Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Yesterday, I had a minor mental snap during which I decided I wanted another baby.  I am in recovery now and throwing myself into the only other thing I can think of that would cost thousands of dollars and bring me the near-comparable joy and exhaustion of a baby: Disney World.

Look!  I got a Disney countdown timer!  LMAO.  There's one on my phone as well, assuring me it's only 885 days till our next vacation!  I think I'd be in jail less time for writing bad checks.

So, that's February 1, 2020, which is approximate.  We are going for 2 weeks and planning to be in the parks 10 days of that.  Last time, we were there 2 weeks and in the parks for 8 days of that but we had water park passes as well, which I think we are skipping this time. Only one water park is open at a time in February and it could be chilly!  Plus, without Disney Quest, there's not as much pull to get the 'and more' add on.  We sure won't be using it for sports related stuff.  Zzzzzzz

Have I watched the 2017 planning videos?  Yes, yes I have.  Do I have my fast pass list made yet? Yes.  Do I know what color magic band I will be ordering?  Of course.  AAA says I can't book until June 2019 because they won't have the 2020 pricing before then.  I say pshaw.  They will know by the end of next year.

Matt is already being a party pooper saying the kids won't be able to take off work for 2 weeks, but none of them currently even have a job.  Jake finally got fed up enough to turn in his notice.  He processed out last week.  He and Chan have been filling out applications, but no luck yet.  He's been looking at renting an apartment with a friend of his and that friend just unexpectedly inherited a small house on the backside of nowhere-it's seriously further away from civilization than we are.  I don't know where that puts Jake, perhaps moving out sooner than I envisioned.  Or perhaps not at all-I guess it will depend on if there's internet access.

I don't think getting 2 weeks off 2 and a half years from now is our more pressing issue, to be honest.

So much will change in that amount of time and it will pass so much more quickly than will seem possible.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hobbs Cabin overnight

There are a few stretches in South Cumberland that I have not hiked yet-the 7.2 mile North Plateau trail, a 3 or so mile stretch from Horsepound to Ranger in the Gulf and of course Denny Cove and now Sherwood is being developed...

Anyway, a Facebook friend wanted to do an overnight to see how her gear all worked and so we planned the loop to Hobbs Cabin, staying at a campsite there.  We have walked the 11 miles at Richard Martin together, I knew she was physically able to cover the miles and the distance was her choice when we planned the trip.  We talked through some options and decided less climbing would be best because it's still quite hot during the day.

This is an easy trail, likely rated moderate because it's 9+ miles each way, no matter which route is taken.  However-my full summer of Netflix and Chill accented with 2 mile walks here and there and the occasional swim did nothing at all to prep me for what I thought would be a simple hike.  I didn't overpack, I had less than 20 pounds for overnight and could have knocked that even lower if I hadn't packed so much first aid and extras for things we ended up not having time/energy for.  The plan was to arrive and set up and then start a fire and she wanted to learn to bear bag.  So I had several ways to do both.  In reality, I got to the cabin about 30 minutes before dark and she was there 20 minutes later. By the time we were set up, neither of us cared to mess with finding wood or proper hang trees. I put all the smellies in an Ursac and left it tucked in my pack.  No problem.

The trail in was, let's say 10 miles.  I gave us 6 hours to walk it!  Kimberly's GPS said it was 14 miles.  I just know that I walked my walking pace from 1-7 with 2 15 minute breaks and I did not think I was ever going to get there.  I had a weird spell of thinking I was in purgatory and would be walking forever.  I wasn't tired or hungry or thirsty, I was just walking.  Endlessly.  I seriously think the mileage there is not even remotely accurate.

Kimberly and Lucy

The night passed without incident, we were up by 7 and ready to leave by 8.  I always think it will take about 20 minutes to set up and pack up, but it takes an hour.  I'm sure I could rush, but I like to come home and put everything away where it goes as I unpack and if I have it clean and dry and packed correctly-that part really does only take minutes.

Badly focused stick bug

North Plateau trail is 5.6 miles around to where it meets with the trail to Dinky campground.  From there, it's 3.8 miles to the ranger station.  It took 4 hours to get back, so I think this trail is better measured.  I did not stop on the way out after I waited for Kimberly a couple of times and realized she was doing fine, just her shoes were making her feet hurt so she was going slow-but not lost.

