Tag Archives: outdoors

Backpacking Grayson Highlands

I spent Easter Weekend, and a few days extra, backpacking through Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia. Having never been to this area I was not sure what to expect. I had seen pictures from friends’ trips and looked online but that still didn’t prepare me for the experience. Some highlights included visiting with wild ponies, splashing in creeks, bushwhacking, hiking the the highest point in Virginia and eating delicious food. At many points I felt as though I ways on another content, not just a few hours away from my home. The rocky terrain and the vast open valleys made me feel as though I was trekking through the set of The Hobbit. We spent 4 days in the backcountry, picking up and moving camps every night. Each new day came with its own new environment. One day we could only see trees in the distance and the next we were hiking through a mossy forest covered by the canopy of evergreens. One day we had to hike a ways for water and the next day we were swimming in a creek. It was rewarding to know that I was able to see all of this beauty by foot, that I had walked, crawled, hiked, climbed and traversed every mile. On the last day we pulled out the map to figure out where we started, days before, and it was now a peak in the distance.


On our last night we ended up sleeping at Wise Shelter, the 500 mile marker along the Appalachian Trail. There must have been 30 hikers staying in that area and we actually had the opportunity to feed a pair of hikers some dinner. That night we saw people of all ages and all walks of life set up camp together. Some had accents and some didn’t, some where alone and some were in pairs, and some seemed like experienced backpackers and others appeared to be beginners. It was entertaining to witness their community that they had all formed. Many had been hiking together for weeks now, and others had just met at the town before. They all supported of each other, encouraged each other, and shared their belongings and stories with each other. I was glad I got to be a part of this literal milestone on their journey.

How cool is it that nature, and the simple act of hiking along trail has the power to change peoples lives and create such an incredible community? 



This weekend I bowled, climbed an alpine tower, flew in the air connected to wires and a harness, picked up trash from a local river, played kickball, shared a meal with friends, roller bladed and did homework outside. I got to play. At the end of the day, when I hopped into the shower I could see dirt running off of me, little scratches appearing on my arms and legs and splinters on my hands. I felt like I was nine again and my mom put me straight into the bath after spending an entire day outside. This weekend was perfect. The sun was shining, it was warm, all of my friends were in town, and it was just what I needed.

On Sunday evening, when my weekend began to wind down, I realized how much of a gift it is to simply play. To lay in the grass, to get too much sun on my shoulders,to fly through the air,  to scream of excitement while I tried to remember how to rollerblade, to eat tacos with friends, to slide into second base during kickball, to get my clothes muddy. What a gift, and what a gift to have friends to do all of those things with.

Weekends like that can be hard to come by at the end of the semester. The weather gets better, but the homework gets harder. As I look at both the weekly forecast and my weekly schedule, it looks as though I will be inside, appreciating April showers, and turning in assignments. I am holding on to this past weekend, cherishing those moments, and using the motivation of having more just like it to get my homework done.

Surviving Traveling in Groups

Most of my traveling experience has been with groups. From summer camp to mission trips and cruises, I would like to think I have some experience dealing with large amounts of people for long amounts of time. Some as large as 70 and others as small as 5 but, whether you are cruising, camping, touring or road tripping here are some of my survival tips to make the most of your trip. Also, please enjoy some very old photographs.


Avoid cliques and engage yourself with others

No, I am not a middle school guidance counselor but, even as I have grown older and traveled in groups this has become a problem. Be friends with everybody, it is so much more rewarding that way. Rotate who you sit with on the bus, who you sit with at the table, who you go exploring with and so on. I have watched and experienced some of the closest friendships grow over the years. I am thankful for the friendships that have formed abroad and then continued when we returned home.



This word speaks for itself. Just take a deep breath.


Respect smaller groups

Raise your hand if you and your friends have ever taken over a mcdonalds. My hand is raised and if I had 12 more hands they would be raised too. As a larger group, it is important to make sure that smaller groups are enjoying their experience just as much as you are. Even if it is a McDonalds. This past trip to Costa Rica we went on a snorkeling excursion. It was my group of 15 and then 2 couples on their honeymoon. I felt bad for the 2 couples, I really did. They are just trying to have a romantic boat ride and they got stuck with 15 college kids. I think we made a pretty good effort to respect them. We let them eat first, get on and off the boat first and we gave them their space. In the end I think they had fun with us but, I could only have imagined the nightmare that excursion could have turned into for them.


