Wannabe on the Trail: Influencing

I’ve been thinking a lot lately— inspired by a documentary.

Imagine that.

Anyways, I watched Fake Famous. It’s an interesting look at how we view influencing and a social experiment into how to become a mega influencer.

Me, trying to be “on brand”

I related the most with Chris but I don’t think I deserve to be famous in the same way he does. However, I do admire his principles about going with the 100 real followers over the thousands of bots. I also agree with not changing myself drastically in order to get famous either.

I have no inclination to be a mega influencer, yeah, the perks are kind of cool. But I don’t really want to do merch advertising for other people or paid partnerships. Collaborations with other posters in my niche would be cool. I’m happy with people buying my designs, photos, and the ad revenue. Maybe write some books.

I don’t plan on getting rich off any of it or being “famous” like most influencers.  All I want is a little extra money to fund a college/trade school fund for my kid (maybe kiddos), fund a hiking/rafting trip each year, and the rest into savings.

This little guy!

Lofty goals I know—right now, I’m just starting out in the grand scheme of things and the possibilities are endless.

However, as I watched I realized at all the wasted time I could have been building this blog or my Instagram. I’m late to social media bubble. It honestly doesn’t appeal to me in the way it does most people. Partly because I have luddite tendencies but also, I thought I was boring. I also didn’t think I was pretty enough to cash in on the selfies either. Plus, with the dopamine chasing from ADHD if I didn’t have Facebook, Instagram, or now TikTok actually open I sometimes forget they exist—which was great in college.

But mainly, I’m boring.

I liked to read (still do). Canoe or kayak. Hike. Ride horses. Take photos—basically some of the stuff I still do now but at the time I didn’t realize I could brand any of that, because, to reiterate, I thought I was boring.

Now, that I’ve been messing around trying to find my niche with this wannabe blog I realize had I started back in early days with Instagram I could have cultivated a bookstagram theme and reviewed books on YouTube. Because I am a huge bookworm—although I prefer Ink Drinker, and daydreamed about reviewing and reading books all day.

Books!

I could have gotten into cosplay—it would have been mainly Lord of the Rings, but it would have been cool.

I could have become a “horse girl” on there.

Really pushed out canoe and kayak content—photos, videos, and articles on how to handle the gear… (stares at day job media webpage…never mind).

Had I settled into the seasonal park ranger life a little more I could have been a lifestyle guru fulfilling Chris Farley’s inspirational “living in a van down by a river!”

Some saw this as bad thing…others wanted to live the dream

Okay, maybe I wasn’t as boring as I thought I was.

I was not feeling bored.

Had I built on any of my interests or hobbies I might have cultivated a larger following and had a totally different brand.

 I could have done a lot of cool stuff, but would I have wound up where I am?

Great job, sharing happiness (and a little grumpiness) with the love of my life, the best little man ever, and the cute dogs. The grumpy cat is starting to like me which is nice. Or would I have fame, fortune, and a branding deal? Would I be happier?

Nah, I’m happy were I’m at and who I’m with, plus who I am as a person, but it would be kind of cool to be a micro-influencer. I still don’t plan on chasing the fame. I’ll continue to plod along with my rambles, thoughts, and cute photos. Maybe I’ll turn into a “mommy blogger” for ADHD wannabes that think they lack the mom gene sometimes but try their darndest to make their kiddos happy—maybe by taking a hike.  

Or playing in the leaves!

Keep wandering,

BJ

Return to Girl, Take a Hike

I really want to go hike on a beach somewhere. It’s been an insane week already. It’s also starting to get cold. I don’t like it. Well, I do but it’s a weird toxic love hate relationship with cold weather. The snow makes it so pretty. Luckily, we only had a little light dusting of snow that didn’t stick but it’s coming.

Took this last year– see I do get out in the cold weather!

And because I have a tendency to binge watch YouTube and hide under a blanket this time of year, I fall into my other weird toxic love hate relationship: Anti-MLM videos and in particular Rachel Hollis videos. Or I watch music videos, lately Bo Burnham Inside has been a major focus. All Eyes On Me is hauntingly beautiful.

I love that people are deconstructing these groups and people but at the same time they are giving them attention… it’s cyclic folks. Yet here I am ranting about Rachel Hollis, so I love and hate myself for the same reasons…

But this time as I was listening to Not The Good Girl’s take on Hollis. Not The Good Girl does an awesome job breaking this all down in a documentary style format.

There was two things Hollis said really stuck me:

“We all have the same 24 hours.”

And…

 “Sometimes it’s okay if the only thing you did today was breathe,” and Hollis’s ensuing rant video about the Pinterest quote and people not ‘hustling.’

In some ways, yes, she’s right about how we all have the same amount of time and we should hustle to make our goals.

However, I sure as hell don’t have the same quality of 24 hours as Hollis. I don’t have a nanny and maid to assist with my child or housework or a husband (now ex) that could offset what my business costs would be. A ‘team’ to pass the blam…eh assist when something goes wrong or to help put on any speaking engagement.  

