Wednesday, October 15, 2014

1 Year

It is almost crippling to think that a year ago this month, I was taking a leap into what would become the best experience of my life of yet. Not one single day goes by that I don’t think about those 2 months. It is funny because looking back the reality of that trip was that I was freezing my butt off, desperately missing home, crying through forests, mountains, and canyons as they passed and thinking very lovingly violent thoughts about what I wanted to do to Finnley. All I wanted was to get home to my mama and my kitty and my home states deliciously hot weather.

So funny (the jokes on me) that not until I got home did I realize and find a million fantastic secrets about myself that I wish I had known then, but the thing is I would have never opened that door and found those things without taking the leap.

Travel has always been something I have lusted after above all things even writing. In my quaint little home, on my quaint little street, in my quaint little city, I always felt trapped. The family vacations to the same 3 destinations my whole life just weren’t doing it for me. I needed mountains in my life. I needed lakes and forests of pine. I needed more.

Naturally when I got a job the first thing I did was save to do so. Even before it all I went to California, Florida’s hot older sister state. I saw mountains, REAL MOUNTAINS, for the very first time. I spent 10 days with Finnley, both of us in what seemed like a perpetual state of awe. To this day California melts my whip cream heart into my hot chocolate veins. That was the trip that sparked Finnley's interest in travel and confirmed everything I knew about what kind of life I needed to live.

When we left a year ago today, I was terrified. I finally handed myself what I always wanted and had no clue how to use my freedom. I let small details ruin moments, I let the cold freeze possibilities, but I also let myself feel lost when I had no idea that I was. All I could see was the horizon, a figurative destination, not knowing how to get there or what would even happen when I arrived and it hit me; this is a good thing. But it wasn't until I got home and everything in my brain started stabilizing that I could use everything I had learned.

I'm a typical control freak and a master at avoiding problems. However, for me never taking risks and letting loose made me emotionally sheltered and lead to no rewards, no lessons learned, and no awesome stories. All it left me with is a blown up head because nothing wrong ever happened. I began to think I was some master at life and all knowing when in reality I was limiting myself and I wasn't doing what I most desired to do; live.

Finnley on the other hand is the complete opposite. He is your not so typical risk taking, wild running, soul of Huckleberry Finn man boy who is a master at getting out of problems after they already occur. Believe me when I tell you regardless of the fact that our relationship is the perfect potion for a literal tug or world war, he has taught me the most important lessons about being who I want to be. Every time he pulls me into the mud no matter how much I may bitch and fight and scream on the way down, when I'm in it, I play.

He has pushed me out of my comfort zone and to my limits more than a plenty. Whether it be during hiking miles into the dunes of Death Valley though my legs couldn't bare it, or to climb down one of the many thin trails at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, no matter how much I cried and bitched because he knows when I get down there I won’t be able to put my camera down and take my eyes off of the vast and unprocessable beauty. He pushes me to open my eyes and stop being stubborn and blinded by my sometimes crippling fears and for that I am eternally grateful.

I hope to say that I am as complimentary to his life as well. Some people would call me a buzz kill, but I keep him safe to an extent. For that he knows I care. I'm the dreamer when he can’t find his, I'm the grounder when his excitable nature takes it too far, I'm the navigator when he drives, and I always above all encourage him to be himself and embrace who he really is instead of bowing to the demands of our conventional society that sometimes grab him by the belt loops. I get us to leap, he teaches us how to fly.

The majority of the past year has been spent working, day-dreaming about travel, and obsessively camping when we can and until we may leave again that is what we will continue doing (we will leave again - pinky swear). Camping seems to be the only thing that keeps me sane at home. I'm proud to say that there is no place I rather sleep than in a tent. I crave the outdoors, I want to be active and feel my body alive, and sometimes I ever surpass Finnley now in our adventures, often times scaring him with my shenanigans. Whether it be sunset paddle boarding, moonlit kayaking, or streaking along a shore, we as a team are now always up for an adventure.

Our last adventure took us to a moonlit night on Sanibel Island. A cold front was blowing in, but the night sky unlike the days, was a clear navy, waxed with thin clouds. The moon was at the center of the oceans horizon. The stars were dim and the ocean flipped calm waves to shore. Never has it felt so good to strip to nothing, run, and jump into my loves arms and fall into the ocean as our friends look on hesitant to feel the freedom. The way I see it is this is just the beginning.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Alexander Springs: Car Crashes & Clear Water

After all the traffic drama of The Keys I was ready to get back to the middle of BF nowhere; to the roots of my camping past and head to the woods. The last time Finnley and I camped in the woods was last November in the Grand Canyon, so you could imagine I was quite excited to go and to be doing something different from the beachy norms of late. We were headed to Alexander Springs; one of many of the Florida Springs in the Ocala area. Previously, Finnley and I had been to Juniper Springs and Blue Spring and loved it.

