The Struggle Bus chased me down, ran over me, then backed over me a few more times for good measure!

Here I sit in the Cuyahoga Valley NP visitors center bawling my eyes out. Today is a struggle day for me and I feel it’s just as important to share these times as all the adventures! I woke up early this morning and left my friend Angela’s beautiful home filled with love and headed out towards Cuyahoga Valley. I had done some research on free campsite near the NP and was feeling excited to access our first off road site. After successfully testing dry camping with the camper in New River Gorge, we were feeling super confident about off road areas.

We finalized a few things and hit the road. We arrived at the trailhead that offered free camping to find out that there was no overnight parking and the only camping that was offered was for people back country camping without vehicles….. So I had my first melt down of the day driving around trying to figure out what to do next and trying to find a road wide enough to turn around….. I HATE putting this rig in reverse and I had to do about 3 10 point turns….. I suppose I should be grateful for the practice but I’m NOT!!!! I decided to shift into another gear after calling 2 local campsites to hear that they were all booked up. We decided to head to the visitors center to check out trails and try to connect with nature! On the way to the visitors center we got caught at a red light in a steep incline and I stalled out trying to get power….. UGH!!!! Enough already….

We arrived at the Visitors Center to get the low down. Usually rangers are so helpful and full of so much amazing information and suggestions. We felt like every question we asked was answered with a “no” or “no you can’t do that here” or “well there’s a city ordinance against that” etc….. We found out there’s really no camping except for KOA’s (which I promise you I will NOT pay to stay at EVER!!!) in the area unless you are being dropped off and have no vehicle and are doing backcountry camping….. (I was fine popping the tent, but there’s NO PLACE to park your vehicle….. Grrrrr) I googled the closest WalMart and decided to focus my attention elsewhere. We went upstairs to watch a ranger program and I sat and texted with my sweet sissy and cried and cried and felt overwhelmed with so many emotions…… The movie ended and we found out that one thing this park has is INCREDIBLE bike trails!!! So we decided to bike to a little old town and have homemade ice cream and bike back. Ahhhhh the day was coming together. I went out to unload the bikes to discover Sienna’s back tire completely flat! I walked it over to an air pump, which died 10 seconds into the process. I walked back over to the ranger center, where I was told “sorry that happens sometimes, it was working fine earlier” great!! I spotted a hand pump and asked to borrow it. I walked back to the bike and tried again to find out the tube must have been popped….. More tears fell and I decided to let them and breathe and just go with it. AGAIN, I walked back to the ranger who told me there was a bike shop about 3 miles down road. I took a deep breath and loaded the bikes BACK on the rack. As I did I noticed the 7 way plug from the camper to the car must have come undone at some point and was all burnt up from dragging on the ground….. UGH!!! Please, please still work, (this is what gives me brakes on the camper, lights in and on the camper, cools the food in the fridge as we drive and charges the back up battery). I tried plugging it in and the lights worked so I assumed all was ok. We loaded up and headed down the road to the bike shop.

We arrived at the bike shop and they fixed us up and got us on our way. The ride was soooooooo nice….. I felt stress gently floating away from me as the breeze blew through my hair on the trail. I grounded into the moment and felt relief. Sienna and I talked and laughed and let the earlier mishaps melt away. I pulled over and did some yoga and felt home back in my skin…… With each connected breath I felt love and hope and smiles and peace drift into my being!!! Ahhhhhh thank you yoga!!! We got to the turn around spot and Sienna threw a fit about the trio not being a loop trail and that just spun me right back into an angry and annoyed tizzy!!! I mean seriously….. Doesn’t she know how hard I just worked to turn the day around!!! UGHHHHHH!!! So we rode back in silence, since that was better than me losing my shit!!

By the end of the trail I was relaxing again since I went through my mala about 4x with my Om mani padme hum chant!!! That’s 424x chanting that mantra…… I wished I felt like Buddha himself, but I was only scratching the surface of my suffering today! So we rallied and started over AGAIN!! We went for some homemade ice cream at Yum Yum Sweet Shop that put smiles on both of our faces! Then decided to grab dinner and fell into wing night at Winking Lizard Tavern (recommended by the nice guy at the bike shop) and felt so much better. We were going to go to the Beaver Marsh for sunset and call it a day.

We got to the car and the battery was dead. I left the camper plugged in but we were only gone about 3 hours! COME ON Universe…… This is crazy! So we mustered up the energy to let go and laugh at the day. We started trying to wave people down for a jump and everyone would just wave back and keep driving. Sienna and I started critiquing each other on to much smile, not enough smile, to much wave, not enough… but no matter how hard we tried to perfect the art everyone just kept driving and waving back……. (Do me a favor, if you see a woman on the side of the road with a young child waving at traffic, please stop and ask if they need anything) After about 25 minutes of this craziness a police officer pulled up and we felt such relief!!! Then he broke the news that it was against ordinance to jump another vehicle due to the electronics they need to keep running in their vehicles…… I picked my jaw off the ground and told him no problem and hoped someone else would stop. Before he drove away, he told me he’d circle back around in another 30 min to check on us. Cool, thanks!!! Finally the car that was parked behind us returned from their ride on the trail and gave us a jump. We showered them with thank you’s and headed toward Walmart to end the day and start new tomorrow.

We got to the Walmart and hit the bathrooms and checked in with customer service who informed us that there was a city ordinance against parking overnight in any parking lots in Marietta, OH and that the night before a truck was towed with a man sleeping in it. The tears started again!! UGH!!! Enough of this already, I was annoyed with myself at this point! But I tried taking my sissy’s advice and decided to be gentle with myself!! I headed to the car and checked the Walmart site and noticed that all the Walmart’s in the area were NOT RV friendly! I scanned the site and found another one about 20 miles away and the manger confirmed we would be fine for the night in their lot….. So off we went!!!

