In a Pickle

Lately, I’ve grown rather tired of having to convey the hushed statement, “Yeah… I’ve never been to Florida before.” I recently moved to Baton Rouge, and now had no excuse to continue this lifelong streak, so my brother and I decided to take a four-day road trip to the panhandle in May, old school style.

No smartphones, no google maps, no social media. Just us, the open road, some CDs from the library (that we had to dust off), and a few books to keep us company.

The first destination? A glassy lake in Blackwater State Forest. To two sweat-drenched dudes forced to sit in a wheeled box of metal careening down the highway for hours, this was not a far cry from an oasis in the desert (the desert being the heat of the southern summer). The unpaved roads took us into the heart of a lush forest, but lack of elevation made navigation rather difficult, and it took quite a while to find our spot (several locals showed us the way).

After we parked our car at a pristine “primitive” campground furnished with a metal fire pit and two picnic tables, we quickly ran down to the lake and soaked our feet.

“What about a quick swim to the other side?” I asked Ben.

“So down.”

We popped our goggles on and began the 300m swim to the other side of the lake. Soon the shoreline behind us began to obscure, mimicking the weed-covered lakebed that receded into the murky depths out of sight.

I couldn’t help but wonder, what was down there? After all, we weren’t in Colorado anymore. I had heard stories of gators attacking people who encroached upon their territories, such as the infamous “Florida Man” who claimed he saw the inside of one’s mouth while fighting to stay alive (check out the story here).

I quickly steeled my nerves and continued to put one arm in front of the next for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, texture once again graced the bottom of the lake and I knew we were close to the other side.

Ben and I stood up once we saw the depth was no more than waist height and looked around. Locals at the far side of the lake must have been either in awe or simply laughing at two goggled, scared non-Floridians standing near the reeds, like some bewildered aliens on foreign soil.

As our eyes adjusted we noticed several black blotches contrasting the glistening water in the middle of the lake. They vanished several seconds later, only to pop up nearer than before. Thoughts ran through my mind of getting bit by a passing water moccasin (a deadly snake endemic to the south), losing a finger to a snapping turtle, or getting pulled under by the Florida version of the Loch Ness monster. To this day I have no idea what those creatures were.

We now had two options.

  1. Swim back and risk the above.
  2. Wade through the reeds and if we survive suffer through the long trek back around the lake to our campground half naked with no shoes.

We sighed, cried, high-fived, and chose option #1.

An eternity later and I was never so excited to see that olive green lake bed materialize from the depths. We clambered up onto the shore and swore never to swim in a swamp again.

I’m sure many of you have had encounters with the unknown before. It’s always a learning experience, isn’t it?

Exciting, thrilling adventures await you if you step into the waters of adventure, but be prepared for what may lie beneath its shimmering surface.

Bear Lake at Blackwater State Park in Florida. This was taken after survival.

G-paw

My grandpa is nearing his 90th lap around the sun, and let me tell you, after several laps around the track, let alone the sun, people tend to get rather tired.

My grandfather (second from left) on his wedding day

“Um… Hmmm…”, he’ll sometimes frown as he delves into his memory to collect his thoughts. I don’t blame him. It takes time to recall the name of a friend who shot the head off a poisonous snake at his farm, the night he drove nearly 240 miles for a first date with my grandmother, or standing on a podium to give a speech to his fraternity scolding his fellows for stealing sandwiches from the kitchen.

I remember eating lunch after a round of golf with him last year. As I set down my drink and began to express some of the more intricate details of life in another state, I was abruptly cut off by song.

I know a lassie as fair as can be, and she dwells where the bluebells grooooow…”

G-paw when he was a youngster
G-paw when he was a youngster

Although lately he may launch into melody at inconvenient times, I can’t help but laugh, and love him for tenderly bringing up some experience from his past tied to a tune.

The older people in your life may fall into their idiosyncrasies occasionally, but don’t neglect their wealth of experience and wisdom. You might find some life changing advice behind a note or two.

Siblings

It took me one minute to type out the title to this post. Partly because I needed to find inspiration for what to write and partly because I found that inspiration in my sister’s shoe, which uncomfortably thrust against my ribs as I sat down on the couch.

“You want me to move?” She cheeped, “Then say pleeeaaaase.”

