Posted on April 5, 2017
Taylor Hollow is a 163-acre nature preserve hidden away an hour outside of Nashville. The Nature Conservancy owns the property and they have done an excellent job protecting the land. Taylor Hallow is wonderfully secluded. In fact, you’ll have to drive for a good 15 minutes before you even come back into cell phone range. It is perfect.
I go hiking almost every weekend, but I have never gone on a wildflower hike. I didn’t know what I was missing out on.
They entire hike is lined with a crystal clear babbling brook which leads to a hidden cave. There is also a waterfall, but the water was too low for it to be running during our visit.
Taylor Hollow supports more than 380 plant species and is home to state endangered plants as the Blue-eyed Mary and the Ozark Least Trillium and several state threatened plants such as the Michigan Lily and the Butternut.
We picked the prefect weekend for a visit. Everything was in full bloom.
My crappy iPhone photos do not do the place justice, but it is just beautiful. It would be the prefect place for a spring picnic and an afternoon of seclusion.
Other than fluttering butterflies and busy bumblebees, there was not a lot of wildlife to be seen on the day we visited. However, I did make friends with a curious snail. (No snails were harmed in the taking of this photograph.)
Now that Spring is here, take advantage of the natural beauty that surrounds us and be sure to visit your nearest nature preserve or botanical garden.
Posted on November 14, 2016
Well, this has been a hell of a week, hasn’t it? Regardless of your political beliefs, or expected or desired outcome, this election has been tumultuous. Like most of America, I needed a break. In order to inject some joy into my life I reached out to laughter yoga.
Laughter yoga surprisingly has no yoga in it. Instead, laughter yoga is a class that promotes prolonged voluntary laughter. Laughter yoga was developed by the Indian physician Madan Kataria and is based on the belief that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. Some studies have indicated that laughter yoga can reduce pain, stress, and blood sugar, and can help with short-term memory. I can’t speak to the validity of these studies, but I can say that it lifted my spirits.
Our class was filled with silly laughter. It was like improv combined with children’s playtime. We started with pretending to be squirrels, running around eating imaginary acorns and giggling wildly. I immediately realized I had no idea what I signed up for. The absurdity continued from there. We were tittering trees, cackling mad scientists, chuckling penguins, and snickering sandpipers running into the ocean waves. We also tossed around an imaginary ball, that would send the person who caught it into a fit of laughter. The goofiness of the class meant that I did not need to force my laughter. It was real and infectious laughter. Each activity is concluded with childlike clapping of your hands and shouting “Very good, very good, yay!”
When I first told friends I planned to go to the class, many said they were not up to it after a very stressful week. However, once I described how fun and uplifting it was (and how they didn’t actually have to do any yoga) many expressed a desire to try it out in the future.
I immersed myself in the class and therefore did not take any photos or videos of my experience. However, if you are interested, here is a sample of what the class was like:
Posted on June 16, 2016
Two things you should not do: (1) Attempt to run a 5K when you literally cannot remember the the last time you ran, and (2) attempt to do so when it is 90 degrees outside. But if you are going to do it, it might as well involve a dozen or so awesome inflatable obstacles. Last weekend the Inflatable 5K visited by town and I took that opportunity to tackle my first obstacle course race.
The race started with a climb up inflatable steps and a slide down the other side. Game on.
All of the obstacles were a little bit different. The one pictured above (“Big Balls”) was full of, well, giant inflatable balls. You had to push your way past the 5-foot orbs to make it through to the other side.
There were volunteers at every inflatable offering encouraging words. Considering how hot it was outside, I am really not sure who had it harder, the people running or the volunteers standing in the sun. Either way, I really appreciated having them there.
The “Slingshot” was the first obstacle (of several) with a rope climb. This probably would have been a little less difficult had I not also been attempting to carry a GoPro.
It was only 9:30, but the blaring sun made some of the obstacles a bit scorchy on the skin. It was definitely motivation to get up quickly and keep moving.
