My Love For Nature Grew While Hiking At Five NC State Parks

I Hiked At Five NC State Parks In Two Days—A Mountain Adventure That Elevated My Love For Nature

"Oh what a wonderful world we live in indeed—now let's get out and explore it."

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If you know me, then you probably also know that I am by no means an outdoorsy kind of gal. It's not that I have some deep-rooted fear or opposition to Mother Nature, but rather, that I've just never really given "the great outdoors" the proper time of day. For a long time, I recognized the importance of nature and what it has to offer, but that was all. For a long time, I held a degree of indifference towards the beauty of our planet, and that is something that I am glad to say has changed — and for the better, at that.

When you think "college spring break," odds are you probably think of something a little crazy — but have you ever thought of a couple of 20-something year olds bracing the cold (and wilderness) of a North Carolina mountain winter to camp and hike at five different state parks?

I'm going to go with no.

And yet, that was exactly what I did this past spring break — and oh, was it worth it.

All of this started with my best friend, whose love for the outdoors and state parks led her to challenge herself to visit all of the NC State Parks, and keeping up with that (and winning fun prizes) through the NC State Parks Passport Program. With her Passport Challenge in mind (coupled with our knowledge of setting up a tent that we gained from camping in the Outer Banks last summer), and the two days of spring break that she, I, and our other best friend had to spend together, the greatest "mountain spring break trip" of all time was born.

Ashley Oldham

Before we knew it, a couple of girls — who had only the slightest clue what they were doing — found themselves squeezing visits to five NC State Parks into just two days. They also found themselves camping on a campground at one state park all alone (and in 30-degree temperatures), starting fires, wearing multiples layers to keep warm, blowing their noses constantly because they had slight colds, hiking more than their legs had ever carried them before, getting scared every time a twig snapped or a bird chirped, and having the best time doing it all.

Before we knew it, these girls went from a moderate love of nature to a love that stretched well beyond the ten-plus miles they hiked in those two days.

The trip started at Elk Knob State Park, where we hiked to see a beautiful view of the mountains and the near-setting sun. It went on to Mount Jefferson State Natural Area, where we saw the sunrise and the hustle and bustle of mountain towns a ways below us. It went on to Grandfather Mountain State Park, where we swung on a swinging bridge and had an impromptu photo op a ways above the world.

Ashley Oldham

It then landed us at the Rough Ridge Trail, where I took a picture on the edge of a rock that I had to climb and roll of all fours just to reach. It took us to sunrise at New River State Park, which also happened to be where we were camping. Lastly, it took us to Stone Mountain State Park, where we climbed a literal stone mountain and saw some of the most beautiful views we'd ever seen.

Ashley Oldham

Needless to say, we were a little all over the place. Also needless to say? We had the best time. We explored nature more in two days than I ever have in my entire life — and I got my own NC State Park Passport (which I am so excited to get stamped at my future State Park destinations). We also grew closer to nature than ever before, and I had to stop and question why I had never taken advantage of all the beauty North Carolina — and the world — has to offer.

We joked on the car ride up that we were going to all "find ourselves" on this trip. However, I don't think that any of us truly believed that was going to happen — at least until it actually did. Coming home, I really felt like I had grown closer to this beautiful, wonderful, exciting, and incredible planet that we live on. I love it more now than I ever could have dreamed.

Oh, what a wonderful world we live in indeed—now let's get out and explore it.

For more information about North Carolina State Parks, visit https://www.ncparks.gov/. To learn more about participating in the NC State Parks Passport Program, check out https://www.ncparks.gov/passport-program.

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Top 50 Things You'll Hear A Southern Say

Y'all.
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For those of you who may need a little help understanding the slang of a southern, I made a list of the top 50 phrases and sayings, along with their translations.

1. Bless your heart.

My favorite saying. It is an empathetic phrase that is usually uttered when the speaker believes the recipient to be sweet, but misguided or stupid. It can also be used if the speaker believes the recipient needs to grow up and deal with it, when the speaker says it in a sarcastic tone.

2. Barking up the wrong tree.

Means being misguided or mistaken.

3. Aren't you precious?

Mostly this saying is used in a sarcastic tone in response to someone being offensive.

4. Britches.

Pants or underpants.

An example would be, "Your britches are too short, you can't wear those".

5. Coke.

Regardless if it's Dr. Pepper, Coca-Cola, or another carbonated beverage, it's called Coke here in the South.

6. Fixin' to.

Simply means that you are about to do something.

7. Get the short end of the stick.

This phrase means that you basically got an unfair deal or cheated out of something.

8. Give Me Some Sugar.

Simply means give me a kiss.

9. Hissy Fit.

A hissy fit is a grown-up version of a temper tantrum that is as bad as one that a toddler would throw.

10. Hold Your Horses.

Be patient.

11. Holler.

When you say "holler" you are basically letting the other person know something.

Example: Holler at me when you are ready to get something to eat.

12. If the creek don't rise.

This saying simply means that if nothing bad happens, everything will go as planned.

13. You're as slow as molasses in the wintertime.

This phrase means that you are being EXTRA slow.

14. Muddin'.

Off-road four-wheeler riding with the intentions of getting mud everywhere and possibly losing control.

15. Skat Cat.

A phrase that can be used instead of saying "God bless you" when you sneeze.

16. There's Not A Pot Too Crooked That A Lid Won't Fit.

There is someone for everyone.

17. Pitcher.

We mostly mean a plastic container that holds sweet tea, not the position of a guy on the baseball team.

18. Reckon.

When you say "I reckon", you believe that something is true.

19. Hoot With The Owls, Soar With The Eagles.

This simple phrase means that if you are going to stay up all night, you should be able to get early in the morning.