Share and Rotate

I have never experienced a more dramatic shower experience than I did while being a camp counselor. I think they all had themselves convinced that if they didn’t shower 1st they couldn’t shower at all for that day. OR, my personal favorite, if they offered to shower last they might slip by without having to take a shower. Even if you aren’t a group of 7th graders sharing cabin, sharing and rotating who goes first (or last) in the shower is important.


You do you

This was something that took me a while to learn but, after a long day, it is important that you do what is best for you. Everybody has different needs and routines. If you need cut out on a round of card games a little bit early or you need to take some time alone to read your book, do it.

My youth group friends and I could stay up for hours playing card games. On our last night in Puerto Rico we stayed up almost all night playing games (young and wild and free, right??) That next morning we had to catch an early flight so I had absolutely no sleep and it turned into one miserable day. Even though it was years ago, I have vivid memories of laying on the airport floor with a fever and throwing up outside of a gas station. When I got home that night I was running a fever over 100 degrees. My Mom gave me medicine and put me to bed. Luckily, all I had to was sleep it off and I was fine. I am no doctor but, the only thing I can assume was that my body was so exhausted it just broke down on me. I would never take back any of those memories but, had I not been going home that next day, what would I have done if I was sick in Puerto Rico? It is important to pace ourselves and know our bodies so we can have a great trip, no matter how long the length.


I hope that you have a great weekend friends! No matter if you are just heading out to dinner or snowboarding with a group, remember some of these tips for having the BEST experience!

Peace out–HayUp

Avoiding Winter-Break Boredom

Christmas festivities are winding down, you have finished an entire netflix series, you are out of money from shopping, you have finally caught up on your sleep, your parents have gone back to work and you are home for 2 more weeks. Oh! And my personal favorite…your parents are threatening that if you don’t get off the couch you are going to have to go through all of your old childhood things (avoid that as long as you can).  Yep! I’ve been there and so have all my friends. My friends from home and I  have gotten pretty creative over the years trying keep ourselves entertained, spend time together and get ourselves out of the house, away from the leftovers. We are here to share our wisdom with you! This is to all the college freshman out there who literally have no idea what to do for another 2 weeks and are missing their friends from school.

Try to make a little extra money because, who can’t use an extra $10? Ask your family, grandparents, aunts, uncles or neighbors if they need some extra help getting things done. Bathe dogs, walk dogs, wash some cars, babysit, do some yard work, polish your dad’s “glory days” trophy collection or just go tap dance downtown. I guess you could say i had the “privilege” of bathing  my sister’s dog and now my gas tank has a few extra gallons in it.

Get outdoors! Try doing all the things you used to love to do as a kid. Rally the gang and ride some bikes, climb a tree, jump on a trampoline, ripstik, play tennis at the park, Rollerblade and take back your neighborhood streets from the new generation of munchkins.

Get creative. I would say that this is our specialty. We have made our own music videos, destroyed the kitchen baking cakes, played board games, dedicated a whole day to crafting for our dorm rooms and even tested out at-home kid’s science experiments. Now is the chance to unleash your weirdness and creativity because once college is over you are gonna be wishing for a random Wednesday to whip out the glue guns with your best friends.

Catch a weekday matinee movie…like I said, when is the next time you are going to be free on a Wednesday  afternoon to catch a cheap movie? Not to mention there are just some great movies out right now.

Explore your town! You are a student now so you get all kinds of discounts! Hit the museums, art galleries, local parks and town landmarks. I’m guessing that your local museum has changed a few exhibits since you went on a middle school field trip there. 

Hope this helps! And if none of these things work you can try starting a blog because I love it and it keeps you busy!

How do you Avoid Winter Break Boredom?

