An Afternoon in Chattanooga

The other day my friends and I had the rare chance to spend the day together, so we decided to take a spontaneous trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Armed with some good tunes (check out the latest from The 1975 or throw it back with Twenty One Pilots’ self-titled album), an abundance of snacks (peanut butter crackers all the way, baby), and zero plans or expectations, we made the quick drive up to Chattanooga under cloudy skies.

Once in town, we grabbed a bite to eat at Terminal BrewHouse, a relaxed, tasty, and well-priced spot with an awesome rooftop garden (although we did have to seek refuge under some umbrellas once cloudy skies turned into light showers).

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Next, we wandered across the street to  Wildflower Tea Shop & Apothecary, the absolute cutest place to grab a cup (or a pot) of tea and do some studying or socializing.

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After a relaxing pot of Fairytale Blend tea we meandered over to Warehouse Row, a chill shopping spot residing in a former warehouse, a la Ponce City Market.  We wandered through stationery stores, admired the aesthetics of Anthropologie goods (because who has an extra $90 laying around for a tank top?) and freaked out upon the sight of a golden retriever puppy.

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We then took the long, hot trek to the other side of Walnut Street Bridge, where we enjoyed fresh juices and snacks at Pura Vida, scoured through record shops and thrift stores, and took a ride on the antique carousel in Coolidge Park.

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Once we returned to our side of the bridge, we treated ourselves to some ice cream and made our way back to the car to return home.

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All in all, it was a lovely day with lovely people in a lovely town.  There’s something so special about taking a spontaneous trip with friends, and I’m glad I was able to spend the day with these beautiful people before we embark on our respective adventures of college, work, and traveling.

 

A Brief Journey on the Appalachian Trail

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a few days to hike a 40 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (the same section I did last month with my dad), but this time around, I hiked it alone and I completed it in 3 days rather than 5.

This section of the Appalachian Trail is absolutely beautiful, and the weather this weekend was perfect.  Everything was lush and green, there was a nice breeze all day long, and even though there were definitely some tough sections, I enjoyed every moment of my hike.

Check out my adventures below:

This trip really felt like the beginning of my gap year, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to spend some time on my own in such a beautiful place.  Getting to reflect on high school and think towards the future has only made me more excited for this upcoming year.

Until the next adventure,

Lizzie (trail name: Spitz)

 

40 Things I Learned Hiking The First 40 Miles of the Appalachian Trail

Last week, my dad and I spent 5 days hiking the first 40 miles of the Appalachian Trail, starting at Springer Mountain and ending at Hogpen Gap (just past Blood Mountain).  This was my first time taking a multi-day hiking/camping trip, and it was an incredible experience.  Here’s what I learned along the way:

  1. Nothing prepares you for the excitement/nervousness of beginning a big hike
  2. Starting early in the morning can take some getting used to, but you’ll appreciate the cool morning air once the afternoon sun hits
  3. Wild owls are cool as heck
  4. The best way to start the day is with a view of the sunrise from the top of a mountain
  5. The trail may be pretty empty at the beginning of the day…
  6. But the later the day gets (and the closer you hike to popular campsites), the more hikers you’ll see
  7. Peeing in the woods is both freeing and terrifying
  8. While hikers seem mostly divided on whether to use sunscreen or not…
  9. Bug spray is a must
  10. Giant millipedes are not cool as heck
  11. Hitting your mileage goal for the day is super rewarding…
  12. But having a long afternoon at an isolated campsite on your first day of hiking can get pretty boring
  13. Setting up camp for the first time can be pretty stressful
  14. Sleeping in a tent may take some getting used to
  15. Seeing the stars at night is unreal
  16. Getting up to pee in the middle of the night is a decision you have to thoroughly think through and commit toIMG_9327 copy.jpg
  17. Candy is a luxury most hikers have no problem carrying extra weight for
  18. You’ll feel really proud of your 8-mile-a-day average until you talk to other hikers who are averaging 15-20 miles…
  19. But you’ll learn it’s not a competition and at the end of the day, everyone is equally excited and exhausted
  20. You can’t skimp out on stocking up on water
  21. The key to tackling uphills is going slow and steady – stopping and starting is a painful process that will only drain you physically and mentally
  22. Seeing people in their 60s+ tackling the AT will give you some serious inspiration
  23. You’ll meet people from all over the country (and sometimes the world)
  24. Staying in shelters may not be your cup of tea…
  25. But take the time to get to know your tent neighbors…
  26. Because you’ll probably end up encountering the same people multiple times on your journey
  27. If you have a trail name, use it! (even if it’s something pretty uncool, like Spitz)
  28. Creeks and streams are a literal godsend, and a popular resting spot for hikers of all distancesIMG_9086.jpg
  29. 9:00 p.m. is a late night for most hikers – once the sun starts setting, anytime is fair game to turn in for the night
  30. Make sure to dig a big enough hole when you stop to go #2
  31. You may think you’re getting an awesome tan, but it’s probably just dirt
  32. The downhill on Blood Mountain is almost worse than the uphill…
  33. And you’ll learn that hiking on flat ground is infinitely better than hiking downhill
  34. Neels Gap feels like a home away from home after a couple days on the trail
  35. You’ll have a whole new appreciation for things like running water, picnic tables, and bathrooms with actual toilets and toilet paper
  36. You’ll meet some of the coolest, weirdest, nicest, craziest, and friendliest people on the trail…
  37. And all it takes is a nice campfire and a round of swapping trail stories or showing off battle wounds to feel like you’ve known your fellow hikers for ages
  38. People who set up “trail magic” stations deserve medals of honor
  39. Hiking a section of the trail will only leave you wanting more…
  40. And hiking any part of it, no matter how big or small, will make you realize how beautiful our world is, and how much of a gift it is to experience, explore, and just exist in it

