Sunday, April 29, 2012
So vacation has come and gone. We had a great time, but as usual some of our plans changed along the way. If Iíve learned nothing else over the years, Iíve learned to be flexible. Actually, we did do most of what we planned, but the last few days involved a hamstring strain (not mine) and much colder temperatures at night that my sister wasnít completely prepared for. So, we decided to get to a lower elevation after two nights of freezing temperatures and take in some different sights.
The first few days we camped and hiked near Three Rivers, New Mexico and Oro Grande and then also visited White Sands.
Sunrise at Three Rivers
Hiking near Alamogordo, NM
Sunset at White Sands
Sunset at White Sands
Ocotillo Cactus blooming near Alamogordo, NM
After that, we headed up into the Gila Wilderness where we camped at Lake Roberts a few nights and hiked during the day. We also hiked the trail to the Gila Cliff Dwellings, and they were spectacular!
Gila Cliff Dwellings
Gila Cliff Dwellings
Sunset at Lake Roberts
Our tents at night
This turkey vulture decided to display his wings for me.
The weather was beautiful during the day, but the night time temperatures were around 30 degrees. I stayed pretty warm in my small tent and sleeping bag, but my sister was having some real issues staying warm. For that reason, we decided to stay in a cabin the last two nights and visited the VLA (Very Large Array) near Datil, New Mexico and then Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. Neither were in our plans, but they were both awesome.
VLA (Very Large Array)
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge
And, I must post my favorite picture from the trip. We stopped in Silver City, New Mexico to get gas and in rolled a couple on their motorcycle with their little girl "Sadie" who was riding in a sidecar. I had to get a picture of her with her own seat belt and goggles. She was the happiest biker I've ever seen.
Sadie in her own sidecar!
All in all, it was a great trip, but I also missed all my boys at home. As much fun as it was, itís good to be back with my family and back to my own bed. Now time to get back to my workout routine and tracking my food again.
Hope everyone has a great week!
Monday, April 09, 2012
I was lucky enough to have Easter fall on my long weekend off, so Tommy and I decided to spend the weekend at my uncleís mountain home. We planned to go bike riding on the Virginia Creeper Trail, which has long been one of our favorite activities.
With my best friend being on spring break (sheís a teacher), we decided to invite her to go along. Alyce decided to drive up Friday evening and stay with us the next two nights. Then, Friday morning while I was finishing packing and getting ready to go, Tommy looked on Facebook and saw that one of his cousins, Janyce, was in the mountains for a few days. Since she was alone, he contacted her and asked if she wanted to come and hang out with us. She agreed and he was excited because he hadnít seen her in many years. I was happy because I had never met her before.
So off we went Friday morning for what would turn out to be quite a day. We got to the house, turned on the hot water heater, unloaded our stuff and waited for the others to arrive. The first call came from Alyce who had taken a wrong turn, but we quickly got her back on track and to the house. Then the series of calls from Janyce began. She was coming from Cherokee, NC and had never been near where we were. It would have been comical had she not been so frustrated and it was getting late in the day. I was worried about her being lost on those winding back roads after dark (there is no major highway between Cherokee and West Jefferson). Fortunately, after dealing with wrong turns, dropped calls from lost cell signals, and her unplanned side trip to Roan Mountain in Tennessee (oops), we finally met her in West Jefferson at 8:30 Friday night. We had a great dinner at Genoís and then headed back to the house to relax in front of a wonderful fire.
Tommy really wanted Janyce to ride on the Virginia Creeper Trail, but she was a little hesitant about bike riding 17 miles. He loves taking people on the trail for the first time and sharing in their excitement, so he finally convinced her to go. I was happy she agreed, but also a little concerned about whether or not he could make it all the way. Alyce and I decided to drop them off and go hiking instead of riding so that we could pick him up at a road crossing if he got too tired. Well, Iím happy to say that Tommy and Janyce completed the entire 17 miles and we met them at Dotís Inn in Damascus, Virginia for a late lunch. He was exhausted, but very happy, and Janyce had a great time also.
Tommy and Janyce starting down the Virginia Creeper Trail
While Tommy and Janyce were bike riding, Alyce and I got in some exercise by hiking over Backbone Ridge and along the river. Wow, it was a gorgeous day!
Trail across the top of Backbone Ridge
Hiking along the river
Dogwood blooming by the river
The trillium was also beginning to bloom. They were beautiful!
After lunch we went back to the house where Tommy slept in front of the fire for hours. It was a great weekend with great friends and lots of fun and laughter!
Tommy was tired after his ride, but very happy.
We also stopped by St. Marys Episcopal Church in West Jefferson. The chapel is so beautiful.
St. Marys Episcopal Church in West Jefferson, NC.
