Baby Brain and Long Work Week

Sigh…

This was the week I had my days off moved around. I’m working a nine day stretch and other than walking the dog I haven’t been doing much… I’m on day 7.

So, I’m not sure if my brain is fuzzy because of baby brain or the long work week…

But on the cool and fun front, I now have a weekend day off with the hubby coming up for the rest of the summer season- so maybe we can go do some small adventures together or do a babymoon before Sept. 29th!

I’m hoping we do something involving water because I’ve heard its great way to “feel” weightless while pregnant. Right now, anything thing that will help take the weight, pressure, and relieve the spreading of my pelvis sounds nice. However, we’re probably going to work on all the baby stuff we keep procrastinating on, like the nursery.

Normally, I do the adventures on my own (weekend vs. weekdays off conflict in the summer) but he’s been worried about me going off and doing my own thing at 7 months pregnant… or 5… or 2… he’s cute and a worrywart. Plus, with all the closures with Covid-19 this has been a slow hiking year for me.

Princess enjoying being out and about!

So, while it’s been a rough year, I’m hoping to do some stuff before the baby comes because I’ll be in mommy mode in the fall, which I’m excited about. I’m also hoping to do some small momma and baby hikes to check out some gear and introduce my little one to the trail- we might take daddy along too. We’ll see how it goes.

Since my adventures…and time off… will be limited for the next few days. I’ve been reading, watching shows (I feel like tv is rotting my brain), taking photos, and writing. Hopefully, I’ll have some more content for my poetry Instagram soon.

I did talk the husband into taking the dog out to the refuge the night before last for a longer walk- mainly because I’m getting bored walking our normal route. We drove through the refuge looking for “my” badger before heading up to the upper overlook to walk the dog.

Usually, there are only a few people and they stick to the two overlooks that are paved and sort of maintained. Wade worrying about my balance and not wanting me to stress walking on uneven ground (the man thinks I’m made of glass sometimes) decided we’d just stick to walking around the prairie and not walk down the non-existent trail that follows the ridge line to a rocky out cropping that reminds me, kinda, of home. It overlooks a bend in the river- between that, the rocks, and the smell of pine it alleviates the homesickness.

*So, does walking straight up a hill through sumac on a hot day- that was work related (at least they don’t think I’m made of glass) and it was the shortest way back to the truck. I can safely say that little adventure two weeks ago cured some lingering homesickness I had to experiencing an Ozark summer for a while. The view was great though. *

I’ve also spent the last two nights trying to take photos of the moon- I have a long way to go- here are some of the more successful shots. I like a challenge and I will figure out how to stack photos to create a cool landscape with the moon overlooking it all- it just might take me years to figure out, lol.

I’ve also spent some time cleaning up my office- between working from home earlier this year (darn corona) and deciding to reorganize to make it more efficient it turned into a disaster zone. I did find my planning folder and maps for an overnight backpacking trip in Badlands I was working on back in January. Before corona and before finding out I was pregnant I had planned on doing the trip in April. I might adjust it for next spring and see if Wade will be up for solo baby duty for a night…  

Maybe by then I will have more knowledge of nighttime photography and I will be able to get some great star shots over Badlands… we’ll see.

Keep hiking,

BJ

P.S. decaffeinated coffee and tea doesn’t make me nice in the mornings, my poor co-workers/husband…

P.S.S. the photo is from 31 weeks, as of 8/4/20 I’m now 32 weeks and I feel as big as a house some days…  

My lungs!

Day Hikes and Baby Wipes

After the “big” trip to Wildcat Hills… if you can call two days a big trip. It was back to the normal day to day show; with a few highlights!

The baby shower was a blast! The theme was on point for me- camping/outdoors stuff! I loved the snack table and there was some adorable decorations! I have so many boxes of baby wipes…

The punch and cupcakes were my favorite lol- I’m glad some of my peeps were able to make it in person but the Zoom call with family and friends spread out over the US was awesome too.

Since I’m now at 30 weeks I’ve had to cut back on a lot- my doctors don’t want me spending massive amounts of time out in the heat. Plus, they want me to cut back on carbs… potatoes, pancakes, cake- the good stuff that makes me happy. And due to some questionable swelling with my legs they don’t want me taking super long walks…or hikes…

Which means it’s walks around the neighborhood with the dog and short day hikes…

Why can’t we go out before 5 pm? We can have a super long walk…

More on that in a minute. Let’s catch up for a second…

In order to stave off the boredom and still get out and explore I’ve been playing around with photography more. I’ve been working on getting lightning strike photos and nighttime shots- I missed out on the comet though…

It’s a work in progress but I’m liking that I’m keeping busy with something. I haven’t had the “nesting” phase of pregnancy and Wade has been procrastinating with getting the nursery painted and fixed up… we should probably work on that stuff…

However, Princess will be very happy once the thunderstorms stop for the year. She’s not tolerating the sound anymore and we have to hang out in the basement with her… otherwise she dives into Wade’s clean clothes or under my side of the bed. Her Thunder Shirt helpes though!

I’ve also started writing more…on everything except this blog lol… but I’m hoping to fix that. I might branch out to some other topics- including hiking with a baby which I might create a page set of just “Baby Wipes and Day Hikes” posts.

I’ve also binged watched some shows and movies- the Old Guard is amazing!

It’s been a bit of blah couple weeks honestly. I need to get out and do stuff but pretty much any time I sit still for longer than five minutes without something to engage me- I fall asleep. However… I don’t stay asleep not like this crew…

They sleep like this all the time… I’m lucky if I can stay asleep an hour…

My plan for my days off this week was to head out to Norden Chute and the Valentine National Wildlife Refuge but Monday I woke up ate a bowl of Cheerios and promptly fell asleep again…luckily the cat didn’t knock my coffee over like she did the last time. Tuesday wasn’t much better, but I did get laundry done!

She always wants what’s in my cup… never Wade’s…

So… it’s been mainly the walks with the dog and a few hikes out at the Fort Niobrara NWR; where I got my lightening photos… this was kind of a boring hiking talk… the dog is happy though.

So happy she’s outside she can’t sit still for a photo…

I’m hoping to have a new adventure or at least something actually hiking related in the coming weeks- even an exciting dog walking adventure would be nice to write about…

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. I need cake…

A Jaunt at Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area

“Nebraska: Honestly, it’s not for everyone.”

It’s a pun! Run!

Wait…is it a pun? *shakes head in confusion, looks up puns, still unsure, continues to write anyways without finding out for sure if it is a pun*

Honestly, Nebraska gets a bad rap. Before I came here for a job in 2014, I was one of those people that thought it was flat, corn, and interstate. Then I accepted a seasonal job on the Niobrara National Scenic River and learned that I-80 might resemble my preconceived notions, but north central Nebraska shattered the illusion that the whole state was flat cornfields.

Niobrara NSR
Niobrara River!

Yes, corn is grown throughout the state but it’s not “flat.” Now, as a former ridge runner from the Ozarks there is not enough trees or hills to truly remind me of home, or remove the idea of “flat” totally, but there are places where I can find “wild” country and it makes me happy. By “wild” country I mean bluffs, ridges, hills, etc.

It’s different but there is “wild” country to explore, especially in north central and western Nebraska.

There are Sandhills, sand dunes anchored by Sandhills/mixed grass prairie, the dunes were formed by winds blowing loose sand deposits from retreating glaciers during the last Ice Age. These rolling hills are an ecological wonder leading to north central Nebraska where north, south, east, and west species meet in a crossroads formed by the 100th meridian (w). The Niobrara River is also different from other rivers in Nebraska, at least the section that was deemed scenic in 1991. The geologic history is interesting, deposition began around 98 million years ago, when it was covered by a shallow sea. Overtime the river canyon developed creating microclimates that still exist to this day- although, if conditions continue to change the hybrid aspen and paper birch trees will die out. Other rivers in the area are similar but down south the rivers are “flat” and braid out more- which so does the eastern section of the Niobrara. I might talk more about the Niobrara River Valley and floating at a later date- right now it sounds to much like my day job and I don’t want to think about work.