Some of the obstacles were surprisingly difficult, like the “Mad House.” There was something about running up and down a a moving surface that made each step simultaneously more fun and more challenging.
When I signed up I intentionally chose a wave that had fewer people in it. However, in hindsight, I wish I’d picked a fuller wave.It was a lot more enjoyable when there were several people scrambling on an inflatable at once.
The finish line had the biggest slide of the day. It towered over the starting line next to it. I slid to victory, anxious to collect my first medal and sit down to a delicious carb-filled breakfast.
Walking in to the event I overheard a woman exiting say that it was the hardest 5k she’d ever done. At the time, I thought to myself that it couldn’t be that bad and it was just a bunch of bouncy houses. It turns out she was right. The 5k was surprisingly exhausting. I keep telling myself it was the heat and not the excessive amount of time I spend sitting at my desk each week. Either way, I am looking forward to the next one.
Posted on June 2, 2016
I love sports. All sports. Seriously, I will watch anything with a ball, stick, or fast engine. (Trust me, I have a fish named Peyton Manning). However, I go a little stir crazy January-August when I can’t get my weekly dose of college football. Fortunately, the summer weather brings outdoor sporting events like the Bingham Cup.
The match I attended was between the Ottawa Wolves and the Madison Minotaurs. Having no allegiance to either team, I used a very scientific approach when choosing who to cheer for: I picked the team from my favorite city. Sorry Madison, but Ottawa is like Canadian Disney World to me.
This was the first time I ever attended a rugby match, and while I picked up some of the rules as I watched, I am still pretty confused by the sport. There are quite a few differences from American football (though honestly, I would not object to incorporating some rugby rules).
First, when a ball has gone into touch (out of bounds), the play is often restarted by a “line-out” (see above). The ball is thrown is thrown back in to members of both teams. The player receiving the ball is hoisted into the air by two of his teammates. The lifted player in the line-out will attempt either to catch the ball or to knock it back to another player on the team. It looks pretty impressive.
The only thing about rugby I was familiar with was the scrum. Mainly because I watch too much Friends. A scrum is a method of restarting play that involves players packing closely together with their heads down and attempting to gain possession of the ball. It looks like a lot of chaos and I was really unable to determine how it worked because I could not see the ball through the mass of men.
Otherwise, there are a lot of similarities between the sports. The ball is advanced through forward movement and plays are ended when a ball goes out of bounds/into touch or if a player is tackled and forward movement is halted. However, in rugby, it is common for the player in possession to “off-load” the ball, passing out of the tackle (before forward progress is halted) in order to keep the play alive.
In rugby, a “try” is the equivalent to a touchdown. Despite the names, a try requires the ball to be “touched down” to the ground in the goal area, where, ironically, a touchdown does not. An American football touchdown scores 6 points and a rugby league try is worth 4 points. Both sports also have after-goal kicks for extra points. In rugby, it is known as a conversion and worth 2 points.
As is no surprise, rugby is a tough sport. I was really surprised to see that the players did not wear any pads. As a result, I was unsurprised to see several players get injured. For example, one player had a laceration to his forehead and he was simply bandaged up and sent back in.
At another point late in the game the referee noticed that one player had blood on his leg. The ref ask “is that open, or someone else’s blood”? The player determined that it was his own, to which the ref responded, “then rub some dirt in it, there’s no blood on my pitch.” The player then picked up some dirt, rubbed it in his wound, and resumed play. If that isn’t badass, I truly don’t know what is.
Rugby season and finals last through August 6, so if you are in search of a football summer supplement, look no further. In case you were wondering, the Wolves beat Madison in sudden death overtime 17 to 12. Go Wolves!
Now, for your enjoyment, the episode of Friends in which Ross attempts to play rugby and fails miserably. It seems like an accurate portrayal.
