New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine

This year I had an urge to go back to Maine, the wild coast was calling me from afar and I listened. Life has brought many changes over the last few years, inner, personal changes, changes in location and an ending to a wonderful relationship. Though I’ve done several trips solo, this one was to be different. I’ve always valued my alone time and spend much time in the forest by myself, hiking, camping, foraging. This trip was by far the biggest solo adventure I’ve done! I did a far amount of planning and figured out many state parks I’d stay at, however I did leave some gaps for discovery and going with the flow, which I may add had a feeling of nervousness to them. My timing for the trip was odd, I had planned to leave on the first but as it was hurricane Ida was passing through my whole route and was a big one. I decided to leave a day early and try to out run it. That plan almost worked. I ended up making the decision to leave in the middle of the day and have a target of Harrisburg, PA by night fall. The eight hour drive was mostly calm, as I was reaching the end, the rains came. As it was the strong thunderstorms were to bring floods and bad conditions to the area overnight and all the next day. I booked an air bnb right in Harrisburg, which I won’t lie was in a questionable area of town. I ended up sleeping four hours, if that, waking up around 5am and hitting the road. The rains were heavy and followed me north. By the time I got to New York however, the skies cleared. I decided to stop in the Adirondacks for the night nd the first place that seemed inviting was Lake George, named after the king. This would be my only hotel stay of the journey. Lake George is a charming little town, very touristy though. I walked the streets that were on the lake and even found a tailgate market happening, which felt like home. I bought some fruit for the trip there. I did find the sweet spots. tucked away around the lake. There were several preserves and trails. These were great trails and best thing was I saw maybe one or two people, basically having the forest to myself. One trail led me to a nice rock outcropping and view of the lake. As is ritual for me on these trips, I brought along both my fathers ashes and left some in Van Dusen preserve. My dear friend Julie passed a few years back of cancer, she was a year younger than me. We grew up together and I visited her just before she passed. We talked of places she still wanted to go and even made a plan to meet up in Virginia some day, as that was a place she really wanted to visit. Besides Julie and my fathers, I brought along the presence of my friends Ryan, Will, Jon, Will, my uncle Bobby, and grandparents, all of which I’d honor along the way. Seeing Paul Bunyan was fun also, I’ll always remember my dad taking us on trips and it sticks with me the Paul statue we saw in Crystal Beach, I believe it was.

It felt nice to be back in the mountains of New York. As I traveled on, I sought out shelving rock waterfall. The hike in was so peaceful and quiet. I tried really hard to get up early each day and get out in it. That plan was key, as I found many empty trails in the morning and on the way back people were there. There’s a certain silence to morning I highly enjoy. I sat at this waterfall, alone and meditated, I watched dragonflies circling around in figure eight patterns, catching bugs and debated jumping in. As I walked the trail some more, I came across another part of Lake George and this time, as the day warmed up, I did jumped in! I found my first Chaga of the trip here and would find quite a bit along the way. I also found one of the biggest Chicken of the Woods find I’ve ever found, so much on one log! I gathered some of the most prime to take for dinner to my next stop, Vermont, a state I’d not spent any time in. I was excited as I had been in touch with doctor who contacted me months before. He’s a natural doctor in Benson, who contacted me in search of organic Lions Mane. As we chatted he invited me out to see his farm, at the time I wasn’t sure I’d make it up there but I’m so glad I went. Arriving in Vermont had a different feel to it, it felt vibrant and open. All knew of Vermont was Bernie Sanders and Ben and Jerry’s. I started in the rolling hills and didn’t take long to get to the farm. I had no idea what to expect but was greeted warmly by the land keeper, a man named Richie, or as Dr. O called him, rasta Richie. He was there taking care of things as the doctor traveled. He showed me around the land, there were some very unique horned cows, vegetables and herbs growing, greenhouses, barns and also a few dozen hemp plants. The hemp plants grew to be around eight feet, over my head! I’d not ever seen hemp plants like this, the smell was so nice and the sticky feel to the leaves and buds. There were several different varieties. They grew like little trees out in the open fields, swaying with the breeze.

I spent time talking with Richie and a guest that was also staying there. I cooked the chicken of the woods for them to try as well. The conversations ranged from covid, to religion to exchanging stories from our pasts. Richie was a software person back in the day, made lots of money in NYC, traveled all over and ended up making lots of money selling cocaine. He left the city for Vermont and had never left. He told stories of swimming with whales, curing his own mouth cancer with deep mediation, and ayahuasca sessions that changed his life. He left many little nuggets of wisdom with me for sure. The farm also had a very Buddhist inspired vibe. Prayer flags, a lovely stupa out in the hills, bells and chimes throughout the house and I stayed in the shrine room that had statues and pictures all around. I could feel the peace that has built up there. Although I didn’t get to meet Dr. O, the visit to his farm was a certain highlight! I really wanted to stay longer but my forest guide was unavailable and with covid hanging around in my mind, I thought it was better to move along. I did get some good advice on a remote place to get into the Green mountains and camp. I headed in that direction, stopping in Burlington to see my first lighthouse of the journey. On the way to my camping area, I stopped to hike in the Mount Mansfield state forest. I found more Chaga and was taken by the lush green colors throughout the forest. Also the white and yellow birches that dominated along side the pines. My camping spot was right on a ‘pond’, I always thought of ponds as being very small but I’d learn that are just smaller than lakes. It was out of the way, secluded, the spots were spread out and only saw a few people who came and went. It’s called Zack Woods pond recreation area. There’s only five spots officially but a few other make shift spots there. The pond is serine and at night the loons call out wildly, which I fell in love with their songs the whole trip long. I hiked around along some snow mobile trails and trails marked with flags, here I’d find a lot more Chaga! Not far from my tent was a fairy ring of mushrooms and it literally looked like a fairy land back there, with vibrant mosses and tiny streams. I enjoyed swimming several times and meditating at the pond, staying two nights here. It’s always a great idea to ask locals where the lesser known places are! I had left gaps in my plans to find interesting places by chance, so the next day was just that. I traveled around Vermont some, stopping in Woodstock and Stowe. I stopped at Ben and Jerrys warehouse, which was closed but neat to see, as I love me some ice cream. I also stopped at Robert Frosts stone cabin, which was pretty great. I was always inspired by his writings about nature and “Birches” is one of my favorite poems ever. I strolled around the grounds, saw the actual mending wall he wrote the poem for and hiked a few trails through his property. Not knowing where I was sleeping that night I ventured on and ran across Mount Ascutny and posted up.

