A Brand New Year for Adventure and Connection

My favorite way to begin a New Year is waking up in the country. Somewhere out of town where the fresh air blows in through the tent or across the porch of a small cabin in some rural area away from the city lights is the best start to the year. It’s especially good when the new year is rung in the night before by the lights of the star lit sky or the white lights strung across the honky tonk dance floor. From Bandera to Big Bend, we’ve had many of these memorable kickoffs to the year.

On some years though, we travel so much over the holidays to visit family, we end up staying home for the turn of the year. Regardless of where we are, the past few years, I’ve embraced the tradition of a First Day Hike. This year was my third year to get out on the first day of the year to get a little hike in. This initiative started in 1992 at Blue Hills Reservation State Park in Massachusetts and expanded to all 50 states in 2012. This year the hiking movement went international with a hike in Canada! I thought it was cold out in Texas, but can’t imagine the hike way up north. Colder than the polar bear plunge at Barton Springs for sure.

Getting on the trail, even if for a short hike, is a great way to get the kids out running around in nature and recover from the night before if you happen to enjoy the bubbly a little much. This year I rang the New Year in around the fire pit with Joy Wagons (who knew a cocktail mix of Mezcal, French wine and bubbly concocted in a bar in Birmingham, Alabama could be so tasty). Besides being super fun, the hike was a good way to set my intention for the year of connection.

Instead of making a full resolution, the new tradition I’m starting is having a word for the year. My 2018 word is connect. I want to connect people to the resources and ideas they need to meet their goals, I want to connect more to develop relationships with my favorite people and I want to connect more with nature.

To start this year out with connecting with nature, I’ve signed up for the 52 Hike Challenge to motivate me to hike once a week. Sign up with me or choose your own adventure like the  Hike it Baby 30 day challenge to help you connect and meet your goals for the year.

Regardless of what you choose to do to get out and enjoy outside the year, share with us:

What is your resolution of word for the year?
Where is your favorite place to hike with kids that we should check out this year?
Any suggestions on other fun cocktails to try this year (the mezcal was fun, but not for all seasons)?


38 Things for My 38th Year

This week I’m starting another year on this beautiful whirling planet of ours and I’m trying something new. My good friend Kate shared with me that at each birthday she makes a list of things to do or learn that year with the number of activities coinciding with her age. So this year, I’ll do 38 cool and interesting things for my 38th year.

In looking at my list, most of them are outside related activities, actually the majority of them are. I just checked off one of them on the list this past weekend, kayaking on the Trinity River, technically a little early before my birthday, but close enough. With my birthday around the holidays, I never really focus right on the day, it is always about the extended weekend of celebration.

The focus of many of the outside activities on the list is figuring out how to do more outdoor adventure with the kids. After reading inspiring stories of families through hiking the Appalachian Trail, I thought, what would a similar trek look like for us? In Texas, the longest thru hiking trail is the Lone Star Trail, around 100 miles through the Piney Woods of East Texas. Strong hikers can thru hike in about a week and in the fall you have to wear orange to keep your self safe during hunting season. Could I do this hike with the kids? I brought the idea up at breakfast one morning and the discussion was – that’s a long way to go, literally and figuratively.

I can’t just jump on the trailhead with the kids tomorrow and make our way through the woods, I probably wouldn’t last more than half a day. There are logistics, gear and diapers to contend with. Lill is pretty good at hiking, but will she stay in the hiking backpack or not run off into the poison ivy? How do I make sure we have enough clean water? I’m pretty much a newbie at much of this adventure fun, but I’m going to start the learning journey this year. I’ll update on the blog along the way and share our stories of adventure, from navigating potty training on the trail to figuring out the light weight gear that will travel better than the bedroll I camp in now (ya’ll I love my bedroll, I feel like I am sleeping under the stars in the middle of the range when I use it).

Part of getting on the trail is trying something new and out of my comfort zone – my list of 38 things for the year is full of new things to try. We may not be ready to do the whole thru hike adventure this year, but we will make progress down the trail along the way. From a full day hike to multiple night camping trips, this year will be full of adventure.

