Tag Archives: camping

A Catalyst for Change

So, why, you, the vast and expansive void, may ask, why return to your blog after more than four years of silence. What was the catalyst? Because more often than not there is a catalyst when someone decides to make a big change, move forward on something that was pushed to the side, all but forgotten, shunned even. Well, as it so happens there was a catalyst. And it has a story. A three-part story, actually. So for part 1.

This last June, Mike and I decided to take a nice little road trip in our brand new Jayco, Jayfeather 7 hybrid camper, which I absolutely adore by the way. We were going to head south to the Dallas, Texas area to visit our oldest son and family. We decided it would be fun to take our six-year-old grandson with us. The one we have been helping to take care of since he was born. When we went to Texas last winter for an extended period of time, Gavin, the said grandson, said he wanted to come with us. We promised him we would take him when he was on summer break. It was June, the time had come to make good on our promise. We made our plans and set out on our trip leaving on a Sunday.

To make it easier on Gavin we stopped to camp three times along the way  allowing for downtime and swimming, which Gavin could do all day, every day. There were some challenges, Gavin didn’t like the bugs, didn’t like the dark, at one place there was no swimming but we worked through them.

Finally, on Wednesday we were in Dallas. We were later than expected and the RV storage Joe, the oldest son, picked for us to park our camper for a week was closing at 3. He called the storage place and got them to wait a half an hour.

I was driving. Joe was watching us on Life360, a phone app that allows friends and family, using GPS, to track their whereabouts. While tracking us on the app Joe was also on the phone directing us to where we needed to go.

“Turn right at the next light,” Joe’s voice blasted from our radio. We have a Honda Pilot with blue tooth capabilities.

I glanced at the clock on the console.  3:15  “We’re not going to make it”, I cried.

“Mom, you’ll make it. I have the best route for you. The next intersection is University Dr. Turn left then stay on that and you’ll see it. It’s about five miles ahead.”

Well, we did make it five minutes too late but the lady was still there waiting for us. I’ll tell you it was a white knuckle experience. I was frazzled.

We finally got to Joe’s condo. I was still shaking from the adrenaline of the drive to the storage place. At Joe,s I jumped out of the car and pulled some luggage out of the back. I dashed to the house, Gavin close on my heels. I opened the door and burst in. Joe was in the bathroom off the living room area. I could tell because the door to the bathroom was closed. I raced with my bag up two flights of stairs to the bedrooms. I hoisted the bag,  plopped it on the bed and spun around to go get more. I met Gavin on the stairs. All of a sudden I stopped dean in my tracks.  I grabbed my chest panting. I bent over. “Oh, my god,” I said.

“What’s wrong Grammy,” Gavin said.

“My chest hurts,” I told him.

Joe came out of the bathroom. “Why does your chest hurt Mom,” he said.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

I didn’t know then, but now I know, I was a having a small heart attack. I didn’t realize that then because, once I stopped for a minute the pain subsided and my breathing eased. There was still some pain but I thought, ah, maybe acid reflux. Oh, I had some discomfort on and off for the next couple of days but nothing to speak of.

On Friday,  we took Gavin for a walk with our dogs at the park. It was a large park with many paved and dirt trails. It was morning and aleady starting to heat up. The dogs wanted the water they saw at the bottom of this very deep ravine. It looked like there was a sort of trail going down so I told the dogs to go ahead. We, Gavin, Mike and I, watched from the top as the dogs splashed in the water and had a drink. The younger dog made it back up with no problem but our older dog Angie who is 12 looked up at me pleading.

“Help me, I can’t get back up,” her eyes seemed to say.

“Oh, jeez,” I remarked. “Fine.”

I went down the slippery, muddy path. I got about half way down and pointed to where there was an easier way for Angie to get out of the little creek. “Over there,” I said. “Go over there.”

She saw where I was pointing and made it up the hill. Now, I had to get up. It was rough going. Nothing to grab onto. I took a step and slipped trying to catch myself from tumbling to the bottom.  I landed on my butt and got mud on the seat of my nice green Capris. I found some vegetation to step on to get some footing.  I was practically on all fours. I reached out for a spindly little branch to use to pull myself up.

Finally, I got close enough to Mike  and reached out his hand. I stretched my arm and was able to grasp his hand. We clasped each other and he tugged me up. Once I was at the top, the hard pain and breathlessness hit me smack dab in the chest, again. I grabbed my chest instinctively and waited for it to subside. Which it did. I didn’t know what to make of this.

