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Meet Jennifer

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

As a kid, I was always active and outside. I would spend all day outside on the weekends and even then, my parents would have to drag me in at night.  My favorite story is about this one time when I wanted to go out and play after dinner. So, my dad told me to come in when I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. I was just across the street, playing with kids and easily seen from the living room window, so they knew where I was, but it had gotten way past dark. My dad came out demanding to know why I wasn’t in yet.  I told him I could still see my hand in front of my face because there was a street light right there!  At that point, he went inside. My mom came out a little while later telling me I had to come in. From then on, I was given an exact time to come in!

I eventually discovered gymnastics and eventually became a competitive gymnast. I competed throughout high school.  Even though I think I spent more time at the gym than I did at home, I still found time to be outside. It was just a lot lower key.  Of course, being a gymnast is the reason why I have terrible hips, knees and ankles at this point in my life. I have to be careful with what I’m doing and listen to my body so I don’t over do it.  Through college and after I first got married, I didn’t spend a lot of time outside.  Life was hard and it wasn’t convenient to get outside because of where we lived.  When it was time to buy a house, we chose our current city because of the outdoor community. We have lots of parks with walking and hiking trails, it’s easy to throw our kayaks on the water, and it is relatively easy to drive up and hike in the mountains. Finally, I started spending a lot more time outside.  

Now, I’m a mom who doesn’t work outside the family (because I definitely do not stay at home). I am desperately trying to raise our 3 boys (7,6, and 2) with a love of God and a love for the outdoors. Basically, I’m trying to raise them the way I grew up, even though that is so counter-cultural today from all aspects. I adventure a lot by myself with the boys because, prior to COVID, my husband traveled every week Monday-Thursday. I was on my own. Now he works from home, so it’s easier to be out with them instead of trying to keep the boys from interrupting him all day. Plus, places are just a lot less crowded during the week than on weekends. I’m not a person who likes to be around crowds and it is definitely a lot less stressful keeping up with the boys when no one is around.

What’s your favorite outdoor sport? 

This is a tough one!  I like hiking because it really is the easiest to do. I really enjoy kayaking. It’s so peaceful and usually solitary, but man, there is a lot of work involved.  I’m enjoying biking as well. Right now, we are just doing “road biking”.  

You have been killing the Adventure Bingo game. What’s been your favorite part?

I do love the Bingo game!  I have to admit, we had a lot of outdoor activities planned this summer, but because everything else was cancelled, it was easy to incorporate the game into our activities, or is it the activities into the game!?!  I think the part I liked the best was that sometimes I had to do different things.  Going to the same place all the time can get really boring, BUT if you do it at different times of the day, it does change the perspective a bit. Some of them also made me think, like the fire starters.  We won’t be camping until probably the spring, but this is a great exercise to do at home that will be beneficial down the road.

Do you have a “disaster” story? 

I have 2 near-disaster stories.  I don’t call them complete disasters because I made it back to the car on my own.

The first one was before kids. My husband and I went to North Carolina and rented a cabin to go hiking to waterfalls with our dog. For whatever reason, he stayed behind and my dog and I went out hiking. I forget exactly where I was, but I hiked down a long hill to a bridge to look at the waterfall and there was this family there. It was getting late, so they offered for me to tag along for a “short cut”.  It was definitely not a short-cut. It was basically climbing up the side of the mountain to get back to the cars. I almost got locked in the parking lot because it was so late in the day. It started to pour down rain as soon as I got in. There were a couple of times that I wondered if my dog was going to make it, but thankfully, she trusted me so much that she followed. The family was super nice, but NEVER go off trail with people. 

The other one was when I was training for a 15K with my dog. We were probably about a mile away from the car when both of my ankles just started causing me severe pain.  I was getting dizzy and nauseous, as well. I had plenty of water for both of us, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I had no choice but to keep going forward because that was where the closest trailhead was. I would walk a few feet and then have to sit down. I was in so much pain that I actually called the doctor on my own. I have a super high pain tolerance from being a gymnast. I generally don’t tolerate any kind of pain meds well, and I have a general distrust of doctors, so the fact that I called on my own was significant. It turned out that I had dislocated both of my ankles! That was a first, and it was because I was wearing bad shoes.  So even though I don’t run, I have to have really supportive shoes and orthotics now.  

