lifebeyondexaggeration

What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

Stones in the Mud August 5, 2017

Filed under: Tales of Travel — meganorussell @ 3:30 pm
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I love hiking. I adore climbing around in the mountains; it’s one of my favorite things. There’s something about the effort required to get to the top that feels tremendous and utterly worth it. When we went to Ireland I knew I wanted to hike…something.

We hadn’t really planned what, exactly, we were going to hike. We just sort of figured we’d find something, and boy did we!

Driving around the Ring of Kerry, the views are absolutely breathtaking. Rocks and sea all tumbled together. Sweet little towns with pubs lined up to give you an amazing lunch.

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There is a huge Ring of Kerry hike that you can do. The husband and I had heard of it, but it just couldn’t happen within our timeframe. But Ireland is really great about signs—not so much addresses, but very much with the signs. Signs for historic sites, signs for epic views, even signs for hiking trails. We were driving the Ring and found a sign for part of the Kerry Way, one of the “longest signposted walking trails in Ireland.” (more…)

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The Importance of Coordinates July 20, 2017

I spent three summers living in Alaska. I love the quirks of that beautiful place, and you sort of get that feeling that it’s preparing you for other adventures in life. Like how you start to feel super cocky about living in a place where an address is really just whatever mile marker you live closest to, and a prayer that your mail actually gets to you. And then we went to Ireland.

The first two days were fine. We were staying in a city. We’d bought the update so our Garmin worked in Ireland, which sort of felt like cheating, but whatever. But then Killarney happened.

Killarney is amazingly beautiful. We got there before dark and wanted to poke around the outside of the national park to see what sorts of things we wanted to do the next day. We found the park, found a way in, found a ruin.

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It was simply breathtaking.

I had naively been expecting Killarney National Park to be like an American national park—all rough trails and long forgotten woods. But it was more like an estate placed in national trust. Beautiful lawns, ruins, paddle boat rentals, a castle but we’ll get to that later.

We figured out what we wanted to do on our big park day and decided to head back to the hotel. Put the hotel in the Garmin…nothing. (more…)

 

Another One off the List August 31, 2016

I’ve knocked something off my ever-filling bucket list!

The husband and I summited Cadillac Mountain to watch the sunrise!

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We woke up at 1:30. Yes, the one with the a.m . after it. It was early, but honestly to me it was like Christmas morning! The alarm went off, and I wanted to climb!

And the climb was magnificent. We were alone on the trail with only the Milky Way for company. It was breathtaking. Hiking under the stars is like adventuring under a nice, familiar blanket.

And we made it to the summit well before dawn.

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Then the sky turned just a tiny bit pink in the east, and the stars started to blink away one by one.

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Cadillac Mountain is the first place in the contiguous U.S. to see the sunrise. And we were there, sitting on a cliff, watching the sun paint the sky.

And I know this I going to sound cheesy as hell, but the hike had a super important meaning for me. Not just because the last time I was in Acadia I could barely walk, but also because sunrise on Cadillac Mountain has a very important place in The Tethering Series.

In The Siren’s Realm, Jacob and Emilia venture up Cadillac Mountain for sunrise, and we followed their path, though our journey did end a little differently. It was one of those climbs that reminds you that magic is real in our world. If only you look deep enough to find it.

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Back on the Trail August 26, 2016

Filed under: What Doesn't Kill You — meganorussell @ 10:00 am
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Yesterday I hiked a trail; today I’m going to climb a mountain!

For those of you who have stopped by before – and thanks for coming back by the way – it won’t seem that weird at all. But right now I’m in Acadia, Maine. And last time I was here four years ago, I could barely walk.

I had just dislocated my knee dancing in a show and moving wasn’t really a thing I was very good at. I could walk for one mile max on flat surfaces only. Even that little bit of movement made my knee hurt like hell and swell like an evil monster. I had to stare at mountains and watch the little dots that were other hikers climbing with no hope of being able to join them. Acadia is beautiful, and my lovely husband helped me make the most of it. But it made my heart hurt. (more…)

 

Missing the Mountains April 30, 2016

It’s that time of year again. The seasonal workers are heading back up north to Alaska. But this time I’m not going with them. With two important weddings to attend on the east coast, going back to the land of the Midnight Sun just wasn’t a possibility.

My first summer in Denali, people talked about how the mountains got into your blood. How the fresh air is addictive and everything else feels suffocating. I didn’t really believe them. I missed getting to go to the mall when I needed new boots and running to Walmart when I ran out of snacks. You can’t do that in Denali. The nearest city is about three hours IF you don’t hit the roadwork that seems to never end. I wanted to go to the new movies and go to a real grocery store.

But the next summer I knew what was coming. I knew better how to hike in the mountains with the braided rivers as my landmarks. I had learned to love weekly poker at a local establishment as a time to check in with friends. And the Midnight Sun wasn’t a nuisance that kept me awake all night; it was a time to savor midnight hikes while awaiting the northern lights. I had learned the wonders of Amazon free super saver shipping. I knew what to buy on my few trips to the city.

Last year, I was brave enough to hike further off the beaten path with a topographical map and compass. We found brilliant hikes and even a way to have fresh organic produce delivered to us. We went to Seward and saw whales and camped by the bay. And it was brilliant.

Now my friends are posting pictures of the mountains, and it hurts my heart. It hurts that I’m not in the fresh, clean air worrying about if the rain or snow will get me. It hurts that I’m not making a list of hikes I want to do this season, knowing that it would take a miracle for time and weather to permit them all.

I love my job. I love my friends. I love my Disney annual pass.

But seeing the smiling faces surrounded by snowy peaks, I feel the pull of the mountains. It’s in my blood.

 

Love and Adventure February 16, 2016

Happy late Valentine’s Day! I know, I know. The time for lovers has passed, and the time for discount chocolate is upon us. I love cheap chocolate. I really do. But I had an amazing Valentine’s Day.

The husband took me to Disney, ‘cause season passes are the best, and it was crowded as all get out. But I got to see the new baby gorilla, a bunch of really cool Star Wars things, including my favorite Star Wars character, BB-8.

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And we ran around like little kids before having dinner at Belle’s castle.

But the best part was when, while trying to pass the wait times, we decided to try and figure out what the best adventure we had ever had was.

I had a hard time choosing. I’m split between watching the sunrise on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia, Maine, the hammock in Thailand, a night in Venice, fjords in Alaska, and of course the fountain show in Versailles. (more…)

 

Sans Phoenician October 12, 2015

Thailand has been booked! That’s right, my grand adventure is complete with a place to lay my head every night! I know that may not seem like a grand backpacking adventure, but not having all my train tickets booked is like a really big deal for me. Mostly because I don’t know if I’m going to be able to figure out where I am in Thailand, let alone where I want to go! I’ve had this problem before. (Click here to read about the time I got lost in Paris.) But my real fear about Thailand comes from not being able to read the alphabet. Not the words. The alphabet.

You see, Thai language does not use the Phoenician alphabet, which is, you know, what I and probably most of you use. Now, their language is (apparently) written in Phoenician letters for travelers, but the words aren’t always spelled the same. I was trying to find a hotel on Ko Pha-Ngan and couldn’t find one for the life of me, because the more popular spelling that my guide book apparently didn’t feel the need to mention is Koh Phangan.

It’s stressing me out, y’all. And the thing is, the Phoenician alphabet is something that we all really take for granted. (more…)