Reelfoot Lake January 2014

If you ever watch the weather, even by accident, I’m sure you’ve heard about polar vortexes and the ridiculously cold weather that has plagued a large portion of these United States. If you haven’t heard it, then you surely felt it when you walked outside (or even if you didn’t). During this deep freeze, a lake about 2.5 hours from where I currently live froze over, and the wind made the ice collect on the trees and the dock and make frozen ripples on the surface. When I heard about this, I knew I had to go see it. That is how Sarah, her now-fiance-as-of-October Kyle, and I wound up wandering around in the freezing cold taking pictures of a frozen lake. Miraculously, no one slipped on the ice or took an unintended polar plunge!

Here are a few of the pictures that turned out the best.

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I’m a Dirty Rotten Liar and also Rock Island

I know I’ve made promises for this blog that I simply have not kept. And to be honest, I probably will not keep them. I’m in grad school now, and that combined with the various other aspects of my life makes keeping a blog schedule next to impossible. Basically I’m not interested in trying to keep a schedule anymore. But I do want to keep the blog going, in whatever direction it might be headed. I’ve been on a bit of a personal journey lately as well. My paradigm has been shifting in some pretty great ways, and those will likely spill over to this blog given time. And I’m 100% okay with that. Hopefully any readers I have left are as well!

What should you expect? Nothing, because expectations lead to disappointment. ūüôā But in all likelihood, this blog may begin to be a more holistic expression of myself rather than being travel-centric. But for today I just want to share some photographs from the camping trip I took in October. The location is Rock Island, which is a beautiful oasis in the middle of Tennessee.

The trail we walked to see the falls in Rock Island State Park was moderate and roughly 3 miles. I will admit that it challenged me both physically and mentally more than any trail I have walked thus far. It was tough. My fear of heights didn’t help.

But just look at that view. That is the epitome of “worth it.”

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This was an extra-special hike for another reason, too. On the way back we stopped in front of the falls and Kyle proposed to Sarah. Tears were running like the waterfall. (At least from us girls.)

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This is the view from the bottom of the trail. We were down there when the warning sirens for the dam began to go off, but the water never rose. We still high tailed it out anyway to be safe.

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(I’m sorry the picture are out of order, but I’m too lazy to fix them. So sue me.) This is at the beginning of the hike. We had to take elaborate measures for a group pic.

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From the top, before the hike. I was running ¬†behind because I had to change shoes. (My feet like freedom, so I don’t like wearing my hiking boots when I’m not hiking.)

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After the hike, we drove around to the other side of the park where swimming was allowed. It was off-season, so the river was low and cooollld. But that didn’t stop us.

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The view swimming was even better than the water fall, I think…but I’m a sucker for bodies of water.

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This is my favorite shot from the whole trip:

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And this is my second favorite shot (which was obviously not taken by me, given that I am in it):

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First Ride of the Year

I’d like to apologize for being absent for a while! I was without computer access, so I missed a recipe post and haven’t updated much. It’s good to be back!

I recently (a year or so ago) decided to take up trail biking. But, because I am a pansy, I have not ridden in a very long time because of the cold wet weather. Today I got to go riding again for the first time this year! (Bless you warm spring weather!) I am sorely out of shape (but of course I already knew that) but I had fun anyway. I’m looking forward to getting back into biking shape…and I know this year I can’t let cold weather hinder me from riding or my legs will have the all the strength of spaghetti noodles again next year.

Anywho, here are some pictures! A post about learning to ride is also forthcoming within the next week or so.

This is Eyre. She’s nothing fancy, but I like her anyway. (Also I thought her name was pretty clever, because I like literature (Jane Eyre) and the outdoors (it’s pronounced “air”).

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Encountering Sick or Injured Wildlife

*Warning: This post may be upsetting to some. Nothing graphic, but it’s a dreary topic.

This image was taken from my car. I *did not* approach this raccoon, and tried to disturb it as little as possible, which is why I only have one poor quality photo.

