A Nature Break

Enjoying the solitude of nature brings me pure joy. Walking in the forest or on a beach alone has always felt like coming home. I live about fifty miles from the Roan High Bluff, so when the weather is agreeable, I visit and walk until I am exhausted.

I set the camera on a log and used the timer to take this photo.

As a lifelong hiker, I know to be prepared with proper gear. A hat is always on my head when I am outside for more than a few minutes. I’ve been wearing my all-time favorite style of packable hat for a few years. When you emerge from the dark forest, the sunlight can be blinding, so I always have sunglasses.

I’m wearing Oboz hiking boots (similar here) and carrying a hand-finished ironwood walking stick. My jeans are here. The top is a couple of years old from Chico’s. A similar top is here. The vest is here from Macy’s.

My backpack contains identification, a buck knife, bear spray, a compass, lip balm, toilet paper, a change of socks, raingear, a trash bag, water, and food. When you set off on a five-mile trek through the mountains, you never know what type of weather or situation you may encounter. The temperature didn’t reach sixty (15c) on the top of the mountain. (It was eighty degrees (26c) in Johnson City.)

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum), also called Indian turnip, is a unique perennial native to North America.

I took the following photos near the mountain base at the Forest Road Trail (Cates Hole), a 2.2 mile lightly trafficked out and back trail.

I used a Sony Alpha a5100 camera to take these photos. Shopping links on this website may allow me to earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. I am a consultant for Beautycounter (visit here). I will also earn a small commission from your purchase there.

  1. What a beautiful forest! But I just can’t get my head around having to pack bear spray! Here in New Zealnd we have no bears, big cats, or snakes, just one tiny poisonous spider at the beach which most NZers have never seen. But we do have the flightless but fast running weka bird who will steal your lunch and items from your pack and run off into the bush, you’ll never get your stuff back! And the world’s only alpine parrot, the kea, who is very intelligent, very naughty, and will also steal your stuff. And when you get back to your car all the rubber around the windows, the wiper blades and any other tempting bits on your car will be shredded or missing! Bad birds but I just love them!

  2. Everything is very beautiful – both nature and Susan! Surprisingly, the river is 100% similar to the river that flows in the area where I live (Russia, Ural))) I also take wonderful forest walks, and I’m glad that Susan enjoyed the walk so much!

  3. Your site is so refreshing, uncluttered and interesting. It is always a little break in my morning that I look forward to and continue to learn from!

  4. You look terrific in your hiking attire ,your body condition seems to be excellent. Congratulations!
    I have read the comment of Joanne NZ .
    Heir on island Crete GR ,we have no dangerous birds or other dangerous big animals , no poisonous snakes , nothing , to bring you in danger., while hiking. We are really lucky .

  5. Hi Susan, I love hiking also. In addition to the articles you carry I carry my insurance card and wet ones. Love your suggestions and hat! Always enjoy your post.

  6. I always look forward to your posts, this one is perhaps my favorite. Thank you for sharing the stunning forest pictures. Being out on nature is my happy place too, it soothes my soul.
    I will be 77 tomorrow, and I find your fashion/clothing tips always to be something I can learn from…thank you!

  7. Best place to carry bear spray is in a holster. If needed, for bear or human, timing is everything!
    We carry it on walks on our property (we live on over 100 mountainous acres and have bear & cougar). Happily, we never needed it. But, it is on our belts and access is as fast as checking our watches!
    We also hike in grizzly country and carry both the spray & a weapon. But, this is in NE Washington state back country. I don’t think you are likely to meet grizzly bears in your area!

  8. Hi Susan,
    Love this post and truly miss the mountains. I too am/was a hiker and every autumn I hiked a good portion of the Appalachian Trail. I could tell you many hilarious stories about my adventures- everything from severe blisters & accidents to getting heavily fined by the rangers. Bear spray is definitely a necessity- also works on humans! Be sure to always check for ticks. I’ve been battling Lyme and another tick born infection for 5 years this May! I’m finally feeling normal again although I do have some permanent nerve damage.
    I really love your walking stick and have been considering a blackthorn (made in Ireland) but now that I see your stick, I may just get one of them. Ironwood is good and sturdy. How tall is your stick? I’m only 5’2 so I don’t want anything too tall or I might feel like Moses coming down the mountain!

  9. Fascinating post Susan! I am curious if you have ever needed to use the bear spray or had any other scary situations arise while in nature?

