50 Hikes 50 States--Missouri

50 Hikes 50 States--Missouri

By the time we got to Missouri, we had knocked out three states in two days. Our four-day stay in Missouri meant I could ease into the hike. But the weather insisted I get out to the trail as soon as we arrived, as miserable and cold were forecast. So Monday morning, I threw on my warmer hiking skorts (get 25% off with this code 344CESSA) and scooted out to the Lewis and Clark Loop in the Weldon Spring Conservation Area just outside of St Louis to do my Missouri hike of this wonderful 50 Hikes 50 States Project.

Hiking Alone with the Monkeys

But for this hike, I'd be alone. If you read my blog post from when I hiked alone in Ohio, you already know I'm not a fan of solo hiking in the woods. Fairy tales of Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, and other ominous tales of boogie men in the woods still rotate in my head. I'm never comfortable hiking alone in the woods. In the city, I'm happy as can be; but the woods, ugh, not so much.


When I arrived to the trailhead, I found several cars in the lot. But no one was around. Therefore my number one strategy of solo hiking (make friends with someone at the trailhead) was not available. I took pictures of the trail map, consulted my own notes, and set off into the woods for a 5-7 mile hike to the Missouri River.

And then the monkey brain started.

What is Monkey Brain?

It's what I call the anxiety I get when I'm scared while walking alone. It's not actually fear; it's more just what my brain does as it runs on a hamster wheel of a thousand thoughts. Below, I present to you what I am thinking about as I hike alone.

Woods. What kinds of trees are these? No leaves.

Mud. Step around the mud. Don't fall in the mud. Glad my shoes are waterproof.

I brought the right shoes. Oak tree? Turkey oak?

What are some famous trees in Missouri? Will I see those.

Mud. More mud. Oh, look at those prints. Too bad the trail is getting wider.

Grandma got run over by a reindeer.

God that's such an annoying song. Why did I have to get that one stuck in my brain?

Walking back from our house Christmas Eve.

Why not Jingle Bells? Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock.

Wrong Jingle Bell.

What's that noise? Sounds like Yeti. Must be big. Where's it coming from? Deer?

Oh, it's a squirrel.

Missouri squirrels are big. Gray. Big fluffy gray tail. Bigger than Colorado squirrels and scrawny Florida squirrels.

Maybe I should do a book about squirrels I've seen while hiking in the U.S.

I'd need a squirrel expert. Too much work.

Oh, wait, but there's an idea. The 50 Hike State Challenge. That's a good idea for a book.

Jesus. Here comes someone.

Do I make eye contact? Oh wait, what is going on? It's a woman. She's got running tights on. And she's carrying something? A gun? No. Wait. She's barefoot. She's running barefoot.

Closer.

"Hi."

No response. What is it with people in Missouri? They never say hi. I walked on the Katy Trail and no one said hi. Midwest. They know I'm not from around here.

Grandma got run over by a reindeer.

Jesus. This song is ridiculous.

Squirrel! Still big. Gray. Fluffy tail.

Oh, the trail is going up. This is nice. Not too steep. Good trail, nice views. Oh, water!

It's the Missouri River! This is were Lewis and Clark were.

Trail sign. Lewis trail that way. Clark this way. Which one am I doing? Let me look at my phone.

Text message from my kid.

Hi honey, good luck on finals.

What was I doing on my phone? Oh, yeah, photo of map. Where is it?

I'm taking the Clark trail. It's shorter. I need to do shorter cuz rain is coming.

Go left.

What's that noise? Yeti? Boogieman? Oh, it's two people. What are they doing? They're off the trail. Hunting for something. Not making eye contact. They look like a couple. Maybe they're looking for the meteorite that has a $25,000 finders fee attached to it. They are scavenging. Still not making eye contact.

Okay, up the trail I go. Grandma got ran over by a reindeer.

Tired of this yet? This is monkey brain. It will go on like this for almost two miles. But then after about 45 minutes, I'll finally relax into my hiking rhythm and enjoy myself. But lordy, it takes a long time to get there. How do you relax into a hike by yourself? Do you like it?

