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Most Recent Adventure – Poland!

Hello friends and family,

Felt like writing today so I am writing.  Kenny and I have been transitioning from WorkKampers back to retirement.  All is now behind us but I really want to backtrack a bit.  We haven’t had an amazing adventure for a while and since we had one which was particularly fun, we wanted to share some of the highlights in our blog.

If you read our last post, you know that our middle daughter and her now husband, Dan, were married in June. What you probably don’t know is that they also had a wedding reception in Poland where many of Dan’s family and friends live.  And, Kenny and I were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy that wonderful event as well.  The celebration took place on Friday, September 9 and Nikki, Dan, and I had planned to arrive early in order to see some of the beautiful sights that Poland has to offer.  

We arrived in Berlin and ultimately traveled to Szczecin where the reception was held.  With Dan (who is fluent in Polish), Nikki, Kenny, and I went to Poznan, Gdańsk, Kolobrzeg, then Szczecin.  A whirlwind adventure with our last day in Poland attending their wedding reception and absorbing all of the wonderful love and blessings from Dan’s family and friends.

Poznan is located on the Warta River and is a renaissance Old Town which is one of the oldest cities.  It is a photographer’s dream – the colorful tenements, the architecture – spectacular!  We explored the city and I took hundreds of photos attempting to capture the city’s essence.  Nikki found a charming cafe where we enjoyed a spectacular brunch with amazing presentations of each dish.

Interesting building – like this shot but needs to be cropped, any suggestions?
Long Market on a quiet Sunday
Sweet little cafe
Inside is so bright and cheery

Cafe lattes were so yummy.

Next we travelled to Gdańsk which is on the Baltic Sea.  As it is the center for the world’s Amber trade, of course we had to buy some amber.  The city was reconstructed after WWII.  Again, the architecture and the colors of the city were a joy to see and photograph.  Although a very popular tourist attraction, the atmosphere was relaxed, not the hustle and bustle of big cities of the US.  We strolled Long Market and soaked it all in.  The Museum of the Second World War, which was opened in March 2017, is a must to see.  The museum is devoted to WWII. The building itself is an architectural wonder (see photo) and the main exhibitions offers up not only the Polish experience of the war but also includes in its exhibits European and international context.  You could easily spend a full day there.
View from Museum
 

Museum of the Second World War

Kołobrzeg, on the south coast of the Baltic Sea, is known for their spas and wellness centers. As part of most health plans you can travel there for two paid weeks of wellness care.  Okay, how do we that into our medical plans?  We strolled the promenade, hiked up the lighthouse, people watched, took a Viking vessel on the Baltic Sea, had outfits to don to capture the Viking persona, and took some great pictures.  Note:  Ancesty.com has Kenny at 91% Viking.  Crazy, right?  Our last stop was Szczecin which is on the Order River, near the border of Germany.  The reason we travelled to Poland has arrived – their Polish reception – Hooray!

Kenny and Debbie waiting to board
Kenny getting his Viking on!
Dan And Nikki at top of lighthouse
          

We didn’t quite know what to expect.  We learned a few Polish phases before arriving but honestly, very few.  And yet, we received hugs and kisses of true joy that we, as Nikki’s parents, were joining the family.  OMG many foods were new to us, so tasty, and the courses just kept on coming .  Every time you turned around another course was being served and this went on all night long! Loved every minute of the family celebration of Dan and Nikki’s marriage.

Pokora tradition ensures no hangovers!
                                                                          

The Lovebirds ❤️ ❤️
Cake with Fireworks 💥 💥

                                                  

Polish wedding receptions have three million courses of amazing food offerings.   Each table had vodka, carafes of apple juice, orange juice, and water.   In the Pokora tradition, a big market cart was placed at the entrance with sausages and meats, a barrel of bacon and lard, pickles, huge hunks of bread and family homemade vodka.  Partaking these offerings in a certain order will guarantee that you will not have a hangover.  So much dancing, singing, and fun.  Oh, and of course, vodka toasts!  We are so grateful that we were able to visit Poland and meet Dan’s family and friends.  We will have to visit again since we didn’t have enough time to explore everything that Poland offers.  I could never capture the joy of their reception in Poland but we will forever cherish it.

Until next time, we lift our glasses to friends and family and toast to you.  Have an amazing holiday season and a happy and healthy 2018!

Happiness is not something readymade.  It comes from your own actions.  Dalai Lama

   

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Let Wedding Bells Ring

 

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Nikki and Daniel Pokora
Hello Family and Friends,

Kenny and I have agreed to stop apologizing for a time between posts.  Why bother, it is always the same excuse.  We are just having fun, enjoying life, and continue to be grateful that we are healthy so that we are able to continue to have fun adventures in our RV.

