Paddling the Elkhorn Creek, 2016

This weekend was perfect weather for a paddle… it was sunny and 79 degrees with a slight breeze!  I loaded the kayak on my truck and headed to Elkhorn Creek in Franklin County, Kentucky.  My put-in spot was the Elkhorn Acres River Access on Peaks Mill Road.  Water-level was perhaps a bit low for this time of year but sufficient enough for a peaceful day of paddling.  During almost 4 hours on the water, I encountered dozens of fisherman lining the muddy banks of the creek trying to hook their first trophy bass of the season.  Newly hatched goslings struggled to keep up with mother goose as they dodged the bow of my kayak.  Hundreds of turtles, lined-up on logs, sunned themselves until I passed too close… causing them to catapult themselves a few feet into the murky waters below.  What a great day!  Need a break from the stresses of daily life?  Put down the TV remote or smartphone…dust off your hiking boots, load up a small backpack… get out and enjoy a day in nature… it will do your body good!

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Lots and Lots of Water…2015

As my regular Blog Readers know, I recently took a 90 day break from Blogging.  During the break I spent some real quality time with my family and friends in Michigan, Ohio and Kentucky!  I made 2 trips to Ohio and 3 trips to Michigan during those 90 days and spent a great amount of time on, in and near one of my favorite places, the WATER!  I kayaked on beautiful Lake Michigan and the beautiful-muddy Kentucky River, as well as a number of other smaller bodies of water.  In between trips North, I got caught-up on numerous projects on the Farm!  The Summer of 2015 was one for the records… record rainfall that is!  It was the wettest Summer since I came to Kentucky almost 9 years ago!  The one major benefit of the Wet-Summer is that it was also a cooler than normal Summer!  That suited me just fine, since I spent June, July and August without air-conditioning!  Well its already September, I’m back to Blogging and plan to write Blog-Posts on a weekly basis!  So…please check back soon, and as always, I really appreciate my readers!  THANKS for reading Pocketfullofwanderlust!  

Below are a few pictures from my time on, in and near the WATER Summer of 2015!

Cottage 2015 Sunset

A Purple Sky, Crooked Lake, 2015.

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Kayaking Crooked Lake, 2015.

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Beautiful Lake Michigan, 2015.

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Lake Michigan from atop of Sleeping Bear Dunes, 2015.

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Lilly Pads on Crooked Lake, 2015.

 

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A Dusty Trail and a Dozen Jackasses!

Last weekend I rode the XR, AKA the B.O.M. (Big Old Mare) for three days in west-central Arizona with my good friends Robert and Emilio!  It was the first time I’ve ridden for multiple-days when packing all my gear on the bike.

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Most of the gear for my 3 day motorcycle trip.

I’ve trailered the B.O.M to campsites before and then gone on long day-trips, but this was my first time I’ve taken everything I needed on the bike from clothing to food and all necessary camping gear.  I know, 3 days is not exactly an “epic-adventure,” but I had to start somewhere!  It was a great training ride for  future “multi-country” trips I’m planning!

The trip took us from Prescott to Lake Alamo, where we camped just a few feet from the water.  Late in the evening, Robert rounded-up some firewood and demonstrated superior Boy Scout fire-starting skills, (his secret, lots of gasoline on the wood) to provide us with a few hours of fireside enjoyment!  The wild burros brayed all night and were only interrupted briefly by Emilio’s and Robert’s snoring.  I think their snoring might have actually enticed the Burros to visit our campsite overnight.  They said I snored too, but it didn’t seem to bother me?

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Lake Alamo, Arizona.

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The Big Old Mare at Lake Alamo, 2015.

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Robert’s hard work paid off in the form of a nice campfire!

Early the next morning after a breakfast of oatmeal and coffee, we headed west to Parker where we spent the day on the banks of the picturesque Colorado River and camped at Buckskin State Park.  The park has RV sites with full hookups and concrete-floored cabanas for rent along the river.  We rented an open-air cabana for $30.00 and did our best to get some rest, which proved  a bit difficult with the mariachi-music blasting from a loudspeaker at a dance club on the California side of the river.  I can still hear the sound of the trumpets ringing in my ears!  They say if the music is too loud, then you’re too old… well I guess I’m too old for Mariachi Music!

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The view from our cabana at Buckskin State Park. 

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Departing Buckskin State Park, with Mariachi Music ringing in my ears!

