Hiking Gilliam Loop Trail and Pogo Ridge (9 Miles) in DeSoto State Park During Christmas 2019

Christmas 2019 was extra special in that my nephew Matt (who is in the Air Force, stationed on Mississippi) and my niece Sara (who is a school teacher in California) were able to spend the holidays with my family in Alabama.

With all the Christmas cargo we had to take down from where we actually live in Tennessee and then bring back from Alabama, my wife and I decided to take both her Hyundai Elantra and my Jeep Wrangler for the nearly 3 hour drive there.

For me, it was just an excuse to be able to serve as a Jeep tour guide during Christmas vacation. I started out by taking Matt and Sara (and their mother Jeanene) on a 23 mile drive along Little River Canyon on Christmas Eve.

And for the day after Christmas, I announced I would be heading up a 9 mile hike in a “hidden gem” of a trail in DeSoto State Park, called Gilliam Loop (which begins at Cabin 21)- or at least, my version of it.

Matt and Sara agreed to join me, with zero hesitation.

Gilliam Loop is actually a mountain biking trail, but if you know where to veer off the path, you can connect to Pogo Ridge.

Back in 1934, the Civilian Conversation Corps (known as CCC) built culverts along the trail, which runs parallel to Little River.

So it is really cool to see these 86 year-old structures still in place.

Pogo Ridge leads a crossing point of Little River itself. However, we opted not to cross through the river, which would have meant we would have had to hike the rest of the day in wet clothes.

Therefore, we took Exit 4 of the trail back to the Road 12.

When it was all said and done, we had hiked 9.25 miles in 3 hours.

Before heading back to the house, I took them by Howard’s Chapel; the church built into a giant rock, where the founding pastor’s ashes are contained.

Oh, and I failed to mention:

Christmas Week 2019 contained perfect Fall Weather, which allowed us to have this much fun!

I had the top off the Jeep the entire time, as the temperate remained in the 60s for most of the time.

It will be a Christmas I never forget!

My 2019 Year in Review: 5 Things That Defined My Life in the Final Year of the 2010s- Existential Crisis, Jeep Wrangler, 20th High School Reunion…

I only recently realized that we are actually coming to the end of another decade. This decade itself has presented several major milestones for me:

2010: I became a parent for the first time when my son Jack was born.

2011: I turned 30 years old. Parents Magazine chose me as their official daddy blogger- a side gig that was last the next 4 years.

2012: I became the manager of the retention department at my employer at the time, which triggered my fascination with emotional intelligence- especially, the concept that being offended is always a person decision.

2013: My wife and I became debt-free, other than our mortgage.

2014: We started building our new house.

2015: We moved into our brand-new house; having previously owned a town home. I also started my first YouTube channel, which currently has over 8K subscribers and earns me an average of $500 per month.

2016: Four days after my 35th birthday, my daughter was born.

2017: The company I had been working for the past 11 years closed down my branch, starting a 6 month stretch of me being a stay-at-home dad.

2018: I made by television debut on the Lifetime Network show, This Time Next Year. I also got a new job, at a Fortune 500 Company, where I have now worked a year and a half.

As for 2019, there are 5 particular events that come to mind…

1- Existential crisis: Having reached all my major life goals before the age 40, I came to a point where I had to re-evaluate my goals and ambitions.

2- Jeep Wrangler: After owning my Honda Element since 2006, I finally got a new” vehicle- a 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK 6 Speed.

3- 20th Year High School Reunion: My wife and I had a great time with the people I grew up with and graduated with in 1999.

4- Releasing Original Songs: So far, my wife and I have released 4 new original songs together on my YouTube channel. Despite both moving to Nashville to start music careers, we had never publicly performed together.

5- 1st Family Pet: Despite our “no pet” policy in our home, my son wanted a teddy bear hamster for his 9th birthday. Ultimately, the hamster quickly became my pet- or at best, the “family” pet.

Now, with the 2020s ahead of me, I shall enter the decade in which I turn 40 and became of the parent of two teenagers. That ought to be fun.

Jeep Family Road Trip Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, AL: Train Ride, Petting Zoo, and Nature Hike

I grew up on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Alabama; which happens to be the midway point between Chattanooga and Gadsden- less than an hour from both cities.

A month ago, my wife and I took a scenic drive all the way down the mountain to downtown Chattanooga. But this past weekend for our son’s Fall Break, we simply drove in the other direction, which led to Gadsden -home of Noccalula Falls.

Despite visiting the place throughout my own childhood, somehow I had yet to take my own family there. I suppose our new Jeep serves as constant motivation to discover (or rediscover) nearby hidden gems!

Children ages 3 and under are free admission, so we only paid a total of $16 to enter the park. That granted us access to the petting zoo, the train ride around the park, and the trails that go down to the bottom of Noccalula Falls.

It was a great way to spend an Autumn morning…

So if you are looking for a fun affordable family road trip, I highly suggest Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Alabama!

Jeep Wrangler Road Trip with My Wife Along Lookout Mountain Brow: From Fort Payne, AL to Rising Fawn, GA to Chattanooga, TN

Owning a Jeep Wrangler means that suddenly, any drive immediately becomes an adventurous road trip. That definitely was the case Labor Day Weekend.

