The Fiery Gizzard Trail-1, Technology-0

The good, the bad and the ugly

This week I bought a new phone and buried a soggy Canon 60-D at the camera morgue.

Good news: I finally joined the iPhone world.

Bad news: I owe a lot of money.

Good news: you all can laugh at my misfortune (it’s okay, chuckle as you read. I have thick skin)

Bad news: I owe a lot of money…

Now let’s rewind a few days to find out how I got myself in this hilariously unfortunate predicament.

Fiery Gizzard Trail and South Cumberland State Park

My Friday edition of Adventures with Bekah consisted of a day-long hike at South Cumberland State Park. I was very excited to finally hit the trails.


The Fiery Gizzard Trail is a 12.5 mile hike filled with diverse rock formations, bouldering opportunities, beautiful running water, swimming holes, and waterfalls. Most of it is a moderate difficulty but the Fiery Gizzard stretch is a bit precarious. At the parking lot you sign in so the rangers will know you’re in there. If you don’t sign back out, I imagine they start a search party.

Fiery Gizzard TrailIf you look at this map, I parked up in the top left. I had planned on only doing a short 4-5 mile loop through Grundy Forest, but I got so excited that I found myself halfway finished with the trail before I realized I missed the loop!

Check out the highlights of the trail (If you click on a photo it will start a larger slideshow).

Me vs. Little Gizzard Creek

Here’s where the hike takes a turn for the worst. A little over halfway through the trail I tripped over an out-of-ground tree root.

No, I did not just face plant forward like a normal person…I face planted then rolled down a hill into the creek. KCRG, did you get that? Golden Klutz Award goes to me.

What most of the trail looked like

Most of the trail was inclined slightly above the creek. The hill I fell down was a little bit bigger than the one pictured here.

The worst part? My camera bag strapped across my body was slightly unzipped.

Imagine this in slow motion: Foot catches root, body flies forward, out launches my phone, camera and sunglasses, body lands not so gracefully onto my phone, jamming it into my ribcage right as I witness my pretty Canon 60D splash into the water. I scramble to my feet and hurl myself in the direction of the camera. One-one-thousand, two-one-thousand…by now the camera is fully submerged…three-one-thousand…I snatch the strap and rescue it from drowning.

…only three seconds too late.

Unfortunately neither piece of technology survived the ordeal. I did. That’s the important part, right? Though I may have to sell my soul anyway just to pay for the damn camera.

So what did I do with the dripping camera next? Only what any technology-experienced millenial would do – I put the lens and camera into a bag of rice.

Now we have a soggy, very expensive maraka. The noisy, rice-filled lens mocked my with it’s shakety-shake-shake the rest of the way home.

A happy little metaphor

After falling down a mountain – as you can imagine – I was a bit disoriented. I started hiking at lightning pace, my heart beating wildly and blood rushing to my face. Instead of looking up at the trail, I stared angrily at my dripping camera, trying to hold it at what I imagined was the best position to get the water to drain out and away from the gears and gadgets inside.

Right…like that’s going to help.

In my adrenaline-motivated wild race to the finish line I found myself lost on the trail. I couldn’t use my phone compass and my map was somewhere in the bottom of the creek.

Luckily earlier in the expedition I had met a few fellow hikers.


Father John Dowling led me back to safety

The guy above’s name is John Dowling, and he is a priest in the Nashville area. We exchanged numbers (before my phone broke) so that when I came back to Tennessee he could tell me about the best trails in the Smokey’s and so I could send him these photos I took. They caught up with me as I sat by the water kicking myself.

Father Dowling led me back to the right path.

How metaphoric is that? A priest leads me back to the narrow road. Halleluiah, good God!

Later that night

After my fall, I headed back to Chattanooga, cleaned up at my hostel and decided I needed a drink at the bar. I met some really great guys again. Here’s how that conversation went…

“Hey, can I get your number?”

“No…sorry I dropped my phone down a mountain.”

“Seriously? Wow you could have just said no.”

“No, really…I dropped my phone down a mountain.”

All I can say is I am grateful for good people, beautiful nature…and payment plans.



Serenity in the Sequoias


We don’t joke around when we travel. Look at all those stops!

Yesterday I drove down to Visalia to meet my friend, Kenita. It’s so crazy when timing and geography come together. Kenita and I worked together at Iowa in the Pomerantz Career Center. She never thought she would be seeing me in the Valley…and I never even realized she lived out here. Crazy! It was so fun to catch up and see where our lives have taken us since the PCC.


Kenita and I
Sequoia National Park

Map key: 

A – Left home at 9

B – Left Kenita’s place in Visalia at 11:30

C – General Grant, third largest tree in the world. It was named in 1867 after Ulysses S. Grant and it is about 1,650 years old.