And Then, I Breathe

Thus, this is how my hike went for 5 miles. Up and down through the woods chasing monkey brain. When I finally reached the Missouri, the views captivated me and released my mind from the monkey. The signage told of Lewis and Clark's adventures through the bottom lands where I had hiked, and this info allowed my brain to go down a healthy internal conversation about history, adventure, and discovery.

As I was starting to settle in and really enjoy the hike, I came across a pile of rocks up against a tree. Each rock held a message. Most of the messages were just names and dates, but right on top was the message I needed for the day. "Just Breathe." Perfect for the monkey brain. Thanks D.U.

Shortly after my rock sign, I decided I needed to take a picture of myself alone in the woods. I wanted a full body shot. Thus, I'd need to learn to use the self-timer on my phone and find a place to put the camera to take a shot. Both of these were easy tasks, but they felt triumphant. Not only had I survived and even enjoyed my solo hike in Missouri, I could document it without help too. Throwing arms up in the air in victory, I snapped this shot below in my Skirt Sport.

By the time I got back to the parking lot, the wind had picked up and rain was soon behind. I googled some lunch which I found at the nearby Jason's Deli. But on the way to eat, I passed an intriguing spot in the road that declared, "Visitors Welcome. Stop on in!" I couldn't resist.

All Toxic Piles Aren't the Same

In Denver, I live across the street from the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge and down the road from Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge. Both of these locations, now managed by US Fish and Wildlife, had been munitions builders for World War II and armament disassemblers after the Cold War. Their toxic gumbos were cleaned up and Refuges remain. It's a history I've studied many times while living in Denver. So you'd think I'd recognize a toxic site cleanup from a distance.

But this was different. Department of Energy flags and signs ushered me into a well-oiled public relations site where a friendly DOE employee welcomed me. She wanted to share this location's history. It was nearly the same as those near my home in Denver. Toxic awful stuff. Some nukes. Clean it up. Create open space. Thus, I had stumbled into the Weldon Spring Conservation Area headquarters that included not only the hiking trail where I had just explored, but also the Busch Memorial Conservation Area, a shooting range, and a giant pile covered in rocks.

Whereas the refuges in Denver keep people away from their dirty piles the Army created to put the toxic goop into, the Department of Energy highlighted it as a destination and encouraged visitors to climb it. I figured what the heck, if it's toxic, I've already hiked in it, used the restroom in the Visitors Center, and read all the propaganda of the cleanup. Why not climb the toxic cell of activated uranium too? So up I went to the top of the poisonous pile that the DOE lady assured me was safe.

Maybe this is what caused my monkey brain an hour before?

None the less, I summited the pile, took in the amazing 360 degree view, snarked at the fact that the place was "safe enough" to put in a high school next door, and then dodged the first rain drops on the way back to my car. Let's just say that I'm glad I got my Missouri hike in, the monkeys had relaxed, and I was looking forward to dinner with friends. But as for the hike, I probably wouldn't do this one again.

What You Need to Know about This Hike (click for interactive map)


50 Hikes 50 States--Louisiana

50 Hikes 50 States--Louisiana

After an emotional day of fond memories, reunions, and favorite ecosystems during our hike in Mississippi, we returned to New Orleans to do our Louisiana hike for our 50 Hikes 50 States Project.

New Orleans welcomed us with its over-exuberant personality; our first welcome was by a white poodle with red and green tufts on his head and legs, then by a giant hug from our Airbnb host, (click here to get $55 off your first trip with my code) and then by the Shh! ladies of the Krewe of Krampus parade in honor of the holidays.

Lafitte Smuggles Us In

New Orleans is a fun place that many associate with debauchery, drinking and drooling. I haven't been a fan for a long time, and I usually try to escape the French Quarter as quickly as I can. Having lived so close to New Orleans for almost a decade while living in Pensacola, New Orleans was often a weekend getaway I'd get cajoled into with friends. Each time I visited, I swore I'd get to know more of New Orleans than the French Quarter, but never really did. But on this visit, I promised to amend my promises, get out of downtown New Orleans, and learn a bit about this historic place.