I had no idea the day I was in for. I researched a little the area I was at and discovered four waterfalls close by and the summit of Mt. Ascutney was drawing me in. I tried to drive my car to the short hike to the summit but it started to over heat as the road was super steep and windy. So I decided against that. I went instead to find these waterfalls. The first one was called Black River falls. This one is in Springfield, Vermont. Quite a large falls and right in town. I grew up near the Black River in upstate New York and it was the perfect place to sit and reflect on my childhood and my step father, Jim. I left some of his ashes at the falls and together we sat and listened to the powerful falls. Next I’d go in search of little cascade and crystal cascade falls, both on the same trail, the weathersfield trail, which as it happened was also the trail to the summit of Mt. Ascutney. It read as 2.9 one way, which seemed like a regular distance, not too bad right. Well as I began I quickly learned it was a trail straight up! The elevation gain on this trail is 2,060 feet, a beast. Little cascade was an interesting small falls that was down a rocky hall, which made it pretty cool to check out. Crystal cascade is a very large falls but very hard to see. You come out at the top of the falls, which has a very pretty opening view out. I was able to peer over the edge and it reminded me a lot of paradise falls here in NC. It was quite scary, my fear of heights was ever present here. From the falls it’s a journey up and up and up. The forest was beautiful, switching from pines to birches, streams running through and lushness everywhere. After several breaks, I made it to the top and it was a stellar view. There are several overlooks with different views, my favorite was the west side. There’s also a fire tower at the summit, I didn’t go up as too many people were there. There’s a great sense of accomplishment when you reach a summit and the views usually release the physical tiredness you feel. I had one last waterfall to see and after the summit hike I was drained but motivated still and good thing as this hike was only .8 of a mile but low and behold, it was a steep, tough walk up. It’s called Gerry’s falls and is a rather small falls but still a nice one. I had to go into town to get a pizza to reward myself! The camp sites at the state park were nice and free hot showers always makes a huge difference. The first night here I had neighbors but my site was pretty out of the way of them, the second night no one was around at all which was so wonderfully delightful. I did find a lions mane mushroom out at the falls also which I made a nice tea on my campfire with. The next day I’d say good bye to Vermont. I really fell in love with this state and it’s green mountains for sure. It will certainly be a place I revisit someday.

I would get up and at it pretty early every day on this trip, which wasn’t so much by choice but worked out lovely. The mornings are quite and peaceful and have a wonderful haze about them in the mountains. As I drove into New Hampshire I came across a mountain beach on a lake that was empty, except for me. I had seen a street sign just before that read ‘Ryan’s way’ and it reminded me of my dear friend who passed away. I knew he was here with me the whole way and felt his presence on that beach. I was pretty close to my next camping spot so I decided to hike a peek called Mount Monadnock. Apparently it’s a highly sought out destination. The ranger there told me it’s second to Mt. Fuji as most visited! This trail was 1.9 miles but a 1,800 elevation gain, another whopper. Parts of this trail were quite challenging, with some portions having to hike up solid rock faces along slim cracks. For me it was slow going. As I hiked up there was two people running it! They ran past people and seemed to skip up pretty tough terrain like it was nothing. One girl passed me four times, it seemed so dangerous to me but everyone has their own passion. As I got to the part way mark, there were several points to look out and the views were grand. Towards the end your basically just walking up this huge rock and everything opens wide. You can see in a 360 view and these mountains are so beautiful. They are called the white mountains for a reason, the rocks are basically white. One of the most scenic, gorgeous hikes I have been on easily. I ventured off trail a bunch, to get away from people and enjoy the views alone. There were many rock mounds here and there that people had built. The whole place had a surreal feel. This was another certain highlight. The trip down was a bit more challenging than up actually, yet I survived. My next camping site was at Lake Pawtuckaway state park. The campground here was one of the nicest ones I stayed at. Huge rock boulders were everywhere around the grounds. That night no one else was around at all. I’d stay at the campground again on my return crossing through NH. There is a small beach there on a super pretty lake. There’s several little peninsulas to explore. I explored at sunset and had the place to myself. Though a short visit, I highly enjoyed my time at Lake Pawtuckaway. I’d really love to go back and kayak it. I left some of my fathers ashes before leaving. Next it was on to the coast!

After a few days of tough hikes, it was nice to relax at the lake and enjoy a swim. I debated staying two nights as I had no plan for the next day other than to drive into Maine. The road called to me to keep going. On my way out of New Hampshire, I found an old cemetery and had to stop as it was full of birch trees and as I went in, mushrooms also. Next, I picked the coastal route which took me into Portsmouth, after a short walk around town I found highway 1A. This stretch was amazing. I followed the coastal road for many miles, stopping at different beaches and pull overs, taking it slow and easy. It was refreshing to be by the ocean and my favorite part, the rocky beaches and cliffs. I vowed to drive home through here again but ended up going a different route. It was a great way to get up into Maine. When I crossed over I had the eagerness to explore but also a sense like this was the final leg of the journey. Maine has such a feel of openness, open sky and open ocean. I looked forward to the harbors and ships and more rocky beaches. On the way up the coast I came across York, Maine and a wonderful lighthouse called Cape Neddick Nubble lighthouse. This one was such a beauty, positioned right on the ledge of a rocky peninsula, it was like being in a dream. I will say I’m a bit of lighthouse nut, always imagining being the keeper and staying in one for months at a time. My next stop was in Portland, a brief walk around the city and to grab lunch downtown. I continued on and began looking for a place to land for the night. I came across a place called ‘the dessert in Maine’, which had camping but was expensive and the spaces really close together. I was intrigued as it is a large sand dune formed naturally by glaciers melting long ago. I decided to pass it over and continue on my quest. I ran across a place called Bradbury state park in Pownel, Maine, which ended up being perfect. The spots were nice and spread out and very few campers there. While there I discovered luxury set ups to rent, platforms with teepee like tents with canvas tops, bug screens, bunk beds with air mattresses and a tiny wood stove inside them. A skip down the street was the other section of the park that had a short, easy hike to a summit. A long time friend grew up near by and told me they hiked that trail all the time as a kid. After my stay over I ventured out and headed to the Bay Booth region on the tip of the coast line. It was a wonderland of exploring. I went on to go find Owls head lighthouse. It was a rainy, misty morning and perfect for the short hike to the lighthouse. I had to go see this one as the owl is my spirit animal! It is a wonderful, little one. I got there early enough that no one was there and enjoyed the serenity of the place to myself. I passed some interesting hiking along the way, one area called Dodge lake public land and hiked some trails in there, as well as an area just outside Owls Head, a series of preserves. I was excited to keep moving as that night I had my first of three nights in Acadia National Park. On the way I’d pass the roadside lobsta places and had to indulge in some seafood, soo good. I’d travel past the big bridge near Bucksport. My last time through I went to the top of the towers on the bridge, which scarred me a bit, this time I did not. I’d make it Acadia just as I was allowed to check in and set up, which gave me the rest of the day to explore. It was a rainy first day there but I was there and it felt so good.

