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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Our First Day in Glacier National Park

Well, we're no longer in Glacier National Park, which is why I'm finally able to tell you about it. We are in Bozeman, Montana tonight, and this is the first time I've been able to roam freely about the internet in days.

Anyway, we had an absolutely wonderful time at Glacier National Park. The Mountain Pines Motel was just perfect for us...very relaxing and peaceful. And there was a great little restaurant just a few blocks away. If any of you are ever in East Glacier, Montana, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend both the Mountain Pines Motel and Luna's Restaurant.

Enough talk. How about some pictures?

This was the view as we approached East Glacier, Montana


This was our home during our stay in East Glacier

The aspen were glorious


Running Eagle Falls


At Running Eagle Falls
 
A squirrel that wasn't too happy with our intrusion into his territory


This was the beginning of a trail to another waterfall


The clouds that day were very unusual


And this is what those clouds looked like at sunset

We're heading for West Yellowstone, Montana tomorrow, where we'll stay for a few days while we tour Yellowstone National Park. Hopefully, we'll have internet service so that the travelogue can continue.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Still Traveling, Still Having Internet Problems

We are staying in the Mountain Pines Motel, a lovely little motel in East Glacier, Montana, while we visit Glacier National Park. There's no pool, no fitness room, no air conditioning, no in-room coffee or hair dryer or ironing board or complimentary toiletries or continental breakfast. It's very no-frills, but it's very clean and quiet and relaxing. And it's just what we needed after several days of travel.

Unfortunately, out here in the boonies, the only internet available is a rather unreliable satellite server. Monday night, it was so slow that it took a couple of hours just to download my e-mail. I could get onto the blog, but I couldn't really do anything. And forget uploading pictures.

So I'm sorry to say that my ongoing travelogue is apparently not meant to be. I do plan to share details and photos of the trip when I can, but that may not be for several more days.

So, if updates are slow in coming, don't give up on me. I haven't abandoned the blog and will update when possible.
 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

TRNP - The North Unit

Well, we modified our plans somewhat for today. We had planned to stay another night in Dickinson, ND, but we just weren't that pleased with the hotel. So we packed up and checked out this morning. That meant that we weren't able to go back and see what we had missed when night fell during our tour of the South Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park (TRNP, remember?) yesterday.

Instead, we toured the North Unit today. It was every bit as beautiful as the South Unit, but it didn't have the variety of wildlife. In fact, I think the only wildlife we saw were bison. It was a bit on the warm side today, too, with temperatures in the upper eighties in the park.

A funny thing happened on our way out of town this morning. We saw a Subway restaurant, so we stopped in to get breakfast sandwiches, as well as lunch sandwiches to be put in our cooler for lunch later in the day. There was another couple there, ordering their lunch sandwiches, too; and we struck up a conversation with them. It turned out that they used to live in the same area where we live, and the man had been our mail carrier. It's so fun when something like that happens.

We had thought that we would just continue north, after leaving the North Unit this afternoon, and find a room in Williston, ND, on U. S. 2. Well, that place was all booked up. Every room in town, apparently. When we asked what was going on, they told us that they were drilling for oil in the area. It seems that the rooms were all taken by oil workers.

So we headed on west on U. S. 2 and didn't find a room until we reached Glasgow, Montana. It's a decent room, and the internet works. What more could we ask?

Here are a few pictures from today:
 
Scratching an Itch


Scenery at North Unit of TRNP


More Scenery at North Unit of TRNP


A Picturesque Little Church along Hwy 2 in Montana

Stay tuned. More to come tomorrow, Lord willing.
 

Still Traveling but Encountering Some Internet Problems

I wanted to post last night. I really did, even though we are now two hours behind our normal Eastern Time Zone; and the post would have been dated Sunday. But there was a problem with the internet connection in the hotel where we're staying in Dickinson, ND. There was also a slight problem with my husband, who thought I really shouldn't stay on the computer all night.

Anyway, we arrived in Dickinson on Saturday afternoon, booked a hotel, then went on down the road to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which I will shorten to TRNP  from now on for the sake of my fingers.

