How I got into the Outdoors

This is a question I get asked a whole lot. It's right up there with "How did you get into photography". The answers to both of those questions are extremely underwhelming but we are tackling the first one today.

 Red River Gorge - 2015

Red River Gorge - 2015

Most people assume that I have been into outdoorsy stuff since I was little. Nope. I despised being dirty. My parents kept me super clean all the time. I never played sports, never jumped in mud puddles, and I never went barefoot if I could help it. The dirtiest thing I ever did was probably licking all our water color paints and painting our white cabinets in the living room at age one.

My mom grew up on a farm and was outside almost always. She worked extremely hard with her brothers and sisters, helping their parents running a large farm, harvesting crops, and tend to animals. It was hard work, but it wasn't exactly outdoor recreation for recreation's sake. 

Dad on the other hand was a city slicker -- a middle class preacher's kid. He grew up in Illinois and he worked a paper route. Fair skinned and red haired just like me, I don't think he liked to get outside too much. Applying that much sunscreen is always annoying (trust me). His dad loved fishing but that love didn't transfer through the generations. I think I only went fishing twice as a kid and that was always with Granddad.

So. I say all this to show that my parents had very different upbringings, and neither of them were filled with camping/hiking/backpacking and most definitely not rock climbing. 

I didn't even know what hiking for fun was. Walking around a zoo was bad enough. My dad was basically a professional race walker (look it up if you haven't seen people race walk because it is hysterical) until I was born, but that didn't imprint on us kids. We never ran, walked, or anything. I honestly don't know how all three of us aren't fat. Biking was for the driveway, walking was for the zoo, and camping?.........how do you even do that?

I only remember one family camping trip and it was a doozy. The whole family attempted sleeping in the tent, but it got so cold that mom and I bailed and ended up sleeping in the family GMC Safari because we couldn't hack laying on the ground all night. Sorry boys, ladies get special treatment.

After that experience I stayed away from anything too cold, too uncomfortable, or too hot (summer camp was always a struggle. They expect us to play kick ball???? OUTSIDE????). I had no idea what I was missing out on.

My family went to Colorado for the first time when I was eight years old and then again when I was fifteen. The first trip we took was incredible. We made a massive loop through the west and we saw Pikes Peak, the Grand Canyon, The Pueblos, The Painted Desert, The Petrified Forest, Four corners, and The Meteor Crater. It was cool, but for an eight year old who just wanted to play with her stuffed animal lion, the experience was a little wasted on me. As a teenager, Colorado was a lot more interesting. I had just bought a new camera so I was taking photos like crazy. My brother tried rock climbing (which at that point, I thought was insane. My how years change your attitude!), and we walked around Garden of the Gods. It wasn't really hiking, but I was starting to appreciate God's creation a little bit more.

 First time out west at age eight. Killin' it in the gingham shorts. - 2002

First time out west at age eight. Killin' it in the gingham shorts. - 2002

It wasn't until 2014 when I came back from two years in college in Florida, dropped out of school, and suffered a severe breakup with my (ex) fiance, that the outdoors popped into my life in a big way. At that point I was a total Tumblr girl (that's a really ridiculous blogging site where you just repost other people's nice photos and complain about your life in whiny text posts) and had started seeing all these incredible photos of gorgeous landscapes, and campfires, and people experiencing the world by living out of a backpack. Maybe I should go outside more? 

As I tried to stopped isolating myself after my traumatic relationship, I came to know a couple super amazing ladies who had a ton more outdoors experience than me. We started taking day trips to hiking locations around the south and even kayaked in the summers. I'd also started rock climbing with my brother at the gym in Nashville.

Climbing was a lifesaver for me. When you are depressed or struggling with any sort of mental issues, I recommend climbing. It's a simple but challenging task that takes every portion of your brain to get you from A to B. It doesn't leave room for all the internal struggles you've been dealing with. You are alone on the wall with no distractions. It's incredible. 

 First year of climbing - 2014

First year of climbing - 2014

My good friend Amanda ended up moving back to her home state of Washington in 2014 right after we'd started growing closer. I immediately bought a plane ticket and went to visit. That trip was perfect. I'd never seen such beauty in all my life. Waterfalls, mountains, rivers, canyons, massive rainforests, and gloomy beaches. I wanted to explore all of it. On that trip I camped for the first time and really gained the confidence to start exploring more on my own. 

 First time in WA - 2014

First time in WA - 2014

From then on, i've been spending as much time outdoors as I can. I've sunk who knows how much money into gear, fuel, and food. Not to mention the countless hours spent scouring the internet for the best gear reviews, hiking locations, and information on how to survive outdoors. I've hiked almost every waterfall that Tennessee has to offer and driven all around Kentucky to find new views. I haven't even made a dent in what these southern states have to offer; which is simultaneously exciting and frustrating. I've got a lot more exploring to do. 

 North Carolina - 2015

North Carolina - 2015

So that's my underwhelming story. A kid who never went outside, who now gets stir crazy if she hasn't hiked in a few weeks. No matter how you were raised and no matter how little you know about the outdoors, I promise you can learn. Search for the places close to you, read a blog, look at instagram, even read a guide book. There is no shortage of resources these days for those willing to seek it.