Here I was in my big destination, I’d spend three nights and four days in the park. I’d move campsites all three nights, as the camping was full every day. I wandered out into the damp day after securing my tent and making it rain ready. I found a gorge trail, which actually led to Cadillac mountain, which I didn’t visit this trip. They now required an extra parking pass to get up there and with the crowds I decided to pass. I wanted to check out several trails I had not seen my first go around. I took a walk through the Acadia wild gardens, a board walk through some wonderful plants and trees. I also drove the park loop and stopped at thunder hole, a roaring tunnel of ocean explosion and got out onto the huge pinkish boulders all along the seaside of Acadia. The soft rain and mist from the ocean waves crashing made the scene magical. It’s truly indescribable standing there with such wild nature all around, unlike any other place. I drove into Bar Harbor (bah haba) for dinner. I had to have some local haddock! I strolled past all the little shops and walked the ocean path. Parking in this town sucks, most visitors of the park plus others converged on it all at once it seemed. It is a cute town all the same. It rained all night, so I had no fire the first night, sadly. The next day I ventured off to see the Bass Harbor lighthouse, on the ‘quiet side’, the less popular parts of Acadia. It was a neat little lighthouse. I hiked the friends trail that intersected the carriage roads and made it to long pond meadow. Walking through the forest here has such a different feel to me. The pines scent are stronger, the birch are so much more predominant and the mosses are vibrant light and dark greens. I of coarse saw lots of mushrooms. I also hiked the wonderland trail which meandered through the small jack pines and led out to the coast. There was no one there when I got there and had the whole rock covered beach to myself. That night I got to have my camp fire and had a nice long, big fire to make up for the night before. I hiked the beehive trail which was a cool, super rocky trail near sand beach. I visited sand beach in the morning when no one was there, I got really lucky with seclusion the whole time, managing to avoid the massive crowds somehow. I had a nice meditation on the beach and hiked up great head trail that led up over the beach. I’d stop at seal harbor, little hunters beach, beach croft path, the ocean trail and the natural seawall. I got my hot showers in Otter Creek, along with a few hot meals at ‘The Lighthouse Inn’ and the general store, you gotta spoil yourself alittle. Acadia is one of the true gems of the north country. I felt a peaceful ease the whole time I was there. Time moved fast it seemed and before I knew it, it was near the end. I was glad to have discovered more parts I had missed last visit, and also happy knowing I left more to be discovered next time! After packing up from my last night, I’d spend the day driving the park loop and stopping here and there to jump out and take in the views one last time. I didn’t go too far away for the next night. I stayed at Lamoine state park, just about twenty minutes from Acadia. It’s a nice little park, with nice camp sites and a small beach area and down the street was the actual Lamoine state beach. Hardly anyone was camped there and walking the beaches was pretty quiet. I had a great nap by the water in my hammock while I was there. There was even a big stump full of Turkey Tail right in the middle of my site. That’s the second time Turkey Tail was at one of my sites! I collected a huge bag of Turkey Tail during my travels. Next I’d be off to Bucksport and spending two nights in a tiny cabin on a lake, something I was really looking forward to.

I took my time getting to Bucksport, stopping at three preserves along the way. Indian Point, Jordan Homestead and Frenchman Bay preserves, all near Ellesworth, Maine. The first was Native American history trail, with lots of signs telling of Native beliefs, customs and different tribes that were once there. These preserves were all magical, the hikes were just a few miles each and very easy walking. All of them were loaded with many kinds of mushrooms, it truly was a real life wonderland for me. I had to collect some for dinner of coarse. Painted Boletes, Chanterlles and Slippery Jacks mostly. Getting into Bucksport was a surprise because I didn’t know it was on the other side of the big bridge. It’s a cute little town and I walked around some to take it in. My air bnb was just outside of town about ten minutes away. It is definitely tucked away and secluded. I got meet Stevie, the land owner and found her to pleasant and helpful right away. She showed me around and we got to talking about what I do, which peeked he interest. The cabin was right on the water, they call it a pond but seemed larger, it had everything I needed in a tiny space, which I liked, and had a very spiritual vibe with Native, Buddhist, Chinese and Christian pictures and little trinkets all around. I settled in my stuff and decided to get right on the water. She had several kayaks to pick from and I grabbed a sit on top. I paddled for a few hours and it felt so good, I was very much looking forward to this part of the journey and embraced it completely. After boating a bit, I relaxed in my little cabin, it was nice to have cooking ware and a small stove. I got hear the loons all night on the water, I really grew to love the songs of the loons on this trip, it was such a treat! Day two started early, watching the sun rise from big windows on the water. As I went outside I noticed a bald eagle in a tree on the island and spent some time with my hand held telescope watching it, what a sight! I had coffee with Stevie who was out by the fire pit. We chatted about a lot and I really got to know her. She is a fascinating person. She bought the land years ago, it was a run down, small cabin with broken glass and trash everywhere and by herself she turned it into an amazing oasis, with a few small cabins, a wonderful garden and green house, she even bought a small island a few hundred feet off shore and is preserving it. We talked mushrooms, covid, travel, she told me of her life as a massage therapist, who traveled to Africa and Europe and has lived a very full life, she is 75 in case I didn’t mention. We decided she would take me around the woods on her property and I’d teach her about mushrooms. The woods were lush, full of birch and tons of mushrooms around. It was a great hike. Afterwards I jumped back in the kayak and did the whole pond, shore to shore, hugging the coast line. The pond had many vacation homes on it and Stevie told me only 3 of the houses lived there full time. It was a beautiful, quite stroll. I came across two loons on the water and got pretty close. I got to one section that was full of tall grass, bright green and some red reeds poking out, it was also full of lily pads in purples, reds, yellows and greens. As I got closer they were attached to these long, stringy roots and looked extraterrestrial. Then I found a stunning lotus flower, it seemed to be glowing white on the water. I had to stop and admire it and even did a meditation next to it. I noticed another and another and paddled around to the different ones, meditating and chilling next to each one. It was such a peaceful, soul filling time. I found a place to swim as well. After a good long time on the water, I got back on land and hit the forest trail again, gathering lots of mushrooms to share with my host and enjoy myself, almost getting a little lost wondering around off trail. She was so happy and made a big bunch of roasted veggies to share with me in return. As the sun set I decided to go back out for a sunset stroll on the water and stayed out there until the moon came out. I took my phone and played some of my favorite songs, thought of my father and friends that passed and took it all in. Stevie had a bonfire going when I returned and I joined her for more conversation and a lovely fire. I returned to my cabin and did some writing by a small gas stove, one with fake flames but looked real to me. I didn’t get a chance to say good bye in person the next day but left Stevie some tinctures she wanted and a note of thanks. I could of stayed there much longer but knew it was time to keep moving. It was such a pleasant stay and perfect way to say goodbye to Maine.

Before leaving Maine I stopped at a recreation area called Great Pond and found a super cool trail. It led me into a mostly birch sanctuary with tiny ponds and swampy areas. The trail was full of tree roots and was super narrow, if it wasn’t for the blazes here and there, I would of easily been lost. It was unlike any trail and environment I’ve been. From there I decided to go to Lowell, Mass to visit Jack Kerouac’s grave. Much of Lowell seemed run down and a little scary and the cemetery was in a busy section of town. When I got there, no one was there, I had the place to myself. I spent some time talking with Jack and placed a few mementos on his headstone. From my teens into my twenties and thirties, I read a lot of the beat generations work, especially Jacks. I was inspired, motivated and shaped by some of his work. Traveling, life on the road, living fast and free, writing, and embracing life in the moment! It was a moving moment for me on the trip to be there. I made the tough decision after that to not go visit my sister in Boston and keep moving along across upper Mass., which took a bit was a nice drive through small towns and ended up staying in the Berkshires for a night. I went through a small section of New Hampshire the next day on my way to New York and saw one last boat on the water. My route led me along an interesting way, the first thing encountered in New York was a Japanese Buddhist temple. It was early in the morning and I was greeted by a young monk. He invited me into the temple and spent time explaining the beliefs and rituals, while showing me around. It was an unexpected delight! From there I got on a state parkway called Tanonic. I drove for a hundred plus miles on it, through the forests and loved every second of it, it kept me off the main highways and was a relaxing way to spend some time traveling home. I drove all the way into Virginia, which started to feel like home again and landed in George Washington forest at a place called Elizabeth Furnace camp site. It was a great find with showers! Only thing was it was super mosquito village. I dried my Chaga by the fire one last time. From there it wasn’t far getting back into North Carolina.

