Thigh Gap…wait…Stephens Gap Cave

We are coming back to you after a couple of weeks of no blog posts!

Update: WE ARE STILL TIRED…. then we got sick… and life happened.

BUT, WE ARE BACK!

We want to know, do yall ever just get in a rut? Do you ever just feel yucky? We know that we certainly do. It seems like things never end with work and life, but we found a way to come back! Sometimes you just have to push yourself through to the next event, to the next moment, to the next chapter in your life! This weekend was our breakthrough.

As you all know, we love to be outside, but we have been a little under the weather for a while. We could tell we had been missing the great outdoors. We had heard of a place right in our own backyard in Woodville, Alabama, called Stephen’s Gap. We saw this place on a fellow Instagrammer’s page and knew we had to go! AND WE HAD TO GO SOON! Yet, it rained every weekend for three weekends straight. This was the weekend it finally happened!

Some important information to know about Stephen’s Gap is that it is a protected preserve, so you have to go to the Southeastern Cave Conservancy’s website to get your free permit. It is really simple and easy to do. There are so many caves in our area that we had no idea even existed, and we obviously have plans to visit many of them this summer!

The directions to Stephens Gap are practically two turns. We have passed this place hundreds of times and had no idea it existed! The trail is about a mile and a half long. The notable thing is that you actually hike up on a slight incline on the way to the cave, which is nice because on your way out after spelunking around in the cave, your trek back to the car is easy and downhill! This is not very typical of hiking here in North Alabama. Usually, you hike down into a gorge or valley. Following, you have to hike up on the way out, which can make the hikes more physically demanding.

We learned a lot on this hike. Just about halfway into it, we learned that you should always bring toilet paper with you when you’re in the woods where there is no indoor plumbing for miles. 🙂 We also learned that hiking post sickness, our stamina was very low. We had hiked at a pretty steady pace for about thirty minutes when we began to feel quite the fatigue. Out of breath and quite frankly frustrated with ourselves, we seriously just contemplated turning around. We knew the next little bit of our hike was going to take some leg work as the incline increased significantly.

But, just like in life, we knew if we turned around and quit we would regret it. AND WOULDN’T YOU KNOW…. It wasn’t but about 5 more minutes of hiking, WE MADE IT TO THE CAVE! Life lesson here for ya folks: DO NOT GIVE UP! You never know what is just around the corner, or just over the hill!

We were no longer out of breath from hiking, but we were gasping at the beauty that was before us! A HUGE hole in the ground that was all-encompassing of the rainfall from the weeks before! We stopped here to gaze at the sights and have a little snack we had packed with us in our handy dandy backpack we got from The Glacier Company. You can use the link to find one for yourself. If you use the code “carryon” you’ll get yourself a nice little discount as well … After tempting the edges of fate, we peered into the vast cave as much as we dared before we decided to just climb on down inside of the belly of the beast!

It was a slippery slope! As we began our descent, we could feel the temperature cool quickly. The rocks were wet, and the mud was super slippery. We stayed low to keep our balance. Any of you have read our previous post know that we are a little prone to sliding down. We eased and slowly lowered ourselves into the earth.

There was a picturesque rock that we were determined to get ourselves on, but it took some thought and some trial and error to get to it! Hilary tried first, then Rachel tried another way. It was the third time that was the charm, but it was definitely not easy… or safe at all, really. BUT,  WE DID IT! After making it onto the rock, our laughs echoed into the cave walls. Rachel was soaking wet and muddy and barefoot and bleeding…. Hilary looked like she descended from Hiking Heaven with no mud, no sweat, and perfectly dry hiking boots. We keep telling you… we are perfectly matched opposites. We both wanted on the rock so bad we could taste it. We just took two entirely different approaches to get there. Rachel wallowed, climbed, and rolled around; Hilary took very calculated and perfectly placed footsteps to achieve the goal. Another life lesson: It does not matter how you get there, as long as you work to reach your goals, you will be successful!

We had taken in all the sights, splashed in the water, climbed all the rocks, and decided our time here in the cave was coming to an end. It was wonderful to take in the cool air and feel the cold rushing water. We felt accomplished. We felt our bodies needed the physical activity after being kept in the house for so long. It was a good day.

We climbed our way out of middle earth and started back down the trail. We laughed and reminisced about our amazing weekend. Rachel was leading the way out, head down, listening to Hilary tell a wonderfully risque story when Rachel not so calmly interrupted her with the word, “SNAKE!!!!!”

About three footsteps ahead, a snake slithered across the trail. No questions were asked. We both started HIGH STEPPING It back the other direction. This was all the while Hilary was screaming, “IS IT A BLACK RACER?! IS IT CHASING US?! THEY ARE SO FAST!  RACHEL, IS IT CHASING US?!!”

