Then I'll recount in a rhyming fashion, the things that have happened over the course of the past 12 months. This year, I wrote in our letter:
"A highlight of our year was a full-month camping trip we took over the summer. When we first conjured the idea of four weeks in a tent, it couldn't sound any dumber. But we flew to Colorado with our gear and rented a Yukon for the month of July … then we drove a 3500-mile loop visiting 12 parks while catching fish on the fly.
We traversed Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and Montana en route to the border, then crossed over to Canada and stayed for a week while we got our gear back in order. We drove as far north as Jasper, and hiked the Athabasca Glacier in this park - staying up way too late each night because at 11 PM, it still wasn't dark.
We rode horses at Roosevelt's ranch and again on Banff mountains capped with snow; we went white water rafting through Dinosaur National Monument - and again in Salmon, Idaho. It was such an amazing trip - a soul altering adventure for sure… It made us question our purpose in life, and leave us wanting for more."The card concluded with some additional rhyming verse regarding the prospect of us taking a hiatus from life and traveling the country in an RV because life is short and there's a magnificent world out there for us to see. Then I provide a link to the blog, because this space is where I capture the moments and memories of life. Or, that's the intent.
But then realized I haven't updated this blog in a month, and haven't provided any details of our epic trip since August … four months ago. So here goes, 1) For posterity, and 2) For my aunts and uncles - cousins - friends - and neighbors who might pop by following receipt of our Christmas card, to see what this "amazing" summer trip was all about.
After we left Utah, we drove north past Jackson Hole Wyoming, while on our way to The Grand Teton National Park. This had been one of my two favorite parks (the other being Zion National Park) prior to this trip. I love this park so much that when Charlie and I crafted our Wills many years ago, I'd indicated that when I die - I'd like to have my cremated remains sprinkled in Jenny Lake. The legality of such an event hadn't even occurred to me - but I figured at absolute minimum, in my lifetime, I needed to share the beauty of this area with both Charlie and our children. If for no other reason, so they'd know where to take me posthumously.
(This is actually Jackson Lake - I'll post pictures of Jenny Lake, next time.)
We'd been sleeping in a tent for the past several nights, and for the first few nights that we'd be in the Grand Tetons at Colter Bay, we'd be staying in a structure. Structure, because it had a quasi-real roof and two sides made out of wood. The other two sides were canvas. This is known as a Tent-Cabin. Brilliant! There was no bathroom. But, there was electricity. And there were two sets of wall mounted bunk beds which the kids slept on…
(And which scared the life out of me that the ones on the top bunks would fall off; so I had them ramped up on one side, with duffles and blankets on the floor beneath the beds, until I learned that they had guardrails at the office. And then those promptly went up.)
Henry liked to use the duffles hanging on the wall as his punching bags. As he explained it to me, he needed to stay in tip-top condition should we encounter any bears.
While Charlie and I hit the air mattress in a corner of the room. I took the side next to the canvas siding, in the event a bear came in - I would be a distraction while Charlie got our bear spray. Sounded like a good idea at the time.
Now it just sounds like I was bait….?!
Outside of tent-cabin, there were huge bear lockers with messages that we need to lock up everything. Not just food, but also - toiletries, utensils, and any cooking supplies. Anything that might have possibly come in to contact with food - and thereby, may have an odor that a bear could smell from 10 miles away.
There definitely were bears in this area. Big ones. We'd seen them on the side of the road, rustling through berry bushes. And we'd heard from people who had face-to-face encounters with Grizzly Mamas and their babies. We also saw signs like this one…
Which was enough to keep all of us, our children especially, HIGHLY motivated in regards to maintaining a clean camp.
If only we had a bear at our house to keep the kids on their toes about picking up their stuff. Oh wait, that would be me. HA, HA! Ha. ha. Ahem.
One morning, we set off for a hike, only to be told that the trail we were on, had to be closed because of "high bear activity". What that means, in layman's terms, is that bears had been spotted, cubs had been spotted, and there were several fresh kills (i.e., deer) in the woods that appeared to be the snack food of one or more Ursus.
So we took a different trail. And while there had been bears spotted on this trail, too… they been a considerable distance back. In our favor, we had two cans of bear spray - whistles, and had merged with a family of Germans who didn't speak much English, but pledged that they'd walk with us and make a lot of noise, if we could flank the hiking party, and share bear spray with them.
Here's Henry, carrying a big stick - making a lot of noise - and showing us how he'd take down a bear. Those duffle bag battles were really very helpful in perfecting the form.
And here's Elizabeth - asking why - please why - don't we turn back?
We eventually did turn back. And we rented a boat - which took us along the beaches, where the bears had been spotted. But we kept our distance - at least 30 meters off shore.
Everyone loved the boat ride, because they all took a turn driving.
I should say, everyone loved the boat ride…. when they took a turn driving.
And while on the boat we had a picnic. It was only when we were on the OPPOSITE bank of the lake, far from civilization, that three of the kids informed us that they needed to use the bathroom. Immediately.
That prompted a fun swimming excursion, which took their breath away, because the water was a brisk 58 degrees. You can tell by the look on Elizabeth's face that this was going to be COLD!
Four of the six of our family jumped in. Carolyn and I responsibly stayed in the boat, because when the water is 58 degrees, we can hold it REALLY WELL and also, we wanted to make sure the boat didn't float away.
Charlie, floating in the middle of Jackson Lake asking why I wouldn't come in and swim with him?
We returned to camp for dinner. This was a nice view over our stove…
And enjoyed a lovely meal - with a centerpiece that had been crafted by Elizabeth.
We also met the campers who were right next to us. It was a group of people who had rented several tent-cabins, and were riding their bicycles all the way across the country. They were led by this vibrant young woman, a 24-year old named Emily.
This was her second time leading a ride from coast-to-coast and she was incredible. While the physical challenge of riding was one thing - the mental challenge of trying to keep a group of 12 people happily entertained - who had paid a large sum of money to do a bike ride - was a separate challenge. Emily didn't complain to us at all … which is really a testament to her strength. Because we actually heard some of her riders complaining and all I could think was WOW.
Aren't they there to chill out - take a deep breath - and enjoy the ride? Sure, I understand that people may have certain expectations. But if you can't be kind, and have a good attitude in a place like THIS … I question if it's possible at all?
This was my observation to Emily. And her observation to me, was that she'd really like to lead our family on a ride. So we exchanged contact information and when the kids are a bit older - it's something we'll definitely consider!