Current River Mood

Well, we just survived a four…five… almost a whole week blizzard and now another week of horrible wind chills… thank you winter storms Diaz and Elliot. Followed by another round of snow. We needed the moisture but I’m so over four-foot drifts and slick roads.

So. Much. Snow.

I was teleworking from home for some of it, but Hunter is at the age where if you take your eyes off him or leave him to his own devices the dogs wind up a different color and there’s a slight possibility, he will figure out the child locks and escape… so work became interesting— I really wish we had gecko level eyes because that would have been handy.

He did figure out the front door and screen door, plus how to put his snow boots on the correct feet and decided to come help mom clear snow before work instead of eating his waffle bites. Mom is just glad she heard a scraping sound and looked over to see a shovel levitating. He was in sweats, but it was much too cold for him to be out in that type of weather.

Mom didn’t want to be out in it either and she was dressed appropriately.

Anyways the next day winter storm Diaz hit, and it’s been a winter wonderland (aka we were stuck at home). My husband did brave the elements and went to work. He got stuck the first day near his workplace and the next day he didn’t make it a block from home. He decided to stay home that day.

Then when Elliot hit, he was stuck in Cody, Nebraska for most of the day and then decided to drive home with a coworker. The idiot. They made it back safely, but they are still idiots.

Hello Winter Storm Elliot… my dogs are idiots that like winter and hate booties.

After the first day, I started dipping into my SAD moments. Normally, I’m not there until end of January/February. However, we just got back from southern Missouri for a hunting/late Thanksgiving/ early Christmas trip.

I was missing my old Missouri home and my folks and then the weather decided to make it a trifecta. I’m grateful my husband has a willing ear and makes me feel better even when my brain decides to go off trail. I did think ahead and stocked up on vitamin d and ordered a new UV light, but the blizzard delayed it.

So what better way to combat SAD and cold weather? Reminisce about warmer weather and other fun trips!

Since I’ve been procrastinating writing about my summer trip home (and other trips) what better time than when you’re staring at four walls while attempting to keep clothes on a little heathen that only wants to go outside.

I like this…

I’ve mentioned that this year, like last year, went off the rails because of the amount of work I was doing. I love my job, but the last two years were, putting it mildly, rough. Short staffing was a problem everywhere, but we managed. The three of us there were all burned out, but we managed. Late last summer, we finally managed to be back to almost full staff— we’re just one short now.

However, mid-summer we were finally able to get summer help and Covid restrictions had lifted. Finally, I was able to travel for work. I was itching for a vacation and due to some planning, I was able to take two weeks away from my day job— one week to go back to Missouri and then go on to the work-related training in West Virginia.

It worked out for Wade and Hunter to come with me for the first leg! We kicked off our trip by going to my mom’s family reunion on the Oklahoma/Kansas boarder. Then a day in Springfield, Missouri visiting Bass Pro and taking the tour through the aquarium and museum.

I think Wade had more fun at times at Bass Pro

Then it was quick jaunt to the eastern side of the state and my old stomping grounds!

We got in and settled at our cabin for the rest of the week. It would be jam packed trip. I normally don’t get to go anywhere “fun” during the summer, and this was Wade’s second summer trip down. I will say he enjoyed accommodations that had air conditioning this trip. Our last trip down, we camped in June. He didn’t understand my concerns about humidity until that weekend. He now totally understands why I like Nebraska summers.

Aside from doing fun summer things, like floating and hiking, I had a mission– drop off books for JP Brand Books. I might do something similar the next trip down or see if I can set up a “pop-up” bookstore somewhere in Van Buren or Winona.

JP Brand Books! Albert holding the book he wrote, Big Boy!

I didn’t plan a lot of hikes this trip because it was summertime and I wanted to take Wade down the Current River.

The day was planned– we would start at the Landing. The Landing is a Van Buren institution and a leading service in the thriving canoe business along the Current River.

It was already warm– humid– and I was itching to get in the water. But the joy of canoeing is usually you have to drive a little way to get to the launch point.

Since we were staying in Van Buren, The Landing is “right there,” and it was Wade’s first time– I picked a trip on the Lower Current, Waymeyer to The Landing/Highway 60 bridge. I’m fonder of and think the Jacks Fork and the Upper Current is more scenic and fun (technical) this section has its merits and it’s a good starting point for first timers (less rootwads/strainers, aka trees in the water). While Wade is a kayaker and fishermen, I was throwing him in a tandem canoe for the first time.

I only joked about tipping him intentionally– although, we did have an incident with a tree…

We hung out at the Landing’s beach for a while waiting for our bus to take us upriver. We didn’t bother bringing our own gear because we had been talking about getting a canoe for the family and this is an easy way to test out if that was actually feasible or if we should just stick to our own boats.

Since I do have experience with my day job with canoes both solo and tandems I would be in the back of the boat. Luckily, Wade didn’t fight me on it because again he knows I have the experience. And he knew I wanted him to just take in the river and not worry about doing a lot.

Fun fact, there are a lot of jokes about divorce attorneys sponsoring canoe outfitters because of what goes down in canoes. Usually– in my lifetime experience living on a river and working as a river ranger– it’s not the canoe, but the controlling aspects of both parties involved. If you think you are the best at everything– a canoe will humble you, especially if you’ve never set foot in one before. However, if your first time stepping into one is with a spouse, somehow it becomes the other person’s fault.

I also want to point out that it’s a learned experience not an innate “I know how it works…” some things will make it easier to pick up, understanding balance, listening to suggestions, etc. but canoeing is doing and doing it a lot.

Once again, my PSA: like riding horses, if you have never been bucked off you haven’t done it enough. Same with flipping or almost flipping a canoe/kayak/SUP. And usually, most flips or near misses happen in the first fifteen minutes.

Our tree incident happened in the first twenty minutes.

