it’s a girl! let’s go to the mountains

This past week has been a wonderful whirlwind. Wednesday we confirmed my sneaking suspicions that this babe is in fact a she! It feels so good to be able to use her name. Rosalyn Virginia. I cannot wait to meet our little Ros come February – or March depending on how much she likes her current digs.

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image10Thursday we packed up the pups and made our way up to North Georgia for a long weekend. We stayed in a small, two room cabin that was rough around the edges in all the best ways. Upon unpacking it was realized that we had plenty of hiking fixin’s and yet the hiking backpack was nowhere to be found. The nearest store was at least 45 minutes away but the vision of Rachel huffing & puffing her way up a mountain with a Target bag in hand was enough motivation to get back in the car. It ended up working out for the best and we found a really great deal on two hiking packs with 2L water bladders (yes, I did take every opportunity to sneak the phrase “water bladder” into conversation – its too much fun to say). The real adventure came on the drive home when a missed turn was realized 20 minutes too late. With no service my phone was relegated from GPS to flashlight. For what its worth, we DID have a map but maps are completely useless when there are no lights, no signs, and approximately three million trees. Did you know not one church located near a mountain will miss the opportunity to use the name “Mount Zion _________ Church”?? Oi. We eventually made it back though, and the sweet new hiking gear eased our frustrations (WATER BLADDER!).

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IMG_8676-1Friday was hiking day. I spent some time researching the different options; with Robin being as anxious and reactive as she is its best for everyone involved if we stick to quieter areas. You know what I didn’t think of though? The “path less traveled” is HARD. Whoa, logic. I knew we wanted to use the Indian Grave Gap trailhead along the Appalachian Trail. I wasn’t sure how long of a hike we’d feel up to however, so we picked a few marks of varying mileage. The shortest option was Indian Grave to Tray Mountain, a round trip of 5 miles. Now, here’s the second thing I didn’t think of: ELEVATION. In the couple of miles it takes to reach Tray Mountain there’s an elevation of about 1500 feet. In case you don’t have a mind for number estimation, much like myself, that translates to, “steep as shit”. My goal was accomplished: we passed a total of five people during a very popular hiking season. Gee, I wonder why. Robin, you don’t even know the lengths (and heights) we go to for you. In the world of hiking, 5 miles clearly isn’t a huge deal. But it was the farthest we had ever taken the dogs and my asthma + shortness of breath combo warranted quite a few breaks just to be safe. It’s funny looking at how much water and food we packed, just in case we wanted to an 8-mile or even 12-mile jaunt. LOL NOPE. Post-hike was a well-earned shower followed by dinner in Helen, the best hot chocolate in the world, and people-watching all the lederhosen-clad Oktoberfesters. We were one of those Oktoberfesters this time last year. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss a good brew but I guess hot cocoa will do for now…

IMG_8679-1I owe my Taurus MAJORLY after all we put her through this weekend. She went hiking, too.

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image3-1Saturday was spent sleeping off a monster dehydration headache and babying my protesting muscles. Relaxation was aided by an unexpectedly fancy cabin bath set-up with double opposing shower heads. I felt conflicted with the simultaneous thoughts of, “This is an incredible waste of water… BUT I AM A SHOWER QUEEN!” Coincidentally, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law Scott & Summer were also cabin-ing this weekend not too far away from us. So we met up for lunch in Helen for more lederhosen-watching plus a trip to the Christmas Shoppe (anyone else pronounce this “Shop-ee”?) to expand our ornament collection. If y’all don’t already have yourselves a Christmas Pickle then you need to remedy that situation this year.

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IMG_8824-1Later that night we hunkered down for a campfire and s’mores — an experience that quickly turned into a couples therapy exercise as we figured out we hadn’t really built a real fire since, like, never (thanks, gas fireplace! you da best). Veni, vidi, vici and we got to enjoy our mallows (blackened and melty, there is no other way) in the company of no less than twelve hundred billion stars. Stars like God intended. A humble reminder that we’re the tiny ones, not them. Air that clear and fresh is worth having to bundle a blanket around your pajamas. Pineapple print, naturally.

cacti of the superstition mountains

Superstition Mountains 1I had originally intended to share the last bit of Arizona photos a few weeks ago, but then life happened. So here we are now, instead! Georgia’s sudden drop back into the 30’s after such a lovely stretch of Spring weather has me missing Arizona and this hike in particular. The Superstitions are east of Phoenix and just a short drive from my mom’s apartment. We knew we wanted to go on a hike during my visit but hadn’t decided on exactly where we would go. Once we found out there was a scheduled ranger-led hike Saturday morning our choice was made! Exploring sans instruction can be fun but I often prefer to go on at least one guided tour when I’m in a new area; I love learning and you just can’t beat a hike where you learn all kinds of cactus facts from Ranger Diana along the way.

