Small National Park – Huge National Impact: Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park is home to some of the tallest trees in the eastern United States. Compared to other National Parks it may appear small, but this 22,200 acre-park has a huge national impact on the United States. Preserving this primeval forest landscape is crucial to not only our survival, but the plants and animals that live there.

As we drove to Congaree National Park from Summerville, SC, we were unsure what to expect. It’s just one of those National Parks you don’t hear much about unless you actually do your research. As we approached the park, the landscape seemed barren. Many loggers made the land what it is today and poverty has seemed to have taken over. As soon as my GPS told us to turn into the National Park, these magnificent trees began to appear. There was no longer sunshine beating down on us, but shade created by one of the highest forest canopies in the world. It was magnificent and breathtaking.

The park may be a sanctuary for plants and animals, but it was a sanctuary for us as well. We were able to walk and relax in this tranquil setting surrounded by natures silence. The park offered us peace and tranquility unlike I had ever experienced before.

The park offers many hiking trails and camp sites. As soon as you arrive in the park, you will come upon the Visitors Center. Stopping at this place upon your arrival is a crucial part to getting the full experience. Here you can pick up maps, hear suggestions from the park rangers, and learn more about the parks ecosystem. We only had a few hours to spend in the park, so we decided to take the Boardwalk Trail which begins and ends outside of the Visitors Center. This Boardwalk Trail acts as a self-guided tour. You can pick up the map in the Visitors Center and follow the numbered signs along the trail. Each numbered sign corresponds with a paragraph on the map to let you know what you are looking at. Some stops on the trail, you may be looking at a different type of plant or tree and if you look hard enough you will even see an old box that people used to make and hide Moonshine in. The trail is mostly on a wooden raised boardwalk, but in some areas where the boardwalk is closer to the ground, you may have to walk through mud/water depending on the season. You also have easy access to catch Weston Lake Trail and Sims Trail from the Boardwalk.

Many years ago as loggers started targeting South Carolina for their large Cypress trees, residents in the area wanted to try and preserve some of these wonderful, magnificent trees. This is why Congaree National Park was formed. Before it was a National Park, many outlaws of the South used it as the perfect hiding place to create and store their moonshine. The trees and plant life provided enough coverage so that no one would ever find it. On the walking tour, you can see the old boxes in which Moonshine was made and stored in as mentioned above.

If you are ever in South Carolina, don’t overlook this park. Each National Park is unique in its own way just waiting to be seen.

I HAD to show off this huge spider we found. This is as far as my camera would allow me to zoom in. It doesn’t do it justice.

With love & gratitude,

Crystal & Shane

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Our Year in Review – 2017 & Beyond

Happy New Years everyone! I hope you’ve kicked off this year with a bang and are ready for all that 2018 may bring to each and every one of you. 2017 was certainly a year I will never forget. From the beginning to the end, there was always a surprise around every corner that it’s making 2018 seem a bit boring! Not sure if this year will top the last, but I’m excited to find out. Check out our year in review and our travel plans for 2018.

First, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on our biggest life events of 2017

In the beginning of the year, we moved from Nashville, TN to Rochester, NY and began our new careers. Scary and exciting, but it has ended up being a great decision for us both. We’re closer to our families and are in love with the small town we live in by the lake just outside of the city.

As of April, we purchased and moved in to our new humble abode.

The day we moved in to the house was the same day we rescued a neglected coonhound to call him our own. His name is Blu, and he is the sweetest boy we could have asked for. Looking at photos of him from when we first rescued him, to what he looks like now is unbelievable. He’s finally living a happy, healthy life as a normal dog.

When we first rescued him – weighing in at 110 lbs
To now – weighing in at about 90 lbs

July was the month we would finally move our stuff from Nashville to Rochester. What a trek that was! I was so happy to have my stuff back all in one place.

In October, I met my role models of Boho Beautiful. I helped organize a yoga event with them to support my friends animal rescue, Janine the Bean Rescue as part of their Positive Movement Tour. We raised over $600 with just one yoga class and people from all over the state came to join us to meet Boho Beautiful.

