Wild Adventure-Grayson Highlands State Park

For the entire month of July we were on vacation.  YEAH! We camped, hiked, swam, and visited friends as we slowly made our way up to New York City and then back down again. Our whole trip was based around my son’s acceptance into an “elite” theatre  intensive with the Broadway Artists Alliance in New York City.  On this trip, we experienced the powerful magic of nature and the crazy-making magic of the city.  A little bit of everything. Perfect Gemini road trip!

One of the most beautiful places we explored on our trip is called Grayson Highlands State Park, in Southwestern Virginia. The park is home to several herds of wild ponies.

There are signs telling visitors not to pet or harass the ponies, but in all honesty, those sweet little ponies walked right up to us and forced us to pet them! We had no choice!!! (Not sure how wild they really are, but we loved them!)

ponies

 

 

The weather on the mountain is known to change very quickly, and it did. The first afternoon we were there it was warm and sunny, but by late afternoon, and with no warning, strong winds began to blow. The temperature quickly dropped from perfect to freezing, and as the wind howled, heavy rain poured out of the sky. We huddled in the tent, feeling both excited and nervous…rain began to drip into the tent. Would our tent hold up?  Thankfully the storm passed quickly but the cold stayed with us. It was so cold that we had to bundle up in our winter jackets, the only time we needed them on our trip. IMG_4122

The air was so fresh. The views so beautiful. The energy so calm but so alive. The forest speaks a language my soul remembers.

The park has several hiking trails, there are beautiful waterfalls,  and the Appalachian trail runs right through the park too.  We spent hours skipping rocks into the river. I am certain the world would be a better place if we all spent more time quietly skipping rocks. 

P1110839P1110731P1110853P1110879

 

If you ever find yourself in the mountains of Virginia, go to this park, it is worth it. So beautiful.

image
Beautiful waterfall At Grayson Highlands State Park

Our whole trip was really magical and I will try to write soon about each place.  

Go on a WILD  adventure~Tiff

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”~John Muir

 

 

 

Advertisements

Restoring Under the Hammock

Just a short drive from the overdeveloped madness of South Florida , is a state park called Highland Hammock. The drive and the surrounding town, are not spectacular, but as soon as you enter the park, you enter another world.

Highland Hammock is one of the oldest state parks in Florida. There are trails all around the park. And all of the trails are so different. So beautiful. So healing.  There are Oak trees that are estimated to be over 1000 years old. Cypress swamps, and wildlife, we saw so much  wildlife.

P1110083
Barred Owl

Some of the park feels very prehistoric. Especially the Cypress swamp. Early in the morning on a hike, I spotted a cottonmouth, a very venomous snake, swallowing a large fish. We watched in fear and amazement, as the snake unhinged its jaw, and swallowed this fish.

P1110029
Cottonmouth Eating a Fish

 

We camped in one of the primitive campsites. As the sunset, with the clear sky, and the new moon, the stars were bright and beautiful. I saw a shooting star. I made a wish.

The whole trip was so restorative. We hiked slowly on the trails. We gazed up at the stars. We hugged trees. I did Restorative yoga everyday, (which my son called “sleeping”), and we ate good nutritious food.

 

We saw deer, pigs, hawks, osprey, owls, turtles, alligators, snakes, opossums, armadillos, and even two river otters.

Being in nature is so healing. Like a soul shower. We feel balanced.

Nature is the best teacher. We can never have enough nature.

P1110184

~Tiff

 

The Loaded Gun At DisneyWorld

On Saturday morning, Feb 20th, 2016, I found a loaded handgun in the grass, at a playground, in DisneyWorld, Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground. The gun triggered strong emotions of fear and anger, and completely altered our weekend plans.

My mom, sister, and I all live far away from each other, but we decided to meet and go camping together. It wasn’t my idea to camp at Disney, it was my sisters idea. She said the resort was beautiful, and while I protested a little, I finally agreed. Upon arriving and exploring on Friday afternoon, I realized my sister was right. Fort Wilderness is beautiful.  There was a playground right next to our campsite, that my daughter loved.  She probably went down the slide 50 times. Friday night we attended a campfire sing a long with Chip and Dale, and while it certainly is not “normal” camping, it was a lot of fun.

