(This was my first 24-hour get-away trip.  Originally posted here on June 21, 2013.)

I love you guys, but sometimes a girl just needs a break.

Since Feb. 1, 2013, I’ve shot 8 UIL state championship tournaments, Texas Relays, SXSW, 2 weddings, the Texas Water Safari, 10 business profiles, and over 100 editorial assignments.   I’ve been to New Mexico, Chicago, Dallas (multiple times) and various locations all over Texas.  I’m not even going to try to estimate the number of times I’ve clicked the shutter in the past 140 days.

Saying I’ve been busy is a bit of an understatement.  So when summer finally came and I had a few empty days on the calendar, you can understand why I might want to escape.

On Tuesday I packed up and drove to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area all by myself.

Before I left, I treated myself to a new backpack and floppy hat, and asked for advice from some of my favorite expert campers.  I promptly ignored their advice not to go camping and hiking alone, and excitedly went anyway.

I arrived at my camp site and set up my tent, my lantern and my chair and made a small fire.  I ate an early dinner of a hot dog, grapes and pretzel chips and then hit the trail to the summit of Enchanted Rock.

The landscape was gorgeous, so I snapped a few pictures on my way up, using both my D700 and my iPhone 5.  In the interest of not carrying too much weight while hiking, I only used a fixed 50mm f 1.8 lens on my dslr.

As I approached the summit, there were dozens of vultures flying over my head.  For a minute I thought the warnings about not hiking alone my have had some merit, but then I realized they were just enjoying the updrafts from the wind whipping around the rock.

When I arrived at the top, I couldn’t believe the scene.  It was all granite, with little puddles of water littering the landscape.  Every once in a while there was a small oasis with cacti, yucca, tiny yellow flowers and other desert plants, all growing out of the rock.

As the sun set, I played with the yucca plants against the colorful sky.

When the sun disappeared beyond the horizon, clouds began to roll in and a few other park visitors showed up, making my time not so alone.  I got a shot of a few of them enjoying the twilight, grabbed my flashlight and headed back down to camp.

When I arrived back at camp, I rekindled my fire and got ready to make s’mores.  (You can’t camp without s’mores.)  Suddenly I heard, “Excuse me, ma’am?”  I looked out in the darkness and there was a young couple walking toward my fire.  I answered and they said, “We’ve been trying to make a fire for over an hour, could you help us?”

I grabbed my matches, kindling and a brand new bottle of lighter fluid and walked with them to their camp site.  Their logs were laying parallel, flat on the ground near an empty box of matches.  I stacked the logs and kindling and lit a match.  Then I added a little lighter fluid (mostly to make me look like a hero) and they were amazed.  I left them a hand full of matches and the bottle of lighter fluid and walked back to enjoy my s’mores.

As I did, another group of young campers passed and commented how they only had one log for their fire.  It was my first time camping alone and making a camp fire by myself, but I felt like the most experienced camper in the park.

Around 10 p.m. or so, I secured all my food and got ready for bed.  As I laid down to sleep, I realized that I had my phone on all day, and I had been checking it.  I answered emails, text messaged, checked Facebook, and even made a phone call or two.  I was alone, but I wasn’t getting quite the satisfaction that I had hoped for from my get away.

I slept until it got light out, around 6:30 a.m., then got dressed and packed up for another hike.  This time I turned off my phone.

It was early, so the weather was pleasant and I had the trails to myself.  I took the Loop Trail on the east side of Enchanted Rock and took my time, exploring and enjoying every scenic overlook.

This time I didn’t take very many pictures.  I just cleared my head of everything except what was right in front of me.

After about two miles along the Loop Trail, I cut across to Echo Canyon Trail, which runs between Enchanted Rock and it’s smaller counterpart, Little Rock.  That was the best part of the whole trip for me.

The trail was rocky and I had to climb boulders and splash through a couple small streams.  There was one part, though, that was like being in a tiny rainforest.  I walked under a canopy of green, leafy trees and the temperature dropped about 15 degrees.  I took off my back pack and my hat and set down my camera and just breathed deep and listened to the birds.

After a while I started to hear voices in the distance, so I continued on my way.  More and more people appeared on the trail later in the morning, so I returned to my camp site and had an early lunch.  It was quiet there, so I read a little (click here to read what I read), packed up my stuff and headed home.

On the way, I thought about how much better I felt.  I finally got to go on an adventure and do everything I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it.  I didn’t have to wait on anyone or compromise my plans or feel the pressure of a deadline.  After a crazy spring, I finally took a breath.

I’m home now and my calendar is ragged, but fairly clear, and I have some time to reflect on my work.  That means I’ll be back to blogging!  Thank you loyal fans for being patient and supporting me through what’s been the busiest time of my career so far!  Cheers to you and to a wonderful summer ahead!

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