Friday, July 30, 2010


One morning Susan and I were sitting in front of the fire, trying to wake up, when I heard a rustling noise on the picnic table.  My mind immediately knew what was happening, as I had been snacking on some sunflower seeds earlier over there on the table, but it took my body a few seconds to respond...Chip and Dale had discovered the bag of sunflower seeds.  You know how thick a Baggie is, the material almost palpably thick in comparison to say, an off-label Baggie Imitation.  But on the table I found MegaMunk.  Honestly, this was the largest chipmunk I had ever seen in my life, and he had bitten right into the Baggie and was helping himself to our protein.  

This was MegaMunk thinking he was hiding like his much smaller friends could, under the Camp Truck.
Here MegaMunk was trying to hide behind the bag of sunflower seeds, peeking over to make sure we didn't see him there making a total pig of himself.

On the lookout to make sure no rival munks were going to show up to try to steal his stash.  His jaws were getting bigger and bigger.
Having to actually rest his head on the bag while guarding the sunflower jubilee stash.
"I think I detect trouble!"
"He wouldn't DARE come over here...would he?"
"Okay, you can have ONE, got it??  You can have...okay, maybe TWO, but anymore than THREE and I'm chasing your ass off...are you paying attention to me??"
"I warned you!  Scat!  Get out of here you sunflower seed thief!  You better run from big, bad ME!"
Peace is restored when MegaMunk's cheeks get so full that he cannot balance himself to get off the table, and little Dale, here, finally gets his turn at the seed bag.
 There are several more chipmunk tales and photos to go along with them, but I think you all get the idea...hey, what else did I have to do, right?  Sitting around taking pictures of the wildlife, curling up in my sleeping bag at 4 in the afternoon to read a book, taking walks around the lake.  It was really a tough job, but someone had to take the assignment on, and I sacrificed myself!  

Have an awesome Friday!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


I forced myself out of my warm, cozy sleeping bag and hiked off before sunup into the cold morning to try to capture a little of the magic that accompanies a sunrise in the Jemez Mountains.  I don't think any story or explanation is necessary.  Just enjoy the mountain sunrise!



Wanted to just drop in and say that I will get more camping adventure stories and more photos up later today.  

I got sidetracked because this morning I had to go get lab work done, then, ahem, Jamie and I went to Wal-Mart to "Get David's school supplies and school clothes."  We, however, ended up in the "camping section" of the store and bought tents for myself, my son and his family, and Jamie and her family, sleeping bags, pumps, air mattresses, sleeping bags, etc.  I even got David and Abigail their own little pup tent with sleeping bags!  I don't think they'll sleep in it alone, but we'll see.  We're going to box it in between our tents, their door boxed into the middle of the other tents. 

My tent sleeps 6, so when you all decide to come camping with me, we're covered!
More later...

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


This is how it looked as night fell over our camp.

I know there are people who would find it boring sitting around a campfire eating steak and eggs at 7:00 a.m. while the sun came up, and people who would not find the intense pleasure I found at sitting at the picnic table in the "dining area" of our Vacation Lodge popping open Bud Lights with Lime while it poured outside and the wind whistled through the huge stands of Ponderosa pines, but just yawn and bear it.  :)  (I also know almost everyone in the world would love to experience what we experienced, so I was just being funny).  

The sun began to set and someone said the word "bears" to us, so it had quite an impact on how we stored and disposed of food at our little oasis of beauty and calmness.  If we were not putting everything away to protect it from a surprise lightning and wind storm, we were putting it back in The Camp Truck for storage to try to keep the larger critters of the night away from our tent, which, even though it was huge, and even though it withstood high winds, probably would not be much of a match for a seven-foot tall, four-hundred-fifty-pound brown bear.  

After eating, being a little paranoid about the bear situation, we would scrub every teensy little odor of hot dog from our fingers, the table outside, and burn every crumb of bread in the fire.  