I’m my own editor, maid, nanny, content creator, graphic designer, cook, bottlewasher, and this list is getting ridiculously long—if I make a mistake, I own it because I’m literally the only one on my ‘team.’ Do I get everything I want to do done? No, because I like sleep and now that I’m not suffering from insomnia as much, I can actually enjoy it and wake up refreshed at 6 am…

It’s really easy to say we all have the same amount of time when you have a safety net. Now, in fairness she didn’t have that all her life—but once she started the self-help guru stuff (and really pushed this messaging) she did. And it’s a bit of a problem that she doesn’t acknowledge that aspect. I mentioned on a previous post about this that she did hustle, she did accomplish a lot, but this type of glamorizing comes off as a bit of a red flag for me. When you make it seem like it was simply your hustle that elevated you but don’t acknowledge that you have someone in your life that added in making those connections and provided a safety net (even if he was a huge walking red flag) it’s a bit disingenuous.

Which opens us up to a lovely discussion about curated authenticity and its relationship to toxic positivity.

Hollis made waves when she posted about her stretch marks which in some ways was groundbreaking but honestly, she’s attractive, had a decent following, and simply capitalized on that. Hollis curated a form of voluble authenticity that highlighted her “flaws” that she totally demolished with her “What is it about me that made you think I want to be relatable?”  

I post curated photos to an extent but I don’t highlight my flaws in a funny quirky way– I just don’t post or if I do it’s not a glam shot of me being funny and quirky in a misadventure. I also don’t wax poetic about my overcoming anything. I usually talk about how I wannabe doing something but get sucked into why I didn’t or a rant about something/someone. *scrolls back up post, cringe.*

I also don’t put my family in the center of the blog. I did add in about hiking with Hunter but that’s more because I just can’t leave him at home for a weekend hike… plus he’s adorable. But I don’t claim to be a marriage help guru or post how wonderful we all are. I’d rather have what I have now with my husband—he supports me in what I do (and vice versa) but we work on a budget and we compromise what we do and how to fund that endeavor. He also doesn’t have the same priorities as me, he would rather spend the weekend gaming on his PlayStation while I would rather hike or read a book. We compromise. Some weekends we stay in, some we go hiking. It works for us. He doesn’t make snide comments or inspire me to make passive aggressive jewelry once I have a successful moment. Or totally pigeonhole maid services into the most demeaning part of cleaning your house. If I had a maid—I’d pay her, make her cookies, and hype her up to my friends to support her small business.

Just a little cutie in a hiking carrier!

Now—I used to be the self-described queen of hustle mainly because my ADHD wouldn’t let me sit still long enough. Before I had Hunter, I worked my forty-hour week, volunteered twelve hour shifts on my local ambulance two-three nights a week, taught CPR/First Aid classes at least once a month if not more, pursued grad, professional, and continuing education classes for education now history, work, and EMS, and for a while waited tables. *

The extra money was great, but I didn’t need it (although, it did pad my emergency account). I did it because I wanted the dopamine hit and I like giving back to my community.  I could have taken a lot of that “hustle” and worked on this blog but at the time the dopamine wasn’t there for this—it’s back and I don’t know for how long… *crazy ADHD inspired moments*

Which is probably why I’ll never go very far with my “brand” because if the dopamine isn’t there or I put it on a shelf in the basement (or even in the middle of the living room) I will forget about it for a while. Instagram is the only thing I seem to do regularly and even that I skip a few weeks depending on what’s going on in my life. (I’m on a Bo Burnham kick… don’t judge).

Some would argue that I wasn’t hustling for ‘myself’ since I wasn’t doing a home business. But yeah—that was all for me to keep boredom away.

Now, I have a toddler to keep the boredom at bay. Plus, everyone is retiring at my day job, so I have a slew of collateral duties to tire out my brain. History grad classes that require lots of reading which I can hyper focus on since it’s a topic I like. On top of that, my sleep apnea machine is helping with the insomnia—I sleep which is weird and awesome.

I’m also learning how nice it is to have free time– after talking with some doctors after having Hunter we discovered I have ADHD. I received some strategies to help with (healthy) coping and now I don’t feel a driving need to constantly be doing something. Although, the song is about the Internet, Bo Burnham’s “little bit of everything all of the time,” could have been my theme song for a long time.

The added benefit it is now I can take a little time to write about this and that in the evenings while relaxing on the couch. I don’t write every day—but since it’s National Novel Writing Month (#nanowrimo) I’m trying to hit that 50,000-word count.  The other thing is I’m trying to incorporate my wannabe plans into my writing. In fact, I’m going to do some day hikes (maybe an overnight) on the Ozark Trail this November. So, I really am going to take a hike! But a lot of days I read—just to make me happy.

There are also days where all I do is breathe…well in my case sleep/nap/zone out.

Now, the “breathe” rant happened before a lot of this but I caught it back when it was first made and it royally ticked me off. Someone shared it in a depression related group on Facebook. The group was small and we didn’t go jump on her post or page. We just commented on how she missed the point.

Because the original pin poster was talking about dealing with depression. If you’ve never dealt with depression, it’s easy to think—oh just get out of bed and go for a hike! You’re the only one in charge of making yourself happy!