We arrived to find 3 other RV’s in their parking lot, relief set in and I popped the camper up to go to bed….. Only to find that the 7 way plug that burned up earlier must not be connecting to charge the battery and the inside lights didn’t work and the fridge hadn’t been cooling while driving so we lost a lot of food. Seriously!!!!! WTF with this day….. And the flood gates opened AGAIN!!! As I was sobbing I examined the root of the tears (let’s be real, I may be totally PMSing and overly emotional, because this is a little much, even for my deeply emotional self, but there are still truths in all the emotions)…. I just kept getting hit with such deep sadness for feeling alone…. Feeling completely overwhelmed with all the crash and burns in one day…… Wishing I could just crawl into the arms of someone who loves me…… Praying that someday I’ll have a partner to face this world with…… Deeply missing the loving sense of family and home that we just left at my friend Angela’s…… Grasping at my dreams of someday sharing my life with a wonderful man…… Oh the pain is more than I can bear at times and I guess that’s why the tears fall, they just have no other place to go!!! Ugh, there I said it! My secret is out!! This fiercely, bold, brave, independent, I can do anything woman, dreams of being swept off her feet and ravished by a strong and kind and loving man! Someone who chases adventures with her and holds her in the night….. Someone to share her life with and give her love to….. Someone who will encourage her dreams and feed her fire and calm her restless soul…… Someone she can love hard and long and won’t be afraid of all that she is!! As I type this the tears dry and I feel my heart beat freely again and I remember that I don’t have to live in fear of this never happening because I have tasted it on my very own lips….. This can and will be my life!! I claim that now to the wise and magnificent Universe and a smile surfaces on my face…… And I know I have spoken my truth and it shall be so!!!

Here’s to a new day tomorrow and knowing lots of lessons were learned today!!

Love & Light                                        Me

Energy never lies…..

This morning we slept in a bit and had a lazy morning….. We wanted to do a bigger loop trail here in Hocking Hills and knew we needed good rest to take on the 6-7 miles we would be going.  I wasn’t sure what to expect for terrain but knew there would be some waterfalls.  We had a lazy morning with breakfast and got dressed to hit the trails.  We stopped at the headquarters and asked some questions about various trails.  The trail system here was a bit confusing because everything is broken down into these small, named trails from .01 miles to .05 miles that when put together make a sweet 6.8 mile loop…… So we plotted our path that would take us by 3-4 waterfalls, through some caves, down in a small gorge and then a hike back past Rose Lake and along the rim looking down into the river.

We headed out to the car and packed up our lunch and snacks and were heading to the trailhead, when another woman with a child about Sienna’s age walked towards us asking if we had jumper cables…… Well of course we do, (I was so happy that I replaced my pair after lending mine out, never to be returned). We got her van all hooked up and NOTHING…… So we chatted for a bit and both said some silent prayers and tried again…… It tried but wouldn’t completely turn over.  She went inside to call her dad who is a mechanic, to see if he could diagnose it.  We both laughed about being moms on the road with small kids and neither of us had AAA! I watched the kiddos and said some more prayers.  She surfaced from the headquarters and reported that he thought it could be the starter. We both laughed and disagreed.  I told her I had a good feeling and she tried again…. Still the same thing. UGH!!!! So we both channeled our most positive energy, flipped every switch in the car, put it in gear and then back out of gear and tried one last time…… AHHHHHHHHHH YESSSSSS!!!! It started and we both jumped up and hugged each other so tight with the biggest smiles!! There was such a gentle beauty about this woman, my soul recognized something safe and comfortable…. We both relished in that magical moment for longer than necessary and then she headed to a garage to figure out a permanent solution and we headed off to the trails…… I walked away with such JOY in my heart for the gift of being there for someone else in a significant way!!! The kids traded a blow pop for a tootsie pop and left with smiles on their hearts as well for a generous exchange with a stranger…….. Another puzzle piece of hope in humanity was solidified for us all!

We started out at the Upper Falls IMG_1291and worked our way down past the Devil’s Bathtub (which is apparently a pretty popular name of any pool of water that is deep and about the size of a bathtub in nature) and down deeper still until we found the creek.  IMG_1292There were caves to explore and we kept ohhhhhing and ahhhhhhhing at the beautiful limestone jetting up towards the sky from the creek.  There were dramatic cliffs and caves were plentiful….. We discussed various rock faces and were tempted to climb up areas that looked like they had enough handholds and footholds to support our scramble.  We decided to stay on the trail and came to Old Man’s Cave.  It’s stunning to see these caves formed from water running over millions and millions of years ago……. We enjoyed the cool air coming out of the caves and hiked past the Sphinx Head and then hiked down to Lower Falls.  IMG_1293We immediately stripped off our clothes (yes we had bathing suits on today) and flung ourselves into the watering hole and sat under the falls, feeling the water wash away any worries we may have had…… The water running off the rocks was actually much warmer from the suns rays than the pool we swam in, so we spent a lot of time under the falls.  After about 30 minuets we headed off towards Cedar Falls which was about 2.5 miles down the path.  IMG_1297At this point we lost the majority of people that were at the watering hole and we enjoyed every ounce of solitude.

We hiked past a few spots where the cliff would cover the path and a sprinkle of water would be dripping from above….. IMG_1299It was as if the cliffs were weeping that only the larger falls got the attention and not many people were venturing out to visit their beauty.  We stopped at each one and thanked them all for sharing their secrets with us! We climbed over rocks and through tunnels and over more tree root stairs than I could keep track of and eventually heard the beautiful sound of falls…… We had arrived at Cedar Falls and to our complete surprise there was only one other couple there and upon our arrival they left.  Again we tore off our clothes and quickly got into the water and let the falls cleanse our beings……. IMG_1298We ate lunch on a rock and soaked in the sunshine and drank all the beauty of the area!!! Our hike back was along the rim trail that hugged the top of the cliffs we traveled under on the way in.  It was fun to see the drastically different perspectives.  I kept reading about this “Gorge” we were on and my mind kept wandering back to the MAJESTIC New River Gorge and all the memories we created there.  I kept reminding my self to stay present and to enjoy the unique beauty this place has to offer us as well. To appreciate this place in this moment and to unlock that magic that is born between each breath in every place we are.

