Never did I think I would be living in the gorgeous state of Colorado. When the opportunity became available, I jumped on it. Let me say, it's way different than Arkansas in so many ways. While I do miss the amazing landscapes in Arkansas, some friends, and family members, that's about all I miss. When I moved here to Colorado Springs I was trying really hard to find the cons about this place, and there just really isn't any. The people here are some of the nicest I've met, the weather is amazing for the most part, the landscape is just gorgeous. What more could you need? Living by a mountain again is absolutely wonderful. I lived for a few years in Las Cruces, New Mexico where the Organ Mountains constantly put a smile on my face. Now being here under Pikes Peak, the feelings are all coming back. Not to mention, there is usually snow on this peak! I've been able to travel to a few gorgeous places here which include the Rocky Mountains, The Great Sand Dunes National Park, North Cheyenne Cañon, Devils Head, Garden of the Gods, and some others. I find it so amazing to be so close to nature. I also can't wait to explore more of the amazing state. I can't wait to head out to western Colorado and be blown away by what I see. Take chances when they come your way. You never know what they may lead to. I can say I've already made so many new friends, clients, and have gained more knowledge and positive experiences. I have also gained so many more photos, which I will never complain about!
It was around midnight when we parked our car at Wrinkled Rock Trailhead. Exhausted from a 14-hour drive, we grabbed our gear and set out to find a spot to set up camp. We wandered around the parking lot trying to find where the trail started. Using our headlamps and the light from the moon we finally saw it. There was a sign informing us about the wildlife in the area and I studied a beautiful picture of a mountain lion perched on the edge of a rock. Such a beautiful animal, but not one I’d love to come in contact with especially in the dark. Andrew had his KA-BAR on his hip, mine in my hand ready to stab whatever came rushing out at me from the forest we were entering. Andrew didn’t have any worry in the world, which is typical. Me on the other hand, couldn’t stop looking up in the trees and all around me for any signs of a mountain lion. I didn’t stop voicing my concern to Andrew, who continued to tell me to stop worrying. We didn’t make it far on the trail before my biggest fear came true. I scanned over to a field on my left and there it was, a pair of glowing eyeballs looking right at me. I froze in my tracks. Andrew nearly ran into the back of me. I knew this wasn’t a raccoon, a fox, or any other small animal. The positon of the eyes made it clear it was a mountain lion. I didn’t know what to do. I desperately wished I had a rifle or handgun of sorts incase this animal decided they wanted me as a late night snack. Growing up in Texas with a stepfather who taught us how to hunt and protect ourselves with a rifle, made me feel pretty silly that I wasn’t carrying better protection on me. I instantly turned around and started walking back to my vehicle. Andrew was a little bummed out that I was too scared to continue down the trail, but there was no way I was sleeping outside knowing that a mountain lion would be stalking me all night. I kept turning around making sure there was no pair of glowing green eyes following us, which only made Andrew think I was paranoid. I know how these animals work, they stalk their prey until they get a chance to pounce. We reached my vehicle which seemed to take forever. Andrew was still trying to pick out some trees to hang his hammock, while I was throwing all my gear as fast as I could to wherever it would fit in my car. It would be different if we were sleeping in a tent, but hanging in a hammock fast asleep is just like being bait. I’d simply rather not. He finally listened to my concerns of him sleeping out in the open and joined me inside of our safe car. We reclined the seats, grabbed our pillows, and fell fast asleep. Always be aware of your surroundings. If I hadn’t been so worried, we would have never seen that mountain lion and it may have attacked us. Hiking at night isn’t the smartest thing to do either. Learn from our mistakes, and be safe!
