Sixty-one days after we drove away from the Sunderlin Hall dorms and the campus of our youngest child’s college home, the child returned home and she and I were sitting in camp chairs beside a fire that took far too long to build and stoke. We roasted hotdogs and talked about all that has transpired in the sixty-one days since we last sat down to eat dinner together. There was no wait staff, no noise from the kitchen, I wasn’t busy running back and forth between the stove and the table. Serenaded by the crackle and pop of the fire, we marveled at the sizzle of the grease droplets as the hot dogs oozed down to the burning wood and anticipated the much looked forward to ceremony of The Blowing Out of the Fiery Marshmallows. We needed this because sometimes in our hustle and bustle world it’s necessary to stop and listen to nothing more than the crackle of the fire and to each other. We were hoping to find a piece of peace in our busy lives. What better place to find it than under the stars?
We were only an hour from home, surrounded by the rich Ouachita National Forest and the Flatside Wilderness Area. Being the first weekend of muzzleloader season we were concerned enough to find a place to camp that is far off the Ouachita Trail, hoping to avoid most of the hunters.
The other girl of the house, our dog Hobo, was with us too. Luckily Hobo is not much of a barker. Most of her intrusions on the peace were due to us calling her back when she wandered a bit too far for comfort. We talked about school, studying, bonfires, creek swimming, classes, fear, roommates, jealousy, rats, bus schedules, the future, and cafeteria food. Just the normal conversations one has with a new college student.
Hammocks were hung, dog beds were made, fire was roaring, and it was just us girls with a few bugs, crawly critters, probably a few hunters not far away, and one scary something that half barked half screamed in the wee hours of the morning resulting in a barking dog with her fur up. She tried to crawl into the hammock with each of us in turn, but eventually the scaredy-dog went back to sleep in between her protectors.
We woke to a crisp fall morning. I made hot cocoa in no time with our trusty Jet-Boil. Then I got the bright idea to heat up our now stale donut holes in it. It worked. Hot stale donut holes were much better than cold stale donut holes.
We took our time packing up, planning to attempt a hike on the OT with an orange vest at the ready for the dog and orange flags for our backpacks. Alas, as we traveled down closer to the trailheads near Lake Sylvia we could tell by the number of vehicles and full campsites that the woods were full. We chose instead to follow the Flatside Wilderness Scenic Drive, much of which is familiar to me from the Full Moon 25/50K Trail Run and from our mountain bike forays in the area. The roads are rough, the hills are steep, and driving can be a challenge. I let the small one take the driver’s seat and we drove on, stopping at the overlooks to check out the views. We talked about “going off the grid” and living a less hectic lifestyle. I doubt that will ever be in the cards for me, but for my kids, I hope they find a way to escape if not as a full-time lifestyle, at least on occasion. How else will they find peace?
This summer we took a whirlwind tour of Colorado via Durango, Pagosa Springs, and Crested Butte. While in Durango we decided to spend a day at Mesa Verde National Park and I am so glad we did. It was incredible. I could easily spend two or three days discovering all the hidden gems this landscape has to offer.
Greeted at the visitor center by a soaring sculpture of a Puebloan scaling a cliff face while carrying his bundles, we were on our way to see for ourselves the cliff faces where these ancient ones carried the necessities of life up and down the bluffs.
Knowing we just had one day in which to see as much as possible, we chose to do just two of the many guided tours that are available. First we went to Balcony House where everyone on the tour had to overcome any fear of tall ladders or tight spaces in order to get under the overhanging precipice to the shelter underneath where our guide imparted his own ideas on the how and why the people who chose to call this home, would build in such a place. Personally, I thought the view was worth millions in real estate value today.
We timed our two tours in order to have time between them to take a quick driving tour through some of the park and to eat a quick lunch in one of the picnic areas. The area we chose was infested with stealthy, robust, bold little rodents. I was thoroughly entertained by their tactics to get to leftover people food. They waited in the shadows, as if they knew all the signs of a family finishing a meal. They weren’t watching those of us still tucking into our pic-a-nic baskets, they were eyeballing the moms and dads who were wiping grubby little hands and putting tupperware away. As soon as the soon would be providers of squirrel lunch vacated the table, those little furry darlings scurried up to scavenge any and every crumb left on, under, or near the recently abandoned outdoor restaurant.
