How I Do the Outdoors

We all do the outdoors differently. You will probably never catch me rock climbing, that terrifies me. I know friends that won’t step foot in a tent for camping. The outdoors are personal and communal. A place for solitude, the place where you take a deep breath and center yourself. A place where you connect, through laughter and tears and conquering fears.  Some of my best memories are outside. I’ve found myself and things that matter and who I love. I can’t believe that at one point, I thought there wasn’t space for me out there (we’ll talk about that eventually). But now I want to celebrate the places that make me happy, that make me, well, me.

Here are my favorite ways to get outdoors

Mountain Light Sanctuary – Barnardsville, NC
I found this place in 2018. Off a Facebook ad. I came across the memory again in 2019, just when I needed it most. I was definitely worried that I was going to get murdered. I traveled four hours away from Atlanta to a small town outside of Asheville in the middle of the woods with poor cell phone service. I went by myself… based off a Facebook ad, perfect way for a single woman in her twenties to get murdered. But it turned out to be my favorite place to go when I need respite.  I’ve gone twice this year. My favorite cabin has only three walls and the last is open to the creek, and there’s little reading nook that’s covered for when it rains. There’s gnomes around the premises. I go wandering around finding good rocks to sit on in the middle of the creek. There’s a hiking trail right off the property and a waterfall hike in the national park. It’s 20 minutes away from Craggy Pinnacle (there is a .7 mile hike to the top, which I do not recommend doing as your second hike of the day after eating Sonic but the view is beautiful). But my favorite is the Garden of the Divine Feminine. There’s bamboo all around the entrance so it’s hidden. The garden is small, some hostas and ivy on the rocks. There’s a statue of Mary in corner and people leave crystals, rocks, and other offerings. I’ll just sit there meditating for hours, sometimes removing stagnant energy by also removing fallen leaves out of the ivy and garden beds. I am fully engulfed in nature, connected to the earth, when I am there. It’s my solitude and calm.

Arabia Mountain – Atlanta, GA
I stole this favorite from our very own Kenya. She took us up there for a Sunset Wine Hike, the view was absolutely gorgeous. And then we hiked up there again for a Mother’s Day event, where I casually processed some trauma. Ever since then it’s been a place that I go to connect to others and myself. Recently, went up for a sunrise hike by myself. I finished a book of poetry and watched bees get pollen from flowers for hours. This hike is “easy”. It’s less than a mile and the hardest part is the elevation, but it’s a baby compared to Stone Mountain (there are no rails that make you want to die and curse under your breath). I ran up the mountain in ten minutes to make sure I caught the sunrise, lost my wallet on the way too (don’t worry, very nice hikers brought it back to me). This has been a space of growth, always pushing me outside of my comfort zone.

Nantahala Rafting – Nantahala NC
Water is typically not my go to way to be outdoors. It scares me. As a fat woman, I hate the idea of equipment potentially not working for me. Falling in and not being able to get back into the tube or raft or whatever is my worst nightmare. I was so anxious to do this but it was for my close friend’s birthday so I sucked it up and it did it. It was amazing, some of the most fun I’ve ever had. The weather was perfect, we had a great guide that made the group experience even better. The sun shone through the trees and fog and hit the water. I felt more myself after the trip. I overcame fear and laughed with friends and made new friends. Exhilerating and calming all at once. This rafting trip fit eight people plus our guide, this portion of the river was category 2 & category 3 rapids. They were strong but not too strong, but definitely be prepared to get wet. And if you’re scared, you can do scary things.

Chattahoochee River
The Chattahoochee River has become my second home. I started hiking on the CRNRA in 2016 after I graduated college. I absolutely lost myself after college. I started hiking in the time of those scary clowns and used to make jokes with my brother about dying on trail. I was nervous, so scared about exploring (and the clowns). But now I’ve been up and down that river, sometimes even in that river because I’m a klutz that has definitely fallen in. Vickey Creek has the old Roswell Mill. Jones Bridge had the old bridge frame and a fantastic overlook on the river. Island Ford has the best rocks to sit on and read. The Palisades has a great spot that is often known as the spot where the dogs go to play in the water. There’s more to explore, but I have come such a far way from my first hike. There have been tears and laughter and cursing under my breath. Confidence and friends have been gained on these trails. Every step I took, led me to the amazing life I have now. Because of these trails, I got involved with ODJT. The best thing about the Chattahoochee River is that there is something for everyone. You can fish, tube, kayak, picnic, hike and so much more. You can go for short strolls or longer hikes, a choose your own adventure if you will. But any way you experience the Chattahoochee, it will be amazing.

Panama City Beach
I kinda used to hate the beach, until I found out it’s just WHERE you go that matters. I’m a pale introvert so mixing the bright sun with lots of people sounds like my version of hell. One of my close friend’s suggested we go where her dad usually went. I know that Panama City Beach is usually known as the party spot, but when you go at the end of season at Pinnacle Port, it’s amazing. Clear water, beautiful sand, NOT crowded and you’re right on the beach. I went out one night because I couldn’t sleep and I ended up staying to watch the stars until the sun came up. I was alone with the waves and my thoughts. I may or may not have also had a small existential crisis in the dark because of it. The vastness of darkness in front of me, reminding me how small I really was. We had drinks and laughs. We found seashells and jellyfish. The beach has always been a place of reconnection for me. It grounds me in the present and reminds me of the people I hold the closest. I still got a pretty bad burn this year, so this is just a friendly reminder to WEAR YOUR SUNSCREEN.

The point of this is, we all have different ways we enjoy the outdoors and we all have different experience levels. But none of that stops us from enjoying the outdoors. We can find ourselves and connect with people no matter where we start or where we want to go (or how we want to get there). The only thing that matters is that you go outside. Stand in the sun, the rain, the snow, the mud. Stand there tall with joy in your heart and a smile on your face because you are alive on this weird rotating rock, experiencing all it has to give you.