My Favorite Places

The more I write, the harder it gets. I have a few topics planned out to write about in the coming weeks, however these won’t last forever. I’m still hoping I can transfer my self-motivation for writing these blog posts into going on more adventures. Almost as a way to keep myself accountable. I’m not exactly where that came from, I guess I want to let anyone who actually reads these know where I am and what I’m thinking. You all are investing your time in me, so I feel like I need to let you know where I’m at!

Anyways, today’s topic has absolutely nothing to do with that first paragraph. Today (as you’ve probably already guessed) I will be talking about some of my favorite places. Now, I haven’t really traveled at all, so this won’t be an all inclusive list of the “10 Best Places to Backpack” or “You Must See the Sunrise at These 7 Places Before You Die”. This will just be a few of the places I’ve been to, the things I like about them, and maybe an anecdote or two about the places.

As I said, I haven’t really been to many places, so this will be a short list. Hopefully throughout the year, I’ll be able to add a few more to this list! I guess we’ll start small and work our way up. We’ll start with Harbison State Forest. This is a relatively small place to hike around, which is literally right next to my house. Unfortunately, I don’t get out there too often, but it is an awesome place to go! It has several miles of trails, both for hiking/running and mountain biking. These trails range from very easy to difficult, however, it isn’t anything that the average person couldn’t handle. Another trail to hike around my hometown is part of the Palmetto Trail, around Peak. It is a great place to explore around and a fun place to experience, with an old railroad trestle crossing over the Broad River. Going a little farther north, and to one of my favorite places (if you read my previous post, you already know), there is Table Rock State Park. I won’t talk too much about Table Rock, since I did in my previous post, but it is an amazing place to hike. I believe that is is a little over 7 miles total, and it is usually a full day trip for us when we go (although I am counting 4-5 hours in travel). Reaching the summit is the prettiest sight, but after walking a few more minutes to an open rock area, you can really see the beauty. For me, it is quite a difficult climb to the top, but once you see where you are, you can’t help but be amazed. Traveling a little further around the top of the mountain will bring you to an overlook of the lake (another awesome sight). After you’re done taking in the beauty, it is a nice leisurely hike downhill.

Now that we’ve tackled some of my favorite spots in South Carolina, we’re going to go even farther North, into North Carolina. Now, I don’t have much experience in North Carolina, so this will be short. For hiking, pretty much the only place that I have been is to Dupont State Forest, home of Triple Falls, Hooker Falls, and High Falls (this was also where part of The Hunger Games was shot). No matter how many times I visit, it never gets old. I love just watching, listening, and playing on/near the waterfalls. There aren’t many places in South Carolina to see all of these amazing waterfalls, and to get all three of these beauties in one spot is incredible. There are some very steep uphills in Dupont, but overall, it is a easy to moderate hike, and one that I would recommend to everyone whether you have a family with small children or you’re high school kids looking for somewhere fun to hike. The only other place I’ve hiked is Montreat. I haven’t spent very much time here, and I think I’ve only hiked two of the trails, but from what I have experienced there, the sights are amazing. Actually, the cover photo for the main page of my blog is a panorama of one of the trails we hiked!

Backpacking. I love it. I may not be good at it, but I love it. I wish I could say I’ve backpacked all over the place, but I’ve really only been to one place; Pisgah National Forest. Maybe I keep going back there, because I’m comfortable with it, or maybe it is just because I think its a nifty place. It definitely doesn’t have the best views, but you’re almost always close to water and there are a few established campsites, which makes it a little easier to camp and enjoy yourself more. The place that I go to in Pisgah, is not too far out of the way, which is usually a plus for me.

This concludes the list of my favorite places. I’m sure that I could have elaborated a little more, but I’m trying to keep these posts sort of short, I’m not trying to write a book, at least not yet! Expect another post later this week! I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I think I’m going to be talking about some of the gear I use, mainly focusing on backpacking, but I may throw in some kayaking, day-trip, etc equipment

As always, thank you for reading, and please let me know if you have any ideas!

Braden

P.s. The cover picture for this post is a picture of a friend and my sister-in-law racing llamas down a trail at Dupont!

 

How did I get started? Where am I going?

My experience may be extremely similar to many other’s. I was introduced to “the outdoors” before I can even remember, literally. My mom has always told stories about this camping trip, or the time we went fishing in North Carolina when I was 3, but one of these stories sticks in my mind more than the rest. Living in central South Carolina, there aren’t that many mountains or great hikes in general, however, in the Upstate/North Carolina there are a ton of awesome hiking trails. One of these, which I frequent at least once or twice a year, is Table Rock. The story is a simple one, and one that I can only tell from my family’s accounts. When I was a baby, no more than 2 years old, my family decided to go hike Table Rock. They couldn’t leave me behind, so they took me! Now Table Rock isn’t the most difficult hike, but it has a lot of uphill section. And a LOT of stairs. My mom strapped me on her back, and they took off. How she (as well as my dad) lugged me the 3.6 miles up the mountain, and the 3.6 miles back, I have no clue.