The beginning of our adventure started in our Airbnb. The hostess' grandmother greeted us in shorts and covered in tinsel. She and her friends were decorating their 20 foot tall Christmas tree. Holiday music jingled throughout the house and Max the Christmas dog directed traffic. Our host had decorated our room festively with red, green, and Santa, and the atmosphere sparkled with glitter and glee. In the room, we found the hostess' guide to New Orleans. In that, we found the history of the house.

It seem the house might have been the getaway place for Jean Lafitte, famed smuggler, to relax and hide while doing commerce in New Orleans. Perhaps we were even staying in the room where he slept? This gumbo of truth and fiction peaked my curiosity; for our Louisiana hike, I had picked out the Barataria Preserve in the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park, and staying in Lafitte's room only seemed fitting.

Parade of Krampus

We had arrived to New Orleans in the late evening, just in time to catch one of the holiday parades. It's New Orleans, there must be a reason for a parade, right? Our hostess set us off to the Krewe of Krampus parade. A short walking parade, the characters within it represent Krampus. He's Saint Nick's alter ego. He snatches bad children and punishes them into being good. A little creepy but totally New Orleans, we enjoyed a night of lighted costumes, over-the-top masks, and the Shhh Girls. These fairies "shhhs" you and give you bags of coal. I got two bags and one Shhh!

We left a beignet for you!

The next morning, we packed out bags, scratched Max good-bye and headed to Cafe du Monde. I've been there dozens of times; I  know it's touristy; but I still couldn't resist. At 8 am on a Sunday, New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49er fans packed the house. We snarfed down our sugary puffs of warmed dough, called beignets, and then headed south of New Orleans for another twenty minutes, arriving at the Barataria Preserve of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve.

The Barataria Preserve Trails

We picked the best day of the year to hike a swamp. The temperature hovered right around 68 degrees, a bright blue sky offered just a bit of warmth, and the mosquitos slept for the winter. In the Visitors Center, we traced the smuggling route of Jean Lafitte and read the history. Was Lafitte a pirate or a patriot? Slave trader or slave abolitionist? The story is vague, but the adventure and intrigue captures imaginations around the world. It did mine!

Also embedded in the history of smuggling and trade, the National Park Service illustrated how climate change and rising water are sinking New Orleans. In this edge of the US, where the Mississippi meanders its delta to the Gulf of Mexico, we're losing a football field of ground every 40 minutes. At -131 elevation, I wondered if I'd need a snorkel!

A brief discussion with the ranger about our 50 Hikes 50 States Project sent us down the boardwalk on an out-n-back hike through the marshes and swamps of Lafitte's Barataria life. Walking on natural levees, elevated boardwalks, and gravel trails, our 4-mile adventure took us past palmetto, cypress knees, towering cypress laden with Spanish moss, canals of tannin-tainted water, and alligators on the Palmetto, Bayou Coquille and Marsh Overlook Trails.

A Momma Gator with Three Feet

The first gator rested six inches from the boardwalk. We could have touched her. Instead, we admired her dark skin and amusing grin. She lacked a front right foot. On a later discussion with the ranger, he told us her babies were nearby and she often hangs in that spot. It's warm and dry, and her babies hang just leeward of her in the water. And no, he had no idea why she was three-footed.

Raccoons scampered along with us, darting in and out of the wetlands fishing. When we sat on an elevated patio, they scampered up the tree to say hi, then dropped back beneath us to eat our granola bar crumbs.

Great blue heron and white egrets whomp-whomped their way into the air as we passed.

Throughout the hike, we'd occasionally see some cultural or natural interpretive signs from the National Park Service highlighting the swamps' stories. One sign showed the high point in the swamp where slaves were presented to buyers. This brought about conversation between the hubs and me around how the Africans must have felt when they were dragged from the ships across alligator-infested swamps onto cypress knees to balance above the bayou on exhibition. I can't even imagine the fear.

Cajun Vegan Food?