The gnats were SO bad.

new dodads-that caribeener is from Cairn and is multipurpose and the green thing is a digital compass with temp.

Back at the van by noon, we headed out.  I stopped en route and got food and was home around 3.

In the bath, I discovered-seed ticks.  A few hundred of them, all over my feet, ankles and lower legs.  They were in my nail beds, between my toes and had begun to range further up, some behind my knees and a perfect row along the lower edge of my compression shorts.

When Matt got in, I had him check me over, then again the next day.  I found a few more under my watch band and wedding ring!

I itched, not as bad as chiggers but a close second.  My feet and ankles puffed up, I had been developing a UTI for about 3 days-plus PMS set in with bloating achy cramps.  I'm surprised I didn't hurl myself off into the gulf!  Some trips are just bumpier than others.

The day after I got home, Matt took the kids and their buddies rock climbing with Park and I laid out and did laundry all day.  I was barely improved the next day, though I did get the house cleaned up and all my gear sorted and checked for ticks.  I vacuumed about 12 times.

Still, I enjoyed the trip and it's always nice to get to hang out with someone interested in backpacking and who will actually go every now and then.

Already looking forward to next time-after the first frost. hahaha

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse 2017, Tellico Lake, TN

We have been planning this trip all year!

It started off being up at the balds, but I found out I was not the only one with that plan.  Amanda had discovered the place we stayed, Lotterdale Cove, during her research of the area.  Rho has left the fold to attend college!  They dropped her off Thursday!

It was originally Katy, Amanda, and our families.  We invited Gina and Sarah.  Gina declined, so we squeezed Sarah in our site instead of trying to get another spot-though even the night before the eclipse there were still spots open!   Matt could not go because of a new project starting up at work, so he missed the totality.  It turned out to be good in a way because he was so sick over the weekend that they had to cancel a gig.  He's still so sick that he made me stop talking about the cheese we brought home from Sweetwater.

I didn't take any photos until Sunday even though I got there Friday.  That is because Friday was the most stressful day I have had in 7 months.  I needed the whole day Saturday to recover.

Saturday we went to Tellico Plains for a while, where it was something close to 135 degrees.
It was so hot, I kept buying drinks anywhere we went, we came home with an entire bag of bottles to drop at the recycle center.

The bathhouse was up a steep hill from the campsites, so all that drinking was also paying off via massive muscle gain.  I kept getting Charley horses in my calves and having to walk them off in the middle of the night.  Then drink even more because I was pretty sure they are from dehydration.  It was an athletic weekend.

Sunday, we went swimming

These never happen.  12 years, I have known these women.  FIRST photo together.
I wish Sarah had bothered to get dressed.

Katy's hand

I took the girls across the lake to a rope swing.  I thought they would try it a few times and be done.  Not hardly.
It was a solid hour until their arms could no longer hold them on.

Ace went more times than Inde, but her mama doesn't allow pics of her face online, so I had to pare down.

 The big kids slogged over to have a go.
Then Katy showed up in a tiny inflatable boat with an extra paddle.

We went to a nearby cemetery for sunset pics.
This is from the Morgantown Cemetery.

The next day was ECLIPSE DAY

My child for sure.
I taught the kids to float on their back first thing, around age 2 or 3.  My theory was, if they got over their heads or got tired while swimming around, they could always float until their energy returned or they were rescued.
Plus, I love to float!  Chan does too.

Eclipesy things started happening.  Shadows!  The crescent!  We ran around looking at everything on land, then got out in the lake before totality.


My single attempt, though the corona was not that pronounced.  My camera has issues with light and I didn't want to spend more than that 10 seconds messing with it. 

Everyone screamed, we cried, we looked at the planets that are up in the day, we spun around and around to see the lit horizon, and we stared at the sun.  It was so beautiful, there's just no describing it.  The temps dropped 20 degrees, it was so, so lovely.  Everything a dusky blue.

Then, that sliver of sun popped out and BAM-the world was lit again.
We celebrated with moon pies and sun chips because...that's what we do.