I was blessed to have a family who loves being outdoors. My love and enjoyment for nature and being outside was never a choice that I had to really make, it was always there for me. My parents would take my brother and I camping probably once a month and do all kinds of hikes on weekends. My brother and I never really had to be coaxed off of a computer or a gaming system (until high school at least), we always wanted to be outside. We always liked to run around in the creek behind our house, jump on the trampoline, or just ride our bikes around the neighborhood.

I mentioned the “until high school” part, because even though I grew up with being outside, as technology progressed and it became easier to just sit inside and watch TV, play video games, or play on my iPhone. We live in a time where technology is constantly being improved and most of it is for the better. Lives are being saved, communication is easier, business on a global scale can be done by almost anyone, even a small business in your home town. However, one of the negatives of this, is what I described earlier. The temptation of watching Grey’s Anatomy or Big Bang instead of going out and hiking or even doing something as simple as setting up your hammock and stargaze. It is still a struggle for me today, to get myself to get up and go do things. To go explore the woods behind my apartment complex or to hike the trail that runs through town.

Don’t get me wrong, technology isn’t a bad thing, even for getting out and enjoying nature and exercising. You have products like FitBit, you can use Google to look up hiking trails near you, how to get started in whatever you’d like. There are even apps like Geocaching that inspire people and push them to go outside and hike around.

As for myself, as I talked about earlier and in some of my other posts, I hope to use this new year as a new start to my relationship with the outdoors. I want to go out more and hike, backpack, and camp. I want to go to new places, hike different areas, and kayak different rivers and lakes. I want to experience new things and see different sights. Overall, I suppose I hope to push myself to get out there, try new things, and enjoy every bit of them. As always, thank you for reading!

My First Time….Overnight Kayaking

Well, if it wasn’t obvious enough, this post is going to be all about my first (real) time going on a kayaking trip that forced us to camp overnight.

While my whole family lives very close to each other, when I am at college, I’m a little over an hour away and I don’t go home too often. I try to talk with my mom, dad, and brother at least once a week. My dad doesn’t say much, my mom tells me she misses me and I tell her the same, but my brother is a different story. We spend quite a bit of time on the phone upwards to an hour sometimes. This night in particular was outside the norm, as we talked for at least two, maybe three hours. Why? We were trying to plan an awesome kayaking trip from Downtown Columbia to Charleston. My roommates knew a lot about the area we would be kayaking, so we brought them in on the planning. We figured out the route, roughly how long it’d take, maybe some meals we could prepare. To say the least, we were excited for this trip, something neither of us had done.

After a few weeks of little being said about the trip and just a few more weeks until the semester was over, we decided that we had to really buckle down and hammer out the details of the trip. My brother handled a lot of this, calling lock controllers, measuring out the distances, and finding landmarks to look out for. The more time he spent trying to plan, the more he, and I, realized that our trip wasn’t going to work out like we thought. The lock controller said that kayaks weren’t allowed to go through the locks, which left us with only a couple options, none of which were too viable. So, we decided we would just go to the bottom of Lake Moultrie, making the trip around 100 miles, a feat for the two of us. I finished my semester and we both figured the sooner we could go the better it would be. We both knew that the longer we waited to do this, the smaller the chance was that we would actually go. We decided to leave the first weekend after I came back from school, which gave us a little less than a week to get everything together and finalize the plans. The week went on and we pretty much had everything ready to go on Wednesday night, a full day before we were going to leave. We had picked our meals: ramen, dehydrated chili, a MountainHouse meal, and some makeshift burritos, oh, and snacks. Lots of snacks. We had also decided on hammocks to camp in, which in retrospect was a bad idea. We would leave from Downtown Columbia very early Friday morning, around 7-7:30. Thursday was a normal, relaxing day before our “big trip”.

