Ritchie Hollow Trail

We hiked the Ritchie Hollow Trail on Wednesday morning, and a lot of lessons were learned.

Do not hike in warm, summer-like weather after a recent rain, because the humidity will be bad! Also, because of the humidity, we were sweating more, so we went through more water. We had to ration our water so we had enough to last the entire hike. Bring more water for warm weather hikes!

The Ritchie Hollow Trail is a newer trail, part of the Tennessee River Gorge Trust, which opened up in 2018.

The trailhead is just across the road from the Pot Point Cabin. I was excited to see this cabin, because I have seen pictures of it and I have read about it online.

According to trgt.org, “Pot Point Cabin was originally constructed in 1835 of hand-hewn logs and planks reclaimed from a flat boat that wrecked on the “Boiling Pot,” a nearby rapid in the Tennessee River.”

It is a beautiful two story log cabin, with views of the Tennessee River. The cabin is owned by the trust, and can be rented out. I looked into it once, and a two night stay is over $800! The cabin is large, so that price could be split up between parties. I had to satisfy myself by just looking at it from the outside, and taking a peek through the front window.

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The full trail is 2.7 miles one way (5.4 miles round trip), but we did not complete the full trail. I might consider this during a return trip, but it would definitely have to be a colder day. Instead, we stopped at Blowing Wind Falls, which is 1.8 miles in, for 3.6 miles total. This seems to be a popular choice. We saw two other couples who did the same thing.

The hike to the falls is a steady incline the whole way. It flattens out at times, but barely long enough to catch your breath. The path is extremely rocky, and there are a lot of rock steps.

The hike features a few water crossings, which were pretty low when we passed through. In the first part of the hike we came across two smaller water falls.

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We saw a lot of interesting things on this hike, including a lot of insects and flowers. My favorite was all of the mountain laurel shrubs. Mountain laurel grows in mountainous, forested areas. It is actually the state flower of Pennsylvania. We used to live in Pennsylvania for many years, and I had only seen it in the wild once. Here in this area of Tennessee, we see it all the time!

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The pinkish-white blooms of Mountain Laurel dotting the trail.
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Spotted this camouflaged toad hoping across the trail!
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Another thing that we saw along the trail were remnants of old moonshine stills, noted as such on trgt.org.

The trail went up and up and up, until we felt like we couldn’t go any further. Then, up ahead a ways, we saw the sign pointing the way to the waterfall. We were so relieved to be able to get to the ending point, and sit and rest!

I should also say, once we got higher up in elevation, the humidity dissipated, which helped a bit. But the elevation was as grueling as ever! The coolness from the waterfall was welcoming once we reached it.

We knew it would be warm, so we planned on wading in the base of the falls. Blowing Wind Falls is perfect for that because you can get right up to the edge of the falls. I brought my water shoes, but Derek just cuffed his pants up. The water was so cold and felt so good.

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The hike back was much easier, because then we were gradually descending all the way back down. Even though we were unprepared and we suffered a bit on the way going, we both said we would do this hike again!

Benton Falls

Yesterday Derek and I hiked the Benton Falls Trail, which is over an hour away from Chattanooga. Benton Falls is located in the Chilhowee Recreational Area, part of the Cherokee National Forest.

Benton Falls is a popular trail because it is a relatively easy hike ending with a gorgeous waterfall. The trails in the area are heavily trafficked, partially because the area is home to a campground. There is a day use area with picnic tables, grills, and a man made lake with a beach. If you are visiting, it costs $3 to park. There are envelopes at the information kiosk in which to put your money in.

I like to research before we go out on any new hike. I look at pictures, read reviews, and even try to watch YouTube videos, if they are available. During one video, taken during the summer, I was shocked to see how many people there were at Benton Falls. Because of this, we left at 6:30 in the morning.

On the way into the Chilhowee Recreational Area, Oswald Road features a few overlooks. We stopped at these to break up the winding, slow drive in to the trail head. The overlooks are absolutely gorgeous, featuring views of Sugarloaf Mountain, Ocoee River, and part of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

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Sugarloaf Mountain is the pointy mountain, just off to the center of the photo.
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Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance. The tallest mountain in the photo is Big Frog Mountain.

The hike is a mostly flat path, and the trail is three miles total (1.5 miles there and back.) The trail only gets rocky toward the end, when you descend by the falls.

There is a spot where you can see the top of the falls flowing down. Derek found a path that lead to the middle of the falls, where you could stand next to the edge. It was cool (and wet)!

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What the path looks like most of the way.
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At the side of the falls, about half way up.

