Chasing the Milky Way

Reading Time: 9 minutes

I wrote this post as I received the news on Wednesday that the company I work for is restructuring and that I have been laid off. In the spirit of being vulnerable and authentic, I still want to share our experience last weekend as well as what I am going through currently.

My friend said it best, “it’s like a relationship is ending and you aren’t ready for it to end”. Being laid off hurts. Really bad. It’s like a punch in the gut. I wasn’t ready for the impact. It was completely out of the blue. And it makes me feel like an absolute failure. While I understand the decision “has nothing to do with my performance”, all I can think about is that if I performed better, maybe I wouldn’t be in this situation. My job used to be such a big part of my identity, and now suddenly it’s not. I always thought I would be a CEO before a housewife, but life has different plans in store. As someone who truly loves to work and is used to succeeding, being on the opposite end of the spectrum brings so many thoughts of not being good enough. And it makes me question all of our decisions we have made this year. Was moving the right choice? Would I have been laid off if we stayed in South Carolina? How are we going to make ends meet?

Anytime I’ve failed, I’ve failed forward. In middle school when I realized I’m actually not great at softball because I close my eyes when I try to hit the ball, I decided on my own terms to try a different sport. When I started at UGA as a pre-pharmacy major and realized it wasn’t for me, I pivoted (…a few times) and still found success post graduation. Yes, I worked at a dude ranch for 6 months after graduation, but it was a recession in 2010 and it was still a paying job that got me out to Colorado.

And each time I knew it was a stepping stone to something bigger. I know my current failure situation right now is just that. A stepping stone to something bigger. When we moved to France, I told Jordan I wanted to figure out what I am passionate about, so maybe this unexpected opportunity will allow me the free time to determine what I’m passionate about – is it travel, writing, or is it something else?

I’m planning on creating a new section on our blog for travel tips and ideas, so you may see a few changes to my blog as I look to monetize it to try and make some extra income. I promise the blog post section will not change and I’ll keep posting about our experience. If you’ve read this far, please continue to read below to learn about our experience hiking this weekend that I wrote before the news.

“I found this really cool hike, look at the view! It’s an easy three mile hike and we can stay the night.”

– Jordan

Last weekend, Jordan and I set off for the French alps to go camping for the weekend. This wasn’t your typical car camping. We planned to hike to our spot for the night, which meant we had to carry everything with us in our backpacks. I spent a week backpacking through the Grand Canyon in 2011, but that was nine years ago! Jordan had not done this type of backpacking before, however, he was determined we could do it for the night.

Lacs des Chéserys, overlooking Mont Blanc

Our destination was Lacs des Chéserys, a series of alpine lakes that on a clear and calm day provided an amazing mirror view of Mont Blanc. At night, you would be able to see a sky full of stars and even have a chance to see the Milky Way. Jordan had seen a photo of this lake in a shop in Chamonix when we stopped there for lunch on our way back from Turin, Italy. We planned the hike for this specific weekend because it would be a new moon, which meant due to the low light we would have the biggest chance to see the Milky Way.

We didn’t ship any of our camping gear with our move, so we had to take inventory for what we had and figure out what we needed to buy. Luckily, we did already have a few basics that we use for hiking or travel, like a large three liter camelbak, well-worn hiking boots, trekking poles, and a large backpack. Things on our list to buy were new sleeping bags, tent, sleeping mat, and cooking gear. When backpacking, the key is to keep your pack as lightweight as possible since you are carrying everything. Every little ounce counts! We researched online at a local sports shop Snowleader and purchased the items we needed along with some freeze dried food that Jordan referred to as “moon food“. The moon food was actually freeze dried beef bolognese, and I reassured Jordan that it would be really good.

The week before the hike, we moved our coffee table out of the way to set up all our new gear in our living room. We wanted to do a test run and make sure that it would be easy to put everything together when we arrived at our spot for the night. It was also as equally as important to make sure that we could pack everything up back as small as how we received it. Could you imagine if we couldn’t pack it back and then it didn’t fit in our backpacks for the hike down? Luckily, everything was as easy to open and close as we had expected, making us excited for our hike in just a few days.

We arrived in the Chamonix valley on Saturday afternoon around four after an easy two hour drive. Since the hike was only three miles, we planned to start hiking in the afternoon to get there in time for dinner and sunset. The hike should only take 2.5 hours according to one of the websites that Jordan read. I figured that since it was an “easy” hike, I would bring a deck of cards and my Kindle in my pack to get some reading in. Remember – every ounce counts in our pack! We parked the car, stretched our legs, situated our backpacks correctly and then headed towards the trail head, excited for the afternoon.

