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My Impromptu Budget Backpacking Gear

     If there's one thing travel-addicted people agree on, it's that when opportunity knocks, you can bet we're going to answer. Some of my best adventures are the result of taking up an unexpected opportunity  road-tripping through British Columbia , backpacking in Western North Carolina during quarantine, and taking spontaneous day trips with friends in Hawaii , to name a few. There is a part of me that thrives off of the adrenaline and excitement of taking these opportunities as they come and strapping in for the rid e, unknowns and all.      The one caveat of spontaneous adventures, though, is that you don't always have the exact gear you need at the exact right time. For example, when I got the opportunity to camp and road trip in British Colombia with some friends, I was in a different country without any kind of camping gear. I was able to find what I needed by going to thrift stores, improvising (admittedly sacrificing a bit of comfort along the way), and sharin
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The Valley of Kings: Visiting Waipi'o Valley, Hawaii

    I wake up to the soft hum of coqui frogs and moonlight streaming through my window. It’s 3:00 AM, quite a bit earlier than I usually start the day. I’m happy to be up at this ungodly hour, though, because I am visiting a place that has been at the top of my list since I set foot on the Big Island of Hawaii three weeks earlier: Waipi’o Valley. Waipi’o Valley is a steep gorge cut into the East coast of the Big Island, about an hour up the coast from the farm where I am living and working. The valley is known for its black volcanic sand beach, dramatic cliffs, and rich history as the home of multiple Hawaiian kings. Waipi’o is one of the more remote places on the island, being only accessible by walking or driving down what is arguably the steepest road in the world . Given these constraints and the fact that I don’t have a car on the island, I assumed my chances of actually visiting this fascinating place were slim to none. As chance would have it, though, some locals I met on the

Mary Ingelman and the Winnsboro SC Witch Trial of 1792

Heads up: this post contains descriptions of violence and potentially upsetting events. 

Travel Guide: Pisgah National Forest

   What do you do if you are 20 years old, quarantined for the summer, with no job or place to be? Well if you're me, you go camping. A lot. This travel guide is the result of that unique cocktail of circumstances in summer 2020, where I was lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time  camping and hiking in Pisgah National Forest ; one of my favorite places on earth.       Pisgah Forest is nestled in the Western North Carolina Appalachians, the oldest mountain range on the continent. The forest is full of deep temperate  rain forests , Blueridge peaks, and secluded waterfalls to explore. I often tell people that I feel like I grew up in Pisgah because my family went there for so many camping and hiking trips when I was a kid. I’ve had the  privilege  to hike, and re-hike, many trails and learn the forest like the back of my hand. While Pisgah has become a lot more popular over the years as a prime hiking, mountain biking, and waterfall hunting spot, I've found that there

A Night at Grayson Highlands

      I take the last bites of my dinner; a tortilla filled with whatever vegetables were left in my cooler, and finish it off with a coconut cookie. It's simple but satisfying. I'm settled on the tailgate of my car in the backpacker parking lot at Grayson Highlands State Park . As I look around, I see birds returning to their trees for the night, and watch the sunlight soften from the bright rays of noon to the ambient glow of evening. There is a pleasant buzz of energy in the lot this evening as other backpackers mill around, preparing their gear and organizing their groups to set out for the night. I hop down from the tailgate and turn my attention to my own pack. It's time to get ready.      I have been looking forward to sleeping on the Appalachian Trail here for a while now. My plan is to hike a  mile over the gorgeous balds of Massie Gap to some campsites right outside the boundary of Grayson Highlands. Everyone I've talked to says the sites are wonderful, and ba

Travel Guide: Grayson Highlands State Park

     Grayson Highlands State Park has long been a favorite of Appalachian outdoor enthusiasts. The park encompasses 4,502 acres of high elevation forests, mountain streams, and highland balds, and boasts a plethora of outdoor activities including hiking, bouldering, and horseback riding. With views for miles, a herd of wild highland ponies, and abundant wildlife, Grayson Highlands is a world all its own. The unpredictable highland weather and windswept slopes make Grayson Highlands feels like Virginia's version of Scotland.  Located in the beautiful, remote mountains of Southern Virginia, there is not much to do outside the park, but that's probably for the best because the park itself can keep any outdoor enthusiast busy for several days with its breathtaking beauty and many outdoor activities. Based on several days of extremely enjoyable field research, this is my personal guide to the best places to stay, hike, climb, and explore in Grayson Highlands State Park.  Background

6 Edible Plants to Forage this Fall

     Fall is a great time for foraging. The bounty is really endless; fall fruit, nuts, herbs, and all kinds of other stuff. This list consists of a few of my favorite fall staples that I come back to year after year, with one or two new ones thrown in. I selected plants based on my experience in the Southeast, but most of these plants have a wider range from the Eastern US to worldwide. I have found most, if not all, of these plants in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Most of these plants are incredibly common, so keep your eyes open next time you are out and about and you might come home with a delicious fall harvest! Photo by  Inga Seliverstova  from  Pexels Persimmons     Persimmons are the holy grail of fall foraging. Juicy, tangy, free fruit; what could be better! Here in the Southeast, they ripen around September and slowly fall off the tree through winter. The easiest way to harvest persimmons is to simply gather them off the ground as they fall. A word to the wise here though