We continued on our hike and stopped to enjoy the sights of Rose Lake. IMG_1295You simply couldn’t ask for a more gorgeous day!! We sang songs and played rhyming games and told each other stories as we hiked in the lush forest, (we even stopped to eat some wild mushrooms along the way) IMG_1294we were headed towards HOME.  We got back and immediately were greeted by the drunken screams of our neighbors. Sienna ran to play with the girls and I mustered up the grace to walk over and chat for a moment.  They were focused on slamming shots and chugging beers so chatting with me was not on their agenda. I obliged their cues and retreated back to my camper.  I was pleasantly surprised when the warm energy of the woman from this morning showed up to say hello.  It was such a welcomed exchange after the harsh energy I just left.  We chatted for awhile and found out we had a lot in common and decided we would all go on a hike together tomorrow.  So tonight I count the moments until quiet time in the campground and focus on inhaling peace and exhaling the annoyance.  I shift my focus to the beautiful day I had and look forward to sharing time with a sweet new friend tomorrow…….

Love & Light                                                                                                                                                    Me

A few quick thoughts……

Man do I long to be deep in the belly of The Gorge!!!! We have successfully arrived in Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio. There is supposed to be good hiking in the area with some beautiful waterfalls and I’m close to a good friend we will visit between here and Cuyahoga National Park, which we plan on visiting.  Driving here was really beautiful.  We got to watch the scenery change, leaving the thick mountains that stole my heart, entering historic cities, crossing the Ohio River and driving trough the gentle rolling hills that housed huge farms all with a more stunning old barn than the last.  I smiled often at the beauty of each barn, noticing the different characteristics that made each one majestic in it’s own way! Barns bring me such joy for all that they represent both culturally and in my own personal history.  I loved watching the sunlight dance across the corn fields as they changed a thousand different shades of gold and green.  As much as I loved the gentle nature of these rolling hills, my mind kept wandering back to the severe drops alone the mountains that were perfectly carved by the creeks and streams that fed The New River to create the dramatic Gorge nestled deep into the “No Service” areas of West Virginia.

We got within 30 miles of Hocking Hills area and in my classic form of heading off into the next place with no plan, I pulled into a Wal-Mart to use the restroom and figure out where we would stay for the night.  It was 5:30 pm, so there was still plenty of daylight to find a cool spot.  After 30 min of searching I realized all the free sites in National Land or Land Management were about 2 hours away and I decided to bite the bullet and pay to stay in the State Park.  As we pulled in, Sienna’s heart was practically bursting out of her chest with immense excitement to see how many families with kids were here!!! The last 10 days we have been in a free site which has it’s pluses and minuses.  (Some of the pluses are that you are deep in some sort of National Land area, you are surrounded by nature, there are few people because there is no electric/water/dumping hook-ups so it’s mostly primitive campers or at least people who know how to deal with the elements, there are no big RV’s and you are usually surrounded by people who are out in nature to be out in nature not bring everything they own into nature (although we defy this thought lol) and you are usually surrounded by people who are budget conscious! Some of the minuses are there is no electric/water hook-ups, there are no shower facilities, there is no running water even for brushing teeth or doing dishes or to fill your water reservior for hiking, and there are few kids for Sienna to play with. I’m sure there’s more in each department but these are the meaningful ones for us right now.)

So we pulled in and Sienna completed her set-up responsibilities in record time and set out on her bike to make some friends.  Within minutes she was coming to get her babydoll to bring to play with two young girls her age in the next site over.  I was overcome with the concrete and commercialism of the space and felt one lonely tear drop down my face.  I was happy she was happy, but I wanted to be back, deep in the forest where the mountains met the river and we were the only constant campers in the place. I felt the heat in the exposed site and with a mixture of sadness and gratitude I turned on the AC in the camper and was glad to have electric to plug in to.  As I continued to set up I chatted with neighbors as they set up their beer pong table for the tournament they were planning……. This is a far cry from where we just came from.  I know there will be so many experiences that effect us both in such different ways, and I know they are all necessary, as the Universe provides us BOTH with what we need….. But, I can’t help but long to be back in the belly of The Gorge!!!

Love & Light

Me

There’s no denying it…..Fairies are REAL if you BELIEVE!!

The next day I had to get work done so we settled into Vandal’s Kitchen AGAIN for a long day of internet work.  We ate breakfast IMG_1228AND lunch there and closed the place down at 3:00.  Sienna and I decided to take a hike to burn off some restless energy from focused work all day with very little release.  We hiked the Headhouse Trail in Nuttallburg and explored the old mine entrance and headhouse that processed the coal they sent down to the river to be loaded into coke ovens and trains to be shipped off to be used for energy.

It was a tough hike but we loved each moment as we were the only ones on the trail and we love when there aren’t tons of people around.  Then we wanted to make sure we saw Sandstone Falls before we left the area because we heard they were so beautiful!! We hiked around and watched an epic sunset over the falls before we headed home exhausted from a long day.

We decided we would go to the Beckley Coal Exhibition the following day and head out of West Virginia and on to our next spot.  We went to the exhibition and learned so much!! They took you into an old coal mine on an old miners car and you really got to get the feel of the working conditions these guys spent their life in.

There was an old coal mine village that was kept historic with authentic everything inside the houses.  There was an old school house and a church and the superintendents house and a miner’s family home. Sienna and I LOVED looking at the old washers, irons, stoves, fridges, etc and chatted with a beautiful older woman who was embarrassed to tell me her age but finally did (76) and her 89 year old boyfriend who were both children of coal miner families, who gave us detailed descriptions of life in that time in this area.

It was straight out of a movie!!!  As we wrapped things up I received an amazing text that indicated that Evan was coming back to WV to hang for a bit longer before he reported for a new job on the 24th! SERIOUSLY…. How can this even be real life?!?!?!?!

Both Sienna and I celebrated this news and we headed back to camp for dinner and excitedly chatted about what we would do for the next few days.  I wanted to go to yoga Sunday mooring again and Evan asked if he could join……. ummmmmm HELLO, YES!!!! It was a rainy day so the class was moved to the studio in Fayetteville from the deck overlooking the Gorge (which was also where I was planning on taking my first shower since I left Keven’s house, oh about 10 days ago. Those that know me are laughing right now and thinking that’s just par for the course…. others are completely freaked out and grossed out beyond normalcy….. I’ll just say, I was in the river or lake almost every day and I think that counts for some sort of hygiene practice, lol….. but even I was ready to shave my armpits and wash my hair at this point). So we shifted gears quickly and raced to the Kula Studio.  Sienna decided she wanted to practice and I was in COMPLETE HEAVEN once again!!! The class and my mat gifted me an otherworldly experience and I was washed in bliss.  We headed to breakfast and the rain just wasn’t letting up.  We decided to head back to the showers, rent a redbox and CHILL…..