Derek and I have seen a lot of waterfalls on our hikes, and I think Benton Falls is the prettiest. It is a 65-foot waterfall, and it flows down over rocks that are in a stair-like pattern, which makes for a pretty water flow.

The water was flowing well when we went, but the pool of water at the bottom wasn’t so high that we were still able to walk across some of the bigger rocks out in front.

What I like best about Benton Falls is that you can get close to the water, if you want. We were able to walk right on the lowest ledge, and feel the water spraying us. I imagine that a lot of people hike here in the summer with their bathing suits on. The water is sure to feel good in the summer heat.

It was a good call to arrive early in the morning. We arrived at the trail head at exactly 8 a.m., and we did not see a single soul on our entire hike in. We had the waterfall to ourselves the entire time, which was at least 30 minutes. We started to see a steady stream of people while hiking the trail back to the parking lot.

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Camping Trip

A few months ago, during the winter, Derek said to me, “I want to go camping.”

We have both camped in a number of ways. Derek was a Boy Scout. My grandparents had a camper, and they would have a reserved spot for the whole summer. We have both camped together during Civil War reenactments, in a canvas tent. However, this was the first time we have camped together on our own, with a tent meant for modern camping.

After purchasing the basic equipment, and borrowing quite a bit from my parent’s old reenacting stash, we booked a site at Chester Frost Park.

Chester Frost Park is a Hamilton County Park in Hixon, located on the edge of Chickamauga Lake. Dallas Bay is on the opposite side. The park consists of two islands, connected by a causeway.

Our camp site was right on the edge of the water. There are different types of campsites to choose from, including grass/dirt or gravel lots. Our lot was gravel. Some sites are more primitive than others. Ours came with water and electric hookup.

We bought a pop up tent, which is perfect for beginner campers like us. I was concerned that it would take forever to figure out how to fold it back up at the end of the trip, but there were directions to follow that were easy. The tent looks small, but it was just spacious enough for the two of us, even Derek who is six feet tall.

The camp site also had a fire ring with an attached grill and a picnic table. We cooked most of our meals over the fire, with the exception of dinner the night we arrived, and sandwiches for lunch the next day. We also made s’mores as well, and had plenty of cups of hot tea.

Our campsite had a two-night minimum stay. We arrived on Friday evening and left mid-morning on Sunday. I am not sure if there are other sites which allow one-night reservations.

Since we were only 20 minutes from home, on Saturday afternoon we went back home to feed our cats. I am glad we had this excuse, because we had forgotten some cooking utensils!

The only downside to Chester Frost Park is that there aren’t many amenities, activity-wise. There is a sand beach and a few playgrounds, but that was it. I think there may be more programs during the summer high season. I wish, being on the water, that there was a place to rent kayaks. You could only go on the water if you had your own and brought it from home.

However, we still had a good time, and it was a good first trip for us to work out the kinks.

For instance, we’re going to have to figure out the bedding situation. We both had ground mats, but those, with a ground cloth underneath, did not help to make the gravel pebbles any less hard under our backs. On the second night we slept on top of the sleeping bag and used our extra blanket as cover, which seemed to help a bit, but then the new problem arised of being cold! This will not be an issue as the temperatures rise, though.

Also, we want to figure out a better way to organize camp. Coming from a reenacting camp site, Derek and I are used to hiding all of the modern items with wooden boxes, bags of burlap, etc. We had items in various Walmart bags, and it looked trashy! We would like to buy wooden crates or something similar to hold everything.

We enjoyed walking around the park and checking the surroundings out. There is a disc golf course, if you have your own frisbees. There were also multiple pavilions, and even a little stage, where I imagine bands play in the summertime. A lot of people were fishing, either on the beaches, off the docks, or in boats. We spent a lot of time just relaxing by the campfire. I read a book and Derek watched a movie on the laptop. By the way, Chester Frost Park has WiFi, if you need to get some work done, or just want to stay up to date on social media.

I am glad that Derek spoke up and suggested camping. This is a new activity that we will certainly enjoy for years to come. I am looking forward to booking the next campsite!

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Our campsite. The picnic table is out of frame.
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Tea time in the early morning.
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Walking around the park.
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Chicken and rice soup for dinner, along with slices of bread from Bluff View Bakery.
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The sunrise on our last morning.
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I lucked out when this heron took off in flight right in front of our campsite!
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We also had a lot of woodpeckers around camp. I was happy to get such good bird photos!

Overlook Trail

The Overlook Trail is the easiest trail at Cloudland Canyon State Park, but not without some amazing views.