Again, the Lower Current usually has fewer downed trees in the water. It’s wider, there are some beautiful bluffs, and lots of gravel bars. However, trees do wind up in the channels due to flooding in the spring.

I will own up to the fact I was looking at a turtle– because turtles are cool. I knew we were coming up on a spot that was cutting back due the tree– the current will find its way around obstacles, sometimes under or through them which is the danger with rootwads/strainers. Quick note, I grew up in the Ozarks hearing them referred to as rootwads. Upon moving to Nebraska and becoming an American Canoe Association Instructor the more mainstream term is strainers. I use both because why not?

Yes, I just dropped in this post that I have experience in canoes and I’m an instructor– or was until I let it lapse during maternity leave– while telling a story about a near canoe wreck. Why? Because complacency and inattentiveness can also happen to experienced people and that’s why it’s important to not only wear your life jacket but also have everyone looking out. For both beginners and lifelong enthusiasts.

We also weren’t wearing life jackets– I should have asked for them, I honestly expected them to be in the boat hence why I didn’t bring my own. However, since we were adults, and the only requirement is a flotation device in the vessel we had two of the type III flotation aids– aka cushions.

Anyways– I was distracted by a turtle. Wade asked “Hey we’re coming up on this down tree pretty fast. What do I need to do?”

Insert shocked Pikachu face.

I looked up and realized we didn’t have enough time to really avoid it, but I kept us from going head on into it and getting flipped. I had to “walk” us down by using said tree as a rope to get us out from under the branches. After that I stayed focused or at least told Wade– hey I’m going to take some photos if you see a rock or a tree coming up– even if it’s way downstream let me know.

Turtles.

It was fun eating lunch on a gravel bar and tell Wade a little bit about growing up on this river. The Niobrara, where we live now, is sand based and while it’s very similar, the majority of the Current River is held by the NPS (Ozark National Scenic Riverways), unlike the Niobrara. What I like about the Current and Jacks Fork is you can hike more while you’re floating. Except in the section we were floating for this trip– there is the gap surrounding Van Buren and Eminence where the land along the river is privately held. One of the other reasons I don’t care for this section because there is a lot of development and houses– which is fine, just not what I want when I want to experience the river and nature.

It was only a three-hour trip and at one point I started singing the theme to Gilligan’s Island because it’s southern Missouri. It’s humid. We hit a thunderstorm.

I noticed the clouds forming up while we were eating lunch– again my day job bleeding through. I managed to get Wade back in the boat– he was trying to recover phone that some floaters noticed on the bottom. The Current and Jacks has some of the clearest water and you can see down to the bottom in some of the deep holes. I was hopeful we could outrun the storm.

Right… we didn’t outrun it.

We stopped on the bank to wait out the initial thunder and lightning, then pushed on for the last bit to get out of the rain.

Wade wants to go again and check out a different section which makes me happy. He’s also down with us getting a tandem or three-person canoe for the family. I’m so excited!

I cut together this very choppy video that I posted to my YouTube and TikTok– yes, I doom scroll TikTok instead of writing blog posts… I’m sorry. I also checked out Big Spring (for the like 1 millionth time) * one of the largest springs in the United States! It usually ranks as third largest with a spring in Florida and one in Idaho that, depending on drought conditions, are larger.

Current River Adventure!

*I probably haven’t seen it that many times, but I did grow up there taking field trips to Big Spring for school a lot. Then I worked there hiking around the spring and general area for nearly eight years… plus I visit nearly every time I go home. It’s a lot.

**I also want to remind folks that both the movie and book Deliverance took place in Georgia. In the book, it’s the fictional Cahulawassee River. In the movie, they filmed on the Chattooga River and Tallulah Gorge. While people in the Ozarks do play banjos, usually for comedic timing, this was not where the movie or book were created/filmed. I also don’t think the poor folks in Georgia should be so maligned as well.

Keep wandering,

BJ

“I am haunted by waters.” — Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories.

Havasupai Gardens

Hi all!

I’m still taking my time writing my posts from this summer, float trip on the Current River in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways and day hikes in Glacier National Park. However, this announcement from Grand Canyon National Park caught my interest and I wanted to post an update about my first overnight backpacking trip that started this whole blog! Here is the first of three posts about the backpacking trip.

Campground in desert setting, two shaded picnic tables to the right and two tents to the left.
Havasupai Gardens Campground. NPS Photo

On November 21, 2022, it was announced that the U.S. Board of Geographic Names voted unanimously (19-0) to change Indian Garden to Havasupai Gardens honoring a formal request from the Havasupai Tribe to the National Park Service. The National Park Service formally submitted the request to the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.

I think the original name, Ha’a Gyoh would have been more appropriate, but Havasupai Gardens will enlighten folks to the history of the Havasupai Nation and the history within Grand Canyon National Park.

Looks like I’ll need to plan a return trip to update my pictures…and paddle the Colorado River.

Keep wandering,

BJ

Time Flies When You’re (not) Having Fun

Open’s an eye and looks around– is summer over yet?

Almost. Time officially got away from me. Most of that is due to taking on a temporary promotion at work and having more duties as assigned. It’s starting to slow done but the ride isn’t over yet.

Vacation in the Ozarks— Current River style.

Other than job related training and a week off in Missouri (to stave off burnout– which didn’t work) I really haven’t done much. I put my weight loss/fitness stuff on the backburner. Grad school on the backburner, writing on the backburner, all my hobbies– back burner.

This blog– the grill out back…

Which is sad because I was posting pretty regularly up until I took on more duties because of how short staffed we were. On top of the IT stuff I had already taken on I honestly didn’t want to stare at a computer all day and then another couple hours on top of that. So I avoided screens and neglected the blog, social media, etc.