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D – Little Baldy…that we didn’t make it to because we took the wrong trail…The sign was deceiving.

E – Lodgepole for lunch

F – Tokopah Falls, an easy 3.4 mile roundtrip hike to a serene clearing under beautiful falls. We slipped off our dusty socks and shoes and waded through the little pool at the top, laid for 20 minutes on the rocks, and finally – reluctantly – hiked back. In total it took us about three and a half hours.

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G – General Sherman, the largest tree in the world (by volume).  If you hollowed it out and filled it with water, it would provide a bath a day for 27 years. Holy guacamole. It’s somewhere between 2,300 and 2,700 years old (says wikipedia).


E – Moro Rock, 400 steps to the top – a breath taking view of the Great Western Divide and the San Joaquin Valley.

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F – Three Rivers…where we got a flat tire. It was a little too reminiscent of Green River, UT.

G – Visalia

H – Home…finally at 10:30 pm!

For this experience there’s just no point in writing a blog when pictures can speak for words. You can look at more pictures here.

Until next time (should be soon…daytripping Thursday) peace, love, and trees.DSCN0501crop

Day 7: Hiking and Running at Lake Tahoe

A beach is a beach

I woke up early this morning to fill out postcards on Nevada Beach. It was freezing cold, but so worth it. A beach is a beach. I don’t care how many cool things I’ve seen, nothing will ever be as therapeutic as a beach.


With the mountains in the back


early morning chilly!


A hike in the mountains

I wanted to hike some well known trails by myself…you know to have time to think and meditate and reflect since this is my eat pray love tour.

I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go.

So I called up Jeff and he took his dog, Zephyr and we went hiking up what I like to call, “Granite Mountain.” That’s not really what it’s called but that’s what it looked like. It was a beautiful view of Lake Tahoe. At the top we drank a couple beers before heading down. Perfect. Just perfect.


Pure beauty




Trees make great tripods, too.


This is precisely why I don’t let other people frame up my photos…was this lady drunk?


I made it!


Lake Tahoe ❤




A run on the beach ❤

I decided to go for a run on the beach once I got home. It was about 3 miles to get to the pier. Then I walked about another mile and sat  on the beach and just smiled. It really is too bad that Lake Tahoe isn’t warm more months out of the year.

I ran most of the way back…not a runner.

A Diet Coke at the bar

Yes, I did order a Diet Coke at the casino. I just wanted to get dressed up and go out. And I figured I wouldn’t really have seen all of Nevada until I went in at least one casino. #Fail. At least I tried.

What I learned in Stateline, Nevada

1.) Medical Marijuana cards are not hard to get

2.) I need to learn winter sports so I can enjoy Lake Tahoe area year round.

3.) Lake Tahoe, contrary to what I thought, is NOT warm in May. And I brought swimsuits instead of sweatshirts. How embarrassing.

4.) Hiking is beautiful there, too.

5.) Tahoe area is probably the only great part of Nevada.

6.) There are a lot of great places to meet people…the casino is not one.

7.) Don’t buy soda at a casino bar. It costs more than the liquor.

8.) Boutiques in tourist towns have awesome clothing…that’s unaffordable.

9.) TripAdvisor is a Godsend. It helped me find the most amazing cabins in the whole town.

10.) I love Tahoe and I will move to Carson City so I am close to my job in Reno and the beach at Lake Tahoe. You betcha.

Day 5: Turning inconvenience into adventure


Miles traveled: 272

I am so glad now that I got stuck in Green River, Utah. It saved me an expensive hotel in Salt Lake City and gave me an opportunity to explore the adventuresome parts of Utah.

Once again I met some really friendly and helpful people. The manager at the nasty Motel 6 – bless his soul he really tries – helped me map out the rest of my road trip since I fell behind a day. The tow truck guy that saved me last night called everyone in town until he found me a tire. A couple at breakfast chatted with me over coffee and told me about their plans to hike in Green River. I then went to the museum to ask about trails and a nice woman from town talked Utah up and down until we finally decided on Goblin Valley Park. The cashiers at the truck stop joked with me about the geyser – “It’s like a woman…unpredictable…It goes off when it wants to.”  And a foreign couple also in need of a new tire at the truck stop laughed with me, making the best of our misfortune.

Utilize the visitor center

I love visitor’s centers. Usually the people that work there enjoy telling people about the city or state. I thought Utah was a big rotten pile of sand and rocks. I was wrong. The nice woman sent me to Goblin Valley State Park. I totally recommend it!