I dislike that mentally. I know they are trying to be helpful and inspiring, but it doesn’t actually help. If anything, once the person tries that and fails it could send them deeper into the pit. In a lot of cases a person’s brain is literally not performing or producing the chemicals to “make” you happy. Or your hormones are totally off the flipping wall and you go from laughing to crying in less than 30 seconds. However, in mild cases of depression going out for a walk might help—it does for me about 90% of the time. The other 10%? I hung on by my mental nails to make it through the day. Once I was home I would shut down.

There’s no hustling yourself out of depression.

There is just a wide empty maw of failure. And because we don’t like to think about mental illnesses as any other type of medical malady, we are ashamed by it. We don’t reach out for help like we should.

I did—it helps. Not everyone that goes to a doctor winds up on meds, sometimes you just need to talk it all out and get therapy. Sometimes because your hormones are so out of whack due to just having a baby you do need to go on a mild anti-depressant but if you stay in communication with your doctor, you’re not on it long. Just long enough to help the hormones level off.

And in all those struggles weather your getting help or not—you accomplished one thing by just breathing. And that’s okay.

But Hollis didn’t see the pin in that context or if she did, she was self-absorbed on her brand that it didn’t matter.

She regulated it to just being “lazy” and not hustling or being positive to get what you want. That’s toxic. This push that if you hustle and appear to be happy about it you will get success is just gross to me. But it is a powerful message and people lap it up…sometimes to their own detriment.

This “breathe” rant was when I kind of realized Hollis was all hype and branding. So, when she had her epic TikTok rant I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t surprised that she wanted to be privileged or unrelatable. I was surprised by how long it took her to backtrack though. She almost waited a week to respond to the havoc created by her own words.

The apology has been scrutinized in fact a writer, Shannon Ashley, at Medium provided a great commentary on Rachel Hollis. I used her article to get the block quotes.  

When Hollis issued an apology—it really was a non-apology. She twisted it back to make it seem like she was the victim. The sad part was had she left it with the first two images it would have been a better apology, not great or really authentic but authentic to her and solely with herself to blame.

“Someday I’ll learn.

Not yet apparently– but someday I’ll learn.

Someday I’ll learn that my intent and my impact can be wildly different things.

I made a post last week that was upsetting to people and even though that was never my intent, I own that it was and I apologize.”

[Should have stopped there! But she didn’t do that—she had to add to it and then spin it as her ‘team’ that ignored or hide comments… however, this to me was the most problematic part of the whole thing]

 “Was my post upsetting because I said I have someone who cleans my house twice a week?”

[This is a dog whistle. This is look at how all these people are focusing on me hiring a maid and making that the issue—when it wasn’t.

The issue was how Hollis prefaced the maid as the ‘person who cleans her toilets’ and made it seem like that job was so far beneath her. A lot of people hire maid and cleaning services nobody begrudges people that and it’s a viable small business option for a lot of women who are traditionally homemakers that now have free time for whatever reason. I thought about doing it for a while, but I got a permanent job that I like.

The rest of the image statement apology is equally flippant and shifts the blame from her to her team…again—she’s really good at pushing any criticism of any kind off on her team.]

“I’ve talked a lot about this over the years;

I have a nanny, I have someone who helps with cleaning, I have a team at work who helps to build this business and I think it’s CRUCIAL that I keep talking about it. I could very easily pretend that I don’t have any assistance.

I’m sure it would make my brand more likable and certainly more relatable if I act like I achieve all of these things through hard work and organization, but that’s bullshit. You don’t have to have a clean house or help with your kids or a business with 25 employees — but if you see those things in my life and wonder how they got there, I want you to know it’s a group effort.

A whole village in fact.”

[Hollis kind of does diminish how much they do help her and allow for her to achieve her goals]

“Was my post upsetting because I mentioned some of my favorite women in history?

This one is even harder for me because, those women are the most badass I could think of. Someone on my team said, “I think people believe you’re comparing yourself to them.” Comparing myself to the first woman to win a Nobel Prize? The first — and only — female monarch in the history of China?? To the most inspiring woman in America who freed herself and then risked her life — repeatedly — to lead others out of slavery? There is NO comparison.”

[Holy Batman! That has “that’s not what I said but totally what I meant” vibes. It was a comparison—when you state you are ‘unrelatable’ and then tag a bunch of women in the post that are historically relevant without providing context that you are “inspired by their qualities” you are implying that you are comparable and relatable to them. Therefore, making them unrelatable to the people you’re trying to gaslight with this apology.]

“To believe that because I mentioned them, I am comparing myself to them is ludicrous. Do I aspire to be as brave? As fierce? To live life on my own terms and — hopefully — inspire other women to do the same? Hell yes! But I cannot now, or ever, compare myself to them and I don’t want to. I don’t want to try and be the next fill-in-the-blank, I’d like to try and be the first me.

That was where things started, but, because I still haven’t learned, I didn’t respond to these things on Friday when I heard that people were upset. I listened to my team instead of my gut.”

[*eyeroll* Hollis used the same type of scapegoating when she was caught plagiarizing. Do it once and yeah, it might have been a team error but when it keeps happening and you keep passing it off as your ‘team misguided you’ it’s just your fault.]