  10. Good morning. I know you have written about this specific hat a few times. The last I checked on it, there were a few colors available and I put off purchasing it. Today the weather is sunny here in Northern California and it seemed a perfect time to order it as the summer will be cooking-hot. I am happy I did so today as one one color, rattlesnake, is now available. One has my name on it! Love my hats!

  11. I love to hike too. There is nothing better than breathing fresh forest air! You prepared well for your hike. I don’t usually carry bear spray, but need to get some. There are Mountain Lion in my area and they seem to be coming down from higher areas because of drought.
    My husband and I enjoy hiking vacations. The two of us walked the Cotswolds in England for nine days. We had day packs and walked from village to village through forests and hills. It was invigorating. We arranged our luggage transport and accommodations through Cotswold Walks. I highly recommend this type of vacation for people liking a quiet and relaxed adventure.

  12. I enjoy the outdoors also and solitude. Do you have any recommendations for a backpack? Really enjoyed this post and your beautiful pictures.

    1. Here is a good day pack. Consider what you will be using the pack for and how it fits your body. It should be large enough to carry what you need but should not dig into your body, causing discomfort. Durability is a major concern. I’ve had my pack for about four years, and it has been well worth the investment.

  13. Beautiful scenery Susan! I love being out in nature like that. It truly is a spiritual place in my opinion. Thanks for posting the pictures!

  14. This is so beautiful! I need to check this out! I’d love to meet up one day for a hike and catch up!!

  15. I just received my Betmar hat and I love it! I only walk in my neighborhood but it is so comfortable and fits so nicely. Thank you for telling us about this wonderful hat.

  16. Beautiful! Nature restores my soul. A friend and I are going hiking tomorrow. We average 2 hikes a month in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina.

  17. Thank you for taking me on your walk with you. Those pictures are breath taking. I can almost smell the fresh air.

  18. Beautiful photos! My husband and I hike also and love it. Please find a hiking buddy to go with, as it is dangerous to go alone. Happy trails!

  19. Hi Susan,
    What is a “buck knife?”
    And, how/where do you carry bear spray.? Bears are a concern where I live.
    I suppose bear spray needs to be extremely accessible – at the ready and easy to grab – if you have an encounter.

    I once met a Bobcat deep in the woods (by myself). We met face to face.
    I was going downhill, he/she was coming up hill when we both
    stopped suddenly.

    I never lost eye contact and slowly backed up. He/she never lost eye contact but didn’t move as I slowly backed up.
    I guess when she/he realized, I wasn’t a threat, she/he turned and ran back down the hill.

    I will never forget observing her/his powerful shoulder, legs, and feet as she/he was turning to head downhill … was just very glad they didn’t meet me.

    (I believe most animals won’t attack unless they feel threatened or if one is a mother with babies close by – but you never know what else could be irritating them.)

    It’s good to have a walking partner but being out in the woods by yourself is also a spiritual experience for me, anyway.
    Thanks for. this post!

    1. What an amazing experience it must have been to watch that bobcat. I’m glad your encounter was peaceful.

      A Buck knife is a sturdy brand of knife that I almost always have with me, even in the car. I usually have the bear spray in my hand while I am in the backcountry. As another lady mentioned, it works well on humans too.

      I have seen a fox and many deer in the woods, but no bears. The deer I saw on this walk stopped and looked at me, and I stopped and looked at her. She must have thought, “OK, you’re cool.” and then continued to graze on the leaves, watching me from a few feet away as I walked past her.

  20. The Japanese call it shinrin-yoku. It means forest bathing. I like that. A really nice and practical way to dress and it is wise to carry a bag with things you might need because you never know what might happen if you are walking alone. I would put a whistle in my backpack. Might come in handy.

  21. What glorious scenery to be close enough by to be able to hike in! Do you also go in the winter? I noticed your back pack is a ski-touring one. I always love your posts. Thank you so much for them!

  22. Gorgeous photos once again, Susan! Thank you for sharing. I have a sick husband at home, so I am not able to go out now as we used to do together, so I enjoy your nature photography all the more.
    Thank you for your generosity.

  23. Oh my goodness the photos are so beautiful. Great trek. Love the outfit. You always look stylish even trekking through the woods.

  24. Thank you for the inspiration and the beautiful photos. Susan please link to your comfortable hiking boots. Cheers

  25. Hi Susan –

    Beautiful photos! I check out my emails first thing in the morning and today, after viewing your photos, I felt like I was on the trail with you. I felt very relaxed and serene and ready to start the day on the right foot! Thanks for putting a smile on my face.