The trip was amazing and much needed for me and life changes and keeps moving along. I learned I could do my work from the road, planning isn’t always needed, as finding places to camp isn’t all that difficult and spending time with myself can be transformative. At times I felt the loneliness and wished I could share my many experiences. On the same thought, the solitude of solo travel was refreshing to some degree. I fell in love with Vermont along the way and with Maine for the second time. I was intrigued with seeing new mushroom varieties and exploring new places. I met some unique people along the way and ate some real good seafood. This trip was my first long solo trip ever! I’ve done many small ones and traveled with partners and friends but never this much time and distance by myself. As I returned home I jumped back into my business, doing a few wonderful mushroom walks and markets and I was filled with the fire of travel. Where to next? That’s the question that now won’t leave my mind, and when? Colorado, back west, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, all keep coming to mind…..we’ll see…..

Winter Days 2021

There’s been a certain relief having left behind last year, in some regards, in other ways I feel I had a pretty good year personally. I started the new year by leaving my job life to a now past life and I don’t plan to look back. I had a successful 2020 with my business and decided it was finally time to stop working for anyone else and live a more free life the way I’ve always wanted to. It’s a pretty good feeling to be in the place I am in life. I’ve been spending quite a bit of time out in the mountains, sometimes alone, sometimes with my Jillie and sometimes with the wild puppy, Luna Moon. Having the time to spend the days out on the trails has been refreshing and making my own schedule is too great, I can take a day off anytime and not have to ask. It reminds me of when I got emancipated at 15 and I could write my own notes to miss school and would take off to the rocky beach parks in upstate New York. I almost got held back due to missing too many days. It’s been great to reconnect with some places I love to go, especially in the winter, like the Black Balsam and Waynesville, Boone and lower Virginia, Barnardsville and Cherokee. And then exploring new places I’ve never been, closed parts of the parkway, around Lake Lure and close by in Hickory Nut gorge. There’s a certain silence to the winter, maybe there’s less birds in the trees or people around, but I especially like that about winter hiking. I love to hear the ice crack and fall, the dripping water off the rocks. Walking in the snow and ice adds an extra challenge but also makes for a lovely setting all around. The sky seems bluer, the white tips of the outstretched branches of the trees seem to glow, it is a magical season in the Blue Ridge mountains indeed. Even though the busiest mushroom hunting seasons are still ahead, there’s still plenty of Turkey Tail and Chaga to keep me hunting all winter long. Here’s a few shots I’ve taken out and about on adventures. I even managed to capture a shot of Brendan changing his oil, impressive!

There’s also been a few good getaways this winter. We (Jill, Luna and I) escaped to the beach for new years, Surf Side beach, this year in South Carolina. It’s always nice to walk the beach in the winter months and of coarse breathe in the salty air that our lungs love it extra with the ‘rona’ still out there. It was a nice get away, Luna met her twin named Charlie, which was a certain highlight. The other was a trip into the mountains of Georgia, to stay in a swanky cabin with a hot tub for my forty third birthday. It was an extra cold, snowy and icy few days, which was perfect for chilling in a sweet cabin with good food, dessert, and snacks. We binged on Karate Kid I and II on the tube, had morning, afternoon and evening soaks, I got play my hand pan on a balcony with a stellar view, it was a grand birthday. I had time to reflect on the last year of my life out in that cabin and though outwardly many things fell into place for me, inwardly was different. I noticed a significant amount of missing emotions, almost every emotion. It’s been a slow build up to this feeling. When I first got sober I learned a lot about that very thing, we rise the bar so high with excitement, wanting, feeding our desires, hiding mistakes, being overly emotional in highs and lows, grief and disappointment, taking ourselves to the very edge of madness (well I can’t speak for the all, only myself), after all that, when the smoke clears, your kind of left emptied out. Over the first few years of sobriety that sense has been in the back of my mind, more of a nagging really, reminding me, hey what’s going on? What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you cry? Why don’t you say what you think or feel? I know joy and sadness, I’ve always felt them, though I will say I’ve never been good at out right expression, I often wrote to release how I felt. I’m not sure how to describe it in words now, just a flatness or numbness, and it’s hard to figure out. There’s also this place of acceptance. These days when I look in the mirror my reaction is more of a, “okay”, or a “well”, it is not usually a, “looking good today”, or general happiness with my image. I accept that time takes it’s toll on the body, I welcome every age as it comes. I wonder if there’s truth to the idea if I had a bunch of money, I’d be super happy, same as if I was super healthy, I’d feel the best I ever have. I guess what I may be doing is an over all wellness check in, the results are varied. I do feel a certain good level of hopefulness however and that concludes that stream of consciousness.

This winter has been especially wintery with cold weeks, more snowy days than I’ve seen since moving here and in watching the weather around the country, it’s been a pretty real, actual winter! I’ve learned the lesson of slowing down this year, wither it’s on a trail or in a line, going to the store, enjoying playing with my dog or talking to my son, having morning coffee with my love or taking time to meditate. I see and feel a lot of anxiety all around me and at times within myself. Racial tensions, us against them, isolation, distancing, masks, Co-Vid very much alive and well, it’s simply been a lot. Taking the moments to be perfectly present has crossed my mind a lot and it’s a reminder, like the sound of the bells, to stop, thoughts and planning, to look around, feel the sun on your face, the cold in your bones, the warmth of a fireplace, to simply be still, rest and breathe. There was a day I was out walking along the closed parkway road and I got a text from the mom of my good friend and brother Ryan, who passed in the fall. She said she was with a medium and Ryan mentioned my name, saying he was around me. I feel him and other friends, my dad and step dad, grandfathers and grand mothers, all out on the adventures with me and it’s quite comforting really.

I was born in the middle of a blizzard in Buffalo, NY in 1978, so you might say I have the cold and snow in my DNA. As I get a bit older however, I prefer mild winters, such as those here in Asheville. In a small reflection on my birthday, I’ve noticed some changes in my body and mind as the forties move along. I feel new pains in old places, aches where there was none before, and recovery time is a bit longer these days. Maybe I should commit to doing more yoga and getting back to swimming! A few long term goals, or a wish list if you will, is to have a hot tub to soak in after every challenging hike, getting full, complete sleep, acquiring a sprinter van for optimal travel, this of coarse includes business travel, making better food choices more often, go on a retreat when covid is over, visit Oregon and Washington states, walk the Camino and maintain a healthy weight for me at 175. That’s what I got at this point, in this moment, of this mind, and as is everything, subject to change. It’s been a great winter in my little bubble and as it winds down, I’m getting spring fever but plan on embracing what’s left of winter 2021.

