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Super Grand Canyon South Rim

We noticed the gas prices getting higher as we got closer to the Grand Canyon. We left the interstate and drove straight north for a long time through seemingly unending forests. We’d pass through a town or two with just one stoplight before reaching Tusayan, the tourist town with more hotels and restaurants. Our free campsite was just past all that, right outside the park entrance. Many sites were full but we found a good sized flat spot. The only problem was there was no privacy to go to the bathroom. Travis took initiative to set up a tarp between two trees for me to be able to go in private. As I weaved my way past shrubs, I inhaled deeply. These weren’t just bushes, these were lavender! It was an entire field full of lavender. We are a dinner of tuna Alfredo with Ritz crackers and went to bed, excited to finally see the Grand Canyon in the morning. 

We got up not too super early, found a parking spot pretty close to the visitor center/restrooms and marched toward Mather point. I wanted to hike the entire 13 mile south rim trail and didn’t want to see the canyon first from the bus. As we approach Mather point, I experienced a familiar gut-drop feeling I’ve come to know all too well: the excited-I’m-about-to-go-do-see-something-I’ve-never-done-before feeling. A rush of absolute excitement, anticipation, nervousness, and a bit of trepidation, because I would never get to experience this first again. We weaved our way through the swarms of people, a lot of Chinese, some German, even fewer American, toward the edge. I stared at the deep chasms in the earth before me, too awestruck to take pictures yet. I took several pictures in all directions as my eyes got a little moist. This was THE Grand Canyon, classic America. I asked Travis what his first thoughts were, and he said he wasn’t impressed. I wondered at his lack of wonder as we boarded the free shuttle bus to start our trek. In the summer, you weren’t allowed to drive past a certain area and had to take a free shuttle to the vistas. We got to the end of the line, started walking the paved Rim trail and immediately stopped. I need my camera in my hands now! The canyon was different from practically every step we took. A lot of the time, I just stood there taking it all in. Then when Travis would ask was I ready to keep walking, I’d bring my camera up and meekly reply no. By an hour, we hadn’t made much progress along our 13 mile trail. By two hours we realized we’d split this into two days. We were traveling at about 1 mile an hour on this paved flat trail. We took a break on a bench and Travis dropped a few crumbs accidentally. A squirrel immediately showed up to clean up our mess. We were surprised at his friendliness and, not knowing any better, fed it from our hands. We took a few pictures of the squirrel eating out of our hands and all I could think of was my dog, Bailey. She loves to chase squirrels from our yard. The next day we would find out it’s against the law and carries a hefty fine to feed wild animals in the park. I continued taking pictures every 10 steps until we stopped for lunch under some shady trees. Travis cut some sausage and cheese to put on our Ritz crackers. We hiked just a bit more and took the shuttle back to get out of the heat of the day. We filled up our water bottles, washed some dishes and headed back to camp. We’d seen an RV back further than we’d been and they weren’t there today so we parked there. We were happy to have a more private site surrounded by more trees. Travis cooked tuna alfredo for dinner, masking the taste of tuna pretty well  (we both don’t care for tuna that much, he more so than I). We tried to go to sleep at dusk but our closest neighbors were having a party.

 I woke up with the sun beating down on my tent and fix up our breakfast of protein powder in our breakfast essentials chocolate drink. We still beat the crowds into the park and hopped on the shuttle back to where we left off. We walked past Bright Angel Lodge and several other places deciding to explore those later. Our path passed Kolb Studio and Lookout studio and gift shop so we explored those. The rim Trail was filled with people whose conversations were mostly not English. There was German, Chinese and several others I didn’t recognize. We came upon the free Yavapai Point and geology museum which shared more about the geology of the canyon and how it was formed. After the museum, the trail kind of emptied, save for the occasional biker that would race around the corners, almost colliding with us. We saw a guy taking photos of his friend who was off the trail, out on a shelf above the canyon. Of course we started scrambling town, dropping our packs safely out of sight. I grab my Nikon P510 camera and down we went. Travis clambered down first, showing me where to put my hands and feet. I tried to put my feet where he had but I didn’t even come close. I laughed as I told him he had to think a lot smaller because I’m short. Once we’d bouldered down a bit, it was an easy flat walk to the shelf. It was glorious and felt like we were out in the middle of the canyon. There was no one else in sight and Travis finally felt the awe of this great geological wonder. Now this trail was exciting and I was learning to rock climb/boulder. We eagerly looked for the next shelf island piece. I spotted one and the best way to get down was a tree next to the cliff edge. Aha, I knew how to maneuver this one! Travis hardly had time to set his pack down before I deaftly monkeyed down the tree and around the edge, waiting for him to help me with the next bouldering bit. I still didn’t quite trust my brand-new shoes on the loose rocks and boulders. The people on the trail ogled at us climbing way out there. I really liked the feeling of being able to hoist my body up boulders and maneuver around rocks that were twice as tall as me. I could tell Travis was enamored with this new make-your-own-path with a teensy bit of danger. The end of the rim Trail was anti-climatic, finishing at a viewpoint with a bus stop. 

We shuttled back to our car, preparing to go find where the showers and laundry were. Luckily we were able to find parking right by the building and we gathered our electronics to charge while we waited. The women’s restroom was being cleaned so Travis went first. There was an elk grazing by the car as I made sure I had all my cords. I have a Phone, Fitbit, and two cameras, one with four batteries that I go through quickly! Travis has a phone and two battery packs. So we have a lot that needs charging. His phone mostly charges in the car because we use it for maps and research. Travis finished his shower and gave me the shower bag with supplies as we were sharing soap, shampoo, conditioner, separate deodorant and lotion. I went to go take a shower but there was a line after it opened from cleaning. I waited a bit longer for the line to die down but it just got longer. I got in line behind 8 ladies and by the time I got to the front they were at least 14 of us in line. It was 6 quarters for six minutes so Travis gave me 12 quarters. The ceiling was moldy so I hurried, getting done before the second time ran out (I can’t take a shower quite that fast). We put our laundry in and finally one Nikon camera battery finished charging. We drove back to our site, which hadn’t been taken, through some traffic caused by people stopping in the middle of the road to see male elk. We ate dinner of tortilla pizzas, making enough for part of lunch tomorrow, and went to bed early as we were getting up at the crack of dawn to hike partway down into the canyon.