 

Saturday morning, I woke up cold, body stiff. Sleeping in a tent, on cement (even with a yoga mat), is not comfortable. I did a little yoga, drank some cold instant coffee with almond milk, watched two cardinals fly from tree to tree, and enjoyed the early morning quiet.

When the kids woke up, almost immediately, they started begging us to take them to a theme park. We told them they would have fun at the campground, which has playgrounds, trails, and swimming pools with waterslides.I thought of sending the kids off to the playground, but I wanted hot coffee, and the kids needed breakfast, so we all decided to walk to a restaurant at the resort.

Pushing my daughters stroller, I looked down in the grass and  I saw a gun. At first glance, I thought it had to be a toy. Upon closer inspection, I realized it wasn’t. We told park management, and soon the Orange County Police arrived. We spoke with one officer who shook his head in disbelief and said, “That gun was fully loaded and at a playground in DisneyWorld.”

I felt really upset. I  kept thinking “What if a kid had found that gun?” Of course I imagined all sorts of frightening scenarios.Loaded guns, children, Disneyworld. Certainly not the normal situation for the “Happiest Place On Earth.”

Back at our campsite, management was there, waiting to take our statements. We told our story, and added that we felt very uncomfortable and wanted to change campsites. They said the resort was completely full, but instead they offered us a 2 bedroom, 3 bathroom suite at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort. In addition to the suite, they gave us one day park hopper passes to the theme parks.

When we told the kids, they started jumping up and down in excitement. My niece and nephew ran over to me, hugged me, smiled, and said “Thank you for finding that gun!!!” Of course they didnt really understand what could have happened.

We packed our things and drove to Animal Kingdom resort. When we entered our room, our jaws dropped. We walked slowly, in awe of our beautiful and enormous suite. The Disney Staff gifted us with Chocolates, Candy, Coloring Books, Crayons, and even a Disney Board game.  Our suite had three sliding glass doors that opened to a large balcony, overlooking a large field, designed to look like the African Savannah. Zebras, Giraffes,gazelles, ostriches, and many other African animals walked around freely. I had never seen anything like it.

Feeling like all of this was a strange dream, we checked the internet for the price of our suite, and saw that it costs over 1,500 dollars per night.  (Slightly above my normal hotel price range. Haha.)

 

We rode the shuttle to Magic Kingdom, which was very crowded. But it was beautiful. The kids were happy, smiling ear to ear, they seemed to skip rather than walk. My 2 year old daughter, who looks like an owl,  her large eyes grew even wider as she looked around and took it all in. We rode many rides, saw two parades, the firework show.  We stayed at Magic Kingdom until the park closed. All of us had a wonderful time, even though in the back of our minds we kept wondering about that gun.

 

 

 

Back at the hotel, we slept in the master suite, and that bed was the most comfortable bed  I have ever laid on. Very different than sleeping on cement as we did the night before. 🙂

We woke up and enjoyed a leisurely morning and an afternoon of waterslides and swimming.

IMG_2450

I made it back down to South Florida last night, just in time to see the very end of the Street Painting Festival in Lake Worth. I saw a painting that fit our weekend perfectly. And right below the painting, someone had written the word “destiny.”

IMG_2460
Destined Disney Weekend

 

The weekend could have ended tragically, but through destiny and perhaps some guidance from a guardian angel, we had a beautiful, safe,  fun, and memorable weekend.

 

I want to add, that Disneyworld has clear rules that guns are prohibited. I think the police handled the situation quickly and professionally. However,  I don’t know if the gun was registered or if the police were able to find the gun owner. I don’t know if someone accidentally dropped their gun or if this was malicious.  But I do know that this should not have happened. This is just one more story, that proves, once again,  that this country has a problem with gun safety. This was a loaded gun at a playground. And while our story has a happy ending, most stories involving loaded guns, do not. 

 

 

The Swamp to The Salty Sea:Everglades National Park

Saturday morning, I woke up feeling tired.   Even after a cup of ‘bullet coffee’, (coffee with butter, coconut oil, and a little cayenne pepper), I still felt low energy. Luckily, we had plans to go camping, and I knew some leisurely hiking would be the perfect cure.  Nature is the best healer.