Our next stop on the tour was the large Cliff Palace Dwelling. A downward climb on steep steps, obviously CCC work from back in the day, both Joe and I pondered about the safety measures taken and not taken in the park. It seems these days the views are often hindered by fencing, signs, and other necessities to keep people from doing silly things. There seemed to be a noticeable lack of such notifications in the area. The one admonition we were given over an over was “please don’t touch the rocks in the dwellings.” Simple right? It’s a kindergarten level instruction, keep your hands to yourself while you’re here. When you leave you may touch anything you want. Yet over and over I watched as people rubbed, touched, leaned on, and practically caressed the stone. As I stood there with my arms crossed over my chest lest I break the rule, my inner 97 year old woman with a fist shaking in the air was screaming at these people “You Kids, GET OFF MY NATIONAL TREASURE!” Joe managed to take me away and get me out on a trail before I slapped a grown person’s hand and got arrested. I’m ornery like that. The oils on people’s hands turn the stone black. I want this beautiful place that has withstood the test of time and mother nature, to be enjoyed by my great great grandchildren, without the greasy stains please.
We learned about kivas and discussed theories, of which there are many, on why the Ancestral Pueblo chose to build here and then why they chose to leave after living in the area for 700 years. This people, this tribe lived here more than twice as long as we have been the United States of America. Whether it is true or not, our Park Interpreter shared a story that tradition is that it was time to move on. There is no great story of drought or war, just that the people are in-tune with nature and when it is time to move, it is felt. I kind of like that version, the story of wanderers. I watch as my children are becoming wanderers. I live for their stories and adventures while I keep trying to find ways to wander myself, because I feel it.
This morning my social media feeds are filled with admonitions to take care of mother earth, to protect nature, to save the world. For many of the sites that I follow, those directives are an everyday occurrence, not a plea that resounds throughout the community once a year. It does not take grand gestures to celebrate Earth Day; there are commitments that are easily integrated into everyday life that make every single day, earth day.
1. Carpool or use alternative and public transportation. Carpooling even with just one other person is a bonus for reducing traffic and traffic emissions.
2. If you aren’t in a position that allows you to use alternative transportation as often as you’d like, please support those who do walk or bicycle for transportation. Join advocacy groups for pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. Let your local politicians know that alternative transportation is important to you.
3. Pick up trash. If you notice that not everyone around you is practicing a Leave No Trace routine, help us all out by cleaning up trash whether it’s on the trail or in the parking lot.
4. Recycle when you can. This is an area I need to work on. We are lucky that our waste management picks up recyclable trash but where I need more effort is in our collection of stuffs. Stuff clutters my house, my shelves, my car, my garage. Why do I have so much stuffs? I have so much stuffs I need more stuffs to store my stuffs in. This is a blatant violation of the rules of living the simple life.
5. Waste less, compost more. We’re working on this one too. My kid was disgusted by the leftover romaine lettuce butt-stalk in the fridge. I quietly explained that I was planning to attempt to re-grow the lettuce as we had been doing with green onions. She’s the one who made us start composting again after losing our big mesh bins to a dog who liked to chew.
6. Get out and enjoy the dirt. Visit and support your local, city, state and national parks. Give when they ask, help keep them clean, and when necessary-fight to keep them open and well funded.
A much longer and detailed list of great ideas can be found on one of my favorite sites Attainable-Sustainable.
The subject line of the email read “Runner’s World Sweepstakes Finalist!”. I enter a lot of contests and I knew Runner’s World Magazine recently promoted a contest for a year’s worth of shoes. The person who contacted me sent multiple avenues by which I could determine that she was indeed an employee of Runner’s World and she wasn’t spamming or phishing. Intrigued, I followed the instructions and waited, impatiently. Soon I received a confirmation that I had indeed won a years worth of shoes, which in a runner’s world, means six pair of shoes. Six. I don’t know about you, but I find running shoes that I like are expensive and I would prefer to replace them only when absolutely necessary. To me, that necessity arises about twice a year. Six pair of shoes is a veritable gold mine! I was informed that the choice of shoes would be determined by the sponsors which I understood to mean “Tell us what size you wear and we’ll see what we have in the pile of stuff they send us to test.” Within a few days a large box was on my doorstep. I brought it inside and got all giddy like a kid on Christmas morning. Inside the box was a sampling of athletic shoe makers. Right away I noticed the distinctive red and white bag on the Puma shoes, and then discovered I had two pair of Pumas. I continued unpacking: Reebok, Skechers, and Asics. Then I saw a plain white box. Opening it I found a pair of blue Mizuno Wave Prophecy 2. Now, I know that the Prophecy shoe recently released in version 3, but I was intrigued. My current road running shoe corral includes a pair of Mizuno Inspires so I thought I might like what Runner’s World randomly chose for me. It just so happened that I was running a 10K a couple of days after the package arrived and in front of me lay a mound of shoes to test.