It was going to be a 4 hour drive this time so we attempted leaving earlier than usual and were able to get on the road around 9:00am. In comparison to the Keys, the drive was pretty boring. The turnpike isn't meant to be scenic I suppose, but that always makes the drive feel longer. When we finally got off and onto local roads was when it got slightly more scenic and hilly! I forgot how hilly it can get in central Florida. I don’t know why, but for some reason rural Florida freaks me out more than any other rural place I've been. I just get weird vibes that I have yet been able to explain.

Anyhow, about ten minutes before we were supposed to reach the campground we ended up getting in an accident. When will the traffic horrors end!!! Oh yeh I live in Florida... sooo never. A motorcyclist hit my car from behind and we were basically stuck at the scene for 2+ hours. Thank goodness the guy was ok, but there went all of our good weekends. I guess some people would say this would be a good story to be told; how Finnley lifted the motorcycle off the man and dragged him from gasoline gushing toward him, how I was the only person dialing 911 out of the 10 tards that just stood around looking, and how all the poor man cared about was how everyone else was doing (even my car!) and his bike of course, but beyond that I rather not. I don’t want to have to relive it and I don’t want anyone else to either.

 Honestly I don't even feel like blogging about this entire trip because when I think about it all the feelings of "why" flood back. For a lack of better words, that experience basically mind fucked us for the following 2 days. I tried to find reason, maybe this is a lesson? For me? For him? For Finnley? I don’t know. I almost felt betrayed by the vibes of the earth because lately more than ever have I been throwing the most positive and pure vibes out there only to be shit on for wanting to camp in the woods? For wanting to camp as much as I do? For escaping my zombie grind barely a day and a half a week? I never found a reason and sometimes I still get anxiety about it, but I have to remind myself I cannot keep that kind of defeatist attitude towards life, because that is all it really is. From a page out of Forrest Gump it all really boils down to "shit happens".

Luckily for us my car was still drivable. We made it to camp around 5:00pm and set up. The site was super big and we had our own little section of woods next to it. After relaxing and trying to get ourselves together we headed over to the spring to check it out. On our walk there we ran into some giant bumble bees and a family that were also in the cross hairs of these radioactive looking creatures. We were both looking for the spring and started talking. It was a mom, her daughter, and her family friend. The mom seriously looked like, talked like, and laughed like Kendra from TV, but like a normal mom version. It was so weird. I'd put money on them being related. She was so nice and cute. Her daughter, Isabella, who probably wasn't over the age of 6 was also adorable and I spent the next hour or so with her making nests out of the Spanish moss from the Oak trees. They were also with a young boy about high school age who was their family friend. He was really into ecology and taught us some cool things about nature.

 We stayed there and walked around taking pictures until almost sundown. I was starving so Finnley made us dinner when we got back to camp. We had a nice big fire again and spent the rest of the night staring at it and talking. At one point we went to take the trash out and on our way back passed a site with about 15 people standing around a big fire, all with their wrists crossed towards the fire and gazing in. Told you rural Florida was creepy. However, doesn't really compare to our travelling friend Katie's way creepier, but similar story. Two big differences with hers: Mormon Utah and they were all naked! Anyway I tried to keep a positive attitude about it and/or ignore it. We went to bed soon after. I was really tired so I started falling asleep good, but then was jolted by the thought that I didn't remember where I put my keys. I tried waking Finnley up, but that never does any good. It always takes more man power then it’s worth to wake him up. So I had to go find them. I apparently left them in one of the camp chairs.

When I tried going back to bed I just kind of ended up laying there is a trance for the rest of the night. We woke up kind of late and made breakfast. Afterwards we only had time for one activity before we'd have to start packing up. We decided we would take our new blow up kayak out for a run. I wanted to swim in the spring because I had also just bought a new wetsuit, but Finnley won that battle as per usual. We had to carry that damn thing so far to the canoe drop. I was under the impression that it was going to be like regular water, but to my pleasant surprise it turned out to be a whole river that looked like a spring. It slightly took the sting of not getting to swim in it away (slightly!). It was a really gorgeous day out. The sun was shining and there was a slight wind. The water all around us was glittered with sun crystals. It was so beautiful and peaceful everywhere we looked. We rowed around for an hour or so before we headed back.