Since starting as Work Kampers, we have been diligent in learning our new responsibilities.  Point South KOA is a very popular spot for travelers, is quite busy, but also a lot of fun.  This KOA is a Journey KOA and described (by KOA) “the perfect oases after a  long drive on the road.”   Honestly who wouldn’t want to stop here?  Goodness, we have a full service coffee bar, wine tasting every night, pizza, chicken wings and draft ale that specifically goes along with pizza.  It is no wonder that we have so many returning customers!  They just won, again, the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for 2017.   We are very proud to be part of the summer season team.  Every evening it is like building a new village.   In the morning, most depart and the building of a new village begins anew.  So, it is always interesting.  We meet so many campers and they come from all over the world.  Check out the website:  www.pointsouthkoa.com.

We started working/training mid-April and left on June 1st to go to our middle daughter, Nikki’s, and our now new son-in-law, Dan’s, wedding.  The wedding is difficult to capture in words. Dan and Nikki planned each detail from start to finish and it can only be described as enchanting, magical, and honestly, amazing.

The venue was a perfect place for their wedding since they have hiked Mt. Washington on numerous occasions and that is where Dan proposed to Nikki.  Held at Hardy Farms in Fryeburg, Maine, which used to be a B&B, this property allowed for several of the wedding party to stay at the location of the wedding.  Other family and wedding party guests were able to stay at the Lodge which is on the same property.  The Lodge also housed several friends of the bride and groom that traveled from great distances to attend the celebration.  There was a trolley available to bring other friends and family from their North Conway lodging to the wedding.

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Arbor that Dan made!
Details for the wedding were “Martha Stewart” like.  Very elegant, very thoughtful.  From the flower petals that led to the arbor that Dan designed, to the packet of rose petals to toss at the newly wedded couple, to the memorial table showcasing those who have passed that the couple wished where there.  Their pictures were displayed on a moss and succulent display – so touching.  Dinner was delicious and held under a huge tent with rustic lighting and large heaters to ensure all were comfortable.  Dan and Nikki thought of everything!

Next, all were moved to the Barn to continue the celebration.  Great DJ and rocking music followed.  When the music and dancing ended, it was outside for a fire and s’mores.  The wedding favors were just perfect.  Since they both are avid gardeners, seed packets were appropo.  Nikki, Dan, and Zoe (our eldest daughter) painstakingly counted out seeds for each favor.  Purple basil, nasturtium, dill, sweet 100 tomatoes, sunflowers, marigolds, buttercrunch lettuce, and cucumbers were lovingly compiled into a textured envelope labeled: Let Love Grow.

We can safely say that a fun time was had by all!  I wish I had better pictures of the “dance off” between Evan (Brett and Kari’s 9 year old son) and Kenny.  Evan’s got the moves and Kenny took up the challenge.  I thought Kenny might keel over but he held his own with the talented Evan.

View More: http://springsmithstudiosgallery.pass.us/nikki-dan-wedding
Ken and Evan chest bump during their epic dance off.
Nikki and Dan’s wedding was perfect and, as far as we know, neither of them ever turned into Bride or Groom Zilla.  Kenny and I are very happy to have Dan and his wonderful family formally join with ours.   We wish everyone could have attended this blessed event.

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Zoe, Nikki, and Katie – our gorgeous daughters
Ilona and Arthur, our new son-in-laws’ parents, have arranged for a reception in Poland where many of their family live.  We are looking forward to Nikki and Dan’s celebration in September and very excited about visiting Poland.

Upon our return to SC, we left to spent a few days exploring Savannah with our friends, Susan and Mark.  We celebrated July 4th along the river watching fireworks.  What a beautiful southern city!  The architecture is spectacular and learning so much about its history was fascinating.  We understand now that there is quite a bit of gang activity.  We don’t plan on ever visiting Savannah at night again, but it definitely is fun during the day and we will return before we finish our time in SC.

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Ken and Mark with wax figure bum – Prohibition Museum Savannah
We know from conversations that many of our family and friends are dealing with some extremely difficult health and personal issues.  We continue to pray for you.  Stay positive, stay strong!

Until next time, we lift our wine glasses and toast to the newlyweds:

When children find true love, parents find joy.  Here’s to your joy and ours from this day forward.  Congratulations to the happy couple!  Anonymous

 

We are alive and well and now in SC (we have included some silly pics we have taken on our journeys)

Just writing to let you all know that we are alive and well.  I will provide no excuse for not posting on our blog 4+ months.  Can’t blame that on anything else but that we were having a great time playing at and around Flagler

Our huge joy was that we were adopted by a group of welcoming campers who become our family during our time at Bulow.  Honestly, they were our saving grace.

While there, Ken and I joined the gym, took Yoga 2x/week, took Tai Chi 1x/week and took nice walks/bike rides mostly at Lehigh Trail but also at Bulow Plantation.  And off-the-leash walks with Uma at both locations.  After all this exercise , you’d think we are in great shape!  Kenny is, me not so much.

