No matter where we go or what the plan is trips with my sister are always an adventure. We did a road trip from Washington to Crater Lake in Oregon a few years ago. We made a pit stop in the land of the Goonies along the way and it was awesome! So when the opportunity for another road trip came up I was excited, well until we hit the first gas stop. The bathroom was something of nightmares. I am pretty sure you need to show proof of vaccination and bathe in hand sanitizer before being allowed to get back in the car! It definitely set a low standard that made every other stop on the trip seem like we were in a 5 star resort. After surviving such misadventures, my favorite part of road trips has to be the endless singing (badly on my part) and dancing in the car in between catching up on the latest gossip or stupid things we’ve done since our last adventure.  We drove through the night and ended up in Ashville, NC very early or late depending on which way you look at it, but it was just in time to fuel up before we made our way up the mountain for sunrise.
Hiking is different depending where you are. Most of my experiences have been in NY, WA and OR with my sister. This little hiking excursion we were setting out on was a learning experience. I am a bit of an anxious person about snakes, bears, and spiders (basically things that can kill me).  I have heard of bear repellent/pepper spray for bears, but is that what we armed ourselves with? No! On our hike out to the top of the mountain IN THE DARK we were armed with a bear bell. A BELL! As my sister is telling me about this bell I was envisioning something similar to a cowbell that I assumed that if we encountered a bear I would throw to distract them while I run. Nope, this bell is essentially a Christmas jingle bell on a Velcro loop. Apparently this Christmas ornament is all you need to warn the bears you are around and it keeps them from attacking you. At least this is what the man at REI said. I’m not sure if it’s just a fun thing that they like to sell gullible city folks or if there is something to it. I am sticking with my theory that it’s basically a small dinner bell that just lets the bears know where their next meal is going to be.
To add to this adventure that I had a feeling could be turning into a misadventure, my sister hands me a folding knife slightly opened to which she says “just in case.” She never elaborated, I am assuming for bears or the thugs that may be waiting for us out in the middle of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Honestly, it made me feel like I was a tough ninja ready to take this mountain and wilderness in my fancy yoga pants. Note to you adventurers, if you have 2 left feet, it is dark and rocky- opt to be the one carrying the bear bell instead of the knife.   Fortunately this story has a happy ending and we made it to the top without any injuries or helicopter evacuations to the nearest trauma center!
The climb in the dark/twilight was worth every stumble and second of feeling like my lungs were on fire. The pictures can explain more than I ever could, but I will forever be thankful to have that time with my sister. Being able to watch the sun come up and to experience those moments as the light starts to change the dark cold grassy mountaintop into this magical, almost surreal landscape was perfection.
The trend these days seems to be taking pictures in beautiful yoga poses in epic places and I decided I wanted to try… I discovered I have no yoga skills and they are even worse when attempting to balance on rocks and in clunky hiking boots. What I learned was that the best pictures and moments are when you do what is natural and more fitting for yourself. I guess that goes with life as well. Instead of trying to keep up with the trends and being like everyone else, you are always most beautiful being yourself. For me, that was wearing mismatched clothes picked out of the back of the car in the dark and trying to fly with my blanket.  
Thinking about it now it seems almost perfect, as it’s a pretty accurate reflection of me.  My life is like that-using whatever I find in the dark to help me get outfitted for the challenges ahead regardless if they are things that are meant to be together. When the light finally shines it’s not perfect, but it’s beautiful and somehow ends up complete. It is amazing how just a couple of hours with my sister taking pictures and just being free, uninhibited by the fear of judgment in one of the most serene landscapes can give such perspective and help refocus life.
~Just Jes~

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