Posted in Travel

Summering in Oregon

Hey Wanderers,
I left you in April when our work life was still on the road. Our home and garden shows came to an end and Eric and I had to figure out what we were going to do with our summer. Before we started our last show in Washington, we stayed in the Central Oregon area and fell in love with opportunities it presented us. Lakes, mountains, hiking, oh my! The Central Oregon area is an up and coming location (and has been for about 15+ years) that intrigued us most. We searched out a place that could provide a space for us to park the camper and provide employment for us. And let me tell you, we got incredibly lucky.

We found a fishing resort in a National Forest that had cabins, an RV Park, tent camping, a marina as well as a restaurant on a beautiful lake. I called it a mountain, but really we lived in an old volcano. The lake we lived on is called a caldera. A caldera is a crater made by a volcano. This particular volcano’s mouth collapsed during explosion, creating two lakes and a pumice cone between them. The lake doesn’t have any outside water source except snow run off from the mountains. The water there is crystal clear. One of the coolest parts of this resort was all the obsidian everywhere. Large pieces, as big as my head, small pieces scattered all over the beach. Obsidian is what lava turns into when it hardens, black and smooth and as sharp as glass. (Any Game of Thrones fan knows obsidian is one of the weapons used to kill white walkers. Or if there any mine craft players out there, you know what I’m talkin’ about!… All others… start watching GOT. NOW!) This black shiny natural element was by far the most beautiful part for me.

I would say the only downside to this location was that it had absolutely no cell phone reception and therefore, no internet either. However, it wasn’t enough to deter us from staying there. It was actually really nice to reconnect with myself and nature. It felt awesome to put my phone down for hours and not think about it once. I knew no one could get a hold of me, what was the point of having it glued to my hand? Now don’t get me wrong, it was difficult at times. We were both far away from our families and friends. I was disconnected from that world, while connected to the real one. When we would go down the mountain we definitely resorted back to our old phone ways, real quick! Overall, though, I am thankful for the experience. I can put my phone down today and not feel the need to check it constantly. (My sisters would disagree with me, as I haven’t stopped contacting them in one form or another since leaving the mountain. But whatever, I missed them!)

Eric and I had the opportunity to wake up each morning at look out at the lake and to take in the mountains. As two Iowan fools, we didn’t take a single day of that for granted. I loved walking to work each morning. Most mornings were quite cold, our last week there the low was 29 degrees. (Poor tent campers!) The sun would cast beautiful shadows all over the pine trees, darkening the already dark green of the forest. The lake was calm, before too many people disturbed it’s waters. As I said the water was clear, I’d never seen water in a lake this clear. You could put your hand to the bottom and see the sand and the obsidian. By mid day, the sun warmed up the entire caldera, reaching upwards of 80 degrees most days. As the sun began to fall, the temperature would fall with it. The entire mountain would cool down into the night. The incredible landscape was breathtaking, I never tired of my surroundings.

Since we were in a National Forest there was ample hiking trails that surrounded us. At the beginning of our summer, we stayed close to the lake. We took boat rides, went fishing and tried swimming the “go” out of Sue (it never worked, that dog is stuck on go!). As the summer progressed we explored the trails around us. The pine trees always provided the sap smell that invigorated our senses. When the wind would pick up (as it did nearly every day around 2 pm), I could smell the lake and feel the cool down begin. Eric and I were able to go to the near by peak that had the perfect layout of the entire caldera. We could see the two lakes, the pumice cone and the collection of obsidian among endless pine trees. (Eric joked that it was also home to the highest outhouse in Central Oregon… which was probably true.) The elevation at the lake was 6600 feet. The elevation at the peak was 7800 feet. We were up there, literally.