The trail is accessed by the West Rim parking lot. The trail heads to the right, away from some of the harder trails like the Waterfalls Trail and the West Rim Loop Trail. The trail hugs the edge of the mountain rim, which allows for some great views.

The trail is an easy, flat gravel path, which goes on for one half mile, before turning back to complete the full mile.

When we went a few weeks ago, Winter Falls was heavily flowing, which was a beautiful sight. Hemlock Falls was also easy to spot below.

Following the path, there are two main overlooks to check out, which are accessed by walking down stone steps.

I enjoyed these overlooks because it offered a view of the canyon that we had not seen before. We were able to see little sections of Sitton’s Gulch, which we had hiked in the winter time.

I think hiking enthusiasts might want to overlook the Overlook Trail (ha) for more strenuous hikes, but I think this trail is well worth it.

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A view of the canyon with Winter Falls in front.
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Close up of Winter Falls.
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Sitton’s Gulch is at the bottom of the gorge. We hiked down there in January.
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A half-day in Trenton, GA

Trenton, Georgia is the county seat of Dade County, on the border of Tennessee and Hamilton County. I work in Trenton.

It is a rural county, and the town of Trenton is small, but there are some nice shops and good places to eat. Coupled with a visit to Cloudland Canyon State Park, you can spend about half a day there.

All of my favorite places to eat are all located on the square on Main Street. Corner Coffee has good soups and sandwiches. I ate there this past weekend and I got the grilled cheese sandwich with loaded potato soup. Lalitos is a Mexican restaurant. My favorite meal there is the #15 dinner plate: one chicken tamale, one beef taco and rice. Their chips and salsa are amazing! Thatchers is a BBQ restaurant. Their pulled pork sandwiches are awesome!

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The inside of Corner Coffee. The owner is really nice and enjoys chatting with everyone while waiting for their food.
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Indoor dining at Corner Coffee is currently closed, but expected to open again soon.

The historical courthouse is in the middle of the square. It is empty right now, but it is a pretty building and makes for some nice pictures.

On the other side of the square is a small park with a gazebo. A few times Derek and I have grabbed a meal to go and then have eaten it in the park.

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The Dade County Historical Courthouse.
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This park is located near the square and is right across from where I work.

If you like history, you can check out the American Legion’s War Memorial Museum, which is a great collection from local veterans. There are some really interesting items in the collection, including an original Revolutionary War drum, and bullets found at the various Civil War sites. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday, and by appointment.

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The American Legion War Memorial Museum.

Cloudland Canyon is just a few miles south of Trenton. One of the trail heads for Sittons Gulch is actually in a residential neighborhood of Trenton. If hiking isn’t your thing, you can just enjoy the view at the overlook, and check out the visitor’s center. There are a few different hiking trails to choose from, ranging from an easy 1 mile, to strenuous. I have written about Cloudland Canyon multiple times. Here is the most recent article.

There are also some antique shops scattered around the town, if that’s your type of thing. If you’re heading back home to the Chattanooga area, take Highway 11 north and stop at the Wildwood Depo, a great little antique shop with a unique collection of items.

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The Wildwood Depot.

Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center

Yesterday we hiked the trails at Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center for the first time.

One of Derek’s classes this semester, professional practices, is partnering with the Arboretum to help them with graphic design work, such as signage. A few weeks ago, Derek went to the Arboretum and met with the president.

He wanted to go back with me, and hike some of the trails, to get a better feel for the place.

The Reflection Riding Arboretum and Nature Center is located at the foot of Lookout Mountain near Lookout Creek.

According to a blog post on the website, reflectionriding.org, “Named after a British type of park, Reflection Riding is devoted to creating an atmosphere of contemplation and tranquility amid the natural environment of the park. The term “riding” comes from British usage, meaning ‘a path of pleasure.’”

There is a lot to do at the Arboretum and Nature Center, but sadly, most of it is closed right now, due to the pandemic.

There is a treehouse, which you can walk through, but it can also be reserved for parties, weddings, etc., as well as a Blue Heron Wetland Boardwalk. There is also a Nature Center, which offers workshops, and field trips for kids in school. The Nature Center holds a native plant sale every fall.

There is also a native wildlife exhibit, where you can see animals such as bobcats, red foxes, red wolves, bald eagles, and many different kinds of owls. These animals are unable to survive in the wild, due to being kept illegally as a pet, sustaining an injury, etc.

With a lot of these extras being closed, I was prepared to be disappointed at my first visit. However, I was pleasantly surprised. The trails are quite beautiful, and I can only imagine they will be even more beautiful as spring arrives.

