Friday, October 29, 2004
Thursday, October 28, 2004
The plan was to go camping on Friday night with Maitlyn at Lost Valley, out near the Buffalo River. Currently, our family camping outings just involve me and Maitlyn since Elspeth is still sleeping in a crib and probably not quite ready for the tent experience. Therefore, Elise has to stay home with her. Well, Friday rolled around and it was quite rainy with severe t-storms forecast for the evening. So, we decided to improvise and camp on Saturday night. After working through the details, we decided the whole family would go to Devil's Den to hike, then Maitlyn and I would stay the night while Elise and Elspeth would drive back home.
We started out our hiking experience with a tasty burrito at our favorite local burrito haunt, The Flying Burrito, Co. for lunch. Then we drove down to Devil's Den and snagged a campsite. It was actually the last one that they had - it was a gorgeous day and the rest of the weekend promised good weather, so I guess lots of people had the camping bug as well. After setting up our tent, we all drove over to the Yellow Rock Trailhead and hiked for a few hours, enjoying the warm day and the changing leaves.
After our hike, we headed back down to our campsite to get dinner ready. The first time I took Maitlyn camping, we made Ramen Noodles (her favorite dinner at home or in camp) and hot dogs for dinner, s'mores for a snack, and pancakes for breakfast. I guess she assumes that you always eat those things when you go camping, because that was exactly what she had requested for the trip. So we cooked up the Ramen and the girls went to town on the noodles. In the meantime, I tried my best to get a fire going so we could cook the hot dogs and s'mores. Unfortunately, our wood was absolutely soaked from the previous night's downpour and I didn't really have very much kindling. So, after several frustrating attempts, I gave up on the fire. Very disappointed, I cooked the hot dogs in a pan on my stove and we roasted marshmallows over the flame of the stove. While everything tasted fine, I think my pride was wounded a bit because that was the first time that I can remember not being able to start a fire.
As we wrapped up dinner, it was already dark, so we quickly cleaned up our stuff and Elise and Elspeth took off for home. With no fire to stand around for warmth, Maitlyn and I dove into the tent to warm up in our sleeping bags. I read her a couple of books, said prayers with her and tucked her in. I then proceeded to read my "camping book" (I'm re-reading A Wrinkle In Time
I heard a few interesting things in the middle of the night. The first was a pack of coyotes. They were quite far away, but I hoped Maitlyn wouldn't wake up and get scared. Then at around 2:00 a.m., I woke up to a very loud hoot owl that seemed to be about 6.5 inches away from my head. Before I knew it, this owl was having a very lively conversation with about 3 other hoot owls who were having a rockin' party about 7 inches from my head. I was sure Maitlyn would wake up to the "hoot owl party of the year", but surprisingly, she slept right through. I considered waking her up just so she could marvel at them, but then the better part of wisdom took over and I realized that I didn't want to pack up a tent at two o'clock in the morning if she got scared by the party animals. Around 7:00 a.m., I heard a strange series of dog whines/yelps. At least that's what I thought they were at first. Then immediately after, I heard a loud buzz of conversation from the Girl Scout troop/pack/den/herd/whateverthey'recalled. After some thoughtful (or just sleepy) musings, I realized that the dog whines/yelps were probably some strange and secret Girl Scout wake up call. I felt privileged to have experienced this hidden ritual firsthand.
Maitlyn woke up with a big smile and was very stretchy and cuddly. I just had to throw that in there because she wakes up that way every morning and I think it is very endearing. Morning is one of my favorite times with the girls because they are so excited to see us and love to snuggle, tickle and play.
After a little play time, I drove her up to the visitor's center to use the bathroom. Maitlyn is scared of "pit toilets" (you know, those glorified outhouses at places like camping sites where you look down about 10 feet to a pit of human waste). I think she feels like she is going to fall in. A healthy fear, probably. On the drive over to the visitor's center, I noticed on the car thermometer that it was 43 degrees. Still quite warmer than when Elise and I were in Colorado a few weeks ago, but cold enough to make Maitlyn cold. We got back to our campsite and whipped up the pancakes quickly. Since Maitlyn was cold, we ate fast and packed up our stuff in the car. Then we took off for home.
By the time we arrived home, it had warmed up to a balmy 65 degrees.