End of November, beginning of December consisted of a long and fun road trip to South Carolina and Virginia. It was one of many road trips in my Mustang, and it turned out to be it’s last.

End of 2017 went out with a bang as I purchased my 2006 Jeep Commander from a dealer in Florida. Dad surprised me by driving it up so I didn’t have to make the trip, although I wouldn’t have minded.

Places We Planned to Visit in 2017 & The Ones We Actually Did

As I look back on my blog post in the beginning of 2017 to showcase the places we planned to visit, I was very disappointed. I had all these plans, and as you can see my life got in the way. Maybe this year will be the year for more travel. You can see my original 2017 travel predictions here: Places We’d Like to Travel in 2017

I wanted to take an Amtrak to NYC, tour the Jell-O Museum, spend a night in Cleveland, or a day in Kawartha Lakes. I thought I would make the family trip to Yellowstone or to Cape Coral, NOT. 2017 was a busy year for reaching those travel goals. However, we did make it to Letchworth and Chimney Bluffs as planned. We also went a little off-course and went to Charleston, SC and Shenandoah, Virginia. All of which I do not regret even in the slightest. As we jump into 2018, I wanted to make a similar list to what we had created this time last year.

Places We Plan to Visit in 2018

  • Eternal Flame Falls, Erie County, NY –
Photo taken by: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/AF8cKTxvNZU/maxresdefault.jpg

Yes, I am putting many of these places I planned to see in 2017 on my 2018 list. Hopefully I can see this unique and amazing place that’s not far from home. Located in a small section of Chestnut Ridge Park resides this small waterfall. At this waterfalls’ base, an eternal flame is visible nearly year round. The flame is fueled by natural gas and may be extinguished and lit occasionally. This means, sometimes the flame can go out, but you may bring a lighter with you and relight the flame while you’re there.

As per usual, this place is always on our list and we usually make it there just about every year. My parents vacation home is in Cape Coral and we have been regulars to Sanibel Island since I was a little girl. Such a magical place.

  • Vermont or Massachusetts –
Photo by: http://www.vermontmountaincabin.com/images/exterior2.jpg

We are only about 5 hours away and believe it or not, we’ve never been to either of these states. I don’t care where we go, but I would love to stay in a cabin for a nice romantic weekend and see the beautiful mountains, snow, and cities.

  • The Jell-O Museum, Le Roy, NY –
Photo taken by: https://www.theclio.com/web/ul/20069.40835.jpg

So we made it to Le Roy, but not to the museum. So close, yet so far! Next time we go to Le Roy, I am making a point to see this silly thing.

  • Canada –
Photo by: https://www.pakmen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/canadian-flag.jpg

Oh, Canada. How I have my passport and haven’t made it to you recently. Sad days. Eventually, my plan is to take a drive to Nova Scotia, Kawartha Lakes, parts of Quebec – who am I kidding? I would be happy going anywhere that has a Canadian address!

  • Colorado Springs, CO –
Photo by: https://images.frmonline.com/sites/frc/pct/co/card/bestof_coloradosprings.jpg

I spent almost 2 months planning out the perfect Colorado road trip only to decide we weren’t wanting to make the trek in the middle of winter. So, we have put off our planned road trip until hopefully later this year or next. Colorado Springs, Rocky Mountain National Park, and Sand-Dunes National Park are just a few stops to name on our future journey to Colorado.

There you have it, a brief look at our 2017 and just a small snippet of plans for 2018. Did you reach any major milestones last year? What are your travel plans for 2018? I would love to hear!