20. Too Big For Your Britches.

Simply means that you take yourself too seriously.

21. Stompin' Grounds.

Your hometown or where you grew up.

22. Back In The Day.

Back in the day could be a month ago, a year ago, or 20 years ago.

23. You're A Spitting Image Of (Insert Family Member).

Yes, I know I'm a spitting image of my mother. "Spitting image" simply means that you look just like someone.

24. "Darlin, Sugar, Sweetheart"

These words are simply terms of endearment.

25. Buggy.

A buggy is a cart/basket at the grocery store.

Example: Who wants to push the buggy?

26. Quit Crying Or I Will Give You Something To Cry About.

This phrase simply means to quit crying and if you didn't then more than likely you got a spanking,

27. Where You Raised In A Barn?

If you are from the South, you have probably been asked this more than once, especially when you left a door open.

28. Close The Door. You Are Letting All The Good Air Out.

This southern heat is nothing to play with. It simply means to keep the door closed so the air (or heat if its winter) stays inside.

29. You Are Going To Make Me Lose My Religion.

When you say this phrase to someone, it more than likely means that person has done something to irritate you or made you mad. Thank goodness Jesus saves.

Example: You are going to make me lose my religion.

30. You Look Like A Chicken With Your Head Cut Off.

This is said when you are running around like a crazy person. It can be said if you are looking for something that you are searching for or if you are just really busy.

31. Y'all.

The southern way to say "you all".

32. You Can't Carry A Tune In A Bucket.

If you've ever been told this, it means that you can't sing.

33. Have Their Feathers Ruffled.

You normally have your "feathers ruffled" when you are pouting.

34. Two Peas In A Pod.

When you and someone else are "two peas in a pod", it means that either you almost always together or that you two are almost identical in the way you think and do things.

35. Well Butter My Butt And Call Me A Biscuit.

This saying can be used when you are surprised or excited.

36. Don't Let The Door Hit Ya Where The Good Lord Split Ya.

When someone say this they typically mean to get out and don't let the door hit you on the way out.

37. You're As Good As Gold.

When you are "as good as gold", it means that you are well-behaved and obedient.

38. It's Raining Cats And Dogs Out There.

This simply means that the rain is really coming down hard. It's not actually raining cats and dogs, people.

39. I'm Full As A Tick.

This phrase means that you ate too much food.

40. I'm Sweating More Than A Sinner In Church.

When someone says this, it means that they are really hot and sweating A LOT.

41. Pot Calling The Kettle Black.

This phrase is used when one person is guilty of the very same thing of which they accuse another person.

42. There's More Than One Way To Skin A Cat.

It means that there is anyways more than one way to fix something.

43. Shut Yo' Mouth.

Means to be quiet or hush up.

44. Whatever Floats Your Boat.

This saying means to do whatever you want to do.

45. Slap Yo' Momma.

This phrase means that something is good.

Example: This BBQ is slap yo' momma good.

46. She's Like A Bull In A China Shop.

When you tell someone this phrase, you are telling them that they are clumsy or careless in the way that they move.

47. Cuttin' A Rug.

Cuttin' a rug is used to describe dancing.

Example: Let's go cut a rug tonight.

48. Clicker.

A clicker is another name for a TV remote.

49. Slow Your Roll.

This also means to be patient.

50. You're A Hot Mess.

When you tell someone that they are a "hot mess", you are simply telling them that they don't have it together.

Cover Image Credit: silhouetteamerica.com

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5 Vital And Helpful Tips I Live By When Packing For A Trip

Try and pack smarter, not harder.

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If you are anything like me, you tend to overpack thinking you are being a great packer and being ready for any scenario that life may throw at you. Well, that is, unfortunately untrue, and I have learned that you are only doing more harm than good. Over the years, I have come up with five tips I always use when traveling and have been proven to work. You've heard of the five golden rules of life, and, well, these are the five golden rules/tips of packing.


1. Start with a packing list.

This is the best tip I could give to anyone else who is getting ready to travel. Making a list is very useful, especially when stressed about your travel. You will not forget anything because you have it all written down. A packing list is a great way to keep organized when packing.

2. Use space bags.

Now, this is a tip my dad lives by. Space bags are great when you are packing because it protects your clothes and makes room to put a lot in your suitcase. The crazy story of a time when my dad was traveling, and his friend's bag was soaked with the shampoo he brought on the plane. All his clothes and everything inside the suitcase was ruined. So always use space bags because you never know what could happen on the flight. You can buy a space bag here.

3. Pack the essentials first.

I will be honest and say that I do over-pack a lot. I use the line "just in case" as an excuse to pack my entire house. But I have learned that packing for "just in case" is a waste of time. When you first sit down to pack, lay out all your essentials. For example, clothes that you will wear during the trip. You will be surprised to see how effective it is.

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons Chicago Is The Best City In The World

4. ALWAYS pack an extra outfit in your carry on.

This tip is one that I have been very grateful that I used. A while ago during my trip to Canada, my check-in bag was missing and delayed for multiple hours. Luckily I had an extra outfit to keep me fresh and not feel gross. It is always crucial to this in your carry on In case of emergencies such as your bag getting lost.

5. Put identification on your suitcase.

Everyone in the airport somehow tends to have the same black or red suitcase that you have, which only means confusing when you're trying to find your check-in bag. To quickly identify your suitcase, put a sticker, or tie a ribbon on the handle. You can easily pick up your suitcase and leave. This will prevent any sneaky people trying to steal or claim that your suitcase is theirs.

P.S.: Use a bright color ribbon or a different sticker. Also, tie the ribbon properly to make sure it's secured.


I live by these five packing tips every time I travel so I hope you can use them the next time you take a trip!

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