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Nostalgia

It’s been a long week, and I am thankful that tomorrow is Friday.  And payday at that!  I also hope to have a relaxing weekend.  Last weekend a friend came to town, so the weekend was full of getting together with various friends and socializing.  It was great!  But I am also looking forward to a quiet weekend with not much planned.

Meanwhile, until I have a chance to do some writing, I hope you enjoy this photograph.  I took it at Paint Mines Interpretive Park, in eastern Colorado.  The colored layers were stunning, and it was amazing to hike and explore the rock formations.

I miss my trip, and now that the weather is warm and sunny again, I find myself itching to be back on the road.  My new job means I have to be stationary for now, so I’m feeling nostalgic.

One day…

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Happy Mother’s Day

I’m so lucky that I have the mother that I do.

My mama taught art lessons at my school when I was growing up and painted murals outside the classroom doors at my elementary school.

She typed up my creative writing stories when I was little, and bound them into books with my illustrations.  She still has them.

She led my girl scout troop and my 4-H club, and organized camping trips and arena rides and all sorts of learning excursions.  We camped in the rain and the heat, but really, since it is the Pacific Northwest, we mostly camped in the rain.  We sold cookies and Christmas swags and manned hot dog stands and a million other things that are undoubtedly a huge pain in the butt for any parent.

She helped me bathe and scrub my all white horse after a muddy winter.  I bet she was pretty happy when I got a bay (and a warm water wash rack).

She let my friend move in with us when she was having a tough time with her family.

My mother is talented with all things crafty.  She can sew and quilt, paint, make jewelry, dye fabric, make paper and a million other arts and crafts.  I am in awe of her talent – I wish I had gotten the genes for any of it!

My mama taught me all about my family background, from my father’s ancestors in Poland and Bohemia, to her ancestors in Scotland and England.  We went to visit the places where my great-grandmother lived in Scotland before she crossed the ocean to Boston.  She tried haggis in Scotland.

She went on a road trip with me and when I just about crashed the rental car, we laughed so hard we cried – after of course.  When the dead bunny needed to be extricated from the grill of the same car, she grabbed a paper town and pulled him out.

She has taken care of my cats, my horses, my friends and me without hesitation.

My mama practices tough love when I need it, providing me with that candid perspective.  “You can do anything for 90 days.”  If I didn’t get to make the choice, at least I could affect the outcome.

Mom panning for gold. She makes it look effortless…

She lost my father, her partner and husband of over 50 years 3 months ago, but she hasn’t let that stop her from living.  Even with that kick in the teeth, she hasn’t given up.  She keeps trying, keeps getting things done. It isn’t fair and it sucks, but what other choice do you have?

She taught me that life is what you make it.  You try your hardest and do your best, and what comes to you is in direct proportion to your effort.  You look on the bright side even on the darkest of days.  You might take a break, but you don’t give up.

My mama hasn’t had an easy road lately, but I admire her fortitude.  She’s badass.  I hope I am just a little like her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I love you.

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Fetterman Fight

Day 11, Thursday, July 26, 2018

The day before, I had visited Fort Phil Kearny and learned about the Fetterman Fight.  I blogged about my visit here.  The next morning, on my way out of Sheridan, I visited the site of the Fetterman Fight.  In the Fetterman Fight, about 90 soldiers had been dispatched outside of the fort to guard woodcutters about 5 miles away; they were cutting wood for fort construction and heating fuel.  The wagon train was attacked, and signaled to the fort that they needed back up.

The ridge looking out over the valley

The Commanding Officer at the fort, Colonel Henry Carrington, dispatched about 50 more soldiers under the command of Captain William Fetterman to provide relief, but Carrington gave orders that under no circumstances were they to go over the ridge line in the area.  The Native Americans successfully lured them into a trap though; over the ridge.  When all was said and done, Fetterman and 81 soldiers had been killed, stripped naked and mutilated in ritual fashion.  In less than six months of Fort Phil Kearny’s existence, 96 soldiers and 58 civilians had been killed.