With love & gratitude*

Crystal & Shane

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Shenandoah at Sunrise – Skyline Drive

I never knew why people say, “Virginia is for Lovers.” That was until we drove down Skyline Drive and saw the beauty of Shenandoah National Park. My favorite experience from our recent trip to Virginia was waking up before dawn, packing up after staying in a tiny motel outside of Elkton, and driving to the 2nd from the South entrance of Skyline Drive. We were traveling North and wanted to experience the scenic byway we’ve heard so much about. We made it to the first lookout just in time as the sun was trying to peak up from behind the Blue Ridge Mountains. As we stood next to a tree admiring the sunrise, deer grazed just a few feet away from us. We breathed in the crisp, cool air and watched our breathe disapear. It was so peaceful and quiet – all we heared were some leaves and twigs crunching from the deer in front of us. This was something we had never done before, watch the sunrise together, which came as a surprise to me. I guess there is a first time for everything.

My Mustang made it!

Skyline Drive is a beautiful scenic road that runs 105 miles along the Blue Ridge Mountains. It runs linear through Virginia, North in Front Royal to South in Waynesboro. There are multiple entrances along the way. For example, we entered the park at their Elkton entrance. The park has about 75 overlooks (I think we tried doing almost every one of them) – each with their own unique view of the beautiful Blue Ridge landscape.

We took this drive the first week of December, so obviously we missed all the fall colors. Even though the trees were bare and the grass was dead, the views were far from disapointing. Due to it being the “off-season”, we only passed a few cars and saw a couple people pulled over to take hikes. Also, since we arrived in the park before dawn we didn’t have to pay the entrance fee of $20. So, I suppose going during this time of year wasn’t so bad after all.

“The sunrise, of course, doesn’t care if we watch it or not. It will keep on being beautiful, even if no one bothers to look at it.” – Gene Amole

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Spending a Week on a Land-Locked Yacht

 

 

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float; to gain all while you give; to roam the roads of lands remote; to travel is to live.” – Hans Christian Andersen

 

Our most recent vacation involved a 13 hour road trip to Summerville, South Carolina where we stayed on a yacht. The whole yacht part sounds luxurious, doesn’t it?

What your thinking is probably not exactly true. It was no where near luxurious, in fact I would call it, “roughing it”. You were probably picturing water, too – yet, there was no water in sight. The yacht was land-locked surrounded by trees and houses and it actually resided near a graveyard. It really wasn’t as bad as I am making it seem. The bed was comfy, it had all the amenities we would ever need including Netflix & Amazon, it also had a fire pit and grill out in the yard for us to enjoy. It was an experience we will never forget.

Watch your head! As you can imagine, this yacht turned tiny house isn’t made comfortably for anyone over 5’7″. Also, if you had more than two people down below at one time you would probably feel claustrophobic. As you walk down from the deck, you enter the kitchen which is equipped with a breakfast bar, a sink, microwave, fridge and freezer. You also had an option to hook up the conventional oven and portable stove top provided to you.

Past the breakfast bar, you enter the living room which had a TV and a daybed. At the bow, you have a bathroom. The bathroom in my opinion was probably the worst part as it was a waterfall showerhead. This meant that every time you took a shower, everything in the bathroom would get wet. The toilet, the sink, the counter, the walls, the ceiling, your toilet paper! I made sure to wear shower shoes at all times. That can’t be sanitary, but we made light of it and went with the flow so to speak. At the stern, you walked down into the bedroom with an oversized king size bed and mood lighting.

The place may not have been the cleanest, or the biggest (obviously), or the most practical – but it was fun nonetheless. My favorite part was everything outside of the boat. I loved doing yoga on top of the yacht every morning in the sun. I loved having a bon-fire with my love every night. I enjoyed the peacefulness of being away from the 9-5 and being in a place unknown.

If you are interested in staying on a yacht, check out the listing on Airbnb!

xoxo, Crystal.

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National Parks of The USA Map

Regarding my most recent Instagram post: Many of you have been asking for this map that I found online. This map (which has now been printed and is hanging up in my cubicle at work with pins all over it), shows all the 59 National Parks in the USA. It’s been a wonderful tool in helping me visualize the National Parks I’ve visited, and which ones I have yet to see. I hope you, too, can print it out and enjoy it 🙂 Please scroll below to retrieve the link!