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Things I learned while driving through Utah:

1.)    Learn to use random rocks and objects to take photos. Proud to say I took all those photos up there.

1.5.) Eventually, lack of sleep WILL catch up with you.

2.)    Almost everywhere I’ve driven through so far you can find at least one country station and one Christian station, which is good for me since I enjoy both.

3.)    Some of Utah is actually pretty!

4.)    You can’t learn by talking….I always have to remind myself when I meet new people to shut up. I get so excited to tell them about my plans, but my favorite conversations are the ones where I just listen. Everyone has a story to tell.

5.)    Sometimes inconveniences aren’t really inconvenient. If I wouldn’t have gotten a flat, I would have driven late in the dark to Salt Lake City and paid for a really expensive hotel. I would have missed out on Goblin Park and breakfast in Green River.

6.)    Don’t let picture taking get in the way of the experience. I LOVE pictures. I have to remind myself that stopping ever minute to take a photo takes away from the overall beauty.

7.)    Fill up on gas. Towns can be hard to come by.

8.)    No one lives in Utah…

Day 3: Leaps of Faith

idaho springs

Miles traveled: 0

River rafting

I decided to try white water rafting…as expensive as it is. It was a lot of fun and I learned a few things, but not too exciting overall. I don’t recommend beginner white water rafting….it’s basically a lot of money to float down the river. Ask for intermediate. But in the end it was worth my money and I will tell you why….

Take a leap of faith

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Part of the combo package was zip lining in the Rockies. Now that was fun.  As confident as I was, the first run was a little scary. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith. By the final zip line I was flying upside down (the “spider man”) and doing flips off the platform. Trust in yourself and trust in what you do. All you need is a little confidence. This is only the beginning of my deep metaphoric breakdown of Idaho Springs. Get ready…

New friends

Our guides were phenomenal. One of them was especially friendly and I certainly returned the smiles. I’m glad I did. The guide, Christoph, wanted to explore a new hiking path and I wanted a hiking buddy, so we decided to go out and explore some trails…couldn’t tell you where…somewhere in the Rockies.

And that’s not all. Christoph invited me to the raft guide’s campout for the evening.




And here’s where I get cheesy. Stay with me here people. Promise it’s worth the read.

Camping out in the Rockies

Tucked between mountain peaks and off the beaten path, the campground was miles from light pollution of Denver and even Idaho Springs. Surrounded by mountains and evergreens, the only way to see the sky was to look straight up. We watched the moon come up over the silhouettes of evergreens, a jagged border between earth and sky. You could see the big dipper shining clear and bright even though the clouds blocked out the other stars. Campers had tents pitched all over the little clearing, little scraps of civilization among the mountain landscape. A river flowed through the camp, providing a midnight song of rushing water and significantly lowering the temperature enough to curl up in a blanket beside the glowing campfire. Campers and rafters sat around the pit and laughed between drinks of Jack Daniels and drags of weed and cigarettes (slightly less charming).

Christoph made supper on his little propane stove – homemade spaghetti. I swear to God in another life this guy was a chef. I drank boxed wine out of a measuring cup and he ate spaghetti right out of the pan (such a gentlemen letting me use his only bowl). Eventually we headed out to the campfire to enjoy the night with other campers. We laughed and drunkenly (not me – I stayed sober for safety’s sake) talked about life and travels and I got the dirty inside scoop on what it’s like to be a river rafting guide. These guys have literally seen the world.

The night was absolutely perfect. The smell of the bonfire, the sound of the river, and the feeling of joy from people I’d never met made the night unforgettable and irreplaceable.  I didn’t get back to my hotel room until 2:30 and even that was too early. I will never forget my last night in Idaho Springs.

I’m telling you, this place was serene. It takes Iowa camping to a whole new level. These people live here every night in the summer. They cook on little portable propane fueled stoves and sleep on mats in their tents. If I hadn’t paid for my room already, I might have stayed and slept there too – although that’s a little more risk than I’m willing to take.

Things I learned in Idaho Springs (also worth the read):

1.)    If you buy lemonade from little kids, wait until they turn around to drink…you might have to spit it out. I learned the hard way today.

2.)    Rafting customers are called gumbies behind our backs because we look so hilarious in those stupid life jackets.

3.)    Small towns are most certainly better than big cities when it comes to traveling. People are friendlier, hotels are cheaper, and you can more easily immerse yourself in the culture. You learn a lot more and have a better time making friends and being part of the culture then going through a museum or visiting a monument.

4.)    Trust your gut instinct. I felt safe in Idaho Springs. I felt a good vibe from Christoph. I took a huge leap of faith heading to the trails with him and joining their campfire.  That’s not always the case. Earlier I went for a run and it felt sketchy so I got out of there. Learn to understand your instinct and be aware of your surroundings. And sometimes even instincts are wrong, so take the right precautions when meeting people you don’t know well.