 We woke up at five as it was getting light, drank our breakfast essentials and headed all the way into the park, parking at bright angel trail head. We filled up our water bladders and headed down. This was unlike any trail we’ve ever done, where you head up then down. This you did the easy downhill part first then headed back up once it got hotter. It was about 100° at the bottom of the canyon most days and almost full sun. I didn’t want to get any heat related illnesses. We made it down to Indian garden, 3 1/2 miles in 1.5 hours. There were vault toilets, water and a shaded rest area at 1 mile and 3 mile points. The trail was not too steep but was mostly sand with poor rock water run off builds and completely destroyed by the mules. We ate snacks in the shade at Indian Creek then turned around to go up. We stopped at the 3 mile rest area next to a family of five from Winchester, VA that was hiking Rim to Rim. The mom was curious about what I was eating: pizza Travis had made last night. We continued chatting about backpacking and they were all amazed at how light my overnight pack was (~25lbs or less). The mom also questioned how an experienced hiker like me got heat related illness is so easily. I didn’t know the answer to her question and often wonder that myself. I wet the cooling towel and stuck my head under the water spigot before leading the way up the trail. We kept leapfrogging the family and several other hikers as we would all take breaks after hiking for several minutes. I was pretty hot but avoiding getting too hot so far. We’d hike a switchback or two and then rest in the tiny shade at the switchbacks if there was room. Everyone was plodding uphill resting at every shade spot. My rest stops started getting longer than my moving. I couldn’t believe people were still coming down the trail. Didn’t they know it’d be torturous coming back up at high noon? But maybe they were only going down a bit. We finally made it to the 1 mile rest area and sat down with the same family. I dunked my head under the spout again to keep my brain from frying and a lot of hikers around me followed suit. Someone passing by mentioned ice cream and that made all of us excited. I’d seen the ice cream store yesterday and tried to get motivated, telling myself I could have some if we made it up by noon. I sluggishly kept going one foot at a time, taking a break every five steps. I started getting nauseous so Travis made me sit down and get cool for a long time. We would make it up one more switch back up before I had to sit down again. Noon time passed and Travis told me we can still get ice cream but that didn’t help me much going up the mountain now. There were lots of other hikers that looked like me, taking long breaks and only walking for a few minutes at a time. I could see the top of the canyon getting closer and closer and I was getting done with this mountain mentally. I started getting frustrated with my body physically because it wouldn’t go up the mountain any quicker and my skin wouldn’t cool itself, making me scared of heat exhaustion or stroke. Although I thought a helicopter ride through the canyon sounded cool, this is not how I wanted to do it. I found a piece of the canyon that had a part the chat it out just like a seat. God, please help my skin, my body, my brain, my body to work together to get me off this path. I was near tears as Travis kept handing me bites of granola bar to eat and wrapping the cool towels around my back and neck and stomach. Eventually we made it back up, through the two tunnels, to the pavement again at the trailhead sign. As we shuffled over to the sign to take our pictures I glared angrily at the people just now heading down. Don’t they know they’re taking such a high risk? Or is it just me and my body that doesn’t work right in the heat and sun? I was deeply saddened that my body wasn’t working right but Travis had to remind me that we did it! We hiked partway down into the Grand Canyon on the bright angel trail and made it all the way back up! We went straight to the ice cream store and bought ourselves two cones with two scoops each. We weaved our way back through the crowd to sit in the shade of the gift shop to enjoy our cool treat. Several people stopped and asked us wow! Those look amazing where did you get them and we were able to point them in the right direction. We went back and explored several of the gift shops to buy our postcards and collectors patch, passing by the Hopi house where they were having a native American demonstration. We watched for a few minutes as the announcer shared with us some of his peoples styles of dancing and music. Another guy showed up to dance to the rhythm. We continued on into the Hopi house to see all the pottery and jewelry collections of the local native American population. We were pretty tired from our hike and getting up early so we went back to the car and went back to our campsite. Travis set up his hammock and I got on my Thermarest Zrest and we tried to take naps but were both unsuccessful. After the wind picked up and it got a little chilly, we decided to make dinner. I had said earlier if we were up for it, we could go watch the sunset back at the park. So we cooked and headed back into the park. Travis was still eating dinner and we thought about taking the shuttle bus to a further point to watch the sunset but figured out that would be too late and we weren’t sure when the shuttle bus came back. So we just went to Mather point and I squeezed in between the masses of people along the railing. We waited and waited and finally the sun begin to set. Everyone was quieter for a little while and then when the sun dipped below the horizon, hordes of people left. We stayed so I could get pictures of the canyon in the afterglow. There was enough space at the railing that I could freely move about to get all the different angles. It started getting a little colder so we were almost about to leave when someone shouted look! There she is! 

They were talking about none other than the moon! A strawberry moon no less. It began peeking up over the forest, steadily glowing more and more. With my camera I could zoom in real close and get amazing shots of the moon. I jumped up and down like a little kid because the moon has always been mine for some reason. My sister Emily and I always split everything between us, she had the sun and I the moon. I was giddy and smiled at Travis and thought, this was just perfect. We’ve hiked a bunch around the Grand Canyon Southrim and now I watched the sunset and the moon rise. We could leave the Grand Canyon now. We got back to camp and went to bed knowing that we would drive out along the desert view Drive the next morning.

