The grass is greener where you water it

During every semester of college, I always had a small bit of envy for people who weren’t in school. I fully understand the importance of and have great appreciation and desire for education, but having friends who were not stressing about finishing a paper or lab report or studying all night for an exam  made me a tad bit envious. Now that I’m back in Knoxville with no school, all I do is work. I come home at night and don’t have to worry if I forgot about some assignment that’s due tomorrow (or, in my case, exams that I forgot were the following morning). I don’t have to make myself feel guilty for sitting in front of the TV for a couple of hours, taking a nap, or just reading a book for pleasure. This has been my schedule for the past few weeks now. Looking at friends who are still in school stressing about midterms and writing papers, I can feel the envy inside of them that I once had towards other people in my boat. I think it’s human nature to sometimes think the grass will be greener on the other side. It’s a funny thing when you finally get to the other side and all you can think about is wanting to go back. In my situation, this is not the case! I do not miss those late nights leaving work to head to the library to study for an exam. Or those nights when all I want to do is  go home and make a good dinner and chill on the couch, but instead I have to pick up food from Cookout and start on a lab report. I am enjoying this just as much as I thought I would. Okay, I’ll be honest, I still do love a milkshake from Cookout, and I still stay up pretty late in front of my computer learning new things or having to get something done, but hey, it’s still really nice not having to show up to classes or take tests anymore.

I am now completely booked between work and doing things for Peace Corps. If I’m not at work, I’m on my computer looking for places to get my medical tests and vaccines done. If I’m not doing either of those, I’m actually at the dentist or doctor’s office getting this stuff done. So far, I’ve been to the dentist three times and the Health Department twice. I have at least three more visits to the dentist/ orthodontist (I have to get one more filling done and then all four wisdom teeth pulled), at least two more doctor visits (physical exam and blood work), and two more vaccines to get (and several more when I get to Lesotho). In addition to getting things done for final medical clearance, I have shipped my passport off to get a No-Fee Passport, sent in my Aspiration Statement and resume to Lesotho, and started looking for things I need to buy before leaving. I never realized how difficult packing for 2+ years would be. Typing that last sentence felt strange and brings to reality what’s actually about to happen. I think for the first time, it’s actually hitting me. I spoke with a family today at work about PC because they were curious about what I was doing with my life. They asked questions that I’ve been asked before, but never felt so embarrassed about my uncertainty: “What exactly will you be doing,” “Will family or friends come visit you,” “Do you think you will get to come home,” “Aren’t you going to miss people?” Except for the last one, I have no real answers for these questions, and this saddens me. I know I signed up for this and this is what I want to do, but for the first time I’m a little sad about it. Even when we know the grass is greener on the other side, we’re still hesitant to go sometimes. The uncertainty of all of this is scary right now, but this is how life should be and I think I’m right where I am supposed to be. I’m 100 days from take-off! Time is flying by and I will enjoy each and every day.

-Jody

The Maloti Mountains in Lesotho. The highest mountain range south of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Maloti Mountains in Lesotho. The highest mountain range south of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Washington Trip

For me, 2014 started at a full-out, month-long sprint. I’ve told you about my time with Jon (Jauncy) in the Southwest and now I will finally post about my travels with Hannah to the Pacific Northwest.

So, after the Grand Canyon, Jauncy and I headed back home and arrived in Nashville on Sunday. The following Thursday Hannah and I would be going back to the airport to fly to Seattle. One peaceful night’s sleep was all I got before going back into travel mode. Looking for the cheapest car rentals, snowshoe rentals, checking road conditions in the parks, campsite availability, renting a tent and ground pads, and other reservations and things that we needed. After battling through rush-hour traffic, we made to the airport in time for our 6:30 flight. It was only days prior that I was in this exact terminal and I was thrilled to be back here about to leave on another trip. Hannah and I got to the terminal and sat down in front of a girl struggling to fit a Mumford and Sons vinyl album in her backpack. I complimented her on it and as I never seem to meet a stranger, we started talking and she told us she was from Seattle. Hannah and I both perked up and had her tell us all about the weather, things to see and do, and places that are a must-see while there. She was very proud to be a Seattleite and got us even more excited to see this part of the US. With a quick touch down in Chicago, we arrived to our destination around midnight. The first rental car we were given keys to was a car that was slightly larger than a Smart car. We just looked at the car for a minute and decided there was no way this would make it in the weather we had been warned about. We settled on a 2013 Toyota Corolla and so the trip began…to a late night run to a 24-hour Subway. The next morning started early as we made our way into downtown Seattle. We walked down Pike Street (for all you coffee drinkers, this is the home of the world’s first Starbucks and the origin of its Pike Place Roast) right into the Pike Place Market (one of the oldest public farmers’ market in the United States). Seattle was an incredible city, and so was its people. After an eventful day in Seattle we picked up tire chains and snowshoes and headed two hours west to the Elwah campground for our first night in Olympic National Park. It felt like we were driving into a haunted forest. All of the trees had moss hanging from their limbs and in the moon’s light it was ominous and very creepy. It wasn’t until the next morning that we realized how beautiful this place truly was. We left the campsite headed for Hurricane Ridge. I’ll let the next few pictures speak for Hurricane Ridge.

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Hannah excited about snowshoeing.

Hannah excited about snowshoeing.

In the background is Mount Olympus and 13 other peaks.

In the background is Mount Olympus and other Olympic peaks.

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At the top of Hurrican Ridge looking into Canada

At the top of Hurricane Ridge looking into Canada

We saw a multitude of colors from the sky as the sun set on the way back

We saw a multitude of colors from the sky as the sun set on the way back

Actually, that was really easy so I think I will just turn this post into a picture blog . That way, I can start posting updates about actual Peace Corps stuff.