We packed up and headed out for what we thought would be a camping trip in the Everglades National Park. The drive down to the Everglades, into Homestead, is one of the most awful, depressing, (what have we done to the earth?), drives one can take. We listened to Harry Potter, and The Half Blood Prince on CD, and that made the drive much better.

Slowly the concrete nightmare, gave way to large commercial crops, and then the park entrance. Once inside the park, we entered a whole different world.  Nature. Beauty.  Quiet. Healing. Balance.  MOSQUITOES…

FullSizeRender (2)
And Alligators-Such different, ancient, scary energy

The park doesn’t take reservations, and while the campgrounds are very rarely full, they were full. Booked, for the holiday weekend. Once again, as often in life, we had to be flexible, our plans were forced to change.

While swatting mosquitoes, and walking on a boardwalk over a swamp,  we all agreed we were a little bummed but not totally devastated, that our camping trip would become  a day-trip.

Winter in the Everglades, is said to be less “buggy,” but the mosquitoes were intense.  Not everywhere or all the time… BUT, we could be walking quite comfortably, and out of nowhere,  swarms of mosquitoes would rush out and attack us… and yes, we were all wearing repellent. We saw the sweetest (but also funniest) seeming family wearing matching mosquito suits, faces fully covered. There was a moment, where mom, dad, and kid, were all looking through there binoculars at the same time, and in the same direction, with matching clothes. 🙂 

We saw Hawks and Ospreys literally EVERYWHERE. I felt the need to be very quiet and just listen and feel. As to be expected, we saw several alligators. And in Flamingo, which is the very southern part of the park, the southern tip of the Florida, we saw two manatees.   Manatees are fascinating to watch (and swim with), so gentle and magic, and very different from alligators.. ..

IMG_3908
Hawk Watching Over Us-Spirit Animals

IMG_3973 (1)

Down in Flamingo, where we saw the manatees,. there were hundreds of birds, called Black Skimmers hanging out on a pretty shoreline,  they literally skim the water when they fly, it was so beautiful to watch them. They are beautiful and VERY loud.

IMG_4008
Mermaid Pose By The Salty Sea

We stayed in the park exploring, until after sunset, and Florida sunsets really are beautiful.

IMG_4082

Driving back, that night, we snacked on gluten free and vegan (uncooked) Smores. Dark Chocolate. Mmmmmm..  I smiled, feeling so grateful to have these moments, these memories with my kids, my family, our mother Earth.

From the Swamp to The Sea, Mother Nature, You Amaze Me.~Tiff

 

 

Green Magic: A Sea of Veggies

We bought our first hybrid car last week, just in time to take a trip to Northern Florida. The car is not new, but it gets 55 miles to the gallon, the gas expense is low.

Anyways, every year, On New Years Eve in Gainesville, which is nearly 300 miles north, our friends have a dance party in the woods.With the new car, there was no question we would be dancing straight into the New Year. Dance is such a powerful way to heal, release, and restore. And it is so fun.  I danced for hours with both of my kids, but without a doubt, my 2 year old daughter ruled the dance floor. She has impressive dance moves and she loves it.

The friends that host this party, inspire me so much, and not just because of the booty shaking in the woods.

My friends own and operate an impressive Organic farm, called Siembra Farm. I have been to the farm many times over the years. But I hadn’t been to the farm in over two years. I was shocked and super impressed by how much it has grown, and what they have going on now.

Acres of kale, collard greens, sweet potatoes, turmeric, carrots, tomatoes.. Looking out at the field, you see a sea of healthy vegetables. Mmmm

 

IMG_2584
Hanging out With Cody at Siembra Farm

 

IMG_2588
Veronica-Farmer and Awesome Yoga Teacher ❤

If you live near an organic farm, please support it. Many organic farms offer CSA shares.Community supported Agriculture.  Weekly boxes of fresh seasonal veggies. If you are in the Gainesville area, check out Siembra.  http://www.siembrafarm.com/

 

We left the farm with a trunk full of fresh sweet potatoes and carrots.

