We left Sunday after church to hike the loop trail around Cub Creek Lake at Natchez Trace State Park. The park is only 1 1/2 hours from our home in the Memphis area east on I-40, so it’s a pretty quick drive.  This trail is part of a longer trail called the Red Leaves backpacking trail that is approximately 26 miles long and contains 3 back-country shelters at which you can camp.  This should be enough to keep us busy for a while!

We were surprised to find out that for now the park office is open 7 days a week till 4:30.  Most of the Tennessee state parks offices close on weekends and evenings, which seems like the very time they would be needed, when people come and visit the park and camp!  I guess it’s due to lack of funding.  But apparently they have funding for now to be open on the weekends.  There was also a lot of recent work done on new trail bridges, shelters and trail signs as well, which maybe also come from new funding.

So we first first headed to the park office to get the free trail map, which showed us where the back-country shelters were.  There was also a nicer color map available for donation that I also found on the internet.  This map was easier to read, and showed all the back roads in addition to the trails, but did not show the shelters.  I’m not sure why they can’t put both on one map.  But anyway, at least they have them available on some map.  We registered to camp in the back-country with the man in the office, who was very friendly and helpful.  Then we headed off on our adventure!

We didn’t have much time to hike, so we decided to do a small portion of the Red Leaves Trail, hiking it from the park office until it joins with the Cub Creek Trail, and starting by following it around the southern end of Cub Creek lake.  On this end the trail continues for a while, but eventually ends briefly.  From there, you  follow the lake edge, walking past the Recreation Building and the Picnic shelter to the double bridges on the southeast end of the lake.  Then you pass through the cabin area, which was somewhat tricky.  We just ended up walking up the stairs from the lake, turning left onto the road, and then noticed the orange trail marker along the road which marks the Cub Creek Trail.  It had us turn left down the driveway of a cabin, which we felt a little funny about because a large group of people were grilling in the front yard of this cabin!  There were several markers down this driveway, which led us to the right into the woods and back to the Cub Creek Trail at the end of the cabin driveway.  We followed the trail around the east end of the lake to just before the levee.

We were told by the man in the office to look for a side trail to the shelter.   In fact, we did see an approximately three foot high post with a very prominent white marker that marks the Red Leaves Trail, and a trail leading off away from the main trail.  There was also a big nail but no sign attached.  So we assumed this could possibly be the side trail to the shelter.  My husband followed it for a bit and found the shelter.  It was just a tenth of a mile or two off the main trail, but you have to keep a lookout for that little post, just south of the levee.

We were very pleasantly surprised to see an almost brand-new shelter that had been build by Boy Scouts recently.  It was very clean. It had four bunks, two on each side of the shelter and a nice big porch roof overhang at the front.  There was an opening in the eves at the back of the shelter that nicely let in a lot of light, but could be a problem in a storm.  You may need a tarp to prevent water coming in that way.

We hung our two hammocks from the porch posts, and since it was cool, the fire my husband made in the fire-pit felt wonderful.  There were also lots of nice areas for tent camping here.  It was a really pretty site.  The temperature was also cool this weekend, so no bugs!  No mosquitoes, no ticks.  And we hope no chiggers.  We won’t find that out for a couple of days, whether we got them or not.

We had to be back home by midday the next day, so we had planned this hike to have done the longer southern portion (we’re guessing 3 1/2 miles) around the lake the first day, and then we only had 2 1/2 miles to finish up in the morning.  We made good time and enjoyed the northern end of the lake hike.  Back at our car at the park office, we noticed a rehabilitating owl in an enclosure who was quite cute, blinking at us randomly with different eyes.  We headed home and were glad we had another quick hiking getaway!  Hope you enjoy the pictures and that you can get out and hike it soon!  Happy Trails!

Last weekend we did an overnight hiking trip to Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park.  It was the first cool(er) weekend in western Tennessee, and it was absolutely beautiful!

This park has connecting loops of trails that can form a 3, 5, 10 or 20 mile hike, which consist mainly of old farm roads, which are now surrounded by woods.  This makes for nice wide walking trails, and piques the curiosity about what life must have been like there when there were farms, houses, old, now condemned camp buildings, and left-behind fruit trees on ridge tops that still dropped their fruit for us, such as grapes, apples and (we think) persimmons or plums.

This park is on the west side of the Tennessee River, north of Interstate 40.  The trail starts from the highest point in West Tennessee at the Interpretive Center, which is quite a climb in itself to get to by car.  There is a hiker’s parking lot to the right just before you get to the interpretive center, and the trail begins behind the center.