The ridge where the Fetterman Fight occurred

It was certainly a sad time in US history, with the army and the tribes battling for control of the land all across the West, and the tribes being forced further and further onto undesirable reservation land as white men moved in to mine, ranch and farm.  The Native Americans had enough; who can blame them?  The Fetterman Fight was a pre-cursor to the Battle of Little Bighorn, which occurred 10 years later near present-day Billings, Montana.

The trail at the Fetterman Fight

The battle was a win for the tribes; even though skirmishes continued in the area and the tribes lost their competitive advantage when the troops at the fort were armed with breach loading rifles in 1867.  The 1867 Wagon Box Fight was a draw, even though the tribes had between 300 and 1,000 warriors in the battle against the government’s 32 troops and civilian wood cutters.

In 1868 the US Government negotiated a peace treaty with Red Cloud; the Native Americans retained control of the Powder River country.  The three forts along the Bozeman Trail were abandoned; the Cheyenne burned Fort Phil Kearny shortly after.  However, in 1868, the railroad had reached the area, making the wagon trails obsolete; it was much faster and much less dangerous to take a train west than to try to cover the ground in a wagon.  Unfortunately for the tribes the train made it that much easier and safer for whites to continue to move into the area; the encroachment continued and the tribes only retained their control of the area for eight more years.

Carrington, his wife, and the other women and children left the fort after the Fetterman fight; Carrington was publicly maligned for his role in the battle, even though a report showed that Fetterman had acted in violation of the orders that Carrington had given him.  He wrote years later about the battle and managed to re-establish his tarnished reputation.

The monument at the Fetterman Fight site

It was interesting to visit the site, and I was completely alone there.  I hiked most of the mile long trail, but rain was threatening so I headed back to the car just as a few big, fat raindrops started.  I got on the road to head east – I had more to see that day!

They have to point out that rattlesnakes are venomous?

And no, I didn’t see any rattlesnakes… Sadly…

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Pompeys Pillar NM

Day 9, Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Livingston, Montana was just a one night stopover, although I would have liked to have spent more time around Bozeman and Livingston.  I had already been in Montana for a week, and although I could have been happy exploring there for several more weeks, the purpose of my trip was to see more than just Montana!  So, moving on…

I got on the road about 9 am, and headed east on I-90.  I did stop at a rest area in Grey Cliff, Montana to sort out a few medical insurance details, and talked to a friend on the phone.  It is nice that it is so easy to stay connected these days!

My destination for the day was Pompeys Pillar National Monument.  I imagine many of you haven’t heard of it, so here’s the scoop.  Pompeys Pillar is one of the smallest national monuments in the United States, encompassing only 51 acres, and protecting a natural sandstone pillar that juts out from the flat land around it.  It was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1965, and upgraded to a National Monument on January 17, 2001.  In case you are wondering, Pompeys is officially spelled with no apostrophe – let that get your inner grammar geek worked up!

Pompeys Pillar Sign-posing

But why is it so special?  Pompeys Pillar marks the spot with William Clark and his crew – half of the Lewis and Clark expedition – stopped on their way back east during the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  He came down the Yellowstone River after making it all the way from present-day St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean via the overland route, and found this place.  He and Lewis had split up for a few weeks; Lewis and a team of 9 men further explored the Marias River while Clark continued down the Yellowstone River.  They were to meet up again in early August.  Its exact location may never have been known, except Clark carved his name into the pillar, along with the date – July 25, 1806.  It is the only known visible evidence of the expedition that remains today.  I was there a day too early for the anniversary!

 

 

Pompeys Pillar was named for the son of Sacajawea, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, a little boy who came along on the expedition strapped to a cradle board; he carried the nickname Pomp, or Pompy.  Clark originally named the site Pompys Tower, but the name was changed in 1814 when the official history of the expedition was published.  Native Americans have been using the area for about 11,000 years; it is located about 25 miles northeast of Billings, Montana.  Native Americans had carved on the pillar too – pictographs of animals in the area and other symbols.