I should have had an idea. I mean 14 years ago I had a triple Coronary Artery Bypass Graft or CABG, pronounced cabbage by the medical community. However, because I had 14 years without an incident, I thought I healed myself. I made sure to watch my diet; I followed weight watchers. I exercised, walking over an hour a day, racking up to 18,000 steps altogether. I thought I managed my stress levels, although Mike will tell you not too well. So, you could say I was in denial, I would like to all it hope.

Getting ready for the catalyst, for the transformation.

To my credit I did think something wasn’t quite right and a year and a half ago I told my cardiologist. He did a stress test and echo cardiogram and proclaimed me just fine. So, I was just fine. Why would I think something was wrong? Ah, maybe because I should be the one paying attention to my own body. Sigh, that’s another story

I did eventually go get it looked at, in Texas and that is the second part of my catalyst So, to be continued…

Nothing beats the love and support of a good partner.

It is Sunday, September 30th and I am writing this at Governor Dodge State Park campsite 349 in our dark green 1999 Dodge Ram conversion van. I backed up the van to the electrical hookup just like a huge RV instead of this little van and pushed the cord to my lap top out the little pop out window. The back bench seat folds down to create a bed big enough for Mike and I to lay side by side. I am lying here on top of the sleeping bags which are zipped together to create a sleeping bag for two, typing. I am not really comfortable but not uncomfortable either. I’m alone expect for the dogs. One dog, Angie is on the floor by the bed sprawled on her pet bed. Dean-o, the other dog, is up here with me. It was a trip getting here I’ll say that, deciding whether to come here or not. First it was yes, then no, then yes again.

A few days earlier.

The Love and Support of a Good Partner

the support of a good partner“Mike I want to drive up to Governor Dodge and hike. The fall colors are so beautiful. I can leave Sunday. Spend the night and come back Monday. That will give me two days of hiking. What do you think?”

“I think that would be great.”



Of course he thinks it would be great. He knows I love to hike. He knows I love Governor Dodge. He knows I am enthralled with the fall colors this year. And most importantly, he wants me to do what gives me joy. We could have come together. We could have left on Saturday and returned on Sunday because he would need to be back for work but since his health issues of arthritis and gout in his big toe he doesn’t enjoy hiking much anymore. Plus he’s not too big on driving even if it is only two hours. So I came up with this big bright idea all on my own for myself.

Saturday night, the night before I was to leave while lying next to Mike who was also reading, I set my book down and looked over at him. I realized I didn’t want to leave him. Yes, I love hiking and Governor Dodge but I don’t like leaving Mike.

“Mike, I’m not going,” I announced out of the blue.

“Why,” he asked turning to me placing his book spread open on his chest.

“Well, this book I’m reading is too scary. It’s about a woman who survives this rapist murderer and she helps get him sent to prison. He is getting out of prison and now he is going to be after her. It’s going to be one of those on-the-edge books where she is on step away from danger. I’m sure she will come out OK but the book is just too dark for me. And it’s scaring me now. Anyway, I don’t want to leave you.”

“You’re an independent woman. You can do this.” Mike picked up right away that the book wasn’t the real reason.

“Maybe, but it’s my choice not to leave you. So, you don’t have to think I’m not going because you are making me.”

“OK,” he said knowing full well it is of little use to argue with me.

With that I toss my book on the floor vowing silently to myself not to finish it and turn off my bedside light.

The next morning at around nine o’clock all of a sudden going to Governor Dodge didn’t seem like a bad idea. The sun was up and the scary thoughts and the sadness about leaving Mike have vanished with the night. After all I have to walk the dogs anyway and the fall colors are not going to be around much longer. All we need is one strong wind storm and they will all be knocked to the ground. What the heck I should go.

“Mike, I think. I’m going to go after all.”

“OK.” and with that he immediately sets out to get things ready for me. He remembered I wanted to take my hiking boots which were out in the shed. He got those and put them in the van. He got together the sleeping bags, a folding chair, flashlights, lighters and fire starters so I could start a fire. The day before when he thought it was a go, he went to the store and bought me some red grapes, pineapple, bananas and strawberries. Now that it’s on again he cut up the pineapple and strawberries, put them in containers along with the grapes and set them in the cooler he dragged out. He packed in some bottles of water.

“Do you want your salsa and chips,” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said not giving them a thought till he mentioned it.

“What about a Coke.” I looked at him quizzically wondering, should I?. I don’t drink soda at all but once a week we have a Coca Cola in little glass bottles made in Mexico with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. They are more expensive than regular Coke but worth it.

“Go ahead. Treat yourself.” I grinned.


