Finding our footing once again: recharging with some much needed down time at Pickwick Landing State Park

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After five long months with a more or less self-imposed lockdown & self isolation in Millington, the family needed a break. This time we set our sights on staying local and checking out one of the many beautiful state parks in Tennessee. Doing some research on their incredible website, www.tnstateparks.com, we managed to narrow down our choices to a few key variables: trails to run & hike, bodies of water to swim, and cabins to rent. With those search criteria and availability of cabins, we narrowed in on Pickwick Landing State Park near Counce in southern Tennessee. The park originated as a riverboat landing site on the Tennessee River, and later during the Great Depression, the Tennessee Valley Authority chose the site as a location for the Pickwick dam which created the Pickwick lake now beloved as a recreation site along the river. It also happened to be just down river from one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, Shiloh. With all of that in mind, and me looking forward to getting back to running after nearly a month of recovery, we kenneled our puppy, loaded the car, and took off.

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Sadly we discovered our family travel skills atrophied since last fall. The 2 hour trip seemed…to…last…forever.

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Here’s the rundown:
Miles driven: 95 (yeah I know that’s like nothing!)
Time to get there: 2.5 hours
Number of times we listened to “Trolls World Tour Soundtrack: 3.5 (an upgrade from Lion King!)
Number of pit stops: 1 (no road trip is complete without a stop at McDonalds)
Number of McDonalds’ French fries lost in car seats: 34
Number of times asked “are we there yet?”: 24
Number of times I nearly lost it: 2.5 (now that’s progress!)
Number of beers I had once we arrived: 2…and they were AMAZING!

The one redeeming moment of the trip: watching live as the Space X capsule splashed down off Florida. Talk about motivating! It’s hard to believe the last time the US did a splashdown of a manned capsule was a month before I was born. I guess that means I’m aged, huh?

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We arrived after two nearly never ending hours on the road. Everything was perfect. Our cabin ready, we checked in and got settled. The cabin came fully furnished with two bedrooms, TV, deck, fire pit, and an amazing view of the lake. It was all so calming and peaceful. The stress of the two hour drive seemed to melt away as we unpacked in the late day’s heat. We grilled that first night and sipped on Blue Moon. The noise of insects was all we heard. It was simple and perfect.

The next morning I ventured out to run. It had been two weeks since I last attempted a run with terrible results. This time though, I slowly trotted out to the nearby trail for three incredible miles with nature. Sure it started a little rough and the ribs were still a bit sore, but it was a start! I ventured out along the trails for three easy miles. You have to start again somewhere, and this was it. The day after that, still sore but mainly in the legs, I headed into the next day’s run a bit more confident. And then it happened. With a goal of about 4 miles, my body turned on and I felt an electric sense take over. My body felt alive again with each step forward! Such a great feeling! I finished 5 miles!

The day after that, I figured out what that electric feeling that took over my legs: being sore. Yeah, I could feel it the following morning as I headed out once again for four more miles: legs were achy and tired, but regardless I went for what became another incredible run. No exploring today, just an out and back. Then I had one of those “Oh geez” moments as I finished my 4th mile. My watch bleebed out that I ran it in 7:46/mi pace…and for a second I thought “Is this broken? How the heck?!” But yeah, a 7:46/mi pace on an uphill. Definitely a good sign! Something to smile about! I wrapped the trip up with one more four mile trot around the park the last day. By then the legs felt good again and my mileage for the week was up to 16 miles in four days. Both my body and mind now in a good state of relaxation and recovery.

When not running, we spent the days hiking and I taught my oldest the age old art of skipping stones on the lake. It’s a work in progress but she’s getting there. We spent time at the beaches swimming and playing in the sand. We ate, we drank, we all relaxed, we all needed it. We had two six packs of beer: Blue Moon and Fat Tire. They were all we needed to sit out on the porch and enjoy the mild evenings along the lake. They hit the spot every time.

One day we explored the American Civil War Battlefield of Shiloh, just 15min away. One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, the battlefield park is an amazing testament to the Soldiers who fought and died. We walked part of the battlefield and drove the rest. If you have the time and energy, I recommend cycling the battlefield for an even better experience. As it was, my oldest was less than enthusiastic after the walk. With that said, here’s another sampling of questions I received during the driving tour:

  1. Are we done yet?
  2. How much further?
  3. Can we go swimming RIGHT NOW?
  4. Why is this so boring?
  5. Why do they have so many guns? (referring to the artillery pieces that decorate the fields)
  6. Why did the Conflederates (her pronunciation) walk here? Couldn’t they drive?
  7. How did they fight with all these monuments here?
  8. Why did they fight? Couldn’t someone just be put in time out?
  9. Daddy, weren’t you alive when they fought here?
  10. Can we have McDonalds for lunch?

Our last day was all about making those indelible memories for our girls necessary in life. It started at the beach where in the sun we played for hours. And despite wearing SPF 500 and liberally applying it every 15 minutes, everyone walked away with the end of vacation sun burn. What’s a vacation without one though?

Then after the sun went down it was time for a fire and of course s’mores. It was such a popular event that one of the locals ventured up to see what was going on. Once he realized we weren’t sharing our marshmallows, he left. We proceeded on to make top quality s’mores. The oldest has this thing against any chocolate that isn’t white so we broke down and got some white Ghirardelli chocolate for her. I have to say, it was awesome! Try it some time—you won’t be disappointed.

And like that our trip came to a close. We all seemed more relaxed and rested, even with some mild sunburns and the car smelling of aloe on the drive home. The drive wasn’t that bad either as everyone seemed to sleep and we only listened to the Trolls World Tour soundtrack twice (a vast improvement). We stood ready for whatever the pandemic, autumn, and virtual kindergarten could throw at us in the weeks ahead. On top of this, I had something of my own planned too, in the truest sense of paths & pilsners, just over the horizon.

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