Traveling to the North Country, the UP of Michigan

As summer closed out this year, it was off to Michigan to find new adventure and a journey into the unknown. With the outbreak of Co-Vid 19, the yearly two week trip was changed from exploring Yellowstone National Park to one off the cuff voyage to the north country. This trip was to be a special one as Luna, known as the lovebug, was along for the ride. Luna is a 6 month old labradoodle puppy who just happens to be the best dog on earth. Having her with us brought some challenges but she is soo good it was simply put a walk in the park. The trip started off with the classic sleeping in the rest area off the highway for a few hours, somewhere between North Carolina and Michigan. The trip is about 16 hours to reach the upper peninsula and then on from there. The first place we stopped was at the Mackinac bridge that connects the LP to the UP. The bridge, I learned, is one of the longest suspension bridges in the Western hemisphere. Before crossing over we checked out the first lighthouse of the journey, the old Mackinac Point lighthouse. Jill and I both have a thing for lighthouses and this trip would not disappoint as we discovered many along the way. Traveling coastal areas is great for that. Besides the lighthouse, seeing the waters of Lake Huron for the first time was great. The greenish blue color is wonderful and the shear size and feel reminded me of being at the ocean. Once on the other side we picked a seasonal road to wander down and found a spot good enough to camp at. Finding these roads makes for a great way to escape people and spend a night in the wilderness for free. Luna got to run free some and we got to stretch out.

The first destination was to the eastern tip of the UP and the Canadian border, Sault Ste. Marie. It’s a small town with some big things happening in it. Right on the water and along a major waterway system, the Soo Locks are a key piece to the shipping of natural resources via waterway. I grew up near the Erie canal and saw it’s famous locks when I was little and it was neat as an adult to see these ones. We hung out long enough to see a large barge come in and be lowered into lake waters below. The UP is a major source of iron ore, copper, and other natural resources. Interesting enough, first thing in the morning we stopped to get gas and water and at the gas station and we run into a friend from Asheville! It was so odd to see our friend there, finding out his family lived there.

So the people of the UP are called Yoopers, with their own accents and ways, you might hear phrases such as ‘you betcha’ or ‘oooh’ or ‘eh’. After checking out the locks, we made our move for the coast. We drove with the great Lake Superior in view out the window, through small towns, and came across an old Indian burial ground and the Point Iroquois lighthouse before landing on the first beach of the trip. As expected very few people were on the beach, which I was looking very forward to. The beaches on this coast are very rocky, covered in smoothed over pink rocks and many unique colored and shaped ones as well. The coast line is rugged with rocky cliffs, reminded me alot of Nova Scotia when I was there. Luna loved digging in the sand and dipping her toes in the cold waters, as we walked along. It was here I started noticing all the wonderful Birch trees everywhere. Part of the trip for me was exploring the forests and researching how Chaga grows abundantly in this region. We followed the 123 north to our next most northern tip called White Fish point. Here the waves were crashing hard and it is famously known for the ship wrecks that have taken place here. There were many people there as there is a few museums and attractions at the point. Of course there was also a lighthouse. We made camp at a nice state campground called East Branch Fox River, which is off highway 77 north. It was nicely spread out and few people there. A small lake led into the river and it was a perfect place to leave some ashes, Jill left some of her Love dog and I my two fathers.

I started to get a real feel for how vast and expansive Lake Superior really is, I believe we read that it is bigger than Lake Michigan and Huron combined! The waters of the Superior are dark blue for the most part and are fiercer than the others as well. Any time I’m around water I want to jump in, that may just be the Aquarius in me. It refreshes my soul to be around water, I love rivers and streams and creeks, so being around these huge lakes was heavenly. Rolling on we stopped to see a lighthouse in a cute little town called Grand Marais. There we would come across a neat VW bus coffee shop. Jill of course loved it, being a VW bus momma. This one was called Stella. By this point we were engaging in eating pastries, which would become a common theme the whole trip. I have a funny story about this later on. After the coffee stop we ventured off to one of the bigger highlights, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore area. This is along highway H58. The first thing we encountered was Sable falls, a nice little waterfall, which we’d see many more over the trip. In the opposite direction from the falls along the north country trail was the Grand Sable Dunes. These dunes were super cool and the view from up there was amazing. We enjoyed lunch at a pullover overlooking Grand Sable lake. Just up the way brought us to a big look out area called the log slide overlook. It was a short hike to a huge opening were right away we saw an eagle and another large bird tangle up in each other right above us, it was really neat and Jill captured it on video. It’s a long way down to the bottom and takes about 10 mins to get there but than takes an hour back up, we didn’t do this. A little further up the road we stopped to hike out to my favorite light house of the trip called the Au Sable Light Station. It is a beautiful hike following the lake coast and splashing waves. It opens up at the light house, there’s a few other buildings around and a small beach. That area had a neat feeling to me and I just loved it. I always say one day I’d like to stay at a light house as a keeper for like six months, this would be one I definitely enjoy staying at. We’d set up camp in one of the campgrounds, this one was on Lake Kingston and it was a great spot, the spaces were separated pretty good giving us a bit more room and peace and we were on the lakes edge. The next day we did two waterfall hikes and spent some time on Miners beach roaming around, from here you could see the pictured rocks in the close distance. We ended our time in the lakeshore by checking out Miners Castle point. It’s one of the neat Pictured Rocks that looks like a castle. The Pictured Rocks area is a must do in the UP!

At the end of the lakeshore area we drove into Munising. We found a good ice cream spot that also served pasties, also spelled Pastys, and here comes my little story. So when I researched this trip I saw the UP is famous for pasties, which I translated as pastries and thought we’d be at alot of bakeries. We did visit alot of bakeries anyway. A pasty is a large pot pie/hot pocket type of meal. traditionally it is filled with potatoes, beef, onions, peppers and carrots, topped off with gravy. There is various versions of it however, we had a chicken one and a blueberry one as well. I will say they are delicious and hearty. Trying the different ways people make them was fun and filling. We got the pasty pictured below at a place called Muldoones.

I’m alittle embarrassed to say we stayed at a KOA outside of Munising. We needed showers and daylight was running out, it wasn’t awful but was right next to the highway. We saw a small waterfall called Munising falls and another called Alger falls. We followed highway 28 which bobbled between the coast and the inland. Our next destination was Marquette. On the way we found one of the coolest things on the trip, which some of the best things you just happen upon randomly as was the case here. We pulled into a roadside park called Lakenenland. A place self described as junkyard art. The owner and artist is named Tom. We walked through his theme park of sorts where he built/made metal sculptures, some were funny, some fascinating, some beautiful, some highly political, all in all each one was magnificent. It is a place like nothing I’ve seen and I loved it! I appreciate art in all it’s forms and even more so political work. If you zoom in on some of them you can read the messages within. Keep going Tom!

Marquette is a cool little city, we didn’t stay long and just passed through after a lunch including french onion soup and poutine, two of my favorites. We also supplied up on some essentials while there. We’d travel along lakeshore drive for a bit before going inland along highway 41, landing in Baraga which is right on Keweenaw bay. There we found a small roadside, lake side motel with restaurant attached. It was very vintage 70’s looking and actually nice and clean. We visited a small park with Sand Point light house in it, part of the Ojibwa reservation, the native people to the UP. It’s a good time to mention much of the UP was Trump country, this being an election year, there was many flags and signs supporting him. It was alittle disheartening to see but people are entitled to their views, but I still wonder why Trump? I’ll leave it at that. We’d follow 41 up the peninsula on our way up to Copper Harbor and yet another tip. We came across a place called Quincy Mine, an old, huge mine with remnants of the old glory days left behind. It was pretty neat to walk along the half left buildings and equipment. Mining was and maybe still is the lifeline up in the UP, so this was a fitting stop. Moving on we rolled through Phoenix, named after Jill (: going from 41 to 26, another coastal highway. This led us to Eagle river and Eagle Harbor, stopping at more waterfalls and beaches. In Eagle Harbor we’d find the Jampot bakery, something we were looking forward to. The bakery is run by monks that live in a place called Poorrock Abbey, part of the Byzantine Catholic Monastery which is originally from the Ukraine. Their baked goods and jams are off the hook, some of the best goodies I’ve ever had! So good we visited twice. The monks were nice and answered our questions gladly. We stopped to see Eagle Harbor lighthouse before going up to Copper Harbor and finding camping at Fort Wilkins state park. Camping here was not that great, as we were close to people on all sides. The park was pretty great though, we’d see the Copper Harbor lighthouse from afar and hiked around the park. The fort was neat and well preserved.

