Saturday, April 30, 2011


We are without power, phone, internet and cell reception at our house, but we DO have a house.  And each other and our pets and slowly, friends have been able to pop in and give their own 'all clear'.  So it's an inconvenience, but what do I really have to complain about? 

Today we went hiking on the toughest trail to date and made it.  In the shower afterward, I noticed my thighs had light between them.  I could seriously sing the hallelujah chorus.

We are okay.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Three Weeks

 She's had her braces 3 weeks and already that one tooth is back in line!  That was SO fast!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Well, the first of 'summer' weather is upon us, I mowed most of the yard today and sweated like mad.  Matt is off mowing at Judy's now, he finished up our yard and I ran around and re-caulked a couple windows with the silicone caulking, it is SO much better than latex caulking.  I think it's making a difference, I do know that this past winter, we only had about a dozen ladybugs in the house-it has been in the multi-hundreds in the past.  Once we get some insulation in the attic, we should be getting much lower electric bills.  Just what we have done since the first of the year has had some effect-the electric bill for March was $50 less than I had budgeted and that was a hopeful estimation, too! 

The yard looks so nice all freshly mowed, I love the effect of looking out from the hammock and the grass is smooth and uniform and then a tree or patch of flowers erupts, it's very similar to looking out over a pond or creek and the water is flat and things stick up here and there.  It has that same feel to me, anyway.

I am getting all worked up about going camping in May.  I wish Matt had a whole week to go with us and just sit by the lake all day every day.  But, I have bigger plans for his limited time off than driving 2 hours to sit in the camper!  

I sold 2 of the red backpacks, Matt is trading the 3rd for a larger pack with a guy at work.  We have what we want picked out online for the other 2, so the kids will all have internal frame week-long backpacks.  We still need to get Matt a larger pack and we need one more sleeping pad, what Jake was using is not working out for him.  I LOVE my sleeping pad, even though it weighs 3 pounds.  It's a Coleman Max with a built-in pillow and it's 2 inches thick and well worth the weight in my pack.  I love a pillow.  I am going to get another for Matt, I hope it will make a difference in his snoring.  He can give the mat he is using to Jake and all will be sorted out...eventually.

Still looking at options for July 4th week.  Matt has the whole thing off, I'd like to backpack the whole time, but where to go that we won't either die of heat stroke or be crushed in the crowds?  I am researching...

Here are some pics I took this afternoon.  I cut 5 inches off Jake's hair and shaved Zephyr down a few days ago and both are such PITA's about photos that this is the best I have managed so far.  Note Jess and Kuma needed some picture action, too.

Friday, April 22, 2011


I headed out to get the van tires looked at this morning and on the way, planned to take pictures of cows on the way, since the fields are filled with yellow flowers and the sky was blue with puffy white clouds.  But all of the cows I passed were peeing.  A peeing cow is awkward-looking at best.  So, I took these two pictures of trucks in a pasture!

On the way home, I found calves, they were very domestic and tranquil.

And my favorite tree, which is slowly turning into a stump with all the storms knocking off arms

Playing with filters... infrared!  Because well...

Back home, Katherine had knocked my airing-out blanket on to the ground and laid on it for 6 hours.

Me and Z

I was thinking this morning about how I like to spend my day.  Outdoors, sure, if the weather is good.  Indoors, sure, and I like to tinker and sometimes clean or organize, sometimes I like to read.  About once a month, Jake and I will burrow into the couch and watch one really bad movie after another.  Most recently, we found the Lost Tapes mockumentary series and watched 6 episodes back to back, yelling at the screen or each other the entire time, yet still rapt with wonder that while we could see it coming from a mile away and it's SOOOO faked and OMG, what bad acting and here comes another shaky blur that may have been something scary and hehehehe, this is abysmal, start the next one up.

I have crocheted hats for all 5 of us and several stuffed toys, made an entire notebook of notes that I really need another notebook to cross reference said notes-all on backpacking and how to go about it properly, which has been neatly decimated while listening to A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, my very favorite author because it's like he is telling a story that I have always loved and I wait anxiously for the next bit any time he opens his mouth.  I love fiction, but nonfiction has a kind of solid smack to it, like a fist in a baseball glove, that makes it so satisfying.  