We got incredibly lucky with our decision to summer in Oregon. We found an ad on craigslist, we met the owner and took a mini tour of the area. It just so happened to work out that we were both able to get employment there and park our home for a while. Sue made so many doggo friends, it was an endless parade of buddies for him. Eric and I made unforgettable memories. This post only scratches the surface of what we experienced this summer. I am excited to share the rest with you all! Please keep your eye out for the next post about our summer in Oregon!
Until then, keeping wandering! <3afk

Posted in Travel

I got Beans

Hey all,

While we were camping in Springfield, Missouri, I tried a new dish that was super delicious.  Eric typically takes care of the grilling for our meals.  (Let the record show, that I am an adequate griller, but the kitchen is my area so I am Team Sides.)   As previously discussed, Eric and I eat a lot meat and veggies.  This meal inspired me to  write a parody song from “Grease” called “Better Snap up”

I got Bean’s and I’m pan fryin’

And the garlic’s out of control…

Better snap up… Cause I need a Bean… and my heart is set on Green.

Better snap up… Cause the bean is green and it’s low cal too.

I could go on…but I’ll save you.. (Maybe I’ll send it to Mariah Carey, get her take on it.. anywhoo….)

This recipe actually called for almonds, but I had cashews.  I made little adjustments like this to the recipe.  My recipe included Texas Pete’s Original Hot Sauce (A staple in our camper).  I also used coconut oil. (Obsessed)  Kikkoman Low Sodium Soy Sauce was also incorporated in this dish.  I like the low sodium because I am always adding salt to things. (Trying to save myself, from myself)   I put a lot of garlic with all of that as well.  The recipe called for four cloves, I think I did six.  Eric enjoys garlic; it’s heart healthy and low cal so why not!

The obvious ingredient is green beans.  I bought fresh.  I like the canned cut kind.  However, I really enjoy prepping green beans.  My hands move so quick.  I enjoy the crack of the stem.  I am like an assembly line of one.   Rythmically, I grab a green bean, break one side, break other side, combine stems, toss in a bowl.  Grab green bean, snap, snap, combine, toss.  Grab green bean, snap, snap, toss in mouth.  Grab green bean…

I diced my too much garlic, this event is not as relaxing for me.  The garlic gets sticky and then my hands smell like garlic. (Anyone else hate this?)  All worth it for the flavor though!

After prep is done, I put in one tablespoon of coconut oil and 2 cups worth of cashews, with the heat on medium. Next, get a nice roast on the cashews, I had them go a little longer, blackening some.  After the cashews have had their moment, move them to the side.  Then, using the same pan, roast the garlic for two minutes.  Next combine 1/2 cup of Texas Pete, Soy Sauce and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil.  Again on medium heat.  This is where they want the flavor of the heat and the soy sauce to develop.  The garlic flavor will stand out as well.

Add the green beans.  This is all subjective from here on out.  My Dad says that people really only have to heat veggies to their liking, there is no real regulation on it.  I like my green beans to be done, but not mushy.  I won’t be mad if there is a little crunch to them, but I don’t want to be chowing down on a whole plate of raw beans.

After you’ve cooked the beans to the degree in which you enjoy, add the cashews.  (Actually, you may want to wait until the beans have been plated to add the cashews, for presentation purposes.)  I liked adding the nuts in the pan to have them absorb some of the flavor as well.

This dish was scrumdiddilyumptious! Let me know if you try this recipe, if you made any alterations to it and how it turned out!!

Keep Wandering! <3afk

Recipe Ingredients and Instructions: 

2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil

1/2 Cup of Hot Sauce (Texas Pete Original)

1/2 Cup of Soy Sauce (Kikkoman Low Sodium Soy Sauce)

4 Cloves of Garlic (more like 6 for me)

2 Cups of cashews (Or Almonds, like the OG recipe)

1 bag of Fresh Green  Beans

Prep:  Dice Garlic, Snap Ends of Green Beans off.   (10 minutes)

Cook Time: 10-15 Minutes

Roast cashews on medium heat until some are blackened, set to side.

Roast garlic on medium heat for two minutes.  Combine hot sauce, soy sauce and coconut oil to garlic mixture.  Approximately two minutes.