We drove the 36-mile loop road of the TRNP South Unit, and it was so much fun. We saw wild horses, elk, mule deer, bison, prairie dogs, and a badger looking for a meal in one of the prairie dog towns. And there was a beautiful sunset to top off the day.

Unfortunately, the sunset occurred when we were only about half-way around the loop, so we may go back today to finish that trip in daylight. We also plan to visit the North Unit of TRNP, which involves a 14-mile drive. This one isn't a loop, so we'll be retracing our route when we reach the end of the road.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday:
 
A Sample of the TRNP Landscape



A Bison in TRNP


Elk on a Distant Hill

Bison

Mule Deer Along the Road and a Bison in the Background

Wild Horses

Sunset in TRNP
More posts to follow as time and internet connectivity allow. Thanks for sharing this trip with me.

Friday, September 24, 2010

And More Traveling

There are two things that are guaranteed to fry Doug's brain: shopping and driving. (Don't tell his boss, who owns the shuttle company that Doug drives for.) I've learned that, if I can find a way for him to get out and stretch his legs, he will continue to drive awhile longer, thus giving me more time to relax and enjoy the scenery.

Today, as we were driving from Lodi, Wisconsin, to Fargo, North Dakota, I could tell that the time was approaching that I was going to have to take over the driving. We spotted a rest area where we could make the switch. But, lo and behold, this rest area had a walking path that led to a scenic overlook. The path led through a woods and up a hill and was just what Doug needed to revive him. Unfortunately, the scenic overlook was no longer scenic, with the trees having grown too tall to permit a view of any kind. So, I don't have a picture of the view, but I do have a picture of the walk:

Trail to Black River Valley Overlook, Wisconsin
After our walk, we enjoyed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the van. It was just the break that Doug had been needing, and he continued to drive for several more hours.

When we reached the western side of Minneapolis, we hit a major traffic jam.

Traffic Jam on I-94 West of Minneapolis
If you could see the lower right-hand corner of our GPS, you would see that the speed limit in that area was 70 mph, and our speed was 9.8 mph. Grrrrr.

Once we were clear of that mess, I did finally take over the driving to give Doug a rest. At the rest area where we stopped to change drivers, I was able to get a picture of this squirrel:

Squirrel at Minnesota Rest Area
Yes, I know squirrels are rodents, but they're just so doggone cute.

My part of the driving was very relaxing. The traffic was light, and we made good time. We stopped for the night in Fargo, ND, where I snapped this picture of the setting sun:

Sunset in Fargo, ND
The End. Well, for today, anyway.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Traveling

Doug and I had made plans to start west today on a vacation. Events leading up to our planned departure had us wondering whether we were meant to go. On Tuesday morning, Doug got up with flashing lights and masses of floaters in his left eye.

We feared that he was experiencing a retinal detachment, but an examination by his optometrist revealed that it was, instead, a vitreous detachment. Here's a paragraph from the National Eye Institute's Web site on the subject:
Most of the eye's interior is filled with vitreous, a gel-like substance that helps the eye maintain a round shape. There are millions of fine fibers intertwined within the vitreous that are attached to the surface of the retina, the eye's light-sensitive tissue. As we age, the vitreous slowly shrinks, and these fine fibers pull on the retinal surface. Usually the fibers break, allowing the vitreous to separate and shrink from the retina.
So, while the condition isn't sight-threatening, it definitely takes some time to adjust to the floating impediments to your vision. I know, because I've experienced it in both eyes.

It has it's humorous side, though. At least, it does when it's happening to someone else. Doug has been swatting at invisible flies for three days now.

Last night, as we were preparing for this morning's departure, Doug went to take his shower, only to find that there was no hot water. The pilot light on the gas water heater had gone out. He got that lit again but burned his hand in the process. Fortunately, a quick application of ice kept it from being a bad burn.

Of course he had to wait to take his shower until the water heater produced some hot water, so we wound up not getting to bed until about one o'clock this morning.

As a result, we didn't get the early start that we had hoped to get. But we did get going and put some miles behind us today.  I'll try to post updates here as we continue our vacation.