"Rain or shine we still float." That is what the website for the Elk River floats advertised. The forecast called for rain, but we didn't necessarily want to sit inside on our last day off before our work week started. We took the chance of getting rained on and decided late that afternoon to head up to Pineville, Missouri to float the river. On the way there it was overcast, but it didn't look like it would rain anytime soon. We arrived at the campground where we could rent either a raft, canoe, or kayak. We decided to try out a kayak, thinking it would be the easiest out of the three choices. The guy from the rental store took us down to the river and gave us each our individual kayak and life jacket. He gave us some vague directions and sent us on our way. We managed to get into the kayaks and make it a little ways down the river. The guy said it'd take us about ten minutes to catch on how to maneuver them correctly, and he was right. I couldn't get anywhere at first. My boyfriend and I decided to do some races once we got the hang of it, and I can proudly say I won them all. It started sprinkling just a bit, but it wasn't anything we were worried about. We were all smiles and laughs as we made our way down the river. We came across a few patches where the water was low and we came to a complete stop in the middle of the river. I found this hilarious at first, both of us sitting there in the middle of a rushing river, not moving at all. I then realized it'd be more difficult getting back into deeper water than I thought. I had to step out of my kayak into the river getting my shoes filled with water, and push my kayak against the rock bottom. My kayak obviously being much lighter now wanted to go with the current, just without me in it. Holding my kayak against the current while trying to sit back in it was a little challenging. After we got back in the kayak, we made it further down the river, laughing and making jokes the whole time. Andrew was very good at running into all the tree stumps he could find, not missing a single one. After a couple hours of floating, the rain started to pour down. At first it wasn't bad...but then, it got a lot worse. The rain became quite slanted to where it was hitting me right in the eyes and I couldn't see where I was going. It wasn't just a light drizzle of rain either, it was heavy streams coming down from the sky. It must have rained like that for a good 45 minutes. During the downpour, we managed to get ourselves turned around and had to call the campground and ask for directions as well. All I was hoping for was a bridge to hide under for a few moments, but we never found one. The rain just made it more fun honestly. I wouldn't even call it a misfortune that it happened. It just added to the trip and made it fun, and definitely more memorable. We were nearing the end of the route when it stopped raining altogether. The last 30 minutes were very calm and enjoyable. We even went over a few rapids that totally swallowed our kayaks. If we weren't already drenched, we sure were after that. I definitely recommend going to float on a river wherever you may be. Find one close to you, and go. It's very relaxing, and a blast! There's not one thing I would change about that day. The rain made it exciting, the company I had was the best, and the river and scenery were beautiful. There is always something you could be doing that is better than wasting a day inside. Get out and live. That is my motto.
My passion in life is to travel everywhere in the world. Whether it be a forgotten, small town in a far-off country, or a typical tourist spot. To go to new places I've never seen before and to never stop exploring. Sometimes, you come across a place that is worth revisiting, and that's what happened this weekend. Hawksbill Crag is just one of those breathtaking views and such an easy trail to hike that it just makes it fun and exciting to go back. This weekend would be the third time I visited this landmark, but it was so completely different from the previous visits. The whole point in hiking this trail again was to meet up with a fellow traveler we met on Instagram. Excited to meet him, we packed a bag for the night and hit the road. A quick drive later, we arrived at the trailhead. We threw a few more items into our bags, made sure we had enough water, and started down the trail. Hiking in is about a mile and a half, so it's not too strenuous. This visit was so radically different because everything was actually alive, and green! The previous two visits were in the fall/winter so everything was pretty dead. The greenery only made the hike to the crag more exciting since there would be such a different view this trip. We finally reached the crag and found a huge group of campers for the night. We knew our friend said he'd be with a group, but his face wasn't found among them. Andrew and I knew of a cool camping spot, since we are what I would call "regulars" to this location. We passed the crag and not a few yards later turned left up a narrow trail to our spot. Instantly, I recognized a big german shepherd lying by the fire pit. I saw a man picking up firewood and knew right away that this was our friend. We finally met and talked for a little bit before we set up our camp for the night. It took us a while to get a fire started and our friend showed us a few tricks to get one going that will definitely help in the future. This night was definitely one for the books. We sat in our hammocks around the fire talking, laughing, and sharing stories until we all fell asleep. The next morning we woke and made some breakfast. We decided to head down to the crag and take some photos. After snapping a few shots and taking the typical selfie, we started to mingle with some of the other group members. Most of them were just like us, adventure seekers, photographers, creative minds. It was definitely awesome getting to meet people that related to us. One guy we met had a slack line with him tied between two trees. Andrew decided he just had to try it, and we stayed there for about 30 minutes watching him fall after about 3-4 steps. He was entertained to say the least, and was slowly catching on. The group was about packed up when they stated they were moving on to go visit Kyle's Landing. We decided to take a few more pictures, and leave as well. In no time we made it back to the car and said our goodbyes to our new friends. This just shows that even if you go to the same place, you will have a total different experience each time. There is a quote out there that says you'll never step in the same river twice, and I'm convinced you'll never go to the same place twice. Each time it will always be a little different than it was before. I'm so glad we decided to make it out to the crag that day. Definitely a memory to last a lifetime, and I can't wait to see where the trails will take me next.
