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Working Hard at the Ranch

Sunday, January 13, 2013

OK, maybe it isn’t really a ranch, but it's 100 acres of property we own in the country near Rocksprings, Texas. It’s our “get away” place that we have really worked hard on these past 10 years. We built a large cabin over a 2 year period (with a lot of help from friends), and we go here to enjoy the wildlife. When we first bought the property, we only saw one deer in a whole year. Because of our hard work, we now see “trophy” whitetail deer, elk, aoudad sheep, axis deer, sika deer, Rio Grande turkeys, Russian boars, and too many feral hogs.

I’ll blog sometime in the future on our specific game management efforts, but this posting is in response to some of you who asked what we do at the ranch. First of all, here is the cabin we built:

Here is the view from our cabin:

Here is a rock fireplace (for a wood burning stove) that we built one summer with rock found on our property. The stove is now in place, but I wanted to show the rockwork without the stove hiding some of our work.

The inside of the cabin is now finished, but I’m still rocking in below the cabin (it’s built on a slope). Here is the work so far…

Most of our work this time of year is clearing brush to get rid of some of the non-native juniper trees (we call them cedar). Many of the animals like it a little more open, and the cedars also take up too much water and stint the growth of our oaks and pinion pine trees. Here I am working on clearing some of the brush:

Here are two sets of “before and after” pictures to show the difference our efforts make:

I also fill wildlife feeders – to give the animals something to eat in periods of drought. I have 5 different feeders – 3 on timers and 2 that feed whenever the animals want it. Without this, we would lose many animals every year.

My wife and I also spent 2 years building a dam by hand. This picture was taken while work was still in progress. Even though we’ve finished it now with nice flat rocks mortared on top, there hasn’t been much water because of the severe drought.

I could show you so much more, but let me leave you with one last photo. Nothing like sitting on the porch and enjoying this sunrise!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KALISWALKER 7/18/2014 12:58PM

    I enjoyed your blog and the pictures Bill.

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    Gorgeous! Thanks for sharing the pictures; they tell the story. Stonework is wonderful and I love the feeder idea. Hard work combined with ideas and spirit sure pays off!!

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BARBIE176 1/24/2014 12:48PM

    What a wonderful and therapeutic place for you. I would love to have some place like that to go. I hope you are able to go and remember the many happy times you and Jackie had there.

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KALISWALKER 7/29/2013 11:32AM

    What a beautiful country home you have. Enjoy your getaway.

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ENDLESS_MILES 7/28/2013 2:20PM

    What a beautiful place. You are a real craftsman.

I hope you and your wife have a memorable week. emoticon emoticon

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BDTHOM 7/28/2013 10:34AM

    Wow. Beautiful country. Keeping down the non-native plants is tough work but gives many benefits for the environment and your fitness.

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MILLIFRED 7/14/2013 11:54AM

    Bill, thanks for sharing this. My husband and I built several homes, the last one in Wi which we still own but a few months ago rented out with option to buy. Currently we are living in Ar in a house we bought in a foreclosure sale and are totally redoing. We paid $15000 for a 4 bedroom house on 7 acres of land, not exactly a ranch but just right for us at this time in our life.

I loved the pictures and could tell what a lot of hard work and dreams must have went into it; I feel for you that your wife is no longer there to share it with you.

We used to live in Tx, in Arlington when I taught at the University there. It was a nice place to live but we we looked for a place in the country we ran into a nest of rattlesnakes and that scared me off! Now here I am where the copperheads and water moccasins live; Wi has very few snakes but we are getting to old to want to keep going back and forth. Life throws things at you and you have to adjust just as you are doing.

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DIENEBIENE 3/7/2013 10:30AM

    Hello Bill,
I just realized you had sent an email in January. This is so awesome. No wonder you are investing every spare minute on this precious place. When seeing this I wish I wouldn't live in Germany sometimes. Germany is nice but the one thing we really lack over here is space! Your place looks amazing - it just had me started thinking to take some weeks vacation in summer to backback a little bit. :-) So thanks a lot for this great inspiration.
All the best

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BOBBYEATHERTON 2/19/2013 10:54AM

    What wonderful place you have there, Bill. The hill country has always been a great place to see different animals as well...You keep that wife of yours well so both of you can enjoy it for a long time... emoticon

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IMEMINE1 1/21/2013 7:54PM

    That is such a beautiful place. I also love animals and happy to see another animal lover.

