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.

Snow Squall… WTF?

I just closed– the front door had a foot high drift. Also the distance to the building and just a little beyond was a as far as you could see. If you didn’t have lights on it was even trickier.

We had a snowsquall on December 15– what the heck is a snowsquall you ask? A cold, miserable whiteout with a time limit. Howling wind, blowing snow, and a massive temperature change. It went from almost 48 degrees down to 25 degrees.

While it was a “cool” experience it made me long for warmer days. Luckily, the weather rebounded and we had some semi warm days in the 30-40s. Plus, we did early Christmas with Wade’s sister about three hours south so we had 50 degree weather all weekend!

In other news, my sister and I are tentatively planning a summer hiking trip in the Black Hills. Once we have a actual plan with dates in place I’ll probably post about preparations a little closer.

I’ve started to “lightly” work out, gearing up for the New Year, but I’m really holding off until all the Christmas cookies are out of the house… because I’ve eaten them… before really going “hard” on my workout plans and starting that journey on YouTube.

In other news, I’ve finished another semester of grad classes– I’m currently only taking one course a semester so it’s taking a while but five classes to go! I was going to just take two courses a semester until I got it done but between the work, kid, hobbies, sleep…. I’d rather take the extra time and do it right than half-ass it and tank my GPA. Besides, it’s cheaper this way! But once I’m down to just two courses I might make the time to finish it out in one semester. We’ll see!

I’ve got a few more posts lined up for the end of the year. Mainly, flashback Friday adventures, again had if I hadn’t thought I was boring I could have have had years of content by now… all well– it’s helping me now when I have lulls in hiking trips!

I’m also planning a Christmas hike… either at the Refuge or somewhere nearby.

My big light display!

Winter shots for the win!

Keep Wandering,

BJ

Wannabe on the Trail: Fitness

I have a hard time with my weight—especially after having my baby—who’s now a toddler.

I pulled the sled for maybe five minutes before I had to take a break.

I’m thinking I might YouTube my weight loss journey. I also plan on posting updates on here as well.

I’m going to start documenting my weight loss journey for two reasons—accountability and because I searched for someone like me and weight loss on here and other platforms. It’s either CrossFit like folks or supermodel like women fitness gurus. Maybe I just suck at finding what I want…

I don’t ascribe to either of those—I look like a potato.

Potato fitness model at your service…

Side note, I do like CrossFit and if I wasn’t such an accident prone klutz I probably would go to the “box” if we had one in my little town.

However, I do know how to lose weight. Even though I look like this… It took me seven years and a child to get to this point.

My other problem with most fitness gurus—they make the thirty-day promise…

“In 30 days, you’ll have…” bullshit.

It’s bullshit too. If you’re already in decent shape, then yeah you probably could shred up.

But most people—nah.

And that is depressing, that we can’t just lose 30 pounds in 30 days and keep it off.

Yeah—you might lose it, but it will come back with a vengeance.

I don’t want the 30-day promise I want something viable. And maybe I’m not great at searching YouTube and other places for what I want so I’m making it myself and hopefully help someone else out.

Frankly, we have this bad habit of putting skinny above “healthy” some people need “extra” pounds in order for their body to function. Plus, some people are going to be predisposed to being a fitness model—the rest of us the plump Scottish pleasant running from the British.

I’m not doing this because I want to be skinny—other than I don’t want to buy jeans. I want to get back in shape, so I don’t sound like I’m dying hiking or chasing my toddler. Especially, when I’m hiking for work—park rangers shouldn’t sound like their dying going up a small hill.

That said, I’m glad I’m a river ranger and spend most of my time in a canoe… I don’t get out of breath often paddling.

River Rangering is where it’s at!

So, a little background on me.

I used to be in excellent shape pre-2006. I played basketball, softball, volleyball (for one year), and I “ran” cross country. Well, I showed up to cross country. I hated it—I’m built like a quarter horse, great for quick bursts of power but will never beat a Morgan or an Arabian in a long race.

But I was in wonderful shape— and I wasn’t healthy.

This might be TMI for the guys. I weighed in at 110-115 on average. 5’0 so that is “healthy” per BMI. However, I wasn’t having regular periods. Actually, my sophomore/junior years I don’t think I had any periods. I had cysts. Went to the hospital a couple times, had to have a cervix biopsy—which is extremely painful—found out I had POCS and went on the pill to regulate them. I still didn’t have periods.

