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 

One Very Fine Day

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Entrance to Caves – Inside looking out

 

Hi friends and family!  We hope this post finds all well in your worlds. We are sending loving support and positive energy to anyone dealing with difficulties right now.

Kenny and I wish to share an amazing day with you.  It was an almost spiritual experience and a day full of wonder and happiness.

Part 1:  Cathedral Caverns

We arrived at a Cathedral Caverns State Park in Woodville, AL which is near Huntsville. Although not on the top ten of best things to do in AL (which it certainly should be!!), when I saw a brochure in our campground in Lillian, I was hooked.  With a bit of cajoling, Ken was on board.

The trip there was uneventful except for a “run-away-train” ride down a hair-raising decline that brought us to the park (route 431).  That is a story for another day.  But, RV buddies should take note to ensure that your trip there is coming in on an RV friendly route.

Surprisingly, aside from a ranger and his family, Ken, Uma and I were the only campers in the RV park.  The ranger helped us to get settled and provided us with information on the tours for the following day.  What a treat, he was actually going to be our tour guide!

On Thursday, we decided to sleep in and got tickets for the 11:00 tour.  Upon arrival, you feel quite small in the grand scheme of life – the entrance itself was incredible.  I am no longer concerned about squeezing through tight spaces. The ceiling of the entrance is 25 feet high and the width 128 feet wide.

Stepping into the twilight of the cavern, we began our journey with an introduction by our new camping buddy providing the history of this wonder of nature to the group of about 20 people.  Some basic background included history of the Cavern.  When the cavern was first commercialized, researchers found artifacts dating back as recent as 200 years ago to as long as 9,000 years!  The rock formations themselves are millions of years in the making.  Hard to fathom, right?

The temperature within the caves is rather pleasant especially with the heat of the day we visited and stays between 58 and 60 degrees year round.  An eight foot concrete pathway with handrails (as needed) meandered through the rooms and affords all visitors the ability to enjoy the radiance each new “room” provided.  You had to duck in several places but you didn’t have to crawl through tight quarters.  Strategically placed artificial lighting glorified the treasures each room held.  It is impossible to paint a vivid picture of the magical rock forests we explored.

The tour, lasting almost two hours, was resplendent- intricate rock formations carved out by Mother Nature over years of water running over limestone.  Each “room” we entered resulted in ohhs and ahhs that one couldn’t contain.  Our guide was a long time “caver”, researcher and actually quite entertaining.  He had scientific, historical and colorful stories about the Cavern.

Some highlights of the tour were:

  • Goliath – the largest stalagmite in the world;
  • Rock waterfall formed by actual previous waterfalls that carved the rock;
  • A 32 foot stalagmite which is 3″ in diameter at the base – grows at a 45 degree angle to the cave ceiling.  It is called “improbable” but nonetheless there it was;

and, the Piece de resistance (sorry I don’t have a French font)

  • the Cathedral for which the Cavern was named.

Entering the room which holds the Cathedral in darkness, our guide hits a switch.  The entire crowd gasps – the view is stunning – so spiritual – these are the words that came to mind while drinking in the rock formations that appear to present our group a large cathedral including an altar, church bells, an organ – the beauty of this room cannot be comprehended unless you are in the physical presence of the Cathedral.

Fun facts:

  • Although Native Indians occupied the cavern for about 7,000 years there is no evidence that they lived beyond the first two rooms – Either because the rooms were full of water or perhaps hidden until an act of nature opened the door to the additional rooms.
  • The man who purchased the cavern and opened it up for commercialization held Blue Grass concerts on Friday nights at the entrance to the cave – he sounds like he was quite the character but certainly a visionary!
  • Several movies were filmed in the Caverns.
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Stone Waterfall

 

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How many faces/figures can you see?  Similar to finding figures in clouds!

Part II:  Hiking in the State Park (See Ken’s picture above taken at the junction of all trails.)

Upon returning to our site, we changed to hiking shoes and headed off to nearby hiking trails within the park.  We took on several moderate hikes which added to our needed Fitbit steps, always a feel good thing.

Part III: Said the Raven Nevermore (See picture at top showing Ken’s first attempt at trying to rescue the Raven.)

