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Hope Floats Section 11a-16a Mountains-to-Sea Trail

When I first signed up with Hope Floats, NC it was to complete sections 11-16 of the Mountain to Sea Trail . When I finished the journey with Hope Floats, NC, completing those sections of the trail became just a nice thing that happened. It became so much more than that!

I truly am honored to have been a part of this amazing group of people. They are truly beautiful souls with a mission and a purpose, overflowing with genuine compassion and giving to help others, to raise money to hopefully one day eradicate cancer.

Hope Floats NC paddles down the Neuse River from Raleigh to Oriental , 208 miles over 8 days. This is their Relay for Life team , the way they raised money for the past six years to help find a cure for Cancer.

Kim and Chris Tart head up this incredible journey and started it because Kim had Cancer 8 years ago and is a survivor. She wanted to do something to make a difference, and that she is doing!

This trip turned into a very personal journey for me. My Aunt Cathy is currently fighting the battle with cancer and I paddled for her, and for the many others, friends and family, named and unnamed.

While I was paddling, I received the news that Aunt Cathy’s cancer progressed and it was a very emotional time. There was absolutely no way I was going to quit, no matter how hard the fight. She is now in Mexico seeking treatment and I pray and send healing love to her every day! You have this conquered Aunt Cathy!!

The people who paddled were some of the most amazing people I have ever met. It is truly a community and a team of people working together for the good of others. They were so helpful, compassionate and giving. We all needed each other to get through this week. We all had to help each other get in and out of the water, help with first aid with the blisters on our hands, help with motivation, encouragement, fear, and cheering each other on to finish this Journey we were on together.

I made some life-long friends on this journey and will never forget them. I hope they continue to be a part of my life for many years. I hope to continue to be a part of this group for many years.

The trip

The first day of the paddle was over 30 miles. I hurt so bad the first night I couldn’t even lift my left arm. I just knew I injured it. I called my brother that night and said, “Dude” you have to come get me tomorrow if I can’t do this. He immediately reminded me of the first words on the board on the first day. It will HURT! He was right. I took a bunch of Ibuprofen and got up the next day and started paddling for another 30 miles. Fortunately, my arm did begin to feel better after a couple of hours and I was able to push through.

The next few days were easier and I had music to help me through it. I discovered I love to dance in my Kayak! My song for this trip to motivate me turned out to be, If Today was your Last Day, by Nickleback . Very fitting I would say.

The scenery was absolutely beautiful. My next hardest day seemed to be Wednesday. I wasn’t hurting too bad, I was just really, really tired. I think that is the day I hit my wall. Thursday was much better!

The last day

I wasn’t planning on paddling the last day because I just knew I did not want to paddle on open water, or in the dark. Well, that changed and I am so glad it did, even though I thought I would die, lol. I met this great friend, Heather, who is also hiking the Mountain to Sea Trail. She encouraged me to do it with her and I did. After all, the MST girls had to finish!!!

We left New Bern at 4:15 am with lights on our boats and proceeded onward. It wasn’t too bad for the first 14 miles. I had only slept a couple of hours and was very tired. You definitely have to paddle more when you are in open water. I saw the most amazing dawn and sunrise, and got some great pictures.

We stopped and had lunch and took a break. When I got back into the water, the waves were breaking and the skeg on my kayak would not go down. That made it impossible to steer and I had to paddle so hard to not just get carried out. Chris and Craig were able to come up behind me and get it down and it was much more manageable. We were paddling in 3-4 feet swells of water and it seemed like we were in a washing machine. I began to get very anxious and scared. At one point I was crying, I was praying to God, I was cursing god, and I was wondering Oh My God, what am I doing here!!! This is what nightmares are made of!!! I was able to calm myself down and I do not know where my strength came from, except from God, but I managed to make it to the next break. I seriously wondered if it was my day to go down! LOL.

We got rested up and turned the corner. The wind was now to our back and the waves just rolled. I actually was practicing riding waves. It was an amazing last 8 miles to the finish line.

