Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Dream Hikes

If time, responsibilities and resources weren’t a factor, what would you spend your life doing?  What would make you most happy, give you the most peace and contentment?  My husband and I were thinking about this a few weeks ago, and our answers were identical.  If nothing else mattered, we would spend our days exploring the world’s most majestic hiking destinations.

This Top Ten list is my favorite one to write, but also the most challenging because it’s difficult to choose just ten.  To create my Top Ten, I scoured the internet and researched many lists by the authorities on all things outdoors, nature and hiking: National Geographic, Backpacker and Discovery just to name a few.

My brainstorming process started big and got smaller, I began with the geographic destinations with the most splendid and scenic destinations (Everywhere from Arizona, California, Hawaii, Washington, Peru, Japan).  Then I thought about mountain regions known for the best hiking (The Andes, Appalachians, Sierra Nevada) and I finally narrowed my list down to what I thought were dream hikes, but I also added “bucket list” hikes that are totally doable.  Here are my Top Ten!

10.  Kalalau Trail – The Kalalau Trail winds along the Na Pali Coast located on the island of Kauai.  It’s a strenuous 11 mile hike (22 miles round trip) that begins at Ke’e Beach.  The Na Pali (Cliffs) Coast is described as a very special place because the rugged and narrow cliffs provide the only land access to the remote and legendary Kalalau Valley.  Most people think of tropical beaches when they think of Hawaii, but it’s so diverse in landscape that there’s much more to do than just swim or sunbathe.  This trail is considered one of the best in Hawaii and an absolute must.  Learn more about the trail here.

9.  Half Dome Hike – According to Yosemite’s website, the Half Dome hike is considered the ultimate day hike in Yosemite, “the one you must do before you die, but one you might also die while doing.”  Well of course if they put it that way, it has to be on my list. Honestly though, this is one I could only do in  my dreams due to my fear of heights and fear of falling.  Half Dome is 14-16 miles depending on where you start from, there’s about 5000 feet in elevation gain from the valley, and the most arduous part is the famous -or infamous- Half Dome Cables.  This a section that hikers must climb (without climbing gear) using metal cables, it’s a 400 foot ascent to the summit.

8.  Grand Canyon Rim to Rim – They don’t call it the “Grand” canyon for nothing.  I’ve visited the Grand Canyon before as millions of people have, but according to the National Park’s website, less than 1% of visitors experience the real grandeur, which lies below the Rim.  Just visiting the Grand Canyon and taking in the scenery is like seeing art come to life, or like being on another planet.  I imagine hiking Rim to Rim would be an absolutely unforgettable experience.

7.  Inca Trail – Part of the Andes Mountains, located in Peru, the Inca Trail is undoubtedly the most well known trail in South America, and considered one of the greatest treks in the world.  The trail covers diverse landscape in just 26 miles, from beautiful mountainside to subtropical jungle, and archaeological wonders like the Inca ruins.  The trail ends in the breathtakingly mystical Machu Picchu.

6.  Wonderland Trail – This is one of the most amazing, yet serious hikes in Washington. The WT is 93 miles of splendor circumnavigating Mount Rainier.  With varying degrees of elevation gains and losses daily, and every mile promising different awe-inspiring terrain such as lakes, waterfalls, glacial valleys, alpine and sub-alpine meadows and lush forests, no part of the journey will be identical.  It’s like 9-10 different hikes in one. Experience and skill is recommended  if venturing to hike the WT, and only lucky people that win the annual lottery are given permits for it.  This is a bucket list hike for sure!

5.  Everest Base Camp – There’s just something about accomplishing something that ordinary people don’t get to do.  Towering at 29,029 feet, Mt. Everest is the highest peak in the world.  About 1,000 people a year climb Mt. Everest but probably less than half reach the summit.  It cost something like $30,000 or more to attempt this feat without a guarantee of reaching the top,  not to mention the price one’s body pays at those extreme altitudes.  That being said, the 38 mile trek from Lukla to Everest Base Camp is a demanding expedition in itself.  People can do this for a fraction of the cost (about $6000), it’s no stroll in the park, but just to be able to discover the history and culture of Nepal, would be the adventure of a lifetime.