Add Green Beans to sauce mixture, cook to preference.  Add cashews once beans are cooked.  Serve & Enjoy!

Posted in Travel

Spring has Sprung

Greetings,

Man the past few weeks have flown by!  Eric and I made it to Springfield, Missouri before all the rain and snow.  We actually got lucky with the weather while we were there.  We had some 60 degree days.  So we took this opportunity to get things done.  WE FOUND A NEW FAUCET!!! Oh this is life changingggggg! (In Oprah voice)  In Springfield there is an RV store called Thomas & Sons RV Supply, they are known for having the product no one else does.   Since our camper is consistently the oldest camper in the park (Not to brag), we became giddy at just the thought of finding one item on our list.

Dan was the auto parts associate we worked with.  Dan knew everything there was to know about campers and even our camper.  (I actually think Dan knows everything about life, too, but we didn’t ask him those questions on this visit.)  He was able to find us a stainless steel beautiful faucet with ease.  He walked Eric through the replacement of the faucet.  He worked through the issue we have with out pilot light in our heater with us.  Dan knew everything about the wheel bearings.  Dan is the man!

Eric asked about getting his wheel bearings done, asked about another local business, Crumps, and Dan had only positive things to say about them.  They did the same service, but those guys are good too.  We ended up coming back for repairs with Thomas & Sons because of this.  Unfortunately, we came across only ONE thing they couldn’t do.  They couldn’t weld our axle back together… because the only thing that was holding it in place was imagination. (Let that sink in for a second….)  They found some cracks in our axle that needed to be fixed immediately.

Yikes.  So in the end, we went with Crumps, the other RV service station, they were able to weld our axle.  I need to take a second here and thank the heavens and the earth that the axle didn’t break while we were driving.  I can’t imagine what would have happened had it broke.  (Hands up, Thank you!)

We have been to a few corporate RV stores before and haven’t received this kind of service.   I perceive them as only wanting to sell a new camper.  “Yeah they just don’t make that for the older campers anymore.” Aka, your camper is old, buy a new one with us, only the low low price of your left kidney!  (I’m assuming, with black market prices, I haven’t check recently.) 🙂

So sadly, I didn’t get to explore the beautiful area in the Springfield, MO.  However, fortunately, we were able to find excellent people, being excellent at their jobs.  We were able to let Sue run around outside. (And accepted his brief swim as pictured with this article)  I was able to do dishes without my army of towels.  This trip was good to remind myself how life on the road is a challenge for multiple reasons.  Safety must come first and thank the world for the opportunity to be here.

Keep Wandering<3afk

This is some info on Thomas & Sons RV Supply if you want to check them out!

https://www.facebook.com/Thomassonsrv/

This is Crump Truck and Trailer Works, INC info, again great service in the Springfield, MO area.

https://www.facebook.com/Crump-Truck-and-Trailer-Works-Inc-251776481612287/

 

Posted in Travel

Driving Me Crazy

Hey Wanderers,

After traveling in rain for two weeks we have finally felt sunshine on our faces! And oh my, it feels fantastic!  We have had sunny days recently and we were actually able to enjoy them!  (You can see our enjoyment in photos I added on our Instragram Account thewanderinglily3. Check it out!) We are over halfway through our traveling season and it feels like I have spent half of it literally on the road.  Luckily, it isn’t just FM radio keeping us company on our drive.

Even though Eric and I travel across the country, we still have bills that have to be paid.  We still have to keep the normal rigmarole afloat.   For us, the time to do these menial tasks is when we spend, you know, 8 hours in the truck.  We try to take care of business (TCB, as my family likes to say) when we have this downtime.  Pay the speeding ticket (NOT MINE! I swear.. it wasn’t.), renew the tags on my car, pay the hospital bill…you know… just life things.