We woke up Friday morning ready to go. The tandem kayak that we decided on had been loaded up with most of our gear and put in the truck the previous night. We had a late start, as my dad suggested we get a good breakfast-Cracker Barrel it was. We got downtown, carried our kayak down to the river, and my dad took a few pictures. Security started looking at us a little funny with our skull buffs over our faces, so we decided to hit the road, or river rather. I was the first one in the kayak, the water wasn’t freezing, but it certainly wasn’t what I thought it’d be either. As I tried to keep myself out of the water (the only tandem we own is a ride on top), my brother lowered himself into the kayak. Fortunately, the kayak didn’t sink as much as my heart did. The water level rose in the kayak and I knew then that getting wet was inevitable. We waved goodbye to my dad and started paddling. The first half hour or so was nerve-wracking for me, as I just knew that we were going to sink, but my brother was definitely keeping a positive attitude, which was helpful. The story definitely doesn’t get boring here, but it is a whole lot of paddling. We talked and joked with each other. I caught him up on all of the antics with my two roommates, how the semester was, and some of my plans for the summer. He talked about work, his wife, and caught me up on everything else in between. As we were leaving downtown behind us, we came around a bend, joking about seeing alligators (as we would be kayaking through the Congaree River). We rounded the bend we saw a little Jon boat with a man standing up in the shallows, with a woman on her knees. I couldn’t look away fast enough. I stared straight ahead and continued paddling, trying to keep from bursting out in laughter. Once we were far enough away, I said, “They weren’t really…..”, Cy said, “Yep…” While I wanted the image out of my head, we couldn’t stop cracking jokes about it all day.

We hit the first checkpoint around 9 am, way quicker that we had originally planned, or that’s what we thought. This really boosted morale, we thought we may even get farther than we had originally thought, meaning that the next two days would be even easier paddling. After about two hours we should have hit the next checkpoint, but it didn’t come. Thirty more minutes passed, still no checkpoint. Then an hour. We just couldn’t seem to get to it, at certain points, it really felt like we were paddling without going anywhere. We were tired, had to pee, and just wanted to stop and have lunch. So around 1 or 2 pm on Friday we stopped on a large sandbank. We grabbed our lunch for the day, started a small fire, and emptied our bladders. I pulled out my phone to try and check out where we were, and saw how close we were to the second checkpoint. It took way longer than we thought, but knowing it was just around the corner was another pick-me-up. That news plus the awesome lunch we had, pushed us to pack up again and push on down the river. We hit the checkpoint and just kept trucking.

It was starting to get relatively late (since we had been up and paddling since around 9) but we knew we could go for at least another hour, maybe two if we had to. It was around 4:30 when we saw the gray clouds coming up behind us, and around 5:15-30 when they let loose above us. I was okay when it was just rain, I got a little more nervous when it started to thunder, and I really started to loose it when the lightning came. I kept saying we had to find a place to get out, searching for any part of the banks that we could scale and that wasn’t 10 or 15 feet high. We saw a place on the left bank that seemed to be a decent place. A fallen tree would make a good mooring point and would make it easier to get on the bank. It wasn’t even 6 yet, but we also weren’t sure how long the rain was going to last, so we decided to set up camp. We grabbed the food, hammocks, our bags, and the tarp. We cleared out some of the weeds, dug a small fire pit and threw up the hammocks and tarp. As another reward, we had the burritos for dinner. It wasn’t Moe’s, but it definitely felt great to have some good food! It was a really relaxing night, until we went to sleep of course. It wasn’t a particularly cold night, probably in the 50s, but in a hammock, this can be killer. With no insulation under you, the air just freezes you. I was on top and had brought more/warmer clothes, so I was a little warmer, but my brother was absolutely miserable and barely got any sleep that night.

We got up very early that morning around 6:30 am. We had nothing better to do, and wanted to try to make it as far as we could today, so we packed up and were on the river by 7:30. The next several hours were quite boring as nothing was really happening, we just kept pushing. It wasn’t nearly as miserable as the previous day though, I had better connection, and could track our progress much better. We kept saying, “Let’s just make it to Deadpool by lunch.” We started naming our landmarks. This one was the most creative, as it looked like Deadpool’s head, from the movie we had just seen. On the way to Deadpool, we found an enormous sandbank, with what looked like some random garbage on it. I saw what I thought looked like a flag. We figured we were ahead of schedule, so we stopped and went to check it out. What we found was about a 10-12 foot long branch/small tree with both the American Flag and the Confederate flag. We cut them both off and folded them up and then got back to paddling. It was a rough paddle to Deadpool, for most of the trip the wind was with us, but for this last stretch before lunch, the wind was nothing but against us. Paddling as hard as you could would barely net you any progress, but we kept pushing. Once we arrived at Deadpool, we only saw one spot to stop for lunch; a very small “beach”, which was about the size of my apartment’s porch, half of it being wet sand. We tried to eat lunch as quick as we could so we decided on ramen, saving the dehydrated chili for that night. While we were packing up, my brother decided to fashion a flag pole to hand the American Flag onto, to fly behind our kayak. We packed up with our new accessory proudly flapping in the wind.