 We packed up and headed out. There was one spot we drove by that was so hilly I was thinking in my head " wow, looks like Tennessee" and literally like .5 seconds after that thought Finnley said the same thing to me out loud. It was a very nice spot, hills and valleys, very non-Florida-like. I drove the first half of the way home before it was Finnley's turn. We got home around 6:00pm feeling exhausted; mentally, emotionally, physically. While the camping bug bites on, we required a much needed break from the road. Never thought that would come out of my mouth/fingertips! :-X

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Keys Disease: A Never-Ending Saga of Sunshine

Over the past couple of months I have developed a very bad/good habit of obsessively checking Reserve America for availability, particularly for Long Key. Bad because I keep booking and booking and leaving barely any weekend time for recouping and/or the mundane errands that us regular people with full-time jobs have to do like cleaning and well mostly cleaning. I end up going days, sometimes a full week with all my gear still in my car. I'm pretty sure at this point my co-workers think I'm living out of it, but hey it makes me feel mobile and I like that! Good because well I keep getting to go back! Weeee! Two weeks after our last Long Key visit I found another cancellation and we headed off to our paradise once again.

 This time Finnley slept over my house so we could try and get an early start. As expected that didn't work out as planned. We left around 10:00am after shopping and buying another seafood feast. Unfortunately, we ran into bad traffic pretty much right off the bat. We were barely driving an hour before we were backed up for an hour. After the 3-way intersection of The Keys, Everglades National Park, and Biscayne Bay we started moving, but ended up stopped again on the blue walled road for another hour. After the past two trips down there I was and am still really sick of traffic. I almost exploded in anger. Every time that shit ruins it for me. I mean I know down in the Keys that is like the standard, but every time Finnley and I have gone to Key West before, 98% of the time it was smooth sailing.

Something I noticed and found weird about the Keys is every time we are stuck in traffic people decide to get out of their cars and start walking. Normally when you’re dead stopped for an hour plus the people can make it to a point and get picked up, but traffic was moving a little too fast this time and we saw a guy running after his car. I felt bad for him, but it was really funny and his friends did eventually pull over and wait for him. At one point as we sat in the dead of traffic, the man in the car behind us exited his vehicle carrying a styrofoam food container, walked to the side of the road into the grass and just dropped it there. I watched this person in shock. I couldn't and still can't believe someone can be so deliberately careless for the earth. I got his tag number, I don’t know what I'm going to do with it lol, but I have it just in case. My dad actually offered the only insight into a justifiable reason: what if he had a bathroom related accident?? Lol can’t argue with that. 

Due to all the delays we didn't make it to camp until 3:00pm. When we got there the ranger remembered us from last time and we talked to her for a little. We did a quick setup and tried to calm down from the 4 hour drive that should have only taken 2. This time we had some friendly neighbors from Maine. We talked to them and exchanged stories of our travels as we set up and made our pregame dinner of clams and steak. Afterwards we did some exploring and watched the sunset. Unfortunately our delay didn't leave much time for adventure. When night fell we had a second dinner of scallops and shrimp. Nothing tastes better than a grilled scallop dipped in garlic butter as your toes are in the sand and the wind blows sea threw your hair. Which reminds me, holy moly was it windy! Everything we did was a double struggle mixed with laughter at all our awkwardness.

We had a nice big fire that night even though it wasn't so cold out. I tried taking more long exposure shots because this time the moon wasn't around. I thought I would be able to capture the stars better, but quickly gave up after a few mediocre attempts. It was interesting how different the environment was this time. Last time it was calm, barely any wind, a flat sea, and a huge moon. This time it was extremely windy, no moon in sight, and small, but crashing waves. Matthew and I decided to set up our chairs right on the water edge. It was kind of eerie, but in a beautiful transcendent and subconscious way. It was actually a little too transcendent because I started getting anxiety.

 The previous night I had a very intense and trippy dream. In it my brother, Finnley, and I were on a canoe going through a canal. At one point everything went pitch black and all I could do was hear and feel. I felt Finnley moving the boat forward with his hand. I felt him leaned over full arm’s length deep in the water pushing us forward. I was terrified that him doing that was going to tip the boat and was pleading with him not to. We all kept switching places in the boat. We reached a lake and the sky turned into a beautiful purple/blue cosmic galaxy of stars. It almost looked like a planetarium because it all looked so close and spherical. I felt so happy and started spinning the boat around and around really fast with the top half of my body hanging off. At one point we looked to the middle of the lake and there was a pair of women's feet rising from the water. We watched her rise until her whole nude body was exposed and anticipated seeing her face. When her face finally showed it was demonic, she flipped right side up and came toward me. I jumped into another dream thinking that the demon was stupid and why would she even try because I’m too close to God for her to ever get to me lolol!