Upon arriving to Flagler Beach, we had set up a list of things we wanted to do with Susan and Mark A.  And, we actually completed all of our goals!  We accomplished the following:

European Farmers Market, Daytona Beach, Daytona Flea Market, Hamburg Mary’s Drag Show, Universal Studios, Blue Man Group, Swimming with the Manatees, Platoon Boat (saw dolphins playing!), Shot guns on Mark and Susan’s property, Airboat ride at Black Hammock (Alligators!).

All of the above was checked off!  So much fun!

And with our forever Flagler Beach friends, we attended the Thanksgiving feast, Victory cruise (gambling on the water), Valentines dance, Paddle Boat dinner and river cruise – Daytona – Halifax Harbor, and Happy Hour at 4:00ish every day.

In January we had a vacation from our vacation and met up with Susan and Mike S. in PR.  OMG the condo that Susan and Mike secured was amazing!  Our FL friends, Susan and Mark were kind enough to take care of Uma while we were in PR.  (When we returned to pick her up, she barely acknowledged us and instead showed us where she slept and her new home.)  Honestly she truly wanted to stay with them and was rather sad when we took her back to our RV space!

My sister Patty visited us for a week and spent most of her time worshiping the sun but it was nice to see and spent time with her.  Congrats to her!  She finally put her big girl pants on and flew (by HERSELF) for the first time!  So proud of her and hope she’ll do it again.

Jackie and Billy (brother and sister–in-law) came to visit when we moved to Pine Island for a week. Another vacation from a vacation.  During their visit we reconnected with our CT RV friends Susan and Mike as they were vacationing at a beautiful rental home on Santibel Island.  Our other CT RV friends, Cindy and Lenny traveled down as well so it was a nice reunion.  With Jackie and Bill we had a low key visit, enjoying the pool, the jacuzzi and each other’s company at Pine Island.  So happy to see all.

We don’t know what journey we are on next but we did make a reservation at Bulow for next winter to rejoin our friends we met at Flagler Beach.  Whether we use it or not, who knows, but unless something different occurs, we have a home for this coming winter season.

IMG_5629We arrived at Point South KOA in Yemassee, SC, where Kenny and I are WORK KAMPERS!  Yes, we are working at a KOA.  Long story short, on a whim, we applied for the program and once we applied, we were interviewed by KOA owners in the next two days.  We accepted our positions at Point South KOA, SC and started training April 11.  We are both loving the people and the work ethic, their fun amenities which include a deluxe coffee bar, wine tasting (boutique wines from local wineries), and amazing pizza (which is one of my duties).  Pretty cool, I have to host wine tasting occasionally.  Poor me, Right?

We have been preparing for Nikki and Dan’s wedding in Fryeburg ME on 6/3 so will have a break from our new fun-filled jobs.  We are very excited about their wedding and spending their special day with the friends and family we so miss.

So, if you are in the area, please come visit us.  We will be working but only part time and would love to see any or all of our friends.  Our new address is: c/o Point South KOA, 14 Campground Road, Yemassee, SC 29945.  Great base for travel to Charleston, Savannah,  Beaufort, or Hilton Head – all are day trips from this base.

I feel like we are bragging that our lives are so rosy.  Just know that we have our struggles but there is no need to share those problems with you.  We are having adventurous travels which do include some travel challenges.  Good times, so far, have certainly overpowered any issues we have had to deal.  We are grateful every day for our health.  For any of our friends that are suffering, we pray for you!

Hope you enjoy the silly photos from our travels!  And, FYI, we have upgraded to a 2008 Georgetown XL by Forest Town rig.  Had a few problems with the rig initially but all is well now.  A tale for a different time.

IMG_5297Please like, share, and follow us.  We would love to have more followers.

Until next time, we lift our wine glasses and toast to you:

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.  Dalai Lama

CT and ME Visit – Next Steps

Hello Friends and Family!  We’ve been somewhat negligent in putting out another post but, forgive us, we only write when the mood is right.

My, my, my, so much to get caught up on but we prefer to start with our recent return to CT.  We were back in CT for the month of October specifically to find “the dress” for Nikki and Dan’s wedding as well as being in CT when Katie and Mike were in US for Mike’s sister’s wedding.   image.jpegWhen we visited, our sister-in-law, Jackie, pulled together a Peterson family reunion in ME.  It was perfect – just the family love we needed.  All were present except our nephew, David, and our sister-in-law, Lisa.  Both were missed, but those who were able to attend had so much fun!

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Amish buggy ride to working Amish farm
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Hiking to Hueblein Tower with Christie and Shelly
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Epic bonfires!

What did we do?  We hugged, talked, laughed, ate and drank, played Uno, and the boys even played flashlight tag.  And, we had the best bonfires ever!  Great job on those Billy!  We were so blessed to have such loving energy all in one place.  Thanks to Patty, Bill, Jackie, Brett, and Kari for housing everyone.  The next time we will all be together will probably be at Dan and Nikki’s wedding.  We are looking forward to it!