Staying in a free camping spot has lots of benefits as I’ve discussed, but one of the downfalls is there are usually no shower facilities.  I am totally fine going pretty long periods without a shower, especially when I’m in the water daily……. But even I was feeling pretty greasy at this point!! We got back to the boat house and Sienna and I snuck into the shower rooms. We turned the shower on and just the sound brought a smile to my face. I couldn’t wait to step in…… With the first step I shook and goose bumps filed my body, HOLY CRAP the water was ice cold!!! Sienna and I checked all the other showers and found one that was warmer, but it had a press handle that would spit water for about 10 seconds before it shut off and you’d have to press it again for another 10 seconds and that was the cycle.  I decided to deal with a constant cold flow and relish every second of clean water washing the soap off my body. Sienna decided to fight with the warmer water for a bit before she got frustrated and joined me in the cold.  I must have washed and rinsed my body at least 4 times. I actually even enjoyed shaving because it gave me an excuse to stay in the shower longer……. Ahhhhhhhh that was the best freezing cold 20 minutes of my life!!! It’s the little things that make such a big difference living on the road!  It was still raining so we headed to the camper to watch our RedBox movie.  We arrived to find out that the computer only had 19% charge. The other down side of a free camping spot is there is no electric, not even in the bathrooms to hijack for a charge….. so we headed back up the mountain to use the outside plug at the Exxon station.  We sat in the car chatting and getting snacks and junk and playing on our devices until the computer was about 90% charged (about an hour) and then headed BACK DOWN the mountain for movie time!  You very quickly learn to have patience and roll with things living like this or else you end up annoyed and frustrated at all times.  We continue to learn things don’t go how we WANT them to go, they go how they NEED to go for us to learn the lessons we need!! By the evening the clouds broke and we started to see some blue in the sky….. IMG_1346

We walked down to the river and talked and made cairns and made faces with rocks and had treasure hunts as we watched the clouds turn different shades of pink as the sun’s rays drifted behind the mountains and the nights darkness claimed it’s place in the sky!!!

We ate dinner, decided to watch another movie and slowly drifted off to sleep.  The next day we headed out for one last day on the river.  While getting ready for the day, Sienna and I met a really cute couple who was also living out of their van while traveling the country.  We traded stories and checked out each others living spaces and got new ideas for efficiency and traded must see places with each other.  I am loving this new tribe I am finding and absolutely LOVE sharing stories of how we ended up in this alternative way of life…… Finding out what brought someone else to the place of leaving their “normal life” to hit the road and live out of a vehicle in search of something different.  I always leave these conversations feeling so secure in my decision and rooted in my own truth and life experiences that brought me here!  We got to the river and and headed out for our last run.  DSC08022It was a cooler day so we definitely didn’t linger as long as normal and both Sienna and I huddled a bit to let our own body heat warm us up as we worked our way down the river.  The river level was higher than it had been which changed elements and made some rapids more dangerous and others were much more mild.  It is crazy to see how the different weather conditions effect the river and our experience on it.

It was mystical and magical and even though I was cold, I didn’t want the day to end.  As the sun dropped behind the ridge we boogied off and headed back to camp to have a bonfire by the river.

We all gathered twigs and sticks and logs looking forward to the warmth it would provide and the good times we would enjoy before Evan left in the morning.

We spent hours down by the fire,  continuously feeding it in the hope that if the fire was burning it would demand the night to stay and we could watch the moon beams dance between the clouds and the leaves on the trees forever. IMG_1355 Once again I wanted a pause button for my life to slow this night down to a stand still to enjoy it for longer.  We continued sharing stories and dreams and hopes and laughs until our eyes became so heavy even toothpick would’t keep them open.  We laid on a big rock with eyes closed and I took in every sound, every smell, every sense on my skin and let it burn itself into my memory!!! When I couldn’t listen or hear or feel any deeper we surrendered to the night and let it take us into the next day.

I think we all moved in slow motion that morning, again in a feeble attempt to slow things down, as we knew good-byes were getting near.  We lounged around and had a lazy breakfast.  I packed the car with the laundry I needed to do and all my work stuff to spend the afternoon working at the laundromat while Evan drove home to start his own new journey.  We said long goodbyes and headed up the mountain.  We came up to the normal stop sign we usually coasted through on the way to the highway and Evan stopped his van.  The next thing I knew he was walking back to our car talking about what a beautiful, sunny day it was. I agreed and silently wished we had more time, but knew he needed to get going to prep and I had work to do anyway. The next sentence was music to my ears. “Hey you guys want to go spend a few hours at the Summerville Lake and climb some more?  It’s just to pretty of a day to be spent inside!” Ummmmmmmmmmm once again, before he could get the whole sentence out, I was violently nodding my head and saying, “YES, YES, YES!!!” So we grabbed food for lunch and headed to the lake.  IMG_1352We spent the afternoon climbing and floating around on my SUP.  Letting the sunbeams cover our bodies with gentle kisses as we splashed and laughed and soaked in every last second of JOY and BLISS!!!

DSC08072I felt to content, like absolutely everything the world was in perfect order! The sun started dropping in the sky and we knew we could no longer drag out the inevitable.