Eating fresh organic vegetables is a completely different experience than eating store bought and transported, non organic veggies. For example, A couple years ago, in the Azores, we had a big garden and we grew a bunch of carrots. I juiced our freshly picked organic carrots and juiced store bought carrots, just to compare. Completely different taste. Completely different feeling. Completely different!!!!!   The fresher the veggies, the better they taste, and of course more nutrients too. Woohoo! 

Everyone should have access to fresh, healthy food. Food can be medicine or poison. What we eat has a direct impact on our health and the health of our planet. Fresh, local, organic food is the way to go. The choice is up to us. Change begins with us. 

Have a Happy New Year, full of growth, positive change, and fresh veggies. 😉 ~Tiff

 

Fisheating Creek, Stress Melting Magic

My daughter turned two last week and to celebrate, not only did we have a fun little birthday party, but we also spent two days camping and canoeing at a place called Fisheating creek.

Mother and Daughter: Nature Witches
Mother and Daughter: Nature Witches under a magical Oak Tree

Fisheating creek is about two hours northwest of where we live, and it is truly a wild and sacred place.  This time of year, the creek is high, and I mean really high. I didn’t know what to do when we arrived and the trail I usually take was completely underwater. In my mind, I had planned out that we would be camping under some oak trees way down the trail. Well, this knee-deep water covering the trail, told me that sometimes plans change.

Anyways, it took a little while to figure out what to do..I have been camping many times at fisheating creek, but never at this time of year.  This place has seasons, wet season and a dry season, and coming out at this time of year is a completely different experience.. In summer and fall, the water levels are high, sometimes extremely high, and the mosquitos, are everywhere. So are the alligators. In winter and early spring, the water level is much lower.. the mosquitos aren’t nearly as bad, and the alligators, on colder days you wont even see them.

We walked around, swatting mosquitoes, right away we saw a huge alligator and a huge black snake slither right in front of us.. My sweetheart was a little freaked out, I know he was wondering “why are we here, this wild swamp is insane.” My daughter stepped on a fire ant mound. Actually we all did. And getting bit by those tiny ants is awful. Ant bites burn and sting and hurt and itch!! It seemed like the camping trip was going to be rough..

During that time, we got a phone call from some friends who said they wanted to come and camp with us.. They were on their way.

The beauty and magic of the Cyprus Swamp
The beauty and magic of the Cypress Swamp

Then we ran into a man who has a small cabin out on the creek. I had met him a few times in the past, but this trip was the first time we really talked. He is close to my age, a real country boy with a strong southern drawl, and big pick up truck.. but he is a man full of surprises, and he loves the land. To him, the swamp is home.  The trees, the animals. He offered to show us some good places to camp, and invited us to camp right on his land… We went exploring with him, he had lots of stories and wisdom to share. He talked to us for hours about the seasons, the animals, and he invited us to go canoeing with him. AWESOME.

Our perfect campsite
Our perfect campsite

Anyways, our friends arrived and soon after, the rain began. We all ran to our cars, and took shelter as thunder roared overhead. We hung out in the safety of our cars until the thunderstorm passed.. and once safe, we made a fire. Although it was dark, it was hot outside. We didn’t need a fire to stay warm. But I needed a fire for my spirit. Feeling the energy, I danced around the fire. It was so hot, it was like a sweat lodge!

Dancing around the fire
Dancing around the fire

We sat around the fire, occasionally swatting mosquitoes, talking story, until our eyelids became heavy.

We woke up as the sun was rising and went on a walk… The land, the colors, the sounds, the smells, everything was so beautiful.

Group Photounder an Oal Tree (with a strange purple light)
Group Photo under an Oak Tree (with a strange purple light)

Then we went on a very long canoe trip out to a place called Paradise Lake. I saw some of the biggest alligators I have ever seen. And there were a few times, when they were a little too close to the canoe. Heart pounding.. but for the most part, alligators stay away from people.

Canoe trip to Paradise Lake
Canoe trip to Paradise Lake

My spirit felt happy.  And as muddy as I was, my body felt cleansed. My Energy light.

The camping trip was completely different from what I had imagined. And even better.

Fisheating Creek, Stress Melting Magic~Tiff