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  


The Best Idea Ever

Today we set off in our backyard… well not really. We travelled just a ways up the road to Desoto State Park located atop Lookout Mountain. The past week had freezing temperatures of 18 degrees! However, today, the second of February, it was a whopping 65 degrees in north Alabama. With cabin fever settling in just a day before, we both needed the vitamin D brought by the big ball of fire in the sky. We headed to the dusty trail. Just kidding.There were parts that were soaking wet (Rachel will have more details on that in the video we post).

The trail started at a pretty steep decline of dry brown leaves and quickly became a scenery of lush green as we neared the falls. The water that begins in Desoto State Park leads its way into Little River Canyon. There are so many little trickles of waterfalls both big and small. As we treaded down the small narrow paths we spent time catching up on the week past. Hilary was just back from a work trip to San Diego, and Rachel had spent the first part of the week enjoying time off because of the snow days! The previous weekend we had spent together in Nashville, Tennessee! There were lots of reminiscing about our wild night on Broadway and tales of new experiences in San Diego.

After a short walk across an adorable little bridge, we came to an overlook. Now, something you should know about us is that we both love to live our lives on the edge, so this is exactly what we did. We climbed onto the overhang to let our legs drift in the air over a fifty foot drop! We were sure to keep our booties firmly planted so we couldn’t fall off. Shout out to our mommas for what they gave us! They would not be happy with our ideas to hang our legs off the cliff, but they do love how our relationship has grown so much over the past couple of years. Also, pro tip: always bring snacks! We were feeling earthy, so we shared gummy worms. It just felt right.

At this point we were only about halfway to our destination. We packed up all of our snacks like good hikers do, and saddled up for the rest of the hike. We followed the trail that lead to some marshy like conditions. It would not be until we returned on our way back that Rachel would find herself on a slippery slope. When we finally took the last hop onto the smooth rocks, the rushing water from the falls were revealed. The sun was shining brightly without a cloud in sight, an extreme contrast to just 48 hours ago. We slipped off our shoes like the little Indian girls we are. Feeling the earth below our feet helped center our minds and our bodies. We spent the next hour laying on the rocks, snapping gorgeous pictures of the scenery, and enjoying the serenity of the water rushing along the river bed.

The sun was drawing closer to the tree lines and unfortunately the temperature was dropping. We packed up once again and began on our hike back to our car. Rachel, the calculated confident thing she is, decided to comment on how well she was avoiding the marshy and wet parts of the trail. Shortly after, Karma felt it was necessary to bring her back to the reality in the worse way. One wet rock and down she went.  Hilary, the sarcastic empathetic thing she is, laughed and tried to ask if Rachel needed a hand. We had to take a moment to document about how wet Rachel’s momma given booty was after the fall. The wet shorts and shirt did NOT stop us from stopping by the local ice cream shop on our way home, though. We highly recommend that if you ever find yourself close to Desoto State Park you stop in and see Mildred, the sweetest woman you will ever know, at the Parkway Ice Cream Shop!

As we were sitting outside at the picnic table, lapping up our ice cream cones (Rachel had classic chocolate and Hilary made the solid choice of cookies-n-cream) we began talking about all of our fun times and sparked together this great idea: A BLOG! It is a running joke that Hilary does not have the best memory, and Rachel’s brainspace can only hold so much. We needed a place to store our adventures, so here we are!. This blog will act as our memory! Providing us with flashbacks to our favorite moments in our life. While we do love to travel, we want to encompass all of our favorite parts of our life as well.

We are not alike in many ways. We bring to the table different perspectives, different clothing styles, different talents, and many different preferences across the board. We believe that is what makes us so unique. We are so different, but we get along and work so well together in all kinds of situations… and we do mean ALL KINDS. Our ability to do so comes from our fundamental similarities. For example, we both are either flaming hot or ice cold. We are passionate about the matter with all of our being or express no interest at all. We give ourselves to our hobbies, relationships, and goals 100%, This allows us to chase after our adventures wholeheartedly. So watch out world, we have our carry on packed and we are ready to see the world through all new lenses!