We even have waterfalls here in the Sandhills.

The same Sandhills also lead you west to a different type of “wild.” Massive bluffs and interesting rock formations rise out of the rolling Sandhills as you travel west on Highway 2 or 20. Let’s see how many people paid attention in history class back in the day? What were the biggest markers on the Oregon Trail in western Nebraska?

*…music to favorite trivia game show…*

Did you guess Chimney Rock and Scott’s Bluff?

You are correct!

I had been out to Scott’s Bluff before but wanted to go again for a more relaxed trip. My first time out there we only had one day; we packed in Scott’s Bluff National Monument, Agate Fossil Beds, and Fort Robinson State Park with some co-workers and friends. It was a whirlwind trip and I might do a flashback post about it at some point.

However, this trip was a camping trip with my awesome husband Wade.

Due to a series of unfortunate events I didn’t get much time off last year, then Covid at the beginning of this year…so I didn’t get any camping done in the last year and a half.

A year and a half.  

It was starting to get to me.  

Originally, I was planning on doing a last hooray pre-baby trip in September…which is when I’m due…

Wade gave me a look when I mentioned that and said “did you think that through considering…” He then gave me a panicked look because I’ve been carrying “big” for most of the pregnancy and I figured he was going to say something along the lines “you’ll be as big a house…”

He would have said it lovingly- and I really can’t fault him for saying it because I had already said it a couple of times.

“Well, since I work weekends and you work weekdays, we don’t have a lot of cross over and that was when my schedule goes back to weekends off…”

I figured the trip would be shelved again until the little one was old enough for a camping trip next summer. *Need to Google when is appropriate age to take infant camping…

I got the best surprise.  

My sweetheart of a hubby decided to take a couple days off during the week in order to make this camping trip happen well before I’m big, “big” and two weeks away from my due date.  

I think he knew the lack of nature and camping was starting to get to me.

We decided to stay in the state of Nebraska and narrowed it down to heading up to Gavins Point Dam and doing some kayaking on the Missouri River or head west and explore the western part of the state. We wound up going with Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area so that we would only be a couple of hours (if Wade was driving, less) from my doctor in case anything went wrong.

Missouri National Recreation River, I will one day explore your banks and paddle the Missouri… maybe with a mini-me!

I scoped out the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission page to look for some campgrounds. I looked pretty hard at Chadron and Fort Robinson State Parks because I’ve been interested in exploring them some more but with the Covid-19, and people, I wanted something that wouldn’t be a high tourist destination.

Don’t get me wrong, I like people- whole career is based around liking and talking to people but I’m peopled out by this point in the summer usually…

I found Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area after looking at Chadron SP and from the photos on the state G&P site it seemed… less traveled than other places in the region.

Wildcat Hills SRA!

We had our location, we had our days lined up, all that was left was packing up and heading out.

I took off a little early on a Sunday (my Friday) so that we could make the best of the “weekend”- plus get back in time so we could unload, do laundry, and I could attend a EMS training.

Getting loaded and sorting only took a little chunk of the afternoon- most of my camping gear is stored in totes for ease of traveling from when I was a seasonal employee. The rest we keep in our basement closet- again really easy to access. I have a lot of stuff that I’ve accumulated over the years- plus from my Carin box…I need to re-subscribe to that at some point- they have lots of cool stuff…  In Wade’s opinion I have way too much gear and I should downsize (I agree a little bit). I think he has to much gaming equipment… I believe we are at a stalemate for the time being.

We checked the cat’s automatic feeder, made sure we had plenty of water, and loaded my original hiking partner- Princess- into the car and headed for the store.

This would also be the maiden voyage of my new Subaru! I needed a new car; my old ride Samson the Ford Focus wasn’t holding up to the Nebraska winters (all wheel drive is a blessing) and it wasn’t really “family friendly.” I refused to get a mini-van (see all wheel drive comment) and we decided on an Ascent- perfect for hauling all the little goblins around or taking the family camping!

I never thought pregnancy brain was a “thing” or if it was it was exaggerated a great deal. After becoming pregnant I’ve hilariously learned differently. I was driving and said we will stop at the store going out of town… go through the stop light just cruising along…

“So…we’re going to get food in Chadron then?”

“Huh…?”

“OH!” Barely flashes turn signal before making a right turn on the street after the store that has access…

Wade has a cute smile…and now a little whiplash.

I have never been so forgetful in my life.

We picked up what we needed and then headed west!

I probably should have just let Wade drive…but it was my car. We made it about an hour and a half, and I needed a nap. Lmao.

I’ve also never been much of a “hard core napper” but little Hunter takes a lot out of me.

We drove into the sunset…and a small storm… my poor dog was terrified. Wade pointed out the famous Carhenge- apparently a Nebraska staple outside of Alliance. Since the weather might be a problem we didn’t swing in and check it out- but we did decide to hit it up on the way back to Valentine.

Carhenge!

Luckily, the storm cleared as we drove into the Gering/Scottsbluff area. Scotts Bluff and the surrounding geology rose out distance.

We drove past Scotts Bluff on the way out to Wildcat Hills SRA and we talked about when we should check it out- since of Covid-19 they have limited hours you can go up on top. Finally, we pulled into the kiosk to register for camping…and my next moment of pregnancy brain became apparent. I only brought big bills… and we needed two bucks to cover the camping and vehicle fee for Nebraska State Parks. Considering I spend most of my day telling folks how much the vehicle fee is for state parks you might have thought I would have remembered that little fact…

I also had to pee like a racehorse. Aww, the joys of pregnancy- I would spend a lot this trip walking to and from the restrooms. They were nice (primitive) bathrooms. Plus wildlife…

This little guy would be my favorite thing all “weekend.”

We had to run back to Gering to get change, pens, and hopefully find a bathroom before Hunter kicked my bladder again. Luckily, it was less than ten miles.

I was able to find a pen and get change at the gas station, but the bathroom was occupied.

I also forgot to fill out half the form…

We stopped at Family Dollar- the ladies took pity on me and let me use the bathroom after they had already closed it for cleaning. I also bought pens.

Once back at Wildcat Hills SRA I finished the paperwork, paid, and donated a couple of pens to the state park!

Wade was impressed with the shooting range- however, it was closed during the time we were there- I appreciated the quiet but it would be fun to go with the guns and (my) bow sometime and check it out.

We picked a campsite…we could have picked any of them- hooray for working weekends and having weekdays off.

It didn’t take too long to get the camp set up, walk the dog (who was not liking the wind), and get dinner started. Wade is a professional setter upper and packer- it’s awesome. I’m not too shabby but he is awesome. By the time I was done walking the dog he was ready for me to help put the rainfly on. Once we had that done, I started playing pyromaniac in order to get dinner ready. Wade unloaded the air mattress (I didn’t think I needed it, but he was being a sweetie again) and realized he grabbed the full sized…oops. This will come back into play later.

Wade scoped out the outhouses- I’ve used a lot worse. Plus, I had a cute toad to look for when I went to the rest room. He had a prime location on the trail.

My Little Buddy

We watched a glorious sunset, but the wind was a little high. As we turned into the tent my loveable, terrified, dog dove into the sleeping bag and air mattress. My sweetheart of a husband said, “let her sleep with you tonight, I’ll take the ground- makes me wish I had realized it was the full sized earlier.”

My girl and cuddle buddy.

I had a little fun getting her to squeeze over so I could lay flat, but we managed.

The next morning Wade made a delicious campfire breakfast (sausage and hash browns). It was a perfect morning, sunny, cool, and great for a hike!

Hold up.

One little bitty issue… the water taps in the campground were not working.

No, no- it’s a flashback to Badlands.

Hehe, not quite; we had some flavored water and Wade had a full gallon. However, we were a little worried about it for the next few days.

We decided to do the Turkey Run trail- it was the longest trail just under two miles. Wade didn’t want me to get too carried away on the trails… he also asked me if I was okay every five minutes- I decided not to throttle him because he was being sweet.