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Sundance 2016

Sundance Film Festival: the cornerstone of indie filmmaking and a miraculous melting pot of hipsters and rich folk alike.  Several years ago, my family had the opportunity to attend several days of Sundance by the grace of God and a conveniently scheduled work trip on my dad’s part.  We stayed in a hotel that reminded me of The Shining and spent our days wandering around Salt Lake City, paranoid that we would spot a stray celebrity (which never happened), and catching a few short films through the festival.  It was a downright awesome experience and I’m pretty sure I tried to write a script for my own short film on the flight home (which I’m sure will be premiering at Sundance any year now) – so we decided to come back again in 2016 for my 16th birthday.

The City

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Although we were staying in Salt Lake City, we spent quite a bit of time in Park City, the true hub of Sundance.  Both cities are really cool and beautiful, but strikingly different.  Salt Lake City feels very casual and relaxed: there are a lot of vegan restaurant options and health food stores, and everyone looks like they either just woke up from a nap or just got off the ski slopes.  Most of the film screenings and festival events, however, are to be found in Park City, a swanky but cozy-feeling town that is overrun by celebrities, filmmakers, and press peeps during festival season (and yet, despite the small size of the town, I never once ran into Joseph Gordon-Levitt).  I love being able to spend time in both cities, and I would definitely recommend taking the time to explore both of them.  Maybe you prefer the space and chillness of Salt Lake City, or maybe you’ll thrive in the excitement and energy of Park City.

The Activities

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Most of our time in Utah was spent watching films, riding shuttle buses, and sleeping, but we found some time to do a couple other cool activities as well.  In Salt Lake, we spent some time in a beautiful, snowy park where I got to take some senior pictures and experience a strange man yelling at me to smile in my pictures.  We also took the time to visit Whole Foods about 28 times and check out various vegan restaurants and bakeries, where I consumed an ungodly amount of delicious vegan food.  In Park City, we did some book-browsing at local bookshops and checked out New Frontier, a Sundance spot that’s part tech convention, part film festival, and part art gallery, with a big focus on different virtual reality experiences (we got there half an hour after the doors opened and slots to experience The Martian virtual reality were already booked 7 hours out).

The Films

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Of course, one of the highlights of the week was getting to watch so many amazing films.  All in all, we ended up mostly seeing documentaries, although we did manage to catch one nonfiction feature film and a group of New Frontier short films (these films are very experimental in their format and/or plot).  Here’s the complete list of what we saw:

“Richard Linklater: dream is destiny”
“Jim: The James Foley Story”
“The Fundamentals of Caring”
“Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt & Anderson Cooper”
Documentary Shorts Program
New Frontier Shorts Program

My favorite films that I had the opportunity to see were “Jim”, “The Fundamentals of Caring”, and several of the documentary short films.  One of the coolest parts of getting to see these films was being able to interact with the filmmakers in Q&A sessions that followed the screenings.  Hearing their passion for their art and stories, and experiencing the response from the audience, was such a cool and exciting experience that I think is really unique to Sundance.