The day I was there was another scorcher, but despite the 90 degree temps I still climbed the steps to the top of the pillar – the views are incredible!  It is 150 feet high, so you can see the river and the landscape for miles around.  I saw the spot where William Clark inscribed his name and date; it is protected by a plexiglass plate now.  Previously, it had a metal grate protecting it; that grate can be seen in the Visitor’s Center today.

Me with William Clark’s Inscription

 

William Clark’s Inscription

It was threatening rain when I was wandering around outside, but I still walked down to the Yellowstone River after I climbed the pillar.  There was so much sand on the banks – I wasn’t expecting that.  And even though the signs promised snakes; I didn’t see any. There were a lot of mosquitoes though!  It started to rain as I was headed back to the Visitor’s Center, so I feel like my timing was great!

Me on the bank of the Yellowstone River

 

Dark clouds over the Yellowstone River

When I left Pompeys Pillar I continued on my way to my destination for the evening – Sheridan, Wyoming.  The GPS took me on a shortcut to get back to the freeway, and I spent about 15 miles bouncing along slowly on a well-maintained but dusty gravel road.  The road had some great photo ops, with abandoned homes, prairie sunflowers and birds.  It was cool!

 

 

I crossed into Wyoming a little after 6 and stopped to do some sign posing – Wyoming has a pullout so you can park and get out for pictures with the sign – thanks Wyoming!

I made it to Wyoming!

I checked into my campground shortly before 7 and chatted with my neighbor – a woman traveling solo from Cincinnati, Ohio.  She looked and dressed like a hippie, but complained a lot about the hippie culture of Oregon, where she had been most recently.  You can’t judge a book by its cover.  She was a bit odd, but it was nice having some company while we drank some wine.

It was a nice day, and I was now in my 4th state of the trip!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Last Day in Glacier

Day 5, Friday, July 20, 2018

On my last day in Glacier I got up early and left the campground about 7:30 am.  I was going to be driving up the Going to the Sun Road one more time and exiting out the east entrance of the park.

Since I had already seen some of the sights along the west side of the park, I just drove until I got over to the east side.  I stopped at some of the viewpoints and did a short hike from there.  On that hike, the trail ended up narrowing sharply and going through quite a bit of tall shrubbery and I was completely alone; I got a bit nervous that this might be prime bear habitat so I ended up turning around.  I did find a beautiful creek coming through a gorge near there though and took some photos.

 

 

 

I passed by St. Mary Lake and stopped to take in the view and take some photos.  St. Mary Lake is the second largest lake in the park, at 9.9 miles long and 300 feet deep.  It has a small island, Wild Goose Island in the lake.  There are boat tours of this lake too, and it would be fun to go on one someday!  Interesting, the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was shot at St. Mary Lake.  In case you want to refresh your memory, here it is.  The views are stunning.

 

On the east side of the park I stopped at the Visitor’s Center for my stamp and to check out the exhibits on the Blackfeet tribe’s use of the park’s land as part of their traditional homeland; they call the area the Backbone of the World.  The park and the Blackfeet have a partnership now that allows the tribe to continue to use the land.

Also on the east side of the park is a 1913 Ranger Station; it was used as a ranger station until the 1930s, when it became ranger housing.  They restored it in 1976.  The site also contains a barn that was originally built in 1926, and was later moved to this location.  There are a few hikes that depart from the Ranger Station through the grasslands on the east side of the park.

The Ranger Station – 1913

The 1926 Barn

 

Upon leaving the park, I stopped to visit the Blackfeet Memorial, a memorial consisting of metal tipis constructed by the tribe.  There are signs at the viewpoint explaining where the Blackfeet traditional lands once extended to, as well as information about their culture, way of life, origin stories, and Blackfeet names of the mountains visible from the viewpoint.  This area was burned by fire in 2006; the Red Eagle fire consumed over 34,000 acres within the boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation and Glacier National Park.  It was an interesting stop!