“What you find on my social media feed, is me. For better or worse, it’s all me. And because it’s me, what you’re seeing is sometimes great and sometimes the fumbling’s of being human.

Because it’s me and not a perfectly polished statement written by a publicist, I’m going to get it wrong. But I’d rather get it wrong, and learn from it (painfully and publicly) then not show up at all.”

[Which is it? You or your team? Because you keep saying it’s you but then you turn around and blame the really sketchy stuff (plagiarizing, hiding POC comments, etc.) on your team.]

“I’m so disappointed in myself that I let y’all down. I’m so angry that I still haven’t learned this lesson. I’m going to get it at some point and unfortunately, you have a front row seat for how many times I’m going to make shitty mistakes along the way.”

[You’re right you haven’t learned any lessons and you keep making the same mistakes. You pass the blame onto your team and since it saved you the last few times, you’ll keep kicking that horse.]

It’s easy to harp on this stuff and when it’s 18 degrees I get sucked into the videos and drama of it…mainly because Wade doesn’t like it when I watch documentaries. So, I put my AirPods in and binge watch YouTube videos snuggled under a blanket. Soon the dopamine will dry up and I’ll tackle the books on my TBR pile. Maybe take a snow hike…but I doubt it…

I’m a wimp.

I probably will because how else will I get cute duck and geese shots.

Keep wandering,

BJ

*Fun fact: waiting tables isn’t easy, it is a lot of physical labor, smiling, and remembering orders. However, I found it relaxing and during the long shutdown because I was going stir crazy, something to do. I started picking up some shifts and kept with it for most of a year.

Oddly enough, it was a stressful job that brought me stress relief because it was a job I had for nearly nine years—muscle memory is a wonderful thing. Whereas the upheaval over the shutdown plus all the higher-level stuff that I didn’t know how to do that got dropped on me at my day job was a stress I wasn’t as adept to handle. I waited tables because I could “turn my brain off” for a couple hours a night—get a good night’s sleep because I exhausted myself and hit the ground running in order to handle the stuff I didn’t know the next morning.

It wasn’t because I didn’t have experience but I was taking on division lead duties that I never done before. Authorizing projects, determining budget needs, and trying to advocate for more seasonal employees. However, I was martialized and told I wouldn’t need to worry about a lot of that. And because I didn’t know what I didn’t know it bite me in the ass. It was so irritating because it created a short staff issue that led to me working far more than I should and until I approached the department head of my division in the regional capacity about closing our visitor center for two days during the week, so we wouldn’t be stretched so thin, borderline illegal. I asked a lot of questions that summer, got stymied by the person who was “helping me,” and nearly pulled my hair out… Now, I’m older and wiser and have the next person in my chain of command on speed dial if I ever have a boss that tries to pull a fast one again—because what my supervisor that summer did was shady (maybe even illegal) but I was young and naïve..*

Smith Falls State Park: Day Hikes & Baby Wipes

Wade and the Pups on the boardwalk to Smith Falls

We had a busy weekend! We took a day trip down to my sister-in-law’s house for a birthday party for my nephew. Did some shopping, spent way to much time in a car– fun times.

It actually was a lot of fun! The cake was amazing. Hunter got to hang out and celebrate with his same day birthday bud.

But I wanted to go hiking. We didn’t make any stops on the way home so yesterday we decided to go to Smith Falls State Park. It’s a little further east of Valentine than my usual stomping grounds at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s a gem– hybrid aspen that only occur at Smith Falls, tallest waterfall in Nebraska, and a pretty campground along the river.

Niobrara National Scenic River at Smith Falls State Park

**Side note I just realized I haven’t gone camping this year yet. Dammit.**

It was a late afternoon hike. Hunter had his nap and was ready to explore!

Heavy little boy rocking out in his carrier– look at those eyes when he sees the waterfall.

Momma, found out that she really needs to start just walking the dogs while carrying the little man because I was out of breath barely moving.

We didn’t take the full MacAllister Trail which goes up by the aspens but we still had a fun trip. But it was a bit of a trip getting out. Wade and I both were grumpy with each other, not a big fight or anything just general grumpiness. He did get a little mad at Freya because she was so excited to go outside that she kind of pulled him into the door frame. Little puppy, big muscles. Once we were out walking though the grumpiness and stress went away. Freya burned off most of her abundance of energy. Although, I was nice and didn’t take a bunch of pictures of my favorite guy like I would normally do since he doesn’t like it most of the time.

Waterfalls, river, and dogs– plus a few selfies. That’s it.

I’ve talked about Smith Falls before, so I won’t go into great detail about how amazing the location can be for folks. Ecosystems comingle, water and rock come together, and it’s just a relaxing place.

Check it out on your next visit to Valentine or Nebraska!

Keep wandering,

BJ

‘The Comeback Kid’

I’m still alive!

Well—par for the course I’ve been neglecting this blog for almost a year. I feel guilty about it sometimes but I’m not going to lie. I’m tired. I don’t feel like I have a lot going on other than work, Hunter, and trying to get caught up on all the other little projects and graduate classes I have. But it does build up overall and all I want to do is sleep. Plus, depression factored into most of the early part of the year—postpartum, fall out from the Covid-19 stuff, and just life in general. It happens, talk about it, we go to the doctor to fix physical ailments. Getting your brain checked out is good too. On a positive note, I’m doing a lot better and I’m trying to get out and about as much as possible before the weather gets ridiculous! Although… this might be the year I bite the bullet and invest in good winter gear and get out there.