After lunch, we took Uma for a walk though the primitive tenting/camping area.  For non-campers, primitive means there is no electricity, no water, no toilets – primitive! This area has some very large, private sites but, again, there were few people camping.

As we walked by the pond, splashing water caught our attention so we explored more closely.  A rather large bird, we think a raven, was stuck in the mud along the edge.  It was up to its breast but both wings were free.  As he flapped and struggled, we knew what had to be done.  Captain Ken to the rescue!  Action was required quickly as the poor bird was so tired that he went under the water several times each time struggling back to the surface by flapping its wings.

Initial attempts weren’t effective at all.  Ultimately, Kenny found the perfect Y-branch that he was able to gently maneuver in front of the raven, taking on the weight of the bird.  Carefully, placing another branch in the thick mud, the bird was able to grasp it with his feet to perch and rest.  Being the size of a big chicken or rooster with thick mud weighing it down, it was very difficult for Kenny to provide enough to leverage to pull the Raven out.  It was crystal clear that the bird was counting on Kenny to save him and clear to Kenny that the bird wanted his help.  Their eye contact told all.  A clear man/bird bond, there was not a chance that either would give up.  They were working together.

With a grand effort on Kenny’s part and a very grateful bird, he was released from the mud and flopped on to semi-dry land where he laid, out of danger but clearly without energy.  As we were uncertain whether he had injuries, we left him there to gain his strength.  We returned about 30 minutes later to check on him and were so happy to see that the Raven was up on the hill in the camping area walking/hopping around, preening his wings, getting the mud off.  He was fine!  Great rescue Kenny!!  What a rewarding occurrence!

Part IV:  Batty about Bats

When we returned to our site, we chatted with our ranger/camping buddy/tour guide and the subject went to bats.  He and I are batty about bats!  He told us about a cave nearby that housed about 200,000 bats and gave us directions.  It was dusk and they would be heading out to feed soon.  We immediately hopped in the car and headed to Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge which was about 10 minutes away.  So, at the end of our idyllic day, we watched the exit of over 200,000 bats – off to begin their hunt for dinner.  (Lessons learned:  bring an umbrella or wear a raincoat with a hood.)

What a full, glorious, exhausting day!  It goes down in history as one of the best days of our lives.  We are so grateful that we are able to be on this journey.

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

Never lie, steal, cheat or drink.  But if you must lie, lie in the arms of one you love; if you must steal, steal away from bad company; if you must cheat, cheat death.  And, if you must drink, drink in the moments that take your breath away.  Anonymous – a variation of an Old Irish Blessing

 

Misadventures of K, D, & U

Hi again family and friends!  We hope all is well in your worlds!  As we know that several of you are dealing with some very difficult situations, please know that you are in our thoughts and prayers.

So it was time to leave FL and head off to the Southwest.  Our next stop was Ocala, FL, than after a two night stay, off to Chattahoochee, FL, then Lillian, AL.  For our RV friends, the camp we stayed at, Ocala RV Resort, boasted that we were in horse country so we, stupidity, assumed we would see some horse farms.  Wrong!  We were right off the highway.  But, it is a very sweet location with a small pond including ducks, turtles, and fish.  Nice place for families with children.

Of note, when you feed the ducks wait and watch.  Dun-dun, dun-dun, dun-dun, all of a sudden from all areas of the pond tiny heads appear  – turtles.   All are frantically swimming to ME!!!  This was a bit off-putting, sort of like prehistoric dinosaur heads popping up. There were hundreds and I do believe hundreds from all areas of the pond swimming to ME!!!  Surprising, the ducks had no interest.

Pretty cute at first.  Then, a bit creepy, then all was well as they just wanted the duck food and were gentle and a bit standoffish once they arrived.  Kids would love it as they would never feel threatened but very excited.  As an adult without knowledge of the turtles my thoughts were – were they snapping turtles and bite?  Do I have enough food to keep them at bay?

 

Our next stop in Chattahoochee, FL, was recently purchased and in the process of  rennovating the property.  It will be quite different when complete as they will have zip lining at the campsite.  New owner was very friendly and helpful. We were overnighting, just one night.  We head out of FL on Sunday and off we go, Kenny, Uma and I.  We are excited that we are leaving FL and heading west.  We are off to Lillian, AL, our next stop.