My wife and I drove from my parents’ house in Fort Payne, Alabama to downtown, Chattanooga; the while time with the top off the Jeep and the whole time along the brow of Lookout Mountain.

We traveled through 3 states in doing so: Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.

About halfway through, we stopped for a hike along side of the mountain top, at Cloudland Canyon State Park.

From there, we stumbled upon some hang gliders who were flying all around us. This was quite a sight to see!

It was a fun date! I really enjoyed being able to spent time alone with my wife all afternoon, while my parents and sister watched our kids.

At age 38, having fun is still important. Having a cool wife and a cool Jeep helps make that possible!

Dear Holly: You Helped Papa Clean My Super Dirty Jeep

3 years, 3 months.

Dear Holly,

Part of my character arc and personal journey this year in 2019 is that I had to test out my new Jeep’s off-roading capabilities and my own abilities to drive it through some self-prescribed extreme conditions this summer.

After 3 really close calls in the span of 3 weeks, I finally decided I need to settle down a bit, knowing that I had truly broken in my Jeep.

With that being said, I got the Jeep really, really dirty… and muddy… and stinky.

But thanks to Papa visiting last week while I was at work, the two of you were able to help get my Jeep looking and smelling better than it ever has since I’ve owned it.

Good job!

Love,

Daddy

 

How to Fix a Jeep Wrangler JK 6-Speed That Pops Out of Gear with a B&M 45195 Shifter Lever Kit: Plus, a 7 Hour Off-Road Test Drive Little River Canyon National Reserve!

You no longer have to worry about or wonder why your Jeep Wrangler JK 6 Speed randomly pops out of gear for no reason! And no, it’s not you.

It’s not that you’re accidentally not forcing the shifter all the way into 1st gear. And no, it doesn’t pop out of gear every day.

In fact, I handed over to the keys to my 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK to a local transmission shop, but after a week of the shop owner driving it on a daily basis, he handed the keys back: “I couldn’t find anything wrong with your Jeep.”

Fortunately, I have the answer you have been looking for! I will save you thousands of dollars, and, I will save your from cringing in anticipation every time you shift into first gear, doubting yourself as you wonder if the shifter will pop out of 1st before you can get it into 2nd.

Instead of rebuilding or replacing the transmission, the first (and likely last) place to start is buy purchasing and installing a B&M Precision Sport Shifter (45195), which fits the 2007-2018 Jeep Wrangler JK.

It will cost you a little over $500, plus hiring a mechanic who can install it for you; about 3 hours worth of labor.

It’s this simple: Chrysler didn’t make a strong enough shifter for the Jeep Wrangler JK.

Therefore, it’s pretty common for them to pop of out of 1st gear and to not always go into reverse.

I admit- I questioned whether this new upgrade would actually solve such a seemingly serious and potentially expense issue.

Therefore, after my dad spent about 3 hours installing the B&M Precision Sport Shifter (45195), I took him and my mom on a trial by fire, off-road test drive. Just a few miles down the road from my parents’ house where I grew up on Lookout Mountain in Fort Payne, Alabama, there is a series of dirt roads that are part of the Little River Canyon National Reserve.

The main path is simply called 05; which extends from one end of the trail to the other. At certain points, you can cross Little River to get to another road like 02 or 04.

Keeping my 2010 Jeep Wrangler JK in 4 wheel drive, it was just no issue driving through giant mud puddles that stretched from one side of the road to the other; nor was it any struggle to cross the river itself.

We were gone from 10 AM until 6 PM, only stopping for one hour for lunch at Wildflower Cafe in Mentone, Alabama.

And during that solid 7 hour test drive, not once did it ever pop out of gear!

Not only that, my Jeep simply drives better since the upgrade. It’s as if the beast now has a new master!

Since the big test drive, I have also driven it 3 hours back to my home near Nashville, Tennessee; as well as to work and back a couple of days now.

It just doesn’t pop out of gear anymore. Not once. Problem solved.

I highly recommend the B&M Precision Sport Shifter (45195). Tell ’em I sent ya!

-Nick Shell

Dear Jack: What I Was Doing When I Was Your Age, 30 Years Ago, Back in the Summer of 1989

8 years, 7 months.

Dear Jack,

For every year older you get, it seems that much closer to my memories of my old childhood; since my memories are that much more elaborate the older I was.

So for me, it’s pretty easy to think back 30 years ago to the summer of 1989.

I remember I attended baseball camp. The main thing I remember is that Jonathan Shugart got hit in the head with a baseball.

I remember that was the summer that our town got a Taco Bell; because I went there for the first time in my life, after baseball camp; during the first week it opened.

And I definitely remember our whole family going to see the original Batman movie in the theater.

I remember that I was excited about starting 3rd grade, because it would be at a new school, where you were able to pick juice instead of just milk.

You’re going to have a great school year. I can tell you from experience.

I also can tell you that you won’t forget this summer, just as I didn’t forget my summer preceding 3rd grade. I’m sure getting the Jeep will help ensure that!

Love,

Daddy