Happy Monday! Today I’m going to share with you the story of how RWP really got started, and how I found my power!
For my 27th birthday in March 2017 I decided to take an adventure by myself. I built an insert for my CR-V named Gravity out of plywood and 2x4s (with some help), and set out for a week of camping in the Smoky Mountain National Park! I stayed at Elkmont campgrounds inside the park, and slept inside Gravity. It was pretty perfect. I didn’t have service most places in the park, but just down he road from the campgrounds was a beautiful overlook where I’d go for breakfast and dinner to check in with family and update social media on my adventures. I didn’t really have a plan when I went down there. Friends had suggested a couple trails and some overlooks to check out, but I hadn’t laid out every day.
I went to REI and got myself a few things, but the nice thing about car camping is that there’s plenty of space for all your crap so I didn’t have to worry about size or weight (thank goodness!). The Smokies are about 9 hours away from STL so it took most of the day to get there, and I ended up having to find the campground in the dark! That was an experience! It also turned out that night was booked up so I stayed the first night in a hotel in Gatlinburg, and woke up in a fancy queen sized bed on my birthday! I went to the campgrounds first thing, and paid for my spot for the rest of the week.
I did a couple small hikes, including Laurel Falls, which was easy to get to and absolutely amazing! I also went to the visitor’s center, the big overlook that’s featured on all the postcards and stuff, and also where the Appalachian Trail goes through the Smokies! I LOVE hanging out there for a bit, and seeing the people that pass through to continue on North to Maine. I DREAM of doing that someday!
The most memorable and life changing thing I did was complete the Cades Cove loop trail. Before this trip I had done some hiking, but nothing serious. I didn’t work out or go to the gym. I was just, well, me. So this 8 mile loop hike was definitely a challenge for Maggie. I was so excited! I got there a little late, and the park rangers warned me to not take too long or else it could get dark. It was only mid-March at that point. I had allowed myself 4 hours, which turned out to be plenty of time! This first time I hiked this trail I went clockwise, and have since discovered that I prefer going counter-clockwise. It had also POURED down rain the night before, which means most of the trails were a little soggy if not full on flowing streams. It was worth it!
On the way up I had a meltdown. I was tired, hot, muddy, and didn’t think I could go on. I stepped into a puddle which turned out to be a few inches deep, and left my left boot and calf soaked. I cried. I cursed at myself for thinking I could do it, thought I was crazy, and thought I should just turn back. I cried. Streams of tears were cleaning dirt off my face. And then it happened. I looked up and I was at the top. Even though I completely doubted myself, didn’t think I could do it, and just wanted to turn back, my body kept moving. One foot kept going in front of the other and I GOT MYSELF TO THE TOP! So I cried more. I cried because I realized that it really is my mind that has doubts, that keeps me in a box. Not my body. My body knows exactly how much it can take, how far it can push. Its my mind that is afraid. After a bit of celebrating I kept on going. A chunk of the trail walks along the ridge at the top so I got a nice break from the incline with some beautiful views! And then there was the decline. It wasn’t terrible, but at that point I hadn’t been working out at all, and my left knee was not in good shape.
I think I slept around 14 hours that night! I was exhausted. I let myself rest, did some yoga at camp, and took a drive through the park taking in the sights. This is also where I decided that for each National Park I visit I get a sticker, a patch, and a stamp in my National Park passbook 🙂 This trip was just over 2 years ago, and I have now been to 12 National Parks!
This trip really did change my life. It gave me an introduction to how full nature fills my heart, and how walking along a trail not only changes my body, but clears my head, allowing me to return in a new headspace. Any problems really can be solved on the trail. If not directly solved, I am able to process and brainstorm ways to solve problems. I get emotional just thinking about it! Here I am sitting at my desk, just having finished lunch, and ALL I can think about is where I’m going next and when I can get out of the city.
I sit here at my desk, with a nice big window right in front of me to get a peek at the sun and warmth outside, and I dream about all the adventures I want to take! And then there are weekends, like this past weekend, where I should be out on the trails, but instead I open all the windows, let the breeze flow through, get some cleaning done, meal prep, and just take some time to clean up my life. Things are shifting and changing in my life, and I’m doing my best to stay present and in the moment, but I’m getting more and more excited for what’s to come! More on this soon.
I hope you all have a lovely week, and please reach out and connect! I would LOVE to talk with you about the moment you realized something big, overcame an obstacle, conquered a challenge, and it changed your life as you knew it!