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Superstition Mountains 3Speaking of cacti, I love them – they are some of my favorite plants. The woods and granite slab (lovingly nicknamed “The Rock”) by my parents’ house have lots of different moss, lichen, and tiny baby cacti that I had to watch out for growing up. So, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to geek out on some cacti facts now.

Superstition Mountains 4This is the jumping cholla (Spanish pronunciation). It’s also called the hanging chain cholla from the way the fruit grows in chains from the branches. The nickname “jumping” comes from the way the little cactus pods detach themselves; they are removed very easily by strong wind or if an animal or person brushes against them. Wherever they fall, a new cholla will take root and grow. It’s pretty common to see little cholla “forests” because of this, but a cholla could also hitch a ride on the back of an unsuspecting victim and create a new cholla patch when it eventually falls back off. With these guys around you have to be watchful of your dogs and of stepping backwards; the cholla spines have tiny microscopic barbs which make removal very difficult and not exactly pain-free. Diana told us of an incident where a poor pup was snagged with a cholla and then in a panic managed to cover himself in them! ):

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Superstition Mountains 6Imminent danger aside, these were very cool to look at! Like the villainous cousin of a weeping willow.

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Superstition Mountains 10The Saguaro is the plant that usually comes to mind when you picture a cactus. They are the largest cactus of the United States and can grow to be quite tall (up to ~70 feet) and quite heavy (~3500-4500 pounds). They live to 150-200 years (in the right growing conditions, and if they are not poached – did you know people want to poach and sell these things on the black market?!). A Saguaro without arms is called a “spear”; they don’t grow their first arm until they are at least 75-90 years old and after that they can grow up to 25 arms!

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Superstition Mountains 12Ok, I’ll reel it in for now. But, you guys. Cacti are awesome. Google them sometime, mmk?

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Superstition Mountains 16Thanks for all the blue sky and sunshine, Arizona. I hope I get to come explore again sometime!

redmon thanksgiving in franklin, tennessee

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This past week of celebrating Thanksgiving and visiting family has left me flat-out exhausted. Every year Andrew and I make time to drive up to Tennessee around the holidays so we can see his family. We usually spend about 3 days but this time around we only had 24 hours + drive time. And yet we still managed to fit in our typical list of activities! The schedule looked something like this:

  • Drive to Tennesee
  • Visit Andrew’s grandfather and grandmother at their nursing home
  • Walk around downtown Franklin while waiting on our calzones
  • Visit aunts, uncle, and cousins
  • Visit our dear friend Rachel and meet her pup Darcy
  • Check in at our hotel and crash for six hours
  • Back to aunt’s house and score some sweet vintage tea pots from his grandmother
  • Visit Woodlawn, the cemetary where the ashes of Andrew’s lovely mother Deborah are kept
  • Head to the Vanderbilt/Wake Forest football game
  • Dinner with the in-laws and then back on the road to Georgia

So, yeah. I’m a little bit tired ;) It was wonderful seeing Rachel and all of our family though! I’m grateful we were able to squeeze in that time, even if it was only a day. This past year has seen a lot of loss on my side of the family and it’s a constant reminder to take advantage of and appreciate the time you have with loved ones.

Favorite moment of the weekend: The nursing home staff brought in Andrew’s grandfather’s dinner and he insisted that he pick up the dinner tab for everyone, just like he always did throughout his life. Such a sweet man.

mountain mama

When describing the South to someone not from ‘round here, I usually end up mentioning that there’s a big difference between rednecks and the other types of Southerners. One of those other types is the Southern mountain folk. Think moonshine instead of chewing “tabacca”. Another way to categorize Southerners is the filthy rich and the dirt poor. I come from the dirt poor who came from the mountain folk who came from Ireland. So, it’s no wonder I never identified with the redneck town I grew up in. I felt really out of place the whole time, actually. It was during the annual trek to Ellijay & Blue Ridge for the family reunion that my heart danced with anticipation of that crisp mountain air.

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That annual trip at the Second Sunday of August always included a stop at Mercier Orchards to load up on produce and apple cider doughnuts. This year was no different and I loved including Andrew in that tradition. When you leave your parents house, there are a lot of moments in your first year where you decide which traditions to keep for yourself and your household. This is definitely one of those things.

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I’ll stop with the words now, because I took way too many photos. But if you’re ever in the area this place is a MUST. Also, Adventure Trail Rides is a horse riding business owned by my Callihan cousins – check them out!

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