Senior year I didn’t go as hard. I moved up to the 125-to-135-pound mark, which is borderline “overweight” and I finally started getting periods.

I also felt a lot better. I didn’t have the headaches, body aches, and sore ankles as much anymore.

I also stopped drinking Coke for a while—which might have fixed some of it too.

I finished out my senior year in high school and moved on to college. I no longer had a regiment, a coach to motivate me (like a drill sergeant), or peers to inspire me to keep doing the work. I probably should have joined the Army because I am motivated by a drill sergeant.

Summer kept me busy waiting tables and running my butt off on the ranch. I started college in the fall, and I had a one-hundred-mile drive round trip to my “local” community college.

That did me no favors.

Two and a half years later I went to ASU to finish out my degree. 

But I only gained 15 pounds in those two years. Went from 130 to 145.  

Then I didn’t have a reason to stay in shape. I puttered around in college and joined intermural leagues and I stayed in semi-decent shape.

Then I got depressed. I binged on horrible foods, late night study sugar snacks, and other unhealthy college food. I stopped going out for intermural sports. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in my life, personally or professionally. It was rough time.

I kept having doubts about what I wanted to do—agriculture or history. I should have just double majored looking back but at the time I didn’t know what I wanted so I added time to my degree…

It was adding to my waistline too.

Now, during this time I was working as a seasonal ranger, where I got to mix all the things I loved, history, outdoors, animals, traditional ranching stuff, the list goes on. Some of my coworkers noticed my weight gain and said some stuff—nothing unkind, just worried about me type stuff.

One of them mentioned how he used the pack test for wildland fire as motivation to get in shape.

As a kid I wanted to be a smoke jumper—I’m not tall enough but I could still do wildland fire. That broke through some of the depression. I needed a change—now important note you can’t change your way out of depression. You can bandage it but eventually the wound will fester again. I went to on campus therapy my senior year. Which helped immensely and luckily, I didn’t have a hormonal imbalance effecting my mental health at that time. Talking it out and creating goals, like pursing my wildfire certification were enough. I had a few goals when I graduated in December of 2012. But I wasn’t even close to being able to carry a forty-five pack in forty-five minutes without running (like I could run that anyway). 

I also wasn’t sure where I was going either.

2013 was kind of a bummer year for me career wise—I originally applied to a lot of parks but due to funding and the recession the only place that reached out was my home park, Ozark NSR, which was fine, but I really wanted to go somewhere else.

I also realized how bad my weight got by the end of the summer and how it was affecting me physically.

I hit the 160 mark after seven years. And I really didn’t want to buy new pants.

(I’m also noticing a theme—I slack off for seven years, don’t want to buy new pants, and I wind up hitting my breaking point.)

Seriously!

I need to start thinking every month is seven years in order to keep in shape—considering how 2020 and 2021 went that’s not to far off…

It was during this summer that I also started watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. I. Love. That. Show. It also helped with my self esteem and learning to love myself— because how in the hell you gonna love somebody else! It also made me realize I really need to figure out contouring.

In the fall of 2013, I put together a plan. I started it in the winter. Well, since I couldn’t turn down Christmas food—I started in January. New Year’s Resolution.  

I walked my ass off. Literally.

I took my dog out and we walked all over my cousin’s farm. Everyday for three months—didn’t matter what the weather was doing. We walked hills.

I cut off soda and drank sweet tea sparingly. I used portion moderation when I was eating and added more veggies to the plate than the “good stuff.” I didn’t change a lot of my diet though.

As long as you’re not eating junk food and fast food for every meal and you use moderation, you will see some weight loss, especially if you are working out. I don’t mess with macros or counting carbs, that only matters if you’re super into fitness. Average person, just adding more veggies and cutting out most of the sugar will do you wonders.

After March I started walking twice daily and going for longer walks. I also had a bit of good news. I was going to a new park for the summer! Niobrara National Scenic River was calling my name. Ozark called me in to train the new people before I left which was nice.

By the time I was ready to go in May I was back down to 135. I wanted to get ten more pounds off. Plus, I wanted to pass the pack test. I had until July for the pack test. I started running, lifting weights, and mixed workouts at this point. By July I was down to 125 and passed the test with a 1 minute and 45 seconds to spare.