We slept in a bit knowing that we did not need to get there early for parking and headed east out of the Grand Canyon. I wasn’t quite sure where all the vistas were but I knew I wanted to stop at at least two of them. We pulled over at a few that weren’t very good and then we finally saw the nice big view. I took lots of pictures and got back in the car to go to the next one. We found another area to go bouldering in. Travis went down first and at first I wasn’t going to follow him. But then he looked like he was having too much fun so he helped me climb down. This was a longer climb but the other ones so we got a little bit sweaty. I enjoyed being able to take pictures without people in them. We made it back to the car and continue to the desert view watchtower.  The watchtower was made by a female architect sometime ago and was pretty cool with Native American inspired drawings on the inside. We meandered through the visitor center and bought a cookie. We weren’t going to eat lunch there so we just sat outside and enjoyed ourcookies. Soon after that we exited the park borders and began our long journey east, north, west and back south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. It was only 10 or so miles away as the crow flies but the roads are long. 

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Scorching Saguaro

We kept driving across the desert, watching the heat roll off the road and the mountains change as we crossed into Arizona. Most of the billboards advertised Tombstone. It was only 45minutes out of the way so why not? The temperatures kept climbing into the triple digits so I wasn’t too keen on walking around much. We found a free parking spot and wandered back into the Old West. We wanted to watch a shootout but didn’t want to pay a lot of money. We made our way past western style shops to the OK Corral shop. The tickets were too expensive but I spotted grow-your-own saguaro kits. It included 2 or 3 baby cacti, dry soil, a small planter and a wooden marker saying OK Corral. I’ll take it! From there we continued by saloons until we heard a guy yelling that there’d be a shootout in 5 minutes down by the railroad depot. We hurried down there and purchased our affordable tickets to a comedic shootout. We sat on partly shaded bleachers in front of an old western street style stage. The town drunk announce told us, the audience, had to boo and clap for the bad and good guys as they came out. The show went on, with a plot of a guy stole a miner’s mule. It was hilarious, complete with a drunk sheriff, dumb sidekick and backstabbing, or shooting. But the good guys always win, right? We posed for pictures with the actors and tipped them, glad to have seen a great shootout worth the cost. We explored all the gift shops, buying postcards and sarsaparilla, a yummy root beer like drink. We enjoyed our sodas at the gazebo in the town park. Our bottles each had a bit about the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. After we’d seen enough of the wild west, we continued to Tucson, heading up Mt. Lemmon to our campsite. We drove up, and up, and up! The saguaros appeared all over the mountain then gave way to conifers. Our campsite gps coordinates were at 8500ft elevation so I was excited, hoping it’d be at least 15degrees cooler than it was now at 85degrees at 7pm. Our coordinates were a little off but we eventually found the correct road. The trees were conifers and the perfect site was just a couple minutes in. We set up our tents and Travis cooked dinner in the dark. We went to sleep at about 60 degrees.

I awoke with a loud, “Travis, hep me!” My nose was pouring blood. I tried not to get any drops on my sleeping bag, pillow, or anything in my tent as I scrambled to get out. I failed. I stuffed toilet paper up my nose while shuffling to a comfortable standing place. Travis made sure I was ok before attempting to scrub out the blood on basically everything in my tent. I couldn’t get it to stop bleeding for a good while which was super frustrating because I was fully awake, hungry, and had to pee. We suppose it happened because the dry air, wind, dust, and possibly altitude. Finally it stopped after I filled a whole bag with bloody tissues. I got to pack up, eat, and we were on our way down to the western portion of Saguaro National Park.

We drove to the visitor center and wanted to fill up our water bottles but the Africanized killer bees were buzzing around the faucet and ground. The rangers normally keep a dish out for them but it had run dry. We collected a map and ventured out into the desert. Our first path was a paved interpretive trail 1/2 mile long. I had on my long sleeved sun shirt, capris, hat, and a cooling towel on my neck. I was prepared to hike through the desert. Every other informative sign had a shaded bench that I’d race toward and let Travis read the sign out loud. I had fun posing by each cactus, especially the giant saguaro, although Travis got bit by the teddy bear cholla. It sure was fuzzy alright. That trail was only 1/2 mile long and it was supremely uncomfortable for me so we decided to skip the other trail I’d picked out that was .7miles and go straight to the driving loop. We passed many more saguaros with lots of arms. There were several cacti that were blooming and of course I wanted to get pictures of every one. there were reds and pinks, in varying shades, and sometimes orange as well. We did set out on another 1/2mile trail to see the petroglyphs. This trail was a bit up so I just took my time, trying not to die. Petroglyphs are carved into rock and pictograms are painted or drawn on. These markings were from the Hohokam people from AD 900-1200. The view from the top of the hill was neat, saguaros dotting the landscape as far as the eye could see. I was hot and felt close to dying, so we headed back to a smoothie cafe I’d seen a sign for on the way in. The ice cold blended fruit was incredibly refreshing but didn’t fill me up much. Travis wanted Taco Bell but I wasn’t sure I could eat there and not get sick so I got Burger King nuggets.

