Five Things I Love About Fall

It’s Fall ya’ll, or at least, our version of it. Here in north Louisiana we have four seasons: pre-summer, summer, deep summer, and summer-isn’t-over-yet summer. Winter? What’s that? There have been times when we wore short sleeves on Christmas Day. Sure, from January through March the temperature gets a little cooler, but I can only remember once when the temperature dropped to single digits during the day. It takes very special conditions to freeze the Red River, like during the Great Freeze of December 1983.

Maybe I exaggerate (But not about the Great Freeze. We still talk about that event down here). No, I’m not exaggerating. Not at all. Sure, I’ve seen snow in June...in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. It snowed on my birthday one year. I can’t remember which year.

Fall is when the high drops from 100 degrees to 75 degrees in one day and the cooler temperature struggles to return the next day but just can’t quite beat the heat. We love this time of year because it comes as a great relief from the burning hell of summer. So Fall is here in North Louisiana. I always look forward to this day for months...and months...and months.

So in homage to Fall, here are a few things that make Fall special for me:
1.    The smell of firewood burning. We don’t really need the heat from the fireplace. It’s for ambiance. If we get chilled, we throw on another layer of clothing. That’s all we really need.
2.   The crispness of the air in the morning. As I said before, the cooler weather is a relief from the burning fire of he... I mean summer. I love to breathe in the bright, crisp air on a fall morning. I luxuriate in the smell of leaves on the ground instead of mowed grass. I’m allergic to grass clippings.
3.   Cool-weather comfort foods. It seems odd to eat chili and drink hot cocoa when the temperature is over 80 degrees. So we wait and wait until the thermometer drops to 79 or below. Then we indulge. I know it’s truly Fall when I pull out my Daddy’s chili recipe.
4.   Wearing jackets and boots. I admit it: I collect jackets. It’s an obsession. I love outerwear. I’d wear a jacket, a blazer, a cardigan, a shawl, etc., every day, all year if I could. And boots? I love pulling my booties out of the deep, dark hole where they’ve been hiding for months. I can’t wear them in the summers (yes, plural). I inherited hot feet from my Daddy.
5.   Decorating the house for Fall. This is my absolute favorite thing about Fall. My daughter comes over and helps me pull the decorations out of the still-hot attic. It gives me the feeling that Fall has arrived even if it hasn’t.
I love this time of year. I think I’ll go make myself a cup of hot apple cider.


How I Fell in Love With Day Hiking

It was 1987, and my husband and I were excited to go on our first trip together to Colorado. I’d been in love with the Rocky Mountains since I was a little girl. My parents had visited there before I was born, and I would often gaze at the pictures and postcards from their trip way back in the 1950s. Of course, by the time they took my sister and me there in the late 1970s, although some things were the same, a lot had changed. 

So my husband and I set out on our road trip. We settled into our motel in Estes Park and planned our adventure. The first full day there, we headed up Fall River Road, a trek that is only possible between July and October because the road stays covered in snow and ice for most of the year. We were so excited to be in the mountains, taking in the scenery, that we stopped at every pullout along the way.
That’s how we found the Chapin Creek Trail. We were thrilled to discover we could actually walk into the wilderness to see things we couldn’t see from the road. Our parents had never done such things when we were growing up, so we had little to no knowledge of such adventures. Both sets of parents were make-good-time sort of travelers. They weren’t dawdlers. So the idea of getting out of the car and diving deeper into the woods was a brand new concept for us. 

