Tag Archives: hiking

South Carolina State Parks | Jones Gap State Park

Well, that was unexpected

‘Oh thank God, I made it’ was my first thought when I reached the top of Rainbow Falls at Jones Gap State Park two hours after I started.  To be fair, I stopped a lot, took a lot of snaps, and played with all the friendly puppies that crossed my path.

upper rainbow falls

It isn’t the highest peak in South Carolina nor the most strenuous, but with 1200 ft elevation gain over a fairly short distance, it was hard enough.  Especially with humidity in the 90% range and temps in the upper 80’s.  I checked the weather forecast before I left and with only a 15% chance of rain, I threw a lightweight rain jacket in my backpack, packed myself a decent, trail-worthy lunch, filled up my Camelback with water and set off.

Walking the trail

And that was the last time my day went according to plan.  The main road to Jones Gap was washed out resulting in a 30-ish minute detour.  There was a yellow jacket advisory [which I should have paid more attention to].  The sky was overcast, but not threatening, and so I was off.  I hiked through rock beds.  I criss-crossed streams.  I crossed bridges. I navigated tree roots. I walked across a narrow board.  I went through boulders.

trail-to-rainbow-falls

Not 5 stinkin’ minutes after I reached my glorious summit, I heard a low rumble.  At first, I ignored it.  After all, I had a lunch of a deluxe turkey sandwich, trail mix, granola, grapes, and water to enjoy. I heard the low rumble again; this time is was just a little bit louder. I looked up.

storm clouds

And then I started to curse…loudly. As in F-bombs flying The last thing a novice/intermediate hiker wants is to be stuck on the top of a mountain when a thunderstorm comes rolling in. The very last thing I wanted was to get struck by lightening. Rain I could deal with; thunder and lightening, not so much. Not even two bites into my sandwich, I had to pack up. I barely broke into my granola, and I didn’t even get to eat one little grape! I was pissed at Mother Nature, but I didn’t want to inspire her wrath. As if I needed prodding, the low rumble rumbled again…this time a lot louder. I packed up my sandwich, pulled out my rain shell, and set off back down the trail I’d just made my way up. I hadn’t even rested good, yet! I practically ran down the trail, or at least as safely as I could manage, considering the rocks and roots. I didn’t even get to enjoy the small waterfalls that appeared sporadically on the trail.

Small falls

Trouble…just ahead

About 1/3 of the way down, I hit trouble. Raindrops so big and hard they stung as they hit my exposed skin. I also inadvertently disturbed a yellow jacket nest. I never saw it, but my God, they saw me. A small army flew after me, and at least a couple managed to find their way under my clothes. And that’s when the real fun began. Off came the backpack. Off came the rain shell.  And off came my t-shirt. The bees were still swarming. Off came my shorts. Luckily I was near one of the many creek crossings, and general safety and common sense be damned, I jumped into the creek. It was a part where there was a small plunge waterfall and a shallow pool. I screamed like a little girl getting her ponytail pulled on the playground. The water was icy cold. Icy may be a tiny bit of exaggeration, but 55 degrees still feels like the frozen tundra. Sports bra, socks, hiking boots were all that I had on as I submerged my head! and body! in this shallow pool. Might I remind you, it is 1) still pouring 2) thundering and lightening and 3) I’m still about 1.5 miles or so from my car.

small falls at jones gap

Bees stung me 5 times; once on the neck, once on the leg, and 3 times higher up the leg in a slightly more delicate area.

yellow jacket sting

After drowning the bees and freezing my ass off in the water, I resumed my descent still faster than I’m comfortable with because now, as a soaking wet thing, being struck by lightening was still a very real possibility. I successfully navigated the boulders, the steep decline, and the roots. My God, the roots. They always seem to be out to get me. I have a fear of falling. This is a real fear, not just one that COULD happen.  I HAVE actually broken bones while trail raining:  two to be exact [a wrist and an ankle], sprained an ankle multiple times, required stitches, and have cut, scraped, and bruised myself way  too much.

DSCF1176

But I keep coming back. Because there is beauty in nature. I find answers to the questions of the universe when I am in nature.  There is peace in nature. Even when Mother Nature shows her ass and reminds us mortals who’s boss, a day in the woods is better than a day cooped up in a building any day.

rainbow falls

SC State parks: Kings Mountain State Park

In May 2016, I embarked on my first overnight hiking trip since the breaking of the bones almost exactly one year prior.  I have a tendency to take to the woods whenever life is throwing me curve-balls, and lately I’ve been striking out on all cylinders.

I first visited Kings Mountain in August 2015, after I declared my ankle healed.  It was an easy hike, with rolling hills and a good first outing post-fractures.  I also discovered there was a 16 mile trail which would, at my pace, take two days to hike. The seed was planted.

In May 2016, life sucked. I hated my hospital job.  My co-workers (with very few exceptions) were generally not nice people and made life hell.  My living situation was also not good… as in my roommate had bought a house without telling me nearly 30 minutes away from the old one… in the opposite direction of where I needed to be. I moved to the new space because I truly had nowhere else to go, but believe me, I was looking for a new space.   So it was with that mindset that I set off into the woods.

As far as hikes go, it was an easy 16 miler.  Camp set-up was easy; I had plenty of access to fresh water both for cooking and drinking, and I made a wonderful dinner of spaghetti Bolognese.  It went great with the loaf of french bread I’d brought. I was in a bear-free area [my biggest worry when camping is bears. And boy scout troops.  But as it was during the week and school wasn’t out yet, I wasn’t too worried about a mass of prepubescent boys interrupting the peace. I should probably be worried about other critters, but no–just bears and snakes that can kill me] so my only true worry was rattlesnakes or Copperheads. [Luckily I only saw a black snake. No bears.] It gave me  a lot of time to think about where my life is heading and what I want out of life.

  • Thoughts:  My job sucks. Maybe I should not have become a nurse in the first place. My manager won’t let me transfer because the unit is so severely understaffed. Time to look for another job at a different hospital/facility.
  • Results:  A mere two weeks later, I had an interview at the company I now work with.  The hours are better, the pay is more, and it’s closer to my house. OF COURSE, I took it.
  • Thoughts:  My living situation isn’t tolerable any longer. I avoid the roommate at all costs, yet I’m worried what she will do to my stuff/cats when I’m not there.  The polite/proper thing to do would have been to tell me she was looking at a new house while she was actually looking at it.  Or while it was under contract.  Not two days before closing.  I’ve been locked out twice, and I take a small amount of joy in banging so hard on the door the neighbors come out.
  • Results:  The same week as my interview I agree  to terms on the duplex I’m now renting.  It’s 3BR/2BA; I’m one person with two cats.  The three of us agree it’s perfect.  Me:  I have all the space. I can clean or not. I can cook or not. Cats:  Extra beds to sleep on.  A couch to snooze on. A yard to chase birds in.

In addition to working out those two huge stressors, I gave myself a couple of goals to work towards during this new phase of life.  It’s not exactly a new year, but it kind of feels like it is.

    • I began the new job June 20, 2016. I plan to stay for at least a year while working on my BSN.
    • It is within the realm of possibility to finish my BSN in one year.  Let’s do it. (I’m on track to graduate August 2017).
    • Find new  ways to inject adventure into my life. (Travel nursing, peace corps, working in Saudi Arabia)
    • Investigate options for becoming a nurse practitioner.  Do something about it.

kings mountain 5
And with views like this, it’s hard not to see clarity in all situations.