That night we watched the sunset from camp, which was a novel idea.  hahaha

Tuesday morning, we packed up, stopped for breakfast and cheese and hit the road.
We were home by 1, it was HOT HOT HOT.

Ben made a friend just before we left camp:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Cayman Again

To say I am lucky is putting it mildly.  I don't have loads of cash or dozens of friends or an astonishing collection of ab muscles.  But as I get older I realize none of that is what makes a person happy-though money sure as shit helps grease the wheels that makes the whole thing turn.

What is really vital-and forgive me for pontificating, I did just have a birthday-though I JUST NOW REALIZED I did not have cake.  What was I even talking about?  Oh, things that make for a good life.  Health-being disease and pain-free is my biggest blessing.  Even more, so that Matt and the kids are also all in excellent health.  Having a handful of friends who are happy to spend time with me is my next biggest hooray.  Having a car and enough disposable income to operate it and go many places, having the Internet to keep up with so much, having a library with books, having clean water with simply a twist of the tap.  Cold air pushed in by a noisy box right behind the house, a phone and a camera, Dollar General just up the road where I can buy all kinds of stuff without having to drive all the way into town.  These are all things I am deeply grateful for!  Things I don't want to take for granted.

But the 'thing' I love most in the world is going away somewhere.  And then coming home-as much as I gripe at times about our ruralness and the bane that is The Chicken House Smell, I do love the house and coming down the driveway and seeing it pop up at the end-that purple and white and green structure glimpsed behind the trees.  The mint that is taking over the front yard, the sprawl of flowers and the endless need to mow again soon, the waggy dogs and the birds nesting in the chimney.

This trip was a little different.  Chandler is driving now, so she was in charge of getting herself and Ben around.  She dropped us off at the airport Sunday morning-it was not busy at all in Huntsville, but Atlanta was FULL and crazy by the time we got over there.  

Our flight left at 8, so we got there around 6.  Getting through security was fast, but so confusing I don't think I could name off each step.  There was the barefoot x-ray while our carry on was being scanned.  There was a metal detector, loads of people asking questions about what we had with us. To avoid the most hassle, we did not bring the laptop and we packed all our liquids in the checked bag.

We had to show our passport about 9 times and our boarding passes a few times as well.

Atlanta was busy, busy, busy!  People running, shoving, yelling!  Lots of stress and movement, my calm was a little dented.
We got off the plane at G and our departure gate was in terminal B, all the way at the far end.  We had to ride the plane train!  That was like being in some kind of death race, men were using their rolling bags to whack people out of the way, we missed the first train because we were unprepared to push and yell.  The second train, we hopped on as people were hopping off and secured ourselves near a big pole.  As our stop neared, we negotiated standing space with another couple who had further to go on the terrifying joltmobile.  We discussed our exit strategy with them and they helped get us out the door as more folks squeezed on.  I hope they got off without incident.  

I got my hair done mermaid for the trip.
I love it so much, I am going to get it done mermaid from now on, for a while.
It feels like what my hair should look like.  It absolutely should look like a peacock under that grey/red/brown facade that is my natural color.  I have always thought my hair color was so boring!  Now, it's super exciting, but only if I choose to let it show.

Crossing the last bit of US-Key West.

Cuba comes up fast and takes about 12 minutes to fly across.

We had lots of weather this trip, coming and going.  

We arrived at Cayman and went through Immigration and Customs and one other section for declarations.  We had nothing to declare but got to use the 'something to declare' line anyway because it was faster.  Other people with things to declare had dogs and one looked just like Murphy with a tail.

We met up with Phil, who is taller than I remember every time.  Even if he goes into the next room and comes back, he seems taller than I remember.  I am sure that's a mental issue.

He took us to the condo and we dropped off our stuff.  Then we went to his mom's for lunch, where Jacki was already-she did not know we were coming.

Phil went in ahead of us and we waited a minute and went over to knock.  We walked in and J saw us and just stared.  Like her brain could not slot us in-we were not the first people Phil had flown in to surprise her, their 20th anniversary was the week before and he had brought in her bridesmaids to celebrate.
 I *think* we went out for dinner for ours.  hahaha!  