We said our goodbyes and drove in opposite directions…… IMG_1354The tears dropped again, but something was different.  I kept getting hit with a knowing.  A knowing that this incredible gift was exactly what we ALL needed in our lives….. A knowing that the Universe is wise and kind and ALWAYS sees the bigger picture even when I can’t.  A knowing that this time confirmed dreams and solidified what I want in life.  A knowing that Sienna and I have so many more adventures and healing and experiences to share.  A knowing that I can listen to the quiet whispers of my heart and show up for life in a transparent and authentic way and REALLY amazing things will unfold!!! A knowing that there is more to come…… We headed to the laundromat, got everything prepped for our next stop and headed out of West Virginia different people.  The growth and healing that occurred in this magical place with live on in us forever!! We will let it continue to settle into our souls and enjoy every special gift we both received!!! Our hearts are fuller, our eyes are clearer, our dreams are bigger and we are both better people that who we were when we pulled into this incredible state!!! THANK YOU WEST VIRGINIA!!! Stay Wild and Wonderful, until we meet again……………..

Love & Light                                                                                                                                                    Me

I do believe in fairies, part two, part two……

The following morning we headed to Vandal’s Kitchen (yes again, we LOVE this place and would be happy to eat here every day!!!) It’s so fun to meet the owners and chat with locals and the VERY COOLEST people by far, hang out here!!! By your third time going they will know your name and any food preferences you have.  I was getting ready to order the special and Elizabeth the owner told me it head bread products and I should order something else since she remembered I was GF…. I mean SERIOUSLY!!!!! Where else does that happen??? I opted for the Kale Bowl, which consisted of braised kale, topped with two eggs, sliced bacon, sliced avocado, blackberries, and sliced apples….. It was AMAZING!!! IMG_1336So if/when you make it to Fayetteville WV, or anywhere in the New River Gorge area, you MAKE SURE you go to Vandal’s Kitchen and get the special or anything else because it all sooooooo good!!! Make sure you take your time, talk to people and enjoy every second!!

We met up with Evan again for another day on the river.  This day held it’s own magical surprises!!! The River is quite like my yoga practice….. Everyday is a little different yet it always gives you EXACTLY what you need!!! This day Sienna decided she wanted to be a Junior River Guide and Evan indulged her wishes.  He put her at the back of the boat and let her take us down a few different rapids.  I’m thoroughly convinced that he steered the entire time from the side of the boat, but the look on her face was absolutely incredible!! She took her task very seriously! Frame-28-08-2016-12-46-27She was  completely engaged and focused…. She pointed out rocks she remembered and told us what direction to swim if we fell out and barked out stroke commends like a seasoned professional.  She would firmly ask for “forward 2”, “backward 1” etc as we made our way down the river.  We stopped at our favorite Whale rock and camped out for a marathon lunch of chatting and letting Sienna jump off the rock time and time again….. I felt like I had been served a slice of heaven on a rock in the middle of a class 4 rapid, in the belly of a Gorge, that was quickly stealing my heart!!! We continued down the river surfing Greyhound quite a bit, floating through more rapids, standing on Jesus Rock

DCIM102GOPRO

and arriving at the put out as the sun set behind the mountains.

The next day Evan had to head back to VA to go work an EMT shift.  Before he left he wanted to show us Summersville Lake, which was just another magical spot!!! Seriously, the Universe was in an EPIC mood when it was forming West Virginina and sure put a lot of amazing palaces in a little spot!  Summersville Lake, definitely didn’t disappoint….. It is a lake surrounded by high reaching limestone rocks that shoot straight out of deep water, which allow for free climbing with a forgiving landing.  IMG_1339I’ve always wanted to do rock climbing and Sienna and I looked into it in the area and again was outside of our budget line, so we figured one day we’d go to a rock climbing gym and check it off the list….. NEVER did we imagine we would be here climbing out of the water staring towards the sky as high as we wanted to push it.  We gave it a go and I felt in a natural element.  I LOVED every second and would like to find a way to continue to learn climbing techniques and get better at the sport!! I climbed up to a ledge about 40-50 feet out of the water and jumped off…… It was so much easier to jump when I could see where I was landing versus the blind landing at Laurel Falls!!!

Immediately Sienna wanted to try….. I gave her the go ahead and she flailed around in the water kicking and whining for help and a boost etc, so she could get to the top and jump.  I told her with a confidence that if she wasn’t strong enough to get up then I didn’t think it was safe for her to jump.  She got so mad at me and started crying and whining with intensity and determination. I wouldn’t budge and told her if she put as much effort into climbing as she did into the fit she was throwing, she’d probably already be at the top! We all took a break and swam over to a little cove with a waterfall to catch our breath and regroup.  We climbed up to a lower ledge and found a rope that helped us scale up the rock to the top of the water fall and we all took turns jumping off the 30 foot waterfall.  IMG_1337Sienna was in heaven!!! With this accomplishment under her belt she asked to try the other rock wall again.  Evan and I watched from below and tried guiding her hands and feet, but this just became frustrating for everyone, so we chose to let Sienna problem solve and see what she did with it.  With each little ledge she summited the beaming smile would light up the entire lake.  IMG_3356I sat in the water TOTALLY amazed at this little girl who was quitting with devastation just an hour earlier and now with focused determination was scaling a 40 ft rock wall!! At each ledge I reminded her that she could jump from there.  There were so many times I wanted to demand she jump from there and limit her ascent, but I couldn’t put an end to the sense of accomplishment she was gaining.  I was so scared and kept asking Evan if this was ok, and If he thought I should bring her down……. With a calm confidence, he assured me she was doing great and would be fine.  There was a time when Sienna got stuck in a spot and couldn’t find a way to the last ledge to complete the climb I did earlier.  She was scared and frustrated and everything we told her to do she said she couldn’t and she started to cry.  I gave her the guidance and space to release those emotions and collect herself.  I asked her if she just wanted to jump from there and without even answering she took a deep breath and continued her ascent….. IMG_3359before I could even finish my sentence she was climbing over the top and stood up there in all her glory with the biggest, brightest smile….. raising her hands to the air in her accomplishment and just kept nodding her head YES!!!! IMG_3364Again there I sat in complete astonishment!! Evan and I decided to climb up to celebrate with her and we all took turns jumping of….