The two harbors were enchanting and relaxing. I’ve grown fond of the harbor towns and traveling along the coastal highways. We moved along and headed south towards the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness state park. I had been itching to swim the whole trip and the day was in the 70’s, so we stopped at a state park called Twin Lakes and after a little prep, I dove in. The water wasn’t too bad and felt awesome. I couldn’t convince Jill or Luna to join me though. I really wanted to get in Lake Superior but the cold waters and waves kept me out of it. When we arrived at the Porkies, as they are called, all the campgrounds were full so we found one in the town of Ontonagon, the Ontonagon Township park. Lucky for us we got a spot in the woods away from people, with a short walk to a nice beach. The next day we jumped into the only mountains we would see, which are pretty tiny compared to home. We drove up to check out the Lake of the Clouds. It was busy with people but it was a neat place and lived up completely to it’s name, the lake was literally in the clouds. We’d hike the Lake Superior trail for a bit and see two waterfalls, Nawadaha and Presque falls, and had a chance to say goodbye to Lake Superior. We would follow coastal highway 2 through several small towns, stopping for pastries and a pasty naturally. As we wheeled back down to the coast and the southern end of the UP, we’d find Squaw Point boathouse and another unnamed lighthouse before taking a forest road down into a town called Nahma where we found a primitive camp site, my favorite, right beside a river. We cooked bacon and indian food in a marina parking lot as the sun was setting. Luna loved the campsite as she got to run free and explore, dipping her feet in the river and running around like a wild one. I loved the spot except we got attacked by mosquitos pretty badly.

Our last stops in the UP was at a really cool spots. we first made a stop in Manistique, which I learned is the home of Paul Bunyan. this is a big deal because of memories with my dad stopping to see the big statue up in NY and now I have to visit them when I see them and this was a great one. There is also a sweet lighthouse called Manistique East Breakwater lighthouse, I had to walk a long concrete boardwalk and some slippery rocks to get to it but it was epic. We ate at a place called Clyde’s drive in and the food was delicious! The next cool spot was called Kitch-iti-kipi springs, or big spring. These springs were a brilliant emerald green color and so crystal clear. The waters are in the 30’s but man I wanted to jump in those waters. We got to climb aboard a floating dock with a glass bottom section to view lots of big fish and the bubbling springs making clouds of sand. On the last stop in the UP we’d drive down a long dirt road to Seul Choix lighthouse. A wonderful and pretty lighthouse that was very old and well preserved in the town of Gulliver.

We decided to spend one more night in the UP at another state campground, Hog island. Our spot was great and right on the lake. The wind however was strong coming in and blew hard all night, plus we were close to the highway that never seemed to slow down with traffic. From there we made our way back over the bridge and it was time to explore the LP, lower peninsula, the land of the trolls. They call the people there that because they live under the bridge. We would be following Lake Michigan now. The waters of the Michigan are so beautiful and inviting. The turquoise color is one of my favorites and has a tropical feel. As we drove down the 31 we came across yet another lighthouse and as we encountered another lovely day weather wise I was ready to swim again. This time we drove down a random road to Crooked Lake so I could jump in again. These waters were cold, cold but I enjoyed never the less. It wasn’t but a small stretch down the road that I had to jump in again, this time into the Michigan I’d go to swim around in those lovely waters, this was a roadside park called Big Rock Point. This time the water was warmer and I really enjoyed my time in it. Rolling on we found camping at Traverse City state park, an urban campground. The set up here is not the best, it’s right off the main drag, near train tracks and an airport, so needless to say it was noisy. The spots were kind of close together as well. However there are black squirrels there! This is the first time I’ve seen them. In Brevard, NC we have white squirrels, so this was a cool treat. We gorged out at a place called Bubba’s and the next morning had coffee at a great local spot just up the road from the campground. It’s a neat little city with alot going on. We discovered a dog park and Luna got to play and play, which I’m sure was the highlight of the trip for her. We decided to cut across to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore next. This was another big highlight. We hiked around the Empire Bluff trail which was really neat and has amazing views, it seemed to go on forever. The dune climb came after that, which is a giant sand hill dune that was no joke climbing up. I really enjoyed hiking in the sand barefooted and looking down on the lake from atop the dunes was spectacular. Our trip down this coast was almost all dunes.

The next and final lighthouse of the journey was Point Betsie. Camping for the evening happened in the Lake Michigan recreation area, this was one of the best spots of the trip. The spots were plenty spread out and very few people were there. There are five campgrounds back in the forest, all self pay. We landed in the orchid loop, spot 50. There was a nice trail to a great beach and more dunes there as well, and we got to watch the sunset. Our next campground was at Van Buren state park. We’d be near the beach again and enjoyed walking the shoreline. We made a stop in St. Josephs for treats, even Luna got to get in on it at a pet bakery called Fuzzy Butts. She also got to enjoy another dog park. The last camping we’d do was at Warren Dunes state park. This campground had several loops. We hiked around this park and even found a dog beach. There was another giant dune hill to climb and the view atop this one was just awesome. It seemed a fitting way to end our time in Michigan. On our way home we’d stop and stay in Kentucky. We went to two dog parks there, both were huge and Luna was loving it. 16 hours and 3,500 miles later we made it home.

It’s always bitter sweet at the end of a trip. A good part of me wants to travel all the time, a life mostly on the road, living out of a sprinter van or a camper. I can do my mushroom business from anywhere and can be foraging, making products and shipping from the road. There’s so much I want to see and experience and the more I see people doing this sort of lifestyle, the more I get amped up to try. Michigan was pretty awesome, being around the great lakes gave me a lot of appreciation for them and amazed me how much it was like being at the beach and near the ocean. I got to see another great Chaga region and it is quite abundant there! It’s always interesting to study different places, the different types of Birch trees and elevations/environments etc. It’s pretty cool also to visit an area and if you return you kind know what’s around and how to get to different places. Traveling fills up my soul, makes me feel excited and alive with adventure. Until the next journey, hopefully sooner rather than later….

Strange, sad and unusual times in 2020

The first image sums it up when I think of what is happening in these times. The Corona virus or call it Co-Vid 19, is still on loose, the Black Lives Matter movement is spreading just as fast and there is much uncertainty in both. The crying black women, face masks, deaths by illness, death by injustice, fires in the streets, six feet apart, quarantines, protests, racism, symptoms, opening in phases and all the while our country has virtually no leadership or direction it seems. I felt compelled to write this post because in all my years on this planet I haven’t witnessed anything like either of these events.