“I like this stuff”

I have done a few little hikes—nothing major. Mainly, because work tied me up a lot this year. While not as short staffed as we have been, we did have to hustle to get stuff done. I also took on some new duties and now, more than ever, I’m looking at a computer screen more. I don’t know why but I find this more exhausting than doing major events with hundreds of people. I just want to sleep or relax and not think about anything other than Hunter and engaging stuff for him on weekends.

Weekend fun!

Plus, figuring out how to travel, mitigate exploding diapers, and pack everything I need for a two-day trip is astronomical. But I’m working on it! It’s also a little tricky to juggle the dogs—some public lands they’re allowed but a lot of places *cough NPS sites* are not as dog friendly as others. **Side note, Freya is loving the hiking life.** I get the why but it’s tricky and boarding gets expensive. I’m thinking about doing a video about traveling/hiking/dogs/baby now that I actually have weekends off with Wade again. I’m privileged that I have an awesome husband that helps me work through stuff and is willing to help me with my “little side projects”—once I get a game plan figured out, I bounce it off him and we run through it. He keeps me from getting stubborn, pissy, and flouncing away in anger. I teach him patience, which I have a lot of unless I can’t figure out how to make something work or math’s involved. Wade doesn’t have patience but he’s working on it, lol.

Wade the lifesaver when shopping lol

I truly respect single mom’s and dad’s who do all this alone. I also think you’re a witch. Magic is involved somewhere I’m sure 😉

So aside from the doldrums early this year, it has been a wonderful year! Hunter just turned one, we’ve done some hikes, and I’m working on getting my writings out there. Plus, working on my photography, the Pennington Books project, and my little side hustles to fund my hiking passion.

I’m also going to make some more posts on here before the end of the year!

Here is a little catch up/way back Wednesday post of some of this year’s hiking/baby/traveling highlights so far!

We had to go to my hometown in Missouri for a funeral in February which was the first time Hunter got to meet his grandparents on my side of the family. It was a bittersweet trip to say the least, but we did some wanderings on the old family farm.

This spring we checked out the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge—I know I go there a lot… but it was Hunter’s first time! I talked about that in an Instagram/Facebook post, but I didn’t do a little blurb on here. Maybe I should just do a little one paragraph post on here to at least keep it active… I’ll think about that for the future.  

Wade did most of the heavy lifting that day—it was spur of the moment trip, so we didn’t have the carrier or even the chest harness. Hunter had a blast and wanted to grab everything; poison ivy worried me, but dad did a good job corralling him while I had the camera.

We came back out a couple of times—we brought the dogs and the baby hiker set up. Which worked out well if we had plenty of snacks.

I had a family reunion in Oklahoma and other than wandering in Bass Pro in Springfield, MO we didn’t really get any hiking done while we were there.

My sister made a return trip to Nebraska with my niece! They arrived to a concerned Hunter giving them a once over and then it was a week of fun and adventure. We checked out the pool, floated the river (sans Hunter), and checked out the Badlands!

Finally, Las Vegas… I still don’t care for cities, but the food was amazing. There were several fun things to do—the Stratosphere was awesome (if you’re not afraid of heights). Wade and I want to go back and do it at night (and do the jump, well I do) and check out some other stuff. Due to timing, scheduled events, and a few other things (Wade…) I didn’t get to check out Red Rocks Canyon NCA or the Hoover Dam. I was a little bummed by that, but Wade was like a kid in a candy shop—or one of those cartoon animals when food is involved, he really enjoyed Guy Ferrari’s burger joint.

Wade preparing to devour a monster burger…

Locally, we took Hunter for a nice hike through our local city park– which is amazing!

That’s the short, condensed version of what’s happened so far this year. We have some stuff coming up and I will keep you all posted—even if it’s just a photo and a blurb!

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Happy Birthday to my little man!

Focus? What’s that? (mini-post)

I got nothing. It’s been a trip that’s for sure.

I’d like to say I was just so busy with family, work, and grad school again but it wasn’t that.

I just lost focus.

I lost motivation.

I lost the concept of time.

Actually, what day is it?

I jest, but there were a few times where the weeks blurred together not going to lie.

I was just making it through the day and having joyous cuddles with my little man– he was the highlight of everything. And Wade, he’s a highlight too, except his ridiculous beard.

I’m finally bouncing back and feeling more motivated. Writing, reading, adventuring don’t seem like a chore to be avoided now.

I had some help though. I had a great doctor that helped talk through some options and did a full work up. It looks like my insomnia I’ve been dealing with for ages might be related to sleep apnea.

I’m finally coming back together!

Keep wandering,

BJ

Back and Ready for it!

It’s been a while!

Those of you that follow me on Instagram and Facebook probably know that I’ve been struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety. In great news, I’m finally coming out of the fog and starting to do the things I enjoyed.

Here’s to new content, updates, and maybe some new videos and photos coming soon!

