Ramblings | Keeping Up

Phwew. I don't know about any of you, but lately, I have just been EXHAUSTED! Maybe it's the oncoming heat of the summer, maybe it's the semi-increased stress at work due to low staffing, maybe it's just my body telling me to rest. Either way, I will listen to my body and mind when they speak.

I am learning to set boundaries and be very mindful with my time. That doesn't mean I spend every waking moment doing something meaningful that makes me feel good. Sometimes that means choosing to spend my time lounging on the sofa watching Netflix or getting in bed at 7PM to read a book. I'm learning to not make time for people and things that don't serve me (like... why am I just now getting this??!). I'm not overly committing myself to anything and, especially with this business, I'm not forcing anything. 

It does feel hard to keep up with everything most of the time. Single mom, full time job, side business, hobbies. While all of these things fulfill me, it's only when they come in appropriate amounts and with a good balance between them. Sometimes, things have to fall by the wayside. That is basically what has happened with my writing on this site!

As I finally take a moment to pick up where I left off back in January, fresh off our Arizona road trip, I feel ready to come back to it. And, to me, that's the most important part. I would rather take some time off and be able to come back with purpose, with thought, than to just come back to go through the motions with nothing to say just for the sake of keeping the business active here. 

Anyways, all this to say - I think I feel ready to dedicate more time to writing again and that feels good. I've enjoyed focusing on the social media aspect of content for a while, but I like this medium because I can get more in depth. So, expect to see more of my ramblings, our travels, and tips & tricks than you've seen in the past six months! Drop me a line if you have something or somewhere that you want me to talk about!

Ramblings | The Year in Review

I think it's no coincidence that 2021 was not only one of the happiest years of my life, but was also a year that was filled to the brim with travel. We took lots of road trips, both big and small. We spent time in 8 states, with two more to add to the list before the year closes out. We saw National and State Parks, slept under the stars, went on our very first backpacking trip, swam in the summer heat and huddled around a campfire in the cooler weather.

This year, Ramblin' 'round Texas was created as an outlet for my energy, creativity, and passion. It provided just that. It pushed me to get outside more. It pushed me to learn about website creation, social media, and design. It has been tremendously fulfilling and I feel so grateful that I get to dedicate my life to the outdoors, both in my day job and my side hustle. Nature gives me a sense of meaning while simultaneously reminding me how small and meaningless we really are. I feel like I belong in nature, with Lily by my side. 2021 is just the beginning. I've got so many hurdles I still want to conquer and I'm so glad you're here for the ride with us.

I like lists, so here is our year recapped in list format:

STATESTexas, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, New Mexico, Arizona

NATIONAL PARKS | Hot Springs National Park, Mammoth Cave National Park, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, New River Gorge National Park & Preserve, Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, White Sands National Park, Chiricahua National Monument, Petrified Forest National Park, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Saguaro National Park

TEXAS STATE PARKS | Huntsville State Park, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Abilene State Park, Lake Colorado City State Park, Government Canyon State Natural Area, Colorado Bend State Park, Pedernales Falls State Park, Mother Neff State Park, Blanco State Park, Old Tunnel State Park, Cooper Lake State Park - South Sulphur, Caddo Lake State Park, Lake Whitney State Park, Lake Mineral Wells State Park, Guadalupe River State Park, Lake Somerville State Park - Nails Creek, Meridian State Park, Dinosaur Valley State Park, Copper Breaks State Park, Enchanted Rock State Park, Monahans Sandhills State Park, Franklin Mountains State Park

MISCELLANEOUS SITES | Bracken Cave Preserve, Lake Georgetown

Ramblings | 3 Things This Park Ranger Wants You to Know

Please be nice to us! | We all work so hard and we are underpaid and it sucks when someone gets mad at you for things like the weather or bugs or that something is closed. 99% of the time, it is legitimately something that we have absolutely NO control over. It's not our fault! We are doing the best we can! I'm not saying don't complain or get sassy if a staff member is giving subpar customer service or something (which hopefully doesn't happen very often), but just don't do it for things that we can't control please!

Please visit a location's website before coming! | Look up what the hours of operation are. If you're not sure, call and ask! I know a lot of people come SO excited to explore and they show up at closing and then get upset with US. ALL of the essential information about where you are going can generally be found on the first page of the website. Taking a few minutes to read it through will prevent disappointment and frustration on your end (and ours!). We get it, last minute things happen and a lot of people just pull in off the highway out of curiosity, but please understand it's not our fault if we are closed when you arrive late in the day.

We are all still learning. | Yes, that includes us park rangers. I literally make a living working in the outdoor industry and there are sooooo many things that I have never done and things I know nothing about. Don't feel any pressure or think that you have to know everything before you go out on an adventure. We are all learning as we go (and hopefully having a fucking great time learning and growing... I sure am!). Literally yesterday evening before I wrote this, we went hiking at Enchanted Rock and I fell into a FUCKING CACTUS. I've been picking little spines out of my hands and arm all evening. Shit happens. Don't let it bother you, just laugh at yourself. I fall down in front of people out in parks more often than I'd like to admit. It is what it is. The moral of the story is - don't let that stop you!