Rachel could not help but just ignore everything Hilary said until she knew they were a good thirty yards away and out of harm’s way! Then we both just started laughing uncontrollably. It never fails, no matter where we go together, there is always going to be memories we made forever!

After picking up a stick and braving our way back down the trail to see if Mr. Snakey had slithered out of the way, we found ourselves safely back at our car. A day of hiking was in the books. And now… our next stop…. ARUBA!

Keeping It In The Family

Let’s catch you all up to date: we have been on a hiking adventure with our dads, New Orleans with our mommas, and now this weekend we spent it with our siblings! We are keeping it in the family! Our family is our biggest supporters and we love having them along on our adventures. They have raised us, shaped us, provided for us, and gave us just enough dysfunction to make us funny.

To start the weekend off Riley, Rachel’s sister, hitched a ride with Rachel to Hilary’s house! This is where the weekend began. We had big plans of a night out on the town which very quickly turned into a girls night in! Riley was full steam ahead seeing it was her Spring Break week from college, but we working girls were running on fumes at this point. So after some much needed catching up we found ourselves nestled quietly in the comfort of Hilary’s king sized bed! The three girls love their sleep!

The next morning Riley was off to bigger and better things since she had to return to school, but we couldn’t leave Heath, Hilary’s brother, out of the sibling weekend. We packed up our things and headed to Hartselle, Alabama. We had a big day of hiking ahead of us.

Hilary had planned a day and night tour of the Dismals Canyons in Franklin County, Alabama. We stopped first to pick up the sibling cargo. Heath and his wife Jessie were going to spend the day with us and they so kindly let us stay the night with them! We began our day of hiking by eating lunch. Everyone knows you need to be all fueled up for your adventures. Also, we like to eat and don’t need an excuse to find good food! Heath and Jessie suggested we go to Cardinal’s! It is a cute retro styled drive in with the best burgers in town! We all ordered and then shared all of our food… family style of course! There were chicken fingers and burgers and onion rings and milkshakes galore. After a little bit of gluttony we headed on our way to the canyons.

We arrived around 3:30 pm and committed to the day time self guided tour. Hilary had called the week before and reserved our spot for the night time tour. The combo day/night tour is $18. A special note: the day time tour can be purchased on site the day of your hike, however; the night time tours book up quick! We will tell you why shortly!

The day time hike was amazing. Moss covered boulders made for a breathtaking site! It was almost as if there was a little leprechaun waiting to jump out from behind the little rainbow. Also, rest assured there was no pot of gold at the end because we looked long and hard!

There were so many waterfalls and trickling springs and run offs everywhere! It was cool down underneath all of them. We shimmied and crawled around on them like kids on a playground. There was fun little bridges to cross and stepping stones that tested our balance… and our bravery.

Also, you should know Hilary is not afraid to jump on the swinging bridge while you’re trying to cross it!

We spent almost three hours exploring the canyons before we decided to hike back out for a break before the night tour. We ate dinner there at the Dismals Canyon lodge and spent the better part of an hour just hanging out and taking in the views.

Now it was time for the night tour! The night tour is special here because it gives you the opportunity to see a tiny little creature that are only native to this one spot in THE ENTIRE WORLD! There are similar species located in New Zealand and Australia but you will only get your chance to see these GLOW WORMS right here in North Alabama! Known as Dismalites, these tiny little fly larva are famous because they have a very unique feature. THEY GLOW IN THE DARK! This is why you will have to book the night tour in advance!

You will need to pack a flashlight along for this hike in the dark! Once you enter the cave the tour guide will teach you how to train your eyes to adjust to the dark and then you’ll begin to see the cave walls light up! It was fun to get to experience something so rare and located right in our very own backyard. Check out the website http://www.dismalscanyon.com for more information, and note the best times of the year to visit is May/June and September/ October.

We had a great time catching up with our siblings this weekend, but the weekend went by so fast! Typically we would be saying that with a frown, but not this week!

The countdown is on to JAMAICA!!!!! This week is what we call “Hell Week”. It will be spent packing, list making, reservation booking, and WAITING! The week before a big trip is always a little bit stressful. We want to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible and that we have everything we need! Becky and Hilary will be flying out of Nashville on Saturday, and Rachel and Susie will be catching up with them on Sunday when they leave from Atlanta.

We cannot wait to have our toes in the sand! But with the countdown approaching, here is our to do list!

1.Pack the carry ons

2. Book transportation from the airport to the condo

3. Secure the passports and all travel information

4. Inform the bank and credit cards of out of the country travel

5. Set up international calling – NO ROAMING CHARGES

6. Don’t lose our minds