Make sure you register at the park office near the entrance first and get a nice color-coded trail map.  The employees are very friendly and helpful. They were to close at 4:30, just as we arrived. But when they saw us, very kindly opened back up to register us and give us information.

The first night we hiked about 2 1/2 miles to the shelter on the 5 mile loop.  I think it is the prettiest camping area.  It’s quite a steep climb  straight up the hill to the top of the ridge.

There is water available shortly after the beginning of the hike on the 3 mile loop and just before the last steep climb to the shelter.  It would be good to stock up then, because the water we saw on the rest of our hike was not very great.  The water before this point was found in the most beautiful clear rocky and sandy streams, which we treated with our Aquamira to make it drinkable.

We hung our hammocks, and made a nice fire because it was very chilly, getting down into the 40s that night.  We had our Mountain House white chicken chili for dinner, very good and spicy!  And granola and hot coffee for breakfast.  We took our time that morning, enjoying our site & warming up.

After packing up, we had intended to finish the 10 mile trail that day, but instead chose to take a shortcut. As we came to the east side of the 10 mile loop (close to the river), it then turned to the west, away from the river, and we never got a good look.  The map, however, showed an old road turning to the right, connecting east side of the 10 mile loop to the 20 mile loop.  So we chose to go that way, hoping to see the river and some old camp buildings I had read about on the Internet.

We weren’t sure if this was a good idea or not, if the road would peter out. But it did not.  It led to the Tennessee River and gave us a nice view, and then turned north to connect with the 20 mile trail, which thankfully has a sign at the junction, making it clear when we had reached it. We were surprised to find on this old connector road that was not officially a trail, actually still had pavement on it, way out here in the middle of nowhere in the woods!

So we turned left on the 20 mile loop, which promptly headed around the base of a ridge and then straight up to the top!  And much to our pleasure, just to our right turned out to be the location of the old camp I had seen pictures of, on a very high cliff overlooking the River.  The old buildings, though condemned, were very cool to look at, and walking past the main bulding, there was a wonderful view from the top of the ridge of the river.

So from there we went back to the 20 mile trail and followed the trail/old road that went up and down ridge tops. It was very cool and always had wonderful scenery & sometimes views from the tops.

Apparently September is fruit collecting month, because we found wild grapes on the ground, which we were told were Muscadines. On the next hill we found what we thought were plums, but someone else told us they were persimmons. We aren’t sure which. But they were both sweet and a little different, but very interesting!  We also found some green apples, which were not very sweet.

We followed the 20 mile trail to the west to the 20 mile shelter and stopped to have our lunch.  This campspot had a clearing, but it had a lot of tall grass and was not as nice as the first shelter/camping area.

From there we turned left (South) to follow the trail that connected all the loops and headed back to the Interpretive Center.  The whole trail was old roads and was very beautiful. It was easy to walk next to my husband and talk.  And it was just very pretty and interesting. Of course the 70 degree weather didn’t hurt!

Finally we made it back to our car, noticing many other side trails along the way that we would love to come back & hike.

Overall it was a wonderful overnight trip, and we were very pleased.  I don’t think we saw another single person out on these trails! We had the trails & campsite all to ourselves!  We will definitely be going back, and I hope you can make it there!

God's girl:

My daughter has started a blog! Read more at her site, The Surrendered Girl .

Originally posted on The Surrendered Girl:

In March of 2015, I went to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The mission trip was truly a life changing experience.

It was my first time out the country and my first mission trip. I was in Honduras for about a week with a group of 9 other girls. We traveled and working alongside the organization Point of Impact. The first few days, we worked in the children programs. After that we spent a lot of time with a group of 16 precious children who were part of the girl’s and boy’s homes. All of them were orphans at one time and had been taken into the homes. Some of their stories are heartbreaking; however every one of them is now full of life and joy! It is truly amazing to see the work that God is doing in their lives.

I went on the trip expecting that it would be an easy…

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2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,800 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Safe in His Arms

The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deut. 33:27 NIV

Two years ago we brought home the cutest kitty ever, Bella, who is now almost three years old. She has been a real pleasure, very affectionate, loving, and playful. However our resident, elderly cat was not so pleased with the new addition.  At first she was openly hostile to the newbie, but now she has come to a state of truce, unless Bella intrudes on her personal space, and then she can expect to be swiped at, chased or otherwise harassed.