5.)    People are generally good. Yes, you have to watch out for bad people and be safe and careful. But people are generally good. I can’t tell you how many friendly smiles I received in Idaho Springs, how many times people noticed I was from out of town and offered advice on where to go, and how often my bed and breakfast owner called me by my first name in passing. I ran into other travelers eager to tell their stories, and store cashiers excited to share their culture with me. Just ask a question and you’ll get a hundred answers.

6.)    Follow your passions. The raft guides live for rafting and kayaking. They live modestly to pay for it (thousands and thousands of dollars in equipment and traveling…just a paddle costs over $100). They don’t care if they are poor or live in a tent, in fact they seem to love it because they get to do what they love most and it pays for the more exciting trips all over the world.

7.)    In my sarcastic, mocking voice: “Be one with the land.”  But seriously, one thing about traveling by car is that you don’t actually experience the terrain like you would on foot or bike. Now I’m not saying bike across the country instead of drive, but it would be worth your time to get out of your car, plant your feet on the ground, take a big  breath and experience the world around you not just see it.

8.)    You don’t realize how important conservation is until you realize how much beauty there is to lose. This I learned from Christoph. I’m not kidding, this guy has a grocery bag to save plastic, made me return my trail brochure to save paper, and drives no faster than 60 to save gas. But he’s also traveled the world and seen amazing beautiful landscapes littered by highways and buildings. I’d probably do the same if I had that perspective.

9.)    The relationship between risk and reward. When you take risks, it pays off. I took a risk by befriending someone out of my element. I took a risk by choosing a little bed and breakfast instead of a franchise hotel. I took risks by getting in a boat and rafting, gearing up to zip across the mountains hundreds of feet above ground. And you know what? Idaho Springs was the best travel experience I’ve ever had because of those risks.

10.) And finally… Busch light is not just the taste of Iowa…it is the inexpensive taste of everywhere. Amen, people.

Day 2: Rocky Mountain High


Miles traveled: 393

Actually I didn’t get Rocky Mountain High…Although I thought about it (just kidding, Mom and Dad). As soon as I got to my hotel, I went for a walk/run to explore Idaho Springs. I didn’t go very far before running into a wall of skunky smelling air…and I ran right past a guy trying to light up in a bird bath. Yes, a bird bath with little stone birdies in it. Thought about asking him for a puff, or a drag or whatever you do with weed. Clearly I don’t smoke it.


A short visit to Denver, CO

But before all that, I arrived in Denver around 12:30 and immediately picked up tickets to Les Miserables, the musical, showing at the theatre in Denver. WOW. The incredible vocals, choreography and stage directing seriously blew me away. Maybe it just goes back to my performance days, but there is nothing like the feeling of a full house of people clapping and cheering.

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And I ate lunch right here


Mountain towns of the Rockies

Denver was great, but it was nothing like the little mountain towns tucked between the snowy peaks of the Rockies. Idaho Springs is where the gold mining craze started. It has some tourist shops and a visitor center, but mostly you get the atmosphere of a town full of residents who really love the place.  The downside – I can’t get a wi-fi connection to save my life.


Above is my cute bed and breakfast. Below is the street it was on and the deck outside my door.


Downtown was very cute. Went to a fantastic little coffee place that sold kamikaze coffee…like 5 shots of espresso.



Things I learned while driving through Colorado:

1.)    Colorado isn’t pretty until you get past Denver…the rest of it just looks like Nebraska. In fact I have no idea when I actually crossed the border.

2.)    I could probably live in Colorado, but only because the license plates remind me of home….that is, the taste of home – Busch Light.

3.)    Bumper to bumper traffic is a lot like Tetris…fit your car in the tightest space you can.

4.)    Nothing will ever ever prepare you for the beauty that is the Rocky Mountains.

5.)    Squealing and smiling in the car only makes it better.

6.)    Drive with your windows down. It’s worth having to comb out your hair with three handfuls of conditioner.

7.)    Wash your windshield (but not with your windows down) so you can see all the beautiful mountains without having to gaze through plastered bugs.

8.)    Don’t be afraid to try a little mom/pop bed and breakfast. AMAZING experience at the Columbine Inn.

9.)    The “scan” button on your radio is your best friend unless you’re high tech enough to have an mp3/ipod plugin…which I’m not. Plus, radio can be a great way to get to know the area you’re driving through.

10.) There’s nothing better than those glorious few seconds after your ears “pop” and you can hear the entire world as if you were Edward the vampire…or a dog or something.