After six months, BABY CAP LIVES! – And is now a beautiful butterfly.

Early Sunday afternoon, I was standing in the doorway of my Tallahassee home, sending Niko off to work at the rock gym. I glanced up at the trinkets arranged by the foyer, and there he was – Baby Cap has emerged from his cocoon and is now a gorgeous Black Swallowtail butterfly. Many readers will remember the adorable caterpillar whose life I chronicled for weeks until he reached pupation.

Baby Cap, as he was dubbed, has traveled with me all over the midwest. His projected ‘birth’ date was to occur during my two-week climbing trip to Wyoming and Colorado with the boys – so naturally, I took him with me. Baby Cap traveled through Kansas and Oklahoma; he hung out in the crisp mountain air at Horseshoe Canyon Range; he even visited the Grand Teton National Park. Any adventure we experienced during the road trip was shared with Baby Cap.

He didn’t hatch at any point during the trip, so we returned together to the lazy city of Tallahassee. Weeks, then months passed, yet Baby Cap remained in his brown cocoon. It has been a total of six months since he entered his process of metamorphosis. Everyone around me has long since abandoned hope for my little buddy. Friends asked why I still kept the jar around, and when I planned on finally throwing it away. I knew he was probably dead, but I couldn’t give up on him.

Then, without warning, he emerged to a cold Sunday afternoon. Releasing him was undoubtedly the most amazing experience I have ever had with a creature. While Niko ran to grab both of my cameras, I coaxed his little body out from the mason jar in which I kept his chrysalis. His black body was still a bit curled, and his wings were dipped in powder. We brought him into the backyard, and rested him on my milkweed plant. After hanging out with us for a while, Baby Cap stretched out his wings for a final time, then soared out through the backyard and into the afternoon sky.

Naturally, I took a million pictures. Here are the best:

How’s that for a little Monday Motivation?

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Vote to help the Southeastern Climbers Coalition purchase and restore outdoor areas in Alabama and Tennessee!

In recent years, the Pepsi Refresh Project has gained notoriety for their work assisting small groups in achieving big goals. The Southeastern Climbers Coalition is vying for a chance to win $250,000 in funding to restore closed climbing areas and promote the sport of rock-climbing. Their plan is to purchase approximately 80 acres of land in Tennessee and Alabama that have been closed to public access. They also hope to create new hiking trails throughout the southeast, and maintain current trails.

Climbers will be particularly interested in the efforts made to acquire land in Alabama. The 40 forested acres of land are dotted with an impressive amount of boulders and cliffs. There are more than 100 recognized boulder problems in this area, which reportedly range from V0-V12. Non-climbers will also benefit from this project, as it will promote hiking trails throughout the entire southeastern region of the United States.

You can vote daily by visiting the SCC’s Official Voting Page on the Pepsi Refresh Project website. This is a great opportunity for the climbing community to do something that will greatly benefit future generations of climbers and outdoor enthusiasts of all types. It is imperative that we cherish what nature has given us, and there is no better time than now to start preserving and restoring the beautiful outdoors.

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Take me back to the mountains!

My To-Do list has reached a damning level of ridiculousness, but all the writing, studying and working will be worth it at 1:00 PM tomorrow, when I will make my return to my proper habitat in the mountains. I’ll be spending a glorious weekend in the boulder fields at Horse Pens 40, in Steele, Alabama. Sleeping under the stars with Niko, tearing my fingertips apart on rocks, photographing the foliage and breathing crisp mountain air – can’t I just leave now?

For many Climbing Club members, this will be their first excursion on a climbing trip. As a veteran who distinctly remembers my unprepared first trip, I wanted to share some insights and advice about packing, what to expect and more. There’s the obvious stuff, like bringing a tent, sleeping bag, refillable water bottle and camp-friendly food. There is also the less obvious information, such as striving to minimalize and making sure you bring a roll of tape for your soon-to-be wrecked fingers.

Packing: In terms of camping, you need to ensure you have all of the above mentioned items, and I highly suggest investing in a headlamp. Not only is this beneficial for night climbing, you’ll find it endlessly useful when your bladder needs unloading in the middle of the night. Cookware and food are also important – don’t forget utensils. Ideas for camping food includes granola bars, bagels with Nutella, apples, pasta and packaged meals that only require hot water.