And it only gets worse! In the next dream I was at what looked like my grandma's house. Finnley and I were there as well as this young teenage girl who was obsessed with Finnley. In the dream I didn't care because she was so young and for that I didn't find her threatening, but at one point she said something to me that pissed me off and I told her to go drown herself in the ocean. So basically she ran out the door to go down to the ocean in the backyard. Finnley and I start talking about it and I'm telling him to go get her, but we end up talking for so long that she succeeded. She came back as an evil spirit and burst through the door going inside everything and trying to attack us. The last thing I remember is throwing something heavy at her and her going inside a baby’s body and biting the crap out of my arm lolol!

So as you could imagine I was kind of in a weird mood that day especially being around the water and all. The weirdest part about the first dream was I felt like it was really one of those dreams that mean something. I felt a very direct connection between it and my consciousness. After all water is the dream symbol for a person’s consciousness. I just couldn't figure out what the heck it meant. Usually when I have dreams like that I know even before looking it up what they mean, but this one had me confused. It wasn't until the moment that Finnley and I sat at the water’s edge that night that I started putting pieces together. It had to do with my anxiety about growing up and moving forward in my life because regardless of how amazing and how much I love the present changes within me and the future changes I'm working towards, I'll never stop being nostalgic for what was once my fairytale. I was blessed with a life full of an abundance of love and the opportunity to be a child with no cares or worries about anything. For that I will forever wish and dream that I could just go back even if I understand that I must simply have gratitude and move forward.

I get anxiety a lot when I'm away from home because I'm yearning for that, but as I sat at Long Keys water edge I realized I have to let it go and so I sent it off into the ocean with a few figurative tears and sat back by the fire. Again affirming that sentiment I stared into the flames that are endlessly given birth by those before its ashes and coals; it was one of many moments (past, present, and future) of a rebirth of thought or at least an effort towards it. We went to bed soon after. I woke up all night as usual and I think I kept our neighbors up as well. The new sleeping pads were noisy as can be because I didn't put a blanket under them. Every time I tossed and turned I heard them wake up. Later the next day we found out the noise kept waking the wife up because she thought it was rats lol! Earlier the night before they came back and told us they saw rats at our other neighbors campsite and that they told them about giant rats on one of the Keys islands. 

I had to look these rats up and when I did I fell in love. I pretty much need a giant rat now, but thats another story for the future. Anyhow because of this and because I wake up and pee all throughout the night, every night I keep a little camp toilet outside of my tent so I don't have to walk all the way to the bathroom in the crack ass of night.  However if you walk by or are around my tent you may see my crack ass in the night and one time that night I woke up in my usual sleepy delirium and stuck my little bare butt out the tent and heard a man make a shocked noise. Now I don't know for sure if I subjected that poor man to such a strange site, but it sure sounded like it! 

Yet, I refuse to believe it and assume for the sake of my embarrassment that he just made that noise because his wife woke him up once again over her fear of rats (they usually camp in a RV if you didn't infer that already). By the way there is just nothing like waking up in the middle of the night bare assed and peeing while staring at the stars and listening to the ocean waves :-P. I highly recommend! At around 5:00am I woke up and looked out of the tent and everything had changed. Everything was so calm and quiet. There was no wind and the water was flat. There was a huge star straight ahead of me and it shone a white light on the water. There was also a large cruise ship out in the distance. It was a very beautiful and peaceful moment for me. After that I fell asleep like a baby until sunrise.

When I woke up again for sunrise the day was back to its windy ways, but boy was the sunrise a sight to be seen. The sky was glittered with clouds. I always think clouds enhance a sunrise and sunset, at least for pictures. After taking many we went back to sleep for an hour or two, despite our better judgment. When we finally got up Finnley made breakfast and I tried to help because the wind was making everything difficult. Afterwards we were feeling indecisive about what we should do and ended up talking to our neighbors again for a while. We were going to kayak again, but I was concerned about the wind being too strong. Instead we decided to do the 1mi nature trail on the North end of the park. I didn't think it was that long of a walk from our campsite to the start of the trail so we skipped along. We had no idea how long the actual trail was and Finnley was kind of concerned, but I knew it couldn't be much more than a mile.

 The weather turned out to be a pretty nice day. It was sunny most of the time and the wind died down slightly towards the afternoon. The water wasn't as clear and beautiful as the last time and it was cold so we didn't really get to go in. The hike was nice, we jogged through it a little and took pictures. By the time we got back to the camp site it was time to start packing up. It took us about 30 minutes to do everything. Before we left we took a stroll out into the water and frolicked around for a little. We left a couple minutes late and we were on the road. Traffic wasn't so bad this time in the Keys, but we had a little morale shattering stop when we got back on the turnpike. When I got home I felt a kind of relief to be off the road, but the sand still stuck between my toes summoned me back and you better believe I've booked Long Key for two more trips since!