Posted on March 21, 2016
I go to Los Angles for work every few months, but I rarely get to see any of it. This trip, I got to sneak off for the afternoon with my brother and sister-in-law (who live there) for some touristy fun. I don’t like the typical tourist activities and wanted to do something a little off the beaten path, so to speak. When I found out that you can (legally) hike up to the Hollywood Sign I knew I had to do it.
The Hollywood Sign originally read “Hollywoodland” and was erected in 1923 to advertise a new housing development in the Hollywood hills. It was only intended to last a year and a half, but has become one of the most recognizable images in the world.
There are several paths up to the sign, but I decided on Hollyridge Trail because the end of your hike actually takes you behind the sign! It is a 3.5 mile round-trip mike that ascends about 750 feet to the top of Mt. Lee. However, if you are visiting on a weekend or holiday you cannot park anywhere near the trailhead. The trail begins at the end of Beachwood Dr., which is residential parking only. (Plug 3400 N. Beachwood Drive into your GPS to get there). We ended up parking 1.3 miles from the trail, making our journey to the top and back over 6 miles. The extra walking was worth it. Beachwood is a beautiful street with unique homes and fragrant fauna. The shaded walk smelled of honeysuckle and lemon trees. Be sure to hit up Beachwood Cafe at the beginning of your hike for a snack and the worlds greatest basil mint lemonade.
The trails are either dirt or paved road. There isn’t a lot of hiking involved, but it is almost all steep hills. However, the dirt paths are also horse paths so they smell a bit . . . manurey.
A few minutes into the Hollywood Trail hike the path splits and intersects with Mulholland Trail. This is, of course, completely unmarked. We walked right past the turn off and continued straight for several minutes. So, if you visit, be sure to take a sharp left when you come upon the junction. (We should have followed these directions).
But the detour wasn’t all bad. The views were incredible and the foliage was extra green from recent rains.
Every once in a while the city of Los Angles would peak out from behind the hills and remind us that it was there. The trail was serene compared to the bustling city below.
As you reach the peak of Mt. Lee the legendary sign comes into view. The 45-foot-tall letters tower over the city below.
Although it was a bit overcast (for LA) you could still see for miles. Downtown LA is off to the left and the Pacific Ocean is off to the right. (You can click on the images to enlarge them). At a peak of 1700 feet, the view of Los Angeles was incredible. However, it was also incredibly windy and cold.
After we finished our picture taking we headed back down the hill to loop around to see what we were told was “the best view of the sign in the city.” The same trail that takes you to the peak also swings back down around in front of the sign. It was, of course, yet another incredible view.
The whole trip took us about 3 hours, and it was well worth the time. I would happily do it again just to get another chance to see the view. It was a great way to do something touristy without dealing with the crowds and traffic. Above all else, it was perfect for some quality family time.
PS: Shout out to my buddy Brad for inspiring the hike, even if he is pissed at me for not telling him I was in LA.
Posted on September 13, 2015
It has been a while since I did anything athletic on my To Do List. Generally, athletic activities are my favorite type of New Thing because they have a good mix of adventure, excitement, and hilarious embarrassment. Recently, the Soar Adventure Tower opened near Nashville so I figured it would be a good opportunity to try a ropes course for the first time.
The tower has 4 levels with several individual platforms. Each platform connects you to 3 different elements, for a total of over 110 climbing adventures. The elements range from rock walls to monkey bars to swinging planks you have to cross.
My friend Amy, who has accompanied me on at least 6 prior adventures (the most of which recent being zorbing), drove in from Knoxville to spend the weekend with me. Almost every adventure we’ve had together has required some sort of liability waiver. Amy is good at basically everything, and took to the ropes course much more naturally than I did. (See her exuding awesomeness below).
We started when they opened at 10:00, partly because it was supposed to be close to 100 degrees that day (yes, in September) and partly because we had a full day of football watching planned afterwards. This is a fairly typical girls weekend for us.
One of the first obstacles I attacked was a surfboard. You could either push off the platform and awesomely “surf” to the other side, or, you could do as I did, and awkwardly pull yourself to the other side with a rope.