However, we listen to podcasts quite a bit as well.  Our favorite podcast is The Joe Rogan Experience.  (I’m sure no one is surprised, he has the number one podcast and is freaking awesome.)  Podcasts are like time travel.  Even though I know I am spending every minute in the vehicle, it makes the time go by so fast.  We like his variety.  One episode Joe (as Eric and I call him, we are on a first name basis with the News Radio Alum) will have a nutritionist on his show, the next guest will be a comedian followed by a mycologist.  I am astounded by how much I’ve learned from his podcasts.  Totally recommend!

One other podcast we listen to regularly is The Minimalist podcast.  Ryan Nicodemis and Joshua Fields Millburn educate the consumerist population on reeling in what we think we need and offering a more simple life.  They help me realign what I value in my life.  They offer very positive, uplifting messages about how to live your best life.  If you get an opportunity, even if you don’t live in a camper or RV, it is a great listen! Align your values, ya’ll.  (I can’t stop saying ya’ll, ya’ll.)

Essentially, we use this time to organize our life.  We can plan our grocery list.  We can make a weekly meal plan.  I organize our calendar for work.  Where we will be when.  The times of the shows.  It is a lot of planning.  This is when I book our campgrounds.  I have to take into consideration the price of the campground and the distance from where Eric is working.  It takes some (okay barely anything it’s just googling. #dramalife) research and time on my end.

I typically ride shot gun when we have the camper hooked up.  Eric likes to drive.  So in the end, the thing that has helped ME immensely with the long drives are the naps.  I just love napping all the time.  With all the naps I get.  (This is to Eric, I don’t take naps often, but if and when I do… boy do I hear about it from him! So here. Eric.  I admit it, I love the naps I get in the car when we are on the road. HAHA. Take that. 🙂 )

Any suggestions of other car fun time consuming activities are welcomed!  Do you guys have any podcast suggestions? Good audio books?  Let a girl know!!

Until Next time, keep wandering. ❤ afk

 

 

 

 

Posted in Travel

Mud Bathin’ in Kentucky

Hey Wanderers,

I started the nature trail in Louisville, Kentucky at two pm.  The sun was still warm on this 50 degree weather day.  No breeze, life was still around me, except for the trot trot trot of Sue’s feet on the rocky path.  The trees tunneled our way, surrounding us on both sides.   Browns, grey and black with pops of a green I’d almost forgotten existed.  Towards the end of winter we are teased with a warmer day here and there.  (Or at least that is how it is in the midwest, in the south it is more than just a day.)  A sneak peak of what’s to come.

This particular path was leading us towards a catfish pond behind our campground.  There were rumors of a cave beyond the pond, by the creek that wrapped around the trail.  Once I stepped off of the trail my boot sank into the saturated grass.  The South has had more precipitation this year than previous years. (Or so I’ve been told.)  I let Sue off of his leash; he had been itching to run.  The last campground didn’t offer us a lot of space for him to stretch.  At fist he timidly sniffed the ground, but after a few steps away from me, he zoomed away.

I walked towards a picnic table, the only one of the three that wasn’t subdued in the pond.  Sue had a mud bath on the agenda.  I had a sun bath on mine. (Though I applauded Sue’s organic spa choice.)  I closed my eyes and let the rays of the sun help me forget the cold.  The moment I became calm within the world, I heard the water become invaded by my once clean dog.  (I expected as such, since Spring is mud and more mud.)

The next day after our mud walk Sue and I wanted to explore Louisville.  Waterfront Park was said to have miles of trails around the Ohio River.  There was the grand lawn, art work throughout. There is a look out point for optimal viewing.

Sadly, Sue and I did not get to see too much of anything in Waterfront Park. It was flooded. (I should have known.)  A lot of logs and branches littered the new shore of the river. Another dog walker lady commented to me that she was relieved the sun was out and the mud was drying. I smirked and said causally, “Yeah, it is.”

After the mud walks of 2018, Eric and I went out for dinner at Sake Blue, a sushi restaurant in Louisville.  They had excellent service, our server was knowledgeable about the menu.  (Which is a relief, I have consistently had servers who weren’t.)  We were adventurous in our appetizer choice.  An Uni shot: a quail egg, sake and ponzu sauce.  It was quite delicious!  We sat at the bar and the chef was helpful with my ordering as well.  I must say this establishment is a place I would frequent again.  I recommend it if you are in the area!