We returned to our car as the temperature started to get into the 70s. We were hungry. New Orleans certainly has its fair share of good food. We wanted to put our veganism to the test and sought out a new vegan restaurant, Nola Vegan. This small, cozy place welcomed us cheerfully. Sadly, though I was hoping they'd have a cajun menu of vegan jambalaya or etouffee. I settled for a yummy Buddha bowl, but I had wished for some creole in a bowl.

A Drive through the 9th Ward

After lunch, we had an hour to spare before returning to New Orleans' new airport. My husband, a civil engineer at heart, had always wanted to see where the levy had failed in the 9th Ward during Hurricane Katrina. We googled it up and drove into the neighborhood. Now, almost fifteen years later, it's clear who survived and who didn't. Many homes still shone with shiny new stilts and siding, while on other streets, vacant lots glared of missing homes and lost dreams. We walked to the top of the levy, a good 25 feet higher than the neighborhood and looked down into the once-twice-often-flooded basement of New Orleans. An historical marker captured the story but not the hope nor the fear of the place.

Our weekend in the south had started with playing the wrong music in the wrong place on the way to Mississippi, followed by getting caught in an island parade in Alabama, a fond memory of an environmental battle of long ago, a hug with a favorite artist, a giggle with a red and green dog, a groan through Louisiana history, and a glimpse into lives I will never fully understand. But one thing is for sure, on this trip to New Orleans, I began to love the place. And this time, I'm confident when I say that I'll be back.

What You Need to Know about this Hike (click for interactive map)


50 Hikes 50 States--Mississippi

50 Hikes 50 States--Mississippi

For our second hike in the day, we left Alabama and headed to Mississippi for our next hike in our 50 Hikes 50 States Project. After getting stuck in a holiday parade, we found the peace and quiet of the Mississippi Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge so joyous. We even saw some cranes.

The Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge has a terrible bisection--Interstate 10. It was because of Interstate 10 and an active advocate who successfully lobbied for the first Wildlife Refuge under the Endangered Species Act with a "lanes or cranes" campaign that we have the Wildife Refuge at all. And because of the Refuge, the elusive Mississippi Sandhill Crane has survived--thank heavens this non-migratory beauty found habitat where it could recover and live.

Mississippi Sandhill Cranes

At our first stop in the Visitors Center, the volunteers handed over the keys to a fully enclosed bird blind two stories in the air. Inside, we closed the door and glanced through binoculars to a rehabilitation pen off in the wetland. Inside, we viewed three Mississippi Sandhill Cranes in various states of recovery, flapping their wings and looking generally healthy.

We took a quick spin around the nature trail at the Visitors Center. Not long, but along the bayou, through the uplands, and into the meadow, my heart started to burst. This is the ecosystem I have hiked the most in, and I love it with all my soul. As the long leaf pines jumped their Dr Seuss-inspired heads out of the wire grass, I rejoiced to find a healthy wetland managed by prescribed burns. The pitcher plants gave away the secrets of a well-maintained forest. It took me back.

A Hurricane, A Bayou, and A Small Group of Activists

Source: Pensacola News Journal, July 30, 1995, page 1.

To Pensacola, Florida. July 30, 1995. Hurricane Erin bared down on Pensacola, Florida, threatening it as a category 1 storm. My boyfriend of the time and I loaded up our meager possessions and evacuated to West Virginia (see my West Virginia post for the reasons why we went there.) On the way out of town, we picked up a copy of the Pensacola News Journal.


Although the paper warned of the coming devastation, the most outrageous announcement that day came from developers who planned to develop the last remaining pristine bayou in Florida, Tarkiln Bayou. I was devastated. The paper presented the development as the best idea ever with a small call-out to the Audubon Society for its opposition.

Tarkiln Bayou is a special place. Off the white sands of Pensacola near Big Lagoon and nearby the NAS Pensacola sat the most beautiful, pristine place to get away, watch great blue herons, think about the world, and relax. A healthy ecosystem of white-topped pitcher plants danced on the marshy grasses along the shoreline of a bayou that had no boats, no personal vehicles, and nary a kayak. It was a pristine place that more animals, birds, and gators knew than people. It was my favorite place in the Gulf Coast to hike, getaway and express gratitude.