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ROX525 1/14/2013 8:23AM

    Wow!!! I am so happy for you having the ranch and all that land. I would love to be doing what you two are doing. Being one with nature. All those animals now on the ranch is a true testimony of all the hard work. The feeders have definitely brought them there and the clearing of the land so you will have more water. Can't believe you handlayed that dam. Great! The stonework is wonderful. Now when you say you are going to the ranch, I will be thrilled for you and probably a little envious that I can't go! Thank you for sharing.

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MELISSAB401 1/13/2013 8:19PM

    I love it...and I'm soooo jealous!!! LOL. I love that part of Texas!! Ya'll have made wonderful progress. I hope you get a decent amount of rain (or snow this week!!) to fill up your pond. It will really be a great stake-out for watching the wildlife. Keep us posted with your progress.

Also, have fun on your cruise. We'll all be expecting some pictures from that too!!!

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NWFL59 1/13/2013 6:41PM

    Thank you for this blog. The images are great and the the hard work y'all have put into developing the ranch and animal management is terrific. I loved the views from your cabin. The rock work is beautiful. Again, thanks for sharing. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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EJOY-EVELYN 1/13/2013 4:38PM

    What an incredible get away you have. While it is a lot of work to have a home away from home (as I am now a keeper of such), you have a beautiful view and it sounds like there is always work (fitness) to be done (had).

I only feed my northern Wisconsin critters (medium sunflower ships and shelled peanuts) and pay a friend to put food out daily during that time of the year we're away. Oh how I could use such a timer device . . . I just may have to check with my feed mill to see what they provide. I do not feed the deer and managed to keep my food high enough (and an limited amounts) to keep them and the other night critters out of the yard. The city has implemented a special bow-and-arrow season for when the deer get too plentiful within a couple areas of the city. The deer I picture in my blogs are from another friend's yard and it's nearly impossible not to want to throw food out to them.

Looking forward to hearing about animal control later. Gorgeous sunset! Hug, hug -- Evelyn

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PMRUNNER 1/13/2013 3:38PM

    That's really great, thanks for sharing! What a nice location.

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ANDYINBC 1/13/2013 3:07PM

    I can definitely appreciate why you go there so often. Great pics, great work. You have done so much and it is amazing.

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DAWN14163 1/13/2013 1:27PM

    It could be a full time job! The work you've done is fantastic - looking after your share of God's earth....great that you look after the wild animals too. I absolutely adore that sunset. Thank you so much for taking us all along with you!

emoticon emoticon

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BROOKLYN_BORN 1/13/2013 12:56PM

    How beautiful! I really admire your stonework. DH intended to do that for us (fireplace and around the foundation). After 2 years I finally hired somebody.

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MOTHER-NATURE 1/13/2013 12:03PM

    Bill I am trying not to be jealous, but I am emoticon The work you have put into this place and land is just out of this world. Just Beautiful !!!!!! Keep up the good work and I do hope you will continue to share more pictures when you can. emoticon emoticon



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~INDYGIRL 1/13/2013 11:53AM

    Beautiful! WOW! I love that you did the before and after shots to show the changes.

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JAZZEJR 1/13/2013 11:37AM

    Gorgeous!!!! And how satisfying it must be to know that you did so much of the creating yourselves. No problem getting your fitness minutes in, is it? :) Hope your wood stove is see-through glass--shouldn't hide an inch of those beautiful rocks.

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BEARGODDESS 1/13/2013 11:15AM

    How beautiful!! The work that you've put into your property is phenomenal!! Thank you so much for sharing the pictures with us!

emoticon emoticon

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FIRECOM 1/13/2013 10:58AM

    Considering what you are doing, its perfectly OK to MESS WITH TEXAS. This is beautiful and I thank you for sharing.

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SVELTEWARRIOR 1/13/2013 10:52AM

    Wow, it is beautiful!!!! Thank you so much for sharing all you do and the beautiful photos

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ARUSHING2 1/13/2013 10:37AM

  Beautiful report with great photos, thanks!

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DNRAE1 1/13/2013 10:35AM

    Wow! That is beautiful! You all have put in an enormous amount of work to make your ranch a great place to get away! Fantastic.........and thanks for the pictures.

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ARUSHING2 1/13/2013 10:27AM

  Beautiful report with great photos, thanks!

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PJ2222 1/13/2013 10:15AM

    emoticon emoticon

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Food Preserving Because You Just Want to (not because the world is ending...)

