Unforgettable Runs: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, Hilton Head, South Carolina

*This post was originally published on my initial blog on August 2, 2013.  I am in the process of migrating my content from Blogger and appreciate your patience as I do so!

After a few days in Hilton Head for vacation, I realized that my options for running routes were limited to either the beach or the limitless bike paths around the island.  The bike paths were good for a few days, until I got bored.  I either ran left out of our neighborhood, or I ran right.  Pretty awful when I’m doing long runs and the paths are straight as an arrow after a couple of miles in either direction.  For my long run of the week, I was determined to scour the internet to find somewhere I could do the 12.5 miles I was hoping to get in during the 90 minutes (RELATED: Unforgettable Runs: Handies Peak, Colorado).

In a magical moment, I found it: Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.  The website said that there was a long 7.5 mile loop, and plenty of off shoots that I could run for some more mileage.  Perfect!  My dad agreed to drive me there early Saturday morning, but I was nervous for the 90 minute run all by myself, when I usually run it with friends.  The week before, my long run had gone well, but with my mileage going up, my legs were beginning to feel the increase.  My dad and I prayed that the run would go well and I would see God through the nature and the ability he gives my body– because he cares about the big things and the little things!

Photo by: http://www.panoramio.com

The beginning of the path was out in the sun and looked like a dirt road with beautiful marshland directly on either side.  I was caught up in the beauty, but relieved when I hit shade after about half a mile.  The rest of the run was 90% in the shade, which I was very grateful for!  I breathed in the sweet sea air as I passed the gorgeous Ibis Pond on my right side, which just so happened to be teeming with large white birds… like: they were everywhere!  I ran really fast to get away from the birds, and soon came to the point where the path bent as I’d seen in the map.  I needed to go left.  Well, I couldn’t go left.  Bummer: they’d closed the path.  It seemed I had to go straight, so I continued on for a good mile before the path ended at White Point.  The view was breathtaking, and there was no one but me and the water.  Running back, I realized I would just have to take lots of little paths and make my own route to get my distance in.  I was disappointed that the minimal visitor information– consisting of just a giant map in the parking lot– hadn’t informed me that the main path was closed.  In hindsight though, I really enjoyed running out to a lot of other points on the islands.

(READ ABOUT MY OTHER ADVENTURES! Like, Ziplining in the El Yunque National Rainforest)


It was so weird though because I kept thinking that there were birds rustling in the bushes.  After I’d settled into my run though, I realized that the noise I heard was a million tiny little crabs scrambling to escape my footsteps running through their little crab towns.  They were literally everywhere where sand was, but as long as I kept moving, I was good.  Even that was awesome though, because I don’t usually encounter crabs when running in Ohio.  I weaved in and out of the main trail, going on a lot of the routes out to points and separate islands.  Some were flooded with water, since I was so deep in the marshland, but most were passable with minimal mud.  I even passed a few cyclists who were out searching for birds (which is cool with me since they stood as markers for me on where the birds were).

I enjoyed how the run was on soft terrain.  Sometimes it was grass– with few ruts– and at other times, it was fresh forest floor, in the woods.  I run at a hilly, wooded park at home all the time.  The difference?  This one was impeccably serene, the paths were more interesting, it was FLAT, and it was right by the ocean, surrounding me with tall and wispy Palm Trees.  Most of the paths connected to each other, so instead of going out to many points and just turning around, I was able to explore and find my way around the refuge.  No problem: 12.5 miles leaves plenty of time to explore (and yes: I got my 12.5 miles in.  I would recommend bug spray though.  Every time I stopped to tie a shoe or “relieve myself,” I was swarmed with giant biting flies and mosquitos- even at 7 a.m. 

I was so impressed with the wildlife refuge and envious of people that can run there more often.  I am a total beach girl, and having the beach right by my side as I passed from one tiny island to the next, was the coolest thing.  I will never forget the fresh ocean breeze that blew from behind while I softly crushed palm branches underfoot.  If your in the Hilton Head area: this run is a must!

St. John 2014 Photos

*This post was originally published on my initial blog on July 22, 2014.  I am in the process of migrating my content from Blogger and appreciate the patience as I do so!

 We went to St. Thomas last Tuesday to experience the island and take a trip to Blackbeard’s Castle.  Here’s a view from the castle grounds.

 These were the kayaks we used for our EcoTour on St. John.  It was an awesome experience that involved kayaking, snorkeling and hiking.  Stay tuned to hear all about it in my next blog post!