Yeah, anyone can make up peril and funny things, but when they actually happened and are being retold with a bit of memory polish, it's delightful for me to get to go along on the journey.  In his story, he sets out with all-new gear he has little idea how to use, zero physical training, a case of the most stupid optimism and a healthy fear of bears.  And, apparently thousands of dollars in his bank account because he hemorrhages money all along the route on dining out and motel rooms and taxis and a car rental at one point.  I have left him at the half-way point in PA right now, a little irritated at the way he has described blizzards and pouring rain with the same detachment that he does the view or a type of tree.  It was there, it happened.  I may be a bit of a weather weenie, but walking in blinding snow or driving rain just sounds like something I would do only if one of my children needed me at the other end of that walk and nothing else in the world would get me out of the tent if I was already in the woods-or to leave the house if I only thought about the woods that day.  I think I may give up too easily.  My feet are pink and plump, as is nearly all of the rest of me.  And I don't want any of it cold, wet or muddy.

But while I type or I scribble at the numbers that make up our monthly income and outcome or read or make another hat or watch singularly bad TV or do school stuff with the kids, swing in the hammock, stand in the shower, trim herbs and water plants, fold the laundry, talk on the phone-anything at all outside of the kitchen where she is not allowed-Zephyr has but one desire, she wants to lay near my feet and dismantle something. 

This afternoon, I am in my room, a largish affair with hideous paneling, I have moved the computer from an old 4-seater table in the corner to a large plastic folding table that would seat 8, 10 if they were good friends.  It's along one wall and under it is her kennel and several boxes with our hiking shoes packed neatly with silica gel packs in the shoe beds.  The top is covered with stacks of books, not just 2-3 books high, but 6-8 books in 6-8 stacks.  Some have paper sticking out.  They are in rough categories: how to hike, backwoods prep, wilderness emergencies (which would have you believe the best way to avoid nearly all accidents is not to take any males between 12 and 28 into the woods.  I can't say I find fault in this logic, so far as valid points go) general nature studies, road atlases, a stack of board games, a stack of moleskin, 2 hats, a pillow, my camera, an empty plate, 2 packs of hot sauce from Taco Bell (that stuff is EVERYWHERE) and a tube of chapstick.  Around my feet is a cloud, a thunderstorm-proportioned cloud, of what used to be inside Sharky.  A 5-inch long stuffed dog toy contains enough fluff to fill the trunk of an Oldsmobile.  

Walking into a room where one has been dismantled is like that one scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street where Johnny Depp is killed and the blood flows upward and smacks the ceiling, hundreds of gallons strong.  Now, I am a Johnny fan, despite him being in the way of certain life goals of mine, but I am really sure he does not have THAT much blood in him.  However, I am sure that Sharky, a 5 inch long previously-squeaking shark, has 11 gallons of fluff inside him.  I am sure THIS fluff is what they were talking about in the Bible story where Jesus feeds a crowd with 2 loaves of bread and some fish.  The fish was Sharky fish. 

In a box a couple feet away are the tattered remains of Pink Monkey, Yellow Guy, Blue Guy, Frog, Brown Monkey and a very sad-looking tug rope made of fleece.  She will dig through these on occasion like a hobo looking for a few remaining beans in a discarded can.  Just some remnant of fluff that she can disembowel.  It makes her SO happy. 

I recently bought her a small rawhide bone, thinking it would give her a few minutes of fun the way they do for Jessie, who can eat an entire 1-pound bag in a single hour-long sitting if you are dumb enough to leave it on the porch.  Then, the vet will let you pay him $75 to tell you not to do that again, but that she's only bloated and will eventually stop floating around bouncing gently off walls and the ceiling.  Indeed, she does deflate and you don't want to be within 50 feet of that.