It was a very emotional finish! I finished beside my friend Heather. We actually did it!!! My Father, husband and son were at the finish line waiting. It was an incredible sense of accomplishment and one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I can’t seem to find the words to accurately explain the feeling of being part of this incredible team. It was truly a week of everyone giving and receiving support from each other. We had people from communities, families and friends cook for us and bring us food every night. Thank you, Mom and Dad and Sister for dinner on Thursday night! On Wednesday night, we had the community of Seven Springs feed us dinner and join in our ceremony where we all read the names of every single person we were paddling for. Seven Springs was devastated by Hurricane Matthew, but yet, fed us dinner, joined in our ceremony, and donated a thousand dollars to our cause. I do believe that those who have less, give more. It was a very emotional and heartwarming night. One I will soon not forget.

I would like to thank Kim and Chris for all their work, dedication, effort, compassion, and giving that it takes to do something like this. Thank you for your perseverance. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It is because of you both that I was able to have such an incredible experience. I watched you touch many lives, as you did mine.

Together, we can change the lives of many.

As a team, we have raised over $19,000.00 to help with Cancer research! We will be accepting donations until August and would love to exceed $20,000.00. What an amazing accomplishment!

If anyone wants to truly be a part of something meaningful, join this team, this family. You will walk away with much more than you can possibly contribute.

Much love, respect and admiration to you!

Danelle

I highly recommend this adventure for anyone who wants to paddle 11-16 of the MST.

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Catherine’s Lessons

With 1 in 4 people being diagnosed with some kind of cancer, another story may not be that

interesting…., but what makes it valuable is sharing the personal lessons that one is able to

learn along the journey.

We’re conditioned to respond deeply and seriously to a cancer diagnosis as many of us have

lost loved ones to cancers, many times after long, harsh treatments that do not extend life.

First and foremost, and an aspect all of us can learn from, is facing death with acceptance, grace

and dignity whenever it may happen.  I heard recently during a meditation that we need to be

at peace with our dying before healing can begin.  Cancer brings this to the forefront which I

believe is a positive and healthy view.

My husband asked me the other day, “If this were your last day, what would you do ?”  My answers

included communicating to every person I love of that fact, enjoying delicious, favorite foods, as much

as I could hold, sitting in the sunshine, holding hands, laughing, admiring our beautiful world and

soaking in that wonderful peace that flowers, trees and nature feed me.  A peaceful, happy day !!

Why do I have to think this is my last day to do those things that bring peace and enjoyment?  What

if I did even one or two of them every day?

My own journey started 3 years ago with a surprise Ovarian Cancer diagnosis followed by surgery

chemo and being cancer free for 2.5 years before being surprised again to learn my cancer had

returned.  (We were on our way to spend the holiday with family in California when I was hospitalized

with a kidney stone in New Mexico!! The CT showed my cancer had recurred..)

Since chemo worked the first time, I reluctantly decided to do that again but after one treatment with

all the horrible side effects, I decided to try alternative therapies and only use chemo as a last resort.

There is a lot of information available on alternative treatments and much of what I’m practicing came

from a series of podcasts we watched called, “The Truth About Cancer, a Global Quest” which I highly

recommend…also a book called “Radical Remissions” and another series called, “Chris Beat Cancer.”

The information took away the fear of cancer and gave me hope. Many of these therapies are still not

available in the US but knowledge is changing this and hopefully more treatments will be available to

us locally in the future.

For now, I am focusing on nutrition and supplements to build my own immune system, exercise,

meditation, and receiving and giving love to myself and others. Right now, I feel healthy, eat and

sleep well and focus on enjoying this day that I woke up to with joy and peace.  It isn’t always easy

but absolutely necessary for healing and wholeness.

The kayak trip represents another important therapy available to any human in need of physical,

emotional or spiritual support; that being the positive acts of others to uplift, feed our souls and

bring positive joy in the midst of trying times.