But it did get annoying.

I did have to cut back on what I normally do- and I couldn’t do Wade’s pace- nor would I want too.

Wade is a “I’m here to get it done- no photos, march,” type of hiker. However, he had to slow down because of the dog and me.

I like to take photos and wander, add in the pregnancy I plodded at best.

Opposites attract.

Luckily, between the dog and him worrying about me we managed to finish the hike without killing each other.

My feet were a little swollen- normal with pregnancy.

Once we were back in camp, we grabbed some bottled flavor water (I still like plain water), took a seat to relax for a few minutes, and decided the next step of the day. Scotts Bluff…and because I married an electrician, and we were near a larger city, – a home improvement store.

The drive up to Scotts Bluff is always amazing- it rises out of the rolling grassland to a large…bluff…so much for poetic language. I’ll be working on that.

We talked to the ranger in the information booth. Unfortunately, the visitor center was closed so I couldn’t show Wade some of the neat stuff in there. However, the grounds were open, and the trails were calling…other people.

Wade was worried that the Summit Trail would be to much for me pregnant and it was getting later in the day and hotter. He was right but I still grumbled.  

It was his first time there- which is surprising since he’s from Nebraska. He had a fun time and we checked out the trail system up on top.

I always liked high places, so this was up my ally. My dog tried to jump up on the rock barrier and almost went over the edge because she wanted to see too. Wade being the big sweetie he is, picked her up so she could see too.

The view…was amazing in certain directions, I’m not a big fan of looking at cities but it was still amazing.

I found some flowers to take pictures of and some nice shots looking along the bluff.

On the drive down, Wade wanted to go zoom, zoom- he thought it would be a good road to race on… I had to remind him what my day job was…

The next stop was a late lunch- Chinese takeout was on the menu…

So fun fact- I don’t like coconut, I don’t mind the milk so much (which was the main ingredient in what I ate) but something about the texture. Anyways- I was craving coconut chicken and I gorged myself on it… I even impressed Wade.

Coconut Chicken!

The next stop was for Wade- at this point I was sleepy and needed to get my feet up.

I wound up falling asleep while Wade did his shopping. Luckily, the passenger seat in the Ascent lays flat. Princess got to enjoy the a/c with me and played guard dog…she would lick them to death, but she would whack me with her tail on her way.

I woke up after Wade had us back to Wildcat Hills… he wound up going to Wally World too and got a water tank so we could fill up without having to worrying getting it in the campground.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing in camp- I read, Wade watched videos on camping trailers, and we enjoyed the breeze. I got some sunset photos and caught a couple mule deer wandering along the hillside. A buck and a doe.

I spent a few minutes trying to get some nice moon shots; I’m trying to learn new things with my camera. I like landscapes and wildlife, but I want to keep learning. So lightening, moon, and videos here I come!

Wade checked the weather while we were getting ready for bed- the dog already burrowing into her spot on the air mattress. Wind would be high, so Wade decided to let her have the bed again- I gave him a backrub when we got home to make up for it.

The wind was ridiculous; we had gusts up to 40 mph. My dog was not liking it and Wade, and I, woke up at different times throughout the night thinking the tent was going to mimic Dorothy Gale’s house. I decided to put off going to the rest room in order to keep my corner of the tent down around 2 am. I really had to go when we got up at 7. I almost ran over the dog and Wade.

Even with the wind- it was a nice morning, luckily it died down enough we were able to get the tent packed away and walk the dog without too much trouble. Again, Wade is amazing at packing a tent back into the package it came in without modifying the tent or the bag.

One last trip to the bathroom and we’re heading into town for a greasy breakfast.

We then headed to Alliance and Carhenge.

Carhenge is not quite what I was expecting. I thought it would be kitschy, but it was charming and not overtly touristy. It’s actually sculptures and artwork. I thought it was just going to be cars stacked to mimic Stonehenge but there was more to it- I really enjoyed the dinosaur. After walking around and Wade gushing over, and saddened, by the old Jeeps used to create the “henge:- I needed a bathroom again.

Sadly, I had to wait till Gordon, NE nearly an hour away.

I was seeing water at one point.   

We made it- barely, lol.

All in all, it was a great trip.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. I wish I had my trekking poles for some of the steeper sections of the trail but I managed!

P.P.S. I will be adding more photos… either my internet doesn’t like me or my photo files are to big and I need to render them down…

Winter Bleeding into Spring, Happy Surprises, and the COVID-19 Quarantine

Well, there wasn’t much to write about as far as hiking goes. This winter I got sucked into my usual seasonal affective disorder (SAD) ‘meh’ phase. I find I love the snow (for the first few days) but I hate the wind and cold- then the snow becomes ridiculous. I’m short, the snow gets deep in places- even walking the dog around the local park- and Wade doesn’t want to be married to “that weird chick that wears snowshoes in town…”

Cold dog outing…

I was about to the point of wearing them anyways this winter.

Overall, I still enjoy winter, but I don’t know a lot about winter weather hiking and Wade doesn’t seem to keen on going out and exploring. So, we spend a lot of time inside and I get bored and start slipping into SAD territory. I might investigate some winter outdoor groups in South Dakota, so I can learn some new skills and get out in the cold- maybe I’ll appreciate it more.

Wade dealing with our snow fort…

January…same as December, other than walking the dog I didn’t get out much. Although, we did do a fun work related trip at Norden and I got a cool (and cold) sunrise morning photo…

Cold, foggy morning on the Niobrara NSR

February led to some big news! We’re adding an addition to the family. Little Hunter will be here late September to join us on various adventures. Things were starting to pick up at work, but little did we know…

Little Hunter!

By March the COVID-19, or as it was then known the novel Coronavirus, became a major thing on our radar and it would curtail any plans I had for spring trips. By April I was teleworking and homebound…it was tough and did not help with the SAD going on. Although, I don’t know if it was because I was home more or I just finally noticed that the cat (Hela) became a psychotic little minion of death, she keeps trying to drown her mouse toys in the dogs water dish- AND I caught her trying to drown the dog but the size difference seems to keep that murderous intention down. Princess seems to not care for the attacks or just think she’s playing with her…

Not sure why it loaded this way…

May things started to open, including work so I was busy. I did get out for some local hikes and photography- check out my Instagram, photos seem to be an easier medium for me to post regularly. Plus, learning how to do stuff while pregnant- mainly me learning limitations on doing stuff. On top of that Wade apparently thinks I’m glass now and doesn’t like for me to lift anything over ten pounds if he’s around… I feel lazy and loved 😊.

Found out it’s a little tricky to get out a canoe. Let’s leave it at I mimicked a turtle on it’s back a little bit after doing a rollout onto semi-dry land. My belly is huge and I’m only six months along! My lungs are being squished- the joys of being vertically challenged and pregnant so I sound like a freight train even on easy walks.

With all the stuff going on that was keeping me home I worked on my poetry (Instagram @priarie_river_witch) and other writings- so this blog got neglected again but I didn’t really have any hiking/backpacking/or even camping stuff to talk about. Or really any adventure other than contemplating writers block to speak of- so I didn’t want to bore anyone.

I’m going to post some more about June and a lovely adventure that my husband and I are taking for my “weekend” this coming week! I’ll hopefully have that up in a week or two…. I make no promises, lol.

We can’t wait!

Keep wandering,

BJ

… Worn out…

Have you ever been exhausted?

Not just tired, not just blah.

But totally exhausted to the point that you just don’t want to get out of bed?

That’s the point I hit about two months ago.

I’m finally back to just being tired and I’m slowly working towards being excited about things again.

I’ve returned to having free time and actual days off but I haven’t been motivated to do much more than clean house and try to get stuff organized.

I’ve been super sad that I haven’t even gotten to go camping this year yet! I’m hoping to rectify that in the near future. I just have to sweet talk the hubby into a trip.

Pumpkins, Poems, and Pictures

Did it again… I slipped off the radar.

In my defense, it has been a little busy in the grand scheme of things and I like sleep.