 One of my favorite memories of the trip was hiking up Ram’s Head, a favorite trail of my late uncle who passed away from cancer a couple years ago.  It was an awesome opportunity and a chance to remember and honor Him.
 This was me, on the last full day. Me and my tan little feet did not want to budge from the beach!
I had an amazing time bonding, laughing and exploring St. John with my awesome family.   They are truly a blessing and I loved every bit of the past week with them!

When in Chicago, Don’t Forget to Get Lost

I first visited Chicago as a wide-eyed six year old, intent on visiting the American Girl store and dining at the Rainforest Café.  But Kit Kittredge is packed away in a box, and animal-themed dining didn’t seem as appealing when I set off for Chicago last weekend.  I boarded the Megabus with anticipation of the Latino Film Festival as well plans for what I could do with my free time.  This was the first time I’d voyaged to the windy city without my family in tow, and it was somewhat liberating to set my own agenda.

While I loved previous visits to Shedd Aquarium and boat tours along the lakeside, I had more inexpensive activities in mind….namely: I would explore the city at random.

Given my type-A nature, this was both invigorating and terrifying, but here’s what happened:

1. I learned my way around!
Here’s the fantastic thing: When you get lost enough times, you eventually map out your surroundings.  Even better, you get to see so many different places then you would if you just followed Google Maps like every other tourist.  I can’t say I didn’t sheepishly peer at street signs, but I can say that I gained confidence as a navigator and adventurer.  Long live spontaneous exploration!

2. I found an awesome tea store and book store
I’m a bit quirky- no qualms with that- so while my classmates were ogling at Armani bags and $500 tank tops, I wandered into Adagio teas and fell in love.  The shelves were lined with loose leaf teas, and the saleslady encouraged me to pick up the jars of tea and smell them.  “If there are any that catch your eye, I’ll make a sample for you!”  I suppressed my inner tea nerd and merely nodded, all while trying to contain my excitement.  All the prices were listed by the jars and no one pressured me to buy anything.  They were genuinely friendly and their tea was incredible.  I walked out with a sample of verbena green tea and some almond mocha oolong tea.

As if that wasn’t good enough, I then made my way down to a bookstore.  I’d had enough stimulation for one day and couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather spend my time than a used bookstore calledAfter-Words, with a basement boasting 70,000 books.  The shop owner was just as quirky as I’d hoped and the books just as eclectic.  I was overwhelmed at my option, but prudently made a selection and handed over my $4 with elation.  “This place is awesome,” I raved to the shop owner.  He made some corny joke about Butler and I made some awkward smile and walked out.

3. The Latino Film Festival was amazing!
I was wary of a few of the films that we were scheduled to see.  One in particular seemed a bit more “adult” than I cared for.  Sure enough, I spent most of the movie carefully inspecting the hem of my shorts.  But the second movie more than made up for the first.   “Espejuelos Oscuros/Dark Glasses” was a thought provoking and disturbing portrayal of the secret stories we all carry.

4. I stepped out of my comfort zone
Besides literally stepping out of my comfort zone by meandering around the city, I also faced the challenge of traveling without any real friend/family member.  That brought the added testing of sitting on the bus and eating meals out at restaurants with these people– both of which are a strong source of anxiety due as I recovery from an eating disorder.  While the weekend was not without its blunders, I was encouraged at my ability to handle the situations.  I know I would not have been able to do so at this time last year, and for that I praise God.  As my dad gingerly reminded me, these challenges are good because they help me embrace my freedom and break out of my little “safe box” of recovery.  And as difficult as aspects of the trip were, I know that the next time I come across those same struggles, it will be just a little bit easier.  That makes the effort absolutely worth it.

The greenhouse at Nay Pier
Tapas at Café Iberico! A challenging, new
experience for me!
Adagio Tea.  Basically Heaven.

Much like my blog, my weekend in Chicago was a series of spontaneous adventures, augmented by familiar comforts and the constant presence of the Lord’s grace.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.  So then next time you’re in Chicago, run along the lakeside and take in the views at Navy Pier (RELATED: Girls’ Weekend in Chicago). Stop by Adagio Tea and The Chicago Tribune and Café Iberico, and- seriously- don’t forget to get lost in the wonder of it all.


To read about more suggestions for your next Chicago adventure, click HERE and HERE.