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Several of you commented on my activity feed about canning jalapeños and smoking sausage. Preserving foods for later consumption has always been a hobby of mine. It's both a way to keep food from spoiling and also a way to try the food in a different way.

When I have a garden, I always have too many tomatoes, too much okra, and a lot of extra peppers. The solution is canning. I make homemade tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes, and even salsa. I also make pickled okra and pickled peppers. Pictured below are some of the pickled jalapeños I made yesterday. I added a few of my habanero peppers, and also a little sliced carrots and onion for flavor.

The smoked sausage takes a LOT longer to make. I grind up some wild hog and venison. I also grind some beef fat to make the sausage a little tastier (the other meat has no fat and would be too dry). After adding the spices and mixing it well (using a little Shiner Bock to make it easier), I stuff the mixture into natural casings. I then smoke the meat for 12-18 hours, starting at about 110 degrees and gradually moving up to 160 degrees. If you do it too fast, all the fat melts and the sausage will be too dry. I actually don't apply the smoke until the meat has an internal temperature of 125 degrees - it adheres to the meat better once the casings have dried out a little. I continue the process until the sausage has an internal temperature of 152 degrees (safe to eat without cooking). I then take the sausage out, spray cold water on it (to keep it from shrinking), and then let it hang for an hour. Finally, I put it in the refrigerator overnight to firm it up just right. It then looks like this:

Why do I like doing all of this? Maybe it is my obsession with food (ha!). But I also just enjoy making something unique that I've done myself. It tastes great and they make excellent gifts, especially this time of year. I just have to make sure I give a lot of that sausage away so I don't eat too much myself!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

RORYLYONS 1/6/2013 12:41AM

    Brings back memories of my childhood when my mom would can tomatoes....The sausage looks very tasty. emoticon

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DAWN14163 1/1/2013 12:41PM

    It looks delicious - I'd be delighted if someone gifted me these!

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SVELTEWARRIOR 12/27/2012 1:42AM

    the food looks yummy!!!! I have to learn to can

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IMEMINE1 12/25/2012 8:09AM

    I'd love to try the canning. We're vegetarians. I should have learned it growing up but didn't. emoticon

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EJOY-EVELYN 12/24/2012 12:36AM

    My favorite Christmas gifts are ones that are homemade. Gifts from the heart. Your food looks so scrumptious! I enjoy canning three products (bread and butter pickles, pickled beets, and rhubarb conserve) using the freezer for most of my other farmer's market purchases. Hope you have a merry, merry Christmas!

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TRYINGTOLOSE64 12/23/2012 9:21PM

    I want to start canning, pretty much for the same reasons that you already do.

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Nothing Like Progress to Motivate You!

Friday, November 23, 2012

I've been feeling a little "down" after eating too much during Thanksgiving yesterday, but I got an "eye opener" this morning that helped get me back on track.

I don't normally take part in the "Black Friday" shopping, but I was awake at 3:00 AM this morning, so I decided to wait in line for an hour for a smoker I really wanted. I got the smoker (normally $329 - a limited few on sale for $179), and I also picked up 4 pairs of jeans at $9.99 each. Since the place was "crazy" with people, I decided to buy 2 of each size (38" waist and 36" waist) instead of waiting forever to try them on. I was wearing a 42" waist when I started this journey, so I figured a 38" is about right for now, and I can wear the 36" ones after I lose a little more weight. Guess what - the 36" ones fit just right! That certainly cheered up my day. I can still wear the other 2 with a belt, so I'm not going to return them. It just made me feel so good to see the progress I've made, and I'm determined not to go backwards!

While I still need to work on my choices concerning food, I'm going in the right direcion. We all "slip up" now and then, but if we just keep working at it, we can achieve anything we want to!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IMEMINE1 12/25/2012 8:10AM

    emoticon emoticon

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BITFLIPPER 12/14/2012 7:38AM

    This is GREAT news and a great feeling. I remember the first time my pants size went down. The feeling was foreign but it was inspiring and showed that change was possible. How has your patience been reinforced since learning that changes actually do happen even if you can't see them occur overnight?

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TRIPLETIGGER 11/24/2012 7:34AM

    Kudos on your success !

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ROX525 11/24/2012 6:36AM

    Glad you got your bargain on your smoker. Great job on the jeans fitting. You are really goal oriented buying jeans a size smaller. How great and you deserved to splurge on Thanksgiving. We walked into Kohl's yesterday before noon and turned around and walked out as the line was wrapped to checkout all the way to the back of the store. Have a great weekend.