Special thanks goes out to John Rudy, Kenny’s lifelong friend.  He was kind enough to have us stay in his home in Suffield.  And a shout-out to Herbie and Patty for allowing us to leave the RV on Herbie’s farm while we were visiting.  We were both missing our time with Christie and Shelly so it was great to spend time with them.  (See pic above of our hike to Heublein Tower).  And, Debbie was so grateful that Joan Y. managed a girls get together with former coworkers and girlfriends.  Thanks to everyone for making our visit back to CT so much fun!  If we missed you while in CT, let’s be sure that we get together next time.

Prior to our return to CT for a visit, we have traveled back across the country meeting new people, seeing more sights, taking in more hikes, and just enjoying life.  Too many activities to put pen to paper but we hope to provide you with some highlights.

During Labor Day weekend we stayed in a quaint little town, Dillon, MT, where we attended our first rodeo!  It was so thrilling and completely amazing that no one got trampled.  Those cowboys are totally crazy!  One event was having a cowboy rope a wild cow, milk it, then run back with a certain amount of milk.  How on earth would you even practice for that event?  We also attended Dillon’s Labor Day parade which lasted almost two hours with more people in the parade then watching the parade.

In ND, we were lucky enough to spot the feral horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  We saw two colts that were still nursing their Momas.  Since we were the first to see them, we were at fault for causing a horse jam in the park.   Actually, we were very happy to cause that jam.

In Custer, SD, we rented an ATV and did some back roading one afternoon, visited Crazy Horse Monument, and (icing on the cake) on 9/11 attended the lighting ceremony at Mt. Rushmore.  It was very emotional when all current and former military were invited to the stage for the striking of the colors.  At least 100 men and women (including Kenny) were honored and I, of course, was moved to tears.

In Spearfish, SD, we met a great couple from Idaho, Ty and Betty, that we hit it off with immediately.  Kenny talking to Ty about cigars led to combining and sharing dinner and a bonfire.  Such nice people!  We plan to keep in touch.

After our time in CT, we headed to Bird in Hand, Amish country! There we had a buggy ride and a tour of a working Amish farm that was very interesting and informative.  (See pic above). The Amish are very private and very hardworking.  If you are ever there, we suggest viewing the film, Jacob’s Choice, which can be seen locally in Bird in Hand.

We are now in Flagler Beach, FL, staying at Bulow RV Resort.  Flagler Beach is located between St. Augustine and Daytona.  That will be our base for the next few months.  From here, we will take shorter trips/adventures to more State and National Parks and, of course, beaches.  If you are going to be in the area, please let us know.  We’d love to host you (dinner?  housing?).

Until next time, we lift our wine glasses and toast to you:

When you come to a fork in the road, take it.  Yogi Berra

Happy Thanksgiving to all!  🦃

Oregon and Puget Sound – Friends and Family Fix

Hello again friends and family!

We hope this post finds all well in your worlds.  

So, it has been a while and we have been up to more fun things.   Although we are still enjoying our travels very much, we are missing hugs from our kids and grandchildren.  Spoiler alert – we plan to visit CT for the month of October and we are looking forward to reconnecting with all.

Since our last post, we’ve traveled quite a bit.  We visited our friends, Patty and Peter, in Albany, Oregon.  The trip from Yellowstone to OR was just gorgeous.  We are continuously amazed by the beauty of our county.  Each state offers up some gem to enjoy.  They moved from CT to OR last year and they graciously showed us their new home and their new state.

Oregon Coast – Gorgeous right?
We explored Albany, visited the coastline of OR, and took a spectacular hike in Silver Falls State Park.  Imagine seeing 10 waterfalls on one hike and you actually walk behind several of them!  In Newport, we were amused watching the sea lions fight over their spots in the sun.  We stopped by their daughter’s home and met their cutie-pie granddaughters.  They are charmers for sure!  We had plenty of time to enjoy their company, take local walks, eat yummy meals and catch up with them.  Peter and Kenny even visited the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (home of the Spruce Goose) and showed off Peter’s ’56 Chevy in the Red Robin Classic Car cruise.  It was a great week exploring OR and we appreciate that we were able to spend time with them.  