Now that we were out of danger of heat illnesses, we went to a place where we could spend some money: REI. I needed new shoes and hoped they’d have an ample selection in my size. This REI wasn’t too different than our home store but did have a bit more climbing gear. I wanted to try on the Altra Lonepeak 3.0 but all they had was the Superior. I trounced around the store, trying to see if these aggravated my achilles and had enough tread for rocks and were sufficient support for my ankles. I bought them and there was a bit of a mix-up. The shoes were labeled wrong on the rack; the Lonepeak and Superior were switched. So I was buying the shoes I had researched and wanted. We headed back up the mountain in plenty of daylight and again watched the temperature drop into a comfortable range. We picked out a different site (because our previous one was occupied) with view over the hill past the car. I got another nosebleed as I tried the saline nose squirt bottle, which Google had said to try. That and neosporin were supposed to re-moisten the inside of my nose. Travis made chicken alfredo for dinner and we went to bed as the sun set. I got up to no nosebleed (yay!) but enormous bloody boogers (yuck!). We decided not to try to hike in the desert today but just to take the 8 mile route in and around the eastern part of the National Park. It mostly looked the same, but more hilly and the cacti had more blooms. We’d get out with me decked out in my sun-protective clothing and read the blurb written on the informational signs. It was already scorching by 11AM when we finished the Saguaro loop so we set our gps straight north to the Grand Canyon!

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Guadalupe grandeur!

The GPS said it would be a 7 and a half hour drive to Guadalupe Mountain National Park, so at least eight and a half hours for us. I realized I hadn’t eaten real Texas BBQ brisket while in Dallas so I wanted some before I left Texas. Guadalupe National Park is still in Texas but closer to Mexico so I wasn’t sure of my prospects. We stopped at Texas Cattle exchange which said Tuesday at noon is the auction, it was 12:30. We started in and I giddily ran up the steps into the auction stage bleachers. I’d seen auctions at 4-H events but nothing like this, this was real Texas auctioning. I giggled standing there watching the calves come up one by one but quickly left, knowing that Travis was smelling the brisket getting hungry. Our brisket barbecue was delicious, served with a side of green beans and sweet potato fries. Okay, now our big food spending was done. 

As we approached Mexico, the gas stops and towns became more degraded. We left the interstate and were shocked at the desert landscape, complete with oil Derricks and flaming vent stacks. We steadily climbed into the mountains passing through deep chasms cutting to the sides of the mountains. We found the park with an hour left till sundown, explored the sites and pick #10 100 feet from the car. We set up our tents and Travis cooked dinner, chicken alfredo. We were at 5600 feet elevation and it was much cooler. We didn’t set an alarm, wanting to wake up naturally whenever we were rested. I ate oatmeal and Travis had Breakfast Essentials before heading to the visitor center to get some info on the trails. I left my tent up to reserve our side but Travis had to take his down because he needed his trekking poles. We set out for Guadalupe Peak Trail, an 8.4 mile round trip to the tallest mountain in Texas, 8749 ft. We ogled at the prickly pear and Cholla cacti along the trail. The trail was tough, a lot because we just driven across half the country, with no working out, and possibly some elevation acclimation. I was wearing my new long sleeve Sun shirt, hat, and capris to try to protect myself from this sun/heat. It was a little uncomfortable making me whine my way up the trail, eventually I got used to it and started noticing the views. We crossed a precarious cliff ledge, straight up on our right, good 5 feet wide Trail straight and down on our left. I wanted to do that my whole life. The fulfillment of my dream made me forget to feel any fear. We thought the mountain in front of us at the parking lot was the mountain, but it was actually one of five. The clouds started rolling in, making me think we weren’t going to make it to the top before the sky let loose. I wasn’t worried about rain but going down slippery rocks sure wasn’t making me leap for joy, I was worried about thunder and lightning. Clouds just kept rolling, giving us glimpses of the other mountains and valley that made them so much sweeter. Soon we turned the corner to find the monument marker high on the rocks above us. Immediately we dropped our packs and kept turning around, taking in The 360-degree View. Whew, we made it! I’d never have thought the highest mountain in Texas was this tall. There was a hiker box at the base of the pyramid or a geocache type box full of goodies like MREs, bandanas, coins, knives, a lighter, cards and a Piezo igniter. Most stuff we just sorted through but we took the igniter. I don’t like using lighters and this would never run out. My Achilles heel had been hurting slightly on the way up but had gotten worst the past 30 minutes. Travis wrapped it like he’d seen on YouTube as I rushed him because the Thunder and clouds were right there! As soon as he finished, I grabbed my pack and headed down. We passed people still climbing even as it started sprinkling. We put on our rain jackets and pack covers and continued racing down the mountain. Of course the sprinkling stopped​ and we got hot, so the jackets came off, down came more sprinkles. we passed loads of people going up even as we approached the car. I wondered if they would make it all the way to the top as the suggested completion time is six to eight hours and it was 4 p.m. It tookus seven and a half hours with all of our many breaks.

 Travis got excited to cook dinner because he was going to make pizzas! That’s right, pizza with our four and a half inch frying pan on top of a Optimus Crux gas canister stove. He brought out the tortillas, tomato paste, pepperoni stick, mozzarella block, and parmesan cheese making magic happen. First cut the cheese and pepperoni, then make tomato sauce, combine into the middle of a 12 inch tortilla and fold like a Crunchwrap from Taco Bell. Heat until golden brown on both sides. Let cool, enjoy! Oh what a glorious meal to celebrate our hike! 

Morning brought a beautiful sunrise even though the forecast was for overnight and afternoon thunderstorms. We got a late start to our 4mile desert hike through McKittrick Canyon. It was supposed to be mixed shade and Sun but of course was mostly sun. We bandaged our car in the reflective bubble wrap, reflectix, that Travis had specifically cut for each window, hoping that it would keep the car from getting unbearably hot. On our way to Platt cabin, we saw numerous lizards, a baby tarantula and a snake in the creek we crossed. We crossed a couple dry washes before reaching one with water flowing. Wallace platt had built a cabin there in the 1930’s because it was an oasis in the desert, the most beautiful spot in West Texas. It started barely sprinkling as we headed back, keeping us cool enough with an icy raindrop here in there. We ate a few bars for lunch before heading up the road to Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico.