4.  Mt. Fuji – Speaking of summiting peaks, there’s a special feeling of accomplishment and pride after reaching the highest point of something.  Mt. Fuji, or “Fuji-san” is Japan’s highest peak, rising at 12,389 feet.  It’s no Everest, Denali or K2 but it’s a summit that I believe I could take on, because I know people who have.  My brother, my husband and some of friends have climbed to the top of Mt. Fuji, and they’ve described it as a unique and memorable experience.  Despite steep slopes and challenging sections, Mt. Fuji is not limited to experts, people young and old of all shapes and sizes climb this beauty every year.

4.  Anything in Utah – Bryce Canyon. Moab. Zion.  Anything in Utah.  We’ve hiked mountains, forests, and volcanoes, but to hike in a desert like area where you can sleep under the clearest skies and a billion stars would be so awesome.  Utah has the most unique rock formations, and is considered canyon country in the US.

4.  John Muir Trail“The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir.  John Muir is known as the “Father of National Parks, his strong influence helped to create the parks we’re able to enjoy today: Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and others.  There are trails, parks and even colleges are named after this man, who as a naturalist and conservationist, taught us the importance of protecting our natural heritage.  The John Muir Trail is an ultimate hiking destination in the US.  The 211 mile hike winds through the Sierra Nevada, beginning in Yosemite and ends at Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental US.  To hike the John Muir Trail would be an homage not just to John Muir, and what he stood for but for my personal love for our natural world.

2.  Pacific Crest Trail – The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is something I could only do if it were possible to take a 6 month break from life, and have all my affairs and responsibilities (my bills, my children, my home) taken care of.  All things considered, and if I was physically able, the PCT would be a dream come true.  The PCT isn’t just a hike, but a journey of 2600+ miles that starts in Mexico, traveling through California, Oregon, Washington, to the Canadian border.  Notable sights include the picturesque Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Mountain Ranges.  When I think of what completing the PCT would demand of my body, mind and spirit, I admit it’s a pipe dream, but I’ve always been a dreamer. Dreaming is free, so dream big right?

1.  Appalachian Trail –  Everything I said about the PCT, ditto for the AT.  Another pipe dream but this is a “Dream Hikes” list after all, and sometimes dreams do come true! We’ve hiked a small section of the AT, and seeing and meeting people along the trail makes me believe it’s not just possible but totally doable if we had nothing but time, and can take a break from life.  Now that is living the dream!  The AT is approximately 2,190 miles starting from Springer Mountain in Georgia, ending in Mount Katahdin, in Maine.  The AT crosses 14 states and numerous national forests, national parks and state parks.  Notable sights include the Great Smokey Mountains, Blue Ridge Mountains, Alleghenies, Catskills, and more.

Have you hiked any of these famous trails?  With so many hikes out there, it was hard to choose a “Top Ten Dream List”.  Is there a hike you’ve done that rivals one on my list?  Share your thoughts!


Tales from the Trail: Fiery Gizzard

On our last backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, we met a couple of experienced backpackers.  I followed one of them on Instagram, and was in awe of the many different backpacking destinations they have hiked.  Backpackers love sharing experiences.  When we were planning our first trip for the year, I knew right away which one I wanted to do.

The Fiery Gizzard Trail is part of South Cumberland State Park in Tennessee.  It’s considered to be one of the most diverse and beautiful in the whole state.  It’s also rated one of the Top 25 in the country by Backpacker Magazine.  This trail is my favorite so far.

Fiery Gizzard had everything: waterfalls, easy gentle terrain, steep arduous gorges, and boulder fields.  Because it’s 13 miles long, we thru-hiked, staging our car at the end of the trail and got a ride from a nice local to the start of it.  We did a lot of research prior to the trip, we talked to a lady that worked at the Park’s Visitor Center who we actually met when we picked up our permit.  She gave us some good information about a reroute on the trail due to a land dispute, and told us about the Dog Hole Trail junction that was easier than hiking Fiery Gizzard the entire time.  Her description of the different parts of the trail were spot on and it’s always wonderful to talk with someone who doesn’t just work for the Park Service but knows the trails because they’ve hiked them.  There is apparently a boulder field on the trail that is nicknamed “the trail of broken ankles” where many rescues were called to, so we took the Dog Hole junction to avoid added aggravation and risk injury.

Follow me as I relive the best backpacking trip yet!

It was a 7 hour drive to Tennessee and we would normally pack our backpacks when we get to the hotel, but we packed early to save time.