 

The rest of the day was spent on a long, meandering drive through rural Montana towards Philipsburg.  I had about a half a tank of gas, and told myself that I would get gas when I next saw a gas station.  I had enough for about 30 more miles by the time I finally saw a gas station!  This is big country, my friends, and a lot of it is very sparsely populated.  Get gas when you have a chance!

An abandoned home

 

A very strange rest area sign – do they really want trucks to the right, where there is no road?

I rolled into Deer Lodge, Montana that evening for two nights at the Indian Creek RV Park.  They welcomed tents, but they weren’t really well set up for them – $45 for 2 nights.  They parked me in the middle of a grassy lawn, and I felt a little bit like I was living in a fishbowl, surrounded by all the RVs! I was the only tent camper there.  They didn’t have any picnic tables set out, just a small gazebo on the lawn, which I ended up setting up my cook stove in – you do what you have to do.  For dinner, I had rice, polenta and turkey sausage – yummy!  That night was the first night I set up my tent; it would have been awkward to sleep in my car because it was just parked on the road alongside the grassy area.  I learned that even though it was hot during the day, it got really cold at night!

A bunny at my campsite

 

Sunset at my campsite

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Glacier and my Marriage

One of the reasons for this trip was to shake off the painful end of my marriage and start fresh.  I don’t talk about it much, but perhaps I should.

Glacier National Park was one of the places that I had long talked about visiting with my ex-husband when we were married.  We never made it there.  At the end of our marriage, and during our divorce, I came to know another man in my husband, one so completely foreign to me that I wondered who I had actually been married to.  His behavior and his treatment of me was such a complete 180 from the early years, that I began to believe that it had all been a game to him.  I still don’t know who he really was, and I probably never will.

I would never have been able to afford this trip if I had remained married.  Getting divorced meant a level of financial (and emotional) freedom that I had not known in years.  My ex was an incredible drain on my finances, because he didn’t pull his weight financially and he was a huge spendthrift.  That was the one fight that we had over and over and over in our marriage, because his spending was bleeding us dry.  It was at the point that I was considering not allowing him to have his own credit card, and just giving him a cash allowance.  What is the point of being married to someone if you feel like you are treating them like a child?  I know he wasn’t happy with the situation either, but for whatever reason, he was just never willing to rein in the spending.

Long story short, getting divorced meant I was able to save a lot more money.  The drain on my life was gone.  Additionally, if I had still been married, he probably wouldn’t have been too keen on the idea of me taking several months away.  Let’s be honest, he probably would have wanted me to get a new job right away (or not leave the old one), so he could continue wasting all our money.

So, even though getting divorced was not what I had wanted for myself, and even though that year and a half was the most miserable time in my life so far, it was a blessing.  I am happier now that I don’t have his negativity and contempt weighing on my soul.  Someone else can have him be a drain on their finances and clean up his messes.  Someone else can listen to his lies.  I’m way better off.  I had a friend who told me that he looked at photos of my ex and me, and saw a woman trying to make it work, trying to be happy, and a man standing next to her who didn’t care about her at all.  He was right.  I don’t think my ex cared about me.  At least not at the end; I’ll never know if he ever did.

Before I went on this trip, I had never hiked alone.  Realistically though, I probably had.  My ex never actually hiked with me; instead he consistently walked between 20 and 50 feet in front of me when we went hiking.  There was rarely any interaction.  I have more pictures of his back, hiking in front of me, than I do of the two of us together.  So when I took this trip, I thought about that.  I had been hiking alone for most of my marriage.  This wouldn’t be any different – I got this.

 

I have told the story of the hat that he gave me. That hat that he had purchased for the girlfriend he was with at the end of our marriage, then decided to give to me instead.  The Avalanche Lake hike in Glacier National Park was the first hike I wore that hat for.  I thought I would hate it, but that hat grew on me.  It was a way to turn around the past and empower myself – to find my joy.  This was just the beginning of that new life, of feeling like I could travel by myself, hike by myself, and make my own way.