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Delightful DFW

We made it to Plano where we were going to stay around 5:30pm. I couldn’t believe it! I was in Dallas again, to see all my friends! After bringing in some of our stuff, our thoughts turned to food. Michelle and Aaron took us to Cafe Brazil, one of my favorite restaurants during my college years. Kristen also joined us. Of course I ordered frozen hot chocolate. Mmm! My chorizo crepes and Travis’ chicken fried steak we’re also tasty. 

Saturday morning brought a trip to Ikea with Michelle, Melissa and Justin. I’d been to Ikea once and Travis never. We don’t have one near home so I thought it would be a cool thing to check out. We wandered the whole store, checking out all the cool and weird ideas before eating the famous swedish meatballs. I’d never had linden berries before. Travis and I felt certain our food had a sleep aid as we became super sleepy. I felt guilty taking a nap because I certainly didn’t come through Dallas to sleep. But I knew I wouldn’t be any fun without proper rest. 

We made it to Kristen and Charles’ apartment, ate delicious fro-yo (frozen yogurt), checked out the Love Sac store in Stonebriar mall, then the Nebraska furniture Mart. Travis had seen a large fluffy bean bag type chair and thought it would be perfect for me. I informed him that that was a Love Sac and I’d seen them in Dallas. We just wanted to sit in them and ponder what it would be like to have one in our house. The Nebraska furniture Mart was more impressive than Ikea. It had its own parking garage and was certainly twice the size if not more. I recommend not checking out two furniture places in one day…it’s a little overwhelming. I enjoyed sitting in and pouncing on all the soft chairs and beds. But eventually the massage recliner won out, forcing me into its fluffy soft folds. Eventually we left to get pizza and watch Moana. Such a great movie! 

We slept in some Sunday morning before meeting Mary at Buzzbrews, another one of my favorite restaurants. We walked around our Alma mater, the University of Texas at Dallas, bought new sunglasses at REI (I’d left them in Little Rock), shopped at Walmart, explored a free samurai museum, ate delicious Mexican food and cookies. As we spend all afternoon and evening together, I felt relieved. I’d wondered if 2years since the last time I’d seen my friends would make our time together awkward or just out of touch. But we picked up right where our friendship had never changed. We picked up Lacie, Mary’s dog, and went to White Rock lake. So many doggies and puppers!! I loved them all, telling them to send these vibes back to my dog. I watched Mary interact with Lacie, knowing it wasn’t Mary that had done the rescuing of a stray in need of love. We watched the sun set over the lake, taking pictures and making fun of the gen Y’ers next to us that spent all their time smelling their screens, hardly noticing His glorious display behind them. 

We decided to stay all day Monday because we’d been delayed a day and everyone had off work Memorial day. Kristen, Travis and I went to the ft Worth stockyards and Billy Bob’s just to see it. The stockyards smelled great, with wafts of cow mingling with steak and fries. We became tourists and meandered through many knick knack shops. The cattle drive was only about 60seconds long. I had come before for a parade apparently and remembered it wrong. We spotted Blue Bell ice cream and dove in. We made our way to Billy Bob’s, the world’s largest honky tonk. It was hot by the time we got back to the car so we put the fort Worth water gardens into the GPS. The first fountain was okay and it didn’t inspire great expectation for the others. However, we approached the second one and it stunned us. This one you were able to walk down​ into on cement floating blocks. The roar of the water once we descended was too great to even hear each other speak. Descending and ascending was a little difficult with so many people and kids everywhere. I stood at the bottom smiling for a picture with Kristen; it didn’t even seem like we were in Texas at the moment with waterfalls surrounding us and trees above. Next we climbed the dry “mountain.” It was a bunch of cement blocks rising up above. We spotted another water design so we raced down to it. It was a quiet reflection pool with walls overflowing with water. It didn’t take long for us to get our feet wet and start playing in the water. The kids around us got in and tried not to get their clothes wet. Soon they were splashing and swimming. 

We headed back to Dallas to pack and maybe get together with another friend Liz. After we got out laundry started, Travis and I headed to dinner with Liz and Caleb. It was a short time filled with laughter. I was so glad to have stayed another day than planned so I could see Liz. I left Texas about 5years ago and it’s been hard to maintain friendships. It was so wonderful that I got to see my best buddies from college again and catch up, reminsce about old times and make new memories. 

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Jehovah Jireh

Sputter, sputter, bleh. 

My mom’s 2013 Subaru Forester said no at the red light leaving Hot springs national park. We stared at the dash, trying to restart the vehicle, but nothing. Traffic flowed haltingly around us

The ride to Asheville, NC was uneventful. As we exited the interstate to our home for the night, an enormous motorcycle brigade passed before us. After about 600 bikes (no joke) roared by, it was our turn to go right. We came upon a Harley Davidson dealership filled with all the biker people. It looked like a military/veteran bike rally. Driving 5 more minutes put us climbing into a beautiful neighborhood with large forested yards. Our friends of friends for our first night of our adventure were incredibly gracious.  We unpacked what we needed for the evening, joined our hosts for some leftovers, cooked chicken alfredo, and sorted through the vast movie collection. Travis hasn’t seen The Sound of Music and I haven’t seen Les Miserables. I put it to Facebook but didn’t come to a consensus quickly so we went with Tangled. 

Up early, we continued our voyage down I-40. The rain came down in sheets at times and then periods of bright sun. I was super glad I wasn’t driving because I’d be the driver that slowed to 20mph in the rain. We crossed the Mississippi River, ogling at the fact that it was way flooded. The next few hours gave way to much of the same, flooded out farms, with tree tops as bushes. The phones gps routed us away from a backup which brought out both of our cheerleader sides. GPS said our first freecampsites.net site was only 2 miles off the interstate. It was my first find in our country’s free camping land and I was anxious to see if what the internet had said was true. We declined the first grass/dirt road but found an alternate road that was fully paved and voila! A designated campsite sign! There were gravel pullouts big enough for trailers to circle on both sides of the road with a water spigot. We set up our tents in the grass, ate our leftover chicken alfredo with garlic Ritz crackers and relaxed on our buckets. We laughed, God is so good! This site turned out perfect. It was setting the standard high though I knew we would come across much less savory sleeping places. The rain had brought the temperature down, way down so I got a little chilly overnight. A van pulled in just before nightfall, parking on the other side of the road. 