After a night of listening to out of tune trumpets… we continued north to Lake Havasu and Oatman.  Oatman is a historic little mining town about 26 miles south of Kingman.  It’s famous for the wild burros who wander the streets in search of food handed out by tourists and shopkeepers.

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The Wild Burros of Oatman, Arizona.

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A Wild Burro on Main Street in Oatman, Arizona.

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A vintage Truck Camper on Main Street Oatman,

After the mandatory “selfies” with all the jackasses, the four legged ones that is, and a visit to some of the shops, we continued our journey on two wheels to Kingman for lunch.

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Along the road between Oatman and Kingman.

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Emilio on his Suzuki DRZ 400.

From Kingman we headed south to Yucca and followed a dusty trail for 56 miles to Lake Alamo again!  This time we were on the west side of Lake Alamo,  which is only accessible from the west!  One way in and one way out!

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The dusty trail east of Yucca, Arizona.

We departed Lake Alamo late in the evening and 30 miles later we rolled into our impromptu campsite just before dark.  We threw our ground mats in the sand of a dry wash and camped for the 3rd night near Wickiup!  I must admit, day 3 of riding wore me out!  It was a total of about 220 miles, with 160 miles on trail.

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Our impromptu campsite near Wickiup, Arizona.

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The sky was clear and the bugs were few so we didn’t need tents.

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Robert on gear watch… yeah right!

The trip was a fantastic way to spend 3 days with good friends!  It was really great training for future, longer trips and took us across some difficult terrain.  I learned to much better navigate my motorcycle in deep sand and on rocky hills!  The best part of the trip was that we suffered no breakdowns and no injuries!  I thank the Motorcycle-Gods for that!

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Hitched My Horse at the Palace Station

From Prescott, the “Palace Station” stagecoach stop, located approximately 17 miles south of Prescott along old Senator Highway in the heart of the Bradshaw Mountains, is a great adventure motorcycle day-ride destination!  The buildings now administered by the US Park Service were first built in 1874 by Alfred Spence, who decided the location, half-way between the lucrative Peck Mine and the town of Prescott, would serve as an ideal spot for a stagecoach stop.  Travelers could get a meal from Alfred’s wife, Matilda, and water their horses before continuing two hours in either direction to the Peck Mine or the Town of Prescott.  In looking for information on the Palace Station, I found one website that claims Doc Holiday and his girlfriend “Big Nose Kate” passed through the “Station” on their way to Phoenix and then on to Tombstone.  For many years, the “Station” served as a meeting place for local miners who I’m sure enjoyed the outdoor kitchen and saloon!  Alfred died in 1908 and is buried in a local cemetery only a hundred yards from the “Station.”  Alfred’s wife sold the “Station” in 1910 and moved to Prescott.

To reach Palace Station, from Prescott, head South on Mt Vernon Street (Old Senator Highway) for about 17 miles.  The first 5 miles of road are two lane asphalt, the rest of the highway is a single lane hard packed dirt (and lots of rocks) road.

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Old Senator Highway in the heart of the Bradshaw Mountains.

The dirt road climbs for a few miles to the junction with Golden Eagle Road and then descends along Groom Creek down to the “Palace Station.”  There are numerous tight hairpin turns along the route that should be taken with caution.  Mainly because of the many ATVs traveling in the opposite direction at a high rate of speed.  Many side roads off Senator Highway are worthy of exploration, particularly Golden Eagle Road.  The views from Golden Eagle are spectacular!  Getting lost in the area is not a big concern.  As long as you can make your way back to Old Senator Highway you can easily find your way back to Prescott.  So, top-off your gas tank, pack a lunch and escape Prescott for the day with a visit to the “Palace Station.”

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A hitching post at the Palace Station.

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The Palace Station has been owned and administered by the US Parks Service since 1963.

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Along Old Senator Highway, you will encounter half a dozen  minor water obstacles.

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Groom Creek runs along Old Senator Highway. This time of year the creek was flowing steady with clear water!

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On the way back to Prescott from the Palace Station I took a detour on Golden Eagle Road, the views were amazing.

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Golden Eagle Road.

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Golden Eagle Road.

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Like I said, many rocks along the road, add to the riding pleasure!

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A great place to escape for the day!

 

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Hiking the Granite Mountain Wilderness.

