Rock Island and Greeter Falls, TN


My friend from Arkansas contacted me a few months ago about coming to the Nashville area and doing some hiking. Right away I started making a plan to rival the one Carolyn had made for me when I visited earlier this year. I created a loop that took us from breakfast in Nashville, to Rock Island State Park, and then down to Greeter Falls in Savage Gulf State Natural Area, and then back to Nashville again. A perfect day trip that had us leaving Barista Parlor by 9am and arriving back in the city at about 6:30pm.

Any time people come to visit, I make sure they experience the glory that is a Barista Parlor biscuit. It’s the perfect way to start out a day of driving and hiking and then driving and hiking some more. My friends were definitely not disappointed, but honestly who in their right mind has ever been disappointed by that miraculous biscuit??


Our first stop was twin falls at Rock Island. This is one of the best middle Tennessee falls you can see for the least amount of work. Trail time is about five minutes before you can hop off and start rock scrambling out to the side of the river. You’ll be able to get pretty close to the falls so prepare yourself to get a little wet from the spray. We hung out at the falls for a bit before driving to a restaurant in McMinnville for lunch. Collins River BBQ and Cafe
gets a 10/10 from us if you need a bite before heading to a new location.

We drove about an hour down to Savage Gulf to hike Greeter and Boardtree Falls. It’s about a mile and a half hike to see both falls. There is definitely some elevation changes in the trail but nothing overly strenuous - hiking poles or a walking stick is always helpful no matter the terrain.


Greeter, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful locations in TN. White falls cascading into a pool of perfect blue water. Even though it was warm that day, the water was so cold that the bottom of the falls was a bit icy. It created such a beautiful shine at the base.


We had the falls to ourselves for a bit and then worked our way back up the trail - and the slippery spiral staircase - to find the suspension bridge and the top of Boardtree Falls. This falls isn’t anything spectacular, but it’s unique in that you can easily walk out on the top of the falls since the water is always pretty calm. There’s usually a dry rock right at the top where you can sit and take in the view.


This is a great day trip if you want to get the most out of your time. Roundtrip it’s about a 4 hour drive, but with all the views and hiking, it feels like much less. However, if there is extra time in your day, there are multiple other state parks and natural areas to and from both locations. Middle Tennessee has unlimited possibilities!

2017 Holiday Gift Guide for Adventurers (On a Budget)


It's almost December 25th and that means you might be scrolling through amazon trying to figure out what prime eligible items will make that weird outdoor person, in your life, a happy camper on Christmas Morning. Well, I'm here to help. Maybe? I've put together a list of stuff that at least I would love to receive. Everything on the list happens to be under $25 (because let's be real, we're all a bit strapped for cash around this time of year) and extremely useful. Happy Gifting!


Friction Labs Chalk - $7-$25

  • For the climber in your life. People make fun of me for loving this expensive chalk, but I seriously feel like it works better than any of the other brands. Plus it's got pretty packaging.

Smartwool Socks - $19

  • The best socks you'll ever wear. And they NEVER stink. It's insane.

Twist Lock Carabiner - $19

  • You can never have too many carabiners

The Great Outdoors: A User's Guide: Everything You Need to Know Before Heading into the Wild (and How to Get Back in One Piece) - By Brendan Leonard - $17

  • This is seriously an amazing guide book. Even for the seasoned outdoors-man, this is a fantastic reference guide on almost all outdoor subjects.

Stanley Classic One Hand Thermos - $20

  • Beautiful, timeless, and functional. The perfect place for the hot coffee.

Tenacious Tape - $8

  • A must have for anyone with a puffy jacket, down sleeping bag, nylon tent, hammock, etc. Quick patches that rarely wear out.

Fire Starter - $9

  • Because someone usually always forgets matches or a lighter.

Carhartt Beanie - $10

  • For the man or woman in your life. Everyone's got a head that needs keeping warm. And look at all those colors!!!!

Yoga Mat - $15-$20

  • Even if you aren't a much of  a "yogi", a yoga mat is nice to have for stretching, sitting outside, and even as a makeshift sleeping pad.  Also great for instagram photos.

Field Notes Notebook - $10

  • Make sure your adventurer can record all they did on their trip so they can tell you all about it!