We started out and soon realized we were not prepared to venture into the woods. The wrong shoes. No water. We had no idea how long it would take to hike that particular trail. We were rookies. So we turned around and went back to the car with sad hearts. 
When we finally made it all the way up Fall River Road to the summit of Fall River Pass, we found the Alpine Visitor Center; and to our delight, we discovered trail maps existed for the entire park. So when we drove back into Estes Park, we bought provisions (water and trail food) for our first hike. It was getting late in the afternoon by then, so we couldn’t do any trail that was very long. We chose a short hike to Alberta Falls in the Bear Lake area of the park for our first hiking experience.
The view from the top of the falls was gorgeous. We truly felt like we were on top of the world and closer to heaven. The view seemed sharper. The air smelled fresher. Our bodies experienced the feel-good tingle of exercise. We felt connected to ourselves, to nature, to our Creator. This was when we realized we couldn’t truly see and experience the wonders of the mountains in the seat of a car. There was a whole other world off the road and down a path.
We were hooked. The next day we got to Bear Lake earlier and hiked all the way to Emerald Lake. Now, we plan trips around the possibility of day hiking. I’ve included some pictures taken during the numerous hikes we’ve done. I hope these photos will inspire you to get out of the car and discover the beauty and adventure that exists only a few miles from the road.


My NOT Bucket List

Ever since Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson created a wish list of things they wanted to do before they kicked the bucket, people have talked, dreamed, blogged, posted, and written about their Bucket List. But I wonder...how many people actually make a list and then go about fulfilling their dreams and living their fantasies?
Most people are too busy living every day on a get-by basis to pursue their bucket list goals. Does that mean most people have lived unsuccessful, underachieving lives? I don’t think so.
What if success is defined by not what you’ve done but what you haven’t done, or rather what you’ve avoided doing that could make your life a disastrous mess? What if a successful life is a life not filled with regret or life-changing consequences? What if the best thing you could do for yourself was to consider a NOT bucket list? Unlike an Unbucket list where you list things you’ve done that you would never do again, a NOT bucket list is a list of things you would never, ever do in a million years.
So I thought about what I’d put on a NOT bucket list. And here it is:
1.     Go to a foreign country where I don’t speak the language. Why would I risk a serious miscommunication? I would end up in a foreign jail for the rest of my life. I watched Brokedown Palace. I know what kind of trouble a tourist can get into, especially if you don’t know the language and don’t know where you’re going.
2.     Go into the woods alone at night. Why would I do this willingly? Aren’t there enough horror movies that everyone should know better than to do this? Haven’t we all been warned? Anybody remember Friday the 13th? Art imitates life, doesn’t it? I would end up dead because I would trip over a large something or other and fall, probably breaking my neck. Or I would meet an ax murderer.
3.     Go skydiving. Why would I jump out of a perfectly good airplane? My parachute wouldn’t open. I know this. Deep in my heart of hearts. I don’t understand D.B. Cooper, the guy that hijacked a plane, demanded a ransom, and then jumped out of the plane with the money. There isn’t enough money in the world that would entice me to hatch that kind of plan. His body was never found. Mine wouldn’t be found either.
4.     Go back in time. Why would I want to relive this life? Redoing the good times wouldn’t be the same, and redoing the bad times wouldn’t make them any better. The good times and the bad times have made me who I am, and I’m okay with that. Besides, if I had a do-over I’d probably disrupt a time-space continuum and erase the universe...or something like that. Didn’t Marty McFly almost erase himself in Back to the Future? I don’t want to erase myself.
5.     Go swimming in shark-infested waters. Why would I want to tempt a shark to take a bite out of me? Why would I want to play tag with one? I would bump into it or it would bump into me, and I would either freak out or freeze. But whatever I would do, it wouldn’t be the one thing that I should do if I were ever to encounter a shark...whatever that one thing would be. Is there any good way to deal with a shark encounter? Probably not. That situation would not go well for me. The shark and I would not become friends. The Great White would smell my fear. It would stalk me and play with its food before doing its worst. Have you seen The Reef?
This may seem like a negative list, but really it isn’t. This list represents my deepest fears, so if I avoid things that make me fearful, I should be able to live a happier, less stressful life. The absence of negativity is positivity, right? That’s my theory anyway.
I could have made a long list of things I would like to do before I go, but I’m not going to waste my time writing lists. (Oh, okay. I know I just made a list, but it was a short list.) I’m going to spend my time reaching for my dreams and pushing toward my goals. Living my life to the fullest in every moment is the only item on my bucket list.

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