The reality of our hike did not meet the expectations that we read online. I think we missed an important detail – that we were literally going up an entire mountain and would be gaining 3200 feet in elevation over more than three miles. Whoops, lesson learned the hard way!

The hike took us through areas that we have affectionately named the “friendly forest“, the “rock garden“, and “mountain meadows” and the “final ascent“. The friendly forest provided us shade to the sun and there were also a couple of benches where we could sit to rest for a few minutes before we started uphill again. The rock garden emerged after we got above the tree line and we had to constantly climb up the very rocky terrain. At this point, Jordan turned on The Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” for some motivation, not realizing there were still two sections of the hike to go and we really had just begun. The mountain meadows were full of switchbacks up the mountain, providing a little relief to the rocky terrain, but not much. While in the mountain meadows, I kept telling Jordan, “I don’t see where a lake could be up here… I think we have to go on the other side of the mountain“. We could see more hikers high on the mountain very far away, and we learned that is also where we had to go. At least we could see the finish line?

The final ascent was the most difficult part of the hike. We were exhausted, we had been walking with our heavy packs on our backs for more than four hours at this point, and then we had a very steep ascent to get up. There were footholds built into the rocks to give you an idea of how steep it was. But we finally made it! We had been hiking in short sleeve shirts, and quickly realized as we stopped moving how cold it was. We set up our tent while it was still light out and then changed into our jackets and pants for the evening. After enjoying the beautiful sunset colors on Mont Blanc, we made dinner by heating up water to put into our freeze dried meals. The freeze dried beef bolognese was the best meal we’ve ever eaten. And since we live in France, we also hiked all the way up the mountain with a baguette that we ate with dinner and for breakfast the next morning. Jordan had waited all day to tell me his joke as he got the baguette out of his backpack: “I’ve really elevated this bread“.

We tried sleeping for a few hours after dinner, and set alarms for the middle of the night to look at the stars. We ended up staying up the majority of the night to look at the stars and try to capture the Milky Way. The kindle was never read; the deck of cards were never used.

On Sunday, we were up with the sun around six in the morning. We took our time in the morning as we enjoyed a stunning, clear view of Mont Blanc before hiking back down. We took many more breaks on the way down than we did while going up, and we were thankful for our trekking poles to help provide us some extra balance. The water in both our camelbaks was finished right at the end of the hike, and we at least patted ourselves on the back for planning our water allotment appropriately.

Once we made it back to our car and could finally have a break from our heavy backpacks, we both were starving and looked for the closest restaurant that was open and had burgers and fries. We went to a local restaurant a short distance away, only to find out that there was not burgers or fries as their menu promised. We ordered Powerade and two sausages, but quickly realized we should have clarified if these sausages are hot or cold… because we ended up with whole country dry sausages that we had to cut and peel to eat.

The hike was way more intense than we expected, but it was such an unexpected accomplishment for both of us. We also go to see some wildlife along the way! The kicker of this whole story is that once we got to the top, we realized there was a gondola that could have bypassed the friendly forest and rock garden to make the hike much easier.

And so finally, I present to you, after taking a literal shot in the dark to try and capture this, you can vaguely make out “la voie lactée“, or the Milky Way.

Like what you see? Share this with your friends!

6 thoughts on “Chasing the Milky Way

  1. In spite of your disappointing news, what a wonderful blog!
    I believe God has plans for you – plans for good and not evil, that you might have a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11). He has given you a great mind, drive, attitude, a great husband, a beautiful place to live, and God’s own strong right arm to see you through. What wonderful things are in store for you both!
    Your hike reminds me of our one and only over night hike up Mount LeConte. Our route was straight up – 5 miles! It was October with brilliant colors, the peak of leaf season, with clear blue skies. We slept with the bears!
    My prayers are with you.

    1. Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words, Nancy. I really needed to hear this!! You are right – we are so lucky for what we do have and I need to be more mindful and appreciative of this!

      I’m not quite sure where to go from here, but I hopefully will get some clarity in the next few weeks. I asked Jordan if I could be a full-time travel blogger if I could make $1 on the blog in the next two months! I’m not sure if he will go for the idea though haha.

      I bet the top of Mount LeConte was beautiful in the Fall. It’s my favorite time of year and I love seeing all the colors on the trees. You sure do have some great stories to tell. Maybe you should start a blog to document them too!

    1. Thanks so much for checking out our blog. We really appreciate it! I try to be as authentic I can, but it’s tough to let myself be open and vulnerable to the internet!

Leave a Reply