I gathered together some clothes and put them in a backpack. I packed up my laptop and some books. Mike got the dogs food, their bowls and leashes. He put all this in the van. We were rushing around in a flurry to get me on my way. Within the hour I was draped over him in an embracing hug saying good-bye.

“I don’t like leaving you,” I said into his neck.

“You’ll be fine. You’ll be hiking,” he said squeezing me tighter.

As long as I thought I was just going for a hike it felt OK, but camping over night. I don’t know. We broke apart and looked each other in the eye.

“I could always come back after I hike,” I said with a sheepish grin. “Not even stay over night.”

“Just let me know so I can get my girlfriends out of the house,” he said. I punched him in the arm. “No, really, Janice, you’ll have a good time.”

“Well, you know I’ll be calling you.” I said as I got into the van.

So, I drove two hours to go hiking feeling apprehensive, selfish, guilty, silly. Many people do this kind of thing, I thought. They drive hours somewhere to do something they love to do. I don’t know why I should feel like I’m doing something so weird and crazy, so wrong.

About halfway there I smiled to myself thinking about the last-minute running around we both did just so I could go for a little trip out hiking in nature. How blessed I am. I am with a man who goes out of his way to help me get what I want out of life. I feel a fullness in my chest that spreads upward causing my scalp to tingle realizing what Mike did to help me get on my way. This is what a marriage, a partnership, is all about, isn’t it? Being a support, a catalyst for the other to ‘go for it’. Our marriage has had its ups but it is times like this that I understand how truly blessed I am. Nothing beats the love support of a good partner which colors my world as brightly as the fall colors.  My partner, my husband meets the seven qualities of an ideal partner that I found on Psychalive.    I just hope I do the same for him.  I hope I am an ideal partner for him.

And so I hiked for two days, four hours a day. I snapped pictures every step of the way. And, as it turned out, I had cell phone coverage even on the trails and called Mike often sharing little adventures with him. The first thing I did, after hugging Mike, was sit down and show him my pictures. I don’t know if they captured the beauty of what I was seeing. Being there and seeing the colors, inhaling the fall aroma and listening to the birds can’t be totally captured. I put a little slide show together adding some word values to a few of the pictures. Values that being on my hike, admiring the colors and having the support of Mike inspired. It took me quite awhile to put it together which is the reason for the lateness of the post. I hope you enjoy what I put together.

My Search for a Vision Continues

I was up around 5:30 am and itching to leave Mustang Island, ready to leave it all behind.  Well on one level anyway.  Part of me was still holding on to the disillusionment, which showed up as fear and guilt.  This trip was my idea.  We were spending money we don’t have.  If we just went to see family, then we wouldn’t have needed to go that far south.  What if the car broke down all because I had to go to Mustang Island?  This kind of reminds me of the setting my sights on encountering an owl.  I was going to do a vision quest and decided that I had to see an owl.  Again not getting what I expected was sending me into a tailspin.  I really needed to consciously breath and release because my old habits of berating myself were getting in the way.  Poor Mike had to suffer through over a hundred of miles listening to me repeat all of the above.

The drive from Mustang Island to Palmetto State Park took all of three and half hours, which means we arrived nice and early at nine in the morning.  Our spirits were back when we entered the park headquarters, well, at least mine were,  Mike was doing better because I was.  The lady behind the counter was welcoming.  I shopped cute park souvenirs while Mike paid for our site.  We choose this lovely site overlooking the San Marcus River.  Mike was happy that there was a trail leading down to the river and he could fish.

View from our chairs.

We set up our tent and screen porch.   We arranged our chairs at the cliff overlooking the river.  Our spot looked inviting.  It was calm, peaceful and beautiful.

At night we heard crickets, coyote’s, cows and owls.  On the first evening I walked up to the bathroom and heard an owl nearby.  Another night an owl perched in a tree right above out tent and hooted.

“Did you hear that,” I whispered to Mike.

“Yeah,” he whispered back.

I giggled.  “It’s right over our heads.”

We listened to it call a few times when at some point it must have taken off.  We didn’t hear it leave.  We just stopped hearing it call.  Now if you read my It’s the Owl post you’ll know that that is just what I hoped for during my vision quest.   I lay there in the sleeping bag smiling to myself.

I dozed off and woke to more owls.  This time it sounded like thee owls coming from different directions.  It was like a symphony.  I was delighted.  I knew at the time I was being given a gift but I didn’t fully take it in.  I was just enjoying the moment.

