just hop on and see how they can help.  But for me specifically, I still want to find one thing that I can be passionate about and make a difference.  Which in all honesty I have not.  Still working on that.  We’ll just say “To be continued…”

Connect with the community.  Shop local.  Eat Local.  Well that’s not hard – love shopping, love eating.  I still have so many places on my list (we don’t get out much – that sh*$$@ budget gets in my way every time, along with well, life)

And the most important, which is noted above but worth mentioning again: stay true to myself – simply go after what I am passionate about.  This is important, and am I accomplishing this??  Well, mostly I think.  But I gotta admit, it’s so hard not to get sucked into a world of likes and getting a perfect photo, even if your day was complete crap, then acting like it was amazing.  Is it real?  Instagram?  Are you real?  I have to take a step back and remember my purpose, which isn’t likes or followers or readers or comments or even money.  It’s creating my own happiness.  Experiencing life.  Being passionate.  Kind.  Thoughtful.  INSPIRE | BE INSPIRED

So, whatcha think??  What’s your creative outlet?  How do you stay true to yourself?  Is Instagram real?!


I will leave you with “Our Greatest Fear” from Return to Love by Marianne Williamson:

Our Greatest Fear

it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other

people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of
God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

—Marianne Williamson

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Keowee Toxaway State Park

This hike.  That lake.  Those views!  Keowee Toxaway State Park is one of my favorite places to escape to.  With it only being 35 miles outside of Greenville, it’s an easy trip.  We have spent many weekends here exploring the trails, taking in the views, and swimming in the lake.  There is also fishing, camping and a even a cabin you can rent.

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Keowee Toxaway State Park:  Natural Bridge Nature Trail and Raven Rock Trail

Natural Bridge Nature Trail:  1.3 mile loop

Raven Rock Trail:  4.4 mile loop

TIP:  To get to the view that makes this hike so very worth it, you gotta get on the Raven Rock Trail.  So all in all you are looking at about 5.7 miles (full loop).  I have labeled this on my map below with notes that some may find helpful.  You can also find the original here.

Shortly after you start the hike, which is on the blue Natural Bridge Trail, you will encounter a fork in the trail, where you must make the decision to go right, or go left.  This is important y’all.  From my experience (which means the dumb choices I’ve made) I feel as though I can help you.  I suggest going left all the way.  It will take you down a fairly steep descent with lots of stairs.  If you come back this way you are climbing for quite awhile…which you may not want to do at the end of the hike.  Also, it’s really the prettier of the two options.  By going left at the start of the hike you will end up by Poe Creek, which features the natural bridge and a waterfall.

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After this you continue on the Natural Bridge Nature Trail until it connects with the Raven Rock Trail.  I personally don’t have an opinion about going left or right on this loop, either way it takes you to stunning views and great swimming spots.  The water is clear and the air is fresh!

There is primitive camping along the way but I am terrified of hiking in with kids (carrying a sh*& ton of stuff!) and not having a real bathroom nearby.  However, if that’s your thing this is an awesome site!  And the leaves were just now starting to change – it would be glorious to camp here in the next couple of weeks with all of the colors and cooler temps!

After swimming and taking in incredible views, it’s time to head back.  You can make it one whole loop or go back the way you came.  Again, it depends on what kind of workout you want.  Last time we hiked up all the stairs (remember how I said to go left at the beginning?  we went right) and it was exhausting.  But it did feel great after it was all over!

Lake Keowee is stunning.  It feels like you are far away from real life when you sit up on that rock at the top, breathless and awe-inspired.  I would do this hike over and over again just for that moment of beauty and wonder.

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Until next Tuesday…happy trails!

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Whiteside Mountain

Before we get started, I know it’s Wednesday, NOT Tuesday.  I am thinking about renaming this series “Wednesday Wonders” or just plain “Trail Tips” so that I am not tied down to one day.  Because apparently this is a recurring issue that I am not proud of.

Anyway, I’ve got a good one for y’all this week…WHITESIDE MOUNTAIN.  I kept seeing picture after picture of stunning views from this mountain located right near Cashiers, NC, and just knew I had to see it for myself.  And…drumroll…I can check off one of my hikes to accomplish by the end of 2017 as this was on the list!!!

Before we get into the trail details, I want to point out that I am in love with both Cashiers and Highlands.  I could write and write and write about all there is to do in this area.  But for now, I am going restrain and focus solely on Whiteside Mountain.  ALTHOUGH you could surely plan an amazing long weekend in this area for when you hike this trail.  In my dreams that is what I would have done.  But real life got in the way as usual.

Moving along, I would like to present my latest idea – goal – thought – whatever you want to call it.  What is it you ask?  It’s simple – for every hike I will provide a map with notes.  Mostly because I hike a lot of trails more than once and can’t remember the best ways to go, but also because I get asked a lot of questions about trails and directions and views – and goodness knows I am no help because I cannot remember unless I have written it down.  Kind of like in real life (if it’s not on my calendar it ain’t happenin)

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WHITESIDE MOUNTAIN TRAIL:  Tips

2 mile loop | Moderate hike

$2 Parking – WELL WORTH IT.  PAY IT.