I kept up my workouts—mainly because I didn’t get along with my roommate and didn’t have a lot else to do except hike on my off days.

However, when I went to my next job in Kentucky I started to slack off. I still puttered around but it was equivalent to my intermural sports days.

Then, in January 2014 I slipped on some ice and banged my knee and didn’t want to do my “bare minimum” work outs. By March I was back up to 135/140. But I was able to maintain that for a while.

It’s been seven years again and I had a little boy and I’m back at the turning point. However, I clocked in at 170 pounds this time.

Which means I’m losing because after birth I was right at 200 pounds. But I need to lose more.

I’m going to do what I did last time.

Walk my ass off. Only with two dogs and a toddler.

Because walking is low impact, free, and really the best way to start working your way up to doing more rigorous workouts.

It might take six months, but it has better returns in the long run. It might take less time carrying this 25 pound toddler.

I’ll probably make weekly updates because time is a luxury right now. Join me for low impact, moderation friendly, potato fitness model adventures!

Although… I might not start officially until January. Holiday Snacks and all…

Keep Wandering,

BJ

Snow Days and Sled Fails

Well…I jinxed myself. I shouldn’t have made a crack about the cold on Monday.

Leaving work on Friday…

Now, I have snow. It’s up to my shins and if there’s a drift my corgi, Freya, becomes submerged.

Snow dogs!

I don’t dislike snow. I actually really love it and it makes me happy. Until I have to shovel the wet heavy stuff multiple times a day for work and home.

Even then, I still enjoy opening up the blinds, making a cup of tea or cocoa, and reading a book. However, the dogs start whining and I have to suit up to go out.

In all fairness, Wade, clears most of the snow himself either by hand— which is great for me view wise— or with a snowblower. Growing up where barely a dusting of snow was a statewide emergency— I’m slowly adapting to living with snow and not just finding it pretty.

It’s not quite a love hate relationship but it gets close. Negative numbers and windchill, however, I straight up hate and Princess tends to avoid as well.

Wade just runs around in shorts sometimes— Nebraska genes or something… and Freya bounds after him.

Now, Hunter didn’t really get to experience walking in a winter wonderland last year. He thought it was cold and his time could be better spent with me in a rocking chair topping him off with fresh milk.

This year he got to experience the snow, cold, and the wet. Plus, learning how inertia works.

I got an early Christmas present of Arctix snow bibs. Paired with my Columbia snow boots and Marmot puffy the cold wasn’t bothering me— dressing for the weather does make it more enjoyable. I just needed snowshoes but Wade threatened to throw me into a snowdrift if he saw anyone he knew. I left them at home.

It was something about how ridiculous it would be to wear them in town and getting razzed for it at work— the big drama queen.

We bundled Hunter up but couldn’t find his good mittens. We figured if it was just a quick trip down the street to the park he would be okay with his cotton ones.

He was having a blast riding in his little sled. Dad would drift him on the icy pavement to his delight. Once we slide over onto the snow he was patting it and giggling.

Then dad decided to try to drift in the snow.

Opps

Hunter found he did not like snow on his face. Or being rudely slammed into a drifting turn.

But after a little cry and daddy snuggles and letting mom pull him he was back to giggling and patting the snow.

Once we got back to the house he got to play in the snow and confirmed that as long as it was on the ground to pat and not on his face life was good.

It’s taken me seven years (almost) to acclimate to the winter weather. I’m not expecting to overcome my misgivings about the weather or keep my yearly run in with SAD from happening but I’m more optimistic this year.

I have better winter gear and I’m trying to make changes for my mental and physical health. I need to lose weight and I find getting out and walking helps. I don’t want to only walk on a treadmill and making the changes to my winter wardrobe will make it better for me to go outside in -20 weather. At least according to the bibs.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. it’s all fun and games until snow goes down your pants or up your nose.

Flashback Friday: Smokey Mountains National Park June 2017

Starting a new thing– Flashback Fridays! I’ll take a few moments to talk about a hike, trip, or adventure. I can think about warmer days and get into a habit of posting every week.

It’s a win, win!

For my first Flashback Friday I’m going to talk about probably my favorite trip ever…so far…

Those mountains!

It was my second trip to Smokey Mountain National Park but the first long distance trip with my husband, then boyfriend, Wade. We had a few adventures to Wyoming, South Dakota, and Oklahoma by this point. But this was the first that crossed the Mississippi.

