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For My Valentine…

March 1, 2011
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Made this video for Troy on Valentine’s.  He took all of these pictures…on our Year Trip.

Conclusions (Part 1)

January 2, 2011
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Time passed slowly while we were travelling.  These 5 months at home have gone in a flash.  It doesn’t feel possible that I’ve procrastinated for 20 weeks; on the trip, if I put off blogging for 2 weeks, it felt as if I would never catch up.

The drive up the Natchez Trace into Nashville was the ceremonial conclusion of our Year Trip.  AT2010 was the definitive conclusion of our Year Trip.  When we came off the trail, we went to our house and began making ourselves at home.  We kept the rooftop tent on our truck in anticipation of camping at Otter Creek’s family retreat in September.  Since then, we’ve taken off the tent, unloaded all the gear, and slowly unpacked and undone all the preparations we made back in spring of 2009. 

We tired of driving an F250 around town and paying for diesel.  We bought a more efficient vehicle.  We made plans to sort through pictures and to sort through all of our thoughts.  We are finally getting around to some of that sorting.

The most common question since we’ve been home:  “how are you adjusting back to normal life?”  We generally answer, “just fine”.  But we sort of hope we aren’t adjusting too much.  We hope we are somehow different, that we learned important things, and that we are making changes to our pre-trip normal.  As we begin 2011, we wish we were heading out on the road, and we are hoping that unsettled feeling will cause us to evaluate where we are headed on our  everyday journeys.

It’s past-time for a few thank-yous:

To Josh, Wendy, Parker, Dawson, and Maren for living in the house.  What a gift you gave us.  We didn’t have to worry.  When the flood came, you were there to assure us all was well.  Our transitions away from home and back home were so uncomplicated because of you.   Instead of leaving behind an empty house, you lived in it and filled it with life and laughter.

To Russell and DeeAnna, Caleb and Addison for letting us load up your attic with our junk.  And for helping us move it in and out.  And for supporting us.  And for meeting up with us in Colorado.

  To all of those who made us feel at home in their home:

  • In Mukilteo, WA: Tim, Shauna, Zachary
  • In Mill Creek: Chris, DeAnne, Dean, Christy Anne, and Colton
  • In Lake Stevens, WA: Duane, Lissa, Mandie, Savannah, and Sarah
  • On Lake Sammamish, WA: Adam and Monica
  • In Everett and Westport, WA: Ben and Kathy
  • In Port Hadlock, WA: Kelly
  • In Fremont, WA: Darcy
  • In Ravenna, WA:  Bob, Jenn, Claire, Jack, Nick
  • In Wedgewood, Wa:  Scott, Lindee, Bethany, Brodie, and Isaac
  • In Salem, OR: Shay, Derek, Beverly, Michael
  • In Boston: Martha
  • In Williamsburg, VA: Danny and Cathy
  • On Shelter Island, NY: Cliff and Tish
  • In Albany, GA: Bobby and Laura, BF and Marilyn, Tommy and Joyce, Greg and Sandi, Patrick and Angie, Elizabeth, Garrett, and Grant
  • In Lebanon, TN: Royce and Faye
  • In West Monroe, LA: Brian, Cynthia, Hannah and Daniel
  • In Thousand Trails RV, Kissimmee, FL: Greg, Cheryl, Shayna, Jeremiah, and Josiah
  • In Cedar Creek, TX: Jim and Judy
  • In Sacramento: Nick, Christee, Tyler, and Branden
  • In San Clemente: Bob, Kimberly, Xander, Christian, and Hannah
  • In Walnut Creek, CA: Dave, Alice, Joseph, and Jackson
  • In Salida, CO: Shawn, Christi, Emma, Justin, Carly Beth

  To friends and family from home that we met in far away places:

  • In Camden, ME: Scott, Jessica, John, and Abe
  • In Saranac Lake, NY, Jekyll Island, and on a southwest tour: Mom and Dad
  • In Boston: Aunt Judy
  • In Orlando: Dawn, Brad, Audra, and Carmen
  • In Joshua Tree: Jim, Danna, Zane, and Emma
  • In Spokane, Burbank, and WA Cascades: Jim
  • In Phoenix, AZ: Nikki
  • In Hollywood: Dawn and Jessica
  • In Pepperdine: David and Becky
  • In the Washington Cascades and Key West, FL:  OCYG
  • In Moab, UT: Jerry, Colton, Austin

And to our Nashville friends who sent us off with blessing and love and support and checked in with us often.  And to Patrice who made us a beautiful scrapbook so that we wouldn’t forget anyone.