I recently saw a bumper-sticker that read, “Nature is my Church.”  So Easter Sunday, I decided to spend all day in ‘church’ and hiked the Granite Mountain Wilderness Area.  Probably the two most recognizable physical landmarks in Prescott, Arizona are ‘Thumb Butte’ and ‘Granite Mountain.’  From just about anywhere in Downtown Prescott you can see the imposing nature of both Thumb Butte and Granite Mountain.  At only 7,600 ft elevation, Granite Mountain is not the tallest mountain in the area but since it stands alone, it looks quite impressive.  The 9,600 acre ‘Granite Mountain Wilderness’ area was designated a ‘Wilderness’ area by an act of Congress in 1984.  This ‘status’ protects the area from any further development and thus protects the mountain lions, pronghorn antelope, javelina, peregrine falcons and other animals that make the ‘Wilderness’ their homes!

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Granite Lake, a 5 acre fish-able lake in the Wilderness.

The ‘Wilderness’ is often referred to as an ‘Urban Wilderness’ because of its proximity to town.  It’s located only about 8 miles from downtown Prescott and is easily accessible by paved road.  A simple Google search will give you the only way into or out of the area by vehicle. The Metate Trailhead parking lot is probably the best place to park your car in order to explore the ‘Wilderness.’  After you pay the $5.00 park day use fee, you can top-off your water bottles at the water-pump located next to the pit-toilets before your hike!  In order to see the most diverse landscape the ‘Wilderness’ has to offer, I recommend hiking trail      # 261.  It’s an out and back, 7 mile hike to the top of Granite Mountain through some really beautiful terrain.  At the top of Granite Mountain you have incredible views of Williamson Valley and the town of Prescott.

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The first mile of trail 261 follows a seasonal creek through a lush green meadow.

The first mile and a half of the hike takes you along a small piñon pine and white oak lined seasonal creek. This time of year, the creek is flowing steadily, bringing life blood to the many wildflowers you will encounter.

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In the Spring, wildflowers are abundant.

As you ascend out of the creek-bed the landscape changes quickly, the massive granite boulders surround you as the trail zigzags up the mountain.

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The zigzag portion up Granite Mountain offers wonderful views.

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Recent wildfires have left their mark on Granite Mountain.

Make sure you stop along the ascent and look at the massive granite cliff rock-face off to the right.  It’s home to nesting peregrine falcons, and you will probably see a few of them demonstrate their aerial acrobatic skills only a few hundred feet above you!

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Stopping for a great view of the ascent and the Peregrine Falcons above!

You really can’t get lost as the trail is well worn by the thousands of hikers who summit the mountain every year.  As I crested the mountain just beyond the long series of switchbacks, I came face to face with 3 pronghorn antelope enjoying a breakfast of green grass in a clearing.  I was more startled than they were…they just slowly walked away into the adjacent pine forest, but not before I was able to snap a few pictures.

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A happy pronghorn antelope on Granite Mountain.

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3 pronghorn antelope are interrupted while enjoying breakfast.

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The pronghorn slowly move off into the pine forest.

Once on top of Granite Mountain, there is still about a one mile walk to the best View Point overlooking the entire route up the mountain and the town of Prescott.  Bring your lunch and sit a top one of the massive boulders and enjoy the view, before you tackle the downhill portion of your hike!  Hiking at an easy pace, the 7 mile out and back route took me about 4 and 1/2 hours to complete.  It was perhaps the most peaceful Easter Sunday I’ve ever had!

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The view from the end of trail 261 on top of Granite Mountain. Granite Lake and Thumb Butte can be seen in the distance.

 

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Floating Down the Verde River.