When we returned to devastated Pensacola a week later, a three-day series about the development, called Laguna, had appeared in the paper. It waxed on and on how the developers were going to build a high rise resort that would bring Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!!! In the series, I found out that another person in town felt the same way. Kevin Davis was fired up. He had grown up on the bayou fishing with his dad. He wasn't going to let those developers turn Tarkiln into the Laguna resort. He couldn't stand it either, according to the article.

We reached out. Kevin, a local man who had never fought any environmental battle, was fired up. So was his wife Patty. Another friend of ours, Bryon and his wife, June, were fired up too. A local architect, Jim, also didn't like they way the Laguna story was playing out. Together, the 7 of us organized and called ourselves Citizens Against Laguna. We had no idea what we were up against.

Joe Scarborough Is In on the Plan

The Laguna developers were a fierce bunch. They were the good-old-boys of Pensacola. Their pockets and networks were deep. They knew every lawyer and banker in town, and they underwrote the campaign of Joe Scarborough. Yes, that Joe. Of Morning Joe, Joe. At the time, he was a young, newly elected congressman from the panhandle, and he loved those developers. If you see Joe, say hi from the Citizens Against Laguna gang :-).

We had  no idea  how to mount an environmental fight. Seven environmentalists started off as strangers and ended up as combat buddies. We called a meeting for a week later. In the short term, we started to research. We seriously had no idea what we were doing, but we all knew that Tarkiln Bayou needed to be saved.

Source: Pensacola News Journal, September 7, 1995, page 1

At our first meeting, 45 folks showed up. At the next meeting, we packed the house. Over 200 people, most from the west side of Pensacola, crammed into the local high school's cafeteria. Among us, we had some presentation skills and the ability to show some pictures and graphs. It was enough to get folks to sign up and write letters.

But that wasn't enough.


Then in the middle of the night, our phone rang. A man with a scratchy voice who didn't identify himself said in once sentence, "If you want to save Tarkiln, look at the Defense Authorization Bill."

Huh?

We had no idea what this meant. There was no google then. But we knew it meant something. We went to the library, armed with this info, and the wonderful library turned us onto the public records of congress and we learned about this bill. Deep in its 2000 pages was a simple sentence. That sentence defined a land swap where the developers would get the bayou and the Navy would get some upland lands. It was a sweetheart deal where the developers would get "worthless swamp" and the Navy would get dry land.

We called Joe. He defended how great the Jobs Jobs Jobs would be for little ol' Pensacola's economy.

Guerrilla Advocacy Buys a Bumper Sticker

A friend had a printing company, and he offered to print some bumper stickers for us. We created "Laguna-gate" bumper stickers, and in dark of night we plastered them all over the signs, doors, and parking lots of the developers and their friends.

The news picked it up. We got interviewed on the local conservative radio. Pretty soon, folks started listening to our story. Soon, another mysterious call from an "admiral in the Navy" turned us onto a backstory. Contrary to what the newspaper and editorial teams had been saying, although the Naval Aviation Museum was for the project, the Navy was not. We quickly found out that if a high rise went on Tarkiln Bayou, it would jeopardize the air space crucial to the Navy's pilot training mission.


Now our argument turned from "save the pitcher plants" to "save the Navy!" The local paper stopped being pro-Laguna and started listening to the story.

Tom, my boyfriend, and I got it in our heads we had to go to Washington. So off we went. We had no idea what we'd do or how to lobby our representatives, but we figured we'd figure it out when we got there.

Locals Go to Lobby

We found out that John Glenn and John McCain were both on the committees who reviewed and voted on the Defense Authorization Bill. So we stopped in their offices.

Let me set the stage: Tom and I are in shorts and Birkenstocks. We have some pictures of the bayou. We have an unnamed admiral telling us we need to save the Navy. We have a conviction we are doing the right thing. We have no idea what we are doing.