This bone has kept her busy for 3 days now.  It is the single best $1 dog item I have ever purchased, ever.  She's not even half-way through it yet.  And it's doing what she needs-it's coming apart in tiny, tiny pieces.  It does not squeak, which is the thing that makes her insane with singular devotion.  She MUST squeak the squeaking thing 100 times in a row as fast as possible-preferably while standing on my very full bladder first thing in the morning after Daddy lets her out of the kennel and she is back indoors from going potty with chilly wet feet and the enthusiasm of a well-rested toddler on caffeine at their favorite park who has just heard the first tinkling of the ice cream truck. 

I think it's a form of doggie OCD, she simply can't NOT squeak the squeaking thing.  If she is asleep and the squeaking thing is stepped on and emits the sound, she LEAPS up and barrels to where it is, giving it a thorough workout before she's even really awake and aware of what she's doing.  If the squeaky thing is squeaked and then thrown, she will leap from wherever she is standing as if shot from a cannon to go get it.

I often wonder what I did before I had kids...I just don't remember.  I am starting to feel the same way about walking through the house and not stepping on a dog toy.  It's like a toddler all over again.  But, what to do?  I love my pup!  She certainly has added a new dimension to our lives.

Monday, April 18, 2011

DeSoto Falls

We had to run to Scottsboro today, so we decided to take the afternoon and run up to Mentone.  We talked it over briefly and opted to see the falls, we have not been in a few years.

We took the trail to the overlook first, that's the first thing Matt and I ever did together-hike that trail.  : )  We climbed down to the Welch Caves, one of my favorite places in the world, then around to the overlook and then drove on over to the falls and stayed until sunset.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The joy of books and anticipation

Having made our big decision to hike part of the AT, some 550 miles of it, which is nearly exactly 1/4 of the total distance the trail actually covers, starting next April and, knowing we needed plenty of experience and a moderate amount of gear in the 11 months until our departure, our first stop was, of course, the library.

Among the books on how to backpack and what to take and cooking in the backwoods and defending camp against bears and skunks, we scored Bill Bryson's book about hiking the AT, A Walk in the Woods.  We started it on the way to hiking at Buck's Pocket last weekend and have made many slow drives to Dollar General, the mile taking an easy 20 minutes both ways so we could listen to it more.  Upon reaching the last disc in the van, the kids brought it inside to start it all over again from the first disc.  It's just as funny the second time, though I have to say, I feel more trepidation AFTER hearing him describe his hike, made at the age of 44 with no more prep than reading a little and buying a ton of gear he seemingly had no idea how to use.  He on the trail and started walking North.  

I will be heading toward 38 when I finally get on the trail.  I have longed to hike it since I was 12. I was given a stack of Backpacker Magazines ranging from 1980 to around 85 by the school librarian and I was not without one of the issues for at least a year.  I memorized the whole vocabulary-always, always my favorite part of doing anything new are the words you can bandy about that are exclusive to that activity-then made gear lists, made lists of hikes I wanted to do, bought wool socks at the thrift store because they were best for hiking.  I got $50 a month in allowance starting at age 14 and I used it to buy hiking boots, a pack, fleece jacket, water bottle and a poncho, accumulating gear over the months, the whole while knowing neither of my parents would ever, ever take me backpacking. 

That summer, my mother went to Greeley for the summer quarter, a college just north of Denver.  She bought tickets for me and my older sister to fly out and we spent the next 3-4 weeks driving in her tiny car all over the Rockies, hitting the Tetons, Yellowstone, we drove into Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, camping in a minuscule 3 man tent she bought at JC Penney for the main reason that it popped up and required barely 90 seconds from taking it out of the trunk to crawling inside.  On the way home we went through Kansas and stopped at St. Louis and rode the arch cars all the way to the top.  I was hooked on camping travel.