Now, I know you want me to tell you a bear story here, but the only bear story I have is that they stayed in the forest and lived their own lives, leaving us to go home with our own.

I am going to just start with some photos here.

All we lacked at our little table was a mirror, which we vowed to take along next time.  Cheers!

We had to take containers and find a water spigot before nightfall, and one of us (I won't say who) left the flaps open on the tent.  See the Victoria's Secret bag sitting there?  Hairspray actually kills flies...Susan never ceased to amaze me.

There were two big bedrooms in the Vacation Lodge mega-tent, one at each end, but after we read about the bears, we decided it would be best to both sleep at the same end.  This is where we slept.  Quite comfy.  My bed is on the left, by the window, which got rained in by a surprise rain storm while we were somewhere else. 
Here is the scene out our front door.  Who wouldn't want to wake up to that??  We could lay in our beds and watch the night fall on this cliff face while we read "for three hours each night." 
This was the view across the wildflower meadow out our back window.  I know how boring this is getting.  :0)
This nice, cold mountain stream was behind our campsite, and this is where I took a bath.  Cross another thing off my bucket list!
More amazing Mother Nature and fun later!  It actually gets prettier as time marches on.  My brain felt like it was on the "sports mode" on a camera or one of those flip-books.  Sun down, night sounds, sun up, new flowers, new birds, new bugs, new creatures.  On and on and on it goes.

I really took to heart the words to this song by Susan Cowsill:  "It's what we do here that matters when we go."  

So everyone tread lightly on this earth and help her survive!

Monday, July 26, 2010


I immediately hopped out of the Camping Truck with my camera, laughing.  I had spent about three days trying to fly to Albuquerque for this camping trip, had driven about 80 miles up the side of a mountain, prepared to help raise the Vacation Lodge mega tent, pee in a field, gather wood, and as my reward, lay in my sleeping bag and look at the stars in that huge sky with no light pollution.  Susan, on the other hand, was in shock, staring out the window at the STOP sign, sputtering a few unintelligible words.

Time to regroup.  And we did.  I said, "I saw another campground a few miles back, want to try that?"  And not having fully recovered yet, she said, "Yeah."  So we backtracked to the next place, found the gate open, and drove in.  It was pretty but crowded, and eagle-eyed Susan immediately knew there was no water.  We had to have water, there were no two ways about that.  We stopped and talked to a couple on bikes who confirmed there was no water, but told us about the campground at Lake Vernon State Park, if we were willing to really make a drive and go over "unimproved mountain roads" to get there.  We were willing.  We had a gigantic tent to put up, a tent that had never been out of the box, the box in fact still factory sealed, and the sun was starting to drop pretty quickly.

Once we saw the signs to the lake, and drove for about three miles on a washboard dirt road, at about five miles per hour to keep from ruining the suspension on the Camping Truck, soon realizing this could not be right, we found a nice woman walking out there in the middle of nowhere, I decided she must have been an angel, and she directed us back the direction from which we had come, and about thirty minutes later, we actually found the campground.  

Lake Vernon, well worth the few hours it took to find.   

 After several laps around the campground, pretty large, really, considering we had no idea it was there, but thankfully fairly empty, too, we settled on our wilderness home for the next few days...near enough to an outhouse to use that, but out in the middle of a meadow of wildflowers and near a stream that was gorgeous.  

We set about removing said Vacation Lodge from the box and began laughing as we laid out the tarps and took a look at the directions for raising the tent.  On the box it said, "Five easy steps."  Of course if Susan had seen the directions INSIDE the box first, she would never have made the purchase, which, in my way of thinking, was sort of trickery.

At one point, we picked up the tarps and began trying to figure  out how to make a lean-to for the night, because no way were two small girls going to be able to reach the dome of that tent to put it up.  As we were contemplating our dilemma in our shorts and our smiles, a second Camping Truck pulled around the curve and we heard, "You girls need some help?"