More conclusions and lists and statistics and thank yous to come in part 2…

AT 2010

January 1, 2011
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It’s taken me a long, long while to get to this post.  Our life is so ‘normal’ again that sometimes the Year Trip seems like a dream.

After arriving in middle Tennessee, we spent a few relaxing days with Troy’s mom in Lebanon.  Then, Troy and I left TH and Gret with his mom and drove to the Smoky Mountains.  We went to choose the route for a 4 night backpacking trip.

One of the highlights of our Year Trip was in July ’09 when we spent a week backpacking in the Washington Cascades with 20 youth and youth leaders from our church in Nashville.  It seemed good to end our Year Trip in a similar way.  I never got around to blogging about the Cascades trip.  I tried, but I never found words that felt right.  Perhaps that’s why I’ve stalled once again on this post.

Once we chose our route, we returned to Troy’s mom’s to finalize plans for the backpacking trip and to begin to move back into our house.  My mother came up from Georgia to watch TH and Gret for us – the kids were so excited to be back in their rooms.

This backpacking trip ranks among the highest for heat, humidity, rainstorms, dirtiness, and difficulty.  It also ranks high for ease of leadership.  What a wonderful group of young people to spend time with!   Phillip has been on all 4 of our youth group trips with us.  We had three other veterans; this was Ryan and Jenna’s 3rd trip and Abby’s 2nd.  Even the 1st timers, Lydia, and youth group intern, Emily, were complete naturals and stepped up to the challenges beautifully.

As expected in late summer in the Smokies, the views were lush, the blackberries were ripe, and the grass was high.  It was a HOT week back in Nashville, temps hung around 102◦ with extreme humidity.  Even with cooler temps in the Appalachians and highs around 80, we were terribly sticky.  After 4 sweltering days, Troy and I were so excited about our last campsite along the banks of a cool, clear river.  We were hoping this would come as a welcome and refreshing surprise.  However, our cool-off came from a different source.  As we were hiking into camp on our last full day in the mountains, a 2-hour rainstorm soaked us to the skin.  Only a few of us were very interested in a dip in the river after that.

Our last moments on the trail were joyous, made even more so because of the soaking the day before, the odor of our clothes and packs, and the promise of a shower and restaurant meal.

It’s strange to try and remember this wonderful and intense backpacking trip and to look at the pictures as I sit in my comfortable chair in front of the television, stuffed with black-eyed peas, turnip greens, and ribs.  

Abby, Emily, Jenna, Lydia, Phillip, and Ryan, thanks for travelling with us.  Can’t hardly wait for next summer and for AT2011! 

Pictures.

Arkansas River

July 28, 2010
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Days 403 – 406.  Our plan when we left Salida was to spend several days in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado.  As we were driving, we started talking.  We were all sad about leaving the Ballards and Salida.  We all began to agree that it was time to go home.

We turned the car north again, and after admiring the Sangre de Cristos from the valley and talking about coming back someday, we headed back to the Arkansas River east of Salida.  We’ve talked a lot about rivers this year, and the continental divide, and how long rivers are, and where they start and where they end up.  We decided it would be fun to try to follow the Arkansas from start to finish.

We didn’t go to the actual beginning of the Arkansas River on Mt. Arkansas.  We didn’t step across the stream like Shawn says you can, but we figure we were within a couple of miles.  We were able to follow along the river through most of Colorado as it dropped out of the mountains and onto the Great Plains.  We camped at John Martin Reservoir, below a dam on the Arkansas River.  Though we were still in Colorado, it was hot and humid; we were missing the mountains.

After entering Kansas, the first time we were able to see the river again, there was no water in it.  It looked more like a dirt road.  We followed the river through Dodge City, but decided not to follow the river north as it took a long detour up to Great Bend; we couldn’t see any water in it anyway.  We met the river again in Oklahoma. We saw the river near Tulsa, Muskogee, Fort Smith, Little Rock, and then followed it down to where the Arkansas flows into the Mississippi River.

A long time ago, the town of Napoleon sat at the mouth of the Arkansas.  It is no longer there due to destruction during the Civil War and to flooding of the Mississippi.  Looking at the map, we thought we’d be able to get fairly close to the end of the Arkansas River.  We drove for a long time through cotton and rice and soybean fields, and atop levees near the Mississippi.  It was a beautiful and sticky late afternoon, loud with crickets and buzzing.  We saw deer, a live armadillo, birds and bugs, and a bald eagle.  We didn’t make it to the river.  The road we’d seen on the map was gated.  We tried to find other roads, but it was getting late, so we took a picture and figured we were within a couple of miles.