All in all a great time. A little stressful with the fire (or lack of one) and having to pack up quickly (read: throw it all in the car as fast as possible) because of a cold 3.5 year old, but fun nonetheless. Elise and I really want our family to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors, and I think camping with them at this age really makes that a reality. Maitlyn is already asking when we can go camping again. It's also great time for me to build on my relationship with my daughter and help her know that she is special and cherished by her daddy.
by Madeline L'Engle, a classic kid's book). Maitlyn was pretty excited so she kept giggling and playing instead of sleeping, so we talked and laughed for a while. Then around 9:30, we both fell asleep (which is ridiculously early for me).
Thursday, October 21, 2004
Poker and Baseball
How's that for a guy oriented Blog topic title?
6 of the guys from community group came over to our house on Tuesday night to play poker. Specifically, "No Limit Texas Hold 'Em." It was extremely fun. Don't get me wrong, I like playing Halo as much as the next guy, but, there was something really refreshing about looking at each other's faces instead of a TV screen while playing a game. It was also good to have actual conversations while playing. I've become a new fan of poker. I think we're going to play somewhat regularly. Not every week, but at least maybe once a month.
And to the second part of the Blog title... Baseball. Anyone who knows me very well knows that I've been a lifelong fan of the Chicago Cubs. Because of that, I don't really like the St. Louis Cardinals (they are division rivals). Additionally, I'm not a fan of the NY Yankees. I'm not exactly sure why, I think it has something to do with all of those world series that they have won. I mean, come on... how many more do you need? Share the love! Anyway, the comeback by the Boston Red Sox (favorite team of Elise's brother, Nick) was phenomenal! They were down 3 games to 0 in the series against the Yankees and they came back to win the last 4 and win the series! The grand slam last night by Damon was the nail in the coffin for the Yanks. So, now tonight, I'm rooting for Houston to beat St. Louis. Anyway you slice it, I'd like to see the Red Sox win the World Series. At least that way, 1 of the 2 teams with a "curse" can move on...
Monday, October 18, 2004
Ah, fall. The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping. AND THE WEATHER FORECAST CALLS FOR MID 80'S MOST OF THIS WEEK!! Did someone forget to tell the weathermen that it is late October?!? I guess I'll have to take it up with the Creator of the weather. Arkansas is so weird sometimes.
I actually love Fall. We are really blessed with beautiful trees around Fayetteville that put on quite a show each year. If you grew up around here, you are spoiled and probably think that this is what happens everywhere each fall. Wrong. I grew up in Oklahoma, where leaves do change... to brown. That's it, 1 color.
I do yearn for a few more yellow leaves, though. A couple of years ago, we were in Chicago in early October to see U2 on their Elevation Tour, and the maples up there turn a bright shade of yellow. It was like a scene from Dead Poet's Society. And then there was our trip to the Rockies a few weeks ago. Of course, the Aspen trees turn a beautiful shade of gold (with a few orange ones sprinkled in). In Estes Park and Boulder, there are also willow trees (I think they are willows) that turn yellow. There's nothing quite so beautiful as the sun being filtered through a tree full of yellow leaves.
I've been meaning to get out and take some pictures of the leaves, but haven't made it yet. Maybe I'll have time this week. We did take the girls to a pumpkin patch on Friday and took lots of pictures of them in front of pumpkins, so hopefully some of those will turn out nice. (Until I can cough up the money for a Canon EOS-20D digital SLR, I'm still stuck with film.) We're actually in the process of replacing some of our pictures in our family room with ones that I have taken. Don't get me wrong, I love Ansel Adams as much as the next guy, but I want to start enjoying some of the fruits of my labor over the past year and a half.
I'm planning on taking Maitlyn camping this Friday. I took her camping for the first time in Colorado this summer when we were on Sabbatical. She LOVED it. She still talks about the fire, the s'mores, the pancakes, the tent, etc. Since Elspeth is still sleeping in a crib, we don't think she is ready to sleep in a tent yet, so that leaves her and Elise at home. But, as soon as she transitions to the "big girl bed", we want to start camping as a whole family. Hopefully the weather will cooperate for a nice weekend for Maitlyn and I. Then, on Saturday, Elise and Maitlyn are going to meet us and we're planning on going on a dayhike somewhere. Hopefully the leaves will be nice and the temperatures will be sub-80's...