What’s even sadder? I took on management level duties. I haven’t been outside, on the river, all summer except for a handful of days. Four days out of an entire summer.

I don’t want to be in management– maybe in another five-ten years but not right now. I like being in the field, I like being only slightly in the office. My office, as far as I’m concerned, is in a canoe.

This led to a slight argument with my husband– who thinks I’m capable and should be in the management position. I mean, don’t get me wrong, the paycheck and ability to shape programming would be fun but I would rather be outside.

You don’t get outside all that much if you’re management.

However, I will say the experience taught me well and I know I can, in fact, do the job.

The other sliver lining– I finally got to travel for work again. I did two work trips that led to a few day hikes. The first one was SWIM (Swiftwater Incident Management training), which was hard but rewarding and the other was Dark Sky Academy. I can now save people in swiftwater incidents and give them a star program later that night. I did get to go to two new places, New River Gorge National Park and Glacier National Park.

I didn’t have a lot of free time at New River– I spent the evenings recovering from the days almost drownings– it was a part of the training and totally controlled. At Glacier I did have a little more downtime and not as much exertion, so I did a lot of day hikes. I’ll do a little post about those day hikes in the near future. I did make some videos and posted some photos already on my Instagram and TikTok from GNP because that was easy and didn’t require me staring at a blank page internally screaming “write something, dammit!” and then procrastinating since this is for fun and not work/school related.

The really good news is that we now are only short one full time staff member and we once again have a management team (that I am not on— thank you universe). I will be sliding back into my normal tour of duty and hopefully *soon* I will turn over IT to someone else.

Then I won’t be staring, troubleshooting, or contemplating destroying computers all day and I might actually write more for my blog and a few other writing projects I’ve been working on.

Aside from work, Hunter is now a whirlwind of activity and isn’t afraid of nature, urban surroundings, or snakes… this child is chaos and while I’m exhausted I’m having the best time of my life watching him learn new things.

As I mentioned, I will be posting about day hikes in Glacier– I will also make a post about my Missouri trip where I took my husband down the Current River for is first ever Ozark’s float trip… no there were not banjos playing in the bank…

Hunter checking out the Current!

Here’s to fighting burnout, surviving the summer, and new beginnings!

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Go for a walk it helps with stress.

Wintertime Blues

Hi all,

I’m finally over the cough from hell— just took antibiotics.

Well, I did slip into a SAD episode. My mental health is jumping up and down—before screaming and faceplanting on the floor, mimicking my toddler.

I know the steps to take but it’s hard to pull yourself out of the slump. I try to take extra vitamin d, find the sun in the clouds, and trying to stay active. But when you have nearly a week of beautiful weather and then you turn around to negative numbers and snow it messes with you.

I’ve just felt overwhelmed the last few weeks- it’s been a slow build; being sick, dealing with everything going on in the world, and catching up with work I find myself dealing with executive disfunction. I know what I need to do, I have the list, I want to do the steps on my list, but my brain is like, “nah— we are going to stare aimlessly and make you panic more.”

My normal tricks for getting my brain to restart are not totally working this time. Plus, I got sucked into TikTok drama going on— which normally, I somehow manage to miss completely or only hear about it like a week later. It’s weird for me to catch social trends in “real” time. I managed to go a little longer than a decade, something I’ll be talking about in a future video on YouTube, not getting sucked into the drama of influencers. Not this time. I got a front seat courtesy of my for you page. Two observations from the Chelsea/Lance drama.

  1. Wait to comment or post until the third day.
  2. People do not understand intersectionality and refuse to look at nuances; in favor of their preferred creator (biases).
  3. Bonus observation: major creators are performative at best and malicious at worst when it comes social issues.
  4. Major takeaway: the fact that a Native woman was dragged into the mess (she was not involved other than one of her videos had been reposted by Lance), harassed, and had her account banned was astounding. Chelsea did her dirty and didn’t take accountability for how her followers attacked her and how Anne Marie argued and gaslighted Witchtwitchy and both disregarding that she didn’t want to be tagged, “sent followers,” or promoted on their channels. She just wanted an apology for how larger creators created a storm that would affect all of NativeTok– and her channel in particular. *crickets,* increased harassment of Native women creators, and eventual banning of Witchtwitchy…
  5. Also: this made it harder for SA survivors to tell their stories without more questions and dismissals.

I stand by my, “if you have to self promote your good deeds– you’re not doing it for the right reason.”

Being a basic human being and advocating for rights of others is not a stepping stone to influencer status. Making a statement on social media but doing questionable content for mutuals and on other social media platforms– and not putting your money where your mouth is and only doing photo-ops that make you look good– is performative activism to validate your “platform” and build an audience. It doesn’t actually change anything.

I’m hoping in the coming weeks the weather will improve but I think I’m overdue for a hike and unplugging from social media for a few days (maybe weeks).

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Please read Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall, as a white woman I need more education on the nuances and intersectionality in feminism and so do others– especially, before jumping into a internet debate or you know real life debates.

Wannabe on the Trail: Germ Theory…

It’s not what you think. Well, it kind of is…

To begin, germ theory according to Britannia.com is, “germ theory, in medicine, the theory that certain diseases are caused by the invasion of the body by microorganisms, organisms too small to be seen except through a microscope.”

It’s pretty spot on if you ask me.

Since having and recovered from Covid, I now have a cough that I have decided as come from Purgatory because it’s never going to end!!

Dramatic? Yes— I am channeling my toddlers emotional range dealing with this. I was just sick and wanted a little longer to “feel normal” before dealing with another round of any thing.

However, germ theory has reared it’s head and decided to remind me it’s never over.