Hunter and I at the Fort Niobrara Overlook

Keep wandering,

BJ

It’s been a while…

Hi all,

I fell off the map. Sorry about that.

Things got a little hectic again. Time got away from me and my blogging plans went off the rails.

I had a major round with seasonal affective disorder again. Adding to it was anxiety and stress caused by postpartum issues, plus COVID-19 wasn’t helping my outlook.

I lost interest in a lot of things for a while. But I’m doing better now. I’ve also started working on some new content for this site and a few other projects

I’ve mainly been working on the JP Brand Books project. (check that out http://www.jpbrandbooks.wordpress.com

I’m going to post some of the stuff that I wrote over the last few months. Some I might leave as is, some I’ll edit to remove all the cuss words I used…

I’m hopeful with the weather getting better and vaccines becoming more prevalent I’ll be able to get out on some hikes.

I can’t wait to get this guy out on the trail!

My little wild man

Thanks for your patience.

Keep wandering,

BJ

Adventures in Motherhood

Hi all…

It’s been a minute.

I need coffee, a shower, and a nap… the order doesn’t matter.

Once again the blog got neglected but this time I have a good reason… a tiny almost ten pound reason. Hunter takes up a lot of my day- then there are the naps.

Plus, I wanted to wait to write about the birth story once I recovered and got all the funny details out of Wade. I don’t remember much once they gave me the “good stuff” during the C-section.

I’ve been rewording, rewriting, and rethinking this post- it’s a little personal but at the same time I think it’s worth telling.

It will be coming out here soon!

I’m also going to add a post about weeks 38-40 before I drop my birth story.

After that I hope to return to some more normal hiking posts but winter is creeping in…

Keep wandering,

BJ

He really is the best thing about 2020!

Wandering Sisters!

This weekend wasn’t long enough.

For a couple reasons.

One, my sister, P.J. flew up for the weekend- I wish I could have kidnapped her and kept her up here for a few more days… or a month…or a year…

My sister! Checking out Norden Chute.

Two, we had to pack a lot of stuff into mainly one day… I need more sleep and my poor feet are swollen- nearly three days later…

But it was worth it!

She is the best big sister in the whole world! Not going to lie I needed a girl’s day with my sister- between the pregnancy, lingering SAD symptoms, and Covid my mental health was blah at best. I wasn’t as bad as I was during the shutdown, but I needed a “break.” She helped break me out of my funk and we had a little fun- plus, she didn’t treat me like glass.

The best thing about living in rural Nebraska is that you’re two-three hours away from everything. The bad thing about living in rural Nebraska is you’re two-three hours away from everything.

PJ’s flight came into Grand Island at 10:30…pm. Three and a half hours away from Valentine.

I had a nice sunset drive going down part of the way. Then I was driving into the dark which night driving never really bothered me. However, with pregnancy I have to stop every five minutes, it felt like, to walk around, wake up, and go to the bathroom.

But we timed it well, I pulled in on the airport road as her flight was landing and was pulling into the airport terminal while they were taxiing. Originally, I was just going to wait for her outside in the idle lane, but Hunter was excited and bouncing on my bladder…

So, after a quick circle and finding a parking spot I ran inside. Well, waddled inside- my eyes zeroing in on the bathrooms. I saw PJ but I was on a beeline. She thought it was funny and met me right at the doors to the bathroom.

We hugged after we got back outside.

Then food! Late night drive throughs are awesome, and we got to chat and catch up in the parking lot of Raising Cane’s. New car didn’t want to eat in it- I’m weird I know…

A late-night drive through the Sandhills was fun- we stayed awake and somehow, I made it without needing a bathroom, lol.

We got to Valentine at 3 a.m.–we stumbled in and went to bed after saying we’re getting up at ten to go exploring.

Surprisingly, we did get up at ten, we had breakfast, and then the exploring began.

Snice it was a short trip I decided to show her the highlights along the Niobrara National Scenic River. We drove out to the Niobrara Valley Preserve to check out the Norden Chute. It’s one of my favorite places and the drive along the river valley kind of reminds me of home.

We hopped out of the car and meandered down to the river and took the trail that leads to the chute. It’s a little steep heading off the parking area down to the river side trail. PJ said to “be careful if you fall and go into labor I don’t know where I am, nor how to deliver a baby.”

So, she did treat me a little like glass, but she didn’t harp on it…

I was there in June- the water has dropped a lot. Which is normal but still noteworthy.

I apparently make people worry- I walked up to the edge to get some photos and my sister is like… “You’re going to die!”

Well, not that dramatic but she still was like move back this way…

I wandered into the water which felt good on my footsies. Yes, I say footsies. 

We spent a little while taking photos- even photos of each other…

We hoped in the car and went up River Road- it was fun showing my sister where I usually spend most of my time in the summer. She’s visited before but in the winter and a lot of the locations are inaccessible during that time.

I actually convinced her to come back (hopefully next summer) with the kids for a float trip! I’m happy about that.

We made a bathroom pit stop at Brewer Bridge. Then headed to Smith Falls State Park.

Smith Falls State Park is home to the tallest waterfall in the state of Nebraska and is on the banks of the Niobrara River. We made the one-mile trek to the waterfall. Since it was a Saturday, I warned her that there might be some… inebriated… people around. But we hit it in the late afternoon and the crowds weren’t too crazy.