I’ll start with the Corona outbreak. I can recall some months ago when I first heard of it and how it seemed to be in only parts of the US, then I watched it spread, it came to North Carolina, I watched alittle closer, suddenly it was literally everywhere. Overnight we changed the way we worked, many people could not work, and staying home was a requirement. Italy was full of deaths, older people were in danger, New York City blew up with cases. A wave of new rules hit the whole of society, around the world. Dr Fauci has become a top name and expert and his warnings and updates are of the utmost importance. Staying six feet apart, wearing a face mask, gloves, using sanitizer, traveling put on hold, people were ordered to stay at home, curfews went out, travel bans, and many businesses made to close. I learned alittle about viruses, pandemics, and always thought of the black death, the plague as an example. Suddenly this appeared much worse. As I write this the US just hit 2 million cases, 113,000 deaths, globally, 7 million cases, 464,000 deaths, and every single day these numbers go up. The symptoms are fevers, coughs, respiratory issues, and basically attacks your lungs and your left where you can’t breathe. It’s scary the two biggest events have that in common, George Floyd screamed ‘I can’t breathe’, and those who pass by way of Corona experience the same.

For me I never stopped working. My job was considered, essential, and rightfully so. Lucky for me I had that and also saw a big jump in my mushroom business. I did work from home for about three weeks total, which was interesting and felt so different but nice actually. My work was fortunate enough to get PPE, personal protective equipment, and we have been pretty well covered. That picture above is me at work. We have entered an unusual new time, one where so many things are different now, paying closer attention to how we interact, wearing face masks everywhere, being extra careful when going out, seeing businesses operating differently and in some cases closed altogether. So I listened to talks, updates, watched videos explaining it all and my conclusions are that it effects older people, people with weak immune system, kids with certain conditions, and as for the majority of us, we may catch it and it have mild to stronger effects or it may be we are asymptomatic and don’t show symptoms but the way it spreads around, through droplets, anyone can pass it along pretty easily. As I watch, I understand that they don’t understand it completely, wither it’s on surfaces or in the air, not sure there is a certainty how exactly it passes, yet it does. The other factor is that it mutates, changes, and scientists everywhere are looking for a vaccine and answers on how to slow it down. The word social distancing has become very known and many of the things we used to do, everyday stuff is no longer. For example, going to the gym, concerts, doing yoga, funerals, weddings, birthdays, graduations, going to recovery meetings, or for some the bar, all these things aren’t happening and it feels like a certain connection is gone with it. Connection to friends, neighbors, strangers, the community, and a sense of isolation has crept in. With that feeling our country was changed again in a single day, with an event that has brought millions of people together, and at the same time has caused a huge divide.

The murder of an unarmed, nonaggressive black man in handcuffs on the ground by a white police officer who knelt on George Floyds neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds was a truly heartbreaking, viciously wrong crime. I can’t imagine knowing you are going to die this way, it is certainly one of the worst ways to be taken from this world. Captured on video for the whole world to watch and what happened next is an explosion of emotions that run so deep and have been there just below the surface for so very long and what has been born is a movement, a revolution, an uprising, and with it I hope real change to finally end racism, hatred, murder, brutality, division, us against them, black and white and I’m wishing there at last be some unity. The Black Lives Matter movement has been going on for many years, there’s endless examples of innocent black people being killed by police, videos and images, all this along with a resurgence of supremacy, hate groups, and a president that seems right there cheering it on, instead of using his power to make some real reforms. Can’t express enough how bad Donald Trump really is, as a leader and as a person period. This time around has seen the most ever protests, in every city and even small towns, all around the world, and for weeks, even as I write this. It started like a small fire that grew into an all out raging inferno, that saw violence, looting, destruction, fires, national guard troops, tear gas, beatings, vandalism, anarchists and  even deaths. It literally was a stand off between the people and the police. I was glued to the protests, watching everyday, never before had I seen such sights of so many protesters and so many police in riot gear and so much madness and chaos mixed with people on their knees and peaceful, powerful images of police taking a knee in solidarity, protesters protecting them, protecting store fronts, laying down face first in silence. I saw peaceful protesters abused and huge crowds blocking intersections and highways, gathering in massive numbers in front of the white house, down Hollywood boulevard, in New York City, Minneapolis, Seattle and so many other places. It is unexceptable the way the police and guard physically harmed people, old people pushed to the ground, kids tear gassed, people beaten and pepper sprayed, unbelievable! I watched and felt helpless, removed, so I joined on a day of a candle light vigil in my city of Asheville. It was completely peaceful, and meaningful to be a part of that day and way of protest. Protests came to Asheville about a week after it happened and they started off intense with police tear gassing people, rubber bullets shot, arrests, buildings boarding up, buildings spray painted and turned into a wave of calmer energy which is more the heart of this special city. I walked the city and saw displays and messages of the movement. I know Ian, the artist  that did some of the art work on boarded up businesses, he is an example of compassion and creativity. It was beautiful to see all the different races standing up for one, for a cause that’s beyond description. Since the founding of this country people of color have been treated unfairly, unjust and as second class people. I saw young people letting their voices be heard, I saw groups of people shouting in street and then taking a knee in silence, I saw signs and joined in chants and raised my fist to let the world know I’m with them, apart of them, and together we can bring change. I’m understanding what it means to be an ally to the movement, the idea of white privilege is a real thing, as a white person I see that many of the struggles black people encounter I do not. To be an ally means to do things that can bring change, such as vote, support black business and people in the community, show up at protests, write legislators and let my voice be heard in support.

It’s way past time for everything in our country and all over the world really, for everyone to be treated equal. For leaders to make changes, for society to be in unity, and for the separation of races to end, period. I see racism everyday living in the south, I hear it in the way people talk and the words they use, I see it in areas of poverty and the divisions between the rich and poor. It’s a time of police vs protesters, citizens vs authorities. I stand in unison and the belief that Black Lives Matter, I march with marchers and support all those are there bringing change and making their voices make a difference. The fact that black people have the struggle they do is unacceptable, the history of unjust, hateful and criminal acts done to them is sick and plainly wrong. To witness this sort of out cry for justice, for equal treatment and opportunity, is inspiring and way past due. I’ve always believed in reparations and think every case of police killings of innocent black people should be revisited and those officers charged with murder. Our system is broken in so many ways but this particular issue is beyond simply broken, it is wrong and not moral. The black culture has always had an influence in my life, from music, sports, and style to some of the most important people I have met, call friends and mentors. I believe we are all equal, no matter your race or financial bracket. It’s such a beautiful thing that we have so many different races and types of people in this world, that needs to be celebrated, honored and above all held in the highest regard. Any form of discrimination should be punished, against the law and banished as soon as it happens. I also believe in a world without borders, without walls, with no authority that tells people you can’t go here or there. I believe no one should ever live in fear, of the police, of hateful people, of being deported, of bosses or coworkers. The violence that occurs due to race or gender is disgusting. I have seen it my whole life from Rodney King to Treyvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Philando Castile, Freddy Gray to George Floyd, the gay community, transgender, the me too movement, immigrants, Native Americans, Muslims and so many others. It’s way past time for a shift in our society as a whole, a radical shift towards peace, understanding and equality for all with zero exceptions!

