It’s not often we get chances in life to do the things we really want to do in life. How many times have you sat in your office pondering a better life, an outlet of some source, something you have always dreamed of wanting to accomplish or do? If you could have one wish, what would that be? For me, like most of you I’m speculating, is at least a million dollars! Let’s be honest, it makes everything much easier and practical. Of course money doesn’t buy happiness, but when you live a simple life in pursuit of something you love, money doesn’t matter so to speak. But I live in the real World, and bills need to get paid. Although it’s romantic thinking of living under the sky for months on out, not knowing where the next meal is coming from would worry me. I digress.
I had the chance of a lifetime – a complete life change. I was living in Canada for 8 years and aside from the costliness of living there, it was much better than living in Illinois. At least in Ontario there’s topography changes, several types of ecosystems, and interesting places to visit. However after some time it was getting pretty dull – especially considering the Winter hibernation. Sitting inside for 6 months without being able to camp which pretty much means not being able to truly get out and experience nature, began gnawing away at my existence. I knew I needed a lifestyle change, badly.
So I decided to leave. I wanted to move back to the US, somewhere warm and somewhere close to mountains. I’ve already lived so many years in the Midwest where it’s too flat. I needed something to help me wander and explore every weekend. This type of lifestyle is the one I seek. I don’t need anything else – give me a camera, backpack with camping gear, and a mountain ridge, and I’m in heaven. And thus began the journey of a lifetime. I’ve always dreamed of road tripping out West. The above map is where we drove, 30,000 km later.
There are so many amazing stories to tell. The journey was incredible. As the weeks go by you’ll see me update with more images from the trip. But if I had to choose a few places that were my favorite, I’d say Alberta, Utah, and California (where I currently live). It’s rare realizing not just one dream but another simultaneously, and I can’t lucky stars every time I’m able to explore the ocean, mountains, forests, and deserts. Dreams really do come true.
The weekend before Christmas the roads were closed going into the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNL) due to ice and snow. On top of that the government shut down. I arrived in the parking lot late Friday night and camped inside my car to see what would happen with the gates. I planned several days of adventures throughout the park before getting together with family in Nashville. Well due to above problems my plans completely fell apart. I kept reading online that the road would never open again until the government reopened. So here I was, sitting at Dunkin Donuts exhausted from driving – I also said a few expletives as I careened my car away from the park and to Nashville. I figured the gates wouldn’t be opening soon and I thought I wouldn’t be going to the park this year. Which really sucked!
Fast forward to Christmas Day. I’m perusing webcams around the World (I love looking at various spots to see weather conditions etc) and I click the GSMNP webcam. And lo and behold, there are cars on the road! I jumped with glee. At first I couldn’t believe my sight. Then I saw people walking around – actual human beings at the top by Newfound Gap. Immediately I knew I was going the next day.
Boxing Day – hop in the Volt and take off. Get to the park around 9:30AM, pop 2 extra strength advil, and begin the hike. What a hike it was! Gorgeous weather graced us hikers that day – probably around 14°C in the sun and the sun was out all day. The hike was pretty long 24km and 1km vertical and was rated Hard on AllTrails however I thought it was super easy. Maybe I was much more prepared than normal.
It was a glorious hike that anyone living within 5 hours should attempt. The views along the entire trail are stunning. My favorite however was Clifftops. Got an amazing photograph there as the sun set. What ana amazing journey and so much fun. Then I walked down the mountain with cheer as I listened to The Carpenters Christmas album, whistling to the birds and animals “Silver Bells”.
I got myself an early Christmas gift today! A backcountry epic in the Smoky Mountains. According to the weather report, it’s going to snow the night before which means all those trees will look like Christmas trees…how appropriate. But its going to be cold, bitterly cold. But as they say no pain, no gain. I’ll be prepared…and the shelter helps up top. Apparently the Alum Cave trail to the top of Mt. LeConte is amazing and according to some the best trail in the Southeast. Super excited! Pics and review to come.
Had an amazing weekend at Killarney PP. The weather was phenomenal. Although air temps were around 3C, when the sun hit your skin it felt amazingly warm and refreshing. My buddy Roberto and I hiked up to The Crack viewpoint and waited for the sunset. It started getting a little chilly at the top, but there was zero wind and it was so peaceful up there. Luckily for us the sunset produced amazing colors on the clouds. A perfect weekend!
My business cards came in today and I was a little nervous with excitement. I needed new ones because I changed my website to wordpress (because its free yet still looks great). Obviously hoping they turned out well, I quickly looked at the image and was wowed at how nice they look! Then I turned it over to view the lettering and my heart sank. I thought I spent a good amount of time double checking my personal info (and theres only 4 lines lol) but of course there was a mistake. I replaced a period where the @ symbol is for my website. Oops. Thinking I’d have to pay extra for new cards had me sweating. I quickly called Vistaprint to let them know of my stupid error and made them feel bad of my plight and before I knew it they were correcting the mistake and ordering me new cards for free! Now that’s customer service guys! I’d highly recommend Vistaprint. The cards looks sick too.
Some awesome excerpts here from this great book I picked up at the library. It’s always so refreshing when you really enjoy reading something you know has inestimable value. Passages like these allow us to remember what’s really important in life.
Haven’t been up North in quite a while now. It was awesome getting back up there…just the quietness and rawness of nature and solitude. Even though the weather and conditions weren’t exciting, it was exhilarating watching eagles soar and lift off from their perch on the pine. The gentle sound of wind whistling through the needles. On the hike pictured above, we tried bushwacking to the burned out forest on Key River. During the Summer there were very big forest fires throughout the region. Vast swaths of timber were burned, and we figured we should check it out. It seemed like there was a road going down the river, but we discovered quite quickly that no road existed so we resorted to bushwacking. That didnt last long though, as we realized there were many up and downs in and out of valleys. We stopped for a while where the viewpoint above was and turned around. Regardless of the fact we didnt achieve our goal, it was still awesome being out there. Very much looking forward to getting out again!
New Zealand coast has the most! Some of the coolest and varied topography awaits the photographers eye as you trip around and explore. I was lucky enough to see a lot of interesting things throughout the South Island, but then again I drove something like 3,000 km in 1.5 weeks. But I’m addicted to the chase of finding something new or known, and to view it with my eye while lining up all the elements, and then walking away like “holy shit, got it”…there’s no other feeling in the World.