Sawyer Products Mini Water Filtration System - $20

  • This is handy in case of any quick filtration needs.

Petzl Tikkina Headlamp - $20

  • Headlamps are seriously the greatest invention of all time. And these are SUPER bright.

Power Bank - $25

  • It's the 21st century and you need your phone almost all the time. So you might as well be able to charge it up even on a camping trip.

Mountain House Meal - $10

  • Chicken and Rice mountain house meals are so good. I'm not even kidding.

Titanium Spork - $8

  • You have to have something to eat your nasty morning oatmeal with. Or the aforementioned chicken and rice. (YUM) And lets be real, even if your person owns one of these, they'll end up losing it soon anyway. Might as well give them an extra.

Compact First Aid Kit - $19

  • This is a no brain-er, yet I most people I'm around (including me sometimes....oops) don't carry a first aid kit with them.

Compact Trekking Poles - $23

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!



No Plans, No Problem.


You ever have those weekends that end up being blissfully free? No plans, no commitments, no brunch dates, photo shoots, family get-to-gethers - just free time all for you? Those are a great type of weekend.. In June, one of those rare sweet spots of wide open space happened upon me, so woke up at 5:00am, packed my day pack, grabbed my camera, and took a three hour drive down to Southern Tennessee to visit Fall Creek Falls State Park.

Some people don't like extended drives by themselves, but I love it because I can sing as loudly and off key as I want to without fear of judgement. I'm honestly pretty good, but you'll never know unless we hit that area of friendship where "I no longer care about what you think of me because I'm so comfortable with you".


Anyway, I ended up arriving at the park around eight in the morning to find empty trails and empty parking lots.  I managed to time it perfectly to have a quiet hike to the first falls. If you've never been to Fall Creek Falls, you'll probably have seen photos of the two main falls that always look HUGE in pictures. But, to be quite frank, I have never EVER seen them flowing at full capacity. Usually it's a sad kind of trickle. I didn't even bother getting a photo of it because it was so sad. Also, the hike down to the bottom of the main falls is not enjoyable. If you happen to find a full-flowing falls, by all means hike down there, but if it's barely trickling, it's not worth it!

I hiked towards another section of the park and only met about two other hikers. Which was nice, but also meant that I was the first person to knock all the spider webs down for the day. One ended up in the mouthpiece of my water bottle. Not okay. But I guess that's a fair trade for some much needed solitude.

I crossed the suspension bridge by the nature center, and then climbed down to the bottom of upper cane creek falls. I love this section, but some annoying men were messing around down there so I just snapped a few photos and left.

Before I drove down, I had found some information about the main/lower cane creek falls but I'd never found them on previous visits to the park. I just knew from googling that the hike down was somewhat sketchy. I found a trusty park ranger and had him point me in the right direction and I hopped back on trail.


The "Cable Trail", as it is so aptly named, is literally a vertical rocky descent with a steel cable suspended above you to hang on to. We've already established that I was alone, but I also didn't have cell service, it had rained the night before, and I was wearing chacos that didn't have the most solid tread on slick surfaces. I sat at the top of this slippery and sharp slope for about five minutes trying to decide if this was a smart thing to do by myself. I settled on the fact that:

  • It was not smart
  • But I'd driven three hours to get here
  • I'd probably be super frustrated with myself if I didn't do it
  • At least if I die, it was in an interested way

So I climbed down and SURPRISE! I was fine. Though I definitely took it slow and slipped a few times.


As soon as I walked out of the trees and saw the falls, I knew I'd made the right decision. There wasn't a person it sight, and I had the entire place to myself............


For about twenty minutes. Then a bunch of families with TINY CHILDREN AND ELDERLY LADIES made there way to me. So then I felt a LOT less capable of my hiking ability. I have no idea how they all made it down that cable so quickly and without injury. Good on them though!

This falls is a really popular swimming hole for park visitors, but if you catch it early in the morning, you're likely to find a peaceful spot for reflection. Early bird gets the worm. And the view.

After a while, I got tired of people splashing around me, so I clambered back up the cable and drove to another section of the park to view one last water fall. Piney Falls looked like a really massive waterfall, but no matter where I looked online and in the park, I coudn't find a maintained trail that led to it. I suppose I could have followed the river upstream until I hit it, but by the time I was poking around, It was well past lunch time. I decided to settle for a good overlook and then head back to Kentucky.