Once in Monteagle, we stayed at Jim Oliver’s Smokehouse Lodge for the night, and headed out the next morning.  This place was nice, fairly priced and conveniently located near the trailhead.  Maybe next time we’ll stay in one of their cabins for a more rustic experience.

The trailhead was only 15 minutes away, this is the first time we hiked anywhere so close to town, which is awesome because we didn’t have to drive far afterwards to civilization, to use a real restroom, get a hot meal and get back on the road.

Here we are, ready to hit the trail!

Within just a just a few minutes, we saw the first of many beautiful waterfalls.


There were also several of these man made bridges along the trail:


Here’s a bridge made by a fallen tree (not for our use):


More waterfalls!  Just beautiful…


Another beautiful sight were these interesting stone walls that I thought looked like a huge stack of crepes:


At about 2.5 miles, we reached Flat Rock Lookout:

Flat Rock Lookout

At the 4.5 mile marker, we made it to Raven Point where we took time for lunch and to admire the view:

Raven Point

The trail seemed to go for miles and miles, I run half marathons but this trail made me question if I really know how long a mile is!  With daylight fading, we knew that we had to reach Laurel Gorge because navigating over boulders in the dark would be dangerous.  This was the arduous point during the hike where I put on some tunes and get to moving!  Thank goodness for motivating music and the second wind 🙂

Finally seeing Laurel Gorge was like seeing the finish line of a race; spirits immediately lifted and we felt relieved, it was a long trek, and we were almost to the end!

Descent into Laurel Gorge

Anderson Falls was a breathtaking sight to behold once we climbed to the top of the Gorge:


We had hiked a total of about 11 miles to Small Wild campsite where we’d make camp.  The next morning, we would only have to hike 3 miles out to Foster Falls where our car was parked.

Yay for setting up the tent before dark!

Our campsite was huge!!  It could accommodate 6-8 tents.  There were others in the site but they were a good 100 feet away, so we felt alone but not completely isolated.  The thing I loved most about this trip was that we were able to make a fire, something we usually don’t get to do in Washington in higher elevation.  There’s just something about a fire that is comforting, and makes us feel safe.  Instead of having dinner right away and going into our tent, we were able to sit by the fire, eat, drink our tiny plastic bottles of wine and listen to music out in the open.

Pad Thai and Rice for dinner!

We really enjoyed this trip, we can’t wait to explore more of beautiful Tennessee.  There’s nothing like escaping civilization and getting out into nature and the wilderness.


Stay tuned for future Tales from the Trail!

Jaye’s Anatomy: How I Got My Groove Back!

I’m a creature of habit.  I love routine, and when I get comfortable in a fitness routine, it takes a while before I get bored with it.  Sometimes along the way though, our fitness routines hit a speed bump.  Whether it’s because you want to change things up a little bit, get bored, or maybe trainers move on for whatever reason (gosh darn trainers and their lives, they’re supposed to be there for us, ALWAYS!  Lol.)

A while back I wrote my first Jaye’s Anatomy post about my fitness routine.  I loved that routine.  It had a full body workout, cardio and a Pilates/Yoga class.  I consistently attended each class, ran before some classes and did my long run on Saturdays.  Due to a trainer injury, and another trainer getting pregnant and moving out of state, my routine has changed.  I hit that fitness routine speed bump.  For a few weeks, I wandered around the gym, searching schedules to see what I could fill my days with.  I tried an aerobic step class, a Boot Camp class, and I ran now and then, but I was in a “fitness funk”.

I’m proud to say, I got my groove back!  I tried a few new things and I’m surprised to see I actually love things I initially thought I did not like.  My new fitness routine is pretty similar with a strength training class, cardio and a Yoga/Pilates once a week.

Monday – I start my week off with a HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) class called Total Body Sculpt on Mondays.  This class replaced my favorite class Body Pump. The instructor is awesome, and I learned a few new things like a “Deck of Cards” work out, and how to massage myself using a tennis ball, who knew?!  I love that we rarely repeat exercises, and we use different equipment like a Bosu that I’ve never used before.

Tuesdays/Fridays/Sundays are my days off!

Wednesday is Cardio!  I will either run a short distance (1.5-2 miles) and attend a PiYo class, or run a longer distance (3-5 miles).