    Have a great day!
    Julie Johnston
    Boston, Massachusetts

  26. Beautiful pictures from your hike thanks for taking us along with you as you look so cute in you hiking outfit.


    1. The Appalachian Trail and many others pass through this area. Try AllTrails.com to explore East Tennessee, Western North Carolina area trails. Virginia and Northern Georgia, as well as West Virginia, have wonderful well maintained hiking trails. We have many hotels, lodges, and Bed and Breakfasts as well as campgrounds for your overnight stays. Check this site for suggestions of things to do in the Asheville, NC area.

  27. Well, Susan, you made my day. Just back from Upper Penisula of Michigan and a fog covered eclipse. Everything I packed, except for boots and a warmer REI jacket, looks like what you wore to hike. My hat of choice that day was packable and gone around the world for eclipses.

  28. Thank you for the photos. You always inspire me to look good or look better no matter what I want to do. Hike or go out to the store or out to dinner.
    I enjoy your web site very much. Please keep posting.

  29. Beautiful photos. You should also have a whistle with you, around your neck, in your pocket, or in your backpack. 🙂

  30. Good Morning Susan,
    Beautiful thank you for sharing your hike. I so get the “pure joy” that you feel from being out in nature.
    It’s truly the best.
    Sending you a joyful day.

  31. Beautiful place to hike. You are so lucky and also a pretty photographer. Nice photos. Thank you for sharing.

  32. I used to live in the Blowing Rock area, now back in Charlotte. Thank you for the beautiful pictures of home. They almost made me weep. Many don’t realize what life is like immersed in this environment where there is something wonderful to see everyday of the year. There is a natural and satisfying lushness in the mountains that is seldom found elsewhere.

  33. What. a wonderful post! My husband and I have been “gearing up” to venture into the world of hiking, so It was so great to get this post. Thanks for the suggested list of what to carry. I would never have thought of most of those things. I see someone asked you what a buck knife is. My question is, what would you use it for on a hike?

    Thanks Susan! I always enjoy your posts!

    1. You never know when you might get tangled in a vine or need to defend yourself. The knife opens pesky packing and can cut vegetables when you are dining by a campfire. I’ve carried one for many years. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.

  34. What a beautiful location for communing with nature! We just returned from a trip to eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina. One of my favorite areas and I can’t wait to return!

  35. Thanks so much for sharing. Such beautiful photos! I love seeing the beautiful mountains there is just something about them that seems so peaceful and spiritual to me. I would love to take a bike somewhere like that unfortunately I’m in South Florida lol.

  36. Hi, Susan,

    I love your blog and look forward to every installment. You have changed the way I think about clothing, hair and make-up since I retired at age 65 a year ago.

    I have been looking for some hiking boots, so thanks for the tip. What kind of socks do you wear with them?

    Many thanks!


  37. I enjoy and learn so much from capsule wardrobe or travel packing videos. You always look nice and seem so well put together. I am going to bring a subject up that I hope not to offend, but to share as a learning moment.
    I am hard of hearing with two hearing aids, which I expect you might have a small group of fans, especially senior ladies, that also have hearing issues. I am always so grateful for closed captioning if possible. Women’s voices are usually harder to distinguish, The videos somehow make everyone talk a little faster than in real-time. And yes, I do this too. It’s really helpful to face the camera when you are speaking instead of facing to the side or when you pull things off the rack, you are turned away. I, just like many others with hearing issues, rely a lot on lip-reading when we can’t hear or understand the person speaking. Again, I mean no disrespect. You do a great job and always look classy. Just trying to share tips that might help and possibly increase your viewing audience.

    1. Thank you for the feedback KatMar. Your points include many of the reasons I will not be doing more videos. My technical abilities are sadly lacking in video making, editing, and producing. I hope you will continue to read and follow my blog.

  38. Pls continue to do your packing videos. I’ve learned so much from them! I still find it hard to downsize my items and take too many “just in case” items that take up space and don’t get used. It’s a hard habit to break!
    Any tips on downsizing household items-dishes, table linens, glassware that are passed down but never used? Styles have changed and we no longer entertain in a formal fashion-I’m glad of it-less dishes to wash and tuck away, less to iron! I always enjoy your refreshing posts and seeing that you’re emerging from the trying pandemic with gusto!

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I share tips and inspiration for using what you already have in contemporary ways. Defining words include effortless, classic, refined, discreet, and elegant. My style is chic, minimal, and timeless with a bit of edge.