Now this cough sucks— I pulled a muscle in my side coughing in my sleep, sucks. Went to the doctor and ruled out a reemergence of Voldemort in viral form. And because my boss and coworker had it, influenza. It wasn’t, but it’s definitely upper respiratory infection level stuff so I got meds— yay! Let’s just make those germs stronger…

I could probably let it run it’s course but pulling a muscle coughing in your sleep leads to breaking ribs the same way.

I digress.

Since it didn’t seem to come from work that leaves me with another potential patient zero.

A cute, adorable patient zero.

So… I have a child. He’s cute. He’s cuddly. He has massive tantrums— whole nine yards.

He also goes to daycare.

He gets exposed to everything from germs to the proper way to throw his shoes across the room courtesy of the older kids.

I don’t mind him going to daycare— the provider is great, the kids socialize really well, and I can work a job that provides quit well with benefits.

It also has the added benefit that my kid will be immune to everything when he’s older because in my 33 years I don’t remember being sick as often as I am now.

Germ theory at work or the delusions of the person that just coughed themselves awake and pulled a muscle? You be the judge.

Keep wandering— and thinking of healthy things,

BJ

Wannabe on the Trail: Wannabes and Posers

Mom I wannabe watching cartoons… on your new phone!

Hi all– I’m still trying to get back into the swing of things. But I’m still wheezing a little and it’s cold outside–I’m so weak. However, I watched the new Netflix special Inventing Anna.

I really don’t understand my fasciation with millennial fraudsters but I’m going to to talk about it anyways– I’m actually creating a couple of commentary videos for YouTube were I talk about being a lost millennial that, while I paid attention to the news from 2006-2019, I didn’t really pay attention to social media. Which is where most of the millennial fraudsters thrived.

Now, I can’t say I was living under a rock— maybe a cave—and while I had Facebook, Instagram, and so on I didn’t live on there like most of my generation. I’ve touched on my lack of insight in previous posts so I won’t bore you with the details.

However, the sliver lining that was caused by the lockdowns during the height of the pandemic and being pregnant I binged watched a lot of YouTube videos that covered everything while I was living in my cave– From Trisha Paytas to Onision I discovered a lot of what I missed ignoring social media over the years. I also watched the documentaries about Billy McFarland, Anna Delvey, Elizabeth Holmes, Beanie Babies, and the list literally keeps going.

Fyre Fraud, rapper scams, Theranos, Anna Sorokin/Delvey, what an exciting time for con artists…

While I plan on touching on it more in my YouTube videos, Anna’s case kind of fascinates me for several reasons.

The confidence to pull this off– like I have confidence but I don’t have “con” fidence.

The flash of money and the perceived wealth caused a breakdown of basic business practices– from hotels to banks. Which is honestly one of the reasons why people are making her part of the zeitgeist– we don’t mind corporations being made a fool of– but the law will still go after fraud for them…

The case of Rachel Williams– which I think was horrible but also at what point do you say no? I think Rachel saw a way to elevate herself and live the life most women on Instagram would like. However, while I do think what happened to her was criminal– I have hesitations. I listened to her audiobook, My Friend Anna, and a few things stood out to me with the Marrakech trip. It started with the plane tickets, then food, then shopping, then the room, then the events at the gardens… I know Anna said she would pay her back but if you can’t get me a working credit card to book your flights I’m not offering…

Which leads to one of the few things I agreed with Anna’s lawyer was she played the wrong role in trial. Had Rachel came in and said the facts of the case without being emotional, or framing it as the worse thing that ever happened to her, it might have gone different with the jury. Especially, when Todd (Anna’s lawyer) cross examined and pointed out the book, talk shows, and speaking deals that made back the $62,000 and then some– painting her as similar to Anna.

I also think a lot of the Rachel hate is because most people can relate to being her– we don’t have the “con”findence that Anna has but we could definitely ride someone’s coattails and be the victim to a confidence game. Even if we don’t think we could/would, we identify with her and her motivations in a way that hits close to home and we don’t want to “be” that person.

Also, if you ever get a chance to watch HBO’s Generation Hustle or even the American Greed episode about Anna, compare Anna’s lawyer to the way he’s portrayed in Inventing Anna— they make him a lot more likable in the Netflix show…

The biggest one is how they called her a “wannabe socialite.” I would argue that she was a poseur over a wannabe. I know to a degree those words are interchangeable but let’s look at the definitions.

Wannabe:

  1. (Noun) a person who tries to be like someone else or to fit in with a particular group of people.
  2. (Adjective) aspiring or wanting to be a specified type of person.

Poseur:

  1. a person who tries to impress others by behaving affectedly
  2. A person who strikes an attitude or assumes a pose in order to impress others.
  3. A person who assumes or affects a character, manner, sentiment, etc., in order to impress others.

This also leads to a discussion over if she’s a poser or a poseur…

Poser:

  1. A puzzling or baffling question
  2. a person who poses

And Anna is by far a puzzle and there are a lot of baffling questions.

I won’t get to much farther into this because I want to save a lot of it for the video but– Anna Sorokin wasn’t clinging to others to be a socialite– she affected a character, Anna Delvey, and posed as a socialite. I would argue that Rachel Williams was the wannabe in this particular situation.

I can speak to the wannabe aspects of this– it’s my brand, the Wannabe Backpacker, after all. I’m not posing as a backpacker in order to get more clicks and likes. I’m still stuck in the wannabe category. I think a lot of people are wannabes to certain degrees. However, there are some out there that are poseur’s. In fact, I would guess most influencers are to varying degrees.

Keep being a wannabe,

BJ

Wannabe on the Trail: SAD, Sick, and on the Mend

I don’t really have a lot to say but I figured I better do an update! Coivd sucked– I’m glad I had the vaccine. I did better than my husband (unvaxxed) but it still sucked. I still feel exhausted from it.

However, I’m doing better and starting to get active again. It’s slow going though– the Covid lined up perfectly for setting off my usual SAD dip I have. It set me back on some of my goals for the month and ultimately the year.

