Less is more


I woke up this  morning listening to music. Music always has moved me in many ways and it helps create my mood. It has given me strength many times when I have been down. And this morning, it moved me in another way.

I’ve been caught up in the rat race of life for many years and have measured myself on how I perceive others to measure me. But there’s only one person I need to measure myself too. Myself. No one else.

In the end, does it really matter I don’t have a white picket fence, a three story home, a dog and a bunch of material things that others can see and judge my success? Success is not about what you own. It is about who you are. It is about how you measure up to yourself. I’ve spent too much time thinking about what I don’t have when I need to think about what I do have. That’s the most important thing. I have my health, two beautiful children.

All I need in life is a tent, a backpack and my legs. That’s what I took with me when I separated. I cared for nothing else. But yet I find myself caring about getting a high paying job on the corporate ladder that leads me back into the rat race I left three years ago.

It’s a time for rediscovery. I’ve been doing that the last few months. It’s time to really look at who I am. I’m a father. I’m a man defined by his love for the outdoors. I’m a writer. Those are what I am. I’m not a guy in a suit and tie that measures himself on corporate wealth. I never have been. And I lost who I am along the way.

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A key to confidence

I looked at the photos on my phone, scrolling through each one, and could barely believe my eyes. There in front of me lay proof that my hard work was paying off.

Just a few minutes before, I had stopped a pair of women on a hiking trail near downtown Chattanooga and asked them to do me a favor.

“Could you take a picture of me?” I asked. “I’ve lost about 35 pounds and I haven’t really had a picture taken.”

They took the pictures and I got into my truck and looked at the results. You could tell I lost weight. But, on top of it, you could tell gains in muscle.


There’s still work to be done. But I could see with my own eyes and compare the man I am now to a man a year ago.It’s not only about weight loss. It’s about the demeanor. The guy on the right is confident and sure. He’s standing tall. He looks sure of himself. The guy on the left has a weak smile, his hands in his back pockets because he’s not sure where to put them or how to hide his gut that is sticking out. The guy on the left had no path. Maybe, in a way, that can be seen.

I’ve gained confidence over the last few months by lifting weights, putting together plans and implementing them.

Now I’m seeing results.

The man on the right is only going to get better. Believe me, I know. I am that man.

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Act 2

I looked at this blog for the first time in years today. I can’t believe I wrote my last post almost five years ago.

Much has changed. But some hasn’t.

It’s good to have this blog because I can look back and reflect and reassess myself. One of my last posts I talked about being scared of hitting my 30s. Now I am 41. I am divorced. I gained weight.

I’m on a journey once again. And it’s time to start updating this blog to talk about my next journey in life. The journey of a single dad regaining his identity. The Outdoor Junkie has returned. Spring is upon us. I’ve lost 35 pounds with more to go. It’s time for my spring.

I will be updating this blog regularly.

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Up to Huckleberry (Camping with Carolina)

Took my 4-year-old daughter out backpacking for the first time Saturday and Sunday. There was some good, some bad. I took her, three friends and their sons and we went to Huckleberry Knob along the TN-NC border in the Nantahala National Forest, just south of the Smokies.

Huckleberry is a bald at 5,600 feet. It’s about a 1.2 mile hike, so not hard on the kids. Here’s what happened.

We got to the trailhead and started up the trail at just a  slight incline. All of us we’re loaded up since we were carrying our stuff and our little tykes stuff.

Me, on the right, and a buddy of mine starting out. The kids are in front of us.

We kept going and the first place we get to is a giant meadow with a mower sitting in it. It was about a half mile in.

We walked into some more woods, went another half mile and came out at Huckleberry Knob.


My daughter is to the left in the pink jacket and pink Dora backpack.

It kind of surprised us when we got up there. When we left Chattanooga, Tenn. it was 60 and sunny. When we got up there it was 34 and overcast. The cold didn’t surprise us. It was the overcast part. Every weather forecast we looked at said it would be sunny everywhere. But the mountains have a mind of their own and when we got to the summit, looked around and noticed the only clouds in the sky were the ones hanging above us.

We got to the top, made camp and started to enjoy the scene around us. We were at the highest point in that mountain chain and around us we were surrounded by a sea of mountains. You could see some of the cloudbank floating underneath us over in NC.

That didn’t last long. Within an hour, a cloudbank came in and ennveloped us. The rest of the evening all we had was a dense soupy fog around us. It got colder and windier. We had prepared for the cold, but for some dumb reason unknown we didn’t prepare for the wind. I should have known better. We had no hard shells for us or the kids and within minutes we were all huddled by the fire and the kids were crying.

It got to night and I put my daughter down to bed. She slept like a champ, but beforehand she kept telling me she was afraid of the wind and it scared her. Kept asking me why I picked a place so windy. I had no clue she’d be scared by the wind. She also missed mommy.

At about 4 a.m the wind got even heavier blowing the tents. But we all settled down and went back to sleep. It was still a soupy fog outside and I was worried it would be like that at sunrise.

The sun rose and I heard a friend say it was beautiful and I had to come see.

I stepped out the tent and saw this.

Got a pic of Carolina.

Then me and Carolina.

The sun started peaking out.

Then it was blazing.

Here’s a couple of pics of the area around us.