I wish I could post pictures of the flock of birds that Doug saw today...but they weren't really there.
 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MFNB (My Favorite Niece, Beckie)

My favorite niece, Beckie (who also happens to be my ONLY niece), commented on yesterday's post about the horses, saying that it brought back some great memories. That has prompted me to share a couple of additional memories with you.

Here is a picture of Beckie, on Gayranna, taken when Beckie was 10 years old.


A couple of years earlier, Beckie and her brother, Dave, had visited us at the farm; and Beckie wrote me this letter afterward:


I love that she originally had put "The End" before the "Lots of love" and the signatures. She tried to erase it, probably after her mom suggested a more traditional ending; but it was still visible. "Hiida" was their dog, Heidi. And this was written before Beckie changed the spelling of her name from "Becky" to "Beckie." I do want to say that her spelling has improved immensely since she wrote this at age eight.

When Beckie was about 15, a friend told me about a registered American Saddlebred yearling filly that was being offered free to a good home. I had about all I could handle financially with the feed and care of the horses I already had, but an offer like that didn't come along every day.

So I mentioned it to Beckie and her parents. They agreed to let Beckie have the horse; I would provide the care; and they would pay the filly's board and veterinary and farrier bills. Beckie was thrilled to have her own horse.

Beckie's horse, Liberty Belle
Having a horse can be an expensive proposition, though. Liberty Belle was just a yearling, so she was going to need some training before she would be a safe saddle horse. My experience didn't qualify me for that job, so a professional trainer would be required. Looking at the long-term financial commitment before Beckie would be able to ride and enjoy her horse, Beckie and her parents decided to find a new home for Libby.

There's one more Beckie story that I just have to share in this post:

My dad's aunt, who was just five years older than my dad and whose mother had raised my dad (so they were more like brother and sister than like nephew and aunt), was a very fastidious lady. Aunt Bea was always dressed to the nines, with hair, nails, and makeup perfectly done. To see her, you'd never know whether she was dressed for a wedding or for washing her windows.

Anyway, Aunt Bea was visiting us one day when Beckie was also there. Beckie, who, at age seven or so, always loved to follow me around on my barn chores, had apparently been mentally comparing her Aunt Bea and her Aunt Linda. She took me aside and said decisively: "I'm not going to be a lady when I grow up. I'm going to be like you."
 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Horses, Horses, Horses

I really don't know when my love of horses first surfaced. I can't remember ever being without it. As a kid, I read every horse book I could get my hands on, including all the Black Stallion and Island Stallion books by Walter Farley. I used to cut out pictures of horses from magazines and paste them into a scrapbook. In elementary school art class, horses were always my subject of choice, although the subject matter wasn't always obvious to anyone looking at the finished product. I also collected figurines of horses. Get the picture?

My parents always thought it was a passing fancy. After all, nearly every little girl goes through a "horse crazy" stage. They used to tell me that I could have a horse when I could afford to buy one.

A few years after I graduated from high school, I was still living at home when my parents bought a 20-acre farm. They agreed to let me put a horse barn on the property and fence off an area for a horse. I began the search for the perfect horse for me. Ultimately, I decided on a 10-year-old Half-Arabian mare located in Vacaville, California. She belonged to Lauren, a young woman who had raised her from the time the filly was weaned. Lauren was going off to college and needed to sell Gayranna (pronounced "gare anna"). We corresponded; Lauren sent video of the mare; and the deal was made.

Gayranna in 1976, at age 19
Lauren and Gayranna had grown up together, learning from each other. Lauren rode her in a number of horse shows and said they never came home without a ribbon in every class they entered. Then Lauren and Gayranna joined a drill team that square danced on horseback. They traveled all over northern California, doing square dance demonstrations at various events; and Gayranna was so good that new kids learned the routines while riding her.

Lauren also did some dressage with Gayranna, which is a more disciplined and precise method of performance, often referred to as "equine ballet." And, typical of a young girl with her first horse, Lauren taught Gayranna tricks like bowing, counting, and indicating "yes" and "no."