It was a hot walk.

By the time we hit the slot canyon the temperature decrease felt good. One of the best things about the Niobrara River Valley is the hydrology and geology. Because of the geology, the Ogallala Aquifer is near the surface and there are places where it seeps out creating waterfalls. Since, the water is mainly from underground it stays around 50 degrees- even in the summer. So, the waterfalls and side creeks are gloriously cold!

My hot, cranky, and pregnant self loved that the temperature dropped. I was ecstatic when we got to the waterfall and I could put my poor swollen feet in the water. I just wished I had brought a change of clothes or a towel because I wanted to crawl under the waterfall for a little while and just chill. Best perk of my job during the hotter months.

PJ thought it was cool! And cold…

All too soon we were heading back to the vehicle; luckily, I have awesome a/c.

The original plan was to stop at the Fort Niobrara NWR upper overlook and then head on to the house for dinner–then head back to the lower part of the refuge after dinner. However, the truck ahead of us had some interesting characters… that seemed to be inebriated… or at least the guys in the back seat who was poking his upper body through the back window and digging in the cooler and waving at us while the driver slowed down… they turned off so we decided to head on to town and walk the dog before dinner.

We made a good call.

After the dog was walked, we headed to one of our local restaurants- Peppermill. It was really good, and Wade met us there for dinner.

Afterwards, I dragged him out to the refuge for maternity photos– he hates getting his photo taken but since PJ encouraged him to tickle me, he was a good sport about doing it.

PJ got to do my makeup and hair which made her happy- she does a great job. I think she would make a great makeup artist if she wanted too!

I was so happy to be home- my feet and legs were swollen. I propped them up with a big glass of sweet tea and we decided to break the news to my mom that PJ came up.

My parents are older and don’t travel as much–especially with a pandemic. However, mom wanted to see me pregnant and all, so we felt bad that PJ flew up. It’s easier for PJ to fly out of Dallas since she lives in the metro area, like me the parents live several hours from an airport.

Once she realized who was on the phone… apparently, we sound alike… she wasn’t too upset. An hour later we were finally off the phone and popping popcorn!

We then binged watched Grimm until late in the morning. We also said we’d get up at 8 and hit a few of the last spots before taking her to the airport in Grand Island….

Wade and PJ were up at eight… I was unconscious until like nine…thirty.

So, we had to amend our mornings activities.

We hit up the Cowboy Trail Bridge- I about died. It was weird normally the mile hike out and back doesn’t bother me, but I was sweating, hot, and cranky by the time we got to the middle of the bridge. But it was worth showing it to my sister- she liked it. I wound up getting mad the last little bit of the trail and speed walking to get to the car so I could get tissues and Wet Ones to wipe the sweat out of my eyes and clean up my face. Plus, down a bottle of Gatorade.

Looking back, I think I pushed it the day before and even that morning–I don’t want to hold back but the baby does put a lot of stress on the body and I’m 35 weeks. Hence why it’s three days later and I’m still recovering.

Then it was the long drive to Grand Island- we did stop for lunch which took a little longer than we thought… well the trip out to the bridge and actually stopping for lunch took a little longer than we thought it would.

We also–Wade and I– thought that the drive was only three hours (Wade) and the flight was at 3:15 (me).

PJ was in the back seat…. uhm… my flight is at 3:01…

“It only takes three hours- at this point in Broken Bow we can make it in two, so you’ll have thirty minutes.”

I am checking the driving time on my phone…

“This says we’ll get there as the flight is taking off…”

Que panicked mode.

Wade might have exceeded the speeding limit a time or two, but we made it with twenty minutes for PJ to get through security and board.

I love that Grand Island is a small regional airport with two gates. Plus, the security line isn’t crazy and the one benefit of Covid-19 only “x” number of passengers on the flight.

Because of the panicked running we didn’t have a tearful goodbye- although, after she was through security and waiting to board, we stared at each other through the glass and texted how the weekend was too short and that I should have just kidnapped her.

Ten minutes after getting into the terminal they started boarding- fifteen minutes she was in line and going through the gangway.

Wade and I watched her plane taxi off, get clearance, and hit the sky.

She was home nearly an hour and a half later.

We were still driving.

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. I get to see her again in about a month!

P.S.S. We made it home before the sunset and had a nice walk with the dog.

One last thing…. check out Pike Creek Girls on Instagram it’s a little project us #wanderingsisters are working on! https://www.instagram.com/pikecreekgirls/

Bored…I’m Bored!!!!

Short post this week, sorry about that.

Yeah…after that nine-day work week my weekend consisted of me doing laundry (only productive thing I did) and eating Oreos on the couch…

Oh, and walking the dog.

I’m turning into a boring person.

It’s just not the same as going somewhere for a hike.

However, I did read a wonderful book on hiking… Dances with Marmots- A Pacific Crest Trail Adventure by George Spearing

If you have any recommendations or want to hear about one of these books let me know!