This past weekend I desperately wanted to go on an adventure. I decided to take a quick shower, get my gear together and hit the road. I stopped at a local Harps and got a sandwich and some fruit for the road. I had an idea of going to Hot Springs, although 3 hours away, I decided why not. I was headed south when I decided to see if there were any cool spots that were closer. I got on Pinterest and searched "Arkansas Photography". After seeing a few photos, I spotted one of Cedar Falls. I clicked on the link that took me to a page saying, "You should definitely see this waterfall if you live in Arkansas". I quickly saw where it was located and pulled up a map to see if it was anywhere close. Luckily, it was a whole hour closer and I set my directions to take me there. Now this is something I have decided recently... I only want to go places I need a map to get to. If I don't need a map, that means I know the route well enough, and have been there before. My goal is to only go to places I have never seen. So a couple hours later, and after yelling in my car to Natasha Bedingfield's song "Pocketful of Sunshine", I had arrived at Petit Jean State Park. I was instantly in love with the curvy roads leading to the visitor center. There I got a map, sent a post card to my mother, and asked my questions about some trails. I headed back down the twisty road to Mather Lodge. It being the weekend, it was hard to find a parking spot. I found one up the hill, got my gear together, strapped my hammock on my camera bag, and set out to find the trailhead. It was easy to find, and most of the visitors were headed that way. Not a few steps down the trail I crossed paths with a girl who noticed me carrying my camera. She proceeded to ask if I was a photographer and if I had an Instagram. I absolutely adore people who aren't afraid to talk to people and make conversation. After answering her and getting the correct spelling of my name, she said she'd add me when she got service and I continued to head down the path. I was now walking with more of a pep in my step, knowing that just another person was going to see my work. After saying the casual passing by "hellos" and snapping a few pictures, I arrived at the waterfall. Hiking two miles seems like nothing now after hiking up Mount Magazine, which is a ten mile hike. I look around to see if there is anywhere to hang my hammock, and after thinking of some good possibilities, I head over to a rock that is a little ways out in the lake that Cedar Falls pours into. I started setting up my tripod which I figured out is completely broken (don't buy cheesy tripods). I tried to rig it to where my camera wouldn't move too much, since I wanted to do some long exposure photos of the water. It seemed to be working for the most part. Now all I had to do was wait on the people to get out of my shot. The cool thing about this spot is that you can physically walk under the waterfall and sit on a ledge and enjoy the scenery. The uncool part is that for photographers like me, that means I'll more than likely never get a shot without at least one person it in. After waiting forever, I finally got a few shots clear of people. I moved to the side of the waterfall and shot some there as well. I decided to join the bandwagon and go under the waterfall. After sitting there a moment, I decided it was time to go set up my hammock and relax a little before I head back home. The trees I previously picked for my hammock spot ended up not working. One of the trees was way too big for my little rope to go around (note to self: always have extra paracord with you). I moved over a few trees and set up my temporary camp. I enjoyed a Milky Way, and sat staring up at the trees above me, contemplating life. Sometimes you simply need hours by yourself, staring up at the sky or at a beautiful waterfall, just thinking about life. Some people passed by saying that bringing a hammock was at the best idea ever, or asked if I was camping out. Six o'clock rolled around and I decided to make the mile trek back up the hillside. Overall, I definitely recommend this trail. It is beautiful, and a fun quick hike to make. Thank you Petit Jean State Park for existing and being the destination I enjoyed last Sunday.