Thursday, July 26, 2012

Aim High! Climb Higher! Go Further!

Along the Appalachian Trail looking into North Carolina - GSMNP
July 23, 2012

We started walking along the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap located on the Tennessee/North Carolina border.   It was 9:00 a.m. and the air temperature was quite pleasant at 5100' elevation.  Zap the humidity and it would've been perfect.  Stopping for the traditional trailhead picture at this sign is always a bit daunting............

..........but I quickly reassured my hiking bud that I had no plans to hike all the way to Katahdin, Maine that day.   I've got several pictures taken at this trailhead and I'm always reluctant to stand behind anything that mentions a heifer, especially a sweaty one.  I've done that trail and looked all day, but never saw a heifer much less a sweaty one.   But I digress - that was not Monday's hike.

Today, we were headed to spend some time at Charlie's Bunion.   Doesn't that sound infinitely more interesting than sweaty heifers?   It can never be said that those responsible for naming trails in my mountains are not creative.  Most of these names have a story behind them.  Knowing those stories make the hiking that much more special.  As for Charlie's Bunion, read about it here!

This four-mile section of the AT is one of those with which I have a love/hate relationship.  Some days, I love every hill, rock, view and payoff.   Other days, I swear I"ll never do it again.   Some sections look like this...................

while others are steep, rocky and muddy.   Such is the case for the first 1 1/2 miles as the trails climbs 1000' before leveling out briefly near the smooth, peaceful section you see in the previous picture.  Your reprieve, however, is short-lived because immediately after cresting Mt. Ambler (at 6100', the high point of this hike), the trail DESCENDS 500' of the 1000' you just climbed!

But the long range views are beautiful and despite low lying clouds and even a brief rainshower, the sky began to open up gifting us with moments like these...................

 View off the Tennessee side.  Mt LeConte is just off the picture still in the clouds!

People flock to Charlie's Bunion in large numbers, so the chances of getting a picture of it with no one sitting, crawling or stupidly teetering over the edge of it are slim.  But I got lucky - VERY lucky!


These two pictures were taken just seconds apart, but as you can see, by the time I made the picture on the right, a couple had scrambled their way onto the bunion!   Ironically, the trail itself all day seemed more full of people than I'd ever experienced, yet this was one of the few (if EVER) times I've gotten a shot of the bunion with no one on it!

View from atop Charlie's Bunion

We had decided to hike the half mile past Charlie's Bunion to the next trail junction.   No particular reason although it was new trail for me, but I am so glad we did because once we left the bunion, we saw only two other hikers until we rejoined the spur trail to the bunion on our return trip.  Had we not gone further, we would have experienced virtually zero solitude on this day.  

I hike for the peace and solitude it brings to my soul (and for the exercise), but I will say that it was such an uplifting thing for me to see so many people out on a trail especially on a Monday.   Although we didn't make it all the way to Katahdin, Maine, it was wonderful day and a terrific hike that felt as comfortable as putting on old gloves.  

Trail junction marking our turnaround point - We ate lunch here!

View off the North Carolina side near the highpoint of the trail.

It was 76 degrees when we arrived back at my car and a sweltering 98 degrees (plus 150% humidity) when I pulled in my driveway.   Technically, 76 is a very warm temperature for Newfound Gap, but heck, I'll take it!!

Summer hiking for me will always involve aiming high.  On Monday, we chose a path that that not only allowed us to start high, but beckoned us to climb even higher and offered the excitement of going further.   Reminded me of this journey I began last November.   Or for that matter, maybe the journey I began in October of 2006 when I made up my mind that I would not live my "golden" years as an overweight, unhealthy female.

Last November, I aimed high.   VERY high!   And I was afraid.   Very afraid!   Much had changed in my body since March, 2008 when I last saw my goal weight reflected back at me on the scale.  I knew that my ability to lose weight was going to require a lot more effort and the results were going to be much slower.   Quite frankly, I didn't know if I could do it again.  I almost did some bargaining with myself along the lines of compromise.   You know, the kind of compromise that "settles" for something that seems doable, yet is really a copout.  

But I said NO!   My aim was higher than "settling" for a better weight.   I wanted THE weight that I'd seen before.   And in retrospect, thank goodness I disallowed the option of "settling"  from the very beginning.  

Along the way, I made the decision that not only did I want to "aim high," but I wanted to challenge myself by "climbing even higher."   By the end of December, I knew that the 17DD was THE plan for me - FOREVER!   I also knew that Cycle 4 - Arrive (the maintenance phase) was not something I wanted to embrace.  Basically, it removes all restrictions plus advocates "free" days which I've never supported.   For me, that's a recipe for disaster.  