The sun rose, illuminating the rising steam from the field across the way. I had a no sugar added chocolate breakfast essentials drink and a chocolate banana bread oatmeal square. Travis had French vanilla breakfast essentials with chocolate chip oatmeal bars. In less than 5minutes in the car, we were cruising to Hot Springs National Park. I’d been been to it before with my family and enjoyed the architecture and history. We found free parking and free restrooms (high priority there) and meandered along bathhouse row. We decided hiking first before it got too hot would be our best plan of action. We followed an assortment of trails to the Watchtower which unfortunately, cost $8/person to go up. My attitude turned sassy because the guy at the visitor center that we’d asked about all the trails and sights hadn’t mentioned that fact after suggesting this trail. Travis turned my attention to finding our first patch, what we’d decided on collecting from all the national parks on our trip. We purchased a cute bear in a bathtub patch and found the free pagoda with a view. After taking pictures, we skipped back to bathhouse row and took the free self guided tour or the main bathhouse. It was neat seeing the immense amount of marble they used for their baths. By this time we were hungry and we walked out the front doors which was conveniently right in front of a sweets shop. Never go in a candy store when you’re hungry…just…don’t. After salivating over every baked good, we settled on a cookie sandwich. There was a hideaway space to eat our treasure, tucked among the shops that had plenty of benches and a small waterfall. We hurried back to the car, not wanting to depart with any more of our money in this town, especially because we had lunch in the car. We plugged in my friend’s address in Plano (yay!) and left the park. 

Sputter, sputter, bleh. 

A cop showed up to help us get our car safely out of the road and into a gas station parking lot. Cue the process of calling my mom (car owner) and the insurance company to figure out what to do. My parents and I discussed car part, car parts, car parted. I don’t know what thise words are. After Travis spent some time on the phone with insurance, we had a wait time of 40minutes for a local company to tow us to the Subaru dealership as the car is still under warranty. I wasn’t too stressed, even as we were sitting in front of a sketchy gas station. Sketchy people offered help in way of a jump, but we didn’t think that was the issue. Slowly, our tiny piece of shade disappeared, leaving us to stand in the 80degree sun. I was trying not to get frustrated that we were stranded at a sketchy place with a bathroom with no toilet paper and poo splash on the toilet seat. The tow truck finally arrives, almost an hour past our wait estimate of 40minutes. The guy is affable and him and Travis chat about life as we very bouncily return to Little Rock. Subaru doesn’t quite know where to put our car because they are backed up, but they make me and Travis feel confident in their ability to help us. We’ve both been to less than helpful dealerships and this place was fantastic. They immediately offered us a loaner car and assure us they will look at it first thing in the morning. We start loading what we think we need for the night into a 2017 Subaru Forester. I’m stressing, trying not to be sad that I’m not with my dallas friends and not wanting to find a place to spend the night. We debate about going back to the place we slept last night which was great but an hour away. I text a friend from home that’s from Arkansas that might know somebody. This might be tmi, but I was on my period. Long car rides, hiking and camping aren’t the best experience. I wanted to sleep in air conditioning and I wanted a shower. I was practically in tears as Travis suggested we cool off with some ice cream. As we drove off to Sonic, we discovered the loaner had an excellent sound system. We were the thump thump car sitting at Sonic eating our milkshakes. Our friend had success finding friends that could offer us a couch or floor space. 5minutes away! My jaw dropped, Travis laughed, my eyes moistened, God is so good! He was providing a way when I thought we were heading into a stressful and unfun situation. We cranked up the music and felt the beat in our chests. I put my toes on my door speaker and they bounced. 

“Oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm. oh no, You never let go, every high and every low!” 

Our hosts were amazingly hospitable. They were inviting a couple of their friends over to learn how to cook pot stickers. We set our tents out to dry and sat and mostly watched this process. There’s no way I would ever put that much time into making a food. They ground up carrots and spinach to add to the flour for coloring. Next was rolling out the dough into miniature circles to put a dollup in of pork, cabbage, shrimp or mushrooms. Soup was simmering on the stove as I tried not to fall asleep at the kitchen table. At 9pm, dinner was set spectacularly on the table, the colorful pot stickers arranged in patterns on their serving platters. Such amazing flavors! Then shower and bed. As I stretched out across the bed, clean and refreshed, I recounted the day’s events. 

Jehovah Jireh! God will provide, God has provided. God is good y’all. He cares for me! The simplest of details, a shower complete with soap and shampoo! A soft bed with soft sheets and a memory foam pillow. (I really like really soft things). A car with a sound system to belt out His praises. Wonderful people to encourage us on our journey. These aren’t coincidences or lucky right place in the right time happenings. This is God, caring for us. 

Our hosts departed for work, Subaru called and said everything would be done by noon. Travis found an adorable little park, Old Mill Park, to explore. It was charming, something I’ve only seen in all the puzzles I’ve put together. At noon, we completed paperwork and got back on he road to Dallas by one! 