Were we going to say "No?"  Now this guy was like a knight in shining armor to us.  We cracked open a few Bud Lights, and the three of us went to work on that tent.  I would hammer in a stake, say, "Sip break!"  And we would all take a sip, or a gulp (it was getting hot out there).  Someone would push a pole into the right flap and say, "Beer break."  But eventually, our house was constructed of bricks, we found out when a mountain wind storm blew through about an hour later taking everything with it except, what do you think?  Our tent!  There she stood, so proud.  

Before the knight left us, we did introductions, and I swear to God this is true...his name was Roland.  From near Denver.  So if Roland somehow reads this blog, THANK YOU AGAIN!

The weather we were starting to worry about before Roland showed up.
And that's it for this chapter.  As you can see, the tent was awesome.  We were quite proud of it...

And later, the adventure begins...

Sunday, July 25, 2010


At 5:00 a.m. on Monday, I left my comfy king bed behind and hit the road, hoping that this would be the day I would honestly manage to GET to Albuquerque to embark on my Great Adventure with Susan, a much-needed, much-planned trek to 8000 feet to Jemez Falls campground, where the deer, the elk, and the bears play.  

At the airport in Louisville, I questioned the Southwest ticket agent:  "What the heck happened on Saturday that kept me from getting into the cool mountains of New Mexico??"  He said, "A teacher's convention.  Fifty-six-hundred educators were all trying to get out of this city and go home."
Well, with that explained, I dropped my suitcase and confidently hiked to the security line.  Once there, of course, there was the shoe-removal, makeup-in-a-Baggie removal, computer removal, Kindle removal, and jacket removal, which I am very unorganized with, plus I sweat with all the exertion with the humidity what it is here.  It takes me about ten minutes to organize everything into the bins, four seconds to walk through the screener, and ten minutes to reorganize everything back onto my person.  

With my Buddy Pass in hand, I approached the gait and learned that I actually had a seat on that first flight out.  Giddy with excitement, I settled in between the two people who were forced by process of elimination to put up with me for the next 3-1/2 hours as we zipped at 460 miles per hour toward my first stop, Phoenix, where my cousin was going to meet me for breakfast in the airport.  
The flight seemed fairly short, no dramatic things happened, and within a mere few hours I was hugging Tracy and  we were polishing off pastries and coffee.  I am not sure when it actually crept into my brain that I was going to have to redo the security process.  It seems ridiculous to say it was worth it, because of course it was, but as I held up the line unloading my computer, removing shoes, removing liquids-in-a-Baggie, etc., etc., etc., I seriously doubt that anyone else in the line behind me would have considered anything worth what I was putting them through.  

It almost seemed ridiculous to have to get on another plane for the little forty-five-minute hop to Albuquerque, and it seemed even more ridiculous that the fight attendants had to take drink orders for 200 passengers and try to work in a full service in that period of time, but in no time flat, I was hugging Susan, next, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and after some hugging, jumping up and down, retrieving my suitcase, we were soon on our way, in her well-stocked Camping Truck.  It was almost impossible to squeeze in the little amount of stuff I brought with me because in one month, Susan had turned into a camping monster and had everything from a tent ("Vacation Lodge"), a HUGE tent she had never tried to put up before, to a portable picnic table, and I jumped behind the wheel and we left the city behind and were giddy with the lack of oxygen at 8000 feet.  
Soon, we found the visitor's center for the Jemez Reservation, and made a stop in there for our final "real" bathroom break for the next three days, and to find a map. 

This is the visitor's center and a kiva out back of the visitor's center:

Not sure what this was for, and didn't really ask.
Look at that beautiful sky and enjoy it because it was pretty much the last of the blue we saw on the trip.

 The drive up to our campground seemed to fly by.  I have not seen such beautiful scenery in a long time, and the winding road up the side of the mountain commanded pretty much all of my attention. 

One of the little villages we passed through had this gorgeous church sitting right on the road, and after a terrifying, death-defying moment when, regardless of the steep fall into a ravine on both sides of us, making a quick stop, checking the rearview mirror and seeing nobody behind me, and pulling into a little indentation on the road, doing a U-turn and returning to the church, I took this gorgeous picture:

How would you like to sit in church on Sunday morning and see this work of God?

