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Happy HeART Day!!

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Creative Tidal Wave wants to wish you a Happy HeART Day! Join me on a week-long journey exploring HeArt in nature. It is a slight obsession of mine to find nature formed hearts while out on hikes. I know I’m on the right path when I find one.

Do you have any visuals you seek out? Please take a moment and share your visual signs with me. I am curious what others seek out in their daily lives. What emotions flood you when you find your visual unexpectedly?

When I find a heart I am reminded to smile. I might be struggling on my journey when a sudden nature formed heart appears. At that moment I stop to enjoy and document the incredible find. I often take a moment to reflect on being grateful for the struggles, ability to feel such because I could be so much worse off not being able to wander about in the woods, and to ponder what other great wonders might be a head if I keep moving forward.

Paperclips are another “heart sign” for me. When not in the woods I seek paperclips. I do not take photos of them like I do the nature hearts. I do take a moment to remind myself that such appear when I need inspiration and encouragement. Paperclips hold things together. When I see paperclips they are like little virtual hugs. I smile and know I can continue forward and am not alone.

More HeArts to come!!

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Not failure, just another lesson learned

My first camp site

My first camp site

I had posted earlier I will be taking on the Appalachian Trail as a section hiker for the be 5-0 birthday dare this year. Been years since I camped, first at the backpacking type. The old body has been through a lot over the past few years. Needed to focus on a goal to get back in shape and hopefully turn back time both physically and mentally. Though many of the books I have read recommended just jumping in I have decided to take a slow approach to breaking this body into the first major leg of the hike by doing some weekend overnight trips.

The hike for me is very personal. I know due to health issues, starting a new business soon, and a huge lack of funding, a thru hike is not for me at this time. I do believe taking it on in small chunks will be just as rewarding as well as physically beneficial. But there are some firsts I need to address to build up to even the easiest starts on the AT. I took the first step just the other day. As a perfectionist and a proactive sort I was confident I would  be highly successful in my attempt to sleep out by myself on a glorious rare Blue Moon night. The irony is most would have thought it would be a “once in a blue moon” moment to see me camping by myself. I sucked up the fear and was determined it would be a task easily accomplished and one milestone down for the journey.

After getting tons of advise and reading more books than the average researcher, I had a plan.  Got the equipment (not the most expensive just the basics), and  set forth on my first brave attempt to go a whole night alone in the woods. Picked a spot in our 3 acre plot to “rough it.” I plan to hammock camp. Have spent numerous afternoon nap session swinging in the trees to find this the most comfortable way to snooze. I was certain an evening swinging in the trees under the stars would be incredible. Not surprising, the weather decided as it has been all summer to dish up another rainy evening but until the morning hours. Figured this would be great practice for tarp rigging because I would know if I got it right. I planned a semi mock situation to try other camping like activities as well. I am so glad I did.

Packing a first aid kit is important. My first lesson came quick as I sliced my finger on the carabiner. I knew I should have had on my gloves but in all the excitement I … lesson two, never get so excited you forget safety, it could be life or death. A friend did remind me to checked for widow makers before I set up camp. I did but again, I was so excited I didn’t look all around, just in the two trees I was hanging  from. When I went out the next day to take down the tarp I noticed a HUGE dead limb that could have been a nasty if the wind had picked up. I was lucky. Again, I won’t let the giddy excitement cloud my need for safety. Slowing down and doing it right is matter of life and death on the trail.

I failed tarp rigging 101. The site did not have the wonderfully set trees as in the books I had studied. The tie down technique I used was less than stable after a wee bit of a breeze and a few sprinkles. Water will puddle on a loose tarp then dump. Yes, I got a surprise splash of wetness at the head of my hammock with the pocket of water needed more room. I enjoy waterfalls but not via a tarp into my hammock. Lesson learned: it is worth the investment to purchase an Eno or Grand Trunk system plus a heck lighter in the pack. Want to say thanks to the guys at Blue Sky Outfitters in Rome, GA who gave me a quick lesson on rain protection while hammock camping. I will be much wiser in my attempt next time.

Since the bear population is zero in my neck of the woods I had no worries about rigging a bear bag system. WRONG! There are other creatures who love goodies in backpacks as much as bears. I did have the pack some 5 feet off the ground so I figured there were no worries. Never under-estimate the ingenuity of a vertically challenged Bassett hound when he smells food. Only thing I can figure is he must have had a session with the squirrels on getting a strap to his level to pull it down. Also, he was intrigued with the hammock so much he thought it would be fun to bark to see if it would move. Yes, it did to his delight until I flipped out while fussing at him. I admit at that point I was ready to pack it in, and did so. At 2AM I felt a bit defeated as I sloshed my way into the house with my pack all muddy from the Bassett bandit episode.

Technology is an awesome tool. I do want to thank several of my friends who checked in on me before their eyes got to heavy to stay open to join me remotely from the dry comforts of their homes. The encouragement was awesome. The reminders of the  Jason movies, werewolves, the slender man, wildcats, banjo music, and mysterious lightning strikes which might hit the trees I was swinging from were very… thanks guys for filling my head with every scary notion possible but you forgot about waterfalls from the  tarp and neurotic Bassett hounds.

Instead of seeing it as failure I began to see the humor in the lessons learned. If I had been some 10 miles into the wilderness and made the mistakes I did I doubt I would ever return. Many more lessons to come as well as belly laughs. Many new friends and advisors will be added as well on my journey to become the best prepared as I can be. Won’t get it right, know the trail is a test on many levels but these few trial runs hopefully will keep me from major set backs. I didn’t fail though some saw it as such. I didn’t even have a set back. I had a learning session which shaped the focus ad safety of the greatest dream to come.

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