The People

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Despite the undeniable coolness of getting to see a bunch of interesting films in such a beautiful place, the best part of going to Sundance is the people.  It can be a bit overwhelming at first to be in so many crowded spaces with all sorts of random people, but it’s actually a really eye-opening experience.  You get to people watch and meet so many incredibly talented and awesome people, from the Sundance volunteers, to the locals, and  the travelers who are just passing through.  Sundance is one of the few places where I can feel comfortable talking to a stranger about what movies they’ve seen and which they liked, and it’s the perfect place to meet people from all over the world and experience an incredible amount of culture, art, and storytelling.  Although there may be a few zany grapes in the bunch (looking at you, strange man who yelled at me in the park), the majority of them are just people like you who love to watch and make movies, and there’s nothing more beautiful or inspiring than that.

AT Approach Trail Hike

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my family decided to go on a impromptu camping trip along the 8-mile-long AT Approach Trail to the top of Springer Mountain, which is the southern terminus for the Appalachian Trail.
Before this trip, I had never actually gone on a proper camping trip, so I was really excited to have the experience and spend a weekend outdoors, exploring the trails of Georgia.

The hike turned out to be interesting.  Which is code for: I thought I was going to die approximately 27 times.  Let me explain:

The hike started off beautifully: the weather was cool but sunny and we were making good time on our hike.
About a mile from the top of Springer Mountain, we begin to hear gunshots coming from somewhere in the distance.  I become convinced that some crazy redneck is trying to hunt us down.  That’s probably not what was going on but regardless, the fear was real.
We get to the top of Springer and it’s awesome: there’s a plaque for the Appalachian Trail and everything.  There’s also a piece of paper taped to a tree warning prospective campers that due to BEAR INCIDENTS, overnight camping on the mountain is discouraged.  We’re too tired to hike anywhere else and there’s quite a few others staying at the summit so we still decide to camp there.  I become convinced a bear is going to attack us in the middle of the night.
We set up camp and all is fine and dandy.  It begins to get colder, so we pile on the layers.  We have a fire and make s’mores and all that good stuff and end up going to sleep around 7 because apparently everyone in my family is 85-years-old.  I wake up in the middle of the night and hear a sound outside my tent: obviously, I believe it is the crazy redneck from before trying to kill me.  I lay awake in fear for about 30 minutes before falling asleep.  The next time I wake up, I am convinced a bear is outside my tent, trying to get inside to eat me.  Somehow, I fall asleep again.  By the third time I wake up, I don’t even care if something is trying to attack me: I just don’t want to see it coming.  So I zip my sleeping bag up all the way and go to sleep for good.
The next morning, I stick my head outside and it’s like a winter wonderland.  Everything iced over throughout the night so everything is winter-y and peaceful and I feel like singing some Christmas carols.  Until I notice how cold it is.  We break down our campsite in about 10 minutes and realize our water is frozen so we can’t make breakfast.  We eat some mixed nuts and hike on.
About a mile in, my hands get so cold they burn and I have a meltdown because I remember that movie Everest and I become genuinely convinced that my hands are going to have to be amputated.  I am not as tough as I thought. My dad gives me his hand warmers like a true gentlemen and we carry on.
We stop once some of our water has melted to make some coffee and end up hiking the rest of the 8 miles back to Amicalola Falls on nothing but a protein bar and some mixed nuts.  Once we reach the end of the trail, we go to the lodge to stuff our face with the only vegan food available: salad (which wasn’t even vegan because there were bacon bits mixed into the lettuce).

And there you have it folks.  Even though camping at the end of November probably wasn’t the best idea, I still had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed my weekend with my family.  I can’t wait to go on another camping trip with them and share all of the adventures with you.

Photo Diary: Harney Peak

A couple weeks ago my family traveled to Colorado and South Dakota for a family hiking vacation.  The first mountain we decided to tackle was Harney Peak in South Dakota.  Harney Peak is a beautiful mountain located in the Black Hills of South Dakota that shares a fascinating history with local Native American tribes and is still considered sacred Native American ground today.
The hike itself was between 7.5-8 miles and was no walk in the park, although it was insanely beautiful.  It was interesting experiencing the terrain and landscape of the Black Hills in comparison to the forests and mountains my family typically hikes here on the east coast.  If you ever find yourself in South Dakota, I would highly recommend hiking Harney Peak; the history of the peak and the surrounding areas is fascinating, and the views are spectacular.  It’s also fun to spot the local wildlife: we even saw a lone buffalo in an area near the peak!