Now that we are home I looked up owl yet again.  On Daily OM: Nurturing Body, Mind and Spirit web site I found this:

Fully integrating the medicine of the owl into spiritual existence is a matter of considering how we might open ourselves more fully to the wisdom that can be found in the larger universe

The article goes on to say that if I should find my efforts blocked in integrating owl medicine that it is important to keep in mind that owls werenot always considered the icon of wisdom.   Some humans have held prejudices against the owl probably due to their night-time hunting abilities.  And to:

To reveal those hidden elements of the self that impact your life for better or for worse, you must often make your way through the darkest parts of your soul as if you yourself are the nocturnal hunter. There is indeed darkness both inside the self and outside the self, but like the owl you can transcend it by drawing nourishment from the insights you receive when you penetrate it.

I take this to mean that to fully embrace my gifts of seeing the unseen, to be able to look into another’s soul and see the truth and also to be able to see the truth in myself and embrace that I need to face my shadow side, the parts of me I have pushed away, locked away.  The parts of myself that I fear.

I read somewhere that the impact of a vision quest can go out as long as a year or more.  I am thinking that this trip is a continuation of my search for a vision, an answer or awareness to how my life may eventually be of service and what my inherent gifts are that I can make use of for the benefit of life on this planet.  I can see more and more that the owl is my guide.  Now all I have to do is accept the challenge the owl is giving me, face my deepest fears.

Learning the Dolphin way

Note:  I couldn’t get this out in a reasonable amount of ‘wordage’ so I did the more tag thingy.  This way you can read half or go the for full reading.

Our dream beach vacation

After leaving Caddo Lake State Park, TX heading for Galveston Island we were feeling life sure was grand.  What with the great day mining for crystals in AR and our luck at getting a campsite at Caddo lake, we were sure we were leading a charmed life.

However, it took longer than we thought to get to Galveston Island.  We were hot, tired and crabby.  I was so done with driving.  The terrain was flat a few smallish trees scattered about.  Depending on one’s mood the landscape could be considered as desolate and bleak as the drive across North Dakota on Highway 2.  But our moods were still up so it felt like an exotic tropical locale.  The campsites at Galveston Island were not fantastic but acceptable.  Each site had a stone shelter over the picnic table.  We didn’t pitch a tent. After all we were only staying for one night. Our van has a bench seat that folds down in the back and is just big enough for the two of us.  I am about 5’7” and Mike is a bit shorter than I so it works for us.

It was three o’clock in the afternoon and while the other people who pulled into the campground the same time as us were setting up their tents, we went on the beach.  The surf was gently rolling.  The beach was clean and went on for ever.  The sky a perfect blue.  Angie loved the salt water.  We romped and ran in the water together.  It was good.

That nightwe set up our chairs and watched the stars looking for constellations, however, we’re clueless when it comes to astronomy.  It seemed the big and little dipper were everywhere.  The air was moist, salty and with a slight breeze.  We slept with the back door open in the van to bathe in that cool breeze, that is till it got too chilly.

We were up before sunrise ready to begin our grand adventure to Mustang Island but first we sort of wandered back to the beach.  I took a bazillion pictures of the sunrise.  Angie found a large ball and was chasing it.  Everything looked good.  We should have stayed there.  But no, we had to go to Mustang Island.  We had to revisit happier times when we were there 15 years ago when Mike said, “When we come back, we are going to ride horses on the beach.”  And now I was saying, “This time Mike, lets rent a four-wheel drive and drive on the beach looking for the ship wrecks.”  Yeah, we had stars in our eyes.  We left Galveston Island smiling all dreamy-eyed.

It took nearly 8 hours to get to Mustang Island.  We went through Houston and took highway 59 which is being worked on to become the new Interstate 69 corridor.  Around Sinton we veered off to highway 181 so we could take the free ferry over to the island from Port Aransas.  The ferry was fun.  We laughed about how cool it was and I kept saying we were at Port Your Anus because that was what it sounded like when Mike pronounced it.  Mike spotted a dolphin.  I looked over and saw it before it was never to be seen again.  According to the Working With Animal Spirit Guides web page, some of the wisdom that dolphin brings is:  change, wisdom, balance, harmony, communication skill, freedom and trust.  I think the dolphin was bringing us a message.  We were not thinking of that now, for now seeing the dolphin only meant the beginning of great adventures to come. Continue reading

A Charmed Life?

Note:  I found Internet access at Palmetto State Park in TX.  It is slow going but I managed to get this out.  I will be able to post more when we get to our son’s place.  Thanks for reading.

