Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Yes, I know it’s another post about hiking. But between trying to move in a few months and saving money/getting ready for Peru, my weekends have been pretty consumed with hiking and spending time with friends. I have two upcoming trips to Tennessee, so I promise I will write about something else soon!

So, back to hiking.

Let me tell you a secret. I do not always enjoy hiking. Don’t get me wrong, usually my outdoor time on the weekends is a welcome relief from living in a city. I have said before that at heart I’m far from a “city girl” and I need trees now and then to really feel like myself. But there are some days when my reclusive lazy introverted side pulls me to just stay home. This particular Saturday was one of those days.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Despite the deceptively blue sky (which would later be more appropriately laden with gray clouds), the day was cold and windy. The trails were muddy. And I was tired. Regardless, I grabbed my favorite hiking buddy, Sydney, and forced myself out the door.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

This illustrates the importance of living a life based on values and goals. I choose to hike not just because it’s something I enjoy, but also because it fits with the larger picture of my life: preparing for a trip to Peru, living a healthy and active lifestyle, making sure my sweet and energetic pup gets plenty of exercise. Without these things in mind, it would be simple to decide to stay home (in my pajamas, reading a book, and eating ice cream) on days like this. And yet I went anyway. On this particular day, I chose to check out Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve in Plano.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

I wish I could say that once I got there, I had a great time, was so glad I went, etc. But that would be dishonest. The truth is the day kept getting more miserable and the trails were completely flat and not all that interesting. And by the end Sydney’s paws were encased in an impressive layer of mud.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve
Even Sydney’s seemingly endless enthusiasm was dampened by this point. Just look at the derisive expression she was directing toward me. Or maybe she was just annoyed that I was taking her picture.

Oak Point Park and Nature Preserve

I mentally divide the places I explore around Dallas into two categories: places worth driving to and places not worth the drive. Unfortunately, Oak Point fell into the latter category. If it were closer to where I live, it would be a nice place to take Sydney for walks after work, but as a destination for our longer weekend hikes, it was not ideal and is probably not a spot I will revisit. Regardless, by the end of the day, I was one small step closer to my goals, even if I did not enjoy the process. Which, now that I’m thinking about it, is basically the story of my life.

 

Laughter and Gratitude

It was just one moment – one extraordinary, fleeting moment in a weekend with more than any weekend’s fair share of extraordinary moments. Captured in a slightly blurry photograph, this moment was peace and happiness and laughter induced by some ridiculous joke my brother was making. All too often moments like these pass by without notice or any special awareness. But these are the times that matter – the quiet, relaxed, joyful flashes of the meaningful. In a year characterized by painful moments and too many tears, this picture reminds me to not take for granted the times I can smile and to appreciate the people in my life who make me laugh. This week, take time to notice and be grateful for the wonderful moments.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. — John Milton

Dogwood Canyon and Cedar Mountain Preserve

Another Saturday, another hike. This time I checked out Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center and the nearby Cedar Mountain Preserve. It was another cool, cloudy morning, but I could not wait to be outside for a few hours. Or maybe I was just looking for an excuse to not study.

Dogwood Canyon currently has two miles of trails, with additional trails planned for the future. The main trail is the West Rim Trail. After a quarter-mile climb, the trail loops for a mile around the western rim of the canyon. The other trail is along the canyon floor and is ADA accessible. Although I did enjoy being outdoors (and more to the point, not being indoors studying), I imagine the scenery will be a little more beautiful in the spring than it was on the late winter day that I was there.

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Dogwood Canyon

Cedar Mountain Preserve is accessible from the Dogwood Canyon parking lot, although you will first have to walk along the road and feel like you look conspicuously weird and are almost certainly going the wrong way and/or are lost. Or something like that. The natural surface trail is about 2 miles long and mostly wooded.

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve
A friendly reminder that you could DIE while hiking
And one more just in case you missed the first 3 warning signs and were not quite anxious enough yet.
And another set of signs just in case you somehow missed all the other warning signs and were not quite anxious enough.