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What I might do, since my well-laid plans seem to get shot to hell, is start writing about the other stuff going on and sprinkle hiking and backpacking stuff in as I go. I just feel bad because the whole point of this blog is that I’m hiking and preparing for a backpacking trip. I guess the unending story of how I cannot seem to get my ducks in a row would make for a better story and make the ‘wannabe’ part more poignant. Besides, I would probably update the blog more…

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This again? Don’t you have something else to take photos of?

Because, let’s face it when I don’t go hiking, or prepping for a trip that I don’t get to take due to my weekends being cut short, it discourages me from writing about it. Hence, why the last post was in JUNE!

I also haven’t even been camping this year.

Side note, I was planning a mini-trip last weekend but the weather decided to go nuts in the Black Hills and most of western Nebraska, the two places I planned on checking out my brain too. I should suck it up and go do stuff in the snow but I’m a wimp that doesn’t have decent winter gear.

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Therefore, while I’m the Wannabe Backpacker and I wannabe out there, I’m going to change it up a little. I do not want this to turn into my rantings about why things go sideways. I’m going to be positive about it and write about the cool things going on that influence my hiking ways…or lack thereof. On the upside- my new boss is finally on board and hopefully, things get a little more settled.

*Fingers crossed for next summer*

Here is the abridged version of what is going on to get this new theme kicked off:

Summer was work, work, and more work (loved the paychecks)!

September and October have been a bit of a blur. I finally took a week off and literally did nothing but read and sleep. I needed that break far more than I realized. I did plan to go hiking and doing something fun but the couch won that battle.

Finally, I went on a trip that wasn’t work-related! Wade and I went to Omaha, NE to visit some friends; we got to go shopping, eat great food, and visited a pumpkin patch. I forgot how much I love pumpkin patches and cornfield mazes. It is the epitome of fall, plus witches and Halloween of course.

 

New, medical problems on the horizon- I’ll keep you’ll posted. I hope that it is something that will not require surgery.

I revisited an old friend, poetry.

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-BJ Roshone

 

As many of you probably noticed there has been an uptick in my poetry on my normal Facebook and Instagram pages. It was my go to writing form for many years and then it sort of stopped. Now, it’s trickling back and I’m having fun with it, I’m going to submit some full-length stuff to a few journals and publications and see how it goes.

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-BJ Roshone

I’m still taking photos.

I still plan on wandering onto a hike here soon. Maybe in Iowa… 🙂

Keep wandering,

BJ

Winter Time Slide…

img_0200Ugh… I did it again. I let the blog go for almost three months. I just lost motivation. I was half way through writing about my honeymoon trip and just lost it. I’ve picked that piece up and hopefully will have it out by the end of the week. I’d like to say that I was just catching up on some “me” time and was out exploring cool sites but I can’t.

I had a round with depression. It was situational, stemming from a couple factors and I’m better now.

Part of it stemmed from the shutdown, as some of you know I work for the federal government, and the scrambling involved. I wound up pulling extra shifts on my local ambulance and picked up a job waiting tables- more out of boredom than anything. I hate sitting still unless I’m trying to get a great shot or reading a good book. Still it’s a little demoralizing when people say you’re non-essential and should go look for another job, etc. etc. I love my job and the term “non-essential” just means the place won’t burn down if I’m not there.

This is one reason I didn’t get out and hike in some of the cooler places around my home- in a show of solidarity I stayed off public lands- I didn’t want to contribute to the extended workload of the poor folks who were deemed essential. I think the staying home gave me cabin fever though and contributed to my bout of depression.

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Horrible lighting but wanted to show my ice formations…

On top of that we had a round with what I deemed sub-arctic weather (at least for my southern Missouri roots), it got bone-chilling cold for several days. Especially with the windchill, we were looking at -20 plus days in a row for a while. I really didn’t want to leave the house on those days. I did mainly to walk the dog but I was wearing lots of layers and I was still cold. One day my sunglasses froze over from the condensation while wearing a baklava.

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Now, it’s just snowing on and off with temps above zero but I’m a wimp. Plus when the drifts are up to your thighs in places, well for me most people it might hit there knees/shins, it makes hiking in the snow without snowshoes a pain. (Come on next Christmas).

However, these two main factors mixed in with a few smaller things just messed with me mentally. I’ve always thought of myself as a happy person and thought depression would never be a problem but the stressors really affected me this time around. I didn’t want to slide any further than I did so I talked to some counselors and that helped. My husband is amazing- he let me rant about everything and told me it would be okay.

I also started working out more indoors, I have a treadmill in the basement that I got for winter days and I really put the miles on it- I also invested in a little stair stepper. I started reading all the time- which was always my go too. Or I was torturing my dog with photos. I got a new iPhone and was playing with the camera. I was coming out of my funk when we hit day 35 and I found out I would be going back to work.

I’m doing better and I’ve got my motivation back. Well, for writing and planning hikes this summer. I’m still not thrilled with the “feels like 3 degrees” days and I’ll be “patiently” counting down the days till spring. Plus the two nights waiting tables a week will help fund my “winter clothing collection” for next year…

To happier trails,

BJ

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Just stop with the photos!

Badlands: The Walk thru Mordor

Badlands- the name sparks curiosity. I’ve always been fascinated by the Badlands in South Dakota.  The area is in many ways like a desert but its home to the United States largest protected area of mixed grass prairie. It seems devoid of life. Yet it is home to 329 animal species and over 400 plant species. The extreme temperatures, the empty feeling, and how limited water is made it a “bad lands to travel through.” I love French- American trappers, that phrase came from “les mauvais terres pour traverse,” when it comes to naming things though the Lakota had it right: “mako sica,” or “land, bad,” hence the “Badlands.”

In honor of throwback Thursday, here is a story of adventure, trial and error, and companionship.

Badlands3August 2015:

I decided to go camping in the Badlands to kick off the end of my work season (sort of) in mid-August. Originally, it was only going to be my boyfriend (now husband- I’m working on the honeymoon blog) and myself. However, we invited some additional friends. I should have told them up front I was boring- I wanted to hike, spend time in the visitor center, drool over the paleontology lab, and listen to park rangers give programs. They were expecting more camping activities, campfires, and fun times. I really can’t blame for finding my trip planning lacking. I’m still boring, I’m just not in charge of the trips anymore…

The camping wasn’t too bad but it could have been a little more fun. Especially since you can’t have campfires in Badlands NP. I should have brought some more camping games than just a frisbee and cards. Hindsight is 20/20. We still had a lot of fun the first night- cooking, playing frisbee, and sitting around shooting the breeze. I and one of my friends went to the evening program about astronomy I think…it’s been three years…

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Blurry photo of the frisbee players

After the program and wandering back to the campsite admiring the beautiful night sky- one thing I truly like about rural Nebraska and South Dakota, the night sky is unbelievable. We sat around the lantern playing cards and talking before we climbed into our tents. Tomorrow was going to be a big day!

Little did we know what we would be getting ourselves into…

The morning was glorious, the sun rising over the buttes and pinnacles casting marvelous shadows over the mixed grass prairie. We reconvened at the grill and picnic table to figure out where we were going to hike.  Busting out the maps, guides, and other materials that I dragged along with me. We got down to business.

Since, Wade, Kris, and the others had been to various points of interest before and it was still fairly crowded at most of the shorter, more popular trails. The group decided to do the Castle Trail. In hindsight, I wished we had done the Medicine Root Loop- it was only 4 miles round trip. The Castle Trail on the other hand was 10 miles…

We thought we had planned well for it taking extra water, snacks, and other essentials. I made the dreaded mistake every hiker makes at least once- I assumed there would be water at the Fossil Exhibit Trailhead- since it was a popular place and lots of people were coming and going. This assumption would be what made me kick myself; it’s also the reason I go on long tirades about having enough water and carrying more than you need.

The hike started out pleasantly enough. We left the parking area in high spirits, signing the log book, and talking joyfully. Kris made a comparison to Lord of Rings, which got a laugh from me. It was going to be a good day.