In fact, when Lauren made a trip to Indiana to visit Gayranna, 11 years after I had bought the horse, Gayranna picked right up on the tricks that Lauren had taught her all those years before.

Gayranna  was perfect for me. She was well trained, so she helped me gain experience in riding and handling horses. And she produced lovely foals. I had some very good friends who owned a champion Arabian stallion named Seranej. We bred Gayranna to him, and the resulting colt, Serada, grew up to be a U. S. National Champion in both halter and performance. And, to my surprise and delight, one of the visitors to Serada's stall at the Nationals, following his National Championship win, was Walter Farley himself.

Serada (Foaled in 1968)
There were six more foals from the breeding of Gayranna and Seranej over a period of years, all of which did well for their owners, whether in the show ring or on competitive endurance rides or by producing quality foals of their own or just by being good companions for their owners.

Sera-Diamond (Foaled in 1972) and Serada, brothers
Seradan (Foaled in 1974)
Sera Lee (Foaled in 1975)

Country Seranade (Foaled in 1977)
Gayranna's last foal (Foaled in 1979). I dubbed him "Moose" His new owner gave him the name "LaStrada."
If you were counting the pictures of Gayranna's offspring, you may have noticed that there were only five, besides Serada. That's because I couldn't locate a photo of Seramac (foaled in 1971) to include with the others.

Gayranna lived to age 24, and her death broke my heart. Other horses came and went during the years that Gayranna and I were together, most of them her offspring. But she was my first, and she was my last. I had sold all the others, but I could never sell her. She was my friend.

I still have a love for horses, but I haven't ridden since Doug and I went to a Colorado dude ranch about 13 years ago. I wonder if I could still do it. I like to think I can. Maybe it's best if I don't find out.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sometimes, pictures are all I've got

Okay. It's happened. After ten posts, I'm out of things to say. Something may come to me eventually. Meanwhile, here are some pictures for your enjoyment.



August 27, 2010


This sunset photo was taken a few years ago.
A recent sunset at the reservoir



Sunday, September 19, 2010

A friend loveth at all times...(Proverbs 17:17a)

Friends are truly blessings from God, and I have been blessed beyond measure to have enjoyed the friendship of Sandra for more years than either of us care to count.

We've known each other, in some form, for over 35 years, since we worked for the same company. The friendship began to really grow about 25 years ago, when we started going out to lunch together, virtually every workday. Initially, the common ground we shared was a love of food and laughter. But, as we grew to know each other better, our relationship took on greater depth.

As you already know, if you read Sandra's blog, she is witty and wise and insightful and full of faith. She and her Hubby had been high school sweethearts and had married young. I, on the other hand, was still single at age 41, when I first met Doug, my husband-to-be. Sandra was a great encouragement during those days of our dating and, later, our engagement, and provided much wise counsel. She and her Hubby were also very warm and welcoming to Doug, which meant a great deal to him. The two of them have continued to be good friends to us through the 23 years that Doug and I have been married.

I feel as if Sandra's family is my extended family. Over the years, she has shared her children and grandchildren with me to the extent that they refer to me as "AL," short for Aunt Linda.

It would be impossible to enumerate all the ways that Sandra has demonstrated her friendship during these many years. After all, I'm old, and my memory's not that good. But I do know that it's a rare and wonderful thing to have a true friend, one whose friendship can survive the test of time.

The Lord has blessed me with many friends over the years, all of them very special to me. But Sandra is probably the only one who has seen every side of me...and they're not all pretty...and has still hung in there with me.

Thanks for your friendship, Sandra. I don't say it often enough. May everyone be so blessed.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Photography in an Amish Community

I've mentioned before that I enjoy photography. So often, I see photos in my mind's eye, as I simply observe things around me.

We live in a community where there are a lot of Amish, and Amish present so many unique photo opportunities. That's largely because theirs is a much slower lifestyle (giving one time to ready a camera) and a lifestyle lived more out in the open. Unlike those of us who spend most of our time inside our homes or our offices or our speeding vehicles, Amish are often outside in their fields or in their buggies or simply enjoying outdoor activities with family and friends. In other words, they are not only interesting subjects for the camera, but they are more available to the camera than their English neighbors.