We crossed the Mississippi into Greenville, MS and began looking for a hotel room.  They were all full.  We drove to the next town, and still found nothing available.  By this time, it was well after 10 pm and still in the 90s.  Despite this, we found a campground on the Mississippi River near Rosedale, MS and pulled in for the night.  This began the most uncomfortable night of our whole trip.  The mosquitoes were relentless and the air was thick.  We tried to go to sleep.  After a few moments of torture, we all got up and sprayed ourselves down with deet.    Then we tried to go to sleep.  Sometime around 5 am, when the bug spray had all sweated off of us, we went to go take showers.  We’ve suffered through a few cold showers on this trip, but this campground had great hot showers.  Unfortunately, we wanted cool showers, and these wouldn’t even go lukewarm.

By about 6:30 am, we’d left the campground and were standing on top of a lookout tower.  We were on the eastern shore directly across from where the Arkansas meets the Mississippi.  We couldn’t actually see the Arkansas, but knew we were close.

That day, a Friday, Day 406 of our Year Trip, we drove through the campus of Ole Miss in Oxford, then pulled onto the Natchez Trace Parkway, and headed northeast towards Nashville.

Our first stop was downtown Nashville where we met Troy’s Aunt Judy and took some pictures.  Then we drove to Lebanon, TN to see Troy’s mom.  We are still staying with her (if we were still counting, we’d say it’s Day 418).  We’re moving to our house today.

Next week, we’re going backpacking in the Smoky Mountains with a really cool group of young people from our church.  Then, I think, this Year Trip will be officially over.  We’re not sure, yet, exactly how we’re feeling, but it is good to be home.  Pictures.  And a song for Troy:

The greenest state in the land of the free
And the home of the Grand Ole Opry
Is calling me back to my Smoky Mountain home

But I ain’t been home in I don’t know when
If I had it all to do over again
Tonight I’d sleep in my old feather bed

What I wouldn’t give for a little bitty taste
Of Mama’s homemade chocolate cake
Tennessee homesick blues running through my head

Eatin’ grits and gravy and country ham
Go to church on Sunday with dinner on the grounds
Tennessee homesick blues are runnin’ through my head. 

– Dolly Parton

Rocky Mountain High

July 14, 2010
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It’s Day 403, and we’re still in Colorado.

We parted from our friends in Keystone without any real plan.  It was our 15th wedding anniversary, so we splurged on dinner out and a night in a bed and breakfast in Frisco.  The B&B was quaint and old-fashioned, the breakfast was all homemade and wonderful, and we’d love to go back sometime without the kids.  I did get their Belgian waffle recipe.  We’ve eaten lots of hotel Belgian waffles this year, but these were something special.

From Frisco, we drove toward Aspen.  We stopped at Maroon Bells and went for a short hike.  A building rainstorm shortened the hike even more.  The clouds and rain only made the Bells seem more magical.  We camped for the night at a free campsite near Aspen.

The next day took us over Independence Pass, and across the Great Divide once more, perhaps for the last time.  We spent some time looking for coffee and looking at old cars in Buena Vista, and then checked back into Room 8 at the Wilderness Expeditions Lodge.  Then, we went out to the Ballard’s for dinner.  It was so nice to be back in Salida.

Troy climbed Shavano and Tabaguache (12 miles, 5400 ft) before church the next morning.  We girls all painted our toenails red, white, and blue.  And we ordered pizza and ate it in the park, where later, we watched the fireworks.

The  next day’s adventure was a ride to Princeton Hot Springs with the Ballard’s and their friends, Tommy and Kristi, and some of their friends.  We all rode in Tommy and Kristi’s huge Winnebago.  At the hot springs, we swam in the big pool, and then soaked in rock-lined pools down by the river.    

Troy climbed another 14er (that’s a peak over 14,000 ft in elevation), Mt. Massive, with Shawn the next morning. 

The next 4 days we went backpacking in the Horn Fork Basin.  All four of us woke up early and set out to climb Mt. Harvard, the 3rd highest mountain in Colorado.  We all made it to the top.  We were completely exhausted when we got back to camp.  We took afternoon naps while it rained on the tent, and after this rest, decided to attempt Columbia the next morning.