We climbed again and Evan and I sat on the top ledge and I felt like I got hit by a truck….. Bam, here I was sitting up on a rock ledge and the world began to spin and I couldn’t help but gasp!! My breath was completely taken away from me in this perfect moment and I couldn’t help but want to examine all the decisions in my life that led to this perfect moment. How, if ANY of the decisions were made differently, this moment wouldn’t have existed.  West Virginia was NEVER on my route until I went to Bali for a YTT and a stranger from another part of the country actually did the homework assignment and brought magazines for our Vision Board and she happened to bring one that featured the New River Gorge and I was awe struck by it’s beauty. I filed it in my mind as a place I may want to check out.  When we met Kevin at my going away party in Delray and he invited us to come through Johnson City, TN…. WV was pretty close and seemed easy enough to check out.  I started getting nervous about time and weather and we decided to head North quickly until my other friend AJ, reminded me to slow down and enjoy and we saw on TV that the North was experiencing a massive heat wave so we decided, what better time to explore West Virginia than now? That Saturday morning we were headed to Cathedral Cafe and passed the Farmer’s Market and Sienna asked me to stop and since I was embracing my “go with it” attitude I decided to be spontaneous.  We chatted with people who recommended Vandal’s Kitchen and we decided to explore a different spot. I answered a call at breakfast and completely ignored my child who made a friend with a stranger who ended up inviting us on the river and, well….. you know the rest. But HONESTLY…. have you ever just sat in a completely MAGICAL moment and examined the life events that brought you to that moment? It’s a pretty profound experience….. I wanted to freeze time and just stay there forever! Unfortunately reality and a ticking clock jolted us out of that magical space and we knew the end time was nearing…… We jumped one last time and headed to our cars.  We said thank you and good-bye about 100x and drove in opposite directions.

As Sienna and I headed back to our campsite my eyes began to water and they just wouldn’t stop until a full fledged flood zone warning was issued.  I was overcome by the emotional response I was having and couldn’t entirely wrap my brain around the depth of the feelings. Sienna knew I was sad and simply stated, “it’s ok mama, I know how hard it is to say good bye to people who sneak into your heart……” and the tears fell stronger for the simplicity of her beautiful words!!!

One more plot twist is on the way so hang in there……

Love & Light                                                                                                                                                    Me

I Do Believe in fairies…… I do, I do!!!

The next 10 days would unfold as if they were plucked straight from a fairy tale.  The next day I woke up early and went to yoga outside on a deck that over looked the Gorge, it was absolutely stunning and just what I needed!! IMG_1171I’ve struggled to keep up with a daily practice but relish in it when I get it together.  Then we returned to the river for another day rafting the Lower New with Evan and a few of his friends.  Each one was so incredibly awesome in their own right and it was so cool to immediately feel “part of the gang”.  We ended up taking a bigger boat down this time and had another BLAST!!! This time I fell out of the boat twice while “surfing” a rock called Greyhound!!  All was good until Sienna realized her purple Crocs were floating down the rapid and the first melt down ensued!!! The guys were able to trace them down the river and spotted them spinning in a little pool….. Thank God Sienna bounces back quickly.  This little girl continues to amaze me with her ability to relate to adults and hold meaningful conversations.  She still struggles when she is not the star of the show and patience is something that just seems like a prison sentence to her, but we keep chipping away at the rock and I know there’s such a beautiful masterpiece unfolding……

We had lunch again at Whale rock and Sienna flung herself off the rock into the rapids again and again…… Frame-27-08-2016-02-22-45We both jumped off Jump rock and she continued to identify the names of certain rocks and the sequence of the rapids.  It was so so amazing to see her so focused and engaged!!! We all met for dinner at Pies and Pints and if you’re ever in the area, I HIGHLY recommend it!! They even have all their pizzas in a GF version and a plentiful list of ingredients to create your own masterpiece!!!

The next day Sienna and I had a pretty lazy morning around the campsite. It was glorious and I was hit with the fact, that I am finally settling into my skin a bit more. No longer searching for structure or grasping for something to control….. just breathing and enjoying the exhale as everything begins to soften and just melt into place!! We went to the Visitor’s station and Sienna earned her first Junior Ranger Badge of the trip!!! IMG_1172It was the first day of school for all her friends back home and we were hit with waves of sadness that we wouldn’t be at the bus stop anymore to spend mornings with friends conquering all the worlds problems while clenching our coffee cups and constantly looking down the street to see if “today would be the day the bus arrived on time”.  I will miss those mornings and the talks and the laughs and the incredible friendships that were formed on a street corner in Delray Beach, FL!!

We decided to take a hike recommendation and found our way to the Long Point Trailhead, (a MUST if you come this way!!) The hike was pretty mild and opened up to this ridge that had sweeping drops on either side so your tummy started turning a bit as you made your way to the point.  IMG_1324At the end of the trail, there is a clearing and a huge rock that gives you an INCREDIBLE view of the New River and The Bridge and the stunning backdrops in every direction are just awe inspiring.  I decided to do some yoga and Sienna and I hung out and took it all in, watching a storm roll out in the distance. IMG_1176 (1)Just as we were packing it up we got an awesome surprise visit from Evan….. He saw our car as he was going off the river and came to say hey…. (Gotta love that small town feel where people look out for each other and look forward to sharing moments and connecting with others!) We hung out for a bit more and hiked back.  We came across a dead coral snake (which someone chopped the head off of and left the body on a rock) I said a silent prayer and then checked it out because I’ve wanted to be able to identify the poisonousness snakes quickly!!! Sienna was fascinated and wanted to touch it and I encouraged her to explore her interest.  We headed out and had our first fire of our trip with fire wood that we collected instead of bought! IMG_1243Another magical day in the books…..