The Smokey’s were a secondary part of the trip and where we’re camping. The main reason was a family reunion in Maryville, Tennessee. While I was working at Wolf Creek National Fish Hatchery as a Environmental Education Intern in 2014 I took a weekend trip to visit my uncle and aunt.

I had a fun trip to the national park. Wade and I were talking every night I was living in Kentucky. Gotta love long distance relationships. I told him how beautiful I found the park and how I didn’t get to see any bears.

I like bears. Or wildlife in general. Any place I visit (Yellowstone, Smokey, etc.) I always try to find the wildlife. I usually miss out.

This trip with Wade I saw bears!

He really is my lucky charm.

We had a fun weekend of family, food, and …fun…

I need to work on synonyms.

We camped because I like camping. I had just gotten a tent cot that I really like and it’s handy for car camping. It’s easy to set up and it folds up nice. Even though it was a front country campsite it was surprisingly quiet– which is what I like about National Park Service sites.

Low key camping

We had a plan to do the drive through Cade’s Cove and maybe hike a little bit… but I was enchanted watching bears. It kind of cut into our hiking time.

Plus, Wade had a little surprise for me.

I found this little valley along the Cade’s Cove drive and decided I wanted to get some shots of the trees and a panorama of the area. I had just set up my camera and was working on attaching it to the tripod when my darling boyfriend started poking me on my butt. Well, upper left hip, in his words.

My favorite valley in Smokey Mountain

I was getting a little grumpy and said just a second…

I finally turned.

He asked to make him the happiest guy in the world.

Some random car drove by… “OMG! He’s asking her to marry him.”

He blushed.

I said yes.

Engagement Valley!

Keep Wandering,

BJ

P.S. If anyone knows the actual name of “engagement valley” I would love to know the name. I’ve either forgotten or never wrote it down. It is probably one of my favorite places and I would like to get the right name.

P.PS. Before we went I told him if he asked me at the actual family reunion I would have a panic attack (I hate being the center of the attention in a large group setting) or my family would have us married before the weekend was over.

Wannabe on the Trail: Side Hustles & Small Business

Hey all!

I don’t know if it’s the millennial mindset or just the ADHD talking but I keep trying to find new ways to make my hobbies pay for themselves. I like hiking and thought taking photos and writing about it would be fun. Probably not a high paying niche but fun. Once I started doing it, I had some people ask where they could get my photos. My poems got some interest. Then the Pennington Book project popped up. I figured I’d try a few different things, self-publishing, blogging, Redbubble and Etsy stores to gage interest. All have low overhead and no horrible up-front costs.

Trying to create ad’s… not my best skill. Plus I’m not a good model…

I’m just out the time in most cases. I keep it very low key.

But every now and then when I self-promote myself I get messages from people I knew in high school. That haven’t really spoken with me since or in some cases at all, even when we went to school together.

“Oh you’re trying a side hustle– why don’t you try out these Essential Oils *or other MLM*? You can be your own boss and hustle! You will make money right away– can you say that with what your doing now?”

They also really pushed the messaging, or I at least noticed it more, when I was home on maternity leave. The amount of messages I got about how I should stay home and how *insert MLM* could be a dream come true for me.

Uh…my side hustle already lets me be my own boss… and I don’t have to pay to join.*

They also don’t understand the words “no,” “thanks any way,” or “that stuff gives me migraines.” They also don’t appreciate when you say, “it didn’t cost me anything other than time and equipment for what I’m doing now.”

They also don’t like it when you ask if it’s an MLM.

Which, it is and somehow even when you’ve said all the above they still try to upsell you into being a downline. Plus, the pitch to spend $45+ on a starter kit… and the need to spend x amount each year to maintain. It’s better than some but nah…

*Other than the camera I already paid off like ten years ago and my blog fees I’m not spending close to the $95 a year minimum to do a business in essential oils or other things with a higher cost. I also don’t want to spend the amount of time running leads and spamming acquaintances on social media.

I share a link every now and then to my Redbubble Store, Etsy page, and my tip jar and that’s about it… I might run an ad on Facebook and Instagram once in a blue moon but I don’t spend more than $30 bucks- $45 a year on that. If I really wanted to make money at this “side hustle” I’d be upping my social media game, running ads at a higher cost, and plugging myself more. And clearly making, uploading, and perfecting my content a lot more.