The summer I was 16, I took a job with the forestry service and mowed grass all of June to pay for a ticket to fly to Missoula, Montana the first of July and I lived in a small tent with a girl from Denver for 5 weeks while we hiked and chopped trail out of the woods along the Continental Divide.  I wrote Matt the whole time I was gone and he NEVER ONCE WROTE ME BACK and years later when I got back in touch with my old tent mate, she had trouble believing we were actually married as everyone thought I made him up.  hahaha!  But that's how long we have known each other-over half my life and then some.  Longer than we haven't known each other.  But not as long as I have wanted to hike the AT.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Buck's Pocket hiking

 On Sunday, we headed to Buck's Pocket for the day hike we planned to do on our camping trip that did not happen.  April already and I have been in my camper only to clean it, fix it or stock it since last June.  : (
Between our really tight budget and gas going up and other things needing to be taken care of, it just has not worked out yet.  But, it will.  And, in the meantime, we have had some wonderful days together hiking and exploring.
 We let Jake sit this one out.  The pollen count was 11.5 out of 12 and he is already taking 3 different medications just to breathe, plus he has a nasty poison oak rash in his armpit.  I could not see making him wear a day pack on that. Not just to all go hiking together.
 At the trailhead, Matt sets the GPS to track our hike.
 The butterflies were out en masse, drinking from the damp sand.  Pretty sure this sand was damp from horse pee, which actually provides them with salts and other minerals they need.  Even if it's a little gross to think of nectar-sipping 'flying flowers' guzzling down some urine.

 Chan checking out her new hiking shoes.  We bought hikers for her and Ben on Friday, and I wore my new ankle boots, so we all stopped often to adjust things and check for hot spots.
The first mile and a half of the trail follows the road to the primitive campground, it's rutted and rough in sections, but passable in a truck-as many passed us coming and going.

 The trail follows a tumbling and wide creek with pockets of still, deep water until it opens out into this inlet of Guntersville Lake.  The trail keeps going another mile and a half past the campground to Morgan's Cove.  That section is very steep and rutted and we thought totally impassable, buy sure enough-some idiot on a 4-wheeler was pushing along, stopping every minute or two to navigate yet another fallen log.

Upon looking at a map I found AFTER the hike, I think we were on someone else's property and not on the hiking trail at all.  It seems to follow the lake much more closely and not have the climb we did, it also says it's yellow blazed.  I never saw a single blaze.  oops! I wonder if the idiot on the 4 wheeler thought 'great, there's another idiot with a daypack in my woods.'
 The primitive campground is right on the lake.  There are many wide, flat places and the bank is accessible for a good 1/4 mile or more.  There is a rope swing out over the water and one that goes out over a low hill, we all took a turn.

 The water is not very deep by the campground and we decided if we camped there, we would walk back up and swim in the faster-moving stream that fed into the lake.
 I had to have her lean out so I could see her!  hahaha

Playing around with the miniature effect on the camera. 

 We stopped about 1/4 mile shy of the end of the trail, as it finished up along a paved road that men hauling boats were driving so fast along that their trailers were literally swinging across the other lane when they hit the curve we could see from this little stream. 

We played here for a while, then started back, stopping at the campground swing and then making tracks for the van so we could meet up with Katy and her family at the main campground.

 After we met up, we had our picnic lunch and the kids played at the playground a while, then we walked to the creek to play:

 We ended up walking all the way to the bridge and  throwing various things into the swirling water to see if we could see it come out the other side.  We left just before dark, Ben had left his new sunglasses at the little stream, but that was right by the road, so we opted to drive back to the other end and look for them.  Ben stayed with Alex at the campground, Matt will pick him up after work tomorrow.

They found a rhinoceros beetle.  
And the sunset!  We did not find Ben's sunglasses, but we did find a crumpled beer can where they had been laying.  I guess someone decided to trade us.
The day would have been a 10 with the redneck factor removed, but I still give it an 8.5.  We did have peace and quiet the bulk of the time, the hike was tough and I did not have to stop on the hills, though by the last one, I was feeling that backpack and the new boots. 
I need to trade up in backpacks and wear one that has a hip belt, even on day hikes.  It pulls my neck and shoulders too much otherwise.  Chan needs a better day pack too.  I still don't have a swim suit for this season.  It seems like there's always something to put on that list.