Then we headed home having a scavenger hunt with the kids on the way back. Some of the leaves were turning up at that height and the wildflowers were in full bloom. Had a fun time telling them to find leaves and flowers. We left it was 32 when we got home it was 62.

Carolina said she hated the trip, but said she wants to go backpacking again, just somewhere “less windy.” I’ll start looking around for that place soon and think I’ll take her out again when the leaves start peaking in the valley.

I know she didn’t like it this time, but I think time will have its toll. I think someday when she is older and looks back on these photos she’ll think about how much her daddy loved her to do thing like this with her.

It wasn’t the trip I planned and you get the trip Mother Nature gives you. But Mother Nature smiled on us Sunday morning and it was worth it to me to get up and share that beautiful sunrise with my little girl.

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The season

There’s a bit of a chill in the air now. The day are getting shorter.

For me, it represents one thing. The start of backpacking season. Another year of getting out in the woods and enjoying the crisp fall. Fall is my favorite time of year to hike and backpack. It’s a time for rejuvenation before winter sets in. For years now I have saved up most of my vacation time just so I can take a few weeks off in October and November. It’s that time once more.

Why do I like fall? The summers here in the south are filled with hot, humid days. They make it almost unbearable to hike. Those days are filled with sitting by the pool or doing short spurts of outdoor activities like mountain biking and trail running. But then fall comes with its chill and the humidity leaves. It makes it time to get outside and enjoy the forest. It makes it to where you can slow down, and enjoy the world around you.

But there’s more. There’s the autumn wildflowers that start blooming. There’s the changing leaves and the colors. There’s the crunch of leaves under my boots as I walk across the trail. There’s the leaves falling off the trees and revealing the views hidden in summer and spring showing more of the world around me. There is watching the sun rise in a crisp autumn morning. The sky clear in front of you. There’s the little chill in the air as you wake up in your sleeping bag, make some coffee in the morning and the hot coffee tastes even better as it helps you fight off the first of that chill.

Next week I am taking Carolina on her first backpacking trip. We’re heading to a bald on the Tennessee-North Carolina border. I am looking forward to rejuvenating my soul once more.

I hope that somehow it also affects her soul.

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The best time of my life

I’m a week away from doing a 5K through a bunch of mud. In another month, I’ll be on my way to Manchester, Tenn. to run through fire, mud and water. Just last weekend, I rode 20-miles on a mountain bike up and down mountains. In just three weeks, my family and I will be camping along a pristine lake in the mountains.

I have two adorable children.

There are people who love me and people I love.

So, what ties all these together? There was once a thought in my mind as I turned 30 and kept getting older that I was on the back end of my life. Half my life was over. You turn 30, you’re closer to 60. Turn 35, you’re halfway to 70.

The thought scared me. It seemed life moved too quick suddenly and I found myself in a whirlpool headed down.

But things change and people change. And this is where I am today. I’ve lost 40 pounds and am doing things I haven’t done before or at least in years. I’m enjoying them with the people I love. Lisa will be running with me next week. My kids will get to see mommy and daddy complete their first race. Lisa, Carolina and Kellen will see me finish the Warrior Dash in a month. We’ll all get to sit and relax on the lake and enjoy nature and each other.

This is my life and I love my life.

So, am I on the back end of my life? Not now. Right now, I’m entering the best part of my life as I’ve known it.

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The 20-mile ride

Today, I rode 20 miles on my mountain bike. Have I did it before?

Yes. I think I did. Back when I did the “climb” I’m pretty sure I put in a 20-miler on that ride. But I was never really sure. This time, I know I did. There’s no questions. My friend, Danny Mullins, and I did the pre-race ride for the Black Bear Rampage in Tennessee. The mileage is 20, and that’s what we did.

But this particular post isn’t about that. Quite frankly, I’m a bit sick of talking about weight loss at this point. I know how to do it and I’m doing it.

Instead, this post is going to be about what this blog is supposed to be about in the first place.

The outdoors.

It’s a love story. Plain and simple.

It starts with heading up a boring paved road, two riders on the shoulder of the asphalt, slowly making our way to the woods. We get to a logging road, turn into the gate, slam down a few hundred yards down a logging road and see the trail.

The magic begins. We move slowly and cautiously through the forest, on the sides are ferns then we see trees then we see a lake spread out to the left of us. At times, the trail is just a foot wide with a steep embankment to the left of us. But the love of what we are doing propels us forward.

We head up a mountain. At the top, we find black cliffs and knee deep grass. A few hundred yard further we come out into an overlook of the mountains, the river below us. We take pictures. I think this is why I do this.

We keep going down Now heading downhill, fast, some sections so steep it makes your ass pucker. You don’t stop. You don’t go back. You keep going.

This is why you do this.

Then we hit an old copper road that wagons used in 1851. Not much remains We ride along the river, watching rafters go through the rapids. We hit rock, roots and I watch Danny Mullins destroy a creek crossing of rock.

And I think, this is why we do this.

This is also a story of hate. A story of climbing up the side of a mountain with roots bogging us down every 10 feet. Getting to a trail that has no personality and changes every quarter mile from a double track logging trail to a single track trail that is smooth and flowy to a trail filled with rock to a trail that goes constantly up and down to a trail that just climbs and climbs.

Then we get to the downhill, head the last mile, get beat up as we hit rock after rock after rock and get to the end.

The love. The hate. The pain. The end.

This is why I do this.

This is why I mountain bike.

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