Lovin’ East Texas

Most of the time we have free for vacation, we go West. Out to the clear rivers of the Hill Country, the big sky of the Transpecos or even further out to the desert of New Mexico and mountains of Colorado. However, lately, with kids under the age of 5 who start screaming after 4 hours in the car, I have been making a few more trips to East Texas to introduce them to the red dirt and pine trees.

As a little background, I am East Texas raised. Born in Jasper and with family from Beaumont to Marshall, I spent many hours of my childhood travelling up and down highways 45, 59 and 105. Two weeks after high school graduation though, I left the Piney Woods behind for the south plains of the Panhandle. Since then, I haven’t really spent much time exploring life in the pine trees. So, when Trail Racing Over Texas announced they were doing a trail run at Mission Tejas State Park, I decided it was time to bring the kids on an East Texas adventure. And it was.

After picking my mom up at her house in Huntsville, we hauled the last hour to our Air BnB cabin in the woods. It was a little difficult to find in the dark, I managed to only run over one possum, but we finally found it thanks to the great directions from our host. It was dark when we got in, but this may be my favorite ways to start vacation. Getting to your destination at night allows you to wake up in the morning and start your vacation in the sun in a whole new world.

It was still dark when I woke up the next morning to get ready for the trail run. Once I drove the short 10 minutes to the state park, parked and got into the shuttle to the start line, I realized this would be a much different race than I expected. Expectation – flat run through the woods, reality – hills throughout the three loops of the park.

While I was running, the kids stayed with my mom and checked out the creek, pony, donkey and goats and love bugs. After I got back from a successful run, they showed me all the fun they had. We then said goodbye to our little red cabin and went to explore the area.

We set a base for the afternoon with lunch at the Moosehead Cafe in Crockett, explored Caddo mounds (the golf cart ran out of battery at the back of the property near the Old San Antonio Road) and checked out the view from the Neches River bluff.

After the fun day, we drove home with my windshield and grill on my truck covered in love bugs. A classic East Texas trip – ya’ll head that way soon!


Why do I like being outside so much? Playing under wide open skies, running on pine needle laden trails or just sitting on the porch makes me happy. A big inspiration for my love of the outdoors was my dad. 

He grew up in a small settlement in East Texas, a little bit out of Beaumont, named Pine Ridge. This community set in the Big Thicket grew up around a Southern Baptist Church. My bedtime stories were tales of his days growing up hunting hogs and deer with dogs and guns and fishing and playing with his cousins around the creek that ran behind his family’s land.

He loved East Texas, but one of his favorite times of the year was the annual deer hunting trip to our neighbor’s family place in Castell, a little German town in the Texas Hill Country. One of my first memories was playing in the Llano River down the hill from Castell in the summer. Now my sister and I meet there in the same swimming hole that is halfway between our houses to let the kids play.

At every holiday and in the summer we were kicked out of the house at Pine Ridge and played in the woods, tried to catch crawdads with string and bacon. I went squirrel hunting with him for the first time, I ate peanut M&Ms for the first time and he watched for squirrels. My sister always said he hardly ever shot anything because he talked so much, we all think he really just liked hunting for the time he was able to sit outside.

He’s been gone six years. My kids never got to meet my dad, but I hope I can tell them all about him through adventures in the pineywoods of East Texas, river and hiking trips in the hill country, hunting, fishing and all the other fun things to do outside. I’d like to leave them a legacy of loving the outdoors just like my dad left me.

#legacy #outdoors #easttexaspines

Viva! Big Bend and West Texas!

At the end of July, we loaded up the kids in the car for our annual trip to West Texas, for Viva Big Bend, a weekend music festival in the mountains of west Texas.

We headed out late on Thursday, missing the first night of music and my good friend Summer Dean making her solo Big Bend debut.

After 4 stops on the side of the road because the oldest said he needed to throw up, we rolled into my sister’s house, at about 10:00,  a little under halfway done with our trip. Here on the bluff overlooking the start of West Texas, we saw the open sky and full moon. Vacation had begun.

The next morning the cousins played and ate homemade biscuits my sister made while I did a little work. Then, we hit the road. We made just one stop, the Sonic in Ozona for an air conditioned lunch break with a play scape.