Sunday, October 10, 2004
Texas loses again
What can I say? The score wasn't as ridiculous as last year's rout of 65-13 (yesterday's final score was 12-0). But, it always feels good to send Texas back to Austin with their tails between their legs. Bob Stoops has Mack Brown's number, I'm afraid. The highlight of the game: Adrian Peterson, who is a true freshman from Palestine, TX, ran all over Texas for 225 yards (Peterson, the #1 recruit out of HS last year turned down Texas claiming that he wanted to play for a school that "prepared their players to win championships"). On the Texas side, much-celebrated Cedric Benson only had 92 total yards. Another highlight: this was the first time Texas has suffered a shutout since November 1980 (the longest streak in the country).
It was a good day to be a Sooner.
Thursday, October 07, 2004
Wi-Fi in the Wilderness, part 2
So we hung out in Boulder Friday morning, then grabbed lunch at another of our favorite restaurants, Noodles & Co. Then we drove back up to Estes Park. We drove via a new route which took us through Boulder Canyon (with a cool stop at Boulder Falls). Then through Nederland, CO and up the "Peak to Peak Highway" to Estes Park, CO. Along the way we drove through some light snow. After arriving in Estes Park, we stopped by the Laundromat to dry a few of our clothes so that we could wear them over the next two days in the cold weather.
We drove back into Rocky Mountain National Park and stopped for a while to watch the Elk bugle and graze. Then we camped at Moraine Park - it stopped raining just as we were about to set up our tent. It was a nice last night in the National Park - clear and cold with a bright moon.
On Saturday, we decided to dayhike a short loop past Dream Lake, Lake Haiyaha, and Mills Lake. About 8 miles in all. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine. The only exception was the brief rain/sleet storm we encountered at Mills Lake. It seems like EVERY time we are there it rains or sleets on us. Something about the nature of the gorge it is located in.
After getting off of the trail, we drove up to the Weissman home for showers. After cleaning up, we hung out with their family (Wayne & Patti have 4 children, but Patti and their oldest daughter, Rachel were in Toronto where Rachel will be attending school this year). Joseph and I played guitar together while Avi looked on. Celia showed Elise her new room (she gets her own room now that Rachel has moved out). Then we drove down pole hill a bit to visit with our friends Hondo and Trish Winn. Hondo is also on staff with Ravencrest Chalet, in addition to being an avid outdoorsman and snowboarder. He proceeded to show me his new avalanche beacon he bought in preparation for his backcountry snowboarding adventures while Elise and Trish caught up on each others' lives. We had actually ran into Trish earlier that morning when she was in the National Park hiking with a friend from her school (she is a teacher in Estes Park).
Then it was off to one of our favorite restaurants in Estes Park - Sweet Basilico Cafe. It's a tiny little Italian restaurant that serves incredible made from scratch food. It literally has only about 10 tables! So, needless to say, reservations are a must.
Sunday morning, I had breakfast with Wayne (Weissman) and his son Joseph, then as their family headed off to church, we packed up and took off for home. We had to make a quick stop at Safeway in Boulder for some Henry Weinhard's Root Beer, then over to Chipotle for a great big burrito. Then hit the highway. We arrived in OKC around 1:00 a.m., and went straight to bed.
We woke up the next morning to greet our girls who were very glad to see us. Then back home to Fayetteville. It wasn't exactly the trip that we had planned for a few weeks ago, but completely refreshing nonetheless. Even though we had to improvise a bit, we still had a terrific time.
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
As Promised--Backpacking from the Perspective of a Novice
Before our trip, I had never packed a backpack, assembled a tent or filtered water. For me our trip was all about learning the ropes. I can't think of a better teacher than Brett, and I can't think of any place I'd rather be "broken in" than the beautiful Rocky Mountains, so while I was learning how to set up camp, pack up camp and fend off bears, I got to enjoy some of the most beautiful scenery imaginable.
As you probably read in Brett's blog, we didn't get to camp in the backcountry as much as we had planned. Originally, we were supposed to spend Tuesday through Saturday on the trail, in the back country. The way it worked out, we spent Tuesday in Moraine Park campground, Wednesday in the back country, Thursday in a hotel in Boulder, and Friday in Moraine Park again. I wish I could have gotten a feel for the routine of true backpacking, and I wish that I could have had some quiet, restful moments at our backcountry campsite to pray, sit and soak it all in, but with the crazy weather and new plans being made every day that didn't happen. But God is good--I still got to enjoy some great hikes and some sweet time with Brett.