Amy took to things pretty naturally. Despite a back injury, she handled the rock wall like a pro. (Amy actually joined me on my very first rock climbing adventure).
Soar Adventure Tower has a special “fallstop” belay system that keeps you locked in and ensures that the climber is never detached from the safety line. You are attached to the safety line by two carabiners and, once attached, the interconnected carabiners can only be opened one at a time. To unhook and go from element to element you had to push a carabiner into a “Tweezle,” which allowed you to detach the other carabiner and move it to a different line. Being short, I had to get creative about this process and hang on to the polls like a monkey to reach the wires.
I didn’t really get the hang of things until we reached the top level, 45 feet above the ground. But once I warmed up I really enjoyed it.
While some of the elements looked simple, they required strength and stretching that left me sore for days. It definitely fell into the category of “it’s harder than it looks.”
In fact, some elements I definitely would have fallen off of if I was not harnessed in.
My favorite element was a cargo net on the top of the tower.
There was one element I could not complete. It involved disks that you stood on and you jumped from one pole to the next. Despite some helpful instructions from the staff, I just could not maneuver my way across. However, spinning back and forth on the poll was both fun and hilarious.
Now that I know what to expect I’d really love to go back and attempt it again. However, next time I will come equipped with a bottle of water attached to me to stay hydrated. Even just a short time there wiped us out and we couldn’t make it down fast enough to get rehydrated. However, fall is coming and the weather will (hopefully) cool down eventually.
Posted on July 13, 2015
After years of saying that I wanted to learn how to play golf, I thought I’d finally take the first step towards doing something about it. On Saturday I made a trip to my first driving range. It was, like every other July day in Tennessee, approximately 100 degrees. However, it was only 50% humidity, which, believe it or not, made the heat pretty bearable compared to the rest of the summer.
A friend took me to the McCabe Golf Course in Nashville to hit a few buckets of balls. It was my first time swinging a club, so the morning started out a little slow. I would take a swing and, if I came into contact with the ball at all, it would only skip a few feet. However, I tried to pay attention to what the golfers were doing successfully and then adjust my swing accordingly. The first improvement came when I aimed my club slightly below the ball rather than directly at the center of it. On my first attempt with my new technique, I actually got the ball in the air and to move a decent distance. The instant improvement was extremely gratifying.
There were a few occurrences throughout the day that gave me good perspective that, (1) everyone was once a beginner, and (2) even experienced golfers have occasional issues. First, about halfway through the morning I sliced my ball toward a woman two hitting stations over. I gave her a “I’m sorry” look, to which she responded, “The first time I ever played I chipped the ball and it popped up and hit the guy next to me in the butt.” Her husband chimed in, “we call that a butt shot.” Second, a gentleman at the other end of the tee somehow managed to not only to send his ball down the range, but threw his club along with it. He called out “fore” as he trotted out 50 yards to retrieve his driver. I’m not sure if that was the result of a really good hit or a really bad one. Individual stories aside, there were just as many balls within 20 feet of the tee as there were further down the range, a good lesson that nobody has a perfect day.
My other big improvement came when I loosened up my grip a bit after trying to replicate another nearby golfer. Looking at images online of the proper golf stance afterward, I am nearly certain that I was pretty far off of what I was supposed to be doing, but it had a very positive affect on the length of my drive. Suddenly, I was consistently hitting the ball 100-120 yards down the range. I was thrilled. I couldn’t jump up and down and scream like the first time I hit a baseball, so we silently celebrated instead. (See photographic evidence below of me actually hitting a ball.)
We spent an hour at the driving range going through buckets of balls. I had such a good time that later that evening we went to a sporting goods store to check out Sara-sized sets of golf clubs and I already have plans to head back to the driving range this weekend. Hopefully I’ll stay interested and can learn the proper techniques to really improve my swing. While I definitely want to take lessons and work up to playing a round of golf, I loved that the only person I was competing with on the driving range was myself. When that is the case, I can never lose.