On we drove, seeing more beauty than you could imagine.  If I had stopped for a picture at every place I wanted, we would still be driving to the campground.  

The next touristy stop we made was a place called Soda Falls.  People go there to swim under the falls on hot days, and it was tempting, but trying to hurdle the guardrail and roll down the rocky hill to get there just was not going to happen.  It became more appealing to just watch others enjoy their little dip.

All this beauty, even this skull-like cave dwelling cliff wall, was carved from volcanoes.

On we drove, higher into the Jemez Mountains, anticipating raising our Vacation Lodge mega-tent, starting a fire, and watching the stars pop out one by one on a clear, quiet, oxygen-deprived night, kicking back, popping open the Bud Lights with Lime, cooking a couple of hot dogs, crawling into sleeping bags and reading until falling asleep, no worries, no troubles. 

Susan said, "Mick, it's just around this curve!!"  And we giggled in anticipation, pulled in and got our first view...

Stop us?  Deter us?  Never! 

Stay tuned for what happened next!

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Inspired by my cousin's posting of an article from our hometown newspaper, I am going to preview MY big trip here, and if everyone likes it, I might submit it for consideration to The here goes:

As is normal for Kathy before she travels, she only slept about four hours the night before in anticipation.  Being too cheap to purchase her own ticket, she was going to travel on a buddy pass, or as most backwoods non-travelers call it, standby.  

She did not completely pack until the morning of the trip and then just went through her drawers and threw everything she owned into a suitcase, which she then had to have help carrying to and loading into the car.  She is such a hoot!  By the time she was in the car zipping toward Louisville to catch her 1:05 flight, and as a standby passenger was being routed from Louisville to Phoenix, then to Albuquerque (yes you read that correctly), she was a sweaty blob in the 100-degree humid steambath-like heat.  On the way she bought some prescription-strength antiperspirant which she took the time to rub all over her body.  

It did not help much, though, when as she approached the on-ramp for her Interstate, she saw there was an actual traffic jam on the ramps from both directions, with cops directing traffic.  I know that you are going to immediately say, "Holiday World!"  That is where they were all going, that giant park in Santa Claus, Indiana, that was what all this traffic mess was about...she grabbed the prescription-strength antiperspirant and did another rubdown.  

Watching the clock tick off the minutes, she breathed a sigh of relief as she approached the bridge crossing the Ohio River into Louisville, Kentucky, but  By the time she arrived at the airport and parked, she was feeling a little stressed out, and it did not help when she read on the parking ticket kiosk, "Starting July 1, this lot now charges thirteen dollars a day."  Are you joking??  Too late to exit now.

When she walked into the airport she was surprised, no, shocked to see 500 people waiting in line at the Southwest counter to check luggage.  Kathy was already standing there with a security document, and had she just packed in a carry-on bag, would have zipped right through that mess to the gate, but, as luck would have it, she decided to take a suitcase full of everything, including all five pairs of flip-flops, with her.

Knowing she was not going to get the 1:05 flight to Phoenix, Kathy made the call to her friend waiting in Albuquerque and broke the news.  No big deal really, her friend said, just wait for the next flight.

Forty-five minutes later, she made it to the front of the line only to be told by the agent:  "You are not going to get a standby flight out of here today, you probably shouldn't even bother to check that bag because it will end up at your final destination without you, and Monday is going to be your first chance to get out of here."  

After collecting that 45-pound suitcase, her computer, and her Southwest-designed backpack (it is really adorable, she bought it in Venice, California, years ago and it still goes everywhere with her), Kathy found a seat and started making calls.