AMAZING VIEWS – at an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, it is awe-inspiring – take your breath away – gorgeous – can’t really even put it into words

Be on the lookout for endangered peregrine falcons, which nest here.

WEAR BUG SPRAY AND BEWARE OF STINKY MUD.

 

We decided to go to the right as you enter the trail from the parking lot (as you can see from my handy map above **pats self on back**) and then took the slow descent down the left side.  If I were to go again, I would go up the right side and back down the right side.  The left is just a wide old roadbed with no views really (although it’s pretty).  By going up AND down the right side, you get view after view after view with lots of smaller trails to explore along the way.  By going right you are choosing the harder path, but it sure pays off.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. Psalm 145:5

We sure did stand in wonder and marvel at what God has given us.

Last thing – this was our view on the way home to Greenville from Cashiers – just a little stop alongside the highway.  Ahhhhhhhhhh……

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Until next Tuesday, or Wednesday, or whenever…happy trails!

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GVL Picnic Basket Series #4

An unintentional life accepts everything and does nothing. An intentional life embraces only the things that will add to the mission of significance.  

John C. Maxwell

Life is busy.  I depend on my calendar every day all day.  Work meetings.  Dentist appointments.  Ballet class.  Conference calls.  Basketball practice.  The list goes on and on…and goodness knows I wouldn’t show up to anything without my calendar notifications.  Of course there are the times I swear “I can remember that” (whatever that may be) and inevitably I forget (immediately) and miss something important.  I have had to really train myself to be consistent and responsible with my scheduling.

People often ask me for hiking advice.  They then usually follow up with “You are always going on adventures and doing something fun”  For some silly reason that would bother me sometimes.  It almost feels as though I am being judged, like my life must be this never-ending fun adventure where we laugh and play and never fight or argue or get really tired.  But that’s probably a discussion for a whole other post…

What is my point here?  That we must strive to live intentionally.  Ann Voskamp said “How long does it take your soul to realize that your life is full? The slower the living, the greater the sense of fullness and satisfaction.”  SLOWING DOWN is SO HARD to do.  We work, we have kids, we have busy, busy, busy schedules.  And on top of all of that is the constant technology in our face.  (Does anyone else hate the word “screens”) The iPhones and iPads are always lurking nearby, calling my name, my kids names.  Play with me…check your emails…your Facebook…Candy Crush is waiting………google this, google that…..

I grew up going on adventures because my parents enjoyed it.  Now I go because I do like it, but most of all – it is hands down my favorite time with my kids.  They are truly kids.  They notice the butterflies.  Take in the views.  Get sweaty.  Discover waterfalls.  Talk to me about life.  I treasure this time with them.  Away from schedules and technology.

I’ve even become a bit more adventurous – and intentional – like stopping by a roadside park I must have passed a million times.  Never gave it a second thought before.  But I won’t soon forget the time spent there with my kids.

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BY THE WAY, we were at Long Shoals Wayside Park, which is right off of Hwy 11 near Keowee Toxaway State Park. Have a picnic, wade in the water (caution – slippery rocks!), explore…but most of all, slow down. Enjoy life.

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GVL Picnic Basket Series #3

When I heard that Happy Cow Creamery has some of the best local cheese, milk, and ice cream around, I knew I had to make my way to their farm.  Anyone who knows me well knows I could live off of cheese & crackers.  Milk is good, ice cream is great, but cheese…cheese is everything.

So we packed up our picnic basket and took a nice drive through the country to the gorgeous green fields known as Happy Cow Creamery.  Located in Pelzer, it’s about a 30 – 45 minute drive from Greenville, depending on where you are coming from.

We were welcomed by Tom Trantham, aka Farmer Tom, who promptly delighted my kids with tricks his cat could perform (for cheese of course!)  His passion for his farm was evident the moment he started sharing his story with me.  What a treat it was meeting Farmer Tom.

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After a picnic outside at one of their many tables, we were off to explore.  Unfortunately they are not doing tours at the moment due to the new barn they are building, but that’s ok – it’s a good excuse to come back when they are up and running them again.  And it was a beautiful day to just relax and enjoy the farm.

My only worry was that one of the pregnant cows – and there were a lot of them – was going to give birth.  Farmer Tom told me this miracle of life could happen at any moment, and I wondered how I would explain that whole thing to my kids.  LUCKILY no calves were born during our visit.

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After the picnic and quality cow time came the best part of the trip – the HUGE CHEESE SELECTION.  Oh goodness, I have no words.  I chose the habanero jack cheese – and lemme tell ya.  It was the perfect combination of creaminess and heat I have ever tasted.  I wish I had bought every different type of cheese really, even though that might would have ended in divorce.

