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Mental Health Day

10.17.2014

Recently, I've felt myself more stressed & irritated than usual.  I'm chalking it up to extra hours of work during this time of year & general workplace politics.  Either way, I knew that I needed a mental health day.  After checking the weather for my off days, I knew that I needed to take full advantage of the incredible fall weather with a little time outdoors.  I took off to one of my favorite old haunts- Moss Rock Preserve
This nature preserve is settled right in the middle of Hoover & contains miles of trails, waterfalls, boulder fields, & rare plants.  In college, I made a few trips to MRP as I began learning to rock climb.  I really enjoyed these trips & decided to break out my old climbing shoes.

I made the trip up to the preserve and got there around 10 that morning.  I was hoping since it was early on a weekday that the area would be deserted & I could be left alone with my thoughts in the woods.  My heart sunk a little as I pulled into the parking lot & noticed it was pretty full.  I grabbed my gear & started up the path none the less.  I was grateful to find that the cars must have belonged to employees of the businesses across the road because I had the entire preserve to myself.  Well- me, the birds, a couple of frantic squirrels, & one curious chipmunk.  The weather was absolutely perfect as the sun trickled through the canopy & the only sounds I heard were the birds scurrying & the wind blowing through the trees.  I could feel my stress washing away & remembered why I loved romps through the woods so much- before life caught up with me.
I broke out my boulder map & began climbing.  On one of my first ascents I realized why there was always someone else with me on those college climbs.  Before I knew it I had scurried up the face & looked down to find that my crash pad was a good ways away from where I needed it to be & the route was becoming more challenging.  Falling off the side of a large boulder onto smaller rocks or the hard ground didn't appeal to me- & the thought of laying there incapacitated for hours until someone found me really didn't appeal to me.  As a result, my climbing was pretty limited but I did hit up a few spots that I felt a little more comfortable doing without a spotter.  Throughout this time, I remembered how much I enjoyed climbing & decided it's high time I got back into it.  Unfortunately, the days of college have long ago passed & with it any former friends I had that were into the sport.  I'd love to find some local Tuscaloosa/Birmingham people that could ease me back into the saddle.  I'll add that to the to-do list- but if anyone knows a guy...
I plopped down atop Snoopy's House for a bit & let all my stress wash away.  I laid down & soaked in the sunshine & fall breeze.  As I laid on the cool rock, the birds were singing & I had absolute solitude & serenity in such a spiritual place.  I was reminded what a truly beautiful world this is & my heart was so full.  Talk about your mental health day!  I needed that... 
 
After I pried myself from the 'spirit rock', I realized all was no longer quiet.  My belly had quite the grumble as it was well past lunch time.  I gathered up my gear & started back up the trail, just in time as I noticed several more people were beginning to mill about.  I reached my car & broke out my food passport.  I keep a running notebook of all the places I'd love to grab a meal in the Tuscaloosa & Birmingham areas.  I decided today was the day to hit up Pho Que Huong for a Vietnamese noodle bowl.
I had the Hu Tieu My Tho (#23) bowl.  This piping hot rice noodle soup had bits of sliced pork, a couple of shrimp, one quail egg, & a couple of bits of squid.  The food came quickly & was decently priced.  I sat back with my book & soup & enjoyed a bit more quiet.  It was my first experience with any Vietnamese dishes but I have to say it was pretty much a ramen bowl (always a win).  I got the small bowl & a water.  After tax, my meal was $9 which sounds reasonable for lunch but I suppose I felt a little shorted considering it was essentially just a small bowl of soup.  I ended up not finishing the bowl, despite my hunger.  I often find I just tire of eating, even if I'm still hungry.  Does anyone else do that?  None the less, I made my way back to Hoover to head home.  I made a stop at Publix for ingredients for our dinner that night & realized my belly just needed a little something extra.  Since I was leaving the Publix on Montgomery Highway, I decided to run across the street for a sweet treat for the car ride home.  Enter Shipley Donuts...
I shelled out a mere $1.87 for a delicious apple fritter as big as my head & hit the open road.  I rode the entire way home with the windows down, soaking in the beautiful day & enjoying some Birmingham Mountain Radio.  A perfect ending to a perfect day...
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