These are Phil's favorite fruit, which happened to be growing in a nearby yard, so he just walked over and picked them off the tree and we ate them standing in the shade.
They taste a little like passion fruit, the kind that grows here.  Or like mayapple.

We stayed in a condo across from where Jacki works and right on Seven Mile Beach.  We swam every day!



We sometimes walked over to Camana Bay and hung out a while in the hammocks out on their little island where people leave their boats.
We also went to the movies over there.  On our birthday, I went with J and several other ladies to see Girls Trip, which left the more delicate of us scarred.  hahahaha!

Up on the observation tower

The blue roofs in the upper left mark our condo.
They had just finished a walkover ramp to the shopping area, it was about a 5-minute walk!

View from the hammock!

We all went to Rum Point to swim and watch the sunset.

First, we played tourists at a little cement critter park a local man created and allows people to wander through.

Then we sat and enjoyed ourselves at the beach while before heading out to swim.

The area at Rum Point is unlike any other we have been to.

The first time we swam here, there were HUGE tuna!


The next morning, Phil ran us to Cemetery Beach and then came back to get us 3 hours later.  

sea urchin

We got out after an hour to dry off and reapply sunscreen.
While we waited the 20 minutes for it to take effect, we drank some juice from our little cooler and watched the lizards and wild chickens.

Check out the bottom chicken, she's laying on one side with her leg stretched out, like a movie star pose.


Tide pool

Cemetery grapes!

Thursday was a long day!
We caught a plane to Cayman Brac, one of the sister islands and from there we got another plane to Little Cayman.

Owen Island

The smallest international airport in the world.
We had to drink all of our water before going through security!

Headed out to gate number one

It's about 35 minutes from Grand Cayman to Cayman Brac and then 7 minutes between the Brac and Little Cayman.

Little Cayman has 125 residents.  The local school has 3 students.

The airport

Lots and lots of ponds on the island.

Sea lavender

Sinkhole area

the lighthouse
there was a geocache

Cayman pussy willow

Point of Sand


Phil's flippers are HUGE.

Nurse shark

Lunch time!

We had jerked lionfish sliders

Then back to lounge a while!

We left here to go to the store and get sunscreen and some drinks.

I went for a hike with Phil and J!  

Everyone usually rents kayaks to get to Owen Island, but it's only 3/10 mile.  I decided we could swim it.

So Phil, Matt and I did.  J was holding down the fort watching our stuff back at the hammocks.  There was one other family on the whole island, but who knows what they might have gotten up to!

We made it!  And with that accomplishment, we also managed to walk on all 4 of the Cayman Islands in one day!

The current was REALLY strong, I was not sure I was going to get there.  With flippers, it felt like I was swimming barefoot, every stroke barely getting me anywhere.

The swim BACK was totally different as the current was with us and we were swept as much as swam.

Loads of turtle grass

The hammocks needed more laying in.

I needed more ginger beer!

We topped up the rental car at the single gas pump.
The man we got it from said to just top it off and Phil said is the pump by the airport and he said no, it's by the store.  This is a pic of the airport from the store.  hahahaha!

Back to the Brac, but we did not have to deplane this time.

And back to Grand Cayman!

Batman thought our plane was very little.

Friday, we hung out hiding from the heat while Jacki and Phil were at work.
That evening, we all went swimming at Spott's and saw sea turtles!

Saturday, we packed and messed around at the condo, finished the season of Orange is the New Black.
That evening, Phil and Jacki came over and we had yummy yummy fries covered in gyro toppings while we watched the sunset from the beach.

They had to head home, we did a little more packing and set our alarm.

Sunday, we went swimming a final time in the sea, had showers and walked over to Cimboco for breakfast.  Then we finished our packing and Phil and J drove us to the airport.  

The trip home was uneventful, security and customs took a while on both ends of the flight.
In Atlanta, we were so ready to sit still a while that we ended up snacking on what was in my carry on bag instead of our planned dinner out.

Back in Huntsville, Chandler arrived and picked us up out front and I drove us home.  The week of suddenly being in charge of everything and having to do all the driving had worn the kid out!

The house was a wreck, the yard was a foot tall and there was no food.  I'm glad I got home when we did!  hahaha