New Mexico - Day One

the beauty of solitude.

it's been a long time since i've had hours on end to myself. this summer has been a perpetual state of activity; work, play and travel has all been done with the company of others. 

this past weekend i made a solo drive all the way to ruidoso, new mexico, nine and half hours each way. i was meeting sarah rose late saturday night, but the day was mine and i planned to spend it alone in the lincoln national forest. 

leading up to the trip i was talking to my friend about how excited i was to have some time alone. cut to saturday morning text messages; 
"lauren, i don't remember the last time i was alone, it feels weird." 
to which she responds,
"why do we feel the need to tell ourselves that we're okay when we're alone". "its like if we're alone the stigma behind that is that there is something wrong with us, when in all actuality the people who can be alone are always the best people"
thoughts were racing through my mind as quickly as the mile markers on the side of the highway. musings on the past, present and future; deep and grandiose thoughts, with no one to share them with. 

finally, after hours alone in the woods of the sierra blanca mountain range i was feeling pretty good about my time . it wasn't that my endless pondering had subsided, but i had realized something i learned in a previous life, things do not have to be all right one hundred percent of the time. as an overly optimistic person sometimes that is a hard concept for me to grasp. 

lauren left me with this little bit of gold on solitude, but can actually be said for almost anything that that is new or foreign to us, "it's like cold water. you jump in, it's a shock, you hang out for a bit and before you know it you're swimming along and enjoying it." 

White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

"holy shit, i can't believe this is where we grew up."  

as we roar north on highway ninety three night leaves us in my rearview mirror. the white mountains in the distance, a range so big it seems to stay the same size even as we get closer. what seemed like an all day trip as a kid in the back of my mom's mini-van turns out to be only an hours drive from my childhood home. 

the last time i was in these mountains was nine years ago for a high school field trip, i was a senior and there was one week left of class. the only thing on my mind was getting out of this podunk place, now i'm trying to jam as much into one morning as i can because i don't want to leave. 

it's cold up here. the last days of april and there is still snow on the side of the road and the mountain tops, the rivers and lakes are frigid. the freezing temperatures that we hated growing up actually turned out to be what shaped our character; tough, independent.

footloose, always on the go chasing that feeling of freedom, seeking to be anywhere but where we are. it's the reason we left new hampshire in the first place, the reason we moved to philadelphia, the reason we rode our bikes across the country, the reason we moved to austin and the reason we are constantly on the go. i'm glad i left, i believe getting away from the familiarity of your childhood is important, but making it back up north a little older, and maybe a little wiser, a feeling of gratitude washes over me; "this is where i grew up". 

"All the past we leave behind,

We debouch upon a newer mightier world, varied world,

Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march,

Pioneers! O pioneers!"  Walt Whitman 1865





cruising up highway 17, hair blowing in the wind, arms reaching far out of the windows towards the saguaros and the four of us gals laughing nonstop; it's like a scene from the movie crossroads.

we are unshowered, running on two hours of sleep and sore from dancing for hours on a rooftop bar in phoenix the night before. we are running on giggles and adrenaline at this point, so as soon as we get to sedona, we are ready to hike. we set out on Sterling pass trail. the 1,050 feet elevation gain provided views of the red rocks in the distance and the pine covered mountains surrounding us.

after sterling pass, we checked into our hotel, and like four mid-twenties aged gals should, we cannon balled into the pool. we then got ourselves dolled up to go get some well deserved dinner and drinks and of course do some turquoise shopping (because what better place than sedona?!)

when we got back to the hotel, we started planning our next day, and what would be my last day of the trip. we knew a sunrise hike had to happen. we set our alarms for five a.m. and set out for devils bridge trail. i have done quite a bit of hiking in sedona over the years but never until this trip did i know that there was a natural bridge in the area! we shared stories and laughed the whole way up to devils bridge. once we got to the top it hit me, and probably all four of us, that not everybody is so lucky to have such beautiful people in their lives. our thoughts and feelings matched so closely. kindred spirits. soul sisters. to that we popped a bottle of champagne!

there couldnt have been a better group of ladies to dance all night and hike all day with. i feel super lucky to have such strong and beautiful women in my life. cheers!