On a side note, while we were at Dotís Inn in Damascus, I started talking to two AT thru hikers who had just finished eating there. The AT trail goes straight through the middle of Damascus and most thru hikers will take a break there to resupply, shower, rest, etc. When I told them about my dream of thru hiking the AT someday, they started really encouraging me to go do it. When I told them I had some more pounds to lose before considering it, they laughed and told me not to worry about the weight, to just start walking and they assured me I would lose all the weight I wanted and then some. I was so excited talking to them (they had already hiked 400+ miles) that I forgot to ask them if they have trail journals and what their trail names are. But to the two young men I talked to in Damascus, thank you so very much for the words of encouragement. Someday, when the time is right, Iíll do what they said. Iíll put my pack on my back and just start walking.
I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend!
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Yesterday was a very long day. Tommy and I were both up early because we were off to his doctor to get the results of his latest scan and then he would spend all day at the cancer center getting his chemo treatment. First off, the news was good about his scan. The Folfirinox treatments have shrunk the tumors in his lungs by about another 30%. This was a huge relief for both of us. Then it was to the chemo room where he spent the next five hours hooked up to a machine getting three of the four drugs he's administered every three weeks. Then before going home, they hooked him to the pump that he has to wear for the next 48 hours. We were both so tired when we went to bed last night and I was determined to sleep in late this morning since I was off work again.
So I was sleeping soundly when suddenly, just before daylight, Tommy jumped out of bed telling me the line to his port was leaking. The chemo pump and drug is in a fanny pack that he wears, and it pumps the drug through a tube that is attached to the port that's implanted in his chest. The connection in the middle of the line had come apart and we had a huge mess. The drug (which is considered toxic - and they're putting it in his body) was running out of the lower part of the line, and blood from his vein was flowing backwards out of the upper part of the line. We closed off the clamps on both ends of the lines and then took the battery out of the pump to shut it off. Then we had to break out the hazardous waste clean-up kit (yes, they actually give you one of those when they send you home with this drug) and I began the process of trying to get up all of the mess. I got Tommy in the bath to get everything off his skin and I began throwing bedding in the washing machine. After he got cleaned up and dressed, he headed to the cancer center to get everything hooked back up.
I thought we might be going mattress shopping, but when he got home he said he was told to use hydrogen peroxide to try to clean up the mattress. That's when I remembered my carpet cleaner with an upholstery attachment in the basement. Wow, it worked beautifully with hydrogen peroxide mixed in with the water. I was so happy because I really like our mattress and didn't want to have to buy a new one.
What started out as a bad day actually ended quite nice. I decided I had to get out of the house and headed for Pilot Mountain for a short hike. Tommy and Thor went also and they drove me to the pinnacle to hike down the Grindstone Trail and back to the park office. It was a beautiful day, although a bit hazy looking back toward the city.
Looking back toward Winston-Salem
Walking along the trail, I spotted this little lizard.
I knew it was too early for the rhododendrons or mountain laurel to be blooming, but to my surprise there was this one lone azalea in full bloom along the trail. It was really pretty!
While I was hiking down, Tommy and Thor had driven to the other end of the trail and started hiking back towards me (something they often do). Tommy actually walked much further than usual so when I met them Thor was exhausted (he gets tired much quicker because of his missing leg).
Tommy and Thor meeting me on the trail. It's easy to tell how tired Thor is by how far his tongue is hanging out.
Tommy gave me Thor's leash and said he was going to go back and get our van and bring it closer to the trail because by this time Thor was walking very slowly. After he was out of sight, Thor laid down in on the trail and apparently decided he was finished hiking for the day! He refused to get up, and seeing how I can't carry an 85 pound dog I had no choice but to let him rest for a while.
Thor decided here that he was finished hiking for the day.
Finally, after waiting for a while and much coaxing, he got back up and we made our way to the road where Tommy met us with our van.
Now we're all off to bed for a (hopefully) uneventful and restful night!
Tuesday, March 06, 2012
I don't usually write a blog every day, but a post by another member this morning inspired me to write this one. When we post things on this site, we have no idea who may be touched by our words. We also never know what little gems we may come across when reading friends posts. Itís funny how one little thing can spark a flood of memories. Thatís what happened this morning when I was catching up on my emails. There was a post by another member about living in southern Illinois and how beautiful the area was. My mind immediately began to race with thoughts of living in Illinois as a child (we lived in Godfrey). When I looked at her pictures, I saw one of her in Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton, Illinois. The name sounded so familiar, so I googled it and, sure enough, I have been there.
Oh my gosh! Memories of staying in a cabin there with my family came flooding back. I remember the Pere Marquette campground from many, many years ago. I remember my Dad showing us the most wonderful hiking trail that led to a high bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. I remember sitting on a rock with my sister Terrie and eating a snack. I remember that there were fossils on the top of that same bluff. I remember Terrie and I wandering around the area looking for new ďadventures.Ē I remember sleeping in the quiet, dark log cabin at night with my sisters. I also remember our imaginations running wild and swearing there was something running around our cabin one night.