First call was to Susan in Albuquerque, who got all emotional and had thought, the first time she called, Kathy said,  that she was exaggerating about 500 people in line, but actually, she reports to The Press, she had  probably underestimated that figure.  Next call to Tracy, her cousin, who was going to have dinner with her at the Phoenix airport, who took it in stride, then a call to her housesitters, her daughter and son-in-law who had settled in real nice at her house and could barely disguise their disappointment at having to give up their free one-week resort, Kathy told the reporter, and then she called her boyfriend, Don, who was thrilled she was going to be home and could barely mask his excitement, so he went to sleep and she did not see him, she reported, until about five o'clock yesterday evening.

So now Kathy is back home, sitting in her king-sized bed on Sunday morning, the day after her fantastic trip began, talking to reporters.  She reported, "I'm going to try it again Monday.  The day wasn't a total loss, though.  I got to stop in Corydon, Indiana, on my way back home, to pee and ate great food at Burger King, the high-END one, and took some great cloud photos!"

We will keep you posted on the next leg of her journey.

Friday, July 16, 2010


Really, this sign is self-explanatory:  "Beware of big, menacing black waves, or Smoke Monsters if you were a fan of "Lost," that come out of nowhere and can knock your ass right off this sea wall!  Stand here on this little piece of concrete held together by little yellow squares AT YOUR OWN RISK!"

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Well...where to start!  I know, I'll start with a segment from my trip to Michigan City, Indiana, and Holland, Michigan, both, surprisingly, on a huge lake, that I like to call "Signs."  I noticed that there were a lot of dos and don'ts all over the place near the Inland Sea, Lake Michigan.  

Once I started snapping photos of signs, I realized that I hardly had to say anything as a way of explanation, and since I'm a little crunched for time this evening already, I thought I'd just post this self-explanatory piece.   

There is a lighthouse that is the most-photographed lighthouse in Michigan called Big Red.  It is located in Holland State Park, Holland, Michigan.  There is a LOT of publicity about Big Red, but not until you are nearly upon it does the above sign appear.  It was worth the risk to proceed.  They say more pictures are taken of this one structure than any other structure in the state.  I took 200 shots of her myself, so I believe that is probably the truth.  In another chapter, I will post some portraits of this old lady of the Inland Seas.  

Well, here she is.  She sort of demands that I insert a picture of her here...Big Red.

This would be Orley's Dock.  Don and I spent probably 1-1/2 lazy hours sitting at the end of Orley's Dock just watching the world go by, by boat.  The canal here was a lane into Lake Michigan at South Haven.  I renamed it South Heaven because it pretty much was.  

This sign seemed a little out of place...

Okay...gotta take a break here.  I have a LOT more signs, aren't you all just wicked excited??  I'll post some more photos later.

Until next time...

Saturday, July 03, 2010


I looked past him at the clock by the bed and
quietly took in the time, the hour, the night.  
1:11 the time read, and I was mesmerized by
the hand of the night cradling me softly, the
songs of the summer wind whistling through 
the screen and shushing me back to slumber.

And I slept.  I slept and dreamed of a day when
the ocean would provide the melody and the 
gulls the harmony while I dove deeper into my
dreams and reached up to take a star in my 
fingers, hiding it like a jarred firefly on my 
windowsill so I could feel the glow.  And I 
looked past him, at the clock, and was caught
in a peaceful smile as 2:22 was displayed in red.

I snaked my feet deeper under the covers, and
found that place where my toes fit in the pillow
top mattress, the soft indentations like snuggling
next to your lover with your bare legs tangled together.
Again sleep overtook me, the firefly glowed, the 
music remained, the stars winked their blessings
throughout the universe, and I awoke, and watched
as the time changed.  The red numbers rolled like 
waves coming to shore to 3:33.

My life, it seems, progresses in threes.  Like a hand 
not wanted to be dealt in cards, but a movement of
numbers that is comforting, showing me that all is
right in the universe, that day will turn to night and 
night to dawn tomorrow, and that my angels will 
move around in my life like wisps of dandelion 
cotton.  All is right with my world when the red 
numbers roll like waves coming to the shore at 4:44.