No one is allowing the little guy on their docks!
Silver Falls – on trail looking down
Fawn right outside Deb and Gabriel’s slider
Next, we moved on to one of the San Juan Islands to visit Kenny’s cousin, Deborah, and her husband, Gabriel.  We hadn’t seen them in years and reconnecting with them was very special.  We had an adventure taking the RV on the ferry from Anacortes and were lucky enough to have a front row view.  Our time with D & G was the most relaxing time we have had since we left CT.  There is something about “island time” that calms the mind and lets you just be.  The island is so cozy and the clean, crisp air so good for the soul.  We had our own private meadow to park and were just a few minutes walk to their place.  Over the course of that week on the island, we did so many fun things with them.  We went to an Open House party where everyone on the island was invited!  Everyone brought “pot luck” to share and it was fun to meet so many people at one time!  We had a tour of the island, the library, the historical center and the chapel at the nunnery (stunning!).  Kenny and I took a long walking tour one day wandering around the island where in one walk we saw, in order of appearance: horses, deer, long horned cattle, and alpacas.  What a splendid walk/hike!  What a splendid island!

Gabriel motored us over to different islands (Orcas, San Juan, Lopez) for different dinners.  Ken and I took the kayaks out for a view of the island homes from the water.  We attended a “family fun” county fair on San Juan, took in the view of the San Juan Islands archipelago from Constitution Mountain.  Stunning – stunning – stunning!  Deborah and Gabriel, thank you for enriching our lives with your stories, the North Haven Island DVD (glad there was Kleenex handy!), your books, and letting us peek into your life on your island.  

Chapel at Nunnery
San Juan County Fair Dahlia Judging

After sadly leaving Gabriel and Deborah, we visited Seattle to see our youngest daughter’s friend, Cino.  She moved to Seattle from Hawaii last year and has settled into the hustle and bustle of the city as an EMT.  She’s doing so well!  Only a special type of person can take on a career as an EMT and we are so proud of her accomplishments.  It was great seeing her (and Karen!) even if it was only for a short time.  

The next day, we traveled back to Seattle to see the Chihuly Glass and Garden Museum.  It was a perfect, sunny day to admire the resplendent gardens and galleries.  The Space Needle is right next door but we didn’t take the trip.  However, the Space Needle is captured as a reflection in most balls that are in the Garden within Chihuly as well the backdrop from the glass flowers in the greenhouse (see pictures below).  Truly, dazzling!

Blue Gardens
Space Needle Reflection
Greenhouse with flowers of glass – Space Needle behind
Ikebana & Float Boats Gallery
Persian Ceiling Gallery
Before leaving Anacortes, we took in a few hikes in Deception Pass State Park.  In the park, you didn’t have to climb too high to take in some magnificent views of the ocean. A short drive brought us to the Deception Pass Bridge where we were able to get some great shots.  Happiness is hiking on a sunny day under shady trees along any bed of​ water.

 

Maiden of Deception Pass
Kenny along the edge of a trail at Deception Pass
New favorite tree, Madrone, along trail at Deception Pass State Park

We thank God everyday for protecting us during our travels especially during the difficult steep mountain descents where Debbie always has to close her eyes.

 Until next time, we lift our wine glasses and toast to you:

One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of looking at things.   Henry Miller

Playing in Our National Parks

Hello again Family and Friends!  Great news – our middle daughter, Nikki, became engaged to Dan Pokora recently.  We are thrilled!  We love Dan and both Dan and his family are wonderful.  We look forward to their upcoming wedding.  

Dan Pokora and Nikki Peterson
It’s been almost a month since our last post.  We have been having great fun!  We hope all is well in your worlds!  We have to keep pinching ourselves to be sure that what we are doing and seeing is real.  We are so grateful to be on this journey.  So what have we been doing?

For the past few weeks, we have been tagging along on our good friends and longtime camping buddies, Susan and Mike Seaback’s vacation.  They had planned a trip to Glacier National Park, Waterton Lakes National Park (and variety of other areas in Canada), the Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park.  We joined them for all but their days in Canada.

We went first to West and East Glacier, then we separated (they went to Canada and we visited some other locations as we traveled toward Yellowstone), reconnected for Yellowstone, the Tetons and wrapped up this memorable vacation in West Yellowstone.  So, as you can imagine, we’ve been quite busy.  Susan, the ultimate vacation planner, had developed a flexible itinerary and off we went.

Of note:  If you haven’t been to these National Parks, we suggest that you put them on your bucket list, in particular, we fell in love with Yellowstone.

Below are some highlights of our travels:

In West Glacier, we had a quiet morning horseback ride in Apgar.  We were somewhat disappointed as we saw only a deer on the trip.  Still it was pleasant and relaxing.  That afternoon it rained so plans for hiking had to be thrown to the wind.  Mike took us on the Going to the Sun Road where we saw a Momma Moose and two nursing calves – one of the best photos we took of wildlife.  (Going to the Sun Road is as scary as the Road to Hana especially when the fog/clouds rolls in, which it did.)

On Going to the Sun Road
Momma Moose and twins – Going to the Sun Road
In East Glacier, we took a number of fun hikes with Susan and Mike (St. Mary Falls, Virginia Falls, and Swiftcurrent Lake). For the Swiftcurrent Lake trail, it was so cold that we purchased gloves and warmer socks at Many Glacier Lodge.