If you have been reading our blog, you know that, to date, all has been going smoothly.  Well, as we know, things never continue to go smoothly which is part of our adventure, right? Or misadventure?

Honestly, we weren’t surprised that after driving about 25 miles from Chattahoochchee, we had an alarm sound.  For those that don’t know, if a safety alarm sounds you have a very short time to get 14 tons of motor home off the road before the engine shuts off (less than a minute in our case).

Okay guys, this may seem tame occurring in daytime but it was daytime on a very popular highway with a speed limit of 70 MPH, it was scary.  Each passing car/truck rocked the RV.  Kenny got us off to the side as best he could, set up safety triangles, got on his safety vest and Uma and I took shelter on a hill, on a towel next to fire ant mounds!

imageIf  you are already bored with this post,  for RV folks, please read on for important information that may be useful to you in the future.

We were towed to Walmart – yes, that is correct a Walmart in Marianna, FL. (Sorry Keathley Klan) but we were happy to be in a safe place.  No auto repair shops were open but we were assured that they would tow us to a repair shop early Monday morning.

There are some things that I have to acknowledge during our Sunday day/evening in the Walmart parking lot:

  1. We were grateful to Walmart for allowing us to dry camp in their parking lot;
  2. A women’s shampoo/haircut/blow dry is $22.00 + tip – yup – I actually did this and got a really good cut!  Of course, it all depends on the stylist you get, right?;  and,
  3. It is allowable (legal – who knows?) that you can park a truck in the parking lot and sell puppies and rabbits.

Our first tow to Walmart resulted in a broken fog light; no big deal.  Our tow from Walmart to repair shop resulted in another broken fog light, a crack in the fiberglass front left side and our electric step gone forever.

We know that our adventures will also result in misadventures which we will have to embrace.  Grrrrrrr – so hard to embrace breakdowns.  Okay, so I am really rambling but for RV’ers important lessons can be learned so I will ramble on.

We belong to Good Sam Club Roadside Assistance, et al, and they sent us to a repair shop that they believed would fix our problem. After checking their website, Kenny had serious doubts.  But they towed us to a shop that I won’t disparage.  They tried very hard to help us.

I will try to paint a picture of this for you.  We were in a small FL town about 50 feet from a railroad track where freight trains ran regularly, blaring their horns, rocking our RV, not a problem except for their first run at 3:00 AM.

The repair shop was composed of southern gentlemen, respectful, gracious, and we were introduced to our life line auto mechanics – Danny-Ray, Lightening, and Killer.  Not making this up – all true.  They were great at normal repairs judging by how busy they were,  extremely  good at their craft, and local police had their vehicles serviced there.

Although Danny-Ray tested things on the RV early morning until end of each day, on Wednesday he and his boss threw up their arms and gave up without offering any suggestions on what we should do next.

Okay, we had been calm until then and now we were very concerned.  Kenny had to maneuver through dealing with various contacts,  Spartan (our chassis connection), Cummins and Allison (engine/transmission).  All were amazing and extremely customer focused.  Bottom line, Kenny contacted a mobile unit which arrived Thursday am and we were on our way Thursday afternoon.

image.jpegLessons learned RV’ers or future RV’ers:

Insist that the repair shop they are sending you to is a repair location that has the expertise to understand and deal with problems with your particular RV.  If you have concerns, keep all records so that if things go wrong, your expenses will be considered for reimbursement.  Good Sam’s Roadside Assistance has acknowledged our problems and, although, they wouldn’t allow a mobile unit on our first call, they are being supportive of getting our RV back to its original shape.

We arrived safely in Lillian, AL, staying in a quaint, sleepy KOA park advertised as being on the Gulf, with a beach which was a bit misrepresented .  A walk to the beach provided a great pier, if you had an inkling to fish or had a boat to launch but very brackish.  Certainly  not a place to swim.  And the beach, if you could call it a beach, is not a place one would put down a towel and stake a claim.

But, we would stay there again if we were to end up in that neck of the world.  Surprisingly gorgeous beaches within 20 minutes (either FL or AL).  Who would think that the AL coast would have pristine beaches?

The AL coast was perfect – Kenny and I got our Fitbit miles in walking the beach.  It was clear, warm water, not crowded.  RV’ers take note, stopping there is worth your time.