Attribution: By Mwierschkec (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Please click here: National Park Map

 

 

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The Most Underrated Cities in the U.S.

Good Morning everyone!

I am excited to announce: Aarti with TourYard has just published my guest post on their blog!

This post, The Most Underrated Cities in the U.S., goes into detail about 10 of my favorite cities in the states with many beautiful photos and a few ideas of where to go in each of those places.

Cities include: Rochester, Lancaster, Knoxville, Beaufort, Cape Coral, Albuquerque, Palm Desert, Florence, Rapid City, and Minneapolis. All these cities are put together in the order they are for the perfect road trip to hit them all.

Enjoy reading and leave some comments for Aarti and I to see!

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Ghost Stories of Seabreeze

The weekend of Halloween, Shane and I found ourselves taking a ghost tour near our home hosted by Rochester Candlelight Ghost Walks. I love things like this to find out the history of places and it’s also fun to find out about something unexpected – like a killing at your favorite local bar!

 

Image result for seabreeze ghost tour
Photo Credit: https://hauntedhistorytrail.com/events/spirits-of-sea-breeze-ghost-walk-2017-10-14

There are many stories of murders and mishaps that crowd the streets near Seabreeze throughout the seasons. As many are led to believe, ghosts are attracted to energy. When Seabreeze Amusement Park closes for the season, the ghosts must go somewhere to find their energy. As soon as harvest begins, ghosts move on to the local bars to haunt the drunk and disorderly. But who are these ghosts exactly? In this story, you will find out a few you may be able to find at your favorite pubs and maybe say a sweet hello.

Shamrock Jack’s Irish Pub:

Image result for shamrock jack's irish pub rochester ny 14622
Photo Credit: https://igx.4sqi.net/img/general/720×540/EVIO_USfR1k0YMuvysko44fB0Wemno4NXUKw1A19duE.jpg

In the 1800’s, Shamrock Jack’s Irish Pub was once a house that was owned by a man named Dobson. Dobson was an older man with a bit of a gambling addiction. He made a deal with the mob that he could not fulfill. One day, the mob decided to collect Dobsons’ debt and when Dobson couldn’t pay them the money they needed, they killed him in his basement. That’s right, someone was killed in the basement of Shamrock Jack’s. The employees who work at the pub nowadays are a bit squeamish when having to go into the basement every now and then. Some have even reported wine/beer bottles being thrown at their heads by whom they presume to be Dobson.

Another ghost that haunts Shamrock Jack’s Irish Pub is a little girl who is believed to be killed at Seabreeze Amusement Park. During the summer when the park is opened, she spends her time there with many other ghosts who are attracted to the energy. When the park is closed, she tends to travel over to Shamrock Jack’s. She likes to spend time on the 1st floor and switch TV channels from time to time as well as flicker some lights.

Side history:
When Prohibition was in effect, the new owners of Shamrock Jack’s decided to create hidden doorways to appear to look like bookshelves and other hidden objects. Inside these hidden rooms and closets, they kept their forbidden alcohol. With Lake Ontario right down the street, many people imported alcohol from Canada. Shamrock Jack’s was obviously benefiting from this little perk, but so was the Fire Department. The Fire Department acted as a speakeasy back in the Prohibition Days as well. They did a lot of importing from Canada and no one ever suspected a thing.

Across from Shamrock Jack’s, you might see a cobblestone tiny building. This parking lot used to be a gas station and before that, it used to be an estate. This estate belonged to an old man who liked to spend his evenings away from his wife and drink with his guy friends. To get out of the house, he created a man cave in his back yard. This man cave is the cobblestone tiny building you see today. On the outside of the building within the stone, you can see the shape of glass bottles on either side of the door.