We are headed to the Ozarks next, be prepared for so many pictures you’ll feel like you were there!! 🙂 Keep wandering, <3afk

Posted in Travel

Technical(ly I’m causing) Issues

What up, camper friends?

So far I think I have painted this camper life with a bit of a glamorous brush.  Perhaps that is because I have enjoyed this shift in my life.  This life that constantly challenges me to adapt to change on a weekly basis.  This life that requires me to be reliant on Eric and Sue for support.  (Truly, I couldn’t have asked for better companions.)  The truth of it is, our camper has had some dings the past couple of months.  Luckily, we have been able to fix most of the issues, but it hasn’t always been easy.

I am 5 foot nothing.  I am a short, petite person.  Due to this height restriction, I use brute force nearly all of the time.  (That’s how I got Eric, ayo!)  The cupboard door won’t open, let me yank on it.  The electrical cord won’t go back into its nook easily? Let me just shove it back in there.  The toilet is frozen shut?  Here, I can jump on that to open it.  Wrong.  Wrong. Wrong.  We are certainly paying the price for my thoughtless yanks and shoves.  (Hey, I was on steroids for a while… I can’t help that I have bulked up. #armdayeveryday)

For a couple of the things that have broken it has been as easy as buying wood glue and a gasket cover.  For a few of the other things, it has been easy to obtain the item, but the price of which left our pockets a little light.

Besides my attempt to see how much I can break before Eric kicks me out of the camper, the wear and tear of a life on the road can add up.  For one, the camper had a nail in one of its tires.  The wheel bearings need to be repacked. (Whatever that means, I just know it’s been on our to do list).  Our camper is older, the seals on the outside aren’t as tight as they used to be.  If it rains too hard the back part of the toy hauler (where we open and close this draw bridge looking thing) will leak and dampen our carpet and any items near the vicinity.  We need to re-seal it, that takes time and so far we haven’t had a dry location to do this.

We need to install a new faucet, as that leaks too.  This issue has a trickle down effect (pun intended).  The cabinets are getting worn from the water dripping down.  The side wood panel has seen better days due to the continuous water absorption.  We go through towels like crazy and considering we don’t have a washer and dryer on hand, that becomes its own problem.

Yes, our camper is older, it needs some loving in the form of money and repairs.  Right now, though, I like the struggle.  I know one day Eric and I will look back at this camper and laugh and say “How did we do it?”  Not only with how small the camper is for two people and a canine, but also with the dated aspects of it.  I love it for those reasons.  I love putting work into it.  I love making it function and look better.

We hope to make these repairs this summer and potentially remodel it.  Until then I will keep my army of towels near the faucet and do my absolute best to not use my Buffy the Vampire Slayer strength on our camper.  I hope winter hasn’t been too terrible for everyone!  We are dealing with rain in the South (AKA mud…mud everywhere..) but hopefully the days of using our little buddy heater are behind us!  Until next time– keep wandering! <3afk

Posted in Travel

Focus… Ooo, Shiny things…No Focus!

 

 

Hey Friends,

We are one month or so into 2018 and it is gut check time.  How are your goals coming? Are you eating those veggies you said you would?  Working out every day?  Taking your dog for a walk every morning?  Yeah, me either, but don’t let your “failures” get you down.  You are in control of your life.  I would say if you didn’t do this in the beginning of January, now is the time to put pen to paper and focus (or refocus).