This morning I was sitting on my bed and the elderly cat was with IMG_0610me sleeping on the bed. Bella came in from her morning exploration chirping cutely as she does to say hi. I called her up on the bed, and she accidentally jumped right on top of the elderly cat! lol You can imagine, not a pleasant scene. Poor Bella was swiped at, and she made a hasty exit. However, watching this scene, I got off the bed, picked her up in my arms and took her back to the bed, snuggled closely in my arms.  She seemed quite appreciative to be rescued, cuddled, and given permission to go where the older cat wouldn’t allow.

There is no way my older cat would do anything to Bella while I’m holding her. I’m like “base” in the children’s game of tag. No one can touch her if I have her. She is completely safe, protected, and out of harm’s reach. Not only that but she is also loved and affectionately cherished. And she gets the privilege of being close to me, much closer than the older cranky one!

As I was holding my baby, it occurred to me that this is what it is like with God. If we choose to snuggle close to Him, to rest in His arms, and to enjoy Him, we are safe from whatever is trying to hurt us. Nothing would dare approach or attack when we are safe in His arms. In addition to being protected, we are also have the added privilege of being loved and cherished and in an intimate position of closeness with the One we love. Sounds like the place to be to me!

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely He will save you from the fowler’s snare…He will cover you with his feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day… Psa. 91:1-5 NIV

Without Words

I found this really great devotional app called 21 Days of Obsession: An Invitation to 21 Days of Obsession in His Presence. Each days you get four ways to seek and experience God. I have really been enjoying it and getting good ideas.

One of the things they give you each day is a link to a really awesome Christian music group, usually someone I have never heard if before. Usually the music is very deep and worshipful.

Today’s song is from Bethel Music Without Words called God I Look to You. The devotion says, “Today’s media link has no lyrics on purpose. Find a quiet space, and invite Jesus to meet you in your imagination. Where does He take you?”

So I closed my eyes and listened to the song and found myself easily talking to God, whereas normally it may be a struggle to stay focused. I realized thus would be a great quiet-time aid, to listen to this song and others like it. It is about five minutes long, so it would give you a whole five uninterrupted minutes in Gods presence to focus on Him and pray about your day.

I’m really excited about this new approach, and I’m thinking of checking out the whole Without Words album. I really enjoyed their music. So listen to your favorite music and take five minutes to just be still and talk to God today!

We have been to Meeman Shelby State Park, which is North of Memphis, along the Mississippi River many times. We love hiking the 3 mile loop Woodland Trail which is one of the most beautiful trails in Western Tennessee. I’m always so surprised at how different it looks from the rest of this area. There are many steep climbs up and down hills and a beautiful stream which meanders throughout the hike.

But I was not aware that this State Park has scheduled boating trips throughout the summer. From Memorial Day to Labor day every weekend they have regular pontoon boat and canoe trips. The pontoon boat is only $1 per person and takes you around the Poplar Tree Lake. It was really a lot of fun. The ranger was very interesting, pointing out all sorts of wildlife and plants. We were able to see the lake and the park in a way we never had before. Though this park is only about 45 minutes from our house, we felt like we were on a real vacation far away!

This past Saturday at 8 am we did the canoe trip. You meet at the visitor’s center and then caravan to a swamp in a wildlife reserve area adjacent to the park. Most of the time you would not be able to access this area, so this is a unique opportunity to see this swamp. The cost is only $5 per person and they provide really nice, new, stable canoes.

The same ranger provided us with amazing information about the swamp and the animals and plants in it. There was no current and we proceeded at a leisurely pace so it was very relaxing. Instead of being dirty and “swampy”, this swamp was very beautiful, with tiny green leaves of duckweed covering some areas of the swamp. With the sun reflecting off  the leaves and the water, it made a beautiful, surreal, green sheen. The swamp was filled with beautiful, giant cypress trees with their buttressed bases and knees sticking above the water.

We saw hundreds of swallows that lived in the tops of the cypress trees like little island condos in the middle of the swamp. When we would canoe past, they would all take flight at once, making a beautiful sight. Later we saw the swallows dive bombing toward the surface of the water, looking for a dinner of bugs. We saw butterflies flitting around and flirting with us. Our ranger guide found a snake coiled and sunning on a beaver lodge. Thankfully he wasn’t poisonous, but amazingly big, beautiful and scary all at the same time!

Finally we had to come back to land, but were very pleased with our swamp canoe trip. It was very relaxing, enjoyable and beautiful. Unfortunately the boat trips end this weekend for Labor Day.   If you plan on going, call ahead to reserve your spot at 901-876-5215.  Also later on in the year, you can call and request a boat trip with a group of people. I think Fall would be an awesome time to go, not to mention much cooler! And again, I am pleasantly surprised by our local state park and all they have to offer, right in our backyard! Will definitely be back again soon!


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