We rolled into Alpine just in time to unload and head to Marfa for the VIP party at the St. George. This beautiful patio and pool was the perfect backdrop to the start of vacation. We ordered a pizza from the Pizza Foundation, they have the best thin crust pizza, a close rival to the tasty Pizza Shack that I grew up in, but you have to put your order in advance in case they sell out. The kids fell asleep on the way home and daddy stayed out partying. First day success.

Saturday morning, the kids were wide awake at 6:30 so we started the day with a grocery store run to Porter’s for milk and strawberries. I grabbed McDonald’s breakfast for the kids and call in tacos at Alicia’s for the guys since they had an early show. The chile verde tacos are a road trip favorite – cash only though so find the ATM before you go.

The kid’s show that morning at Plaine was capped off with hotdogs from Cowdog and stroll to Front Street Books, one of my favorite book stores. Stocked full of local authors, kids books and Texana, I always find a good read. This time, I grabbed Bax a new excavator book and me a book by Jake Silverstein, Nothing Happened and Then it Did.

We took a break in the afternoon with a little nap time and then a snow cone before getting ready for the baseball game. The Alpine Cowboys, a rookie league team, were playing at the end of their season at Kokernot Field. Sunset over the mountains in the background and $4 Big Bend brews with parking right outside make this one of the most beautiful places to watch baseball in the state. Bax got a ball from the players and ran the bases after the game.

We had an early morning again on Sunday, but it was the first day Will didn’t have to work. He hung out with Lill while I took Bax for his first round of golf. Over the nine holes, I lost all of my balls, but Bax had a blast. He pulled the pin, loved riding in the cart and drank two bottles of Gatorade. You can’t say enough about good hydration in the desert.

For the last night of Viva, we headed to the Railroad Blues. This is not super kid friendly, but we had the kids there for about an hour for Chicken S&*% bingo and dancing to Dale Watson.

After a few ranch waters, it was time to head back to the motel and get the kids to sleep. They went to bed and I sat outside reading my book with a bottle of wine. I finished the night off at midnight with sun salutations in the courtyard under the moon and stars listening to the sound of coyotes in the distance.

The last morning of vacation, we had to double shower the sno cone off the baby and then pack it up to head back east. None of us wanted to go home and we are already planning our next trip. Between waiting for the whistle of the trains in town and seeing amazing music at venues across the Transpecos, it was a super weekend.

For the next trip, we’ll plan more fun and less work. We’ll go hike at the Chihuahuan Desert Institute, taste beer at Big Bend Brewery, and look at artifacts at the Museum of Big Bend. We stayed at the Antelope Lodge, the place where most of the bands stayed, but also love to stay at the Holland Hotel or the lofts behind them. One of these days we’re going to check out the Maverick in Alpine and stay at a teepee at El Cosmico

Always a good time. See ya next time Alpine!



















Camping Adventures

June is National Camping Month. I was super excited to get the kids out and camping again, so in anticipation of this month, I planned to camp with both kids for the first time by myself.  We’d camped in our backyard before with great success (Bax loved it and the baby was still able to sleep in her crib inside). With the little one a little more mobile, I thought I was ready to take the next step and sleep with both of them in the tent. Over Memorial Day weekend, my family had a get together at our farm on the Blackland Prairie just south of Dallas. This would be the perfect test run for experiencing camping with two kids under age of 5.

In anticipation, I read some great tips from Tales of Mountain Mama on taking the kids and baby camping, packed up the tent, my bedroll, Thomas the Train lantern and plenty of pillows and hit the road. The day was going great! A super easy three hour road trip split up by a stop at Collin Street Bakery for cookies. We arrived just in time for the picnic lunch and the kids had a blast playing with cousins. It was time to put the tent up – super easy too. One thing about putting up camp with two kids is not too much time to take pictures – we’ll get some next trip!  Once the tent was up, it was naptime, and we found a super comfy hammock for a peaceful afternoon snooze in the breeze.

All was going great! Finally, it was time for bed – late bedtime at camping time, after 9:00 but both kids and I got in the tent, zipped the door and turned the lantern on for reading our books before lights out. But, once that tent was zipped, it was stuffy and hot! With potential rains forecast for the night and 80 degree something temperatures, it was a sauna in that tent with the rain fly on and no air circulating. But, we were all so tired, we finally managed to get some sleep.

