Saturday, December 31, 2011

Soaking up time with friends and family

You know how I’ve mentioned that this can be a lonely lifestyle at times?  Well, we are all well socialized now that we are back in our old stomping grounds!!  Yes, the blog has suffered, but with good reason.  We had no wifi or ability to tether in Catalina State Park or in New Mexico, and since arriving back in Texas, we’ve been on the go!  Appointments to make, parties to attend, friends to catch up with, and all sorts of sick bugs to fight off so they don’t interfere with our visiting!  Yeah, some caught up with us, unfortunately! 

Wow…we have had soo much fun sharing life with friends again!  My apologies if we spent time with you & no pics made it here on the blog.  It just means I was having so much fun living in the moment, chatting with you & keeping Jake out of trouble, that I forgot to use my camera!  We are all feeling so blessed and so loved.  Our hearts are full!  The RV finally feels like “home” to us, but to be back in Flower Mound, Texas again truly feels like we are “home” again!  Pretty sure there’s going to be “friend withdrawal” for all of us when we pull away from here…

It was wonderful to spend Christmas Eve with Alison and the usual crew on Christmas Eve
Great to see so many of our friends and family
Linda and her best friend Leslie
It was great seeing Aunt Wanda and family
We enjoyed spending Christmas day with the Hargus clan
We spent a wonderful evening with the Bishop family
We had fun watching the Gordon kids overnight and even more fun when they watched ours overnight!
It was great catching up with the Russ family!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Texas Bound

We were all sooo excited to head back to Texas to our old stomping grounds to spend Christmas and New Year’s with friends and family!  As we were preparing to leave Oliver Lee Memorial State Park, rain was falling and a storm was blowing in.  And a few adventures were awaiting, of course!

We exited our site quickly as it was cold and rainy and starting to sleet.  We got to drive through some beautiful snowy surroundings, though fortunately the roads were in great condition.  It was gorgeous! 

We were headed to Big Spring, Texas to overnight at Walmart before driving the rest of the way into the Dallas area.  All went fabulously…until we arrived in Big Spring and were flagged down by another driver to notify us that “A door on the side of your camper is open and things are falling out!”  And so the adventure continues…

Apparently, in our haste to exit, Steve missed verifying that all outdoor compartments were locked securely for the long journey.  The result...the outdoor kitchen was wide open, & our grill was gone! Steve remembered that the roads we were driving on had no lines, and he hit the rumble strip a couple times.  We're guessing it must have caused the grill to “jump” against the door, and since the grill is heavy, it must have been enough weight to open the door.  Sooo grateful it didn’t damage the door or side of the rig as it flew out.  Yes, we did go looking for it, just in case, because it seemed that it must have just happened.  No, we didn’t find it.  Yes, it was just a grill, and that is replaceable, right??  Nonetheless, I will confess to feeling a bit downtrodden.  A blowout, losing an entire wheel off the rig, and losing the grill all within the space of a week felt a bit much.  Did I mention this is excellent for keeping us humble???
We are all happy to say that we arrived safe and sound in the Dallas area.  Ahhh…it feels good to be “back in the ‘hood!”

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Oliver Lee Memorial State Park

We stayed three nights here at this beautiful, peaceful park about 20 miles from White Sands.  Steve took the opportunity to hike eleven miles solo.  I took the girls on the Oliver Lee Ranch Tour…not particularly kid-friendly, but we were the only ones on the tour, and the kids did great.  Steve writes below about his long solo hike.
The creek that comes down the mountain gets smaller and smaller and disappears entirely at this spot 
These are called Indian wells, but they were really places where the Indians ground up  food.

This state parks lies on the desert floor just at the point where the hill rises up to a long mountain ridge that stretches for miles in either direction.   On Sunday morning,  I decided to hike to an old rancher's cabin 2.9 miles up the hill.   I took off in cool, cloudy weather at about 10AM after talking with a fascinating guy who is retired from the Coast Guard and has a cat he takes for walks on a leash!   The trail to the cabin heads straight up and is very rocky.   After about 2 miles it comes to a flat meadow where cattle used to graze.   The cabin is at the far end of the meadow by some shade trees and a creek.  When I got there, I felt great and decided to keep going the extra 1.6 miles to the top.  That part of the trail was pretty technical but not dangerous in any way.   One of the camp hosts advised against this part of the trail, but I think they were being overly cautious.