For bikers or hikers, please visit the Gulf Shores State Park.  We had a great bike ride.  For hard core bikers (Shelly and Christie/John and Elizabeth) the trails are probably too easy. For me, perhaps not Kenny, it was such a fun ride.  Gentle, somewhat challenging, but great coasting opportunities and this occurred in both directions.  (Elizabeth and Christie, don’t laugh at me!). Trails are well manicured and well marked so based on maps provided before you start out, you can determine how many miles you wish to travel.

I only saw butterflies and bunnies, but Kenny called me back to see a diamond back rattlesnake that he had seen that I had ridden past.  They are poisonous so Kenny’s motives of having me circle back were questionable.  Note to family and friends:  If I die of weird circumstances, please investigate.

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

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey. – Babs Hoffman

 

 

 

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Fun with Dick and Jane and Bill and Jackie and Susan and Mark

Hi again friends and family!  We hope all is well in your worlds!

As noted in our last post, Bill & Jackie arrived and the week of their visit went by in a blur with the blending of both relaxing and fun adventures.  It was wonderful to see them again.  We (all) were a bit skeptical regarding our tight quarters but nothing to be concerned about there.  After all, we have shared much smaller space bc (before children) when we camped together in Charlestown, RI, in a tiny Shasta.  Brought back some great memories.

The KOA on Pine Island was pretty empty.  We were told that the Snowbirds usually left by the end of April.  The remaining campers called themselves the Survivors and lived there year round.  Pine Island is their home and they appear to be very happy living there.  It certainly is a great place to be!

The Survivors knew each other too well and their banter and teasing was entertainment in itself.  When in the pool, you can’t help but hear what everyone was saying so you had to get engaged in their silly conversations.  The four of us felt welcomed into their circle of friends.  All came to the pool with their noodles and floated around.  The first time I went there I thought I was interrupting a water aerobics class but they just laughed when I asked that question.  They said if it was, the leader wasn’t moving.

The temperature ran 80 – 90 degrees during our stay so the pool was refreshing and there was a hot tub as well.  We were told by the survivors that when the snowbirds were all there, the camp was hopping with crazy, fun activities but our time was very low key, quiet, and relaxing.  On our particular site, we weren’t allowed to have a camp fire but we were allowed to use the community fire pit by the pool which the four of us enjoyed.

When our friends from Palm Coast, Susan and Mark A., heard that Billy and Jackie were coming they made plans to join us on the weekend.  So, of course, it was time to select some fun activities.

A trip to the KOA laundry provided us with rows of brochures showing us various unique things to do in the area.  On Saturday morning, the six of us headed to Captain Steve’s Swamp Buggy Ride.  (Take a peek on line to see the website: captainstevesswampbuggy.com)  When speaking with him on the telephone, he made me promise that I would bring him a sandwich “and not a wimpy one either – did you see the size of me on our website”.  So, we were a bit surprised that our guide wasn’t Captain Steve but a member of his family, Victor.  Oh well, we ended up with more food for us to eat.

This particular swamp buggy tour is mentioned in Travel National Geographic as a must do.  Big Cypress National Preserve is 730,000 acres of freshwater Big Cypress Swamp and a place where you wouldn’t want to get lost or be in after dark.  Too many critters running around at night.

Our adventure was about a 3.5 hour swamp trip seeing whatever Mother Nature intended for us to see.  The buggy, running on tractor tires, stood about eight feet in the air – it was huge!  It is powered by a 1952 International 4-cyclinder engine.  Kenny was impressed with that although I don’t know what that means.  We loaded our cooler onto the buggy and off we went.  Although we didn’t see any panthers or bears, we saw numerous varieties of birds that I hadn’t seen before.  Susan, knowing all of them, provided us with their names and tidbits of information about each.  We were blessed with spotting three baby (yearling?) deer without their Momma and several alligators ranging from two to eight feet.  The ride brought us by all types of fauna and flora including huge blooming air plants.

And, along the way, Victor provided us entertaining tales of other trips and information on swamp country.   We were in the middle of no where and if the buggy had a breakdown it would be several hours before any help would be able to reach us.  No worries – no breakdowns.