We hiked about 3.5 miles on multiple different trails, which are all connected. I will say this, the trails are labeled, but the map provided on the Arboretum’s website gives no indication of how long any of the trails are. The website does say that there are about 14 miles worth of trails total.

Some of the things we saw along the way include the outdoor classrooms for kids, lots of signage with facts and stories about the area, and two restored cabins belonging to Native Americans, Chief Walkingstick and Squincy Bird.

One thing that I enjoy about the Arboretum is that most of their plants and trees are labeled. It was nice to see a beautiful pink flower in bloom, and know that it was a camellia!

Visitors to the Arboretum have to pay a fee of $15 per car. This fee helps keep the place running, as they rely on support from the community.

A membership for two adults is $60, and offers some benefits, like discounts. Derek and I talked it over, and we would like to purchase a membership in the future, when things reopen. There are also family memberships, and student memberships.

I am glad that we found this place, thanks to Derek being involved with it this year. I am looking forward to coming back and seeing it in different seasons.

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The edge of a horse pasture.
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Flowers in bloom in January!
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Chief Walkingstick’s cabin.
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A meadow, which I am sure will be beautiful in spring.
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Squincy Bird’s cabin.
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An old well, with a patch of bamboo in the background.
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Another path through a second meadow.
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Sitton’s Gulch Trail

Yesterday we hiked Sitton’s Gulch Trail. This is the second hike that we have done that is a part of Cloudland Canyon State Park.

There are two options for hiking Sitton’s Gulch, because it is a there-and-back type trail. You can start the hike on either end, depending on how far you want to extend the hike.

If you start at the West Rim parking lot, you have to take part of the Waterfalls Trail down into the canyon to meet up with Sitton’s Gulch. If you go this way, the full trail is 6 miles long, three miles each way. When you’re coming back up, the stairs could be a strenuous ending.

The other end of the trail is located in Trenton, Georgia, in a residential neighborhood. We decided to start from this end of the trail. This way, we stopped our hike where Sitton’s Gulch meets the Waterfalls Trail, and did not have to go up or down any stairs. We have already been on the Waterfalls Trail, so we did not miss anything new. Doing the hike in this direction made it just over 4 miles.

Even though we shortened the hike, this is the longest hike Derek and I have ever done.

The trail is fairly easy, in that the path is mostly free from rocky and tree roots. However, there was a gradual incline the entire way, which was tiring at times.

The trail follows Daniel Creek, which was running fully after a few days of rain. There are many spots where the water flows down and over rocks, creating small waterfalls and rapids. There are many paths that split from the main trail to get a closer look at the creek.

The largest waterfalls are toward the end of the trail (or the beginning, depending on which way you go.)

One waterfall located high up even creates a small water crossing, depending on the amount of water flow.

We packed a lunch and enjoyed the view from the largest falls at the end, before turning back.

Cloudland Canyon has easily become my favorite place for hikes!

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Reminiscing about 2020

With the ringing in of 2021, our first full year in Chattanooga has come to an end. The obvious thing to say is that 2020 was a ridiculous year.

On the surface, things looked pretty bad. I had three jobs this year, which is two jobs too many. I lost a job, resigned from a job, and had to go see a doctor to get on depression and anxiety medication. Mechanic bills for our car and veterinary bills piled up. Our cat passed away two weeks before Christmas, too. Add that all up and … ugh.

But if you dig a little deeper, I’d say things were good.

I’m thankful that we spent the pandemic in the Scenic City. We got outdoors more than ever this year, which was the safest thing to do.

I’m an adventurous soul. Not being able to travel in the past year has hurt me the most. But instead, we adventured around Chattanooga, seeing and doing things (mostly outdoors) that I had never expected to do.  

I have a Chattanooga area bucket list, and the majority of it has remained untouched. For instance, “Seeing a Lookouts baseball game” was impossible to cross off, because the entire season was cancelled. Likewise, we still haven’t taken a train ride with the Tennessee Valley Railroad. Trains are running, but I don’t feel comfortable going quite yet.

However, I did have a list of hiking trails I wanted to tackle, and that got completed, and then some.

We have hiked more in the last six months than I have hiked in my entire life. Some of the paths and trails we have done — ranging from easy flat gravel paths to moderate mountain hikes — were located at Big Soddy Creek Gulf, Greenway Farms, Booker T. Washington State Park, Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain, Moccasin Bend, Prentice Cooper State Forest and Cloudland Canyon State Park.

It seemed like every time we finished one trail, we found another that we wanted to hike, and that is still the case now.