Mike and Susan headed to Canada and Kenny and I stayed in East Glacier for a few more days.  We hiked the Red Eagle Trail where three other hikers joined us when they found out there was a bear in the area. We had the bear bells and bear spray and they didn’t.  Pine Creek Trail brought us to a sparkling waterfall. Kenny and I also hiked the Otokomi Lake Trail.  Rated as strenuous due to the steepness of the trail, it wasn’t too bad.  Some last minute wildflowers were blooming and we had glorious views of the river as we headed toward the Lake.  But when thunder boomed and rain started, I headed down the mountain fast – my new fear, FFF (fear of flash floods), took over.  We weren’t in any danger but I wasn’t convinced.  Our last hike in the area was Beaver Pond Nature trail, which was also very steep, had picturesque views of Yellowtail Dam. There was a swinging bridge that you had to cross to get over a stream – newly constructed, it was quite pretty.

Hiking the Beaver Pond Nature Trail
Leaving East Glacier and beginning to meander toward Yellowstone, our first stop was Great Falls, MT.  We had a enjoyable bike ride on the trail that runs along the Missouri River – beautiful!  We started at the Louis and Clark Interpretive Center.  If ever in Great Falls, stop there.  It’s very informative and had exceptional displays, exhibits, and presentations.  We also popped into the C. M. Russell Museum.  What a find the museum was!  It was apparent that Charley was quite a character, had a great sense of humor and started sculpting and painting at an early age.  Great museum.  We loved it!

Our next stop was Big Timber/Greycliff.  There was a State Park very close to our site so we went to Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park seeking an easy trail or nature walk.  We dutifully paid the entrance fee to discover that the entire park was specifically established to protect prairie dogs.  There were hundreds of prairie dogs which are pretty funny to watch.  Alas, there were no trails anywhere just curious little heads peeking out of their homes and sounding the alarm of potential danger.  Mommas and their babies were playing and as we approached, the Momma would grab the babies and drop them into their burrow.  Very amusing!  Check it out on the web.

Before reconnecting with Mike and Susan, we spent the day at Little Bighorn Monument.  It was a destination I wasn’t particularly interested in seeing but it was historical, informative, and a very sobering monument.

Indian Monument to honor the Indians who also fell in this battle
Mike and Susan returned and our busy adventures continued! Hooray!
In Yellowstone, we visited Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basin, Mud Volcanos, West Thumb, Upper Geyser Basin (saw Old Faithful and the Beehive Geyser erupting at the same time – we also witnessed the Riverside Geyser erupt spewing water hundreds of feet in the air for 20 minutes), and we hiked several trails, Artist Point at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Taggart Lake, and Storm Point.  The Upper and Lower Falls in Grand Canyon of Yellowstone served up some perfect pictures. Prismatic Springs was extraordinary.  The beauty of this glorious spring cannot be captured by a camera.  It seemed to be alive.

In the Tetons, we took an early a.m. float ride down Snake River – so peaceful and fun!  We also visited Jackson Hole and took advantage of a boat tour of the Tetons on Jackson Lake.  On a fun note, we had to board Uma during our time there.  She stayed in a run with a bed and TV, had open play time with other boarders, and Yappy Hour every day at 3:00. A bit pricey but the only game in town.  We believe she watched the Democratic Convention. 

Susan and Mike Seaback on float ride with us
In our travels, we saw moose, elk, black and grizzly bears, eagles, wolves, deer and prong antelope.  We clicked hundreds of spectacular photos.  (Check out Debbie’s Facebook Page for more photos.)  

Of all of the wildlife we would have to say the most exciting were: 

Bison – at Mud Volcanos one came up behind us that we didn’t see until we turned around; another that walked by our car so close that if I opened the window I could have touched him/her and, another that greeted us as we started our hike to Storm Point and he/she decided to welcome us back to the meadows when we completed the hike.  We had to blaze our own trail for a bit to keep far away from that Bison.  That was a bit scary.
Elk –  We were surprised at how many Elk hung out in Mammoth Springs.  They were all over the place, taking over the town, and oblivious to the tourists taking their pictures.  It was rather odd.  It just seemed wrong that wildlife were comfortable in a crowded town lounging on the town square.

Bears and Wolves – Visit the Grizzly Bear and Wolves Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.  What a fantastic center!   A must to visit!

What was the best part of our journeys?  I guess we have to say making memories with our friends.  Thank you Susan and Mike for all of the fun we had with you.  Next stop is Oregon to visit Patty and Peter R.  

Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to our niece, Sabrina Slavis, on the first year anniversary of her passing (7/27/15):

To live on in the hearts of those we leave behind, is not to die.  Dear, wild, Sabrina, Rock the heavens.

Finally heading North and Counting our Blessings

Hi Friends and Family,  We hope all is well in your worlds!  It’s been some time since our last post.  To get caught up, we have summarized our journeys.  June 30 was a particularly memorable day for Ken and I.