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We also picked up a gallon of milk, which Farmer Tom swears by (along with all of these other people), and some fresh veggies.  There are all kinds of goodies in the store – I will definitely be back to check out more of their products (meaning cheese).

Oh – and right down the road is City Scape Winery – you have to check it out while you are in Pelzer.  Locally made wine in a gorgeous setting.  Obviously you need a good Malbec to go with that cheese, right??!

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Happy picnicking!

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Tuesday Trail Tips: Issaqueena Falls & Stumphouse Tunnel

Ahhh Labor Day weekend…you are my favorite. Maybe because every year I need a break immediately after the start of school (don’t judge – y’all know back to school shopping, homework, carpooling, and scheduling insanity is stressful!). Or it could be because Labor Day weekend is the last big summer hurrah:  the pool is still open, football has started, the grill is hot and drinks are flowing. And this year the weather just so happened to be perfect.

So what did we do? Well, a little bit of everything actually. We hit up the Bacon Labor Day festival in Travelers Rest (OMG so much fun!). Listened to Music in the Woods at Paris Mountain State Park. Celebrated birthdays. And of course, we went on an epic adventure.

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Issaqueena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel

Walhalla, SC | Sumter National Forest

This place is full of legends, history, and stunning sights.  From the deep, dark railroad tunnel to the gorgeous 200′ waterfall – adventure is everywhere you turn.  And while you can park your car and walk literally just a few feet to both the waterfall & tunnel, there are plenty of opportunities to get a hike in.  Trust me, I am still sore and it’s been 2 days.

DSC_0453 (2)The legend of Issaqueena Falls is quite fascinating.  Short story – there was an Indian maiden (Issaqueena) who had a thing for an English settler. When she warned him of an impending Indian attack, she of course had to flee, and found the perfect hiding spot behind the waterfall.  Pretty neat to ponder while you are behind the falls yourself.  BUT – be careful getting there.  It’s quite treacherous if you ask me.  As you walk in from the parking lot, go down the left side of the falls to get there (although you can probably get to it from the other side as well – we didn’t try).  Be sure to also climb down (again – carefully!) to view the waterfall from the rocks below.  It’s pretty steep, lemme tell ya, but we managed and it was well worth it.

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Issaqueena Falls

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Issaqueena Falls

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Behind Issaqueena Falls

And HOLD ON!  Our adventure is not over.  After hiking (climbing) up and down both sides of the waterfall, we made our way over to Stumphouse Tunnel.  You can walk but we drove.  It’s just up the mountain a little ways after the waterfall.

Here we also climbed the trail that goes up and over the railroad tunnel, which is a great work out (so steep!), but the tunnel itself is pretty spectacular.  The “tunnel to nowhere” is exactly that – construction on it came to a halt during the Civil War, leaving just a big hole in a mountain that’s quite exciting to explore.  TAKE A FLASHLIGHT though.  Of course (OF COURSE) we did not (why would we plan for anything in life), but it’s kinda dark so a flashlight would be handy.  I felt quite inadequate as I tripped by many folks with their fancy headlamp gear.

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Just a quick note – it does get crowded, especially on the weekends, holidays, summertime, pretty days…not to scare you away though.  It was a great adventure full of history, legends, and steeeeeep hikes.  Until next Tuesday, happy trails!

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Give. Give. GIVE. Give? Worthwhile Wednesdays.

I am a selfish person.  I never liked to share my crayons.   I always wanted to be the line leader.  I question everyone.  I never liked authority.  I am terrified of everything.

Cancer.  

Abuse.  

Hunger.  

Flooding.  

Poverty.  

 

Donate.

Give?

Tithe.

Pledge?

Contribute.

Help…

how?

why?

when?

where?

what’s in it for me…

too busy…

no time, not enough money…

I don’t know what’s next for me.  What I do know is that I believe.  I have faith.  I always have, even when maybe I pretended I didn’t.  Or maybe I didn’t but God was there with me anyway.  This I know.

I’m fairly certain I am a late bloomer – in all aspects.  It has taken me a LONG, long, LONG time to realize who I am.  My self worth.  That my words, MY words, have an effect on people (not always good y’all).  That maybe I matter a little bit.  And maybe, just maybe, I can be a positive, creative, thoughtful, giving person.  That my kids will be proud of.

A BIG question is where to start?  Can I afford it?  How can I do anything to help?  Should I choose one specific area?  My time? or my money?  BOTH?!?

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Proverbs 3:27

Yep, it’s not easy.  Especially if you are, well, selfish.  Like me.

But every journey has to start somewhere.  With prayer.  A LOT of prayer.  And really, action.  Taking that first step.  And maybe it takes a while to find your thing, but you will.  (honesty folks – I am talking to myself here).  A huge goal of mine is to get involved, whether it’s with Greer Community Ministries, or the American Cancer Society.  Whatever it is, we (I) have the ability to do something.  And it matters.  Just like we do.

Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. Deuteronomy 15:10