I guess now I have lots of shoes to write about and review, although I admit, if anyone expects a technical review, this is the wrong place to look. I know what I like, I know what feels good, but when I read some shoe reviews I feel like the person writing them is a shoe designer and knows all the vocabulary that I don’t. What the heck is thermoplastic overlay?
Fit and technical components of the shoes played into my decision making process of which shoes to try first. Just kidding, the Mizunos were blue and orange and since I was running with a group of blind/visually impaired runners and guides wearing blue and orange shirts, I chose fashion over function. Don’t judge. In the first mile I knew I made a good choice. The look of the Mizuno infinity wave sole reminds me of these wedge shoes I had in the early 80′s with a hole in the wedge like an oblong donut. I won’t concern myself with a weird aesthetic such as a sole that makes me think of pastries, because the shoes felt great. I am sometimes a neutral but more typically a stability shoe purchaser. These shoes feel solid, which people who like a truly neutral shoe probably won’t like. The cushion was good, but not overwhelming and the advertised “propulsion” of the wave sole doesn’t seem far off the mark. I was able to run a decent pace without feeling the nagging pain of a recent knee problem. In short, I can’t wait to try the rest of the shoes, but for now the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 2 just went to the front of the running shoe rotation.
1. Quinoa- Hello protein packed grain! You’re my hero. I still miss rice sometimes but you’re doing a great job as healthier alternative.
2. Almond Milk – It seems like a good idea to try something other than pasteurized cow milk. Almond milk is a good low fat source of iron, calcium, vitamin E and potassium without the vitamin A palmitate that is added to low fat cow milk that is added to replace vitamins lost during fat removal.
3. My garlic press- I love garlic and always try to keep a head or two in the kitchen.
4. Ezekial Sprouted Bread- Sprouted grains that spoil versus over processed wheat product that in some cases has so many additives and preservatives, it doesn’t even mold.
5. The Feed Zone Cookbook- This book is filled with easy recipes meant for athletes who want to eat whole nutritious foods and not rely on prepackaged bars or gels for fuel during training and races. Another plus, no crazy ingredients that kids or picky eaters won’t like.
I’m sitting in the lobby of an Asheville hotel in the middle of the afternoon sipping red wine that’s been chilled a little too long out of a coffee mug so as not to alarm the hotel staff. The small one is upstairs in our room taking a nap. She was up late last night, spending a good part of it watching the birth of a litter of 11 piglets. How did it come to this?
A couple of years back our family chose Asheville, North Carolina as a vacation destination hoping to take advantage of the hiking and mountain biking opportunities. At the time, the young one was just beginning high school and we took a couple of hours to check out the local college campus to continue giving her ideas about what options she should be looking for in a college home. She didn’t fall in love or even in like with the UNC-Asheville branch, but she did fall in love with Asheville. A year ago we happened to invite a friend of mine along for a trip to a music festival. The subject of college came up and my friend asked if we had heard of Warren Wilson College near Asheville. I didn’t give it much more thought but the small one started researching and soon, we had a request from her to make a visit back to Asheville in the autumn so she could see the campus in person. Long story short, we’re back in Asheville for our 3rd visit because in 143 days, we will be returning with the small one and her luggage to help her start the next phase of her life, making a home and getting an education in one of the most beautiful settings in the south.
We’re back for a second visit to the school now that they have committed to each other. While she was hanging out, making a few new friends and learning a little more about her future home, I took to the trails. With 25 miles of trail around the 900 acre campus, I had plenty to choose from. I thought I’d go for a run. I felt like I should run. I needed to run. But as my shoes hit the dirt I realized that my head and/or my heart was not in it. My thoughts were racing and I suppose my heart was much heavier than my feet. I found myself watching the flow of the Swannanoa River beside me, trying to find the peace that should be there.