We pulled into Lake Catherine State Park in AR Friday night. I originally thought we were going to soak in the hot springs. Time was of the essence so I told Mike I didn’t care about soaking that what was more important to me was mining for the crystals. Mike said that was fine with him. I found this place that was at least an hour west of Hot Springs. That whole day it seemed as if lady luck was shining down on us.

To start the day off Saturday, we took a hike on the falls branch trail. It said it was the “easy” hike. By WI standards it would be considered strenuous. There was an upward climb and it was very rocky. Considering we didn’t eat breakfast it went well. After the hike we packed up and were on the road by nine heading for the mines.

After about an hour and a half drive west of Hot Springs and stopping for breakfast, we pulled through the gate of Wegner’s mines which was a stone arch made out of crystal rocks around 11:30. Wegner’s has been open for 28 years. There brochure reads:

Our exceptionally beautiful mountain valley is peaceful & in harmony with Mother Nature.  Since 1981, we have been your environmentally friendly source, working consciously to keep our water clean.  we reclaim out mines for Mother Natures’ benefit and future use.

I thought this was a great place to gather crystals. When I shut off the engine the first thing I noticed was how peaceful it was. No freeway traffic.

We checked in at the office and was told the next trip to the mine wasn’t leaving till 1:30. But as it turned out a group of five were waiting so they would do an earlier time so, they took us all right away. The best of all Angie could come to the mines with us. I brought her out of the van and she met all the dogs and they got along famously. We got our gear, two large 5 gal pails, two trowels, two garden hand rakes, two sets of gloves and one crow bar. Three other people joined our group so the 10 of us loaded into the back of this beat up old pick up truck that had bench seats lined along the back. We headed off for the mines and what a trip that was. I thought we were on a ride at Disneyland. We were jostled around like on a roller coaster. Over big rocks, down into big ruts. Up down, back forth. Angie did well considering how bumpy it was.

We got to the mining area and our guide gave us some instructions on what to do in case of emergencies. He showed us a container that held all the first aid one would need and a cell phone. (The guide was leaving us there.) The area was bulldozed out to unearth crystals. We were instructed we could dig for an hour and a half. It was hot, the sand was red and crystals were everywhere. Not that they were spectacular crystals but they beautiful none the less. The guide said digging around the base of trees might yield some good results. I got some pretty nice crystals and for extra measure I just got some really cool rocks. We boxed up our loot and by the time we left it was nearly four. There was no way were going to make Caddo Lake State Park in TX before night fall. To Mike’s credit he didn’t once mention we needed to get going. He got into the moment and allowed it to flow.

We took the scenic route following Hwy 8 for 45 miles which let us out by Arkadelphia and I 30 around 5:30. Mike remembered this restaurant in Arkadelphia that we went to 15 years ago (Mike has a tendency to remember what he ate and where he ate it on trips) called the pig pit. As long as we were in Arkadelphia we thought lets see if was still there so we pulled into a gas station and Mike went in and asked. The Pig Pit was now called Fat Boys and the new owners followed the original owners recipes. Mike said it was just as good. Now with full belly’s we were back on the road headed west on I 30 for Texarkana and then Caddo lake.

It got dark and the roads leading to Caddo Lake State Park, TX were narrow and winding. I white knuckled it for what seemed like hours but was only about one hour. Finally, we saw a sign saying Caddo lake turn here. We turned and with it being so dark we missed the entrance. I pulled into this bar called Uncertain Tap in the town of Uncertain and we were feeling a bit uncertain ourselves. Mike went to find out where we went wrong (who says men can’t ask for directions). When he got back in the care he smelled of smoke. “Wow,” I said waving my hand in front of my nose, “You were only in there for a second.” Laughing Mike explained that we overshot the entrance. We turned around and lo and behold, there it was.

At the park office, there were people milling around outside. We got out to discover the office was closed. All the people were checking reservation list finding their sites. We didn’t have a reservation. We hung around watching and listening feeling, yet again, uncertain. Finally, Mike said we don’t have reservations to anyone in general. A park worker materialized and pointed to the paper wall saying which sites were still available. There were no tent sites, no electric sites, no cabins but wait. There was one site with a screened shelter. It was site 13. We went off in search of site 13 hoping no one was occupying it. When we turned the corner and found it still available our uncertainty vanished and jubilation took its place.

What luck to get a site and then have a screened shelter to put all of our stuff. We stayed there for two days and enjoyed the convenience. When it rained Saturday night all of our stuff was safe. It looked like it was going to be a great trip. Well, anyway, its good to have hope. It turns out the next couple of days were diametrically opposed.