Friday, July 28, 2017

Sister Week

Every year my sister Jane and I get together for a week of camping at her property in the Colorado mountains near Lake George.  We've been doing this since 2002, with only one year off (when we both had knee surgery).  It's a week I look forward to all year, because it's filled with all kinds of adventures.

Jane's Mountain Home
View from the deck

We ride ATV's all throughout the area (sometimes putting 50 or more miles on in a trip), we swim (well, we paddle around since it's where it's deep enough to swim the current is too fast) in the South Platte river, we picnic, and barbecue, and have marvelous Scrabble tournaments. But above all, we spend time together, which is the most precious thing of all. 
The river at Happy Meadows Campground

One of our favorite activities is watching the hummingbirds from her deck.  She hangs a couple of feeders, and then the fun begins. Some evenings it's almost like hummingbird Top Gun, with 8 or more birds flying around defending the feeder.  We normally have Broadtails and Rufus hummingbirds, but this year we saw a Calliope, which was quite out of its range (Wyoming and north).  They are accustomed enough to us to even feed from a small feeder we can hold in our hands. Mornings we go out there in our nightgowns with our coffee and tea, and spend an hour or more just admiring our surroundings(and the hummingbirds) and enjoying each other's company.


We don't normally see a lot of wildlife, but this year was kind of special. The first night we were here we heard two coyotes yipping in the field behind us, then we watched them as they slowly loped across the field. The next day we saw a total of 7 deer, including a great session with 4 beautiful bucks with marvelous racks.  Of course there are the usual ground squirrels, the bunny that lives under the deck (and a few of his friends), and a herd of antelope.
Deer on one of the trails
One of our favorite ATV rides is to an abandoned trapper's cabin two valleys over. It's a great ride, with some exciting rocks to get over, but the treat is the beautiful little valley at the end.  We discovered the cabin about 8 years ago, and we love to go there and explore around the area. This year I discovered rose bushes growing against one end of the cabin – just as pretty as a picture! 

Rose bushes along the side of the cabin

The one thing we have no control over is the weather, and while mornings have been just beautiful, sunny and cool, it's monsoon season.  Every afternoon the clouds come in and the skies open up. Of course, that has made for lush grassy meadows, but as Jane said in our prayer last night, "Please remember, God, this is a camper, not an ark."

Next stop will be Glacier National Park next week with my son Ted and his family.  I guess we can call that grandkid week!!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

House Tour (of my tiny mobile house)

Traveling and living in a minivan for several months at a time requires a lot of organization, paring down, and choosing among necessities. Which of them is more necessary? I tried to keep as much as I could, and to that end, I've divided my van up into the same rooms or areas I have in my house.  I'll show you in the photos that follow.

Of course, the bedroom is the most important, since that's where I'll be spending 1/3 of my time;  to make the rest of the day the best it can be, the bed has to be comfortable. It's a regular twin bed with a gel foam mattress from Costco, and it's the most comfortable mattress I own!  Not bad for camping!  When I close up those curtains, it makes a very cozy little nest.

Under the bed is where most of the stuff gets stored. Let's take a look at all the room under there.

On the driver's side from the left, we have the junk closet, where all the occasional use equipment is stored: tarp, guy ropes, tent stakes (for the guy rope attached to the tarp), window screens and the magnets to make them stick. Next is the propane closet -- I normally use one tank every 3 days, so this is almost enough for a month. After that comes the liquor cabinet (it's so nice to end some of the days with a drink, and it's occasionally a way to meet my neighbors in a campground). After that is one of the pantries (there is another in the back); this is stuff I don't use very much, but it's nice to have it when I need it. Last of all is the empty (almost) closet that will get filled with stuff I want to bring home. The package is for a quilt store in Canada;  it's so much easier and cheaper to mail it from Canada, so I'm going to wait till I get there to mail it.

In front of those baskets are a portable gas grill and a 3 gallon water jug (it would be awful to be caught somewhere with no water).

Around the other side of the bed are 3 rubbermaid bins that slide underneath. They are the linen closet (towels), the clothes closet, (t-shirts and pants) and the coat closet.  I've got plenty of warm clothes with me -- a lightweight shirt, sweatshirts, a fleece-lined jacket -- I'm in no danger of being cold! (Plus there are a hat and gloves in another little compartment.) Up at the head of the bed is a narrow plastic chest of drawers to supplement the clothes closet.