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We made it to the first grouping of pinnacles and buttes. They were so cool up close and me being drawn to heights led me to climb up to the top of one- I’m pretty sure this waste of water and energy would come back to haunt me later but it was worth it for the view.

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Do you see the people?

Once I returned to the bottom, Wade was relieved- he just knew I was going to fall and break something (he does have a point, my track record with stairs hasn’t been great but I’m good on mountains, buttes, and ledges). The trail meandered around to the back side of the butte we climbed around and broke into mixed grass prairie, highlighted by blue sky.

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Wade took this photo of me climbing up to the top of the butte- he was zooming in…

The trail kind of followed the butte and as we came around the edge we saw Bighorn Sheep- I was in nerd heaven. Mixed grass prairie, geological formations, AND bighorn sheep, what a day! They kept a close eye on us as we made our way past them into Badlands. We would see more throughout the day.

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“What are you looking at?”

Hiking through the open prairie broken by smaller buttes was fun, we found some cool photo opportunities as we wandering along the trail. The day was starting to heat up and I was drinking more water. As I look back at this I keep kicking myself- literally. I just knew that I would be fine with just two 32oz water bottles. I wasn’t. I should have brought double that on this hike.

Word of advice- you are essentially in a desert in Badlands National Park, it’s a dry heat, and you’re exposed to sun nearly everywhere you go. Wear appropriate clothing, carry more water than you think you will need, try not to hike at midday, and don’t assume that every popular trailhead will have water.

We stopped for lunch and water around noon we were about the trail tie in to the Medicine Root Trail. We actually debated turning around there and heading back to the parking area. We should have- it might not have turned into a trek thru Mordor if we had. We decided to tough it out and put this 10 mile trail under our belts! I will take a lot of the responsibility for this- again I based my vote on there being water at the Fossil Exhibit Trailhead and everyone agreed with me.

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It started getting hotter, we were still a ways till the Fossil Exhibit area and I started rationing water- probably the best decision I had made all morning. We were still in awe of the scenery but were getting a little tired.

We came over the hill to the Fossil Exhibit and were so excited, we were halfway done and water lay ahead.

*screech*

There was no water. Just a bathroom, the fossil exhibit, and a parking lot.  We debated again. We decided to take a long break and head back. It would have been shorter to do that than hike the highway back to the parking lot and none of us wanted to give up and hitchhike for a ride.

Once that was established we sat down in a shady spot and relaxed. I got bored after a bit and wondering along the fossil trail reading the waysides and witnessing people trying to get photos of a rattlesnake…while screaming “There is a snake, get it away from me!” *snap, snap, snap*

All too soon we decided to get a leg up and head back. I was doing pretty well until we got the mid-point. It was really hot, we were all tired, and water was getting low. We stopped every 20 minutes or so and found shade and tried to recharge. I was limiting water but after each sip I would feel about ten times better. It was hard rationing it.

Like Kris, I made a remark about how we were now walking through Mordor- I got a tired chuckle from him, a moan and an eye roll from Wade.

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Walk. Start to feel bad. Think how adventure novels never talk about how much it sucks to walk through extreme climates. Tough it out till everyone else needed to stop. Stop. Find Shade. Sip. Repeat.

I was slowing down. Wade stayed with me and once he realized I was down to one last sip, gave me his water bottle. Apparently, I was dating a camel. He took maybe three drinks and was fine (once we got back to camp with more water, I did make him drink a whole bottle full to be on the safe side).

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Wade on his rock…

After what seemed like forever, we were back in sight of the parking lot. That last little chunk was the worst. I was so tired, out of shape, and thirsty. I was slowing everyone else down and I hated it. I finally told them to go on ahead, get the A/C running and I would drag myself there. Wade rolled his eyes at me, sent the rest ahead, made me drink the last of his water, and walked with me to get back to the truck.

We survived walking through Mordor…

Once in the truck, we wanted water, cool air, and a place to sit for a bit. I still wanted to see the VC. We went to Ben Reifel. It’s a really nice visitor center, A/C, water bottle refill station, chairs. We were in heaven. I bored everyone walking around the exhibits and bookstore.

After an hour or so enjoying the A/C and water, we headed back to camp. I was ready to eat and go to sleep. However, the group was hot, bored, and a little tired of the Badlands. We packed up and went home. I can’t say I wasn’t unhappy about that- I was very happy to get back to my own bed with a/c and water. But I was a little sad that we wouldn’t be hitting the other shorter trails the next day like I had planned.

All in all it was a good trip, besides the lack of planning.

Since, I only live a couple hours from the Badlands I try to make it up there a few times a year. I also take extra water now!

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Rocky Mountains and Gallbladder Pains

Winter has hit Nebraska; a major winter storm blew through Saturday night. Today I spent most of the day washing laundry, catching up on emails, and finally sitting down to work on my blog. After a week of fun in the sun and a week of Thanksgiving joy, I’m ready to get back to my regular work week. Other than work I have nothing else popping up in the foreseeable future, which I’m excited about honestly.

However, I’m so tired- I think it has to do with the weather. I think nature is telling me to hibernate until winter is over. Shaking off those pessimistic thoughts, I do have some tentative winter plans in mind though; binge-watching all my favorite shows and starting a workout regimen. I need to lose about fifteen pounds if I want to be comfortable backpacking next spring. I’m going to hit Badlands as soon as the weather clears up and the snow melts. Although, I do have it on good authority I will be getting snow pants this Christmas- which means there might be a winter hike in the future…

Anyways, my plan for this post was to catch you all up on what happened during August and September.

Let me backtrack a little before this- I had been having troubles with my stomach off and on for the last two years. I changed my diet, changed it again, and swore off greasy foods. It would get better for a while but it always came back. In June it came back, worse than ever. I went into my regular doctor twice and got referred to a gastroenterologist in July. It was getting to the point I could barely eat, it was bad. I was also just drinking water at that point.

At the end of July, I went to talk to my gastroenterologist after the initial visit and testing- it was during this appointment that my previous two years of diet changes and outright stubbornness failed to change the inevitable. I had to have surgery with general anesthesia.  The sooner the better, according to my doctor.

This threw a wrench into my plans, my bachelorette party was coming up right around the same time he was thinking I should have the surgery.

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I didn’t want to give this up!

A weekend of friendship and hiking in the Rocky Mountain National Park- I had been looking forward to it since early spring. Now, it looked like it would be canceled for  the benefit of my health.

I got lucky (or unlucky depending on how you want to view it). The doctor couldn’t get me in until the Tuesday after the weekend getaway. I was still going to the Rockies. I just wouldn’t be able to eat anything tasty or imbibe any spirits- but it would still a blast.

Originally, we had planned on camping- but since I wasn’t sure if everyone would get the time off until about a month before the weekend, I lost out on getting a reserved campsite, much to the happiness of my friends and sister. I got us a lovely cabin in Estes Park. Seriously, the Stone Brook Resort is where it’s at!

After a busy week at work, finding out about the surgery, and getting tired of wedding planning I was so ready for the weekend! The misfortune struck- my sister wouldn’t be able to make it. We still had fun without her (we still love you PJ).

I drove to Denver to pick up my besties, Grace and Liz, and we headed to Estes Park. We got in late. We explored the cabin- highly amused at the Jacuzzi tub in the living room. We turned in around 2, only to get up and head out around 10ish.

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Seriously, a Jacuzzi tub in the living room next to the window- the river in the background is nice.

After a delightful breakfast at the Mountain Home Café, we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a ten minute drive. It was beautiful.