Thursday is another Cardio day and a 30 minute class.  I go for one hour of Spin (which I previously disliked, and now love) and I also attend a short Abs and Glutes class, also known as “Butts and Guts!”  Two classes in one day, the police have to be called on Thursdays because I’m killing it in the gym, lol! 🙂

Saturday is a long run day, usually 5 miles.

We all experience fitness funks.  It happens to the best of us, what’s important is to find ways to get ourselves out of that funk.  Here are some ideas, (what I did that worked for me) that might also work for you.

1.  Join a gym or try a free trial. – Many gyms offer free trial periods before you are expected to sign up.  Use that trial period to try different classes, and maybe attend a class more than once because you might like the class, but maybe the instructor isn’t someone you connect with, or vice versa.

2.  Mix up your routine! – Our bodies get efficient at doing the same things.  While all exercise is of course great for us, our bodies get used to a routine, our minds do too.  Frankly, we get bored.  So try something new, or give something another try!

3.  Phone a friend. – I love the group fitness setting.  Being in a group motivates me.  Join a friend, or a group of friends, or make new fitness friends.  Sometimes we need people to help keep us accountable, and it can make all the difference.

4.  Go alone.  I love group settings, but I run alone.  I run alone because I’m slower than everyone I know, lol.  Going alone sometimes helps us to focus on something we want to improve.  Maybe going alone will re-energize you to get out of that funk!

5.  Write down your schedule. – Make a “To Do” list of your workout routine, set it in stone, or your calendar.  Having a clear, specific goal written down will make you want to check it off, because who likes a “To Do” list that isn’t checked off?  Take it a step further and post of your accomplishment on social media, “make it Facebook official” as they say.

Health and fitness is a lifestyle.  Sometimes we get burnt out or exhausted with our routines, and that’s okay.  Maybe the fix is taking a short break to help us to reflect and recharge, that’s okay too.  What’s important is we take steps to get back on the path to wellness, we have to find ways to get our groove back!  Have you ever been in a funk?  What did you do to get out of it?



Jaye’s Anatomy: Fitness Routine

Welcome to my first “Jaye’s Anatomy” blog post! 🙂  (Corny title, but hey, it’s catchy!)  Once a month, I’m going to do a post that will give you a peek into my personal life.  It will be anything from what brands I love, television shows I watch, what I’m reading or working on, about my family, just a little something on “what makes up Jaye.”

I got this idea from another blog (one of my favorites) that I follow.  I’m so surprised at what I learn from people’s blogs, specifically about their personal experiences.  Anything from housekeeping stuff, cooking, baking, parenting, or about fitness.  If reading this helps anyone learn something new, then my writing would have served a purpose.

Today I’m sharing my fitness routine.  First, I want to say that I am NOT a professional fitness person.  I have no expert knowledge on any specific discipline, if anything, I’m profoundly average!  I’m merely sharing my personal experience on stuff that I’ve tried and what works for me.   Fitness is such an important part of my life, it’s not about a desire to look a certain way or be a certain number, it’s simply about being healthy and FEELING good.  Anyone who’s active in their fitness journey can attest to the fact that Fitness is like “the gift that keeps on giving.”  <<– One of my best friends Lori shared that idea with me, and it’s been my mantra ever since.  When you’re physically fit, you’re more mentally fit, and when you’re mentally fit, you’re more spiritually fit, you’re a better mom, or a better wife, a better student or employee (not necessarily in that order), and it just goes on and on!  All I’m trying to be is the best version of myself.

So, here’s my fitness routine:

Monday: I do a group fitness class called Body Pump, it’s my favorite class.  It’s a full body, strength training class that gets you lean and toned.  I love this class because it isn’t about how much weight you can lift or squat, but more about the reps.  One full session consists of around 800 repetitions, and you burn a ton of calories.

This is what a Body Pump class might look like, and this picture shows why I love it.

Let me let you in on a little secret, I’m really not that motivated.  Showing up to a class is the extent of my motivation.  When I get to class, I get more motivated by the people, the instructor, the music.   So, since I’m already there, then I’ll do the work!  No one wants to be the one at the gym who showed up to a class then half asses everything, if I show up, I might as well use my full ass, lol! 🙂

I found this and had to share, so funny!

Tuesday: Cardio!  On Tuesday I’ll do a short run (3-4 miles).  Lately, I’ve been running on a treadmill because of the heat and humidity, but I’ll be back outside soon!