What have you always wanted to try?

This list is long. I literally have spreadsheets with different tabs.  I would really like to try backpacking and would love to thru-hike or at least section-hike a long trail.  I would like to try both kayak camping as well as bike-packing.  I would also like to explore doing a little more strenuous mountain biking.  I would even love to get a camper and go exploring with that.  I love being outside, but I prefer to sleep in a temperature controlled environment!

I know that your entire family frequently goes on great adventures. Any tips or tricks to share with our members to help make the outing fun for everyone?

Lots of planning and lots of snacks!  I don’t like cold weather, so the months of January and February are hard months for me to be out. Yes, even in Georgia.  So, I spend that time planning on where to go and laying it out on the calendar for the warmer months. Then, as time allows or when I’m bored (like sitting in the pickup line for school), I will research wherever it is that we have planned. Fewer surprises allow me to help the boys navigate our adventure. 

I also way over-prepare with water and snacks. I got caught off guard one time when the big boys were younger and that was not a fun trip. So now, I usually bring enough snacks for 2 days of adventures because you just never know if you are going to be delayed and miss a meal. Plus, in Georgia, the humidity can suck the life out of you. I always have a large cooler with plenty of water for everyone. As of yet, I’ve never had to buy extra water!!  I pray that is a trend I can stick to!

The other thing is that we find things that the boys are interested in. The junior ranger programs are great because they focus on what they need to find on the trail as opposed to how far they have to walk. They know the park offices close at 5pm, so they have to keep moving if they want their badge!  

What are you looking forward to?

I’m enjoying exploring all the state and historic parks with my boys. Our state park system has 59 parks and each park has their own individual junior ranger badge.  My big boys have said that they want to collect all 59 and I want to see all the state parks, so we will spend a total of 4 summers completing our goal.  

We have some camping trips planned as well, and the boys are looking forward to these. They may not remember all the adventures that we go on, but I hope when they are older, they will look back fondly at this time together.  

Are you enjoying the 365 Mile Challenge?

Absolutely.  This is my 3rd official year completing the challenge, I took last year off, but still tracked my miles.  I love the community and the Facebook posts.  I enjoy seeing where everyone is hiking and what they are doing to get their miles.  

You are a big source of inspiration for the group. What inspires you?

Really, this group is inspiring.  There are days where it is just hard to get up and move because life has hit you hard. However, someone will post they had a hard time, but got up anyway and did their mile.  That alone can get you up and moving. I’m competitive by nature so sometimes when I see some of these ladies with high totals, I want to do that too!

Is there anything that you want us to know about you?

First, I’m super humbled that I was asked to do this.  I don’t find myself all that interesting, so to be asked this is kinda cool.  I’m definitely the odd ball with most of the people I hang around. Even my family thinks I’m crazy at times, but I like to do what I like to do.  If people want to join great, if not, I’m good going on my own.

The other thing is that I’m a crazy planner. I’ve got spreadsheets with different tabs based on locations, activities, etc., so if a plan goes sideways, it’s easy to come up with a Plan B. Since I have some rough research, I don’t get a lot of surprises.  

Anything that you’d like to add? 

Yes, don’t compare yourself to me and where I’m at with my miles. I promise I won’t do the same with you or judge if you have fewer miles than I do.  I know I’m trying to go for a triple this year, but this is my 4th year keeping up with miles. My life circumstances are probably different than yours. I don’t want people who are just trying to make it to 365 to be discouraged because it’s your first year or life happens. The main reason I signed up my 2nd year was because I was pregnant with my 3rd son. That pregnancy was miserable and adjusting to 3 children was hard. I barely made it that year. But the challenge and everyone in the community kept me motivated and kept me moving even on the days/weeks where I didn’t want to get off the couch.  It was good for me and all of my boys to get outside and move. So, you have to do your challenge the way it works for you!  Have fun with it and know even if you are just walking to the mailbox a few times a day, you are doing it!

Thank you, Jennifer!

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