Peace and love and thanks to my niece Danelle (and all the kayakers)  for honoring my journey

and to everyone else who has given me positive love and support.  Stay safe and be open to the

lessons in front of you.

Catherine

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The Storm Section 6 MST

As I sat in my tent to wait for the rain to stop, the wind started to pick up and Boom! The loudest thunder I have ever heard. It felt like it shook the mountain to its core and the rain started pouring. I started to get a little concerned because I could not access any weather alerts on my phone, so I texted Jeff to have him check the weather. He didn’t come up with any good information and I was getting more scared by the minute. Lighting was everywhere and the trees were whipping around. I could hear branches cracking and falling. Not a great sound to hear when I am cooped up in a small tent with trees all around. Then I remembered I had to cross the stream three times to get up there. Holy cow! I might not be able to get out. I texted Jeff and told him I was coming down and he needed to come and get me.

Yes, I abandoned my camp. I grabbed my gun, headlamp, car keys and my trekking poles and ran down that mountain in the storm like a crazy wild woman. I moved faster than I had in years. Rain was running down the trails like a river. Some of it was deep and going off the side like a water fall into the river. When I got to the stream crossings, the stepping stones were gone and the water was brown, deep and flowing fast. I just went through it as fast as I could. The water was up to my knees in the stream crossings. I didn’t care about anything but getting down.

Lightning was all around me and I started to get concerned about having my trekking sticks in my hands so I tried not to let them touch the ground, lol, like that would make a difference.

I was totally focused coming down that mountain. When I reached the bottom, the storm was letting up and was moving out. I was standing there in amazement of what I had just done. It was truly exhilarating and I hadn’t felt that much alive in a long time.

 The Ranger came by and gave me a ride up closer to the gate where Jeff would be picking me up. He informed me that I was camped in a water shed. When Jeff arrived, I was so relieved to be going home. We still had to get my car from the parkway so it was over two hours back home. We arrived about 10:30.

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Reflections and the MST Section 6

The Trail

Sunday my husband drop me off to hike the Stone Mountain Park of Section 6 and start section 5 of the MST. My plan was to stay and hike for seven days.

 After setting my tent up in the rain and parking my car on the parkway, miles away from where I was, he left. I was alone, a little anxious but excited. Unfortunately it rained all night long and I had to sit in my tent for a couple hours even before it got dark, however, I did stayed warm and cozy. I woke up before dawn and made an awesome cup of coffee, got packed up and started walking to Widows Creek trail.

 The Widow’s Creek Trail and camp site F are definitely two places I hold as sacred space in that park. I camped there last year in April on my very first backpack vision quest alone. Last year my reasons for going were to let go of a few things that were really weighing me down, and to find some clarity for the next phase of my life.

 I truly believe that “as within, so without”. The things I had to let go of were necessary in order for me to close the door and step through a new one. I had a very difficult time doing this. For over two years our house was not selling, I owed several years of back taxes that involved my family’s business that I no longer was a part of, and other things lingering that just were not moving. Most of them were related to the business or my family. I felt so stuck and knew I had to go deeper. In a weird sort of way, even though I wanted all these things to get taken care of and desperately wanted to move forward, I think I was holding on to them in some weird way because dependence on my family is all that I knew. Although negative, I was still hanging on to what was familiar.

I went up on that mountain to claim my independence and own it. It was actually a very scary thing to take a leap of faith into a void not yet filled, into the unknown future that was mine and mine alone.

I did it, and amazingly enough I came home and my husband told me someone was buying our house. All those things then got taken care of within a year.

Because I did take the leap of faith into an unknown void, Whispers of Nature was given to me on that mountain, the vision and clarity I was searching for. The next phase of my life.

Things happen from the inside out. No doubt.

Back to the trail,

The trail is one of the most beautiful trails I have ever hiked. It winds up the side of a mountain along a beautiful stream the entire way to the campsite. It is lined with little purple violets, ferns, and other beautiful wildflowers along the path. I see more heart shaped rocks on this path than anywhere else. There are a couple of foot bridges, and streams without footbridges you have to cross. There is a beautiful double waterfall as you get closer to the campsite.