I woke up twice in the night – once to screaming baby wanting a drink and second when the storms came in. It was thunder and lightening in the distance but only a little rain on the tent, enough to cool it down just a little. Then, the sun came up about 6:00 and the  baby woke up and was ready to go. I tried to get her back to sleep, but her screaming was going to wake up the whole campsite, so we went ahead and had an early morning. Things went south from there. Baby kept screaming and wouldn’t let anyone else hold her, preschooler had multiple meltdowns and I was trying to put the tent down and get us packed up to head home. The preschooler was just laying on the floor of the house, it was time to go. I’m so thankful for my sister – by the time I got outside to finish putting up the tent, she had it all put up and my truck loaded for me. By this point, the boy was starting to burn up, it was time to get home.

A dose of advil and three hours later at home, he had a pretty rough cough and the fever was not coming down. Since it was a holiday weekend, it was time for urgent care. Thankfully it wasn’t too busy and due to the blue lips from a blue popsicle, we were able to see the doctor quickly. Diagnosis – pneumonia. What an end to a camping weekend.

The rest of the weekend we were still on breathing treatments and taking it easy, but both kids did have a blast camping. Despite the rough end to the trip, it was a fun experience to remember. Next time I’ll bring Advil, Tylenol and Gatorade in case we have a sick kid again. I’d like to camp in honor of National Camping month, but in Texas, it is getting in to the warm part of the year to camp outside here. If you are in Colorado, or other cooler states this summer, or don’t mind the heat, go get your camping on! In Texas, our family we’ll wait until the cooler weather comes again.

On the Trail Again

Earlier this spring, I had the joy to hit the trails again and run the Crazy Desert Trail Race at San Angelo State Park. It was definitely crazy (the first run out since before little gal was born) and desert like (plenty of cactus) and lots of trail (15 miles of jeep and cattle trails) and such a blast to spend the morning enjoying the West Texas views.

Trail running is so fun to me because of the varying terrain, off road adventure and time to think while running through incredibly gorgeous scenery. 

Running is moving meditation to me. And getting out on the trail in the wild is even better. It’s a place of escape, time to think about what is going on in my life and ultimately just zone for a little while. For the time I am on the trail, I get to enjoy seeing the beautiful blue sky, passing scenery, wind blowing on me and the beauty of sweet nothingness to worry about and nothing going through my brain except making sure one foot goes after the other.

As my husband told me before I headed out of town, spend that time with God. And time I did spend, thanking God for all of the wonderful things in my life, asking God for direction on next steps to take in life, and at times (about miles 8 and mile 13) not having nice things to say to God (let’s just say those are never easy mile markers for me).  

Additionally, it is a good break for me to step away from the kids and do something for me. My sister was incredible to wake up with the baby twice in the middle of the night before so I could get sleep and watch the kids all day while I went to the run. While I love running on improved trail and the road too, the jogging stroller can’t make it up the rocky hillsides, so baby has to stay home.

On a side note – in addition to running the trails, camping is a part of the trail run experience. No driving to the race the morning of. When the kids get a little older, I’d love to camp with them and they can cheer me on at the finish line and run around themselves.

In the past several years, trail running has grown so much as a sport. From the first time I ran in the Rogue trail series there have been more and more races to choose from and fun to be had.  After this first race I wanted to learn more about the techniques of trail running and explore more trails so I joined the Women on the Trails introduction class with Trailhead Running. This class was a fun way to learn the trails in my backyard with fun and laid back folks. This past fall I went to a road show of the Trail Running Film Festival and learned so much more about the opportunities and inspiration to trail run across the country. Tejas Trails and Trail Racing Over Texas are just two groups that put on many races in fabulous places in Texas. Trail runs are a great way to explore our state and national parks and beautiful landscape across the country.

The sport is not just for crazy endurance junkies running 100 milers anymore. There are plenty of distances starting at 5ks. With the beautiful spring weather, I encourage you to get out and try some trail running.