I will live in Cycle 3 which allows virtually all foods, but still requires controlled portions and limits one to two fruit servings, two carb servings and two probiotic servings each day.  I do not plan to add back sugar or white flour.   In fact, I am and will describe myself as being almost 100% gluten free because the fact is, that's the truth.   But the one that really continues to amaze me is the fact that I am also almost 100% dairy free.  I don't miss, need, want or crave any of those things.   It doesn't bother me when others around me are eating any of those things.   If you'd told me this about myself a year ago, I'd have laughed.  And that is the part where I am proud to say that I "climbed higher" by making changes that surpassed my own expectations and then made those changes permanent.

And now, I want to "go further."  I am ounces from goal weight and hope to be able to scream  from the rooftops in Monday's post that I AM THERE!  That's when the "going further" begins.  I want to still be there and still be maintaining not only the weight, but the new way of eating as well.  I want to be there six months from now, one year from now, five years from now, etc.  

This time feels different.   The standards I set for myself were high.   I challenged myself to climb even higher and now, unlike last Monday on the trail, there is NO TURNAROUND.  You just keep walking day by day, meal by meal, bite by bite, further and further.   

And guess what happens??  

Eventually you get to Katahdin, Maine!!

Please come go with me!


  1. Congrats at being so close to goal. I am also grain, processed sugar , and dairy freee. Such a good way to maintain-IMO

    You've worked hard so I hope you'll celebrate.

  2. It was nice to revisit this hike through your photos! I had my photo taken at that sign, too.

  3. Great pictures, Sharon...and a beautiful hike! I, too, am surprised to hear that there were lots of people there on a Monday. I love it when we can hike on Mondays because we can more often have the trail to ourselves, (which I must admit, I prefer). It's nice that you could have such a good attitude about it!

    Congratulations on being so close to your goal----that's wonderful!

  4. So glad that this has been such a great year for you and that you have really evolved and found a way of eating that makes you feel great. I'd miss dairy; I eat a lot of cheese.

  5. You have had quite a year, Sharon! I always love your mountain top photos. We are going to do some hiking around here, if I ever get off the bike, that is...

  6. Looks like a wonderful hike. Congrats on reaching your goal. Yes, it was a lofty one, but I'll bet it feels really good to be there now.

  7. Great post, Sharon... I am almost at goal weight also--and want to stay here... That's the hard part for me. That's why I'll be going to a nutritionist in August to help me maintain my weight (since I have never been able to do it).... Hopefully, this will work for me this time.

    My plan has been to have 60 grams of protein each day, 60+ good carbs, 64 oz of fluid and less than 30 grams of fat... I still eat some dairy (yogurt and cottage cheese) --mainly to help me get my protein -since I eat small small portions of meat now. But--I don't eat many starches (flour, rice, potatoes, breads, etc.)... I will eat popcorn once a week --to get that crunch I don't get much of these days. I also love (in the summer) those sugar-free popsicles (about 15 calories each)... I eat lots of fresh fruits and fresh veggies... Am never hungry --which is a good thing!!!! Tell me sometime what works for you... I eat 3 meals a day and don't snack anymore...

    As I told you, we hiked in Cosby on Monday... Not that HIGH in elevation --and very hot/humid. I just don't enjoy hiking in the summer. But--you have the right idea of hiking in cooler places.

    Thanks for sharing... I've never been to Charlie's Bunyon.

  8. I love that section of the AT and never tire of hiking it. Love the photos. Congratulations on reaching your goal.

  9. I want to go with you!!!! So proud of you Sharon!! Glad you guys had a good hike out to the bunion. :)

  10. Okay, so I'm confused --did you change the flour in the 3M muffins? I thought the original recipe was for whole wheat flour? And did you decide to go off of yogurt? I don't drink milk, but I sure do love yogurt and cottage cheese. I think that is one thing I eat consistently every day.

    Its always so great to hear about your hikes. The trail names sure are funny!

    1. Hey Debby, I haven't used whole wheat flour in the muffins since that original batch. I either use oat flour or a gluten-free flour I bought at King Arthur's. They taste great. As for the dairy, the 17DD cycles all require two probiotic servings each day in the form of yogurt, kiefer, Breakstone's LiveActive Cottage Cheese (a different breakdown than regular) or a couple of other choices. So that's why I said "virtually" dairy-free. We've switched solely to Almond Milk and I haven't had any other dairy that I know of. Thought I would miss cheese, but I don't.

  11. Such a wonderful post thanks for sharing

  12. I love your symbolism of climbing higher and going further and how that plays into your goals and hiking! You are amazing. I am getting a love of hiking myself! Wonderful pics!

    Thanks for you comment on my recent post! It would be awesome to meet you and THANK YOU for your prayers - that means a lot!! I have appreciated your comments and wisdom you've shared with me along my journey. Much love to you! ((hugs))


  13. Sharon, you're an inspiration. You know I've been struggling lately, and am wondering if I need to "aim higher." I am toying with the idea of jump-starting Atkins with a month of the Whole30, which cuts out not just grains but also dairy and artificial sweeteners. (Give up my Splenda? Gulp!) I'll be blogging about it soon, I'm sure.

    I love your hiking photos — you live in such a gorgeous part of the country.