*Parkie advice* If you go to any NPS (or other federal lands) site that charges an entrance fee, more than three or four times a year, invest in the annual pass. It’s $80 bucks up front but if you go to a park that charges a $20 entrance fee it will pay for itself fairly quickly. Besides RMNP, I use it at Badlands quite a bit. Want other options besides this pass, there is the Senior Annual Pass $20, Senior Lifetime Pass $80, and Access Pass (free disability). Plus if you are current US Military you can get the annual pass free for you and your dependents. If you like volunteering and are close to a federal site (National Park Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, etc.) if you contribute 250 or more hours you get one for free (I did that a couple of times!) Finally, if you have a 4th grader, they also get a free annual pass with a valid printed voucher from Every Kid in a Park website.  You can buy them at most federal sites or online for an additional handling fee. For more information go to https://store.usgs.gov/pass

We spent a little time at the Fall River Visitor Center, looking over the exhibits, talking to the volunteers and staff, and doing a little shopping- in my case buying books, everyone else water bottles (they forgot to bring one and I’m a stickler for hydration, especially at altitude.

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Grace took this awesome photo of me!

Since we had limited time and various fitness levels we decided to stick with day hikes, we picked the Bear Lake Area. As well drove through the park to get to Bear Lake we were in awe of the mountains. We pulled over and stopped for photos quite a bit before we made it the lower/bus parking area.

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Grace and Liz!

 

Word of advice Bear Lake is super busy- unless you’re planning on being there at 5 am or after 6 pm, use the bus and park away from the actual area. It will still be crowded but at least parking is easier. The bus is free of charge.

We got there around one pm- it was busy.  People everywhere…around Bear Lake. We decided to check out the left hand path instead of going to Bear Lake. We only made it to Dream Lake- taking into account our time limit (only drawback to taking the bus) and as previously mentioned skill level.

Hiking up from Bear Lake we passed Nymph Lake- again since it was fairly close to the trailhead it was slightly crowded. Making the elk cow grazing near the water’s edge a commodity that people wanted to be photographed with. Luckily, she didn’t seem to mind until people starting yelling at her to look up- then she wandered into the forest.

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Nymph Lake

Most people didn’t go pass Nymph Lake. For the most part we had the trail heading up to Dream Lake to ourselves. Passing various visitors and rock bouldering enthusiasts carrying their mats. It was after about the third group of bouldering folks passed us and another group that someone asked why they were carrying mats. I grew up bouldering without the mats but now that I’m older and looking at getting back into it the mats look nice. Since I had the background knowledge, I was able to provide an answer and for the next mile I was the other group’s tour guide…

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They stopped and turned around at a high point before the trail plateaus off for Dream Lake. We paused for a few moments to take some photos before heading on to Dream Lake. I really enjoyed the area just before we go to the lake, it was a beautiful little area with a babbling brook trickling through.

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Dream Lake was memorable, mountain tops in the distance (I believe we were looking at Flattop Mtn.), high ridges surrounding us, and very few people. By this point, the folks passing us were speed hiking to Emerald Lake or heading back down to Bear Lake. We spent a little time taking photos before starting back down ourselves. I wish we had gotten there earlier in the day so I didn’t have sun flare in the photos.

We made it about halfway down before the ravenous hunger set in- we started talking about what we wanted to eat. I about cried a little bit because all I wanted was a cheeseburger, fires, and apple pie but my stomach wouldn’t be able to handle all the greasy goodness.

Before leaving the area we decided to check out Bear Lake- by this point there wasn’t very many people hanging out there. It’s also very pretty.

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Although, we had talked about going by the store and getting stuff for dinner- none of us wanted to cook and the closest restaurant was the Trailhead Restaurant.

At this point, I decided to get one last meal regardless of my stomachs ability to handle it- I was having surgery in three days and I didn’t want my (possible) last meal to be a salad with not dressing.

I got the Trailhead Buffalo Burger. It. Was. Amazing. I don’t know if it was the lean meat type, fate smiling on me, or what but I didn’t have any upset stomach problems after the fact and was able to have a glass of wine with my besties!

Relaxing in the cabin! I had that class of wine in the Jacuzzi tub (I was wearing a bathing suit).

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My glass of wine in the Jacuzzi tub!

The next day we headed out to explore Estes Park a little more- having breakfast at the Mountain Home Café again. Then wondering around seeing the sites, did a little shopping, and driving by the epic hotel from the Shining.

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Enjoying my morning coffee on our deck overlooking Fall River

Since I have smart friends, we had most of the day to kill and we went to Boulder. Free parking on the weekends, score! Boulder is a lovely town, my favorite store was the Boulder Book Store (who would have guessed?), followed by the Savannah Bee Company. Love me some honey, plus I’m a big fan of their Save the Bees campaign. Check out the Bee Cause Project at http://thebeecause.org/

All too soon we had to head south, Grace and Liz’s flights would be leaving that evening and I needed to head back to prepare for surgery.

After a lot of hugs, we were all on our way. Well I was on my way, Grace and Liz would have some downtime at the airport before their flights would actually leave.

It was a six hour drive for me and when I got home I was exhausted. My fiancée, Wade, was happy to see me and cooked me dinner (and kept it warm for me) making a perfect midnight snack.

It was a wanderful trip!

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Lead up to Gallbladder Surgery:

The next day, I cleaned the house up, did all my laundry, made sure my will was up to date and got ready for the surgery.

Now, when I had the appointment to talk about options and we decided on surgery. I asked if I could be awake during the surgery. The doctor thought I was joking. I wasn’t. Hence my making sure the will was up to date. Wade thought I was overthinking it- I was but hey we all have issues with certain things- mines being knocked out and cut open.

Wade and I decided to stay the night in North Platte where my surgery was taking place. I being the overthinking, overachiever showered three times using Dial soap (twice the night before and once the morning of). I went into the hospital at 5:30 am, took me back around 6 to do all the prep. The poor nurse had a hard time getting the IV in and had to call back up. My surgeon came by to check on me and let me know some of the after effects of the surgery would be- mainly air bubbles. Around 7:30 the anesthesiologist came to talk to me and Wade.

After hearing the plan, I told her not to tell me when they gave me the shot.

They didn’t.

The nurse came back a little while later with my shot of antibiotics (and the happy shot) the world go a little hazy after that.

Other than hearing the nurse telling Wade he should give me a kiss before they take me back I have no idea what happened until I started waking up in recovery to the worse pain ever.

A darn air bubble in my shoulder of all places.

That kind of surprised the nurse but it wasn’t uncommon; she thought the surgery site would be bothering me more since my gallbladder was twice the normal size and they had to widen the top incision a little more. Really the incisions didn’t bother me until I had to sit up on the couch at home or if I wore pants with a belt (like I have to do for work).

I was still on the gallbladder diet- no grease, no apples or pears (I was so sad), or any tasty food for a few weeks.

My recovery went really well. I’m now able to eat some of my old favorites (apples and pears) and I’m working back up to adding some of the tasty stuff like deep fried chicken back into my diet. I have four scars from the incisions, three on my right side in a diagonal line and one in my belly button. I look like I was in a knife fight with an OCD person.

Since I was laid up for a while I got to looking at dehydrated foods for backpacking. I’m looking at building a menu of foods for backpacking that go along with the gallbladder diet (or the no- gallbladder diet at this point). If you have some recipe ideas let me know!

Two days after my surgery on Friday another exciting event happened. My braces came off! After nearly two years of orthodontic work I now have a fairly straight smile compared to what I use to have. My original plan to celebrate the braces coming off was a big bag of popcorn, due to the surgery I had to settle for soup…

Once I returned to work  I found out my boss (the best boss ever) would be leaving for a new job near her fiancee- I can’t blame her but I cried. It got busy at work, since I was going to be taking off a lot of time in October and November. Pretty much all my time was spent in the office or thinking about stuff in the office. It’s finally starting to slow down and kind of return to normal.

 

Next time: The Wedding and Honeymoon Cruise!

Keep wandering,

BJ

I’m alive… I think…

In belated Halloween fashion I’m channeling Young Frankenstein of all things. Yes, I’m alive- just tired and ready for a vacation from my vacation- which won’t happen until sometime next year. The photo with this post is from the honeymoon cruise- I didn’t want to leave the window- it was perfect for reading. Read the entire Dresden Files on my cruise down time- where is Peace Talks!