This whole time, we weren’t exactly sure when the trip was going to end. Were we going to try and find a spot to camp on Lake Marion, paddle back upstream to somewhere viable, or call the trip off short and let my dad know where to pick us up at? The closer we got to the place where my dad would have to pick us up, the clearer the decision was. There weren’t that many great places to camp on the lake, and with the miserable night we had before, I didn’t want to risk another night like that. The other big thing was that there were a bunch of boats, and we weren’t even on the “open water” yet. We stopped once more to retire the American Flag and while we were doing this, we made our final decision. I called my dad, sent him the location and told him to leave as soon as possible. My brother definitely was not happy with this decision, but in the end, I think it was the right thing to do. He saw it as a failure, while I saw nothing but success. We had kayaked from Columbia to Lake Marion in less than two full days, we had an awesome time, we had a fun time, we laughed. We were able to achieve something that a lot of people wouldn’t even think of trying, not because it was extremely difficult, but because a lot of people don’t see the point of it. I’ll talk about what I got from the trip a little more, towards the end. So, we kayaked around while we waited on my dad, went in some houseboats, and then headed back to the boat ramp. My dad got a little lost but eventually made his way. We loaded up, I hopped in the driver’s seat, and we headed back home. Just like that our journey came to an end.

As I said before, my brother saw stopping on Saturday afternoon as more of a failure, because he saw that we were quitting. We had compromised going to Charleston, then to Moultrie, then we didn’t even make it to the end of Marion. But I saw us taking on something that we hadn’t really ever done before and succeeding. When it was all said and done, the trip was 65.73 miles. In two days! I was extremely proud of both myself and him. Instead of watching movies, playing video games, or just sitting on the couch we kayaked, we paddled 66 miles. It wasn’t the trip we originally planned, but it was an adventure, and it was awesome. My brother is 6 years older than me, and so for most of our lives, we haven’t been super close. It wasn’t until I was in high school (about 7 years ago) that we really started to get closer and bond more. I see opportunities like these and want to take them. I want to be able to spend more time with him and have fun with him. One thing that we both have in common is our love for the outdoors. Him, much more than I, but it is one thing that I think we will always have to do together. For me, this trip shows that life is not always about the destination, it really is about the journey. So do not be discouraged by not getting somewhere or achieving something, but be excited for the adventures and the things you learned along the way, then use those things to make the next time even better and more successful.

I really did not intend this post to be this long, but I just wrote and wrote. Honestly, I could have made it longer and included more details, but I tried to cut down a little bit. Again, I know it may not be the best writing, but I enjoyed writing down my experiences and I hope other people can be inspired to do something like this. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them! Thanks for reading guys!

Braden.

Why Did I Start this Blog?

This is a question that I don’t know if I have the full answer to. I had really never thought about blogging until today. I think if I continue blogging, the reasons for starting this blog will really come to light. As for now, I’ll just say that I was pondering a good way to spend my free time before I had to go to my marketing class.

In all seriousness, I really do hope to get something out of this blog. Exactly what, I’m not sure yet. Maybe a career, opportunities to work with some really awesome companies (I realize that this may be pretty far out there), or maybe some good old self-actualization.

I’m not exactly sure what direction this blog will be headed. I hope to make it mainly about my outdoor adventures throughout the year(s). Whether this is just a quick kayaking trip, or a week long backpacking trip. I also would not mind reviewing/talking about gear or certain things I do when getting ready for a certain type of excursion. I’d honestly love some other people’s opinions or advice, so if you’re reading this and want to send me a message or leave a comment, I’d love it!

At the moment, I don’t get to go out too often, but I’m hoping to push and motivate myself to spend as much time as I can going out and hiking, camping, backpacking, or just going for a short walk in the woods. I haven’t had any kind of deep connection or some spiritual revelation from nature, but I do think it is a special place. There really is nothing like being miles away from civilization, in the middle of the forest, staring at the sky and taking in the beauty of the stars or watching hundreds of gallons of water pour over the rocks at a waterfall or even sitting by the fire hearing nature all around you. Nature gives everyone a chance to just stop. Stop where they are and enjoy it. There are no cars honking, people yelling (for the most part), or flashing lights. It is a place that you can go and enjoy it, usually for free. And there are no shortage of places to go or things to do! If you check out my “About” page, I list just a few of the things I enjoy! I believe that there is something for everyone to do outdoors.

Well, I’m not exactly sure how long blog posts, usually are, but I think this is a good place to end this one for now. I’m not exactly sure how often I will post, but I hope to post something at least once or twice a week. If I get more feedback, possibly even more! Thanks for reading!