The Reunion Inn:

Photo Credit: https://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/b04199d5716bdd051cad3720dc4505156266a38f/c=0-514-6449-4142&r=x803&c=1600×800/local/-/media/2016/01/14/Rochester/B9320370391Z.1_20160114023658_000_GPKD3HTE6.1-0.jpg

The Reunion Inn has many stories dating back to the 1800’s. The first owner was a pirate trying to hide in the quiet neighborhood of Seabreeze. His name was Mr. Woodman. Mr. Woodman and his wife carried out the rest of their days at this house and eventually passed of old age. The street was named after them, Woodman Road, which is now known today as Culver Road. The next owner of the Reunion Inn was named Mr. Bradstreet. Mr. Bradstreet was trampled by his own horses in front of his home, the Reunion Inn one day. He now is known to haunt the copula at the top of the Inn. If you see someone in the top that is now occupied with neon lights, you may guess right that it’s him. Mr. Bradstreet and Mr. Woodman and their families were buried next door at Big Al’s Eatery. Sadly, the parking lot was built on top of their graves. Back in the 1800’s, there was no embalming, no preservation, only wooden boxes people were buried in. So, even though their remains were known to be buried there, there wasn’t a trace of their bodies to prove it.

Seabreeze Amusement Park:

Photo Credit: http://www.themeparkreview.com/buffalo03/sb/sb18.jpg

If you ask anyone, they will go on to tell you that no one has been killed at Seabreeze Amusement Park. That in fact is led not to be true. Two girls have been killed at the park that we know of, but there may be more which will remain a mystery. One girl was on the Jack Rabbit, one of the oldest roller coasters in history. She stood up before going into the tunnel and was decapitated on the ride. Another girl was going through the haunted house, a ride that is no longer in operation. She decided to get off the ride halfway through to scare her friend that was in the cart with her. Her foot got stuck on the track of the ride and her leg was run over. She bled out before she could get to a hospital. These are just two of the ghosts that I’m sure still haunt the amusement park.

We wish everyone a safe and happy Halloween!

Disclaimer: All this information has been retrieved from Rochester Candlelight Ghost Walks. The stories expressed above are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect true facts.

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My Paleo Experience with Thrive Market

It’s like Christmas morning!

So, I have to admit – I have a new obsession… ThriveMarket.com. At least it’s a healthy obsession, right?!

Image result for thrive market

Thrive Market is an online grocery store where you can purchase organic and non-gmo products 25%-50% off the regular retail price you may find in physical grocery stores. Not only do they carry organic products, but you can shop by values too such as Paleo, Vegan, or Raw. They have pre-packaged snacks, ingredients, health and beauty products, and even pet products. This membership online community has opened up my world!

You can try Thrive Market one month for FREE! You can shop all you want and don’t worry, you will be addicted in no time. Once your free month is up, they will charge you a membership fee. Now the membership fee is about $60 for a whole year. I was unsure if this was the right move for me because it does sound expensive, but once you see how much your saving per week or per order, you notice that you really are saving money. Your membership fee will also feed a low income family which makes me feel even better about my choice.

Image result for thrive market

As many of you know, I am Paleo. Shopping in regular grocery stores is always a struggle because I can never seem to find products that are paleo friendly unless if I make everything from scratch which I don’t have time for. So, when I go to regular grocery stores I usually end up spending my money on things that aren’t as healthy for me. Thrive Market makes it so easy to find paleo friendly pre-packaged foods and helps me stay on track with my diet during my busy work weeks. It has truly been a lifesaver for me.

A few of my favorite paleo Thrive Market buys:

Green Pasture Cod Liver Oil + Butter Oil Blend

Thrive Market Brand Ghee

Simple Mills Cookies (The Chocolate ones are amazing!)

Thrive Market Brand Bone Broth

Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour

Thrive Market Coconut Oil

Not convinced? I don’t want to sound too much like an info-mercial, but I want to share with you how thrilled I am to be talking about this service. Every week to every other week I order ingredients and snacks from Thrive Market. When I shop in physical stores all I need to focus on now is buying fresh ingredients such as meat, fruit, and veggies. It’s made shopping so much easier and the bulk of it gets delivered straight to my door. If you aren’t paleo, no worries. They carry vegan, gluten-free, and raw items to focus on living a healthy life.