I would like to say sorry for letting the blog lapse over the last couple of months- I will do better in the future. In theory, now that the wedding, honeymoon, classes, and gallbladder surgery are all over and done with, I shouldn’t be stretched as thin on time. However, I won’t guarantee weekly or daily updates on the blog just yet. The way its going I’ll be lucky to do one a month. I do have some post planned out for the coming week that will feature some of the hikes I did before and after gallbladder surgery back in August. I will talk about hiking in Costa Maya and Belize, plus all the other fun stuff you can do there. I also plan on doing a throwback Thursday post about a previous adventure into the Badlands- since the way things worked out this year I didn’t get to do the overnight…yet.

So for now here is a brief recap-
August: visited and hiked Rocky Mountain National Park, had gallbladder surgery.
September: Work swamped me after taking the week off for gallbladder surgery and recovery.
October: Wedding! I did not realize how much planning would actually go into this…
November: Honeymoon and catching up on the Dresden Files – come on Peace Talks!

Stay tuned,

BJ,
The Wannabebackpacker

The Cowboy Trail

Hi all! It’s been another busy week here in Nebraska.  I had two fun days off; well except for the eye appointment I had. As I let all my Facebook friends know I had some trouble with my right eye. I apparently scratched it at some point. Did you know that the material in your eye is similar to skin and when it is scratched it also scabs over?

I didn’t. I wore my contacts.

Guess what happens when you wear your contacts all day and take them out when you have a scratch?

Pain, a lot of cussing, followed by hours of swelling, irritation, and borderline insanity. Talk about a fun Friday night. The contact acts like a band-aid and once the scab has fused to the contact you rip the the scab off when you take out the contact. Unlike the band-aid and regular scab, it hurts for hours and you think you’re going blind. Or that that spoon you used for ice cream looks like a excellent way to remove the eye…

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It’s a little tough hiking around without sunglasses…

Luckily, I’m fine and wearing my glasses until the eye finishes healing up. I think I’m going to invest in Lasik after this go around though. Tomorrow on my next day off (Tuesday) I’m heading back to the eye doctor. Fingers crossed my eye has healed up!

Anyways, that little trip to North Platte was fun, other than the stop into the eye doctor. On my “Sunday,” and everyone else’s Tuesday, I got in a little training on the Cowboy Trail. It was hot- good practice for Badlands.

 

 

I had a hiking buddy for this little jaunt, my best friend on four legs, Princess! She loves getting out and about- but doesn’t like 100 degree heat. I do not blame her in the slightest.  We keep the hike a short one, only about a mile and a half. I could have kept going but Princess was trying to swim in her water dish. A 70-pound lab mix trying to swim in a five inch collapsible bowl is adorable to watch.

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I want to believe she’s thinking, “You’re an odd human.”

I probably won’t take her on high heat training days from now on, unless it’s under a mile or along the river.

This particular hike is over the river, the Niobrara River, in case you were wondering. We parked at the little trail head and started out. For the most part there is no elevation gain or lost (to me, but I’m also from Missouri and still think Nebraska doesn’t have real hills), along this little section of the trail. On the way back there is a slight incline from the bridge to the parking lot; usually I only notice it though if I’m carrying a pack to prep for the arduous Wildland Firefighter test.

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Heading west on the Cowboy Trail. On the right, in the distance is Borman Bridge- the official start of the Niobrara NSR. 

This is similar to many of the trails I’ll be tackling at Badlands- the Castle Trail for example, the one myself and friends fondly refer to as the “trek to Mordor.” We decided to hike it a few years ago, in August, midday, with only a few water-bottles between us.  Ten miles. We assumed there would be water at the Fossil Exhibit Trail head, we were wrong. Yeah, we weren’t that bright. We did survive- I now take more water than one person should be able to drink whenever I go to Badlands. Since it’s only a couple of hours from where I live now, I should be going up there more than once every few months.

Anyways, back to the Cowboy Trail. The Cowboy Trail, if it’s ever completed, will be the longest Rails to Trails unit. It crosses the Niobrara, near Valentine, NE. The bridge is amazing and has been featured in a lot of publications, video footage, and photos from the area. For more information check out these websites:

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One of my favorite shots- no I was not climbing over the railing to get it…

http://outdoornebraska.gov/cowboytrail/

https://www.traillink.com/trail/cowboy-recreation-and-nature-trail/

In fact the photo header for the Trail Link website is the bridge I’m talking about.

The walk we took, I like I said was a short one. It only lasted about an hour, about ten minutes of that was Princess and I sitting in the shade. We spent it trying to empty my water bottle- mainly over Princess.

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I have Badlands on my mind… and water bottle. 

I’ve walked over it several times in the last four and a half years that I’ve been living in Nebraska. It’s one of the amazing highlights of the Niobrara River Valley in my opinion. I decided to highlight the actual river in a future post (I’ll be doing a overnight floating trip soon). Sadly, it will not focus as much on backpacking or hiking since public land is limited and the hiking trails are usually under a mile.

Next practice hike on the agenda for my upcoming “weekend”- a trip to the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, Princess will attend because she can hop in the river!

Keep rambling!

Looking Downstream from Cowboy Bridge
The Niobrara River, a neat contrast to the surrounding prairie. 

Is it summer yet?

Sorry it’s been awhile folks. I’ve been drowning in Grad school, internships, work, and life in general. After some crazy weather and a blizzard in April, I’m finally out and about. It’s a glorious (late) spring edging into summer now. The prairie flowers are beginning to bud, the grass is growing, and the trees are green. I’ve been getting out and playing on the Niobrara and taking photos of the river valley.

And I’m almost ready to wander…into the Badlands.

After my last post and what fleeting time I could spare to planning trips, preparing gear, planning a wedding, and trying to sleep. I came to the conclusion that I might have to do a few overnights and put off a three day trip until later in the year or even more sadly next year. I’m still planning on doing a two night trip into the Black Elk Wilderness this year.

So during the little planning I was able to spare for backpacking, and a growing nostalgia for the desert, I came to the conclusion to tackle Badlands. I’m going to do a series of weekends meandering along the trails and hopefully seeing Bighorn sheep. Another overnight at Custer and then I will traverse the Black Elk Wilderness.

Since, I now have time once more to enjoy my days off. I hope to keep to a far more regular schedule with my blogging. Although, I did decide to take a few writing classes (one this summer, two in the fall, and one more in the spring) to help polish my skills and also get a Professional Writing Certificate. The good news is one of the classes is on creative writing and I get to use some of the stuff I’ve already done! Yay!

Return to the Rim

Aggghhh! Time has gotten away from me; between the New Year, graduate school, and work I’ve been swamped. I feel so bad I haven’t posted the last installment of the Grand Canyon adventure! Here is the final part of the story…

6’ish… I wasn’t paying to much attention to time…

Cold. Blissful cold. If you like that sort of thing. I wanted nothing more than to burrow down deeper into my mummy bag and wait for the sun to rise and warm up the canyon. However, that never seems to work for me when I’m camping.

I’ll usually wake up early; if I’m camping with friends I’ll feign sleep. So I can stay in my tent and read or just relax enjoying the sounds of nature interrupted by the sounds of camp cookware clanking and low voices. I tend to do the same when I’m camping by myself. It’s odd when I’m home in civilization I’m a night owl that hates getting up in the morning and I’ll sleep in on weekends. Camping, my clock reset’s itself, I should camp more often.

This chilly morning in February, I got up with my hiking partner, the other guy had already been up for a while. After the usual morning ablutions, we had breakfast. For me that was one of the hard-boiled eggs and two granola bars. I kept hoping it would magically turn into bacon, tomatoes, fresh bread, and hot tea but alas no magical hobbits were running about cooking breakfast. However, at the time it was filling. Looking back now, I should have had about twice the amount of calories. I thought I had planned for the deficit, but I underestimated what I would need for the hike back up.

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Near the Rim; the geology was impressive.

After breaking camp, I took a few moments to fill up all my water bottles and the now empty Gatorade bottle. We took one last look around Indian Gardens and set off for the return trip up the Rim. My legs were only a little sore and each step seemed to loosen them up.