Trying to improve my photography and use logo’s.

For me it’s fun and might make me some money. It gives me something to do in my free time.

I have no desire to make a side hustle into a career at this point in time.

No, I don’t want to work from home. I about lost my mind teleworking through a pandemic. It was nice to wear “comfy” clothes and cook a hot lunch some days but no…I couldn’t “turn” work off like I can now.

No, I don’t want to be a #bossbabe or #bossmom.

I currently have a great job and I can grow a hobby into a possible business venture. If that hobby pays for itself great! If not, I’m only out the ad money.

I’m lucky with my job and life, but considering how hard they tried to guilt/upsell me on the beauty of being my own boss so I could stay home– I know why people go for it and then wind up floundering in debt.

While some MLM’s might not be as bad try out these options instead of signing up!

  1. Create a Redbubble shop and sell your art, photography, or sayings.
  2. Create a blog! WordPress has plans for what you’re trying to do. Start a blog and if you make enough of a splash you can upgrade to premium or business and get plugins or widgets to take payments. I currently have the premium which works great for my tip jar! It’s also my biggest expense yearly expense, unless I order a lot of canvas prints.
  3. Start an Instagram page showing off your photography– do business and sell prints off of PayPal or another format like Etsy. (If you hit up local craft fairs/or small business shops there will be more money sunk into this cost. A variety of prints, canvases, or digital markers are good to have on hand as actual inventory. You can find some wholesale printers for a decent base price. You can even have a “private” shop on Redbubble where you print your own items at cost. Decide your prices and sell.)
  4. Start your own house cleaning or home organizing business if that is your thing (this might be a job you wait until kids are older/in school or hire them as employees and do limited hours/weekends).
  5. Start a cooking/home centric YouTube/TikTok channel. Tie it to a blog.
  6. Pick up a part time job– I’d rather wait tables than pay to sell something but that’s just me.

You don’t have to buy special equipment for most of these– some don’t even cost more than $10 to do. If you build it they will come and in the long run these will pay off faster than an MLM.

Sorry for the rant.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Just take a hike!

Taken with an iPhone… seriously, you can do this to get started! Then buy the cool camera.

Wannabe on the Trail: Winter’s Here

Poor Bison… from earlier this year.

Well, at least it’s not snowing…yet.

Woke up to a -3 day. Not my favorite thing.

But I need to get over it. I don’t want fall into the same patterns I do every winter were I binge watch stuff, or read, under a blanket and not go outside.

I want to see if sucking it up and going out will help combat my usual SAD I deal with every year.

Although, using terms like “get over it” and “sucking it up” probably isn’t a great way to look at my wintertime slide. I’m trying to think more positive without falling into the toxic positivity. It’s hard.

However, I want to get back into shape and honestly the best way for me to do that is walking. Other than the long payoff time it’s the best (free) way to jumpstart your weight loss plan. It’s low impact, I’d rather swim but not in this weather, and it works.

I have a spare tire…

I’m working on a YouTube video about that. I’m hoping I can use it for some accountability and help other people, like me, that are not into the fitness model guru/Crossfit mindset. Although, I wish I was in shape to do Crossfit– but I would break something.

I’m also investing in the *appropriate* winter hiking gear and I plan on getting out more. I don’t know if I’ll take Hunter every time because Nebraska gets ridiculously cold and I don’t want to subject him to that.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. What’s your wintertime pastime?

Baby Wipes & Day Hikes: Big Spring Trail

Sunset on the Current River, Missouri.

I got to go home over Thanksgiving. I had a week to show my son around my hometown, hunt, spend time with family, and hike. Hunter has been there back in February but that was a quick trip and we didn’t do a lot of exploring.

I should have planned two weeks. However, we got a lot of things accomplished.

I got my deer. I spent time with mom and dad. Hunter became best buddies with grandpa and got to cuddle with grandma.

We only got to do a short hike.

Big Spring Trail Staircase.

That was okay though– a perfect Day Hike and Baby Wipes post. Other than my hiking buddy, Hunter, who was bored with me taking photos and wanted me to keep moving. So he pulled my hair until I started hiking again.

It’s a great motivator.

Horrible video… I need to work on preventing lens flare and get a gimbal.

We also took the hike a little later and the day. He was worried we weren’t going to make it back for dinner in time. Even though I brought snacks galore for him.

