“Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.” -John Muir
At the university I currently attend for my PhD. in Communication, leadership removed all holiday and/or spring breaks to reduce travel with the student population. Research suggests that students perform better with exercise and recreational activities with semester breaks, in addition to receiving much-needed rest and quality time with family members. Due to these unfortunate situations, my wife, Lisa, and I recently traveled to take a long weekend in Ellijay, Georgia so I could have a short break from reality and responsibility. Ellijay is located in North Georgia along the Blue Ridge Parkway and near the southern route starting point of the Appalachian Trail.
Of course, Annabelle accompanied us, which really made the trip all the more enjoyable with some of her first moments in nature. Over the next few months, we will continue to involve Annabelle in outdoor pursuits. Some might say parents inspire children by what they say. Perhaps, better said and even more impactful, parents inspire children by what they do. If travel and outdoor recreation remain a natural priority for Mom and Dad, then perhaps that love for these activities will also become a priority for their kids.
Ellijay encompasses a small mountain community with a centralized town square that the Cartecay River flows through and vineyard country surrounds (Cartecay Vineyards, Ott Farms and Vineyard, Ellijay River Vineyards, etc.). Backpacker culture and nature lovers inhabit the town with a common enthusiasm for the great outdoors. The main street and township square comprises of unique clothing boutiques, locally-owned restaurants, outfitters, and other small shopping establishments.
As a family together, in rainy weather, we hiked with Annabelle against my chest in a knapsack carrier. We ate on two occasions in a tavern bar in downtown Ellijay (River Street Tavern), both visits Annabelle happened to sleep through. We also visited a microbrewery where a live band asked me to rap with a pure beat of the drum (Cartecay River Brewing Company). I politely declined. We drank wine fireside with an acoustic set at a vineyard, making new friends with a couple from Savannah, Georgia. My family experienced a few adventures in this beautiful town with our daughter involved the entire time.
The mountains of Appalachia continue to teach and remind me of some valuable life lessons. First, one cannot always be in a rush. Today’s society pushes for a go-every-second mentality. You will miss the very moment in front of you if not careful to stop and catch your breath. On a beautiful hike, soak in the scenery around you. Absorb the stillness of nature. Stand in awe of your surroundings.
Second, let go of the dead weight. You will often hear serious backpackers mention their ultralight gear or their total weight carried on the trail. In fact, many adventurists get rid of things they realize are not needed on a long thru-hike. Sometimes you have to let go of the bad things in life. Rid yourself of the pressing unimportant things that we give too much attention to. It might be a negative relationship. It might be something materialistic. That dead weight might be the constant self-nagging in which you beat yourself up for no reason. Drop the dead weight! Continue on your journey and keep moving forward!
Third, embrace the journey and forget about the destination. Most admire attained goals, reaching for finish lines, and seeking long-sought-after accomplishments. However, the present minute you live in realistically defines who you are at the end of the journey. Our destinations often change. The hard moments define our grit to persevere when challenges come our way. Then, like endurance athletes, we eventually reach that destination, and then we become ready for the next adventure. Make the moments count because all the little moments along the way ultimately define the journey itself and whether all the sacrifices made were worthwhile.
Yes, the mountains speak to us! We just have to listen to remind ourselves of the simple truths we may already know down deep within. Even though the semester has been greatly altered compared to a traditional college calendar year, I received a break, and I am grateful. Most importantly, I created memories in the common passions I hope, over time, Annabelle also develops a love for. When the mountains call her, I, indeed, hope she will go!
Here are some of the latest Annabelle pictures including our recent getaway when the mountains called me home.
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