One of my 2018 goals is to be more focused.  (It is a life goal also, shiny things distract me quite easily.)  It is easy to say out loud “I want to exercise more.”  But when time comes to put those words into action, what did you really mean by exercise?  Was it once a week?  Go for a walk in the morning? Do yoga?  My next few suggestions are thanks to a seminar I attended with Eric and his company given by Michael Jefferys.  He is a motivational speaker who provided excellent recommendations to advance focus and goals.  (You can youtube some of his videos, check out his website or subscribe to the seminars he is apart of in the online community.*)

He proposed goals should be concise and have clarity.  Eric and I wrote down our goals. (I made like four lists of goals, health goals, 2018 goals, relationship goals, (don’t murder Eric in his sleep when he snores) and life goals.)  When saying “I want to exercise”, be clear what that means.  “I want to do yoga 3 times a week.”  Not only providing what activity is apart of the goal but also the amount of time each week is needed to complete the goal gives you clarity.  This strategy removes wiggle room for any excuses you may come up with. (Everytime I write you, I really mean me… and the excuse has been that it is too cold to take Sue on a walk, Sue disagrees.)

Michael suggested when you are writing out the goal list to make a couple of copies and put them in different locations to remind yourself of these goals.  It is advertising to yourself, like hey remember you wanted to do this?  “In sight, in mind,” he said.  2018 is the year to get off of auto pilot.  Quit doing what is easy.   Put some work into what you want, and you will HAVE TO see results! (Please note, as I have written this I have been distracted by people watching and my phone… thus the need for focus to be my #1 2018 goal. I am at a Panera Bread, mooching their free wifi and amazing Hibiscus Tea free refills.)

The best advice I took away from the seminar was his number one suggestion: Immediate definitive action, when you get a good idea, or feel the whim of motivation coming on, ACT ON IT.  Especially for me, as a writer, when I have an idea for a post topic or something to write about, I make a mental note.  That mental note almost always drifts from the mental note files into a place I can only imagine is the same location of where all the missing socks go.  Gone forever.  Therefore, this tip is quite useful for me.  I believe it could be for anyone.  When I ran cross country in high school our coach would advise, “Use your hills!”  What he meant was use the easy part of the run to push you forward towards the more difficult part of the run.

Another recommendation from Michael was to visualize like an Olympian.  This really clicked with me.  I am one of those people that would get anxious if I couldn’t visualize an event happening.  Therefore, I already do this in a way, but instead of just picturing what I think would happen, I need to adjust and think of what I want to happen.  (And be positive in the vision, it’s common that I am trying to prepare myself for worst case scenario… it is time to picture the best case scenario!)  Visualize yourself getting on the treadmill after work every day.  Visualize yourself making a healthy meal and enjoying the process as well as the meal.  Use the power of your big brain to help create the future your want and deserve.

I think one road block for people is thinking that other people are more special than them.  Anyone who has ever accomplished the same goal you are working towards was just a human.  They started right where you are.  You could not only end up being just as successful as them, but surpassing them.  All you have to do is try.  (You can do it!)

The seminar I attended really changed my outlook on the goals I have and how to achieve them.  I have written down my goals to make them more real.  I was concise in my list making to ensure the clarity of these goals.  I made several copies and placed them where I would see them every day, in sight in mind!  I act on an idea when it comes to me, rather than attempting to later,  I use my hills.  I visualize the outcome of my goals (in a positive way! No negativity zone here!)  And I realize that everyone was a newbie once, I can be just as successful as those I admire.

Get off of autopilot.  Make 2018 your best year yet.  Don’t forget to be grateful for your opportunities for your improvement.

Oh and keep wandering. <3afk

 

* https://michaeljeffreys.com/

Posted in Travel

Sue for President

The air was crisp, like freeze your nostrils chill, fresh in true February fashion.  I was dazed by the pine trees that were sprinkled throughout the mountains, offering their free fragrance for the passerby.  The white of the snow throughout the mountains more or less blinded me as it covered anywhere rock didn’t.  That probably explains why I barely heard the kid yelling at me that my dog was not allowed up on the Mount… I’m sure he was talking to someone else… certainly not me.