I originally planned on hitting up the Ozark Trail at Rocky Creek but time got away from me. I wanted to deer hunt while I was home. I hunt for food– I like knowing were it comes from, what it was fed, and using all I can. Plus, I can stock my freezer for a while, even with the two bottomless pits in the house.

I had a cabin, Scenic River Cabins (awesome place to stay), that was right down the road from Big Spring. Ozark National Scenic Riverways keeps a nice trail and frankly I was feeling nostalgic for my early seasonal ranger days.

Big Spring in the Fall. If you checked out my Instagram you can see the original photos for this panorama. I think it turned out well!

I worked the Big Spring District as a seasonal ranger from 2008 until 2014. It was my first park! I loved it because it was home and I could work weekends in the late spring and early fall while I was in college at Arkansas State University. It worked out really well. As a summer seasonal, you usually only work 3-5 months (if you’re lucky) or 1,039 hours.

I miss the Current River and Big Spring. I had a lot of firsts at Big Spring. From school events to leading National Park Service events, plus senior photos.

I hiked a lot there. Both as a kid, before I even had an inkling what a park ranger was, and as a park ranger.

The hike I took last week was a little bittersweet. Things have changed but it still seems the same, at least there at the spring. Sure there is a little more erosion than when I was there but that’s normal.

The old heritage cabin was gone, I did a lot of events in that cabin. I gave so many programs at the Big Spring Amphitheater– it’s gone too. Water changes a lot, especially during the spring floods.

Growing up in this part of the Ozarks you learn to respect the power of water. Especially, in creeks and rivers. It probably wouldn’t be bad to fear the water a little too.

We have incredible, and destructive, flash floods. One of the worst hit the town of Van Buren in 2017. While Fremont is my “hometown,” Van Buren is where I went to school, worked, and grew up, plus most people know or have an idea of the town. I had moved to Nebraska by 2017 but I still felt the pain. The river crested at 37 feet, flooding most of the town. It surpassed the previous record flood by eight feet–in 1904 it crested at 29 feet.

I grew up on Pike Creek, it’s a dry creek most of the year but in the spring you see a raging river almost. The water in the narrow draws has enough power to push trees, upright sometimes, down the channel to the Current River.

I gave a lot of talks about how Big Spring puts out a lot of water (286 million gallons a day) and how during flooding conditions it puts out even more. It’s impressive.

Big Spring
Panorama of the spring and spring branch.

So impressive in fact that it’s the largest spring in the state of Missouri and third largest (or largest depending on drought/rain conditions) in the USA. Idaho’s Snake River Spring Complex and Florida’s Silver Spring, being the other two contenders.

From the other side of the trail.

The trail system is nice, when the NPS isn’t working on rebuilding bathrooms and pavilions, it connects the spring to the campground, the Big Spring Lodge (currently closed for renovations), and the group campground. It occasionally has trees across the trail, between that and the hills you can get quite the workout.

Amateur videographer view of the trail around Big Spring

I miss those hills. I also miss endless trees.

Hills, trees, and sunsets soothe me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my adopted prairie home. However, I’m a ridge runner and miss where I grew up.

I need to get my act together and go home more. It’s a 13 hour drive, now a little longer with the little man.

It was a tough trip– Wade had to work, so it was a semi-solo adventure. Hunter hated being stuck in his car seat and I couldn’t do the drive in one long jaunt like I normally do. Mainly, because my son can imitate a banshee quite well. I split the drive up and back into two days with lots of stops so little man could be free. I pushed for 7 hours on average the first day (same going back) and then 4-5 the second day. It worked really well.

The first night on the way to Missouri, I made it to the outskirts of Kansas City. Once we stopped at the motel I pulled him out and he was so happy. I got the key and found out it was on the other side of the building from where I parked. I had to put him back in the car seat. He screamed so loud I was worried the cops would be called.

They weren’t but I did get some stares.

He cheered up once I sat him down on the floor in the room and he could go where he wanted.

He did the same thing once we made it to Grandma and Grandpa’s.

I’m not getting back in that car– I’ll crawl home.

I still need to figure out how I’m going to do some hiking trips in Yellowstone and Rocky Mountains with Hunter. While those drives won’t be as long, I still need to plan better.

I’m excited for some more semi-solo adventures with my little dude– we’ll save the long trips for when dad can tag along for the drive though!

Keep wandering,

BJ

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