Namely, starting my workout routine and creating some new content.

Now that I’m feeling human again and have some of my willpower back I will be moving forward!

I will say my day job helped nip some of the SAD in the bud. We did an ice fishing clinic and Wade brought my little dude out to play on the ice. It was a good day!

Keep Wandering,

BJ

P.S. One of the volunteers had fun “walking” Hunter on the ice.

Enjoying the day!

Whelp… it’s Covid

Even the dogs are in quarantine… joking.

No adventurous moments for me for 10 days… not that I was feeling adventurous in the slightest the last few days.

Although, this time I feel worse— I had just brought a small human into the world when I was diagnosed the first time.

Looks like flashback posts for the future. Although, I might try out some recipes I found for backpacker meals.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. where did I put my mug this time… the freezer because my brain isn’t firing.

Wannabe on the Trail: Home Sick

I’m not homesick, I’m literally home sick.

I’m getting a Covid test tomorrow but the last couple of days have been rough.

Being home sick, normally means I’m comatose on the couch. Not this time! Now that I’m a mother— I don’t get that option.

He’s also running a fever so he’s home with me. There are cute moments of both of us cuddled on the couch taking comfort from each other.

Cuddle date!

Then, because he’s a toddler with endless energy that recharges insanely fast— I’m exhausted.

Cute toddler that babbles and makes racket. Somehow because of the fever and I sit down in a somewhat comfy position closes my eyes for a moment…

Abrupt silence.

Panicked moment.

Adorable evil little grin.

Destroyed house.

Yep, everything is fine.

Actually, everything is fine. He only managed to pull the books and movies off the entertainment stand but I’m so glad we have baby fences everywhere cause this kid is wicked smart.

Sadly, by the end of the day I’m ready to crawl into bed and not leave. I do a little teleworking to stay caught up on emails and other stuff. But I haven’t been up for creating content, planning posts, or really anything that doesn’t mean I get to contemplate the back of my eyelids.

Although, I did catch How I Met Your Father and two episodes in and I’m loving it… hopefully it holds up (and surpasses the ending) of the OG show.

Here’s to feeling better!

Keep wandering (hopefully I’ll be wandering next week),

BJ

Wannabe on the Trail: Inspired by LOTRs

Well, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings inspired a lot of my life choices. “Speak friend and enter.” (If you get that reference comment the answer 😉

Not all those who wander are lost— Bilbo Baggins.

My grandmother had a copy of the Hobbit on her bookshelf. Although, we didn’t get along— too much alike— we did share a love of literature and horses. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to share it with her as much as I would have liked. She passed away when I was nine.

But she did encourage me to read the Hobbit, to ride, and explore the world— and that writing is a family passion.

I’m forever grateful.

Current life… my food is my precious.

As a moody overworked millennial— I totally relate to Bilbo’s angst over having people knock at his door. As an excitable nine year old I couldn’t understand why he wouldn’t want to go on an adventure— handkerchief be damn.

I read the book around Christmas the first time and it’s become a tradition at least once a year I read the Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings, and then binge watch all the movies. I sometimes read them on hiking and camping trips.

I watched the extended edition of Fellowship of the Ring last night. Today I’m going to sit inside, avoid the cold and get lost in Middle Earth. There are some things I wish had made into the movies— Tom Bombadil, Goldberry, and the adventure with the Barrow-wight. However, I understand why they didn’t make the film.

I probably should start with the Hobbit movies but either nostalgia makes me watch the OG trilogy first. It’s how I view Star Wars too.

When I first heard there was going to be a movie based on the Lord of the Rings coming out in the early 2000’s I started reading the books.

I was told by the local librarian I was too young to read such a book— I don’t know if it was the content or the length that bothered her with my age. After all, this was southern Missouri— rural Bible Belt area— and Harry Potter was giving everyone fits.

Since she wouldn’t let me check it out. I went to my Aunt Mary, who was just like her mother (my grandmother) a librarian. She let me check it out of the school collection when I was in 5th maybe 6th grade. She also supplied my Harry Potter books too.

As a graduation present she got me the complete set— the Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. I think she was worried I would swipe the high school library set but in my defense I was the only one that checked it out repeatedly for nearly 6 years…

That well loved box set!

I fell in love with the Hobbit but I was besotted by Tolkien’s world. I’ve read all the books including the Silmarillion and the Children of Húrin. I treasure my copy of the Lay of Leithian, also called Beren and Lúthien.

Epic love stories, adventure, and awesome female heroes— even if they are secondary characters.

Bonus points for those that know why The Black Douglas made the stack. It’s not a complete set of Tolkien works but I’m working on it.

I was an imaginative child. I started writing about little adventures but I needed inspiration. I took to tromping and hiking around the family farm dreaming up grand adventures and long walks.

Plus long rides on my trusty steed!

Eventually, it led to my fascination with backpacking. And by extension my love of writing.

As many will notice, I drop references throughout my posts. I even rocked an Arwen inspired outfit a time or two… I really should have done a Ringwraith inspired photoshoot when I was home with the horses.

Pretty sure I wore this sans swords to the Hobbit opening…

🤔 maybe I can still make that happen. Maytag would be up for it…

We looked good.

It also inspired my career choice— I mean who doesn’t want to be a ranger and look that good at 87? It’s probably why I like green and grey so much too.

Ranger, wandering the wild…

“He’s one of them Rangers. Dangerous folk they are wandering the wild…”

I have a long weekend full of movies I love, a little boy to cuddle, and a grown man to convince to watch it with me— I don’t think he will though lol. That’s okay, he can go play whatever new game just dropped. I’ll be up here drooling over potatoes and the mythology of Middle Earth.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.s. It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.— Frodo (quoting Bilbo Baggins)

Go wander.