Cedar Mountain Preserve

Cedar Mountain Preserve
Because these were two short trails, I took the time to slow down and really pay attention to what I noticed around me. I heard the wind through the trees, listened to the distant whir of cars driving by on the road below, noticed the sound of leaves crunching beneath my feet and the swish of my jacket, and caught the almost imperceptible sound of small animals scurrying in the woods. Although at first glance the scenery was various shades of brown, I began to notice glimpses of green and pops of color when I looked more closely. What initially appeared to be a solid gray sky was in fact varied in color and texture. I paid attention to the feel of the wind on my skin and the pressure of the ground beneath my feet. I smelled the coldness of the day and the scent of grass and cedar trees and dead leaves. I appreciated having a healthy body that allowed me to easily walk 4 miles.

Try taking some time to fully attend to something that you do today. Although it might be an everyday activity, being mindful can change your experience. You might be surprised what you notice.

That Time I Went to Oregon Part II

After a fun day in Portland and an incredibly beautiful drive to southern Oregon, I was looking forward to exploring more of the area around Medford.

Even the view from the hotel was gorgeous.
Even the view from the hotel was gorgeous.

I chose to spend my morning hiking Lower Table Rock. The Upper and Lower Table Rocks are a pair of mesas a few miles outside of Medford. I chose the latter due to the longer and slightly more challenging trail.

Obviously, based on my persistence in Portland, it takes more than a little rain to derail my plans, so I set out on a dreary and drizzly morning.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

As I began the hike, I felt like I entered another world. The pale green moss-covered trees made for a magical, otherworldly landscape as the cool rain continued to fall.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

The trail continued with a steady 1.6 mile incline to the top of the mesa. As the trail ascended, the scenery slowly changed. And I was clearly reminded why hiking in Dallas is not nearly adequate preparation for hiking the Inca Trail.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Although much of the trail was wooded, there were moments where the trees opened up to incredible views of Mount McLoughlin, the Siskiyous, and the Cascades in the distance.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Once at the top of the mesa, the remnant of an old airplane strip stretched across the flat top for a mile. Thankfully, the rain had stopped by the time I reached the top, so I could enjoy the views in all directions as I walked to the edge.

I really should stop posting so many pictures of myself without makeup...
I really should stop posting so many pictures of myself without makeup…

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Apparently in the spring, the top of the mesa is covered in wildflowers. Perhaps I should move to Oregon so that I have a chance to to see it!
Apparently in the spring, this is covered in wildflowers. Perhaps I should move to Oregon so that I have a chance to to see it!
For part of the year, there are vernal pools across the top of the mesa.
For part of the year, there are vernal pools across the top of the mesa.

Lower Table Rock

Walking the 2 miles roundtrip to reach the southern viewpoint of Lower Table Rock was more than worth it. The view from the edge was breathtaking. And not just because I had been hiking.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Once I descended, I explored the short praireland trail at the bottom of the mesa before heading back to the hotel for a relaxing afternoon.

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

Lower Table Rock

After doing pretty much nothing for the rest of the afternoon, I got ready for dinner with my friend.

An obligatory pre-dinner selfie because, you know, my hair looked kind of good. And because I was actually wearing makeup.
An obligatory pre-dinner selfie because, you know, my hair looked kind of good. And because I was actually wearing makeup.

That evening, we headed back to Ashland to try Standing Stone Brewing Company. With an emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, the restaurant and brewery was the perfect spot for a delicious dinner. On some nights, there is live music to go along with the craft beer and yummy food.

Standing Stone Brewing

Standing Stone Brewing

I even decided to branch out and order a beer. If you know me, this is practically revolutionary. I guess if I’m going to rebel by simply going to Oregon, I might as well go all the way and do something totally crazy like drink a beer. It was surprisingly good and seemed a more appropriate accompaniment to my burger than did wine.

Me. Drinking beer.
Me. Drinking beer.

Standing Stone Brewing

Standing Stone Brewing

I sadly had to head back to Texas the next day. Since I’ve been back, I have continued to consider the exciting possibility of moving to Oregon. Perhaps by this time next year, I will be eating another meal at Standing Stone Brewery reflecting on the first, impulsive trip I took to Oregon a year earlier. Regardless, from this trip I learned that stepping out of my comfort zone can be rewarding, not everything about my life needs a plan (okay, so I’m not entirely convinced this is true…), and that sometimes the worthwhile things in life require some discomfort along the way.