Went to Tupelo to visit Kenny’s old army buddie, Artie and his girlfriend, Betty.  Great time seeing them.  Next, Carlsbad Caverns and Flight of the Bats in the amphitheater.  In our opinion, Cathedral Caverns was more decorative and colorful but amazed at the rock formations and size of the rooms.  Flight of the Bats a must see – a tornado of bats swooping out of the mouth of the Caverns, then spinning out of the tornado off to capture their dinner.  Much more spectacular than those we saw in AL.  In Carlsbad we also visited Living Desert Zoo and Gardens State Park.  Gorgeous zoo and large, beautifully landscaped enclosures, botanical gardens, 1.3 mile self guided walking tour.  Loved the baby prairie dogs.  Tuscan – Visited cousins, the Nelsons and Astons, so great reconnecting and seeing that the kiddies have grown up to be amazing adults!  Hiked Sabino Canyon. Lake Havasu – rented 24′ pontoon boat.  So much fun.  Explored the lake, Uma swam around, played in the water, went under the London Bridge, enjoyed the crazy energy.  Can’t imagine what spring break would be like there.  Refrigerator broke – unplanned trip to Las Vegas to get fixed.  Won money, lost money, saw Cirque du Soleil, Beatles LOVE – strongly recommend, music brought back great memories mixed with the crazy Cirque du Soleil performers. Cedar City, Utah, Hiked the Kolob/Zion National Park trail.

London Bridge is not falling down.
Ken is at the Helm of the pontoon boat – Lake Havasu

Thursday, June 30, Kenny and I hiked an easy, family friendly trail in Kolob/Zion National Park. Taylor Creek hike is protrayed as an easy to moderate hike of  ~5 miles round trip to the Kolob Double Arch Alcove.  Research through normal googling, this hike appeared to be perfect for us.  Not too long, not too difficult.  Temperatures were high but much lower than our recent visit to Las Vegas.  We packed up some water and trail bars and headed off early pm to the Taylor Creek Trail.  The day was perfect, less than 90 degrees, the trail was shady in many areas and meandered pleasantly across the “creek”, easily crossed without getting your shoes wet, and, in some cases completely dry.

It was hot, there were few people on the trail, and there were no warnings of impending rain.  We checked in with the Ranger and told him which trail we were hiking.  Surprisingly, we didn’t have to give him our names or sign in on a board at the trailhead.  What a beautiful hike, clearly marked with steps and slopes running up and down along the sides of the creek with plenty of picturesque views of imposing canyon walls.  To the Double Arch Alcove, it was 2.5 miles of criss-crossing the Taylor Creek at least 20 times (I don’t think I am exaggerating about this I but don’t know for sure).  A great hike by all standards.

Ken and I arrived at the Double Arch and were taking our pictures when lightening and thunder started.  We had just appreciated the wonder of the canyons’ rock formations that were shaped thousands of years before our time.  How insignificant are we in this world?  A true lesson of humility.  With the rain started, we knew we had to move swiftly.  We joked that if we had more lightening we would need to put away our walking sticks or Dan and Nikki would have the most extravagant wedding they could ever want.  We laughed that we may have to be crossing the creek with water up to our waists.  We laughed without knowing of what was coming next. More lightening, we secured our walking sticks, and we were moving quickly back to the trailhead.

Double Arch Alcove, Taylor Creek Trail

We ran into Martin seeking shelter under a rock cliff.  He had been waiting out the storm.  We told him that the creek was rising and that we felt that we needed to keep moving.

Although we watched the creek swelling more with each crossing, we weren’t really aware of the danger.  As the mountain walls began weeping crystal waterfalls, I made Kenny stop to take some pictures.  It was truly a wonderous sight.  As he was snapping, a few hundred feet ahead of us on the opposite shore of the ever-increasing creek, a mudslide occurred with a roar, slid down from high above the canyon wall and dumped mounds of red mud into the creek.  Now we were racing the mud.  As long as we could stay ahead of the muddy, red water, we would be able to see how to safely cross.

We were scurrying now but didn’t win that race.  We were about 1.5 miles away from the trailhead.  Kenny and I were seeking higher ground when Martin caught up with us and joined us recognizing that the storm wasn’t ending and the creek was now a river.  When I saw a tree being dragged down the river rather swiftly, I was really concerned.  Both Ken and Martin remained calm.  Kenny headed up the bank of the river to see if he could find a path that would lead us to a crossing that was safe.  When he found a “critter path”, Martin and I pulled aside the bramble brushes and moved up higher.  I was slipping on the mud and not getting good hand holds to pull myself up. Ken and Martin were encouraging, Ken from above and Martin from below.  With all of us safely on higher ground, we kept moving looking for a location where we might be able to safely cross.