What I learned: 1. Dehydrated backpacking food is actually pretty good if you buy the right things.--Our favorites are from "Mary Jane's Farm". 2. Don't drink a whole Nalgene of kool aid before going to bed, especially if it's cold and rainy outside. 3. A campfire makes a big difference in your camping experience, especially in cold weather. 4. No one actually forcasts weather for Rocky Mountain National Park, you just have to make an educated guess based on the forecast of nearby towns (which might be 2000 to 3000 feet lower in elevation than where you're going) 5. Sheltered campsites are good. 6. Packing up camp in the snow/rain isn't much fun, but it can be done. 7. Hiking downhill has it's merits at the time, but it sure makes your shins sore the next day. 8. If you taunt the elk in the National Park, the rangers will call you down. (No, we didn't do that, but we saw it happen.)
A few years ago, in Yeposo, Mexico someone on our team said, "This is just like camping indoors." Now that I've experienced camping, I totally concur.
My favorite sights: 1. Lake Haiyaha--A beautiful lake with absolutely huge boulders spilling into it. It's in a place called Chaos Canyon, aptly named because of all the boulders that have rolled/fallen/tumbled down over the years. To get to the lake, you have to scramble across lots of boulders and if you look down in the right places, you can see the lake water between some of them. Completely cool. 2. The aspens--beautiful yellow against the dark greeen pines, spruces and firs. Spots of brilliant color that you can see as you gaze at the mountainscape from a distance. 3. Majestic bull elk sitting like kings guarding their harems. (Sorry, that's what they're called.) 4. A beautiful sunny day (our last day in Colorado), blue sky and all the tallest mountains in the park with distinct white caps on them.
Tuesday, October 05, 2004
Returning Home is Complicated
Later I'd like to blog about our Colorado adventures from a novice backpacker's point of view, but for now I'll limit my comments to our return home. Returning home from any trip of one day or more is always such a challenge. First of all, I am now a day behind in my weekly routine.--Monday is normally grocery day, and Tuesday is library day, as Maitlyn can tell you.--So today had to be grocery day, and all of Tuesday's usual chores will now move on to Wednesday. Plus, there's the usual extra laundry. (My sweet mom did wash all the kids clothes before she sent them home, though.)--These things, of course, are a small price to pay for a trip to Colorado.
The hardest thing about returning, by far, is helping the kids adjust back to life in the Harkey home. They had a great time at my parent's house, but it's just hard for them to be away from mom and dad--and in some ways, it's hard for them to come back to mom and dad. To start with, Elspeth now insists on calling me "Grammy". All day for the past two days she has called me Grammy. I'm not offended by it, but it just makes me sad that she needed Grammy to take the place of Mommy while I was away. Elspeth also doesn't want to be away from me, so putting her down for a nap or to go to sleep involves much weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Maitlyn has done better, I suppose, but today in the middle of lunch, she burst into tears for no reason. Then she had to go to time out because she spit out some food she didn't want on the floor. It took probably 45 minutes to get her calmed down and happy after that series of events. Before we left on our trip (last Sunday), Maitlyn asked me in the car, "Why don't you want me and Elspeth to go with you to Colorado?" I explained that some hiking trails are difficult and only grown ups can go on them and that mommy and daddy were going to hike on the hard trails. I think she understood that, but still that was a hard question to hear.
On the practical front, I am having to wean the girls from a constant diet of children's television and take out food. Maitlyn asked me today, "What is a special day?" This question was her way of instigating a conversation about going to Sonic on special days and how she thought other days besides Sunday could possibly be special days that we could go to Sonic. (Sonic is our Sunday treat.)
While we were away, I had two very vivid dreams about the girls. Both of them involved the girls being left unsupervised or uncared for. In the second one, I left the girls with a babysitter, and she left them alone at the house for two hours because she had to leave for another commitment.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that my children are scarred for life, and I don't think it was wrong or unwise to leave them with my parents while Brett and I vacationed. In fact, I believe it's valuable for the girls to spend time with their grandparents. And more than that, I think the time that Brett and I shared was important and vital to the health of our family. Leaving our kids is not without it's costs. We can't and won't do it all the time. We generally spend a couple of weeks away from them each year--once for a Brett and Elise only vacation and once for Mission to Mexico.
So, I am hoping that our transitions the rest of this week will go smoothly, that our girls will adjust, and that I'll finish my laundry before Saturday.
Friday, October 01, 2004
So now they have Wi-Fi in the wilderness. . .