This image was taken from my car. I *did not* approach this raccoon. I appear close because of the zoom. I tried to disturb it as little as possible, which is why I only have one poor quality photo.

This is a depressing picture, no doubt about it. But it represents an important truth that we as humans need to know when we trek off into the wilderness: Wild animals can become ill or be injured, and when this happens a normally nonthreatening animal can become a danger to humans.

First, let me tell you about the photo above. I took this picture a few days ago not far from my home. My mother and I were driving into town and spotted this raccoon on the side of the road. He was sitting there licking himself and looking generally listless and did not move even in the time we took to turn around and go back. Anyone familiar with wildlife knows that an animal sitting still in the open in broad daylight near a road is unusual. It’s even more unusual for them to stare at you and make no effort to leave when you stop your car to get a better look.

Whether this little guy was hit by a car and injured or was ill (or even just weird) is unknown. After snapping the picture we called someone to come humanely dispatch him (and take him for testing if he was uninjured), but when they arrived he was gone. He unfortunately remains a mystery.

So why am I depressing you with this sad story? There’s a point! I’m getting to it, I promise.

Most are familiar with Wildlife¬†Safety¬†101 when it comes to predatory animals like bears, cougars, snakes, sharks, and the like (though I may do a post about that later anyway just to be safe). But the topic of sick and injured animals isn’t brought up nearly as often. However, it should be!

Wild animals are subject to a myriad of illnesses and diseases, and many of those can be given to humans and domestic animals through contact. The big bad that everyone knows about is rabies, and for good reason. Rabies is no laughing matter, and raccoons are the most highly reported carriers of rabies in America. In addition to rabies, raccoons can also carry distemper, salmonella, various parasites, E. Coli, and Leptospirosis. Many of these diseases can be transmitted to pets and/or humans. And that’s just raccoons.

I promise I’m not trying to give you nightmares.

Respect for wildlife must extend beyond respect for predators.¬†Just because Pepe Le Pew wants to eat your popcorn while you’re camping doesn’t mean he won’t go bonkers the next day when he’s hopped up on rabies and itching to share his infection. With that in mind, here are some tips to keep you from needing rabies vaccines and stitches.

  1. Sick and injured animals are more aggressive. If an animal is acting strange or looks like it’s hurt or sickly, leave it alone. First of all it’s mean to intentionally pester or scare an animal under any circumstances, and second of all you will get yourself bitten or scratched. An animal that is too ill to run away from you will feel cornered, which in the world of flight or fight = fight.
  2. Be familiar with normal behavior. A raccoon sitting by the side of the road isn’t just chilling. A skunk with a frothing mouth isn’t blowing spit bubbles. Any erratic or unusual behavior from an animal signals that something is not right with it, which signals that you need to keep your distance. Other signs could include a poor coat quality or hygiene, emaciation, or a generally unthrifty appearance.
  3. Do not approach, touch, or otherwise disturb wildlife for any reason. Why put yourself at risk just so you can say you poked a possum?¬†Wild¬†animals are just that — wild. They aren’t stuffed playthings, they aren’t trained zoo animals doing tricks for you, and they aren’t Fido or Rover. They are creatures whose home you have intruded on and whom may carry any number of nasties that you and your pets don’t want. Respect them and give them their space.
  4. Do NOT feed the wildlife. Not even the cute ones. (Birds are the only exception.) Feeding wildlife is dangerous for people because it trains said wildlife that people = food. When animals make this association, they are much more likely to come in contact with humans rather than running from them, and animals don’t understand that it’s¬†courteous¬†to stay home when sick. It also increases the animal’s reliance on humans for food and decreases its natural foraging. If it becomes dependent on hand outs it won’t be able to take care of itself when camping season is over.
  5. Don’t leave your edible trash out. This goes along with number 4. Open trashcans lure animals to your home or campsite, thereby leading them closer to you. Once they recognize you as a food source they will continue to visit.
  6. Contact the proper officials. If you see a suspicious animal that seems either injured or ill or that is being a¬†nuisance,¬†contact your local animal control or park service. They can determine whether the animal is healthy or not and humanely dispatch it if needed so that it will no longer be suffering and won’t be able to spread any diseases it may have. They can also send the body off for testing if it is exhibiting signs of a serious illness such as rabies, and they are properly equipped to deal with nuisance animals as well.