That round "table"you see at the foot of the bed is actually the potty. It's a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat, and there's kitty litter in plastic bags inside. It's neat and clean, and easy to dispose of without any mess, and when it's necessary, it's really nice to have!

The other very important part of the house is the kitchen, which I have set up in the back of the van behind the bed. Before I decided how to set this part up, I scoured the internet for ideas and combined quite a few of them for my final product. I decided on a headboard made of pegboard that would hold all the utensils and pots and pans, leaving the rear well for a cooler, another pantry (this one gets used a bit more), a two burner Coleman stove, and the other miscellaneous bits and pieces that are necessary for cooking and eating outdoors.  For this trip I even managed to pack a TV tray table that fits in the back next to the bed, so that if it is raining, I can sit in there and eat, or work on my computer.

That white bin on the left in the photo says McGuyver on it. That's my McGuyver box, named by my son David when we went camping at the Grand Canyon last year. Whenever we needed something a bit out of the ordinary, I was able to pull it out of that box.  Extra batteries, screws, pegboard hooks, cable ties, toilet paper, bungee cords, carabiner hooks, tie-down straps, duct tape, WD40, empty food containers, you name it, it's probably in the McGuyver box.  Hopefully I'm prepared for almost any circumstance!

I fabricated some screens for the windows -- it can get pretty hot inside, and some nights it's to hot to sleep with the windows closed, but the bugs can be ferocious.  The back window screens are held on with magnets and the front ones go entirely over the top of the door, kind of like a pillowcase. It helps keep the inside bug free and, along with my battery operated fan, I can stay pretty comfortable.

There's almost all the entertainment here as there is at home -- my Kindle is full of great books, I have my iPad for games (words with friends ) and news whenever there is Wifi, and my computer to email and write the blog (and post whenever there is Wifi!).  My phone (which works in Canada!!) is full of audio books and music. There's no TV, but I'm learning to live without that.  I can charge everything with car chargers or my little inverter, so power isn't much of a problem either.

See, all the comforts of home, but a whole world out there to explore! It's going to be an exciting summer.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Another Epic Trip Begins

Hello friends, it's that time again.  I'm about to set off on another epic journey (2-3 months this time) to the Canadian Atlantic Maritime Provinces. I'm going all the way to Labrador -- that's about as far as you can go.  Someone asked me why I was going there -- my best answer, because it's there and I haven't seen it yet!

I've spent months preparing for this trip; getting guide books from all the provinces, surfing the internet, pouring over maps, and corresponding with folks on the internet. One of the funniest experiences I had while preparing was determining how I would get to my starting point, and what would that point be?  I finally decided that I wanted to start in Labrador and work my way back.  Of course, this is after a week in Colorado camping with my sister and another week at Glacier National Park camping with my son and his family. Then I could actually start on the big trek. I thought it would be fun, and beautiful, to drive along the north shore of the St. Laurence River -- so I checked it out on the map (a AAA map of all of Canada -- not much detail).  I followed the road on the map, and the line got thinner and thinner, and finally disappeared at a town called Kegasha in Quebec. Off to Google to find the roads that went to Red Bay.  Alas, Google told me to fly or take a ferry, although there is a road. Here's the map...
It's 2275 kilometers -- more than 1300 miles and when I explored further, I discovered that much of it is a gravel road!  Oh heck no, I'm not doing that (although if it had been paved, I might have considered it!). Sadly, there is no road that goes directly from Kegasha to Red Bay.  

I finally decided to drive quickly through Central Canada and get to Newfoundland as a starting point. I'll begin the trip by driving up the west coast of Newfoundland, take the ferry to Labrador and visit Red Bay, then come back by way of the east coast of Newfoundland (with a detour to the northern tip of Newfoundland to see L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site, a Viking settlement site reconstruction. 

From there, I'll be able to see the rest of the Maritime Provinces as I work my way back home, coming through Maine (Acadia) and stopping in Pennsylvania to see my other sister. 

I'll be back home sometime in October -- having missed the worst of the Albuquerque summer heat!