The interns came out of their offices and listened. Soon, the staffers came. Soon, we were being escorted from McCain's office to Glenn's. Senator Glenn came out of his office. We told our story. We showed our pictures. We asked about the sentence in the Defense Authorization Bill.

Photo credit: NASA.gov

He shook our hands. He told us to never underestimate the power of a few good folks to change the world. He then told us he'd just gotten off the phone with Senator McCain. They had killed the sentence. We had saved the bayou. Congrats! He signed a picture and handed it to us.

We had won.

The Fight Only Truly Begins

But that was just the beginning of the fight. Although we had stopped Laguna, we hadn't saved Tarkiln Bayou. An election was coming up, and by the grace of luck and hard work, we were able to get an initiative on the 1996 ballot. Our goal was to raise property taxes by 1/4% to get money to match state funds to buy the acreage. Again, we had no idea what we were doing. In retrospect, we had approached funds all wrong. But a friend of the architect owned a billboard company. He plastered images of the gorgeous bayou with a phrase "for our children's children."

The votes came in. It was a long night of Perot-Dole-Clinton. We lost the vote by a measly 1%.

Source: Pensacola News Journal, Nov 7, 1996, page 4c

The good news is, it was enough for the state of Florida and its Preservation Funds (P2000) to get attention. The local Florida delegation also noticed. We visited Tallahassee. We told our story. In a time of eminent domain backlash and conservative protectionism, we had a tough sell. But there's one thing that folks in the panhandle of Pensacola love, and that's their open space. Be it for hunting, fishing, or just relaxing, everyone wants more of it.

A State Park Is Created!

Photo credit: Florida State Parks

And thus, the state declared it would set aside P2000 funds and buy the acreage that would make the Perdido Pitcher Plant Prairie Preserve,  now called Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park.

We really had won. We had started off as a rag-tag bunch of strangers. We ended as a victorious group of friends who beat the odds. It took almost five years for the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Sadly, I missed it. I was in West Palm Beach counting hanging chads. But that's a different story for a different day.

Ah, the Pitcher Plant

Thus, I found myself bending over a yellow-topped pitcher plant in the Sandhill Crane Wildlife Refuge thinking of wonderful friends doing a crazy time in a galaxy far, far away. I made a promise to get to Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park on my next trip to Pensacola, not only to thank Glenn and McCain, but to hug up some old friends and fabulous memories.

Off to our Third Hike of the Day

Just south of the Visitors Center in Gautier, we wanted to hike the new section on the longer Fontainbleu trail in a subsection of the Refuge. We pointed the GPS though Gautier to the trailhead and meandered a similar path to the Visitor Center's trail. Through swamps and wetlands, near pitcher plants, and under longleaf pine, I started to think of another person.

In the heyday of our Laguna battle, I had attended the Great Gulf Coast Arts Festival in Pensacola. There, a passionate artist by the name off Steve Shepard, sold me my favorite piece of artwork. A 3x5 foot piece of colored pencil on construction paper of a long leaf pine forest with pitcher plants in right reds, oranges, blues, and greens still hangs prominently in my home in Denver. I often look at it and recall my favorite ecosystem and my favorite environmental win.

Hello Steve Shepard, Favorite Artist

I recalled that he lives in Ocean Springs, MS, right next door.

So I goggled him. An address showed up, and I convinced my husband we needed to stop in. Assuming we'd found his studio, I was excited to see his new work.

We drove to the address. Sandwiched between new Mississippi cottages, we found a small wooden cottage from the early 1900s. A Nissan Leaf sat in front, and a lady was getting her mail. We pulled up. I asked if it was Steve's house.

Yes!

Mrs Shepard invited us in! Steve greeted us on the porch.

I told the above story.

He invited us into his studio, nee house. We got a sneak peek at his new work. I got to hug him! I was giddy beyond myself and felt like an absolute dork. But the times were good. The Shepards were kind. I tried to convince him to come to Denver to show his work at the Cherry Creeks Arts Festival. We took the picture, above.