Okay, so we didn’t see any bears or panthers but we did get the opportunity to DRIVE the buggy!!  Of course, all six of us wanted our turns.  And, it wasn’t like we were driving in a straight line on dry land.  We were driving the swamp on fun winding trails!  And before going back to our car, Victor put the peddle to the metal to show what the buggy would do.  Some mud flying – but who cared?  It was great fun to drive the buggy!  Honestly, I thought that was the best part of the trip.  Notice that a picture of Kenny driving is from within the buggy – there was no way any of us were getting out of the buggy to get a better shot.

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Kenny concentrating on maneuvering through the swamp

On Sunday, Mother’s Day, I was a bit nostalgic, thinking about my traditional Mother’s Day which was kayaking down the Farmington River with Zoe, Aaron, Tristan, Dylan and Nikki and Dan.  I was a bit downcast until I spoke with Zoe and Nikki.  Both said the weather was bad, cold and dreary and, if I were home, we would never have gone kayaking in that type of weather.  I was almost happy to hear that.

This Mother’s Day, Bill drove all of us to Santibel and Captiva Island.  We went shelling at Lighthouse Beach.  There were millions (truly millions)  of shells to choose from.  Of interest, in one area, there were hundreds of conch washed up on the beach.  Those that appeared to be alive, we threw back in the ocean but we found out later that it is probably something they have adapted to over the years so they would have survived.  But on that day, I picked up several of those that were all dried up on the beach thinking they were dead.  I may have saved some but I may have been the murderer of others.  I definitely threw more back than I took.  In any case, I have a guilty conscious about that particular activity.

We had a late lunch on Captiva Island at the RC Otter.  We had wanted to go to the Bubble Room since everyone had raved about it but we were too late for lunch and too early for dinner.  RC Otter served up yummy lobster bisque and great Reuben’s.  All-in-all, made for a pleasant and satisfying Mother’s Day.  Of course, hearing from all three daughters madefor the happiest moments of the day.  We hope that all Mothers, of both children and animals, had a great day!

Our final adventure with Bill & Jackie was a trip to Seminole Casino where Bill & Jackie went home ahead of the game and Ken & I broke even.  Of course, Ken & I had to play the Game of Thrones slots.  With special bonus pop-ups, who wouldn’t want to play it?

Sadly, Bill & Jackie left Tuesday morning so it was back to K, D & U.  We are very much looking forward to future visits with the whole gang.

Because I missed kayaking, Ken & I rented a kayak on Wednesday.  We paddled out seeking dolphins and Manatees (which you can usually see in this location) but we didn’t see any.  We thoroughly enjoyed the calm waters as we paddled through the mangroves watching the antics of a variety birds (where is Susan A. when we need her?) that make their home in the area.

We spoke with our youngest daughter, K-T, on Mother’s Day and she asked us if we were ever going to leave FL.  We both laughed at that – we stayed longer than we had intended to, but, why rush through things when we are having so much fun.

But now it is time to head southwest.  We anticipate traveling along the coast of Alabama no later than Saturday, Sunday, Monday or whenever.  Retirement has had us adapt to a rather flexible schedule.

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

Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk.  That will teach you to keep your mouth shut. –   Ernest Hemingway

K, D, & U

 

 

 

 

Seeing clearly again

Hello to friends and family!

Well since it has been raining here for the first time since we’ve been on Pine Island, we thought it was a good time to get caught up.

As mentioned in our last post, Ken & I took a boat ride to Dry Tortugas National Park which is about 70 miles from Key West.  The boat ride was 2.5 hours each way and the seas were calm and flat, the day was sunny and warm/hot all of which made for a comfortable ride (AC inside and great sea breeze outside).  Upon arrival you can take a tour of the fort, snorkel, or relax on the beach.  Although we brought our snorkeling gear, we ended up exploring the fort for the majority of our time there.  We joined the 11:00 tour which was fascinating.  As a child, I didn’t pay too much attention to history but now Kenny and I are soaking it in.