Okay, that's all I can think of right now. Maybe there will be a second volume in the future.

Ramblings | Overcoming Fear

It's been a long time since I've been scared in the outdoors. As you spend more time in nature, you learn it. You become intimately familiar with it. The rustling of leaves at night, the unknown sounds, the dark - you have spent so much time with it, that it is no longer unknown. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. It's something that I find myself facing as I think about one of our next trips. Our first backpacking trip. I'm not sure why it is causing me so much anxiety. We aren't going anywhere terribly remote. I'm fairly certain we will probably have cell service the entire time should something happen. But for some reason, I am scared.

Doing something new is scary. Getting out of your comfort zone is scary. But let's be honest with ourselves, most of things that we are anxious or scared about (public speaking, a nerve-wracking meeting at work, etc) just about always end up being okay. And when it has passed, you breathe a huge sigh of relief. It's over. I did it. That wasn't so bad.

How to get to the point where you can just do it? I wish I had an easy answer. For everyone it will be different. I think in general, removing as much of the 'unknown' as possible can help. This is one reason why I research my trips in detail. I'm an anxious person by nature and equipping myself with knowledge gives me some semblance of control (and I like to be in control). Don't let your imagination run away with you. I often (like, way too often) find myself worrying about murderers and dying and terrible things happening. It's a problem, I'm working on it. I often have to reel my thoughts back in and convince myself to be more realistic. Sometimes it's as simple as finding something else to focus my thoughts on. Meditation, singing, etc.

Ultimately, I have found that the best way out is through. Facing your fears can be SUCH an empowering thing. That saying "Do something every day that scares you" is popular for a reason. While I don't know that I would like to spend every day in a state of anxiety, I do think that the most growth happens by facing the thing you're afraid of - the hard conversation you have to have, the spider, the outdoors. Whatever that thing is for you. You don't have to jump into the deep end right away. If you need to slowly desensitize yourself, do it. There is no 'right' way to do this. You have to do what works for you. If you're scared of getting outside, start small. Start in a group. Start close by. Start in a cabin. You don't have to enjoy nature in the same way anyone else does. Find what you enjoy and are comfortable with and keep building upon yourself, pushing yourself a little farther each time.

Starting this business was scary. Putting yourself out there is scary. Doing the thing you've always wanted to do but have been too scared to do is, well, SCARY. But damn, it is empowering. I've always loved writing but never thought I was good enough to do it seriously. Or maybe I just was too scared to be judged. But I finally realized... I want to do this for ME, not for anyone else. So... here we are! 

Take the plunge. Do the thing. You only live once, don't let fear get in your way.

Ramblings | Healing

Nature has played a huge role in my mental health. As I finally sought help for my anxiety, I simultaneously became VERY intentional about our traveling. It was sporadic before - maybe going on a couple of weekend camping trips a year and one big trip. Now, I need a weekend of camping pretty much every month in order to feel sane, to feel productive, to feel restored. I've stopped feeling guilty about taking time off of work. It is my leave and I have earned it and, by using it, I end up being a better employee. Feeling rested and relaxed increases my productivity. It boosts my mood. It is now part of my arsenal of tools in my journey towards acceptance, love, dreams, and cultivating the life I want. 

Nature has always been a place where I could go to be myself. Nature doesn't judge. Nature doesn't care if you're fat or thin or pretty or dumb or seriously un-funny or boring or the most amazing person in the world. Nature doesn't give a shit. It doesn't expect anything of you, nor does it care about your status. Out here, we are all equal. Nature is like an old friend who is always there to make you feel better, even if its just sitting with you while you process something. An old friend that, no matter how long it has been since you've spent time together, it feels like no time has passed at all and you pick right back up where you left off. 

It's a pretty powerful thing to feel like you are truly embracing everything about yourself. You don't have to pretend, you don't need filters, you don't need perfection or flawlessness. You are raw. You are open. You are vulnerable. You are beautiful, magnificent, unabashedly YOU. It took me a really long time to feel okay with that. Nature led the way, along with Wellbutrin (heyoooo). With each step on each trail, my confidence climbed right there along with me. With every landscape I gazed on, I gained appreciation. Appreciation of every single one, each different from the others. Not less or more beautiful, not better or worse, just different. Just like us humans. 

"Healing doesn't happen in a straight line" is a lyric that really struck a chord with me recently (thanks Kacey Musgraves). I felt it in my bones. To me, that wandering path of healing is a path I walk on every time I am out on a trail. Step by step, day by day. Walk your path and keep going, even if you fall and get mud all over yourself.