At the top of the mountain, the terrain changes so that there are pine trees and grasses.  I saw plenty of evidence of elk and even Mountain Lion tracks in the mud.   The trail continues for another, flat mile at the top.  I could see the campground and our RV way, way off in the distance from the very top.  After completing the full 5.5 miles to the end, I still felt good but realized that I would have to hoof it to make it back so that Linda and the kids could make the ranch tour that started at 3PM.   I had to run some which started blisters forming, but thankfully I was able to avoid full-blown blisters.  I hobbled back to the RV just in time for Linda to take off for the ranch tour with the girls.  This was the longest hike that I've ever done by myself, and although it felt good, I was whooped by the end!  Hiking alone gave me the opportunity to catch up on sermons from my home church in Texas.  I listened to five in a row, which is a lot of good teaching!  
Glad I took this photo since it served as my reference on the hike
You leave the state park just a short way into the hike and enter the national forest
The first flat section after about 2 miles
The nice shady spot by the creek
The old ranchers cabin...the rusted out bed frame is still inside
The trail runs along these cliffs. You can see it if you look closely.
The trail comes right up to the sheer cliffs.The first flat section is in the distance.
Made it to the top, 4.5 miles and 3000 vertical
I could actually see the campground from the top
The end
Mountain lion can tell it is a cat because you can't see claws.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

White Sands National Monument

We spent the day at White Sands National Monument, so beautiful and so much fun!  We’d been to Monahans State Park in Texas before and had lots of fun, but I have to admit that White Sands is more beautiful.  The sand is gypsum and is so white and doesn’t stick to your clothes and skin as well as regular sand…big bonus!  The temperatures were a bit cool, but it was still awesome!  Everyone had so much fun playing in the sand.  Of course, three little girls earned another Junior Ranger badge!  
The dunes make such a beautiful landscape
The Jakeman loved it
We skipped renting the $11 sleds and the kids didn't miss them
Wonderful day in the sand
Last Junior Ranger badge of the year

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Deming, New Mexico

When leaving Catalina State Park in Tucson, we were undecided on just how far we should drive.  When we stopped at the New Mexico Welcome Center for a little lunch, Steve was torn between driving another 40 miles-ish to Deming and stay the night at an Escapees Park there, OR driving all the way to Alamogordo.  He finally decided he wanted to avoid the potential for setting up in the dark, and so we pulled into the Escapees Park in Deming. 

So glad we did….God is good, because look what we needed to take care of ASAP!  Yes, this is the “prettied up” version.  Steve went into the office to check in for the night, and when he returned to the truck, he happened to notice something was awry.  Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement.  It’s a bit disconcerting to realize that out of the four wheels on your rig, one of them is entirely missing.  ;)  Did I mention that God is sooo good.  Do you have any idea how bad this could have been?  The axle was hovering inches above the ground, yet never touched and got damaged.  And when the lugnuts broke & the wheel launched, not a single thing on the rig was damaged!!  And of course, the guy who pulled into the site next to ours just minutes after us had the patience, tools, and expertise Steve needed to help him think clearly and get the whole deal taken care of.  Heh, heh…all in a day’s work!

This was taken while we were in the process of fixing it. We had already taken off the outer cover. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saguaro National Park

We finished our time in Tucson with a visit to Saguaro National Park.  They have a truly awesome Junior Ranger program.  They loan you a backpack with field guides, binoculars, pencils, colored pencils, etc…all the tools your kids need to complete the Junior Ranger books while on the trails.  Genna got into her first tangle with a cactus, but fortunately, she fared pretty well.   The sights here aren’t that much different from what you see at Catalina State Park, but it’s still worth a visit if you have time.  We only had time to visit the East section of the park.
We called these the three sisters and baby brother
A perfect specimen
No, you can't hug the baby cactus 
There was snow on the high peaks, a rare sight
I promise to always obey my parents

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Catalina State Park near Tucson

When we arrived here at Catalina State Park, Steve was slightly embarrassed to learn that his reservation started the next day.  Oops!!  Good thing we made this mistake at this time of year and not in peak season!  Fortunately, our reserved site was open, so we ended up staying here for 6 nights, instead of 5.  We had big plans here, sorta.  We were planning to visit the Sonora Desert Museum and spend two days at Saguaro National Park.  We didn’t really do our research well though, so the two days with the best weather, we took it easy & missed our best chances to do those outdoorsy things.  That’s okay though.  Our site here, site 42, was a pretty awesome site for the kids to just be kids.  They played & played in the dirt, building all sorts of houses, some underground (love to see them take the things they’ve learned & use it in play).  They had so much fun!  Steve went for a bike ride, the littles took ginormous naps, and I read for fun! 

The park has beautiful trails into the desert foothills
Desert paradise

We went on the Canyon Loop Trail as a family, and the kids had a blast playing in the creek.  The weather was perfect, and we enjoyed it. 

Steve also took the kids to a wildlife exhibition where they saw gila monsters and various snakes.  Of course they got to touch and hold many of them, too! 
We all loved seeing the Gila Monster and getting to touch it

We met up with an old friend of Steve’s, Erik Rosseland over dinner. He came back and checked out our rig and won Genna’s heart by playing Barbie’s with her!   

I have known Erik since we were teens in PA/NJ
Genna found Erik to be lots of fun
We woke the next day to wind and showers.   So we had a jammy day and accomplished little but enjoyed our time to just be. Jake is starting to take a few more steps, but he is so incredibly efficient at crawling that he is not quite ready to fully commit to walking; I’m thinking that’s a blessing. J