Chatting in Chattanooga

  • JD Harper

By: Pam Fisher 

Approach to Mt. Washington, NH

As I get older (approaching 59), I am watching my aging parents and in-laws, helping them with their day-to-day activities, seeing their struggles, and it brings a little bit of panic to my world. As a result, in 2018, I decided I was going to challenge myself.

The ideas tumbled around in my head for weeks before I decided to ask a close friend if she would do a week-long backpacking trip with me. I wanted ladies only on the trail to make it even more of an accomplishment. The second rule was that it was going to be a trip through unknown territory, a different part of the country I had never before seen. I have hiked Georgia and North Carolina mountains, and paddled many Florida rivers. I settled on the northwest coast for this trip; however, the more my accomplice and I talked about it, our husbands became intrigued. Having been friends for over 20 years, I figured it might make for a good trip. They were all more experienced than I in the backpacking world anyway, so they would be a great asset and they could carry me if it became necessary!

Just kidding, I was fine! The moment called for a dramatic flare.

I had eight months to prepare and the first step I took was to start attending a HIIT class three times a week at 5:30 a.m. to gain strength and build endurance. That was tough in and of itself, but I wanted to be in the best shape possible so I wouldn’t be the one holding the crowd up, begging for water and food. As we looked at trail options, we focused on one-day strenuous hikes so we would not have to haul as much equipment. For that sense of accomplishment that I was looking for, the obvious conclusion was to hike Mt. Washington in the White Mountains. It is the highest peak in the northeast and world renowned for its incredible climate changes. It is also known for the highest recorded wind speed at ground level at 231 mph in 1934. The elevation change is 4169 feet in less than 4 miles with the summit sitting pretty at 6288 feet.

"Be ready for anything,” is what we learned from previous hikers. Everything I’d heard about the hike made me nervous. The best source for information I found was, a great app for your phone, as well. Lots of trail reports of sudden weather changes and steep climbs, not carrying enough water or clothing, people having to be rescued!! Oh, my, what the heck am I doing?

Two weeks before leaving we went over all of our gear and I packed out my backpack to check weight. I knew I would need to have a day’s worth of food and water, a survival kit, a head lamp, a change of socks, gloves, rain gear and extra layers of clothing. Got on the plane with much trepidation. Didn’t feel ready. Mt. Washington was “for experienced hikers only.”

We watched the weather through the first two days as we toured Maine and felt that our best day for the big hike would be Tuesday. Only a slight chance of showers and 25 mile per hour winds predicted at the top. We went to bed early, got up before dawn, and drove to Pinkham Notch where the Tuckerman Ravine trailhead was on the southeast face of Mt. Washington. We were on the trail right around 9 a.m. on a beautiful, sunny day. Started out with a nice path. More experienced hikers were passing us within the first 20 minutes. It seems some people run this trail. What?

Although steady, the trail was climbing. The trees and mountains were beautiful, really capturing everything different about this part of the country. The smell of the conifers was incredulous; something we only get from a candle in Tennessee.

About 2 miles up we made it to the first and only shelter on the trail and grabbed some water thinking we had this one in the bag. Another “every weekend” hiker made the prophetic statement that even though we were halfway, it was going to take us twice, maybe three times as long to get to the top. What? No way. We’ve got this.

Getting back on the trail it became a much steeper climb and, at times, tenuous as we found ourselves on a narrow little path on the very edge of the mountainside.

We climbed parallel to a waterfall and then across it at the top, hugging close to the cliff. Turning gingerly (as I am scared of heights), the view was magnificent as we looked out over the surrounding mountains. Onward!

The verdant greenery we had been trekking through was getting less and less prevalent. After reaching the headwall, we found ourselves, quite literally, on what looked like the moon. This is where the trail poles became pointless and they were shoved into backpack loops to be carried. Also, a cloud had settled over us giving us a sight distance of about 25 feet at times. Thank goodness for the cairns which helped point us in the right direction.

Moving over small rocks, we soon came to nothing but boulders for a full mile. I was struggling but kept putting one hand, one foot in front of the other Our trail was now taking us at a 90 degree angle to what we thought was the summit which, at the time, didn’t seem like the fastest way to the top. It felt like maybe we were on the moon, eerie and gray. I was literally crawling like a crab and exhausted.

It was, by now, about 2 p.m. and we started meeting folks on their way down. We saw more than one lose their footing and just miss a bad fall. I didn’t even want to think about the climb down, which was in the plan, of course.

After bouldering for what felt like forever, I started to hear motoring traffic. Oh, my glory! It can’t be. We made it! I can see the sign signifying our arrival. Exhilaration and exhaustion all at the same time. Could it be true? Only to find we had to climb about a hundred wooden steps to get to the visitor center. Are you kidding me? Once at the weather station, visibility was very poor because of the clouds which was a little disappointing.