P.s.s. Sam was the real hero of the story.

There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for

Flashback Friday: Grand Teton & Yellowstone 2014 (quickest trip ever)

*7 Years by Lukas Graham playing in the background*

It’s been seven years.

Seven years since I branched out and headed west of my state of Missouri.

Seven years of living the dream.

Almost seven years of being with the love of my life.

Looking back at how social media and the explosion of van life content I could have created content for six months and worked as a park ranger seasonally for 4-5 months to off set costs. It would have been epic.

I really love my meme I made…

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have my sweet library I have now… Choices.

As I mentioned before, I missed out on a lot of opportunities in influencing. *Thinks about being in front of a camera for any length of time– cringes in self doubt.* Yet, I’m not too upset about it– had I done any of the things I mentioned, I don’t know if I would have ended up here.

I’m also still surprised I wound up in Nebraska- but I digress.

My first summer in Nebraska set me up for a plethora of adventures. I’m only two hours from Badlands, four from the Black Hills, six hours to Rocky Mountains NP in Colorado, almost ten hours to Yellowstone– and lots more. There are also some cool places in Nebraska I explored as well.

Long story short, I came to Valentine, Nebraska as a seasonal interpretive ranger in 2014. My duty station would be the Niobrara National Scenic River. I arrived in May and spent my free time either working out, playing ultimate frisbee (which is how I met my husband), or going on adventures to the Black Hills, Badlands, Grand Teton, and Yellowstone.

*Stares at close locations and wondering why I don’t take more time to go hike– then remember at the moment taking leave is insanely problematic when you only have three full time employees at a place that normally has seven…*

Originally, I wasn’t sure I would make it to the latter two in Wyoming but I was asked if I could extend my season into late November. I asked if I could take an extra couple of days to take a road trip to Yellowstone. They agreed, I said yes to hanging around and training my future boss on the area. She wound up inviting me back as a rehire the next year, Wade (who had played it cool) had dropped he would like me to come back as well, and the rest is history.

I had a three day weekend in September (Labor Day), none of which were the actual Labor Day. I also got an additional day off. I packed up my car on my “Friday” night, I think it was actually a Monday, and started west!

One of the perks of being a park ranger is that you normally have weekdays off. The downside is you don’t get weekends with your non-NPS friends/spouses. I was going by myself which wasn’t a problem and frankly I wanted some solitude. After dealing with several thousand people a week over the course of the summer burnout becomes common.

Now, the perk of going on a weekday meant I would be able to find camping in Yellowstone. Plus, less people. However, I wasn’t going to make it that far so I planned on a room in Dubois, Wyoming.

One of the reasons I picked Dubois was because I wanted better memories of a trip I took in 2008 with my then boyfriend– it was the worst trip ever.*

It was beautiful though, riding horses in the Absaroka Mountains and the Wind River Range.

I was smiling but I really wanted to punch the person taking the photo.

This was my replacing bad memories with good, trip. Even though I wasn’t going to the same place, I still wanted to replace some of my bad memories of Dubois– where we had stopped and shopped before heading home.

Six years later the Jackalope was still there.

Dubois had changed but it still had some charm. However, I didn’t stick around long– I only had four days to explore Grand Teton and Yellowstone and then drive back.

I actually only had three days. Can’t forget drive time…

For anyone planning a trip to either park– that is not enough time! I wish I had negotiated a full week for one park alone.

I still had fun.

I planned it so I would drive through Grand Teton, thru the John D. Rockefeller Parkway, and spend the majority of my time at Yellowstone. I realized how much I was going to miss as soon as I glazed at the lake with the Tetons in the back ground.

I should have planned for more time.

But I made the most of it!

I stopped for photos at the entrance of Grand Teton, Colton Bay Visitor Center and one of the pull offs at Jackson Lake. I really wish I could have made it to Jenny Lake but it gave me an excuse to come back… seven years later and I still haven’t made it back… need to remedy that.

The the John D. Rockefeller Parkway– all I can say was it a nice drive… my memory is failing me.

Yellowstone– America’s (and the world’s) first national park.

Look at that young in shape off duty- ranger!

It’s on my big ten list– ten parks I want to work at either as a seasonal, on a detail, or a permanent assignment. Now, I just want to do a detail there. I love small parks because you can wear many different hats and aren’t regulated to just “your” division. Now, that I have caught the unicorn (permanent job) I’ll probably stick with small or “medium” size parks. I haven’t ruled working at one of the “big” parks. To preface, I’m talking about visitation size by small, medium, and big– to me all parks are national parks not just the 63 National Parks that get the most visitation.

Anyways, the history of Yellowstone– the good and the bad– along with the natural majesty speaks to me.

I got my campsite at Grant Village Campground that was going to be my operating base for the next couple of days and got settled in. As a seasonal ranger I was already living pretty light and my camping set up was minimal at best. However, other than eating breakfast, dinner, and sleeping I wasn’t going to spend a lot of time there– I had too much to do!

I didn’t roll in until late that evening, after spending time in Grand Teton and driving on the parkway. It took some time to register and get my firewood. However, my tent was an easy one to set up– single person tent. Doing it in the dark was no biggie.

I was tired so I crawled in pretty quick after scarfing down some chow.

I was reading on my Kindle (had I tried van life I guess I would still have the library) when I started hearing elk bulge.

It took me a second to place it since growing up I didn’t have elk in my backyard. However, I went to sleep with a grin on my face. I woke up needing coffee.

Normally, I rise “early” camping– around 7 and then I do my standard I don’t want to leave the warmth dance especially if I’m camping with Wade. Since, I was packing Yellowstone into one day I needed to get moving. I drove the loop around to the Madison Visitor Center and then back down to Old Faithful– capping out the day at the geyser. I also got to see the aftermath of Steamboat going off… darn it.