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YIWEN39 11/24/2012 2:42AM

    Waouh, that's great news :-) Excellent and really motivating too! Congrats :-)
Silly question from a non American: what's a "smoker"?
Have a good weekend! emoticon

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MLKDUD 11/23/2012 11:32PM

    Overall progress matters more than one day of overeating!! Way to go. And I'm the same way, nothing motivates me more than progress!

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LYNCHD05 11/23/2012 11:04PM

    You went from a 42 to a 36 in this weight loss. I would say you are a winner! Way to go!!!!!

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SVELTEWARRIOR 11/23/2012 10:54PM

    That is a great victory!!!!!!! Good bargains too!

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BEARGODDESS 11/23/2012 7:03PM

    Fantastic NSV!!! Congratulations on getting great bargains too! (You're much braver than I am!)


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NWFL59 11/23/2012 6:47PM

    WooHoo! That is terrific about the surprise and getting your desired bargains. today I took a long walk (10 miles) and hope it helps take care of my excess eating (calorie wise) yesterday. My legs certainly knew I'd taken them for a walk and my dogs are still barking but no blisters. emoticon No shopping for me in person or even online today.

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EJOY-EVELYN 11/23/2012 6:38PM

    Three cheers for these terrific non-scale victories! So happy for your newfound celebration that leads to further progress.

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Consistency and Commitment are the Keys to Success

Saturday, November 17, 2012

We just finished week 6 of the 8-week 5% Fall Challenge. Although I never had the most weight lost for any single week, today I achieved that 5% goal and dropped 10.5 lbs during the challenge.

This accomplishment was really due to two things: consistency and commitment. I exercised hard and, for the most part, I kept my calories within my calorie range. I didn't always succeed on the calories, but looking back, I probably needed the extra calories a few times with all of the fitness activities I was doing. I also was determined to succeed - not just for myself, but also for the Teddy Bear team overall. There were many days when I really didn't feel like a lot of exercise, but I pushed myself anyway (sometimes after dark) to make sure I didn't let the team down. Perhaps my military background helped in the challenge - when you see that other team members are struggling for various reasons, you know you have to step it up meet the team objectives.

We still have two weeks to go in the challenge, and I don't plan on letting up (well maybe a little on Thanksgiving...). I hope everyone is successful in their journey to a healthier lifestyle. You can make it a reality if just commit yourself to success. I saw a great quote recently on SparkPeople:

"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." (Kenneth Blanchard)

Good luck to all of you!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

IMEMINE1 1/5/2013 8:58PM

    emoticon emoticon

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BROOKLYN_BORN 11/20/2012 10:58AM

    How did I miss this? Consistency and Committment! Congratulations! I agree about the team concept. Not wanting to let the team down and we improve ourselves in the process.

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IMIN2GENES 11/18/2012 4:03PM

    Congratulations!! I am so happy for you! That's awesome that you were able to reach your 5% goal. Thankfully I've lost weight for most of the challenges; but I've only reached my 5% once.

Thanks for sharing your success with us and giving some extra inspiration to the team!
emoticon emoticon emoticon

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NWFL59 11/18/2012 8:53AM

    Congratulations on achieving your 5% goal. I too like the quote from Blanchard. emoticon

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BOILHAM 11/18/2012 8:17AM

    I love the commitment vs. interest comment. I am so grateful for my military training as well, it did a lot to straighten out a kid who easily could have gone in the wrong direction.

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SVELTEWARRIOR 11/17/2012 1:13PM

    You are such an inspiration!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Way to go on meeting your 5%!!!!!!!!!!!

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EJOY-EVELYN 11/17/2012 10:39AM

    You're our leading Teddy Bear up the mountain and probably five percent-wise. I'm so thankful for the gift of consistency and commitment you've been given as your health will say thank you many times over. Good work! Hug, hug -- Evelyn

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BEARGODDESS 11/17/2012 10:22AM

    You've been the most AWESOME Teddy Bear of us all!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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PETUNIA102 11/17/2012 8:30AM

    Thanks for the motivation! Congratulations on your weight loss!

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Grand Canyon Hike Remembered

Saturday, November 10, 2012

As the 5% Fall Challenge makes a "virtual" trip to the Grand Canyon, I remember back to a hike I made in March of 1984 with my 10-year old son. It was a trip I'll never forget.