I was a wet noodle at this point and all I wanted was a cup of soup (which they have!) and my peanut butter sandwich that we’d packed that morning. Every muscle in my body ached as we took a seat with other weary, smelly hikers in the cafeteria.

In the visitors’ center there is a special plaque dedicated to all those who have lost their lives on the Presidential Range. Rest in peace. I am not one of them! The NH Fish and Game Department rescue 180 hikers a year on average. I did not need to be rescued!!

My husband and I opted out of hiking down. We took the “hikers’ transit” instead. Our friends chose to hike and returned to Pinkham Notch around 9 p.m., moaning that it was worse than the hike up, having to strategically plan each step through the boulders.

Lesson? Life, as they say, is short. If you don’t get on it, you may not have a chance to get on it. What will you do this year?

#hike #takeahike #awalkinthewoods #yolo #mtwashington #mountwashington #newhampshire #bloggers #bloggersofchattanooga #livethelifeyoulove #life #happy #keepmoving

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  • JD Harper

If you are like me, it’s all three… just not at the same time. When it comes to my morning beverage, I feel like I could give Bill Murray a run for his money in “Groundhog Day.” I say this because my morning routine is the same everyday. First, I have to admit that I have a love affair with coffee. Every night as I slide into bed, I dream of my morning’s coffee, or maybe it’s more the comfort of my routine that excites me about the next day, but no matter the reason, my mornings are structured pretty much the same way day in and day out. I wake, head to the kitchen, prepare the coffee because no, I am not an assemble the coffee maker the night before kind of person, turn on the news, listen to the “drip, drip, drip” of the coffee maker, anxiously awaiting that first sip of hot beverage bliss as I select my mug of the day. Yes, deciding what mug I use for the day is another aspect of my morning coffee routine that makes me giddy. You see, I chose a different one each day. The collection has been cycled through hundreds of times over by now at this point in my life. There is no rhyme or reason as to how I select the mug of the day, but rest assured each mug tells me the story of how it came to live with me upon my snatching it from the cupboard. Sometimes I am moved to tears realizing the person from whom it came is no longer with me on this Earth, other times I laugh out loud remembering the story. Pouring the lovely brown liquid into the day’s chosen mug, I mediate on the day’s possibilities as I swirl two teaspoons of Stevia (store bought, although I have just taken to growing my own), two tablespoons half and half creamer and one tablespoon of walnut oil. I am so attached to my morning coffee that even on vacation, as much as I can control for making my morning’s coffee, I do; otherwise I default to the barista of the establishment in which I am staying or the nearest coffee shop!

Part of my coffee mug collection

After my requisite two cups of Joe, I move onto aqua. For the record, I admit that I am a bubbly water fan. Some would say I am a snob when it comes to my drinking water. Suffice it to say, I am a fully-fledged carbonated water enthusiast, which I find interesting because for years I laughed at those who paid good money to drink Perrier or Pellegrino. Life has a funny way of kicking you in the hind end, doesn’t it? My redeeming factor; however, is that I came to bubbly water legitimately as a way to move away from purchasing so much plastic bottled water for health and environmental concerns. FYI, aluminum cans are much easier to recycle than plastic bottles. I know, I know, you are probably asking, ‘why not just drink water from the tap?’ Well, I tried that but, even despite filtering it, it just didn’t seem to quench my thirst. I remember initially being opposed to trying the bubbly stuff. And to think, it all started with one grapefruit La Croix. Now, I wonder if I might be addicted to those tiny bubbles. Truly, I think I might be. No, I know I am! My friend who might be worse than I am about “having to have her sparkling water” with her at all times and I talk about our dependence on the stuff and how to break away from it. We know we are victims of a very effective marketing campaign. Have you seen the ads? As I mentioned it all started with La Croix, but as Perrier added more flavors to their line-up, I started dabbling with their products, then on a whim I tried Bubly. I have come to appreciate each brand, and you will find all three brands in a variety of flavors in my refrigerator and my pantry, stockpiled and waiting to be called up to the icebox, eventually making it to my Tervis tumbler, my “cup” of choice to hold my sparkling water as it is large enough to cram it full with ice, such a lovely accent to all the bubbles!

In a previous blog, I noted that I drink a lot of water, but I do also enjoy a good cup of tea, and for me that is green tea with a teaspoon of local honey whenever I am home in the early evening hours, usually around 6 pm as I prepare dinner. With this beverage, I use Bigelow tea brand because I just love the name! My cup of choice for this beverage is always a D-- Harper original mug, no other is ever used with this beverage. Funny, the habits or rituals we humans can design. You see, D-- is my son, and while he was in high school, he had the opportunity to take a pottery class and made several pieces, one of which is a mug he gave me, the one I use to this day.