All of this brought back so many other memories of camping and traveling with our parents. My mother passed away in 1982 and my father in 2006, but the memories of being with them are still crystal clear. Iím so thankful I had parents who introduced their children to the outdoors and instilled in us our love for nature.
Funny thing is, I still often sit on a rock with Terrie and have lunch or a snack, and it's not unusual for us to find ourselves on a high cliff overlooking a valley below. We still wander around looking for new ďadventuresĒ but now itís usually in the southwest desert. And we still love to camp, but now itís in our little tents that we can put up in minutes wherever we decide to spend a night. So next month, when Iím in the desert with her and weíre hiking, or sitting by a campfire one night, Iím certain Iíll tell her about the post by a fellow Spark friend about Pere Marquette State Park, and weíll reminisce and laugh about our wonderful times there.
Isnít this site amazing and how your friends can touch you, even though they may not know it? Iíve spent much time this morning traveling down memory lane and smiling.
Monday, March 05, 2012
I just love this time of year when I can get out and work in my flower beds. Itís a great way to make your yard pretty and get in a little healthy exercise also. Of course at my house, gardening can also be somewhat hazardous, or at least painful.
Loving the southwest as I do, the flora from that area has always appealed to me. Thatís why I decided to attempt to bring a little bit of the desert home with me several years ago. We had driven our van out to New Mexico that particular summer. The day before we were to head home I was sitting on my sisterís back patio looking at the landscape and feeling a little sad that vacation was coming to an end much to quickly. Thatís when I got the brilliant idea of bringing some cacti home with me so I could have my own little piece of the desert in North Carolina. Now, I must tell you that my sister has twenty-five acres of land in New Mexico containing an over abundance and uncontrolled growth of various forms of cacti. Many are like the ones we pay outrageous prices for in our local nurseries, and I was sitting here looking at an unlimited supply of these succulents. Thatís when I asked Terrie if I could dig up some plants. Without hesitation, she flew into her house and quickly returned with a variety of small containers and a shovel telling me to ďgo for it.Ē I was delighted, and a bit naive, and dug up two barrels, a cholla, a prickly pear, a claret cup and a yucca. They were all tiny plants that I knew would be easy to carry home in the van.
When I got home, many of my friends and family felt the need to remind me that this is North Carolina and those plants would never survive the cold winters here. Obviously they donít know how harsh the winters can be in northern New Mexico. Ignoring them, I dug up a small area beside my front sidewalk where I would nurture my little piece of the New Mexico desert. The area was only about 2 Ĺ feet by 1 Ĺ feet, but because the plants were so small it still looked empty. Nevertheless, I watered and tended to my tiny plants determined to keep them alive.
As it turns out, I didnít need to worry about my cacti surviving. Not only did they survive, they flourished! Actually, they went crazy! My critics were amazed at how these little desert plants were loving North Carolina. They quickly outgrew the tiny plot of earth I had set aside as their home, and the cholla began to take on a life of itís own growing arms that quickly began to extend out over my sidewalk. Iím pretty sure there were a couple of times that it intentionally poked me with its thorns as I walked by. This was becoming a problem. My beloved cacti was now threatening to grab and devour visitors if they attempted to make it to my front door. I had to do something, and soon.
I began digging up a larger (much larger) area in the corner of my front yard to make a new home for my piece of the desert. Wearing leather gloves, I carefully moved the now larger cacti to their new home. Problem solved! I was pleased because this area had more than enough room for my plants.
My desert garden a few months after moving the cacti to a new and larger area.
Well, that was about five years ago. The garden is now FULL of cacti. Apparently, these little specimens from the New Mexico desert love North Carolina. I sometimes look at them and think about Kudzu and I shudder. I refuse to be beaten and havenít given up the fight. I will not give in to their demands for yet more of my yard. Instead, Iím keeping them contained by pruning them a few times each year (this is where the pain part comes in). I hack off portions of the prickly pear before it grows over the barrel cactus and moves into my grass, I remove any dried up arms from the cholla that is now almost as tall as me, and with much care, gloves and a special tool, I attempt to remove all the leaves and debris that has found its way into the spines of the (now two) large yuccas and the low growing claret cups. And when Iím finished, I spend hours removing the tiny and irritating quills that have managed to find their way into my gloves and then into my hands and fingers. Yes, thereís a battle taking place in the corner of my yard, but I will not be beaten.
My same desert garden last spring.
So why donít I just pull them all up, sow grass and be done with it? Because each spring my prickly pears produce beautifully fluffy yellow blooms, the claret cups show off their vivid red flowers, the barrels produce tiny pink and chartreuse flowers and the cholla explode with spectacular fuchsia blooms.
The show is beautiful and I look forward to it every spring. And, knowing that I still have my own little piece of the New Mexico desert with me all year makes the extra effort worth it.
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