Leave No Trace: For the Everyday Citizen

Leave No Trace are a set of guiding principles for outdoor ethics that has also become a non-profit organization to teach these principles. I recently have become certified as a “Leave No Trace Trainer” which means I am qualified to teach others these principles. I wanted to share with you simple ways that you can practice outdoor ethics whether you are in your backyard, local parks or backpacking your way through Europe.  For more information on Leave No Trace click the link provided at the bottom!


Going somewhere new? Hit up the good ole world wide web to do some research to find out the details or ask some locals. When my friends and i just started school here in Boone we knew very little about local hiking spots or waterfalls. We didn’t know simple things such as…. Where are we going to park?  How long is this hike going to take up? What should we bring with us? Luckily over time we have become quite knowledgeable but we definitely should have done some research before we set off on our adventures. We have probably parked on one to many private properties.


Stay on the sidewalk or the provided trail. You can bet that someone worked very hard to build the trails you are hiking on so stick to them! They are there for a reason so try to avoid the use of social trails or short cuts. I know…switchbacks are annoying and take quite a bit of time but, try to enjoy the hike for what it is and spend some much needed time outside.


I love pets and i strongly encourage taking your dog along with you on an adventure or a walk in the park but, make sure you are doing so responsibly. Pay attention to the dog regulations, keep them on a leash and scoop their poop. Nobody wants to step in dog poop, swim in it  once it runs into a nearby stream.


Raise your hand if you have ever collected a seashell from the beach. My hand is raised! We all do it. They make for lovely decorations and a fun reminder of the beach but, we need to try and minimize our impacts on the natural environment. Next time you are on your favorite beach try and minimize the amount of shells you are taking. We want seashells to be there for generations to come and ultimately they aren’t ours to take. Take only photos and memories with you!


No littering! Luckily in many places there is a fine for littering but make sure you are recycling and throwing things away even when someone isn’t looking. Check out the timeline to see how long simple things take to decompose! I know i am guilty of spitting my gum out the window…that takes 5 years to decompose eeeepppp! Ain’t nobody got time for dat!


Be respectful of others in life and in the outdoors! Remember that they are there for an experience too! Offer to take a families picture or allow a smaller group to move ahead of you. The outdoors are ours to share.


Thanks for stopping by and leave a comment! Always love to hear from you!

peace out

What happens when the key chain falls off?


In a meeting, just the other day, I found myself not paying attention and playing with my car keys.  I soon discovered that one of my favorite, and only, key chains is falling off. I got this key chain right after I graduated highschool on a celebretory  graduation trip to the Bahamas with best friends. I can still remember the marketplace, the native bahmeian sales woman, and the heat of the tropical sun from the day I bought it.  Everytime I see this on my keychian it serves as a reminder of the clear blue water,  the breathtaking sunsets and sleeping under the stars with my best friends.

Most  travelers, myself included, choose to buy souveinirs on their tavels. The demand travlers have for a tangeble item to represent an intangeble experience has given way to a market for souveinirs. In popular tourist destinations such as cruise ports and local area attractions many people make a living by selling their artwork, t-shirts, keychains, food and other merchandise to tourist. Some of my favorite childhood memories are watching the basket weavers make baskets at the marketplace in Historical Downtown Charelston.

On the private island of Labadee, owned by Royal Caribean International, there are over 200 vendors that have arranged a deal with Royal Caribean International to sell their authenitic merchandise to thousands of cruisers that arrive on the island each day. However,  I can save the economic impacts of tourism for another post. I want to answer my orignal question, what really does happen when  the keychain falls off of the key ring, the magnet falls off the refridgeorater or when your shot glass breaks into pieces?

Yes, there are more ways to remember your trip such as photo albums or memories but, it is, in my opinion, that this inevitable moment, when your souveinirs are now gone, is a sign that its time for a new trip and a new adventure.  Instead of trying to glue your shot glass back together set your sights and your excitement on a new destination.

This doesn’t mean max out your credit cards today by booking a luxury suite in Paris, it simply just means, start saving, start planning. Or, if your heart is as adventours as mine, you can pass the time while you save up for that plane ticket by being a tourist in your own town or state. Living at both the Mountains and the Coast of North Carolina I can find my own adventure and vactaion in my own back yard and I am sure you could do the same.

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