30 Day Challenge – Outside Every Day

During the month of September, I’m challenging myself to get outside and play everyday. I’m looking forward to 30 days of fun come rain or shine.

I’ve always like the concept of the 30 day challenge – you decide on an activity to do each day and then do that activity every day for 30 days. I’ve heard it is a great way to get motivated, try a new habit, or get focused on a new project. The problem is, every time I start a challenge, it never works out that I finish one. I can’t seem to persevere through doing something I choose each day for 30 days straight. Life, wine, weather or some other excuse always happens.

Last year, I started with a goal to run every day. Two days into running it snowed and was 20 degrees in West Texas. At that point, bundling up around the fire pit with bourbon spiked hot tea sounded like a more fun way to spend the morning.

One month, I wanted to do a 5k a day (trying to get back on target on running 500 miles in one year) but then torrential rains for 20+ days came.

Each time I didn’t meet my goal, I was frustrated and thought this type of challenge was not for me. But as I thought about each monthly attempt, I noticed that having the goal did help me do something, it helped me do more of what I wanted to do that month. I ran more in January and May than I would have without the challenge. I thought, maybe there is a benefit to giving myself a goal of a 30 day challenge even if I only make it 15 days….that’s 5 or 10 more days than I might have done minus the challenge.

So, this September, I’m going back to the 30 day challenge. Whether it’s a walk around the neighborhood or one last swim in the pool, I’m going to enjoy being outside for this last part of summer and kick off into fall.

Will you join me? (I’ve also hear sharing your goal with others is a good way to meet your goal).

Going Native in the Backyard

A big highlight of our summer so far has been watching our backyard grow into a native landscape. My husband’s new hobby is yard work and the process started right after our little girl was born. He actually was going to till up the backyard the same day she was born, but luckily decided to wait until the next weekend.

We ordered a variety of native grass mixes from Native American Seed, a great company located in Junction, Texas and set out a plan to get the seeds in the ground and take advantage of the large amount of rain in the forecast.

The first step was to till the entire backyard, which turned it into a construction site for a few days.

Then, the seeds were sown across the dirt and on the days it didn’t rain, the sprinkler was turned on. The trucks also got a washdown every day.


In just a few short weeks, the grass started coming up and we had a beautiful new native approved lawn!

Photo Jun 30, 6 56 51 AM

It was such a success, plans are underway for the front yard!

The Power of Outside for Mamas and Babies

Obviously I love getting outside, being in nature under the blue sky, whether trail running or hiking, swimming or sitting in a river, playing golf, or just a short walk around the neighborhood, anything outside makes mama happy. But, I’ve definitely been embracing it more lately to get through the early weeks with a newborn. The first month was hard – screaming and crying baby and mama. How did I forget all of this hard work, or is this new little one just a higher need kiddo than the first one? After nights of the little babe staring back at me refusing to go to sleep, I stepped outside with her and stared at the green grass and bushes from all the rain and heard chirping birds and the wind blowing through the trees. This calmed us both down enough to make it through another night and day.

During these first days of getting to know the little girl, getting outside was a vital part of the day. My breakthrough for coming back to life after popping out the baby was a beautiful hike on the greenbelt one morning when she was about two weeks old. My world opened up once El Nino went away and it stopped raining. I figured out how the Baby K’tan worked and hit the trails. On an early morning hike on the Barton Creek greenbelt, I saw a movie filming and sat and typed a draft of this post sitting on the rocks next to the water with the baby sleeping in the carrier.

During this hike I realized that little girl just likes to be close to her mama and loves being outside. No more screaming during the day! Only took us two weeks to figure that out, and man what a long two weeks. After that hike I ventured outside nearly every morning with the gal around the neighborhood, on Lady Bird Lake trail with the jogging stroller, or hikes on the greenbelt and then spent a lot of afternoons porch sitting and watching our new native landscaping grow (more on this adventure later).

It turns out there are is a lot of research on the benefit of getting outside for babies, it can even help them sleep better at night. Here are a few good articles with more info on the power of being outside for babies and outside activities with infants.

Here’s what I offer as keys to getting outside with a little baby. Take it easy, be flexible and find a good carrier and jogging stroller and don’t forget a blanket for a picnic.

What about being outside makes you happy?