Show me your finds at Thrive Market. I find new items every week! Follow me on Instagram to see some of my foodie posts from time to time using ingredients from Thrive Market.

XoXo,

Crystal

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Boho Beautiful Positive Movement Tour Stop – Rochester, NY

For over a year now, I’ve been watching Boho Beautiful’s every move on YouTube. I have envied and admired the couple wishing I could be just like them. They get to live outside of the box, leave the 9-5, do yoga while traveling the world – one YouTube video at a time.

Early Spring, I discovered on their blog that they were looking for people to submit ideas for where to travel within the United States. They wanted to put together a tour that would help benefit local animal shelters in those cities. I decided to send them an email, telling them that Rochester should be one of their stops and to benefit my friends’ animal rescue. Little did I know, 2 months later they’d accept my invitation.

Juliana and Mark of Boho Beautiful conduct yoga classes all over the world and put DIY yoga videos on their blog and YouTube channel. In order to make this 9000 mile trip around the United States, they sell merchandise and get donations via patreon.com. They are currently living out of a van after selling their house and all their belongings to travel. They are free souls – something I wish I could be.Image result for boho beautiful patreon

They told me a date to shoot for on their tour and I was off to find a studio to use for a 2 hour yoga class. After some searching, I came upon Neutral Yoga – a studio that just opened a few months prior. Annie, one of the owners of the studio was such a sweet person to let us use her studio as well as help us promote/sell tickets. Something I would have struggled with by myself otherwise.

Image result for neutral yoga studio rochester n

Fast forward to last weekend – October 14th, Boho Beautiful arrived in Rochester for our event. We knew a rough estimate of about 20 people that had already purchased tickets online. As the event was about to start, we had a line out the door. Some of them were walk-ins who didn’t pre-purchase a ticket, which we were more than happy to let them in. We moved yoga mats around in the room to fit more people and before we knew it, we were maxed out at 38 people. We couldn’t have fit another living soul in that room even if we tried. It was so exciting to see the number of people who came out to help support Janine and to meet the Boho Beautiful duo.

 

Juliana took us through a nice vinyasa yoga flow for about an hour and a half. We then had a meet and greet with both her and Mark at the end. From the ticket sales and in person monetary donations, we raised $600 for Janine the Bean Rescue! It was certainly a successful event and we raised more than I thought was possible.

 

 

Juliana and Mark are beautiful, selfless people. We are so lucky to have been graced with their presence. They helped the rescue in a huge way, bigger than we thought was possible. I do hope we can meet again one day.

Love & Light,

Crystal

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The Spirit Room – Rochester, NY

Friday, October 13th:

Shane and I thought it would be a fun idea to check out this new bar that had just opened in downtown Rochester. We parked in an empty lot that only cost $3 and we took a romantic stroll down a darkened alleyway. No one was around, almost something out of a horror movie. We come upon a doorway that was opened into a purple lighted room – the bar. As we walked in, we noticed old photos hanging, skulls on shelves and voodoo dolls strewn about the room. The music drowned out the voices to only a small whisper as you heard the clinking of glasses against the bar. We took a seat on the side of the room as we watched the tarot card reader go from table to table. Glancing at the menu, it was pork taco night. My favorite, but not Shane’s – so we decided to settle and order a nice tall banana pudding and a few drinks to pass the time.

The Spirit Room is probably one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to in the United States. I had never seen anything like it. It had a haunted, American Horror Story vibe with a hint of New Orleans history. I felt right at home. The bar tenders were so polite and friendly – I believe one of them were the owner of the bar who I’ve heard is the best new bartender in town! Just saying…

I also enjoyed that they have a different menu every night. So, one night may be pork taco night – another might be Nashville Hot Chicken night. The menu is constantly changing with the seasons and the days of the week. So if you are looking for a haunting good time any time of the year – check out the Spirit Room. You will not be disappointed!

xoxo,

Crystal & Shane

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