I spent a lot of time checking out the visitor centers that day and falling in love with the Firehole River. And dealing with a flat tire– luckily there was still concessionaires in the park that ran the service station and they helped me out.

My next day I was planning on heading up the Hayden Valley then onto Lamar Valley, exiting at the Northeast side and driving back to Valentine. Then going to work after about four hours of sleep.

Leaving Yellowstone– plus I got to check out a little of Montana!

It was a long drive and I wound up pulling off and sleeping at a rest area for most of the night before finishing the drive– I made it to work, showered and ready, on time.

I got pictures of wolves, ravens, and one grizzly. But I can’t show anyone, plus some of the epic shots of the landscapes I got. My memory card reformatted somewhere between the Northeast Entrance and Valentine. I was heartbroken. Luckily, I took some photos with my phone but all the “good” shots are lost to the ether.

I don’t know if I accidentally hit the button or when I packed it up I jostled something. Or if it was just a fluke and it did it itself.

Learning experience. Now, I suck up the weight and space and bring my laptop so that I can download them ASAP the day they are taken.

I’m working on Wade to do a summer trip but not going to lie a winter trip would be awesome. That’s coming from someone that doesn’t like cold. The wildlife are in there element and I can be in a snowcat…

I also want to redo that road trip– but spread it out over a week maybe two. Actually do some long hikes and maybe camp in the backcountry. The only thing stopping me is procastration, the job, and wintertime…

Keep wandering,

BJ

Leaving Yellowstone– had to get my hiking boots shot

I really do this shot a lot…

*We had been dated for almost a year and things had been serious (or so I thought). He was planning to break up with me–after this trip. His reasoning for going ahead with this trip was he didn’t want to ruin my excitement. Note for anyone questioning your relationship and thinking a “fun” trip before breaking up will help– it doesn’t. I would have much rather been heart broken, eating ice cream, and making money for the two weeks at home than go and experience what happened.

Wannabe on the Trail: Internal Arguments

The following is a brief conversation between myself and my personal Gollum.

~6:30 a.m. Alarm blares and wakefulness intrudes.~

Gollum: *Hiss* I want to go back to bed. It’s cold. I want to snuggle into my couch under a blanket. I want more Oreo Balls.

Me: *Sigh* I have to adult.

I really don’t want to.

All well, I have stuff to do.

Do I have too?

Yes!

Are you sure?

Yes… we need to get in shape, go to work, and start creating content.

Internal screaming

That’s my Monday. Apparently my Wednesday too.

I’m not really dipping into the SAD realm yet, but I feel it creeping in. I want to make changes to keep it from really hitting me this year.

However, getting my ducks in a row and motivating myself is tough. I’m stalling on working out and finding excuses not to take thirty minutes for a basic workout.

That changes today! This evening after Hunter goes to bed I am doing a light thirty minute workout and Yoga. It’s time to take some accountability, avoid the couch, and get in shape!

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. *screech* Return to the warmth!!! Why are you putting on clothes? NOOOOO!!!

P.S.S. Deal with it.

New Year, (semi) New Me

I haven’t posted in the last few days– holidays, weddings, and driving through a winter storm had my attention focused elsewhere.

I’ve also been working on finishing up a couple of books for the Pennington Book Project, Perry the Pet Pig and the Barely Revised Edition of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways book. I’m hoping to drop those in January. I originally wanted to get the Barely Revised Edition out on August 27 last year but life happens. I’m happier with the edition but it’s not updated enough in my mind.

Work in progress. I want to stick with the original covers as much as possible but I’m not loving it. Also anyone catch the spelling error on the back? I caught it and fixed it…

Once I have all of Grandma’s books re-published I’ll revisit it. I plan on fully updating it and including some of my favorite spots and float trips. I’m also planning a few canoe trips to get content for the book as well. Now, I have to go update the JP Brand Books site… I might not post for a week because between the Pennington Book Project, content creation for both this blog and JP, working on some other stuff… *side-eye to pen name*, and now the amount of time I spend on computers at my day job I totally wish Y2K had happened.

That’s a joke! Although, all the IT stuff I’m handling does make me long for a sledgehammer sometimes.

I do feel a bit overwhelmed with everything but I’m breaking up my schedule so that I don’t hit a wall and decide not to do anything. Plus, it’s winter time and I’m spending my evenings at home. That means I have time to write, plot, and plan. Unless, I get sucked down a documentary wormhole… I do recommend the Von Dutch documentary on Hulu…

However, I do need to go revisit my Prairie River Witch poetry stuff and make a new series. That’s gone by the wayside– again following that ADHD inspired chaos. I also need to plan out some photography jaunts as well.

I did have an art exhibit with our local art guild for the month of December. I got to combine some of my wandering photos with some of my poetry it was a fun event. I might do a series about winter on the prairie– get out with my snow shoes…

I’ve started getting focused on getting in shape…once all of Wade’s Oreo balls are out of the house.

I missed out on doing a first day hike but I’m thinking this weekend I might get out and about!

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Oreo Balls are the devil…

Wannabe on the Trail: Winter Hiking

Not going to lie I’m not big on winter hiking.

I respect those that go out and do it– safely. However, after scrolling various social media channels there are a lot of folks that don’t.

You can do it safely. Hike in pairs or have a detailed plan outlining your stops etc. left with a family member or ranger station, have the appropriate gear (my problem), have back up gear, and a warming system.*

Even Pronghorns hike in pairs in the winter…

Where I grew up, I hiked more in the winter but most of the time it never dipped below the mid-twenties and all my gear worked well. Side note, it was a “wet” cold because of the humidity so it could get chilly and when you’re wet and chilly you can get miserable.

Now, I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. “Dry” cold, wind chill, and low numbers. I never thought I would get to a day when I thought 1 degree was warm but after experiencing a couple -20 days in a row, I can say that 1 degree is pleasant.