Annoyed, I glared at her and took the long journey to the wooden chair on the other side of the room.

For those of you who have siblings or close friends you live with, I’m sure you’ve experienced the dichotomy of annoyance and charm. A dirty rock underneath which somehow lies a gem in the dirt. What makes me mad at my sister yet truly happy that she is sitting across from me? Maybe it’s because she is one of the few who has been there when I’m at my worst and one of the many who have seen me at my best. Lord have mercy on her soul. I can’t help but love her for that.

Either way, I want to sit on that couch. This chair is uncomfortable.

You’ve Got Mail

I know I’m echoing the echoes of sentiment when I say that Coronavirus has thrown a wrench in things. For many of us, home and work seem to meld together like an odd mix of jazz and EDM music. There’s a time and place for both, but blending them feels odd. Some people enjoy it, while others find it icky.

In coming to terms with this craziness, some hobbies find more space in our lives while others ebb into the wake of the pre-pandemic past. I’m finding now is actually a great time for creativity to flourish. If you find you have space for a new hobby or two, I recommend a fantastic way to funnel this creativity in putting pen to paper. Try writing physical letters.

I love savoring the elation that comes with ripping open a letter from a close friend or family member. Sometimes I get a bonus sticker, sometimes a little picture, and most often great thoughts and reflections on life. In my reply, I get to slow down and tell someone about my own life in a meaningful way.

When was the last time you sent a physical letter to someone? If you need to delve deeply into your memory to retrieve the answer, I say give it a shot this week. It’s worth it.

Old Friends

I just got back from snagging a bite to eat with a high school friend. We haven’t seen each other in a while and I thought it would be good to see how he was doing.

A waitress kindly seated us at a nearby burger joint and soon we began a vibrant conversation. Talk drifted from our recent endeavors to the good ol’ high school days. He and I ran on the same cross country team and afterwards spent a lot of time attempting to mash buttons in an effort to destroy each other in Call of Duty (he always won). I noticed a few rabbit trails emerge throughout the discussion, though allowing each of these to play their course was quite enjoyable.

When was the last time you saw an old friend? See if you can get in touch with someone who you haven’t seen in a while. Try to reconnect and find out how they are doing. It’s pretty fun.

Queue the Music

Music is a huge part of my life. It can flip my mood around, bring back nostalgic memories of good times, or help me focus on a task at hand.

A week ago a good friend and I decided to play some music that he first showed me over 12 years ago in grade school. The songs we rocked out to had been played over and over again throughout the years since my first listen, but still manage to maintain that spark that I will never be able to replicate.

Do you have any songs that bring back familiar memories or put you in a certain mood?

Music
Switchfoot’s “The Beautiful Letdown” album. This was the first music I really started listening to. My favorite songs are “Gone” and “Adding to the Noise”

 

Bike More

I have the privilege of living in the wonderful City of Fort Collins, CO. As November comes into full swing, the last of the fall leaves desert their respective trees, making skeletons of what was once green and lush. Though the onset of Winter is near, the weather still remains somewhat temperate (unusual for this time of year). I love winter, but I’m really enjoying the chance to take advantage of the weather and bike this late in the season.

Do you have the opportunity to get outside on your bike?  If you’re work or school is within close proximity, take the time to try biking there. I guarantee you won’t regret it.

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Biking to campus along the Mason Trail, in Fort Collins.

Discovering New Things

This past weekend some pals and I were stupid enough to climb Kit Carson and Challenger Point, two fourteen thousand foot peaks that thrust into the horizon like the spine of some enormous beast. The experience brought with it stunning new views along with new challenges. With conquering on our minds we left at 4:45 am, surrounded by darkness. Upon departure we were immediately enveloped by a relentless swarm of mosquitoes.  The trek took us nearly 12 hours round trip, and by the time we reached the car we were exhausted. I don’t think I’ve had more mosquito bites at one time in my life. My left leg alone is covered in at least 50 of them!

Anyways, each peak I’ve hiked in Colorado has brought with it another small glimpse into the beauty God has surrounded us with. To me each peak is a puzzle piece in the beautiful picture of God’s creativity.

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This was taken at Willow Creek Lake. Kit Carson peak sits at the upper right hand corner.