Climbing: There are a few essential things that every climber needs to remember: your climbing shoes, chalk bag, crash pads, tape and comfortable shoes for the hike to the boulders. A pair of shoes you can easily slip on and off will be best for when you’re moving between boulder areas – on my first trip to LRC, I brought annoying sneakers  that required constant lacing and unlacing, and it drove me nuts. Also, be sure to bring a small backpack that you can shove your gear, snacks and whatever else into while you’re out exploring the area.

Weather: The forecast for the weekend is showing lows in the mid-40s to low-50s and highs around 82. This means you’ll be bundling up at night, and stripping down during the day, so plan accordingly. Trust me, 82 might seem pleasant, but after a few hours of climbing you’ll feel like you’re baking in a sauna. Bring shorts!

General Advice: Before you leave, charge your camera and your phone! This is the wilderness, baby, ain’t no plugs where you’re going. Don’t bother doing laundry before the trip, being smelly and dirty is a glorious part of being a climber. If you’re finished packing, go back to your bag and get rid of half of the stuff you think you need. You’ll probably end up wearing the same shirt the entire weekend; no need to bring more than two. Respect nature. Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints. We are blessed to be able to climb at HP40, and we should show our gratitude by honoring nature.

Friends, readers, fellow climbers – prepare yourselves for my return on Sunday, when I shall be regaling you with tales of my weekend adventures. Story time shall be accompanied by photos, naturally. I am indescribably excited for my hooded jacket to come back to Tallahassee reeking of campfire. Horse Pens 40 is also hosting their annual Pumpkin Motorcycle Rally this weekend, so you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be loaded with entertaining anecdotes.

The Morning Fresh will be on hiatus this weekend, as I will be gladly disconnected from all technology while I crush some rocks.

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What Makes a Party?

After a gorgeous weekend in Chattanooga, Niko and I finally pulled into the semi-familiar backwoods of Tallahassee late last night, just as my iPhone battery finally died. We trekked home, and poured ourselves into his bed. I can’t remember the last time I slept so soundly.

This morning I woke up feeling like I was been beaten with a heavy stone. I had felt the tension and pulling of my muscles yesterday afternoon while I attempted The Main Event (V4) at Little Rocky City, but I didn’t realize the extent of my body abuse until the next day. My soreness and overall drained vibes have entirely usurped my urge to tend to my physical appearance, and thus I made my way to my first class of the day with unbrushed hair, unshaved armpits and yesterday’s stale socks.

Naturally, given my disheveled condition, today was one of the few times of the semester that I ran into a friend on campus. Eric and I spotted each other near the Union crosswalk, and followed the brick path towards my classroom together. He said to me,

“You look tired – like you’ve had a long weekend of partying.”

Too genuine of a friend for me to be offended by this comment that many women would liken to being told they look ‘swollen’ – read: fat – I instead began to consider the relationship between looking like I had been out partying all weekend with the reality that my wrecked appearance was a result of a long weekend spent adventuring and celebrating, if you will, Mother Earth.

Yes, I had a long weekend of partying – except for a few minor detail alterations. Switch the beer and vodka with heirloom tomatoes and bison burgers; replace keg stands with boulder climbing; aquariums and winding mountain roads instead of nightclubs and liquor stores. Hell yeah, I had a great weekend of Chattanooga-style partying. Thanks for the compliment, Eric.

Plenty of photos from exploring the Tennessee Aquarium and climbing at Little Rock City are on the way! I snapped a few shots with the AE-1, but I still have a couple exposures left on the roll so it’ll be a few days until I get those up. Until then, I promise a handful of digital photos to satisfy your adventure cravings.

Other things to look forward to this week (and next) on The Morning Fresh: an adorable recipe for cinna-mummy baked apple wedges, advice for camping in preparation for the Climbing Club at FSU’s trip to Horse Pens 40, a feature post on high school classmate Andrew Kenward’s music-based A.K. Jigga and loads more. Also very exciting, my article on Amendment 4 was featured on the website as a guest blog! Click here to check it out. If anyone missed my interview on the Joyce Kaufman talk show on Friday, shoot me a comment and I’ll send you a recording. Have a beautiful Monday, readers!

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Image of the Day

I have spent my entire day pacing in front of my front door, waiting for my La Sportiva Katanas to get delivered – thank you for the awesome birthday present, Niko! Trapped at home, I have had a lot of time to kill. I entertained myself by flipping through photos from my housemate Brooke’s recent trip to Arizona. I was smitten the moment I came across the featured photo; it speaks to my lifestyle completely, and can be adapted to apply to all of our lives. Life on the rocks. ‘Cause it really always is, isn’t it?