An empty weekend ended up being filled with several beautiful falls, a couple of good hikes, and plenty of peaceful time for reflection. Take advantage of your free weekends y'all. Sometimes the ones without plans, have the most potential.

What Climbing Has Done For Me

I am seriously blessed that rock climbing has become a part of my life.

I’ve never been an “active” or “athletic” person until the last five years of my life. I didn’t play organized sports, no gymnastics, or dance classes, I didn’t run, or even walk regularly. And as I’ve already discussed (link to blog post) I ended up finding a love for outdoor recreation as a way to get through some tough life altering relationship changes in the beginning of 2014.

Fast forward to today when I climb almost 4 days a week every week, averaging three hours in the gym each time. I’ve never really craved physical activity like I hear runners do, but after our local gym finally opened, I can say for certain that has changed. Friends of mine will attest that if we are on an out of town weekend trip, I frequently comment, “I NEED TO CLIMB SOMETHING”. I get feeling antsy and a little trapped if I’m not able to get on a wall of some sort. Becoming a climber has done me a whole lot of good in so many ways.

TIny speck of red hair = me. 

TIny speck of red hair = me. 

First of all, I’m not one to randomly introduce myself to a stranger, but the tight knit gym community in my town has really helped me with that. It’s a whole lot easier to meet someone when you’ve been helping each other work a boulder problem for the past hour. A common goal allows you to meet people without pressure. It’s nice that our community is small enough to let me refill my introverted “talk to people” tank, while also having private climb time when I need to be by myself.

I think it would be tough to identify another sport that is as uplifting and encouraging as climbing. I’ve never experienced such enthusiasm, motivation, and excitement from people as I strive to finish a v3 that’s been absolutely killing me. One time I asked a gym acquaintance to video me trying a problem I’d been throwing myself at for over two hours, and when I finally sent it, the entire boulder area applauded me because they knew how hard I’d been trying. That’s incredible to me.

The more I climb, the more confident I become, both mentally and physically.  I try harder problems that I would never have even glanced at a few months ago. I don’t worry about failing a route because I know it will just push me to get it later. You’re only competing against yourself anyway.

Physically, I’ve never really been proud of my body. I’ve never been severely overweight, but if you had looked at those average weight charts on a medical website, I was in the “overweight” category  (which honestly is so rude for those charts to say). Thankfully, due to some lifestyle changes along with pushing myself at the climbing gym, that is no longer the case, and I’m much more confident in my appearance. (Though to say I don’t still struggle, would be a total lie.) When I first started climbing, the gym was a huge room full of comparison. An average female climber is smaller, slighter, and a lot more toned that me. But I just don’t have that body type. Women in my family have big arms and big thighs, there’s not much you can do to change genetics. However, my arms and thighs house some powerful muscles now. These days I look at a person who would have been my “ideal” body type and I see that I climb stronger and better than them with MY body that looks MY way. (not that it’s about being better or feeling superior to others, but you see the point!)

I’ve also learned to listen to what my body is telling me.  If I’ve climbed hard a few days in a row and my  shoulder starts feeling whacky, I know you need to ease up. I can tell exactly when my skin is reaching its breaking point, and I know when it’s worthless to keep climbing because my energy level isn’t up to snuff. When one of my fingers’ joints starts getting twinge-y feeling, I know I have to let it rest. It’s been so cool to learn more about how my body works while climbing, and when to chill out to prevent any injuries.  


And the last nugget of gold I’ve gleaned from climbing is that I’m an extremely good judge of character (woman’s intuition is probably the biggest factor in this…) when it comes to belay partners. I can watch someone and their attitude towards climbing and determine that I do not want them belaying me on lead, much less on top rope. You have to be able to trust your partner completely when your life is in their hands.

I could go on for ages about how much I love climbing, what it has done for me, and what i’m excited to accomplish, but these are the main things that stand out when i’m asked about why I love climbing. If you’ve ever been curious about the sport, and want to try something new, find a local gym and give it a go! I’d love to hear about how it changes you.

clifty hollow-21.JPG