Then, we saw a young couple below us and they had crossed the river safely!  Ken yelled down to them.  They had crossed side-stepping facing the current  – holding hands.   Kenny asked if they’d wait for us to join them and they quickly agreed.  Safety in numbers!

For the rest of our 1.5 mile journey of crossing the creek/river now raging with strong currents, we chain-linked arms/hands and successfully crossed the water 5-6 times over stones we couldn’t see, depths we didn’t know, and currents that varied as we crossed, all working together to ensure that each of us safely reached the other shore.   Joe, as first in our chain, let us know where there were dips, larger stones and how strong the current was even though he was shivering from the cold.  Joe and Andraya examined the course we would take at each crossing, the water flow, where to go in and where to get out.  Then, we’d lock our arms and side-step the waters, facing the current.

We crossed, Joe, Andraya, Martin, me and Kenny, arms braced on arm.  Between the creek crossings, there was hiking that allowed some small talk and we found out some small details of the lives that we were depending on.  We reached the parking lot safely, quietly, extremely cold, muddy, and so, so thankful.  We clicked selfies, lined up the way we crossed, to commemorate our survival.  Shook hands, hugged, exchanged e-mails and headed home with the car heater on and fingers that were numb.

Thank you God for our safe arrival at the trail head.  Thank you for sending our new friends to ensure safe crossing.

 

Thursday night, I sent a quick email to our “survivors” attaching the selfies we had taken.  The following morning, we received messages from Martin and Joe and Andrayas.  Both were so meaningful to us and eloquently written, that I asked for and received permission from them to include their notes to us which are below:

From Joe and Andrayas – Yesterday was quite an adventure.  As we reflected yesterday evening, we found ourselves in awe of the power of this place, sore from clenched legs and jaws, and grateful to have found comrades to share in our bull-headed quest to get out.  What began as an ordinary hike, which Andrayas was not interested in going on in the first place, turned into an unforgettable experience.  As we began to make our way back toward the parking lot from the alcove, the rain was falling and we walked quickly.

When we came across the first crossing, we stopped to take stock of the situation.  While yesterday was certainly the first time either of us had been in such a situation, I recalled lots of survival learning that I have done over the years regarding hypothermia, floods, etc.  We waited for a while and decided to go forward, but before we did we spent some time looking up at the canyon walls and marveling at the waterfalls that appeared where there was only hot dry rock a few minutes earlier.  I remember early on during the storm shouting with joy at the energy that the storm seemed to send through us.  Things got more frightening as we came to more and more stream crossings and saw more and more washes emptying into the creek and swelling it higher and higher, sometimes obscuring the trail.  At some point where two branches of the creek, about equal in size, we became fearful that our successful crossings were at an end.  We sat and waited for the storm for about 20 minutes.  Growing up in the west, I’m used to short, powerful storms.  However, yesterday my expectations were wrong.  After shivering under the tree with no sign of the rain abating, the wind began to kick up and my fears of hypothermia became more real than I could have ever expected.  We decided to press on, soon coming across the three of you.  Strength in numbers is not to be questioned.  Suddenly, we were certain that we would all make it out okay.  Crossing the creek in the deepest and fastest moving water we saw yesterday suddenly seemed natural and simple.

While the moments of life and death fear were minimal, they were certainly enough to remind us what true fear feels like.  We found ourselves in a beautiful and powerful place, and while Andraya and I were reflecting last night, we tried to remember the beauty that we saw in the canyon.  Beauty that could not be captured in a picture, and that could have been easily overlooked and suppressed due to the feeling of fear that came with it.  We talked about the waterfalls and the surges of water, we talked about the thousands of pounds of silt that were brought past us, silt and sediment which were probably on rocks thousands of feet above our heads just moments before and only visible in the dark red color of the water.  It was truly an incredible moment we experienced and we’re glad to have shared it with you.

From Martin:

I would like to think that yesterday was, for me, both a lesson of humility and a reminder that we are in the world to team up, and to help each other.

The lesson in humility comes from many angles, but particularly two.  First, it was a very vivid reminder that those beautiful formations in front of us came from the power of the little creek, later turned into what we saw, and if it had the power to transform mountains, it certainly could have the power to transform my plans, and possibly my life at that moment.  Second, it was also a lesson in humility reminding me that there is so much to learn and that comfort is sometimes taken for granted.  Naively, I had waited for a long time under a rock before Deb and Ken came along, avoiding the rain thinking because I did not want to get wet.  Well, it became obvious at some point that getting wet was going to be the least of my concerns.

The second lesson showed me again that, despite the fact that we often believe that we are independent and thinking that we construct our path, the reality is that all of us, in one way or another, help each other, and it could not be more evident than when we were under distress yesterday.  At the end, it left me feeling to have worked together with you, without any other interest than helping each other.  It renewed my hope that we all can work together in society, if we just realize how much we need each other.

Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to you:   Be strong, you never know who you may be inspiring.  Anonymous