Speaking of rocks, the Climbing Club at FSU is heading off on a trip to Horse Pens 40 next weekend – and I cannot wait. If you haven’t experienced the adventure of a rock-climbing trip, you really should give it a shot. There is nothing like spending a few days out in nature, eating bagels smothered in Nutella, toasting marshmallows over a real campfire and escaping the demands of your daily life. Coincidentally, our trip is happening the same weekend as HP40’s Pumpkin Moon Motorcycle Rally and family camp-out. I reckon things are going to get real interesting. You can be expecting some sweet photos upon my return.

Before I head off on that excursion, I’ll be enjoying my first proper visit to Chattanooga for my 22nd birthday. Niko and I will be traveling to Tennessee this weekend to explore everything that the city has to offer. I’m most excited for the Tennessee Aquarium, which houses the largest freshwater facility in the world. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of photography loaded with creatures. They have a butterfly garden, free-flying birds, a large selection of frog species, enormous aquarium tanks and my favorite, an exhibit dedicated to invertebrates like jellyfish and cuttlefish.

Hoorah, adventure!

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Pictures from the Trip

Readjusting to the humidity and allergens of Tallahassee has been draining me the past few days – not to mention that the eve of my return was my housemate Brooke’s 21st Birthday celebration and our good friend Regina Mirabito is in town, so I’ve just been on a whole different level since I arrived back home.

I owe my readers a juicy batch of photos from the epic road trip you have all been following for the past few weeks. I haven’t yet developed the shots taken with my AE1, but I promise to do that within this week. Here are a few of my favorite captured moments from the trip. Follow the jump to see more, and/or check out the entire collection via Facebook.

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Miami Photos

I apologize for my lack of updates lately – it has been a whirlwind the last few days with the Tallahassee Rock Gym’s 15th Anniversary and preparing for our trip. My To-Do list is longer than ever before, and we’ll be hitting the road tomorrow at noon, so I need to get crackin’, but I wanted to give you guys something to tide you over until I start posting updates from my travels across America.

Here are some fun shots I took at home in Miami, with my Dad’s beautiful Nikon SLR.

Many more shots after the jump!

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Nature Update!

We have been anxiously waiting for weeks while Baby Cap munched his way towards pupating, and last night it finally happened. He molted his caterpillar skin for the last time, exposing the light brown chrysalis that will transform him into a butterfly. It was particularly difficult to get a shot of the chrysalis because it is in the screened enclosure, but I was able to get one decent picture to share.

** I highly suggest you click on the picture of the furry moth, it’s of fantastic quality at greater size. **

While we are still on the nature theme, I wanted to start chronicling my experience growing sunflowers. My mom sent up a little do-it-yourself kit of sunflowers, in a package that also included killer rice krispies and my Dad’s awesome AE1 35mm. I planted them about two days ago, and they have already begun to sprout! I thought it would be a fun mini-project to document their growth, so enjoy.

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Nature Update

Every time I convince myself that my Black Swallowtail Caterpillar can’t get any juicier, he devours another stalk of his fennel plant and fattens up even more. I am astonished at both his rate of growth, and the beefing up of my smaller moth caterpillar. I snagged a shot of the smaller one right after he molted – you can spot his small old body discarded at the bottom of his leaf.

Included alongside the caterpillar update are a few shots I took in the backyard this afternoon while Niko and I looked for a good branch for Baby Cap to pupate on. I found a little red mushroom right behind my bedroom window, and came across a gooey slug enjoying his fungus dinner over near our rotting logs in the back.

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Happy 4th of July!

It’s a great day to be an American, folks! On this slightly overcast Sunday afternoon, let us revel over the beauty of our homeland as we toss back a few good ‘ole Pabst Blue Ribbons, grill up some spicy black bean burgers, and congregate in a mass of pure patriotism.

I thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the day with some quotes I came across at USATrends. These excerpts are examples of the best of American values and patriotic dedication to our land. Once again, getting me pumped for my journey across the sprawling midwest.

“May the sun in his course visit no land more free, more happy, more lovely, than this our own country!”
– Daniel Webster

“My God! How little do my countrymen know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy!”
– Thomas Jefferson

“Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”
– Dwight D. Eisenhower

Enjoy this holiday — get outside into some nature, and take a few moments to appreciate what you’ve got in your own backyard. We have to maintain this land that we’ve been gifted; that is our duty in return for nature allowing us to intrude upon her. Updates to come with the much-anticipated photos of the caterpillars.

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