The Day Comes to An End

And then we left...to shuffle off to New Orleans to do our Louisiana hike the next day. My goodness, what a day. Thank you Gulf Coast for a memorable day of old memories. I'll be back.

What  You Need to Know about This Hike (Click for interactive map)

 


Bombas product review eatwalklearn

Bombas Sock Review After One Year

Bombas Socks Product Review, Like No Other

As with any new product, it's easy to write a positive review once you use it the first time. With socks, this is particularly true. But I put my Bombas to the test for a year two years three years, and here's my Bombas sock review. I first saw the socks on a Shark Tank episode where all but one shark, Damon John, rejected the company. I ordered that night. I loved them from the start for their giving-back attitude.

Bombas product review eatwalklearn

As an urban hiker and walking traveler, I expect a lot from my feet and their footwear. Although I've moved from Merrills to Keens for shoes, and I've since adopted  Korkers for ice traction, the one constant for the past year two three years has been my Bombas. They are as true and fit as the first day I got them, despite over 100 200 300 wearings and washings.

The Bombas Ankle Sock. Fit. Fit. Fit!

I have two types of pairs, the Bombas ankle and the Bombas calfs. Since I don't wear the calfs that often, this review is strictly about the ankle socks. Let's start with the fit. Not too tight, not loose, they are the perfect fit with their hive-like arch support. The toe has stayed true as well, not losing its shape nor shredding its seam. The toe box comfortably houses my digits without rubbing across my toe knuckles. The heel stays put, never riding up or slipping down. I love that they have arch support, a seamless toe, and a cushioned foot-bed that’s kept my heels happy. Get your pair of Bombas here!

Bombas product review
The first wearing, January 2016

The second best part of this sock is certainly the neck. A soft curl protects the back of my heel from the rear lip of my shoe. In addition, the curl is just thick enough to discourage sand and pebbles from sneaking in during my trail walks. Nary a blister has ever appeared while hiking or walking through the streets of Denver in my Bombas.

Socks for Folks Experiencing Homelessness

Homelessness is a tough problem around the world and in every city in the U.S. When the founder of Bombas read that socks were the number one most-requested item at homeless shelters, he put his might to the test and came up with a solution.

What's the best part of this sock? For every pair of socks that Bombas sells, they donate a pair to homeless shelters. As someone who interacts with homeless every day while I walk the sidewalks, trails, and streets of Denver, I see this need first-hand, and I'm grateful Bombas sees it, too. Bombas, whose mantra is "bee better," lives and breathes its brand. They've donated one pair of socks for every pair purchased since its inception, totally over 25,000,000 pairs. That's a lot of warm, happy feet! They also volunteer weekly in the shelters handing out their socks and interacting with the communities.

Bombas product review eatwalklearn
Still look good! February 2017

When Will I Order Again?

I originally ordered a four pack of the ankle socks in January 2016 in turquoise blue. I liked having four pairs of the same colors that I didn't have to match when they came out of the dryer! Now, a year two three years later, I'm still loving these turquoise blue Bombas, although they are a tad faded. Their form and fit have persisted, and I see no reason to order any more in the near future. But then again, the new super compression socks might have to just show up in my wardrobe. I can barely resist. They'd be great for all the travel that I do.

 

Two years later, a hole! The color has faded, but the fit is still good.

Update: It's two years later (January 2018), and here's the original pair on my feet. Still going strong! One of the socks of the original pack has a hole in its heel, but other than that, they still fit snugly and comfortably.

A three-year update. After three years and over 300 washings, my bright blue ankle socks are finally showing some wear. The neck has started to give, allowing small pebbles and things into my foot. I'm finally going to treat myself and get some new socks as my own stocking stuffers! I think I'll pick the cute new blue Fair Isle socks, and maybe I'll branch out and get all the colors!

P.S. On 2/13/2018, I finally threw out my first pair of Bombas due to the hole in the heel and the fit had become too loose. Bombas found out about the hole, and they sent me a new pair for free!