The following day we decided to check out the Upper New River on our North 2, Adventure Air SUP board….. I’d never taken a SUP down a river and I was nervously excited to see how it would go.  We check out the route and made sure it was safe and manageable and Evan offered to ride down in his raft with us to make sure all was good.  We had such a blast!!! It was so interesting to try to navigate the river and the baby rapids on the SUP…. I definitely had to drop to my knees a few times, but all in all it was SUPER fun and I’d love to do more on the river with a SUP!!! Frame-27-08-2016-03-18-24It was really helpful for me to have to pay attention and read the water instead of just listening for stroke commands from the experts….. I loved learning and really FEELING the way the water pushes and pulls….. I’ve always felt like I could NEVER live far from the ocean because there is something extremely therapeutic for me to submerse myself in the vastness of the great ocean, to feel so small in such a powerful body of water, to see that one second it can be calm and docile and the next it can be churning and tossing around…. I probably relate to the polarities and feel understood by mama ocean!!! But being out on the river and feeling it’s power and feeling so small definitely made me rethink my need to be near the ocean.  I refined my need and decided I just need to be near a flowing body of water that reveals it’s power and versatility to those around it…….. hahahahaha OK, so I’m still reaching for structure and labels a bit…. I’ll keep working on it!! After we got off the river Evan’s friend Zeb had invited us to go caving in Virginia, (I told you they were cool people)!! We got off the river a bit late and Sienna and I jumped into the car and headed to a shared pin drop in the middle of nowhere Virginia.  We kew there was limited cell service and couldn’t reach Zeb, but took a chance and set out on an adventure.

It took us over 3 hours of winding roads and gravel drives to find the pin drop.  When we arrived we quickly knew we were NOT in the right place!! I turned right down a little access road and the grass engulfed my car. I parked and ran to the top of the road (which turned out to be a power line access road) to see if I could see anything.  We drove around the areas about 10 miles in all directions looking for Zeb’s truck and found a few Park Service employees who each gave us different opinions of where we may find what we are looking for, but without the name of the cave it was like searching for a needle in a haystack.  We were now about 4 hours late and decided to head back up the mountain to search for phone service in the crazy ass chance Zeb may still be in the area!! I was frustrated and disappointed, but more than anything I was COMPLETELY embarrassed that I left this COMPLETELY generous man waiting HOURS when he was just trying to share something super cool with us!! I could’t believe it, especially since timeliness is one of my really big sticking points!!! I HATE being late!!! I decided not to beat myself up and let the sadness wash over me and leave my being on an exhale…… I took another deep breath to clear the funky energy and we turned the corner to head up the mountain and BAM….. there was Zeb and his friend Mark sitting at a random 4way stop hoping to find us….. I mean I almost hit his truck!!!! I could barely contain my excitement and immediately we set off to the cave entrance.  Zeb and Mark were so gracious and kind and acted like it was no big deal and actually apologized to me for the poor directions!!! I was BLOWN AWAY again at the kindness of these amazing men!!! If this would have happened in South Florida, this story would be going in a completely different direction!!!

We worked our way down into Butler’s Cave and traversed the Blue Ribbon Loop. (This is a privately owned cave system in Virginia, but if you ever get the incredible chance to go…. definitely 100000000% go!!!!) We changed into warm clothes and put on hard hats and head lamps and set out on our next adventure!  We dropped down into the cave and immediately I knew, we were in for an epic treat!!! We had to hike and climb and duck walk and get on our hands and knees and even belly crawl IMG_1328through this cave system that was so gorgeous words could never do it justice.  There was this cold darkness that you were aware could swallow you whole at any second, yet the lights bouncing off the cave walls created a warms glow that invited you in deeper….. as we dropped lower under the surface of the earth and explored underground streams and a TINY waterfall that Sienna predicted would be “5 feet high x 10 feet across” from the sound of the flow….. When we arrived at the trickle Sienna was shocked and announced it was “no feet anything” as we all laughed at the wonder of the world underground.  We saw stalagmites and stalactites, we came across cave flowers and crystal formations form 350 MILLION years ago.

We found pools of water and we felt like we were in a world where The Goonies collided with Jurassic Park!!! I was BLOWN away by the beauty the lies beneath our feet that very few ever get to experience!!! I counted my blessings many times on the trail that we ended up in this TOTALLY AMAZING place with the best tour guides ever!!! Zen and Mark knew everything there was to know about his cave and were pioneers in this cave system blasting into new corridors and exploring places that have NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE!!!! That is the coolest thing ever and we got to experience it!! We worked our way out of the maze and resurfaced just as darkness was setting in and a massive storm was rolling in.  Sienna and I took our time driving home exhausted from such an incredible day!! We fell into bed, our hearts exploding with gratitude and brains that couldn’t even comprehend how epic our adventure in WILD & WONDERFUL West Virginia has been so far…….

Thanks again for following us on our adventure and I’ll finish up writing about our last few adventures in WV in the next day or so.

Love & Light                                                                                                                                                    Me

Show up and let the adventure unfold

We started out our day by planning on going on a Jet Boat ride on the river. (It’s one of the few excursions in the area for people on a tight budget and since I knew I wasn’t going to be able to swing one of the big rafting trips I figured it would be a good way to experience the New River) We headed into town and stumbled across a sweet little farmers market where we chatted with locals (even ran into a guy from the cooler isle at Wal-Mart who recognize us and asked if we figured out our cooler situation, I was PROUD to announce we would be returning the cooler since I figured out the propane system!!!) and bought some fresh local produce. I was chatting with a woman who was giving me an awesome recipe for grilled acorn squash and she recommended a great breakfast spot up the road. We were planning on a quick bite at Cathedral Cafe before the Jet Boat but decided to take her suggestion and headed to Vandal’s Kitchen.

It took us awhile to find because it was tucked back and we actually walked past it about 3 times before we finally spotted the sign. I ordered the special breakfast sandwich of the day since they had a GF bread option which I was TOTALLY stoked about and Sienna was thrilled to order chocolate chip waffles!! It was the cutest little cafe with incredibly fresh food and the best vibe I’ve experienced in the area!!!!image As I was paying, my phone rang…… I was elated to see it was my soul sister Shannon from home. I picked up and immediately started crying at the counter….. Tears of joy for the time to catch up with my friend were mixed with tears of sadness, born in the ache of missing her so badly!!! We chatted through breakfast and Sienna became restless and went outside to play several times. I remember feeling guilty for talking the entire breakfast but also not wanting to stop the time I was having with my friend!!! I haven’t had much contact with friends since I’ve been gone and those friends were such an incredibly HUGE part of my daily life, I just couldn’t hang up. I eventually gave in to the pull and decided to hang up and go check on my girl.