Isn’t that why I love being outside? Normally, that’s where I find my peace. I watched my feet on the dirt and I had to wonder if she would be here in my steps a few months from now, searching for that peace. When classes are overwhelming, when there are roommate issues, when there is boy trouble, when her heart feels like mine does right now, will she ground herself in this beautiful creation and find what I have often found there? Will she quench her thirst at the spring of mother nature?
I hope she does. I dream she does. And that hope lightens my load. So I start running…
Somewhere in a discussion thread about 100k runs, trail karma, and borrowed socks, the phrase “smells like trail spirit” was uttered. Rather it was typed as the discussion was via social media, the avenue of choice for most discussions these days. Borrowed socks, especially socks that were borrowed during a trail ultra-marathon, should probably be washed before being returned to their original owner lest they return with the smell of trail spirit lingering like the cloud that surrounds the Peanuts character, Pig-Pen.
I have been on the receiving end of the -returned socks- equation several times lately. I loaned a spare pair of dry socks to my friend Cassandra during the Sylamore 25K when she got blisters. She washed the trail spirit out of them and promptly returned them to me, fresh and bundled with a “thank you very much for saving some of my skin from rubbing off and leaving me lame a week before my first marathon.” Socks are an important component in the arsenal.
I was standing amidst a few of my fellow Arkansas Women Bloggers who were manning the social media booth for the Arkansas Flower and Garden Show when Ashley sauntered up beside me and handed me a plastic water bottle and a pair of socks. I stood there for a moment, trying to puzzle out the best way to store my returned goodies. In my head it made perfect sense to store the socks inside the water bottle to conserve space. Then I realized the company I was in. Now out on the trail, post long-run or long-ride, if someone hands me a pair of socks I’m going to store them in the most space efficient way possible, no matter what. But I figured not one of my blogger buds, save Ashley who would probably do the same, wanted to see me put my socks in my water bottle. Why? Because socks smell like trail spirit, water bottles do not, and no one wants a water bottle that smells like trail spirit.
My own attachment to Red Ryder began long before Ralphie’s mom responded to his Christmas wish, “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle!” with “No, you’ll shoot your eye out.” When I was a little girl, my dad collected films from the 1940′s and 1950′s. He owned an extensive collection of serial Westerns, like Red Ryder and Little Beaver, Gene Autry, Zorro and Lash LaRue.
During a trip to Rogers, Arkansas last year, we visited the Daisy Airgun Museum which houses decades of Daisy memorabilia. Displays chronicle the company’s early days of manufacturing windmill blades in Plymouth, Michigan at the end of the 19th century before switching to making air rifles in 1886. The company enjoyed the success of manufacturing BBs and selling promotional novelties as the age of Hollywood gave them a national audience not to mention their part in manufacturing for the war effort in the 1940s. The small museum is located in the lovely downtown square at 114 South First Street, the address the museum has called home since 2000. The company’s ties to Northwest Arkansas began in 1958 when manufacturing moved from Michigan to a Rogers plant.
Times, they do not change, even in the 1930′s when movies like Buck Rogers in the 25th Century were popular, kids and adults bought up toys, lunchboxes, books and novelty items based on the movie. That included the Atomic Pistol, made by Daisy. The company continued its close relationship with Hollywood producing the Red Ryder BB gun during the 1940′s, except for the three years when Daisy used their metal and manufacturing expertise for the war effort. In 1949 the company sold more than a million Red Ryder BB guns, a phenomenal sales record for the time. As I walked through the museum’s display of movie posters and models, I was transported back to my own childhood. Ralphie wanted to be like his hero from the big screen. I watched the movies with my dad, wanting to be like his hero from the big screen.
I went for a run through town the day after we visited the museum. I couldn’t help but stop to snap a photo of the Red Ryder window mural, one more moment of nostalgia, reliving those Saturday nights when we’d set up the retractable projector screen and pop the corn.
Spring Break is coming up. If you’re planning to be in Northwest Arkansas, perhaps visiting Crystal Bridges, take a couple of hours to visit the historic downtown square in Rogers and the Daisy Airgun Museum. Find more to do on the Visit Rogers Blog. Share your memories with the young ones and build a few new ones.