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A House on a Hill by the Sea

I woke up around 8:30 and had the same breakfast, toast with butter or strawberry jam and fruit/fiber cereal. I wasn’t too sure what my plans were this morning. I wanted to go see ladies view in the park but it was a good 20km there and back. It was about 6km past Torc waterfall. The bus didn’t go to it til 1pm returning at 5 and I wanted to be in Dingle tonight. I could’ve rented a bike for 10euro but I didn’t want to hurt my back or hips anymore than I already have. I chose to just plan and explore the outfitters, looking for protein bars. I went in the first one…success! They had a few power bars, gels, chews and powders. I bought a few bars and picked up a free copy of Ireland’s outdoor magazine. I made my way to the bus station that was attached to a shopping mall. I bought my ticket to Dingle which required just one transfer in Tralee. I figured I’d get lunch from the smoothie place. I sat in the station reading the magazine at the paragraph that was talking about tents that said, “What Europeans and Americans want is totally different. Take tents for example, we were convinced that we could make green tents work because wild camping isn’t necessarily allowed in a lot of places and green tents blend into the scenery. In the US they like their tents in bright colors like orange.”

Woo, that was hilarious! I got my smoothie and waited for the bus, now having to go pee every 5minutes because if the fruit juice. I got dumped at Dingle at 4pm across from a Supervalu. I first ran in to go to the bathroom. Then picked a direction and started walking. Aha, people and shops, I’d chosen correctly. My intention was to hike roughly 10km (6.2mi or 3hours) and wild camp somewhere. I stopped by the tourism office to get a map and began hiking west. I was following the Dingle way, up past houses and pastures full of cows and sheep. I hoped the trail would get into the wilderness, away from roads and animals so I wouldn’t have to camp on a patch of grass next to a gate. As I crested the mountain I saw another larger mountain with a dark cloud surrounding it but at the bottom was a beach! I hurried down, getting faint whiffs of the salty sweet air. This was so exciting, I was walking from a mountain to a real sandy beach! On the Atlantic Ocean, close to the most western piece of Europe, the closets I’d be to home in awhile. I hit the sand and, taking my shoes off, wiggle my toes into the sand. It was super soft, not coarse or grainy, kind of a cream color mixed with grey. I delightfully stepped on toward the ocean, sinking in the now squishy wet sand, waiting to meet the next wave. The little waves rolled in, washing over and swirling around my tired feet. The water wasn’t too cold at all. I was standing in the Atlantic Ocean off Ireland! I alternated between walking in the water, the waves lapping at my ankles, and walking in that space where footprints disappear. A local guy approached and asked me where was I headed. I replied it was my intent to wild camp and he looked surprised. He said if I wanted to be safe, I’d go to the oige (Irish youth hostel) an hour down the road to the right, which was an hour in the wrong direction. I thanked him and continued on, watching where he went up through the dunes. Since I was walking in the water I wasn’t too sure exactly where the trail turned off. I turned off where he had gone and sure enough, found a parking lot and trail signs. There were two caravans and a van parked there already. One had a painted back door not unlinked gypsy style. I saw a woman with dreads dressed strangely feed a matted dirty dog. She stared at me as I walked by, not waving or acknowledging my presence, just following me with her eyes. There was a big spot of grass at the end of the parking lot. I stared at it but kept walking. I wasn’t too sure about these people; they looked like real gypsys. Here I was, judging people completely by how looked, doing exactly what I hated and what I hoped others wouldnt do to me. But something in my gut told me to keep going so I trusted my instinct. I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at this from hiking the Appalachian trail. Even the gruffiest old mountain man can be like a sweet ole grandpa. That’s not something a whole lot of people know how to do anymore, trust their instinct. They trust what the world tells them to think, “oh, people that look/act differently than me, I should be wary.” Oh well, I couldn’t camp there anyway because the wind would be too much for my stove.

I rounded the corner on the road and saw a long straight never ending stretch in front of me, lined by houses, pastures, cows, and hedges. I sighed heavily and prayed aloud, “God, find me a place to sleep and do it sooooon as I’m already tired from just 2hours of hiking!” A car came past me, stopped and reversed to me. A guy stuck his head out, “Need a lift?” I nodded and, trusting that God had just put this car here, climbed in. His name was John and he just got done learning kite-surfing for the day. He was headed home but said there’s a great camping spot just up the road. He stopped at the viewpoint with the cross beacon where I could see all the islands and sleeping giant. He showed me the campsite right above the beach and invited me back to his house for a cup of tea with his dad. I wasn’t going to say it’d be impossible to cook my dinner out in this wind but he said he was going to cook dinner and I was welcome to join. Well, don’t mind if I do! We drove just a few minutes to his house and he explained that he and his siblings had camped there as children and that’s why they bought the house there overlooking the sea. He got right to cooking dinner after setting up his wetsuit to dry. I met his father Tom and just stood around the house, unsure of what to do but enjoying the delicious smells coming from the kitchen. I had no idea what he was putting together but I knew I would definitely eat it. I shuffled from one window to the next, admiring the view. He brought 3 steaming plates to the table piled high with food. There was rice, pork, carrots, and cabbage on the plate set before me. I dug in, tasting everything all together at once. I tried to eat the cabbage but it was a little overpowering. I learned that John was a PE teacher at a junior college and that he was flying to Indonesia in 5days to go surfing for 2months. He asked if I wanted tea or coffee and I declined. I haven’t learned how to like either yet. He offered me an apple tart which I accepted. I asked if I could plug in my phone and then plugged it in next to a comfy chair which I just sort of fell into. I texted a few friends where I was and more than one asked if he was cute. I’m so glad my friends have their priorities straight…

At this point, I felt like I was in a situation similar to “If you give a mouse a cookie storybook.” For those of you not familiar with the story, if you give a mouse a cookie, you have to give him a glass of milk, if you give him a glass of milk, you must read him a bedtime story. If you read him a story, he’ll ask for a blanket, and so on and so on. John and Tom talked about the amazing sunsets they can view but lamented it was too hazy for one tonight. I wasn’t sure I should mention that I should get going so as to set up my tent before it gets dark. John jumped on the shower so I chatted with Tom. Tom was an older fellow and was a little confused about what he’d already said or was about to say. John showed me around the house which had a ton of bedrooms, all with incredible views out to the sea. His siblings sometimes visited with their little children so there was a playroom. He asked if I’d like to sleep here instead of tenting, to which I replied sure, thinking of course I’ll sleep in a house on a hill by the sea. He said I could have his bed and he’d sleep downstairs so e could see the waves better. As he readied the beds, I sat in the cozy chair, trying not to giggle. Yes, this was real, an Irishman picked me up, cooked me dinner and gave up his bed for me in a house on a hill by the sea. Now this was the adventure!