Unfortunately, Amish have an aversion to being photographed. Wanting to respect their wishes but also seeing so many great photo possibilities, I do take photos when I can, but always with an effort to respect their privacy.

This was taken through the windshield of our car

There are many occasions that bring the Amish community together, including church services, weddings, funerals, and auctions. 
 
This was taken as we passed an Amish vehicle
An Amish buggy pulling a small trailer
Not sure what this is...an Amish camper?
Making hay
These draft horses are kept in a pasture bordering a cemetery where many in the neighborhood like to walk. The horses have become accustomed to neighborhood adults and children petting them and bringing them treats.
 
 
 
 


 

Horses were a huge part of my life when I was a young adult, and the love of them will never leave me. Living among Amish gives me many opportunities to just enjoy and appreciate the beautiful animals that are so much a part of their lives.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Beginning of Our Love Affair with the Smoky Mountains

It's been 20 years now since our love affair with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park began on Memorial Day weekend in 1990.

In preparation for that first trip to the Smokies, I called the Chamber of Commerce or the Bureau of Tourism or whatever I could find for the area, to inquire as to what sort of lodging was available. I was particularly interested in learning whether any lodging was available inside the national park. I was told that the only options for lodging in the park were the Wonderland Hotel, described as "rustic," and LeConte Lodge, to which the only access was by trail, the shortest of which was five and a half miles.

I asked what seemed like a logical question to me: How do you get your luggage to LeConte Lodge? My informant said (possibly with a smirk in his voice) that most people just carry the few items that they would need for an overnight stay. The general idea is to walk to the lodge one day, stay overnight, and walk back the next day. The lodge provides dinner on the night of arrival and breakfast on the day of departure. And they did have an opening for one of the days we would be in the Smokies. So I booked it.

That left the Wonderland Hotel as the option for the other days. I asked what "rustic" meant. They said the hotel had no televisions or telephones in the rooms. Well, I thought, we can handle that. So I booked a room at the Wonderland for the other days of our stay.

At my first sight of the Wonderland Hotel, my heart just sank. I wondered what I had gotten us into. The building was very old, with paint peeling and a tarp on part of the porch roof, apparently to keep rain out.
 
The parking area was in the back of the building, so we walked around to the main entrance. As we did, I looked over at Doug, expecting his expression to be a reflection of my own doubts; but I found him smiling like the proverbial cat that had swallowed the canary.

Running along the entire front of the building was a long porch, lined with rocking chairs, and having a beautiful view of Blanket Mountain in the distance.

The Porch

Relaxing at the Wonderland Hotel

The view from the porch
We went inside to check in, and everything looked very clean. My hopes rose a little. The first floor included a large lobby, with the reception desk occupying one end and a gathering area occupying the other. The gathering area included several items of comfortable-looking furniture, some game tables, and a fireplace. There was also a ballroom, as well as a dining room. All the lodging rooms were on the second floor.

The Lobby

The Dining Room
We were given the key to our room, which was located at the top of the fire escape ladder, leading up from the parking lot in the back of the hotel. We unloaded our vehicle, carrying our things up the fire escape and into the room.

Our room was to the left of the fire escape.
The room itself was very small, but clean. There was a sink in one corner. The tiny bathroom appeared to have been a closet at some time, before plumbing was added. It contained a toilet and the smallest shower stall I'd ever seen, with barely enough room to turn around between those two necessities.

The sink and a peek into the bathroom

Notice the lamp on the nightstand
The doors may have fit well at one time, but no longer
The room had two windows: one facing Blanket Mountain and the other facing the fire escape, which was not only the main access to the lodging rooms but also a place where some guests would stand and smoke or just visit with each other. The window coverings were nothing more than sheer curtains. So, to avoid being seen by the constant traffic on the fire escape, it was necessary to undress in the dark.

All that separated our bathroom from the bathroom of the neighboring room was a thin sheet of paneling. And both bathrooms shared a window. The paneling dividing the two went to the windowsill, leaving a gap that you could put your fingers through and wave at the person on the other side, if you were so inclined. And you could hear every sound from the other room, some of which would send me into a fit of giggles.