Last weekend I floated down the ‘Verde River’ in my inflatable kayak with my good friends Emilio and Julie.  The weather was perfect for a “float” down a lazy river, it was in the high 70s and sunny.  The Verde River flows for about 160 miles, starting in the northwest corner of Arizona near the Sulivan Lake Dam, heading southeast down to the Salt River just north of Phoenix.  It passes through some really beautiful public and private lands, including the Tonto National Forrest.  We started our “float” near downtown Camp Verde at the White Bridge river access point and ended at Beasley Flats about 4.5 miles down river.  The trip takes about 4 hours if you take your time and stop for a few breaks along the way.  The route is extremely popular with kayakers of all skill levels.  There are a few outfitters in Camp Verde that will drop you at the start point and then pick you up at Beasley Flats if you are in need of their services.  We had two vehicles so we dropped one at the end point and returned to the start point.  We paddled past numerous groups enjoying the wonderful weather… swimming, picnicking and tailgating along the river.  One group of boys in their teens were doing their best to show-off to passers-by with their acrobatic-feats of greatness, swinging from a rope swing into the river.  They looked like they were from central-casting for a remake of the movie “Lean on Me.”  Another group of ‘country-folk’, sitting on the tailgates of their pickups, interrupted their swigs of cold beer long enough to cheer us on as we passed. “Way to go… you’re almost there…”  I’m not sure where “there” was but I appreciated the words of encouragement nonetheless!  One minor ‘incident’ made the paddle very interesting for me.  I made the decision to attach my skeg (a fixed blade rudder) to my Innova before we started.  Along the route my skeg hit more than a few large submerged rocks.  I should have stopped and removed the skeg… but I didn’t and at one particularly hard hit, the skeg bent back far enough to puncture a 1/4 inch hole in the floor of the kayak.  Lucky for me, the Kayak has 3 air pockets (the 2 gunnels and the floor).  There was enough air in the gunnels to carry me the last mile down river like a wounded duck to  Beasley Flats.  I had to lay flat in the kayak to distribute my weight which forced me to paddle prone on my back, easy enough except it limited my field of view!  I was happy to learn that the Innova can still carry me with 2/3s of its flotation capacity!  I spent the next afternoon patching the Innova and with test it this week to see if the patch holds air!

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The Verde River near the White Bridge access point.

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Me, enjoying a day on the Verde River, 2015.

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Taking a break along the Verde River, 2015.

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Emilio and Julie preparing to negotiate the “rapids” along the Verde River, 2015.

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A group of boys “show-off” to passers-by on the Verde River, 2015.

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Emilio and Julie coming ashore for a short break along the Verde River, 2015.

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Emilio and Julie arriving at Beasley Flats, along the Verde River, 2015.

 

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Rugged Beauty… The Granite Dells.

We don’t often associate the words ruggedness and beauty in the same sentence, that is until you visit the “Granite Dells,” located just a few miles from historic downtown Prescott, Arizona!  Father-Time has created what I like to call “rugged beauty” in the Granite Dells.  Over an estimated 1.4 billion years the wind and water have eroded the exposed granite bedrock and boulders to what we see today, massive-lumpy rock formations, great for rock climbers and photographers alike!  You can easily spend a few hours exploring the trails and boulders surrounding Lakes Watson and Willow.  So, next time you are in Prescott, head to the Granite Dells for a mini-adventure and follow one of the many trails that weave their way around the two lakes or just climb a granite rock formation with a cup of coffee and enjoy the views!

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The rugged-beauty of the Granite Dells, 2015.

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Wind, Water and Time have created the funky rock formations of the Granite Dells, 2015.

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Sunrise on Lake Watson, a great place to have a cup of coffee, 2015.

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A beautiful, rugged old tree clings to life in the Granite Dells, 2015.

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Sunrise in the Granite Dells, 2015.

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Spring is here, late March 2015 in the Granite Dells, Prescott, Arizona.

 

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Burgers in the Bluegrass…

It has been more than a month since my last blog post.  My only excuse is that I have been really busy on the little “Farm.”  Since returning from “Road-Trip” 2014, I have been working on numerous projects, repairing a retaining wall, sealcoating a patio and carport, cutting grass, trimming trees, splitting firewood, getting the tractor running, etc… etc… just a few of the projects that have occupied most of my time.  I want to get as much work done as possible before the big-freeze arrives.  Anyone who knows Kentucky weather knows that the arrival of old man Winter may come as early as late October.  Until then…the “Fall” in the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky remains my favorite time of the year!  The temperatures drop to a comfortable level, the humidity is low and the autumn colors along the Kentucky River come to life!

In addition to numerous projects on the Farm, I spent a week in Ohio and Michigan visiting my mother and older brother.  They are doing well and we enjoyed some time together!  I also spent the day at Michigan State University where a niece and nephew are now students!  It’s always great to visit “Sparty-Land” and even better when family is there!

On the Farm it hasn’t been all work, I managed to have a few cookouts and enjoy some burgers in the Bluegrass with friends!

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I also took advantage of the cooler temperatures to cut and split some firewood for the wood-burning stove!