Wednesday: Cardio and PiYo.  I start Wednesdays with a 2-3 mile warm-up run, followed by a PiYo class.  I discovered PiYo about a month ago, it’s awesome!  It’s a fusion of Pilates and Yoga, and I’ve found that doing this instead of Body Pump twice a week has helped with my knee issues.  It’s low impact, high intensity and such a challenge (I was dripping with sweat)!  If you want a class where you’re constantly moving and using all your muscles, try this!  PiYo builds strength, flexibility and has the Yoga benefits of stretching, in one class.

This is what a PiYo class might look like.

Listen, when you click on the links for Body Pump or PiYo, you’re going to see some extremely fit and sculpted people.  It’s intimidating, but a real class will have real people of all ages, shapes and sizes.  The classes I go to are for all fitness levels, and what I love most about classes is that I’m joining a group of like-minded people, with similar goals, it’s an environment conducive to accomplishing those goals, because “success breeds success!”

Thursdays and Sundays are my rest days.  Rest is just as important as working out, sometimes when I’m lazy, rest is the thing that motivates me to get the workout done!

Friday: Cardio or PiYo or both!

Saturday: Saturdays I work out with Jeremy and Dean, it’s our “long run” day.  Jeremy will probably run 8 miles, I’ll run like 4.5 in the same amount of time, then we’ll do abs or another body part.  Remember what I said about like-minded people and success breeds success?  I’m lucky to have a partner (and friends) that share the same passion for being fit and healthy, it makes it so much easier to stay on track!  A bonus?  When we go to the gym, Dean wants to come too, we’re showing him how to take care of himself by example (The gift that keeps on giving!).

IMAG3629 (1)
#thecouplethatrunstogether #gymbuddy #swolemate #teammoncier
Me: Come on, flex your muscle!   Jeremy: Umm…no!  Take the picture! LOL!

That’s what my weekly work out routine looks like.  Some might say, they simply don’t have time to work out.  I get it, we all have different things to fill our time with: jobs, kids, homework, etc.  It’s hard.  But…everyone has the same amount of time, we all get 24 hours a day!  We have to SET (not make or find time, *set*) time to spend on ourselves, 30 minutes or one hour, walk, run, whatever, make time for yourself!

Again, I’m not an expert on fitness, just sharing a piece of my journey, paying forward the same thing I’ve gotten from others, it’s a cycle… “The gift that keeps on giving!”

Thoughts on Running…

“Why in the world would anyone want to run five miles?”

“A Fun Run?  People actually run for fun?”

And this one I haven’t actually said but I’ve heard many times… “I don’t run unless someone is chasing me!”

As I begin training for the Pensacola Half Marathon, I look back to what led me to start my fitness journey.  It seems like a long time ago that those very words came out of my mouth, but I remember like it was yesterday when my fitness journey first began.  I never understood why running was so  many peoples’ choice of fitness activity.  Then one day, my husband who’s an avid runner asked me to join him for a short jog around our neighborhood.  While I wasn’t particularly fit, I didn’t consider myself out of shape either so I was baffled that I couldn’t even get to the end of the street without huffing, puffing and stopping to catch my breath.  That day, I decided to set a goal of running at least 1.5 miles in one month.

I took it one step at a time, literally.  At first, I could only get to about my mailbox that was 40 yards away before I had to stop. Then I was able to run for a minute or two then walk, and start again.  I was overjoyed with myself when I eventually got to a full five minutes straight without stopping.  I was able to achieve the goal I set for myself in a month’s time.  A mile and a half became two miles, which became three miles, then 5K, then 10K.  After about a year, I signed up for my first half marathon. That was over four years ago and I’ve since run numerous 5K’s, 10K’s, mud runs and half marathons.  I’ve diversified my workout routine over the past couple of years because running led me to love other activities too.  I love group fitness classes like Body Pump, Body Step, PiYo, and Boot Camp, but running will always be my first love.  Nothing beats going for a run, a short run or a long run.  It’s free, no monthly fees, all you need is running shoes!  There’s no better way to explore your surroundings, the streets are your treadmill, the world is your gym!  And lastly, two words…RUNNER’S HIGH!  There’s really nothing in the world like it, except maybe the feeling you get when you cross the finish line of your first race.  I’m proud to call myself a runner.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes on running…