Me at Avalanche Lake

Glacier was just the start…

Circus Trip 2018: Avalanche Lake Hike

Day 4, July 19, 2018

Today was day 2 in Glacier National Park!  I got up at 7, and got ready quickly and skedaddled at 7:30 am after accidentally setting off my car alarm…  Oops!  Sorry campers!  You know you wanted to be up early to hike!

That morning I went to do the Avalanche Lake hike – it was 4.8 miles round-trip.  This is a busy hike, for good reason, because it is beautiful, so go early and pack your patience to get a parking spot.

For me, the hike to Avalanche Lake is very much like the hikes at home, a dirt trail with roots and big rocks along the side of the trail.  It is a moderate hike, mostly in the shade – which was perfect on a hot day!  At many points along the trail you can see evidence of past avalanches and landslides that have taken down more than a few trees.  It is not unusual in these mountain areas.

The hike is fairly popular and I could see and/or hear other hikers at most points on the trail.  I was surprised by the number of people that didn’t have bear spray – given that Glacier National Park is heavily populated by grizzlies and given the fact that the bear I saw the day before didn’t seem scared of humans AT ALL, I felt more comfortable carrying it, even with the people around.  I also have a bear bell on my backpack, which jingles to warn animals I’m coming.  If you hike alone, they say you should talk or sing to yourself, but let’s be real, who wants to do that for several miles in the wilderness?  My bear bell seemed to do the trick – which was apparently to get the attention of every man within a half mile radius, many of whom commented on it or asked what it was.   So there you go – if you want to meet a man, consider getting a bear bell?  Don’t hike?  Maybe just wear it around the office!?  Or at the grocery store?  I digress.

The lake was gorgeous!  It was so clear and you could see the fallen trees at the bottom from past avalanches.  I walked at the edge of the lake for a bit and sat and had a snack and just enjoyed the scenery.  Even though I wasn’t alone, it was very peaceful just sitting alongside that lake.

After I got back to the car, I made a peanut butter and honey sandwich and walked over to the creek near the parking area and sat on the stone wall to eat.

After lunch, I drove down to the Lake McDonald Lodge and wandered down to the lake shore.  Lake McDonald, at 10 miles long and 500 feet deep, is the largest lake in the park.  It is beautiful with the colorful rocks on its bottom, and the mountains rising above.  The valley where Lake McDonald sits was carved by the glaciers that existed here, and the valleys between the mountains are also evidence of glacial activity.  The lodge itself was constructed between 1913 and 1914 in the Swiss Chalet style.  I love these old lodges!  I parked myself in the shade, and even dozed off on the shore until some bratty kids came along and were knocking down all the cute little rock cairns that people had built.  I watched the boat tours go by – one day I would like to take one, but I just wasn’t feeling in the mood that day.

On my way back to camp, I stopped by the Alberta Visitor Center and checked it out.  Glacier National Park is so close to Canada it makes sense for them to have a Visitor’s Center there!  I have said it before, but I really want to see the Canadian parks north of Glacier!  There is never enough time to do everything though.

I also visited the historic Belton Train Station.  Belton was one of the stations where trains came to deliver visitors to the park in its early days.  It was constructed in 1910 by the Great Northern Railroad and enlarged in 1935; the same railroad also built the Belton Chalet Hotel across the road.  It would have been so cool to have the experience back then!

Belton Train Station

 

Ground squirrels at the Belton Station

I went back to camp and relaxed that evening.  I deserved to take a break since I had logged over 20,000 steps!  I also spent some time talking to the young guys at the campsite next door to me.  They were from Savannah, GA and Kansas and had met there for a guys trip to Glacier.  It was nice to have some social interaction and I enjoyed my time sitting around their campfire.  And apparently both of them slept through my car alarm that morning – whew!  It was a nice end to another great day!