The trail up Columbia was messy, and we slipped and slided our way up. We were on all fours at times.  The summit ridge was beautiful and flower covered and worth the trouble.   Troy mentioned we could go for a 3rd 14er on our last day in the Horn Fork Basin, but we declined.  We went back to Salida to spend our 4th Sunday in Colorado and a few more days hanging with the Ballards.  I sort of thought we’d be heading home by now…

It’s a good thing we hadn’t, because  if we had, we would’ve missed seeing some of our favorite friends from Nashville, the Carney’s!  DeeAnna is a most talented caterer and organizer and cook and hostess.  Her husband Russell is a careful and thorough general contractor who does beautiful and difficult work with a smile.  The Ballards and Carneys and us had a picnic on the Arkansas River, indoor s’mores, went out for breakfast, and took a hike to a waterfall.  It was a short day and a half with the Carneys, but we’ll see them in Nashville before too long.

I hear her voice; in the mornin’ hour she calls me.

The radio reminds me of my home far away,

And drivin’ down the road I get a feelin’

That I should’ve been home yesterday, yesterday.

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong

West Virgina, mountain momma

Take me home, country roads.

Pictures.

Summer Camp

July 11, 2010
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Ok, it wasn’t really summer camp, but we did all the fun things with a group of fun people that you might do at summer camp.  We went swimming and biking, climbed mountains, stayed up late talking, built forts, played capture the flag, played cards, went rock climbing, went for a boat ride, and got introduced to geocaching

We became friends with the Gardners and Orsborns when we all lived in Seattle; now, their two families live in Colorado, though in different towns.  Bill and Wade both served in ministry positions at our church.  (This is the 3rd time we’ve seen the Orsborns on our Year Trip.)  Bill and Wade and Troy have also spent many hours together on biking trails around Moab, UT.

A friend of Bill’s generously offered them his house in Keystone.  Bill and Kathy generously invited the Gardners and us to join them.  It was so nice to have time to visit and catch up, to remember our life before kids, and to discuss the challenges and joys of life with kids.

A highlight for TH was climbing a 14er (a 14,000 ft peak) with Seth and Caleb.  Gret enjoyed playing in the ‘playhouse’, really a large closet, with Anna and McKenna.  I loved being outside all day and still sleeping inside at night.  The only real downer was that Kathy had to leave early, and we missed her being there the last two days.

Thank you so so much to Bill and Kathy and Wade and Dara and their great kids for letting us in on their summer adventure in Keystone.  We had so much fun!  What a tiring and wonderful few days with two families we respect and love.  They have taught us so much about family and trust and living life to its fullest, and we are grateful for our time with them.

Pictures (it was difficult to narrow these down).

Salida

July 6, 2010
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We left Moab, Utah and drove straight to Shawn and Christi’s place near Salida, Colorado.  They moved to Colorado from Nashville early this spring.  Shawn is the executive director of Wilderness Trek“Wilderness Trek is a rugged 5 or 6-day adventure in the majestic mountains of southern Colorado. Trek includes backpacking, hiking, rappelling, devotionals, solo times, a climb to the summit of a 13,000 or 14,000-foot mountain, and, if you prefer, white water rafting. It is specifically designed to challenge young people (14 – 19 years of age), adults, and families of all ages to discover self-confidence, self-esteem, personal faith, and to learn their awesome potential for living faith-filled lives.”

For the summer, the Ballards are living in a two-room cabin with a large yard and two creeks nearby.  We set up camp in their yard.  It’s been so nice to share meals and playtime with them.  We spent the weekend hanging out at FIBArk Whitewater Festival, meeting Trek people and learning about the operation, touring around Salida, losing TH after church, and catching up.

On Monday, we spent the day getting ready for a backpacking trip.  It took us longer than expected and we started hiking around 7:30 pm.  It was getting dark when we set up camp 2.5 miles up the trail.  All the kids carried a pack, Tank, the Ballards’ black lab, carried his own bowl and food, and the parents carried whatever else we needed. 

Our second day on the trail, we packed up and moved camp to Pass Creek Lake.  The dads and older kids went for an afternoon hike.  We had a leisurely morning on the third day, and then hiked out to get cleaned up and celebrate with pizza at Amica’s in Salida.

After one more night in the Ballard’s yard, and 30 nights of sleeping outside, we moved to the ‘lodge’ at Wilderness Expeditions, room #8.  We ended up staying another weekend in Salida, and enjoyed the art walk and getting to spend more time with the Ballards.

We left Salida to go meet friends in Keystone.  If not for that, I’m not sure we could have ever made the break; we’re already talking about coming back for FIBArk next year. 

Pictures.