However, I’m weak and I don’t want to do a multiday trip in such weather. Especially, sleep and then get up and hike in Sub-Zero’s closet. I’ll gladly admit I’m weak. I wannabe warm, drinking hot cocoa, and snuggled into my couch when those numbers dip below 20 degree. But I will canoe in it… go figure that one out…

I do day hikes when possible in the winter. I think it’s beautiful and knowing I’ll be out of the cold before it gets really “cold” makes the trip better.

Yet, I do have the itch to get out for a longer stretch and camp. I’ve been looking at some places nearby where I can do an overnight. But, I do have to coordinate with my better half on when I do this so that little man isn’t neglected. Wade also worries about me doing stuff by myself– it’s almost like I didn’t make it 26 years on my own. He means well though.

I do think it would be cool to get some snowy sunrise shots though. I might do a trip in Badlands (it’s warmer).

Things to remember or blend in with your trip planning for winter hikes:

Hiking into the Grand Canyon on Bright Angel Trail– February 2014
  • Ice cleats and trekking poles. This was a life changer, I really used them on my February trip to Indian Gardens in the Grand Canyon. However, since then I love them just booking around the local trails in winter. Even though I live in Nebraska were it’s “somewhat” flat– they are still handy when hiking the river canyon.
  • Sleeping bag liner— this was the best thing when I hiked the Grand Canyon. It really does aid in heat retention.
  • Gravity water purification system. It will save your hands. Or use iodine tablets.
  • Quality mittens, wool snuggly socks, and gaiters– if your hands and feet are cold the trip will suck.
  • Tent and sleeping pad, make sure you have the tent outfitted for cold weather. If you are hiking in extreme cold, go with a four season tent. Also a good R value on your sleeping pad will assist in retaining heat while you sleep. 3.5, or in my case a 4, will make the night bearable in cold snowy temps.
  • Have a detailed itinerary– leave it with a family member, ranger, or someone you trust.
  • Plan on it taking longer than your average summer hike. Shorter days, snow pack, and freak snow squalls can add time. Plan on shorter trips in areas you know.
  • Pack extra food– you’ll be burning calories just trying to stay warm.
  • Pack extra clothes in case you wind up soaking due to an unfortunate event or because it drops into colder temps than expected.
  • Make sure you are drinking water– you can still become dehydrated even in cold conditions. Hot tea is the best.
  • Finally, check the weather. If a front is moving in, move your plan to the back yard.

Get out and enjoy the cold if that’s your thing but do it safely so us EMS folks don’t have to get out in the weather too– I mean we will because that’s what we do.

I’m now expanding my winter weather hiking equipment and I’m willing to experiment and go hike in my “new” locale. I still don’t want to go when it dips below zero though…

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Pack more snacks than normal– then double it.

Flashback Friday: Agate Fossil Beds National National Monument, August 2015

The Niobrara is there I promise!

I had never heard of this place.

Scottsbluff— Chimney Rock, learned about them in 5th grade but it wasn’t until I headed to Nebraska in 2014 I heard about Agate. Even then I didn’t make it over there…

Pulling in!

But I planned time to go the next year. A co-worker and I both had a day off together and decided to make a day trip over.

Agate is perfect for folks that love the prairie, paleo, and rivers.

Fun— well for geeky NPS nerds— fact the Niobrara River cuts through three national park sites in Nebraska. Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, Niobrara National Scenic River, and the Missouri National Recreational River. It also drastically changes over its journey across the state— at Agate you can almost stand on both sides… if you’re tall enough.

I also didn’t realize in 2015 I didn’t take in photos of the Niobrara proper— I did take some landscapes but it just looks greener—or if I did I must have filed them somewhere differently than normal. I’ll chat about going back with a different set of coworkers in the future with a photo…

But this trip was a fact finding mission. We were searching for paleontology resources!

Yes— we’re geeks but we’re geeks that hike!

I was prepping a program on paleontology in general but I wanted to know more about bone crushing dogs and beardogs and my coworker was working on her horse legs program.

We found a lot of cool stuff and then I found the exhibit on the Lakota.

Agate— has a wonderful collection of Native American artifacts that were given to the Cook family— mainly rancher James Cook— over the years. Due to a friendship between James and Chief Red Cloud.

Cook and his wife after buying the ranch from his in-laws made a discovery, “a beautifully petrified piece of the shaft of some creature’s leg bone.”

By 1905, paleontologist we’re making major finds in mammalian fossil history. I’ve mentioned it before— I think— that dinosaurs were not major finds in Nebraska. A combination of a vast inland sea and acidic soil during that time frame meant there were not a lot of dinosaur remains found in the state.

Large aquatic reptiles (like the mosasaurs), ancient fish, turtles, and sharks have been found. However, Nebraska truly stands out when it comes to mammal fossils. My favorite the giraffe neck camel roamed the area. Barrel bodied rhinos, four tusked elephants, mammoths, mastodons, giant beavers, the Valentine mouse, and the list keeps going.

If you ever get a chance stop into Agate, Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historic Site, Niobrara NSR, Niobrara or Ponca State Parks, and finally Morrill Hall at University of Nebraska—Lincoln.

Agate though is a beautiful place. The visitor center is excellent and the hiking peaceful.

We took a winding path up into the plains and checked out the Daemonelix or “Devil’s Corkscrews” which are the homes of Paleocastor or the ancient beaver. They are smaller than their modern counterparts and minuscule compared to the Giant Beavers.

The day went fast and we had a nice day wandering around the National Monument.

Maybe someday I’ll talk about how in the NPS eyes all sites are national park sites and that the way they are designated determines the big NP or national historic site, national scenic river, or national monument— but not today!

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. photos didn’t do it justice especially since I didn’t take my good camera.

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