Upon arrival had to get a standard tourist shot.
Upon arrival had to get a standard tourist shot.
From inside fort looking out view
From inside fort looking out view

Our tour guide was a history nut!  During the 1.5 hour tour, he gave us history from when Ponce de Leon discovered it in 1513 to when construction began in 1846, to current day – all without missing a beat!  After all of the effort in building the fort, it was never completed and never had any battles.  Too much information to get into the blog, you’d fall asleep, but we strongly suggest that if you ever get to Key West, take advantage of the trip there.  Your tour guide will keep you enthralled.

Beautiful architecture!

Our boat was Yankee Freedom and the trip fee included, park entry fee, breakfast, lunch, total of 5 hours of boat time, tour and snorkeling gear to use.  Drinks were available on the way home, the crew was friendly and fun.  If someone named Jeff conducts a tour of the fort (he works on the boat) be sure to sign up with him.  He was so passionate about the history that all were totally engaged and he had exceptionally funny tales about what happened there.

On Sunday, we hung out at Bahia Honda State Park Beach.  Boasted as the best beach in FL, we strongly disagree.  It is very nice but I guess we are spoiled by ME, HI, MA and other more beautiful beaches in FL.  It was a pristine sunny day.  The beach wasn’t overcrowded and the water refreshing.  But in order to get entirely wet you had to dunk in or sit down and splash your shoulders which would not be under water.

For our RV friends, we had tried to get a site there for our stay but they were booked solid.  After seeing the roads into the Park, we were happy we were at the Jolly Rogers. We would have had to unhitch our car and it would have been terribly difficult to get our RV through all of the winding roads.

On Monday, we left for Ft. Myers and stayed overnight at a Good Sam’s park called Lazy J.  The park was okay, the people nice but the only amenities being offered were laundry and sketchy wi-fi, it was a big disappointment considering we paid the same price as a KOA with all amenities.  We were there for only one night so it was fine.  We did see some adorable calves with their momma’s playing in the field nearby – they were fun to watch since they were prancing around like deer and ran over to the fence to say hi to Uma.  She didn’t know what they were and never barked at them and they had no clue what she was.

On Tuesday, ARE YOU BORED YET?, we went to Hudson, FL, to get our cloudy side windows replaced.  That was an interesting four days!  We camped in a parking lot with 10-12 other campers doing the same thing.  We did get out for some local walks but mostly stayed there.  We met interesting folks from all over the US and Canada.  There were crazy tales shared over sipping wine/beer in little gab groups early evening.  Although mostly a dull few days, the results were two huge side windows crystal clear for the FIRST TIME!  It is so nice to be able to see out the side windows and watch the world go by from both the front and the side windows.  We highly recommend Sun Coast for their professional workers and accommodating staff.

Of great importance, during that week we bought a satellite dish!  Hip, hip hooray!  We were missing our Game of Thrones, our guilty pleasure, and now we don’t have to.  For fans of the show, Jon Snow is alive AND Winter is Coming!

We’ve been at a KOA on Pine Island since last Sunday relaxing in the pool and culling down more “stuff” in the RV.  More donation boxes to drop off.  Yes, it is crazy that after 40+ days we are not yet completely organized.  We highly recommend this location.  There are no beaches on the island but the KOA is perfect.

This is our base for another week.  Right now, Kenny and I are sitting outside in the rain – protected by our awning of course – patiently awaiting the arrival of Bill and Jackie (Ken’s brother and our sister-in-law).  We are so excited that they are coming to visit with us for the next week or so.  Jackie and I met when we were 14 working on tobacco in Windsor. She and Bill met when he was living with Ken and I for a short time. And, how cool is that, we are now related!  We are looking forward to some fun adventures with them!

Happy Mothers Day to all moms.  Our usual Mom’s day was kayaking together on the Farmington River and we will most certainly be missing all on that day.  It was always one I certainly cherished as a special family day.  We miss our kids/grandkids desperately but are in contact with all weekly.  For those with kids local, hug them tight as we wish we could.

So, here are Bill and Jackie!!  Need to sign off.  We hope all is well in your worlds.  Until next time, we raise our wine glasses and toast to you:

Don’t wait out the storm, learn to dance in the rain.

K, D & U

P.S.  I have pictures but my IPhone isn’t communicating with my IPad again!  Need to spend two hours on the phone with an IPhone representative.  I will add some pictures to this post when I can find time to do this.  This has been an ongoing problem since my email changed.  GRRRR.