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Having a few acres has been a lot like home ownership… there are always some projects to do….

I will spend the next few months working on the Big-Ole-Mare, aka B.O.M. …. better know as my Honda XR650L.  I’m learning more about critical maintenance on the ole-gal as I prepare for Motorcycle Road-Trip 2015… to the land of Aztecs, Mayans and Incas!

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Monument Valley on “Bessie” the Mule.

Two years ago, when I was traveling with “Bertha” the Bigfoot Camper, I visited Monument Valley for the first time.  I fell in love with the area and visited again a few days ago on “Road-Trip 2014.”  This time the visit was in my Tacoma.  While in Monument Valley I finally decided on an official name for the Tacoma.  As you may know, I like to name my vehicles… The F350 with Bigfoot Camper is “Bertha,” my Honda XR650L is the “Big Ole Mare”… aka the “B.O.M,” but until a few days ago, my Tacoma didn’t really have an official name… as I drove the 17 mile dirt loop that weaves its way through Monument Valley, I remembered all those old Western movies that used “Monument Valley” as a backdrop… it got me thinking of horses and mules… since my Honda is a Horse, I decided the Tacoma should be a Mule.  Mules are strong, have great endurance and can handle rugged terrain… all great characteristics for a 4×4 truck!  For some reason, Bessie sounded like a great name for a mule…. why not?

So it’s official, the Tacoma is now named “Bessie.”

Monument Valley Park covers roughly 91,000 acres stretching between SE Utah and NW Arizona and is administered by the Navajo Nation. The sandstone masterpieces that make Monument Valley one of the most recognized and photographed places on earth were formed over the last 50 million years by the forces of nature.  The wind and rain worked to erode alternate layers of hard and soft sediments to eventually create what we have all seen as backdrops to countless old Western movies!  Monument Valley is just a short drive from the Grand Canyon and is definitely worth a visit!

Below are a few pictures of Bessie and I during our visit to Monument Valley 2014!

Tacoma Monument Side Angle

Bessie in Monument Valley 2014.

Monument Close

The beauty of Monument Valley, 2014.

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I can imagine John Wayne riding a stallion out there somewhere…. Monument Valley 2014.

Monuments and Tree

Vegetation is sparse in Monument Valley.

Tacoma Monument Far

As we get ready to depart Monument Valley, I snap one last picture!

 

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Up North…. Spring Cleaning.

After a great Easter Weekend in Cleveland, I headed north to Michigan to my older brother’s home in the Detroit area.  It’s that time of the year when he normally, single-handedly, “opens” my Mother’s lake home near Cadillac.  I was available to help him this year and decided a “Spring Cleaning” weekend would be a great opportunity for us to spend some quality one on one time together!  The Michigan Winter was brutal this year, and the “remnants” of that brutality were still visible in the form of a few snowbanks lingering around the house.  Not only did we need to rake leaves, but we also had to shovel snow in order to find more leaves below.  We cleaned gutters, washed windows and did lots of other tasks in order to get the place ready for the Summer!  20 years ago… a few days of “spring-cleaning” would have been no big deal, but with a few more years under our belts, both of us were exhausted by Sunday afternoon!  We have been going to the same home since my brothers and I were born.  For the three of us, it’s a place with over half a century of great memories and countless “fish stories.”  We found ourselves laughing a lot about all the crazy times we have had on the lake!  Like the time, about 8 years ago, when I dressed up in a “wild-man” costume, complete with mask and burning torch.  We told all the kids we had found “Jason,” the wild-man living in the woods and he was going to scare everyone after dark.  We played it up for 3 or 4 days and many of the kids really believed us!  With about 12 kids and 8 adults on the patio deck in complete darkness, the plan was to have “Jason” run out of the woods, with burning torch in hand, yelling and screaming… The only problem was that with the rubber mask on my face, I couldn’t see right in front of my feet and I ran full speed into a 3 foot tall retaining wall made of railroad ties.  The railroad ties won, Jason lost!  I still have a small scar on my shin from that performance…. anything for the kiddos… Fun times….
Now, my brothers and I are not so crazy during our visits, but fear not…. with 4 nieces and nephews ages 13, 15, 18 and 20…. we are confident they will carry-on the tradition of “craziness…”
Thanks Mom and Dad for giving us a place to create so many wonderful memories!          

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