 The trail to the campsite leads up above the waterfalls and campsite F is the one at the very end of the path with the river and a mountain surrounding three sides of the site. There is also a huge heart shaped rock to sit on beside the massive fire pit. I originally picked this site because there is less of a chance people will be walking by. You are definitely secluded up there.

When I arrived to the campsite, the sun had found its way through the clouds and it was absolutely beautiful. I Immediately took of my hiking boots and changed them for my flip flops and soaked my feet in the very cold water. I set up my tent and started to think about building a fire. As I looked around for some fire wood, the sun disappeared and the rain began to fall. I got in my tent hoping the rain would stop soon.

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Trust without Boarders Section 18 MST

A couple weeks before I went to hike this section I visited the Outer Banks to check it out. The trail Angel for this section was very nice and met me to drive it with me, and give suggestions. I quickly realized that it was going to be a difficult section to try to find a place to camp and water sources. I was planning on hiking in February and the campgrounds and a lot of the public facilities were closed.

Logistics

I decided to get creative and start looking for a way. I decided to take our camper down there for a week and invited my good friend Pam, who shares the love of hiking, to go with me. We both drove so we could park the car at the end of where we wanted to hike, and drive to where we wanted to start hiking. This worked out great for us. We accomplished what we wanted to do and had a place to stay. It was an amazing week.

We both wondered if we would be able to walk many miles a day, in the sand, every day. We quickly found out that we could, and we did!!

Physically

The first two days I was very tired and had to crash for about an hour after I returned. After that, the days were easier and I seemed to have more energy and clarity. I don’t usually remember my dreams, but on the fourth day, I had a very realistic, vivid dream that was very symbolic in meaning. It was an amazing experience that I am not quite ready to share the details of yet, but I will in my book. I am finding that when I walk many miles, my dreams are more vivid, and I seem to remember them more.

A Lesson on the Power of your Mind

I am learning about the power of my mind and my thoughts on this hiking journey, and how my mind seems to program my body ahead of time. If I was planning to walk 7 miles, at mile 6, I would start to get tired, and would notice any physical uncomfortable pains I may be experiencing at the time. If I set out to hike 10 miles, I would start to get tired at mile nine, if I set out to walk 15 miles, I would start to get tired at mile 14. It’s really an amazing thing, the power of our mind. My intention would get me there every time and I would not really notice my physical body starting to tire until the goal was in reach and close at hand. Then I felt it, without a doubt, LOL. Our only limits are our thoughts and beliefs.

The Experience

I walked miles and miles of Sea Shore that had only been touched by the crashing of waves. As far as I could see, there was only this beautiful creation.

It was vast, and beyond amazing. The waves rolled in and back, in rhythm with the Universe. The rays of the sun warmed my soul and danced on the ocean, illuminating its beauty and its power. The clouds were alive, dancing with the rhythm with the waves. All this, creating an experience etched in my soul that would leave me with no doubt, that this wonder of nature before me, was touched by the hand of the Divine.

I found myself taken into the depths and the heights of the mystery. I found myself in rhythm with the waves, and the warmth of the sun. I felt completely merged with this magnificence creation that was before me, a feeling of divine connectedness. A feeling of oneness. It was ecstasy to my soul. For a moment, it seemed I crossed the bridge between the physical and the Spiritual. I try to capture it in words, I long to experience again. Somehow, I know, it is like water. You can never touch the same water twice, just as you can never quite have the same experience twice. This is what makes it sacred. These sacred experiences are found being fully present, in the presence of the moment.

A song in my playlist I hadn’t heard in a couple of years came on that was so perfect to fit with this experience. It raised it to another level.

Oceans, (Where my Feet may Fail) Hillsong

I feel this in the depths of my soul. It is my humble prayer.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,

let me walk upon the water, wherever you may call me,

take me deeper than my feet could ever wonder,

take me to the depths of the mystery.