So we left Oklahoma City on Monday morning and about the time we pull into the toll booth in Wichita, I get this really sharp, intense pain in my back. I just thought it was some strange pain that would go away in a few minutes, but in fact, I must have strained my back doing something stupid earlier in the day and it decided to manifest itself right then while sitting in the car. This one wasn't as painful as the episode I had last year (almost to the day) before we had our first service in the Dickson Theater, but painful nonetheless. Well, since we were getting ready to go BACKpacking the next day, I was a bit concerned. The big question loomed... Continue on to Colorado and hope it gets better or turn around and hang around Oklahoma or Arkansas for a week of vacation?
We decided to continue. It was a painful ride, but not unbearable. I took LOTS of advil, hoping to lessen the swelling and Elise drove a bit more than her requisite half of the trip. After a quick stop at REI in Denver, we continued on to Estes Park to stay at the home of the Weissman's. They were out of town on vacation, but graciously offered us a bed anyway. (On a side note, Wayne is the director of a bible school called Ravencrest Chalet). We decided we would choose our course of action after a good night's sleep, so we prayed that God would heal my back and hit the sack.
Tuesday morning, we woke up and my back did indeed feel much better. Still stiff, but it looked like I would be ok. We had talked to the rangers at the backcountry office of Rocky Mountain National Park, and determined that the original trail we had wanted to do wouldn't be prudent since it went above treeline along the Continental Divide on one day and there was quite a bit of snow up there. So based on that and my healing back, we decided to dayhike on Tuesday and car camp that night at the Moraine Park campground. Walking without a pack didn't hurt my back, so that would give it one more day to heal. We hiked up to one of our favorite lakes - The Loch (see a previous blog post for a picture of this beautiful lake). The Aspens were gorgeous! They change color from high elevations down to low elevations, so the ones up high were already past their prime and the ones down low were still green. But the ones in the middle were a brilliant yellow with some orange. I can't explain their beauty - maybe I'll post some pictures some time next week. We then camped and listened to the Elk bugling through the evening hours (in the fall, the Elk participate in what is called the Fall Mating Rut, where the bulls make this loud high pitched bugling sound and fight for the rights to mate with a herd of cows). I also got some great pictures of a couple of bull elk locking horns, so I'll post those later too.
Wednesday, my back was pretty much healed! Praise God! He really did answer our prayers. We got our permits at the backcountry office, rode the shuttle bus to the Bear Lake trailhead, then hiked up towards Notchtop Mountain and Ptarmigan Cirque on our way to Lake Odessa. It began to get cold and rainy as we got up high near Notchtop, but we certainly enjoyed the views of the Ptarmigan glaciers and the majestic mountains. We then turned to the north and hiked down to Lake Odessa. We camped and ate a yummy meal of Pesto Pasta with Chicken under a big tree, then dove into our tent to get away from the rain. We played some cards, then hit the sack.
The rain subsided at around 4:00 a.m. early Thursday morning. Then a little later I began to hear this fierce wind. However, our tent was barely shaking since our camping spot was quite sheltered. At 8:00 a.m., I unzipped the tent door to see that it was snowing! Sideways! We were in the midst of quite a snowstorm. It was just beginning to stick to the trees and the ground, so we decided to pack up quick and hightail it on out of there. We packed up all of our wet gear (there's nothing quite so fun as packing up a wet tent fly), and continued on our trail past Fern Lake. As we dropped in elevation, the snow turned to rain. We had lunch at Fern Falls, then hiked past The Pool and on to the Fern Lake trailhead. Our original plan wasn't to exit at that trailhead, we were originally going to go to the Upper Mill Creek campsite, then on to the Glacier Gorge campsite, but we weren't sure of what the weather was going to do, so we decided to hike out and plan accordingly. We rode the bus to our car, then headed into Estes Park to call our girls and get some Starbucks Coffee.
After looking at the weather forecast, we realized that the worst snow would be that night (Thursday). So, we adjusted our plans and got a hotel on priceline.com in one of our favorite towns, Boulder, CO. We cleaned up, layed our gear out to dry and got some yummy food at one of our new favorite restaurants, BD's Mongolian Barbeque. Then back to the hotel for some shuteye. And of course, I am composing this blog from our hotel room.
This morning, we are packing back up with plans to head back to Estes Park and camp tonight, hike again tomorrow. It is supposed to snow today there, but taper off in the afternoon. We'll let you know more in the next post...