50 Hikes 50 States--Alabama

50 Hikes 50 States--Alabama

Flying into New Orleans, we headed to Alabama to hike our first state of three for the weekend on our 50 Hikes 50 States Project. I wanted to experience the Alabama gulf coast's Dauphin Island, getting a sniff of ocean breezes and perhaps seeing my first alligator in a while.

But first, we stopped at Waffle House. At 8 pm a night, two poached eggs and some capped, diced, and scattered hash browns with a biscuit screamed my name. We dropped a dollar into the juke box and quickly learned that 80s rock might not have been the best choice for the Waffle House audience. But everyone smiled and I'm sure thoughts of "she's not from around here" rang through their minds.

How about an audio book subscription to enjoy while you're hiking? Click here for a trail membership.

Another hour's drive, and we found a room in Pascagoula for the night. In the morning, a quick trip down the back roads of Alabama landed us on Dauphin Island at the Audubon Bird Sanctuary. We nearly passed the tiny parking lot and non-descript sign. This would be our first hike of two for the day; the hubs and I were eager to get started.

Hello Live Oak, Gator, Bats

I hadn't been in the Live Oak/Pine savanna in a long time. Many moons ago, I lived in Pensacola, and I frequently hiked this ecosystem. Soon my favorites started to appear. Majestic Live Oaks. Fanning palmetto. Sand dune sage. I grinned when we came upon a lovely interpretative sign denoting the difference between slash pine and longleaf. It made me remember good friends in Pensacola--one is now a muckety-muck at the Nature Conservatory, one is a highfalutin research scientist at the University of Florida. I vowed in my mind to reach out once I got home.

As we made our way on the hard-packed sand covered in pine needles, we came to an overlook of a bayou. And just like that, as if Disney were there with an animitronics machine, a gator came cruising toward us. In its gator-ly sort of way, we watched it swim toward us, its tail lolly-gagging behind it in a slow S movement. It seemed like she was coming right toward us. Then a turtle between us and the gator jumped from a log to avoid her choppers. The gator couldn't care less about us.

The Oily Viewsheds of Alabama

The trail took us out to the Gulf. Sadly, viewsheds in Alabama include oil rigs. In Florida, I had fought long and hard successfully with several friends to keep rigs off Florida's shorelines. I only hope the future looks cleaner for Alabama. Along the shore, though, we were able to walk easterly to Fort Gaines.

Damn the Mosquitos, Full Torpedos Ahead

Fort Gaines, where we damned the torpedoes, holds sentry to Mobile Bay. Climbing the parapet, we could see for miles in all directions, showing the fragility of the barrier island and the ambition of sailors and sea merchants heading out for bigger seas. Giant tankers arrived with Christmas goods for everyone.

Throughout the hike, the Audubon Society did a nice job providing identification of flora and fauna. I'm sure I should have found several birds, but not being a birder, I simply didn't see any. We did see a Great Blue Heron, and as a local friend of mine in Denver says, lots of Little Brown Birds. I focused more on the beloved flora I learned about many years ago and was thrilled to find long-time friends, the sand dune goldenrod and tickseed.

Our hike wasn't long, maybe 2.5 miles. The sanctuary is small. We arrived back to the car to find ourselves the newest addition to the Dauphin Island Christmas Parade. We giggled and waved, then turned out of the parade as soon as possible to head back toward Mississippi to get in our second hike of the day.

The Heart of the South Has Greek Food

And as we made our way into the approach to our Mississippi hike at the Sand Hill Crane National Wildlife's Fontainbleu trail in Gautier, MS, we came across our second parade of the day. But instead of becoming locals in that entourage, we stopped for lunch at the Country Gentleman Family Restaurant.

It was all four.

And it also had wonderful Greek food. I ordered up some of the best hummus I've ever had and topped it with some creamy, crunchy, delicious spanokapita. What a nice find in the deep heart of the deep south.

With full bellies, a parade that had now passed, and legs itching to walk off lunch, we headed to our next hike. This one, we'd find, brought the memories pouring back. Read about Mississippi.

What You Need to Now about This Hike (click for interactive map)