But we found ourselves falling in love with the place. It was quaint. It was charming. It was peaceful. It was in a beautiful setting, and there was even the sound of a cascading river wafting up through the trees.

We spent a couple of days, just enjoying the Wonderland Hotel and exploring some of the beauty of the national park. Then it was time to go to LeConte Lodge for our one-night stay there.

You know, in our part of Indiana, the thought of walking five and a half miles isn't really that daunting. You have to look long and hard to find a hill where we come from. On the other hand, in the Smokies, you have to look long and hard to find a flat spot. So the realization began to dawn that the hike to LeConte Lodge was going to be UPHILL!

There are several different trails leading to LeConte Lodge. We chose one that was seven miles long because it was said to be less steep. Well, let me tell you, it was HARD. Neither of us had ever done any hiking, and we weren't prepared for a hike of this magnitude. We didn't even have the right footwear...just tennis shoes.

But we made it. After that grueling hike, I didn't want to walk another step, but the scenic view that was one of the main reasons for making the hike was another half-mile or so. It was worth it, though. Magnificent view.

LeConte Lodge
Enjoying the View from Mount LeConte
Later, as it began to get dark, we went to our cabin to settle in for the night. The cabin was furnished with double bunk beds, a wooden table with a wash basin, a kerosene lamp, and a kerosene heater. We decided to put our things on the bottom bunk and sleep in the top one.

Our Cabin at LeConte Lodge
Inside our LeConte Lodge Cabin
When we returned to the cabin, after enjoying the view from the cliffs, we found one of our candy bars on the floor. It had apparently fallen off the bottom bunk, where we had left all our gear. Doug put it back, and we got ready for bed.

After we got all settled in and things got quiet in the cabin, we heard a thud. With the aid of a flashlight, we saw that the candy bar was back on the floor. Doug got down from the upper bunk, put it away; and we settled down again. Pretty soon, there was another sound. Long story short, we had a mouse (or mice). Doug got up and took all the food items and placed them on the wooden table, under the metal wash basin. Then he hung our backpacks on hooks on the wall. When he came back to the top bunk, he brought our shoes with him.

Poor Doug was awake all night. We don't know if it was multiple mice or just one very pesky mouse, but we were terrorized all night by them or it. Finally, about four in the morning, Doug spotted a mouse on one of our backpacks, hanging on the wall hook. Doug used to play a lot of baseball, and he's got a pretty good throwing arm. He took one of his shoes and threw it at the mouse on the backpack. We never found the little guy, but he left us alone for the remainder of the night.

Our night on Mount LeConte also included a big storm with strong winds and things bumping against the outside of the cabin. Then, after the storm, I needed to go to the bathroom, which was down the path toward where we had seen a black bear earlier in the evening. So Doug escorted me to the facilities and back.

The next day, we hiked back down the trail to our car; and I think the hike down was worse than the hike up. By the time we made it down, I was in tears. My feet and legs were so sore. Finally, we were in the car and heading back to the Wonderland Hotel for our last night's stay in the Smokies. And then we pulled into the Wonderland's parking lot, and I saw the fire escape, which we had to climb to get to our room. The thought of dragging my poor aching body up those steps was enough to make a grown woman cry.

When we came down from Mount LeConte, we said we'd never do anything like that again. But we did. We went out and bought better shoes, and we've been hiking the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ever since.

The Wonderland Hotel is no more. The National Park Service did not renew its lease after 1992. It sat in progressing stages of decay for 15 years before being demolished a few years ago. A new Wonderland Hotel was built just outside the park boundary, but that has now been sold and is being used for other purposes.

We have continued to visit our beloved Smokies a couple of times a year since that first visit and have hiked many of its trails, being rewarded with beauty around every curve and over every rise. 

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), we've never managed to get another reservation at LeConte Lodge. We have hiked up there a couple of times, though, going up and back in the same day.

This is a picture of Doug on the Alum Cave Bluff Trail on a later hike to Mount LeConte.

If we ever stay overnight again, we'll take some mousetraps.
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