As he showed me to the room, he cautioned against stealing his money, the coins that were all over his dresser. I assured him I didn’t have any intention of stealing anything. That was how this whole thing worked, on mutual trust. He trusted that I wouldn’t rob him blind and I trusted that he wouldn’t harm me. Just as I didn’t want to be seen as a thieving vagabond, I’m sure he didn’t want to be seen as a guy trying to pick up a girl for the night. I set my stuff in the room and waited for my phone to charge a bit more while he read his kite surfing homework. We played cards for a little while before I started yawning every 10seconds. He taught me how to play uni with normal playing cards. I said goodnight and went down the hall to the bedroom. I flopped onto the bed and immediately smiled. What was I laying on? It was like a fluffy pillow, what I imagine clouds would be like, like a hug. I poked it, seeing how soft it was and rolled around a but enjoying the pillow top and down comforter before drifting off to sleep.

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What Time is it? Part 2

There was no fast line for security so I jumped in the shortest lane which had 16 people ahead of me. I watched as they slowly made it through the line before it was my turn. I didn’t need to take my shoes off so I just set my suitcase and small bag in the tray. They told me to put my passport & boarding pass in the tray as well before I could walk through the body scanner. I pushed my passport in its wallet but didn’t have time to stuff my pass in with it so I just laid it on top.

Big mistake. I went through the body scanner just fine but when I went to grab my stuff, the pass wasn’t there. I asked the nearest security agent for help but she pointed to her colleague saying to ask him for help. I walked his way but he already had about 5 people in line. I sweated for a moment then ran back through security, yelping that I’d misplaced my boarding pass, knowing that’d have to help me to get me out of the way. A lady took me aside, pointing down to the 1st floor at the British Airways customer service, stating that they could print me a new one. I thanked her and flew across the mall looking for the escalator, pushing my way to the front. On the way down, I bit my lip to keep from crying. I was shaking and no! I am not going to have a panic attack here, in the middle of London Heathrow airport, esp with the border guard already not liking me. God hold that plane!!

I demanded the customer service guy to print me another pass, shoving my passport at him. He printed one but told me it was already 5 after and my plane may have left already. My gate was A22 and I was at A1.

God, please hold that plane! God do not let that plane leave! I quickly threaded my way through the throngs people, breaking into a sprint when I could. I breathlessly arrived at my gate, a full 10mins after the scheduled departure time, and, with lips quivering, asked if the plane was still there. The lady just said yes, scanned my pass and motioned me through. I boarded the plane and sat in my assigned seat, sweaty with silent tears now streaming down my face.

God You’re Amazing! The pilot came over the intercom and said that the delay was from the walkway gate not closing properly. We finally took flight 30mins after the scheduled time. I tried reading a magazine but couldn’t because I couldn’t stop shaking. The airline crew served water and lemon shortbread cooookies dipped in white chocolate. So tasty!

We landed and everyone worked through the maze of the Dublin airport to get to baggage pickup. I had no problem finding my other suitcase but now needed to get a SIM card and find a bus to my hostel. I found a SIM card store and, after quizzing the cashier, bought 25euro prepaid plan of unlimited texting, 2 hours of calls as 200mb of data. I would text people later, right now I just wanted to get out of the airport. I located a bus map and chose bus 16 to take me to Oconnell st, where my hostel would be near. Once I got on the bus, I noticed the stops had only numbers and no way of telling which stop would be mine. The streets we were driving down and crossing didn’t seem to have signs with their names. I prayed, not wanting to think about yet another wrong adventure of maybe getting lost on a bus on Dublin.

Along the roads leading out of the airport and into the city center, I noticed lots of flowers, all neatly groomed and weeded perfectly. Thanks God! I asked the drift which stop was mine and he said he’d call it out. I got off the bus and starting walking awkwardly, carrying both suitcases and a small bag. I came to an intersection, and, thinking I’d gone the wrong way, turned around and went back. Pulled out my new smartphone and looked at the maps, but still just as confused as ever. I walked back the way I started, stopping every 10steps as I no longer had the energy to hold & carry the suitcases. I finally found the hostel and checked in, groaning as I lugged my suitcases up to the 4thfloor. My room really warm and smelled like dirty old sneakers but I didn’t care, I jut flopped on my bed and stayed there for quite awhile before grabbing dinner at Subway across the street. I took my food back to the hostel, wanting to be around people but not having the energy to make it back up the stairs. It took me a long time to eat because I was still so shaken up. The bread and cheese just kept getting stuck in my throat as I tried to contact people through text, email or Facebook. I crawled upstairs into my bed and messaged a few people til I’d calmed down enough to fall asleep.

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Scrambled Butterflies

My plane takes off in 2 hours. I stuffed everything in 2 suitcases and will stuff it in my pack once I get to a hostel. I’ve said goodbye to most of my friends and family, getting hugs, safe travel wishes, and comments of jealousy. I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut yet these are also happy butterflies. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t bought a return ticket that these goodbyes just seem so…final. I am coming back in about 4months to see my cousin get married. And I’m typing this as my nieces and nephews are chattering at me so there are no words for this.

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