Developed - New Hampshire

shot on : kodak porta 400

"my little horse must think its queer to stop without a farmhouse near. between the woods and frozen lake, the darkest evening of the year. he gives his harness bells a shake to ask if there is some mistake. the only other sounds the sweep of easy wind and downy flake. the woods are lovely dark and deep, and i have promises to keep, and miles to go before i sleep, and miles to go before i sleep."

new hampshire isn't an adventure to me, new hampshire is home. visiting is like running into a really good old friend, i pick up exactly where i left off, like i was never gone.

my first day there eighteen inches of fresh powdery snow fell covering the old mill town i grew up in like a thick white blanket. my mother and i started off the day by shoveling out her car, then headed to a diner for coffee in meredith. after, we shuffled our feet over the frozen lake to look at the bob houses scattered over the ice. 

the rest of the visit continued to give me the winter and family fix i sought. sled dog races, an evening walk in the blizzard, a snowy drive to cape cod, warming up by a wood stove, cup after cup of diner coffee, while getting my mother all to myself.

as nice as it is to be back in austin, laying on my hammock in shorts while writing this, a big piece of my heart is always left behind in new hampshire. this shred comes in the form of a big sister who i find more in common with every visit we have, i truly enjoy her company. a little brother, so wise beyond his years that i can honestly say i look up to him and the support he provides me means the world. two little sisters who keep me laughing nonstop and know how fun doing donuts in moms car is.

and most of all, my mother, who is my rock. it took a while to get to the point we are at now, but as i have matured i realize everything she has done for me and still does for me. no amount of time is ever enough with her, but every time is always quality time.

good bye, and keep cold.

Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge

with my better half up north visiting family in the snow globe that is new hampshire, i decided to venture out on my own. my last trip out of state was to louisiana back in september so i've been itching to see something new. looking at some maps of surrounding states i noticed a spot of green designating a park right over the border in oklahoma, wichita mountains national wildlife refuge. 

leaving at midnight i drove north through the dark and lonely highways for six hours, just me, my dogs and the full moon above. arriving at the refuge before sunrise i took in the bright comanche moon reflecting off an ice covered lake slowly setting behind a set of mountains while the sun began to rise over my shoulder. 

i drove the sun drenched roads of the park taking in the sights, pulling over and doing short hikes whenever i saw a trail marker. without a real plan i just meandered up and down the rolling hills passing grasslands, massive granite peaks and numerous man made lakes built by the civilian conservation corps between nineteen thirty-three and nineteen forty-one.

i was also on a mission to find and photograph some of the bison herd that call the refuge home. i am not usually one for wildlife photography, but the bison has an allure that i cannot escape. thunderous and steadfast these massive beasts exude the feeling and freedom of the west.

the park was empty for much of the morning, allowing me and the pups to roam free without having to worry about running into anybody while we explored. after six short hours in the wichita mountains we were headed back to texas and the rv's and minivans had just started to make their slow procession into the refuge. 

Big Bend National Park

much like the end of two thousand twelve, the west was once again calling our names as this year came to an end. we had plans of finally visiting some of the national parks in california that we have yet to see, joshua tree, sequoia and kings canyon. but plans change; and what was supposed to be a week long trip got cut down to three days. 

we took this chance to finally start exploring the enormous national park out in west texas, big bend. one of the most remote and largest of all the national parks, big bend was always a little intimidating to us. hearing tales of its immense beauty and sheer size we always felt like we would need more than just a long weekend to fully enjoy the park. but with a thirst to explore something new we decided to make the eight hour drive.

 we have seen deserts, and we have seen mountains, but we have never seen them come together in such a perfect symbiosis. bone dry chihuahuan desert dirt roads with a view of the towering chisos mountains, all tied together with the mighty rio grande; it was awe inspiring and like nothing we had ever seen before. 

camping, early morning hikes, exploring the nearby ghost towns, tarantulas, driving the one hundred plus miles of roads running through the park, watching the sunset over the rio grande and rise again while sitting in a one hundred and five degree hot spring; we made the most of our few days in the park. 

admittedly i was a little disheartened when our original plans fell through, but now i am glad they did. much like the rest of my life, everything turns out for the best if you let it. a few days in big bend was exactly what my soul needed, and a great way to end two thousand and thirteen.  

Field Trip - Hill Country

it's nearing the end of november and the sun is still beating hard on texas, and although we'd love to enjoy some cooler weathered hikes, we couldn't pass up the opportunity this past weekend to enjoy the heat. 

with no real destination in mind we just meandered through hill country taking in the sights and pulling over to explore if something caught our eye. 

around the highland lakes, through the town of llano, and finally ending up on the banks of the colorado river. we had not planned on swimming, but after a day running around under the sun the water was calling our names.



Texas National Forests

small towns and big trees lined the farm roads as we made our way through the national forests of east texas. most of our travels lead us west where the landscape goes from desert to red rocks and back again, beautiful scenery for sure, but all in different shades of brown. the green of the towering pines and the occasional yellow or orange spot of autumn foliage were a welcome change for the weekend.

we spent the day exploring davy crockett, sabine, and angelina forests before making a quick jaunt across the toledo reservoir into louisiana. even though taylor was feeling a bit under the weather, our plan was to find a spot to camp in one of the forests. but after six hours in the car we decided that sleeping in a tent in the chilly fall air would be a little too much. 

so we turned right around and headed home. twelve hours of driving for a few hours of exploring may seem like a little much to some, but we enjoyed every second of it.