As we left the green valley of the garden, I looked back towards our resting place, the canyon beyond, and the invisible Colorado River; one day I will come back and explore this place far more. I adjusted the pack, once again better fitting because of the jacket and kept hiking.

We hit the switchbacks right away; for me these, and the switchbacks the last mile up, were the worst. Although, the ones at the bottom, in comparison to the last little bit, were easy. I was enlivened by my experience in the canyon, it was a new day and a new me.

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Indian Garden is behind my head…and a ways back down.

I honestly don’t remember as much on the first few switchbacks up. I do remember when at the last two in this section I wanted to find the person that made backpacks (or in the more likely the person that bought them in bulk for the training folks) and find out what his or her problem with short people was, because that pack was getting ridiculous. Did they just not assume short people hiked?

Overall, the trip back up wasn’t as exciting as going down; if we had gone on down to Phantom Ranch and back up the South Kaibab Trail or up to the North Rim it would have been more fun for me. However, we were doing a down and back on the Bright Angel Trail. I still loved it, but I had seen most of the views on the way down. I will say the view heading up was impressive. The Rim a huge wall just towering above you, it’s daunting but when you make it to the top it makes you feel invincible. The other reason I don’t think I enjoyed it as much was the impressive amount of people that clogged the last two miles of trail.

It was inspiring to look back up that canyon wall and think, by the end of the day I will be standing on top of that, not even the end of the day 2 pm at most. By the time 2 pm rolled around I was thinking, I’ve never wanted to push someone off a cliff but if one more person with a selfie stick whacks me their getting an up close shot of the canyon floor. In hindsight I really wish I had used my trekking poles as swords, at least it would have been entertaining.

The thing about the Grand Canyon is your essentially backpacking a mountain in reverse. Most people go up the mountain and then back down, at the Grand Canyon you go down first and then back up. It takes about twice as long to hike up as it took to hike down. I firmly believe at least forty five minutes of that time is just dealing with traffic jams, usually involving a selfie stick.

I kind of view people the way I view wildlife…from a distance. My job is interacting with people, it’s very outgoing and while I love it by the end of the day people just wear you down. It took many years for me to realize I’m an introvert. However, I do like talking to people and helping them out. The amount of people who visit the Grand Canyon made me rethink how people process information, especially in written form. So for the average day hiker, who only hike a mile or two down, really should pause and read the bulletin boards; especially hiking 101.

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Important trekking equipment for the Grand Canyon in winter; trekking poles and crampons.

  • Mules have right away; don’t jump in front of them to take a cool picture, you’re holding up the mule train and the rest of the hikers.
  • Also yelling and jumping because you’ve seen a mule “in the wild” while said mule is plodding by you, is a great way to scare both the mule and the person riding said mule. It also scares all the hikers who are waiting quietly while the mules pass, especially when the mule decides to jump sideways and almost takes out five people.
  • Take water. Even though it’s February, and the rest houses every mile and a half have water, if you’re not used to arid conditions you’ll need more water. Puking by the side of the trail is not a fun morning activity.
  • While it’s only a “courtesy” on both the website and the bulletin board; please give the uphill hikers the right of way. You won’t realize it until you’re coming back up but once you get in a groove of walking, especially uphill, you don’t want to stop.
  • It is a good sign if you can carry a conversation while you’re walking and not be out of breath. That said I don’t care what you had for lunch last Thursday and when you walk two abreast I can’t pass you; especially, when you either ignore or didn’t hear the “passing on right.” Talking is great, however, pay attention to your surroundings; not only the other people on the trail there is a whole canyon over there.
  • Keep the selfie sticks on the rim; the trail isn’t that wide and there are tons of people coming down or up that will be happy to take a photo for you. I got whacked twice by people who were trying to get that perfect shot and weren’t paying attention. (I did try to dodge, but when there are people behind, in front, and to the side of you, it’s hard to go anywhere.)
  • Last but not least; don’t wear flip flops. Surprisingly, several people thought this was great footwear. It’s February, there is ice on the rim even though it’s a desert area. I didn’t get to see any broken bones but odds are high that something might happen.

Sorry for the rant; but some things bear repeating. This is the part of the story I think my friend enjoyed so much; watching me rant and rave about selfie sticks seemed awful funny to him at the time. Like I said I still enjoyed the hike for the most part; I just would change the time we came back up.

I think hiking up at 4 am would have missed most of the people or at least put us near the rim with the first surge of people. Or waiting until about three hours before nightfall. All in all though, if you are thinking about taking a backpacking trip into the canyon, weather permitting, February or March is the time to go. Fewer people, pleasant temperatures in the Inner Canyon, and an icy finish.

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Remember: nice in the Inner Canyon, icy at the top in February.

After plodding along we reached the mid-point a stone rest house and met up with our driver and hiking companion from the previous day. She brought along another hiker to join our party. We ate a quick lunch; for me that was the other hardboiled egg, a couple of peanut butter bites, and an energy bar. Afew miles later I had the shakes; not from exhaustion or overexertion but because I wasn’t consuming enough calories. I ate the remaining four energy bars and most of the bag of peanut butter bites at a switchback near the top. Our fearless leader felt bad for not catching on that I hadn’t eaten enough, I felt like a dumbass because as an EMT and knowledgeable ranger I didn’t account for the larger calorie burn.

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One of the little rest areas along the trail… I was more interested in the geology behind it…

Craving a cheeseburger, fries, and a whole apple pie, we resumed the last leg of our journey. It was here I got a little annoyed with some of the members of the group, I’m all for conversation but I was in the “get to the top” eat a burger mindset. I was still in the rear of the group and each time the conversation struck up we would bog down. I started to stop and wait, let them get ahead and catch up. Once we broached the top of the trail, and dodged the selfie sticks, we on good terms again. I remember stopping at the big bulletin board with large stones; perfect for sitting down and removing crampons. Soon as I had the crampons off, I looked up at the trail head sign for Bright Angel.

I had made it. I survived my first backpacking trip.

I wanted to go again.

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Exploring Grand Canyon

Epilogue

After we finished are trip, the fearless leader and I went and dropped money (in my case a lot of money) in the Grand Canyon Bookstore. Soon as we returned to our lodgings, I ate a quick snack and jumped in the shower. I sighed in pleasure as I lavished each tooth with a healthy dose of toothpaste. Once hygiene had been reestablished, I checked on my online classes. Then I cracked open the first book on my reading list; it was the Emerald Mile. It is a great read about the fastest speed run down the Colorado.

Laying the bed and reading had a calming effect, i.e. I took an unplanned nap. I awoke to some messages about a Superbowl Party where mass quantities of pizza would be available. I felt like Toot-Toot from the Dresden Files; I hustled down the stairs to the commons. I inhaled a lot of pizza, still recovering from the deficit. The Superbowl was okay, surprisingly I liked Lady Gaga’s halftime show, and I once again fell asleep, this time on the floor. I was awoken by someone who was very excited about the winning team; I groggily made my way back to my room. I still don’t recall who won. I was going up the stairs when I felt the first twinges of pain in my calves.

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Hopi Point; worth the hike on sore legs to get there, even on an overcast day!

The next day I was sore but it wasn’t too bad, I took my time walking places. It wasn’t until Tuesday that the real pain set in; I woke up with a muscle cramp in my left leg. I took a warm bath and that seemed to help. After a long day of training, checking out some cool stuff too, I was once again heading up those stairs. It was so painful, that I fully implemented a plan for the world’s shoddiest rope sling elevator by the time I reached my door. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be able to realize my plan since I didn’t have any rope. A hot bath, two beers, and a couple of low dose pain pills later I was comfortable. I was on the phone with my mom and dad telling them about the trip and the late onset pain. My mom asked, “Was it worth it?”

Without missing a beat, “Hell Yes!”

I’d do it again in a heartbeat. In fact I’m trying to convince my fiancée to take a combined rafting/backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon for our honeymoon. He gets to pick the honeymoon since I picked were we’re getting married. I keep dropping hints. I’ll keep you’ll posted.