 

While these days bring fear and uncertainty and new ways to look at how we do things, they also made me want to retreat out into nature more than ever. I have done alot of just that, hiking my way from spring into summer, camping, exploring, and foraging. A slightly bright spot in all this has been watching my business flourish. After getting a small shout out from a well known theorist, whose name is Clif High (whose big on twitter-#chagagangsta), I started receiving orders from all over the country. Chaga, more than ever, along with other mushrooms, have been recognized as valuable for immune boosting and combating illness. Something not in any news, is the idea of being preventive, of being proactive with strengthening our systems of defense during this time of a highly contagious virus. I of coarse, highly believe in the healing powers of mushroom medicine and using nature as therapy. This passion, turned venture, turned small business has begun to gain roots. It’s been fulfilling to do what I do, I feel I’m making an impact in a positive way all the while I’m making a living, it literally is my dream come true. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being out and all over the mountains as of late. I have had great forages of Reishi and Chaga and am able to create a nice supply of stock to continue to do what I do. We moved out to Fairview, North Carolina, with horse farms and country surrounding us. I watch the birds and sit on the porch with the sounds of a tranquil stream in the back yard, it’s good living. Brendan and Jill have come on adventures, each experiencing the virus in different ways. Jill left her salon and is doing her business her way, finding a new freedom in that, as well as having time to develop the next phase of her ventures in health coaching and yoga. Brendan is having to do college from home and being an essential cleaning worker. Moving through times of change is what life is all about, surviving and thriving is the goal.

We also added a new member to the family, her name is Luna or as I have dubbed her, La Luna Love bug. A precious labradoodle  puppy, we got from a sweet family farm. She is jet black with a hint of chocolate brown. It was never too much on my radar to get my own dog but after some time, thought and discussion it happened, and honestly I dig it. Dogs really are best friends, they are always happy to see you and want to be right next to you. Luna is a cuddlier and such a calm, chill one so far, just the way I imagined having a pet. I’m learning as I go, it helps to have Jill and Brendan who both know what it’s like to be dog owners. I can’t wait until she is accustomed to being in the woods, hiking along our side!

Black Lives Matter

One chant

No Justice, No Peace

A second chant

Say their names…..

George Floyd

Ahmaud Arbrey

Freddy Gray

Tamir Rice

Treyvon Martin

Sandra Bland

Philando Castile

Eric Garner

Michael Brown

Breonna Taylor

Rayshard Brooks

And the list don’t stop

Murder in the streets

That we watch in color vision

Before our eyes

White cop

Black man, Black woman

Protest, riot, protest

Riot

The people vs the authority

Brutality

Military

To be silent now is the crime

So we shout,

Set fires

Brake windows

March and sing and take a knee

Move the movement

Try and take the power back

To be heard

To be seen

To be EQUAL

A country beginning to crack

America not so great again

And again

And the lights go out

In the White house

And the leader closed his eyes

Hands up…..

Don’t shoot

Cries in the street

Shouts in the dark

As the rest of us wait

For a change

For another day.

Winter Escape into 2020

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So the cold, winter weather has crept in here in the mountains of Western North Carolina. In some ways I love this time of year, it often reminds me of growing up in upstate New York without the snow and brutal cold, just the season itself really. I love to hike in the winter season as the air is refreshing and crisp. However I also love to get away! or New Years 2020 this year we traveled down south into one of favorite regions, northern Florida, the Suwannee river and the springs district. While living in the Tarpon Springs area I often found myself out kayaking. I loved visiting the northern reaches, especially the natural springs. I frequented the Hillsborough river near Tampa, the Peace, Suwannee, St. Johns, Crystal and Alapaha rivers. I pretty much jumped into the water every chance I could get, finding little, twisty, secret passage ways and got lost in adventure. It had been several years since I traveled back down south to get back in it and I missed it greatly.

Our journey started at Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs state park. We arrived at night and camped in the car. The next morning we had breakfast at one of the only little diners open, which note there’s not much for good eating at all in the whole area, then went and rented a two person kayak, at a cost of $35 for two hours and strolled out into the crystal blue waters. The blue color of the spring was amazing! As we paddled along we came to a merge of the blue waters into the tannin waters of the Santa Fe river. It was so refreshing to be back in a kayak and rolling along the river. We saw some exotic birds and tons of turtles. Along this stretch there are numerous springs to explore. We stopped in Lily, Poe, Mermaid and Rum island springs. I jumped in three of them, the temperature is an average of 72 degrees. It felt so nice to be swimming in January. Time always seems to slow down on the river. My only regret was not having goggles to look at the springs from underneath. We hiked a small trail in the park before moving on.

Next up we made our way to Old Town and the Suwannee hideaway campground. The people that ran the campground were super nice and let us have our pick of sites to camp in. We talked with them for alittle and were inspired by their lifestyle of hosting campgrounds. They live in Maine 6 months out of the year and travel the other six months hosting at campgrounds, this is an ideal way of living and we hope to one day do the same, sooner rather than later in life. In our travels we have ran into people doing the same thing a few times and are building our knowledge of how it works. The camp ground was super quiet and remote, not to mention the showers were super hot. There is a long board walk that leads to the Suwannee, perhaps my favorite river ever. We walked that and continued on along the river on a nice trail. We heard two owls the whole way, frolicking in the forest. Their calls could be heard the whole time we were there. I felt connected to them even though I never got to actually see them. While here we visited Fanning Springs which was right in town. Again treated to the clear, blue waters, which of coarse I dove into. This time some visitors, also swimming there, let me use their mask to see the bubbling spring. It was super cool to see the sands bubbling up, the fish and the rocks in the deep chasm. We lingered in the park some, soaking up the sun before jumping on our bikes and getting on the nature coast bike trail. This trail was great, 31 miles of biking, it goes through small towns and remote parts of the route. On our expedition we rode to an old trestle bridge that overlooks the Suwannee. I really enjoy riding like this, flat, easy and serine. Not finding any good food near by, we drove to Gainesville to have a nice dinner on our anniversary, four years together!! It’s been wonderful and enriching and full of awesome adventures and oh yeah, LOTS of love. Hanging out along the Suwannee was fulfilling, I just love the big cypress trees, the hanging Spanish moss and the dark, amber waters.

Before leaving this area we popped into Manatee springs and got to see four manatees hanging out, along with some huge fish. I once kayaked with several manatees and it was a true highlight of my time on the springs, seeing these gentle creatures again was pretty cool. The state park is a neat little place also to explore. Also made a quick stop to but some ashes of my fathers at the base of a giant cypress tree along the Suwannee, so they may know the peace it has brought me.

We decided to head for the coast after a few nights along the Suwannee. Our first stop at Flagler beach to lay on the beach and jump in the ocean. Flagler is a small beach and it was not very busy which was great. We continued up A1A heading into St. Augustine. We stayed in the beach area near Anastasia island. We did a nice long beach stroll, which is a favorite thing. That night we drove into the historic city. It was buzzing with people. It’s neat to walk around the small streets, all the shops and architecture. The city was in full swing with horse carriage rides, trollys full of people and christmas lights all over. We walked the old fort, the water front and had dinner in the mix, finished off with a homemade ice cream treat. We also visited Mantanzas national monument park. The ferry was closed to the fort so we hiked in search of the great horned owls which apparently left a few years ago. We also spent some time driving around the side streets of the city and checking out the old houses. Another highlight was the St. Augustine lighthouse, even though we didn’t pay the $20 something charge to go inside, it’s always cool to see a lighthouse. It is the first picture on this post.