Now that I have taken you through what’s in my cup in a day, I’d like to share with you the origin of this week’s topic. One day after a friend shared her mug (title photo) with me, I asked her who gave it to her. She answered, “a co-worker,” prompting me to say, “Funny, makes me wonder what people really do have in their cups?” To which my friend immediately quipped, “Yeah, kinda like Blake Shelton? I’d really like to know what he has in that red Solo cup he’s always holding when he’s on The Voice.” So there you have it: how my brain landed on this topic…with a little help from my fiend, oops, that was suppose to say FRIEND!

What’s your cup’s favorite resident or residents as is my case? Give me a shout and let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Coffee Fact: Coffee beans are technically seeds.

Water Fact: You can get drunk on water. Drinking too much water too fast dilutes the sodium levels in the blood leading to an imbalance in the brain with symptoms very similar to alcohol intoxication.

Tea Fact:Tea used to be very expensive and was kept locked in a tea chest in the parlor with the lady of the house being responsible for the tea, and the only one with a key to the lock on the tea chest.

#coffee #mediumroast #lightroast #breakfastblend #darkroast #espresso #takemineblack #laugh #laughter #smile #behappy #Groundhogdaymovie #billmurray #laughterisbestmedicine #happiness #findyourhappy #cup #drinks #LaCroix #Perrier #Pelligrino #Bubly #Tervis #coffeemugs #friends #blakeshelton #thevoice #redsolocup #tinybubbles #sparklingwater #tea #greentea #honey

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  • JD Harper

By Tammy Rinehart

I love the month of March for many reasons: it’s my birthday and anyone who knows me understands how important birthdays are to me. Not just my birthday but yours too! My mom would start the same mantra every year, “Just one month until your birthday,Tam.” Just hearing her say it created an excitement. It wasn’t about presents but just the fact that it was special to her and my dad. As I got older, I loved March because it’s also my dad’s birthday. Daddy taught me so much about accepting myself and others. I’m an only child, and my family is very small, and yet I learned so much about communication, connection and the importance of laughter at an early age. I learned that bringing lizards into the house got a reaction every time and placing a rubber snake under my mom's pillow so that only a tiny part of the tail could be seen just before bed would send her screaming. My favorite memory was sprawling out over the stairs and throwing my crutches across the room, pretending to be lifeless as my mom came downstairs. Yes, I got a spanking that I still remember to this day for that one. Just thinking about those times brings a smile to my face. For the record, my daddy coached me along the way when it came to the acts of true comedic genius. Families are part of our story – they give you a start. The best advice I’ve gotten to date, “Life is not about what you are born with or without, but what you make of it – and you get to decide what kind of life you have.”

Life is challenging for all of us, but laughter is the best medicine for the getting through the tough stuff in our lives. As many of you know, I’m still dealing with my mom’s death, and I have often wondered if I’d ever laugh again. Honestly, when people tell you “one day you’ll laugh again,” it can feel hollow but given enough time, acceptance does come. Status update: I had some great laughs this month, thanks in part to some of you. I went to the beach this month and laughed hysterically as the wind blew my potato chips off the plate only to have the birds come and swoop in for my food. All I could think about was Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, “The Birds.” We all had a good laugh when my birthday cake fell too!

Birthday celebrations are my favorite because with the exception of a precious few, I am the youngest among my tribe of good people and because they are older they have come to realize that there’s not much I haven’t thought of when it comes to practical jokes and revenge. I laugh at new rituals of smearing my name on the birthday cake before it’s cut because it’s bad to cut through your name. Thank you for this lesson. I laugh at Mexican hats, lasagna chips, special sauce and a Bonsai tree named Jeannie. I laughed each time I received a call, or text with a song for Mama T. I laugh with my friends with no hair to blow in the wind.

I’ve also managed to laugh at my brackets for March Madness--these games are intense. These 1-point leads are a killer. Please tell me I’m not the only one that yells at the TV. Anybody with me? I laugh when my husband raises his eyebrow at me and reminds me that the referee cannot hear me. I accept and laugh at the fact that my neighbors see me in pajama pants on the way to the mailbox – I do not wear them to Walmart or the grocery store.

I laughed until I cried after I dodged a former manager from many years ago during a lunch date with a friend. People really do leave bad managers not the job, God answers my prayer and finally moved said manager along! I smiled when I thought of the good managers that helped make my career one of the bright spots in my life.

I laugh when I think of my friends who know what I’m thinking just by the look on my face or the tone of my text. I laugh when my people say “wait, don’t bless my heart” because they think I’m not sincere. I laugh because I have friends who care enough to decorate or show up for a particular cause or function. Let’s remember to laugh a little more with the ones we love and the ones who love us.

#laugh #laughter #smile #behappy #laughterisbestmedicine #birthday #happiness #marchmadness #friends

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