I walked outside to find Sienna talking to this guy at another table. I remember doing a quick scan to check in with my gut and no red flags popped up so I sat down and joined them in their conversation. We chatted about camping and hiking and the river. This totally awesome guy told us his favorite hikes and was a wealth of local knowledge. I started taking notes of his top recommendations. I was inquiring about age requirements for rafting and asking about the section of the river I was planning to put our SUP in and somehow, before I even knew it, he was extending an invitation to go out on the river sometime in the next few days if we wanted to. UMMMMMMM HELLOOOOOO?!?!?! Want to, we’d LOVE to!!! I tried to play it cool and decided not to jump up out of my seat and do cartwheels across the lawn and instead just nodded forcefully with big eyes and smiles. We continued talking about traveling and we explained what we were doing and he gave us some recommendations for places in New Mexico and Arizona, even Alaska! As we were wrapping up I asked about contact info to connect for rafting and we finally exchanged names lol….. Somehow the conversation turned to what Evan was doing and he said he was just hanging out, hoping to find someone who was up for getting out on the river today since he was solo and needed someone else for the shuttle….. Again, UMMMMMM HELLOOOOOOO here we are….. Your shuttle girls for sure!!! Hahahhah I quickly let him know our plans were EXTREMELY flexible and we were available!

The next thing I knew we were paying our bill and heading to the Exxon station for water and snacks for a day on the river. (It’s a good thing half of everything I own is in my car at all times and I had bathing suits, towels, dry bags, AB&J fixings for lunch and even some fruit and snacks from the day before lol) We headed to the put out and left his van there. Transferred half of my life into his van (3 bins of clothes, a bag of Sienna’s school stuff, my go to bin filled with maps and travel books, another bag of various junk and all my plates/weights) into his van to make room for the boat and oars and pumps and vests and helmets and OH and Evan in our car. We all piled in to the Subie and headed to the put in. After chatting more on the way I found out Evan has been a river guide down the New River and Gauley for the past 8 years and I had a quiet moment of gratitude while I wondered why I didn’t ask this PRIOR to setting out on this adventure. I quietly chuckled to myself and exhaled with a smile! I did feel an extra confidence since I already knew he was an EMT, so that’s always a bonus when you’re about to go do dangerous stuff with your 8 year old child!!!

We got all geared up and set out on the river. image

Evan took us through a standard orientation and engaged Sienna like very few can. He had her listening and working from the start. We got into our first rapid and Sienna was thrown from the raft, popped up in the white water right next to the boat and we pulled her back in…… It was one epic experience after another from that moment on! We went through 23 Rapids ranging from class 2 to class 4. At one point we heard some thunder in the distance and within minutes the rain was chasing us down the river. We stopped at a massive rock called The Whale and had lunch and let the rain pass us, which it did in about 5 min max….. It was epic to watch the storm roll over us and down the gorge!!! After the storm and lunch Evan locked Sienna in to a throw bag and let her jump off the rock into the rapids and pulled her back onto the Whale. The second time she jumped it took a moment for her to surface and I remember having a fleeting thought of “oh shit, she’s been under for a bit, do I need to panic?” And just as I was about to set into panic mode up she popped with wide eyes, a bit of panic herself, and then a HUGE smile!!! I was blown away by this little 8 year old girl who stood on the edge of a rock and flung herself into a class 4 rapid like it was no big deal…… Don’t get me wrong, she asked questions and knew what to do, felt safe and went for it and by this time I’d had enough experience with Evan to know if he was giving us the thumbs up it was reasonably safe enough to go for it.

We continued down the river through more rapids where we swam through one and I got sucked into a whirlpool for a moment, for a split second panic set in…… I remembered to stay calm and loose and swam up and out. But for that split second it was like NOTHING I’ve ever experienced before! I’ve been in rip currents and crazy crashing waves and all sorts of ocean conditions, but nothing compares to being sucked down by a current on a river. I’m not sure I have the words to describe it but I could hear Evan’s instructional words of staying calm and letting the water spit you out ring through my head as I also swam up like I was ascending from a dive trying to break the surface and give my lungs some oxygen! (I know I can hold my breath a decent amount of time from breath retention and lung expansion practices….. Yet that all goes quickly out the door when I felt myself being pushed under by that current) I popped up to the surface and saw Sienna looking for me and smiled to let her know all was ok. We floated down the river for a bit together and tears of immense gratitude for this AMAZING day rolled down my face. imageWe came across Jump Rock and Evan offered us the opportunity to “JUMP”. Sienna quickly responded yes and I had fleeting thoughts of Laurel Falls and I agreed. Evan dropped us off with climbing instructions and we climbed up a BUNCH of rocks to the jump off point.

Sienna wanted me to go first and Evan said we either go together or she goes first. Sienna walked to the edge, (I have no idea how high it was but I’d guess 20 feet) and said, “FINE!” She looked over the edge, and leapt!!! Holy shit…. Did that just happen?!?!?! I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY!!!! So now it was my turn, and I was nervous….. But my 8 year old just threw herself off the edge like it was NOTHING!!!! So I took a big breath and jumped!!! “Holy crap…” is all I could think the whole way down!!! I was seriously blown away the rest of the day watching my sweet girl completely engaged and in her element the entire day on the river!

We stayed the course and Sienna was so excited when she finally got to “work/paddle” a class 4 rapid. (Yes she did wear a helmet through the rapids….. Safety first right?)image

We beached the raft and hiked to a beautiful secret waterfall…. imageWe got to play in it and feel the freezing water beat down on us. I would have done just about anything to hit pause and stay in this magical day forever!!! imageBut reality set in, as it always does and we continued along our journey….. We paddled AND swam through a few more Rapids until we came to the put out……

As we paddled to shore Sienna and I spoke about what an epic day we had and how this has been by far the most adventurous day of our trip together! imageWe spoke about the magic of being present and staying open to possibilities! We spoke about the beauty of saying yes and enjoying all that the Universe provides for us!!! Sienna and I decided it would be a kind gesture to take Evan to dinner and give him a good meal as a token of gratitude! We went to Country Thai and finished an epic day with an epic surprise of amazing Pho!!!! You know what the very BEST part of day was???? Being invited back tomorrow!!!! Hell yeah….. See you on the river!!!

Love & Light
Me