Hurricane Ridge is probably one of the top five hikes of my life. After this hike we headed to the Sol Duc campground:

The next morning we did a short hike to the Sol Duc waterfall

The next morning we did a short hike to the Sol Duc waterfall

The moss hanging from the trees is very eerie in the moonlight but really nice during the day

The moss hanging from the trees is so eerie. Imagine setting up camp at night under this

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We found our later that this was a normal sized tree

We found our later that this was a small tree

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If it were the right season, I bet we could have seen a bear fishing for salmon upstream from the falls.

If it were the right season, I bet we could have seen a bear fishing for salmon upstream from the falls.

After this short hike we doubled back to Lake Crescent and then on to the Pacific coast:

Lake Crescent was beautiful

Lake Crescent was beautiful

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For any Twilight fans, we drove through and had lunch in Forks–apparently this is the place where the Twilight movies took place. This small town really must have gotten their claim to fame from this because no one mentioned Forks without mentioning Twilight. Our first stops along the coast were at Rialto Beach, Second Beach, and Ruby Beach:

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach

In the background is sacred Native American burial grounds from wars with neighboring tribes

In the background are sacred Native American burial grounds

Hannah swimming in the ocean of drift wood

Hannah swimming in the ocean of drift wood

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We found a starfish!

We found a starfish!

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We camped here and had a sunrise fire on the beach

We camped here and had a sunrise fire on the beach

After our first successful fire on the beach that morning–it’s hard making a fire in a rainforest–we headed to the Hoh Rainforest:

The Hoh rainforest was home to the big trees. Hannah is standing at the bottom of this 275 ft, 550-year old Sitka spruce

The Hoh rainforest was home to the big trees. Hannah is standing at the bottom of this 275 ft, 550-year old Sitka spruce

Life literally thrived on every inch of this rainforest

Life literally thrived on every inch of this rainforest

Holding maybe 100 years of history right here

Holding maybe 100 years of history

Hannah felt like she was walking through Jurassic Park

Hannah felt like she was walking through Jurassic Park

Our next big destination was Mount Rainier. Hannah noticed that we weren’t too far away from Portland, OR and Mount St. Helens so…that’s what we decided to do.

We set up camp in a small town near Mount St. Helens. There were a dozen elk near where we wanted to set up the tent and Hannah was so amused that I was a little scared that they would decide to attack or something. It was a little irrational, but whatever. The next morning we had a short drive up to Mount St. Helens:

The volcano devestated the land but it is now teeming with life

The volcano devastated the land but it is now teeming with life

Hannah climbing into a tree mold

Hannah climbing into a tree mold

Snowshoeing on Mount St. Helens

Snowshoeing on Mount St. Helens

Great hike on Mount St. Helens and we were off to Portland, OR. We spent the day in Portland and then headed straight to Mount Rainier. Portland was a strange city. Some highlights were Powell’s Books–the largest independent book store in the world, Washington Park where you could see Mount Hood in the skyline of the city, and Voodoo Doughnut. I like how bike friendly it was.

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

The view of the north side of Mount St. Helens from Mount Rainier

The view of the north side of Mount St. Helens from Mount Rainier

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I was exhausted and seeing how far away these people were in front of us going to the top I didn't want to go any further

I was exhausted at this point. Seeing how far away these people were in front of us going to the top, I didn’t want to go any further

Hannah kept pushing for us to make it to the top, though. And we did. It was straight up. I felt like I was climbing up a ladder the entire way, but we made it. And the view was well worth it.

What Hannah didn’t realize is that when you climb up something that steep, going back down is the bigger challenge. I’ve never seen anyone so afraid of walking as she was. I thought I was on this cliff watching Bambi learn how to walk in the snow for the first time. We walked around this ridge while people the size of ants gathered at the bottom to watch us figure out how the heck to get back down. I felt a little embarrassed because of how goofy we must have looked trying different ways to get back down and none of them working. Hannah ended up slipping and screaming because she thought she would slip and slide over the cliff (she wasn’t even close, but her pure terror made me afraid for her). So, we had to find a different way off because it was true, we probably would’ve died trying to go back the same way. We eventually found our way to a somewhat less steep slope and crawled down backwards on hands and knees.

When we got to the bottom, Hannah booked it back to the car. We were exhausted

When we got to the bottom, Hannah booked it back to the car. We were both exhausted

Our bodies were pretty worn out from the past week of hiking, camping in the cold, driving, and less than nutritious diet of peanut butter, chocolate and cans of soup. The final destination of our trip was to the Goldmeyer Hotsprings. This was the real deal! It was a primitive hotspring in the mountain. It was a three-hour drive down a fourteen mile road. The road had pot-holes big enough to hide a small child in. It was hellacious. After the drive, it was a 4.5 mile hike to the Goldmeyer campground and then another half mile hike to the actual hotsprings. It was everything you could ever imagine a natural hotspring to be. There was a cave that went back about twenty feet into the mountain where the source of the water was. This cave was walled off to where it filled to about four feet deep and 118 degrees at the back of the cave. This water spilled over the wall into a pool where it gathered and was about 108 degrees. This spilled into a third pool that was around 100 degrees. The outside temperature was 30 degrees and below while we were there and we were in the middle of the woods with a waterfall beside us. It was magnificent.

All in all, this trip was perfect. We saw everything we wanted to see and more. We experienced more than a lot of people get to see so for that we are both fortunate and thankful. I hope to make it back to this part of the US again one day. Play time is now over and I’m back in Knoxville working on PC stuff. Less than four months until I’ll be Lesotho-bound!

Bye from Jody and Hannah!

Bye from Jody and Hannah!