I have a friend on social media that got out and was hiking some mountains in Japan; now I’m itching to go somewhere and climb a mountain. However, between the Covid-19 restrictions and lung kicking that’s not going to happen- so, I’m drooling over his photos and jealous. Thanks @bnheise

Sadly, the closer I get to the due date the less my doctors seem to want me to do anything- I understand why but it’s sending me into a funk. Plus, with the extra weight and the whole growing a small human the heat of summer is getting to me- it’s making me cranky.

**plan any future children to be carried to term during the winter… the internal heater will be nice.

So, more sitting in the A/C and reading books on other people’s adventures. Some are re-reads. Nothing, wrong with that but there goes my winter reading list… although, this year I will have a new buddy to spend the winter with.

I’m back to my normal grind and have an upcoming weekend- I’m hoping to do something this “weekend.” I do have a doctor’s appointment in North Platte this week and I will be going by the Valentine NWR. I might take a little time and wander there…

It’s hot mom!

Keep wandering,

BJ

P.S. Send me your favorite hiking reads!

P.S.S. Decaffeinated sweet tea is not the same!

33 weeks!

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.

Narrow-leaf penstemon

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

Effigy Mounds, Happy Anniversary, Winter Begins…

Well folks, you’re getting a twofer! I meant to post this back in early December but… yeah… things happen.

*looks skittishly at the date of last post and cringes…

I’ve been very busy- I finally have my new boss in place but it’s a whirlwind of activity. We started planning for this year and like all well laid plans they went out the window in March… more on that in the next post.

This post is a catch-up of the end of October through the beginning of December.

After my break and trip to Omaha last…*cringe* year, I went back to work refreshed and ready for the next thing.

Turns out my next thing would be going to Effigy Mounds for work related training. The training was great, but the hiking trails and the history were so much better!

Effigy Mounds National Monument is a place that inspires reflection and wonder. It was established in 1949 to protect prehistoric mounds left behind by Native Americans. Over time more land was added, and it now protects 191 known prehistoric Indian mounds, 31 of which are effigies of bear and birds.

Effigy Mounds has had its ups and downs. When it was first added to the NPS, archaeology-based parks tended to have multiple digs that would degrade and destroy the sites in question. By the late 1950s Effigy started moving away from the digs and instituted a “nondestructive testing” methods only policy- by the 1970s it shifted even further to preservation and interpreting the mound builder story.

The 1980s and 1990s would bring about new changes, that would influence one of the biggest scandals at Effigy Mounds, namely the passage of The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. A former superintendent fearing that the entire collection at Effigy Mounds would be repatriated, hide the remains of 41 people. The mismanagement of the remains was only discovered after another superintendent went rouge and ignored Section 106 (site vetting for archaeological impacts) for 78 maintenance projects. You can read more about both incidents here:

https://www.outsideonline.com/2191011/case-of-the-missing-bones

I had both incidents on my mind while wandering the grounds. I can’t help but feel disbelief and anger at how it happened. The boardwalks remain, one of which punched over one hundred holes into a series of mounds. It saddens me that we have such reverence for cemeteries but dismiss mounds.  

I walked with a sense of sad beauty. The positive is the new management staff and interpreters there are working towards rebuilding the connections with the tribe and are putting protections in place to prevent such actions from happening again. But only after something horrible happened…

That was my mindset while wandering around the grounds at Effigy Mounds.

Now, while it was somewhat maudlin, I did find a lot of wonderful places and I loved the trail system- especially the trail to Fire Point. I even wrote a haiku… I also found a few spots along the questionable boardwalk that I liked. I like that the boardwalk makes it far more accessible for more people, but I still think there could have been a compromise on how it was put in with respect for the mounds.

I wish I had more time to explore the area around Effigy Mounds- both in Wisconsin and eastern Iowa. There are some beautiful areas I would like to explore… I do plan on making a return trip.

I’m a JR. Ranger dork…

I did get to stand on the banks of the Mississppi again which is always like coming home.

Mighty Mississippi
Me and bridges…

However, I had to pack it in and get back to my hubby for our first-year anniversary! We did not do anything fancy- I just got back from a weeklong work trip and he was working hard, suffice it to say we had a great anniversary.*

*Side note, there are some things I just do not want to write about or put out there- I didn’t post anything on social media about it either.

November, for the most part was a bust- just work, trainings, and more work. However, we did go to my family in Missouri for Thanksgiving! Got hang out with my sister, brother-in-law, and the kiddos, plus mom and dad. We went to my aunt’s in Naylor…we were a little late…but considering Wade and I didn’t roll in until almost 4 in the morning it could have been worse. Since it was a whirlwind trip we didn’t do much sight seeing or hiking- although we did do some hiking around the old house and hauled out some furniture and other stuff worth saving before dad and some friends finished burning it down.

My sis!

December started out nice- it was a little warmer than it had been in the past and I was hopeful I would get out and do some hikes. However, that was a pipe dream. Snow came, negative wind chill, and I became a hermit. I did get out a little bit, but I’ll talk about that in part 2 of the “catch-up postings.”

Keep wandering,

BJ

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…

Sandbar under Cowboy Trail Bridge
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.

Hot Princess_edited
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.

Cowboy Trail_edited
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:

Cowboy Bridge
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.

Water bottle
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.