We were to hike down the South Kaibab trail, walk along the river, and hike back up the Bright Angel trail (15.8 miles total distance). This is a hike not recommended in a single day, but I was confident my son and I could do it with no problem.

We started out early in the morning at a comfortable temperature of 56 degrees. By the time we reached the river (almost 5,000' change in elevation), it was 82 degrees. As a former Boy Scout, I was prepared for anything that could possibly arise (or so I thought). Relaxing at the bottom with my feet in the water, I slipped on a jagged rock when I tried to stand up - leaving about a 3" cut on the bottom of my foot. No problem, I cleaned the wound, put "mole skin" around it, and covered the cut with gauze and tape.

Then we started the hike up... My sore foot made the hike very difficult and my son was actually having to wait on me in places. All of a sudden, the weather took a turn for the worse - the temperature dropped and it started to rain. No problem, I pulled out the rainjackets I brought. Then it began to hail and we had to "scrunch" under a rock ledge to keep from getting pummelled too badly. As the temperature dropped some more, the hail turned to ice and snow, and we continued our hike out. I, obviously, didn't see the weather forecast - a critical mistake on such a long hike. I had become drenched from all the wet weather, and was getting chilled as the temperature dropped below freezing. To make matters worse, I was still hiking slow from my foot injury. By the time we finally reached the top (just before dark), it was 22 degrees, and I am certain I had hypothermia - it took several hours to get warmed up - even sitting in the car with the heater on. But I felt good!

Why did I feel good? Because we had done it! Despite everything that could possibly go wrong, we still finished the hike! I learned some very valuable lessons that day. First you need to be better prepared for any difficult undertaking. Plan, plan, and plan some more. Second, it taught me a great lesson about handling challenges in life overall. Never give up when life gets tough - you may have setbacks along the way, but you can reach your goals if you just keep going. The trip may seem slow at times, but if you get there, who cares!

Good luck to all of you in your journey to a healthier lifestyle!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

KALISWALKER 4/29/2014 12:33PM

    Bill thanks for your great story. I will keep it in mind when I am preparing for a hike. On the west coast the weather can be so changeable.

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JSTETSER 5/12/2013 4:45PM

I hope to hike the Grand Canyon one day.

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IMEMINE1 12/25/2012 10:09PM

    Great blog. Great determination. Thank you.
I added you as a friend as well.
Keep Smiling.

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SHERIO5 11/28/2012 8:56AM

    Great lessons here! emoticon

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MLKDUD 11/11/2012 5:45PM

    That's an awesome blog!!!

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BROOKLYN_BORN 11/11/2012 12:52PM

    Sometimes memories of difficult situations are the best kind. This blog is very inspirational both for the way you and your son were able to overcome adversity together and for the lessons learned about dealing with challenges in life. Thank you for sharing this.

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DAWN14163 11/11/2012 12:34PM

    I read this yesterday and can't believe I didn't comment (or perhaps I pressed the wrong button - I'm a bit technically challenged!)
Anyhow, I wanted to say that it sounded like a great adventure to share with your son. Wonderful that he remembers it too! emoticon Happy memories, hey? emoticon

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EJOY-EVELYN 11/11/2012 12:22PM

    Great journey. I should do the same path down memory lane with my visits to Agra and Taj Mahal.

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SVELTEWARRIOR 11/11/2012 12:18AM

    Now that was an adventure!!!!!!!! Thank you for reminding me not to give up.

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TX_DAD 11/10/2012 9:03PM

  It's hard to believe that was almost 30 years ago. Thanks for the memory, Dad.

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PPELTON 11/10/2012 5:50PM

    Bill what an amazing adventure. I too was an Explorer scout and can relate to your hike 100%. Your ending suits OUR ability to plan and to never give up no matter what challenges we are faced with along the way.
Thank you for sharing and good luck with your virtual hike in the grand Canyon. I am sure that it will not be as amazing as the one you took in 1984!

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BEARGODDESS 11/10/2012 5:18PM

    Lol! I see a lot of similarities between your hike in the Grand Canyon and my weight loss! Lot's of set-backs and unanticipated weather changes, but we do need to keep going, no matter what. Good analogy!!
On another note: Wow! That was a wild hike!! Sounds like a Jon Krakauer book! I'm glad you and your son made it out of there in one piece, but it DOES sound like a great experience to have accomplished together!

Thanks for sharing the story with us! emoticon emoticon

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