Getting outside kept me sane. It felt good to get our heart rates up, stretch our legs, make it to a gorgeous overlook, and feel accomplished.

We continued to hike as it got colder out, and we found that we quite enjoy winter hikes. I do not like winter time, as I get cold easily, but exercising like this is a good way to offset how our bodies feel in lower temperatures, and keep us more active throughout these months. I hope that we will continue to hike throughout January and February.

Hikes aside, I got a lot more exercise than ever before. I was averaging about three or four walks a day around my neighborhood. In September, I participated in a virtual 5K, and got a medal and a t-shirt for it. Walks were calming, and necessary for me, while I was going through bad bouts of anxiety.

Quitting my job was a huge risk, but it all worked out in the end. I was unemployed for about five weeks. Since Derek only taught two days a week last semester, we did a lot during the week days, to avoid crowds. We visited Wildflower Tea Shop for the first time, and it was nearly empty! We also went ice skating — something we had never done together — and there were only about half a dozen other people at the rink.

I hated working from home for my old job, but now I am thankful that I got to spend all of those months with our cat while she was still healthy, and I was home with her when she did get sick. All of that time that she spent on my lap every day are precious memories now.

I started my new job in early December, and I’m the happiest I have been in a long time. I thought I had wanted to leave journalism for marketing, but I discovered that journalism is where I am meant to me. This has put a lot of things into perspective.

I am cautiously looking forward to what 2021 may bring.

The easiest hike with the greatest view

Yesterday we went to Snoopers Rock, which is within the Prentice Cooper State Forest, offering an amazing view of the Tennessee River Gorge. At that overlook, you see a bend in the river that curves around Elder Mountain.

From our place, it took about 35 minutes to get there. This is partially because once in Prentice Cooper State Forest, the road that leads to the trail, Game Reserve Road, has a 25 mph speed limit. I think the drive is well worth the view!

There is a parking lot on Game Reserve Road (listed as Game Reserve Road on the GPS, but signs there say Tower Road) at the start of the short trail to Snoopers Rock. Funnily enough, we accidentally took the “wrong” way! You can walk either the section of Mullen’s Cove Loop, which is on the right, or take Snoopers Rock Road, which is on the left. We didn’t know, and we walked the road. I suppose either way is fine, they both lead to Snoopers Rock!

It was a short walk, about 5-10 minutes, with some stops for photos of the season’s last fall foliage.

If you want an even shorter walk, there is a pull off spot with space for about 2-3 cars on Snoopers Rock Road, where you are just steps away from Snoopers Rock.

In the area, there are long trails such as the Mullen’s Cove Loop and Pot Point Loop, both of which lead to Snoopers Rock, so you can hike as little or as much as you want.

Since we went on a Wednesday morning, we were all by ourselves. We took as many pictures as our hearts content, and then ate our packed snacks on the rock while enjoying the scenery. With each place that we visit, I am reminded of how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful area. Chattanooga truly is the “Scenic City.”

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Snoopers Rock Road.
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I’m glad we got to see the last of some gorgeous leaves!
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A panorama shot of the view from Snoopers Rock.
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Enjoying all of these hiking adventures together!

Just another mountain to climb …

The purpose of this blog is to let our family and friends know about all of our adventures and day to day life in Chattanooga. This, of course, means that there will be some bad mixed in with the good.

If you’re a regular reader of Seeing the Scenic City, you’ll know that I’ve been struggling at my job for the past few months, as well as struggling with depression and anxiety that stemmed from the job.

I went on medication in early September. My anxiety has subsided, and when the medication worked, it allowed me to look at the work problems with clarity.

All of this leads me to say that Friday was my last day at my job. I put in three weeks’ notice in early October. With all honesty, I had wanted to quit my job since the summer months, so I am actually proud of myself for making it that much farther.

I will not go into too many details, but basically I realized that this was not the job for me. I was unhappy with the work I was doing. I was trying my best, but it became apparent that my best was not good enough.

This is probably not the smartest decision, financial wise. But it was the best decision for my health.

I have a few applications already out for some other positions, and I will keep looking for new jobs on a regular basis. In the meantime, I am looking forward to a (hopefully short) resting period.

In related news, yesterday we went on a challenging mountain hike. You can read about that here. One section of the trail lead to a beautiful overlook, where we could see the mountains on all sides, the river and a waterfall.

It was a great metaphor for what I am going through right now. Yes, things are hard, but if you put just one foot in front of the other, you will eventually get to the top of your mountain. Derek and I have made it over mountains before, and we will get over this one, too.

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