I’m sorry this post was such a downer, but I thought that this was an important topic to cover and couldn’t get it out of my mind after seeing the raccoon in the picture. Be safe!

Recipe: Campfire Apples

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Apples are the perfect fruit to take camping. They transport easily, don’t need to be¬†refrigerated, keep well, and don’t need to be sliced and diced to be edible — you can take a bite out of these babies without needing to even peel them. They’re also less likely to get squashed between the time you pack them and the time you eat them, and are totally good for you. Basically, if you’re traveling or heading off to camp, you better be taking you some apples!

But, despite the fact that they can be eaten as-is, it’s nice to mix things up every once and while. That’s where these babies come in. Say hello to what I like to call Campfire Apples.

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Mouth watering yet? I thought so.

These babies are so, so easy to make, whether at home (like I made them today) or over a campfire. The hardest part is waiting for them cook; no matter how you cook them, patience is necessary. But it is totally worth it.

So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.

Campfire Apples

You’ll need:

  • 1 washed apple for each person (or you can split 1 for two people)
  • Peanut butter (or any nut butter)
  • Chocolate (chips or cut pieces from a bar/sqaure)
  • Cinnamon
  • Honey

You also need aluminum foil and a knife or two, ¬†and an oven or strong fire that won’t be dying out any time soon.

Brand doesn't matter (hence my top-notch editing), but I absolutely recommend going with a no-sugar-added, all natural peanut butter and a local raw honey.

Brand doesn’t matter (hence my top-notch editing), but I absolutely recommend going with a no-sugar-added, all natural peanut butter and a local raw honey.

Instructions:

First prepare your chocolate. If you opt for chocolate chips, the prep is done for you. I chose to chop up a couple of squares of dark chocolate for mine.

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After

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Take the apple of your choice (I prefer semi-tart, semi-sweet apples like Honeycrisp [pictured] but any will do), cut it in half, and dig out the core. If you have an apple corer, which I don’t, you can use that instead, and leave the bottom intact to prevent leakage.

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Take the apple halves and spread peanut butter over them, being sure to fill the hole where the core was dug out. Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste. Take your chocolate and layer it over the pb. You can put as much or as little chocolate as you like. Finally, drizzle with honey to add a little bit of sweetness.

Honestly I could eat it just like this and be happy.

Now you’re ready to squish your two sides back together (omit if you are using a whole cored apple) and wrap them securely with your foil. You’re going to cook them at a moderate heat (350 in an oven, or close above but not directly on a fire) for 45 minutes to an hour depending on how soft you want your apple. I personally like a little crisp left in mine. Just check its firmness periodically until it’s the texture you want. If you’re cooking it over flames, be sure to turn it from side to side roughly every 15 minutes so that it cooks evenly on both sides.

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Note: The cooking time will vary more heavily when cooking with a fire than it does in a temperature-controlled environment. It will also change depending on the size of the apple. This definitely is not a recipe for those in a hurry. If you want it done faster, chop it and top it instead of filling it.

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When your apple is as soft as you want it and all the chocolate has melted, open that bad boy up (being sure not to burn yourself). You’ve got an ooey gooey warm apple treat. Some of the filling will leak out (unless you are using a whole, cored apple), so just scrape it back on top.

The great part about this is that it’s not even that bad for you! To make it even healthier, be sure to use natural pb with no sugar added and dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage (I look for 50+% cacao. Note that the more cacao the more bitter the chocolate, so you may want to compensate for that with the honey).

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Be assured this is also a recipe to play with! Try out different versions until you find the fillings of your dreams. Ideas: marshmallows, raisins, graham cracker chunks, brown sugar, chopped nuts. Be creative! The best part of cooking is taking a recipe and making it your own.

What would you add to your apple?