Sue was a good boy on this adventure.  There WAS a sign that said “No Dogs Past this Point.”  However, there weren’t markings of where the point began, and I mean what constitutes a dog anyways?  I was very respectful of the few people that were up there with me, I stayed a good distance from everyone.  He didn’t pee anywhere, we weren’t bothering anyone… I do feel the need to defend myself for bringing him up there.  That dang kid, “Mind your own business!” is what I wish I would have yelled back. (I thought of this on the drive home, among many more.) I genuinely didn’t put it together until after they had moved on that he was yelling at me.  If it was a nice warm sunny day out, I wouldn’t have brought him.  Plus, I mean look at that photo… what a cutie! (He’s pondering the meaning of life. #seniorpicpose)

I had it in my head that as soon as I saw Mount Rushmore, I’d shrug and be like “Yep, there it is”, turn around and move on with my day.  There is more to it than that.  The pathway (Avenue of Flags) to the view point (Grand View Terrace) is lined with flags of all 50 States, with an engraving of when that State was founded.  So even if you were lugged up the mountain by your family, you can still say “Hey, there’s my state!” Which is exactly what I did.  Fun Fact: Iowa was the 29th State admitted into the Union in 1846.

Past the Avenue of Flags (And Captain Judgement, Miniature version) stood Mount Rushmore in all its dignity and glory.  I took it all in; how much time and work had to be put into this structure.  Years of dealing with weather, faulty tools and government delays as well as the actual effort of sculpting it. I made a mental note to inquire how long the faces will last.  According to John Burgess, a Former US Foreign Service Officer, who answered this question on http://www.quora.com, the faces on the Mount will take 2.4 million years to erode.  How amazing!

After our trip to Rushmore, we lallygagged around, finding a park in the Black Hills area for Sue to do some sniffin’.  I went to Crazy Horse, a monument for the Native American leader, Crazy Horse.  I watched a dated documentary they had set up inside the museum that was quite educational.  I took a lot of photos that will be worth more than any words I could put together for my venture in the National Park.  So please check out my Instagram account thewanderinglily3 for more insight into Sue and I’s experience.

Thanks for reading.  Keep wandering! <3afk

Posted in Travel

January Hike in the Black Hills

The snow crunched below my hiking boots.  I could hear the rushing of the water from the creek.  Sue ran ahead smelling every rock and stick in sight.  The green of the pine trees was the only color that popped on this grim, but warm January day.   The grass was a hay yellow, hibernating still, though it was 55 degrees out.  The Black Hills provided what they were known for, the black charcoal cut outs of rock and history of the land.  Ice paved most of the paths on the Centennial Trail in the Black Hills National Forest.

My hiking companions and I started out on Flume Trail-head, which is about 14 miles outside of Rapid City, SD.  The Centennial Trail is an 111 mile trail that connects several State and National Parks.  It flows through Bear Butte State Park, the Black Hills National Park and ends at Wind Cave National Park.  Flume Trail appealed to us because it has a 3 mile loop.  We attempted to follow that but soon found our instinctual survival skills were lacking.  A left turn instead of a right turn put us off of our goal of 3 miles and progressed it to a 5 mile hike.  However, it lead us to a peak that looked down on the creek.  We decided getting lost was part of the fun (I discovered my travel buddies get lost on hikes often, remind me to plan the next hike!).

It was a rocky, steep climb, trying to find our way back, but we found joy in the journey.  The rocks that protruded from the hills were black, granite looking peppered with snow throughout.  The best part of hiking with company is the conversation.  When I am out in nature my mind clears itself, the fresh air rejuvenates me, leading the way for random topics.  We talked about important things like hydration and unimportant things like television.  Some of the time we didn’t talk, taking in what the earth had to offer us.

We discussed not knowing if snakes hibernated (okay now we know they do) or if we should be scared of mountain lions (they would have heard us and left us alone…I think).  Then, the dogs ahead of us found something that caught their attention.  I thought it was a dead squirrel or rabbit or something.  They found a deer leg.  A legit partial leg of a deer.  The bone was sticking out of it, there wasn’t any blood near or around it.  Thankfully the dogs didn’t consume it and we didn’t see what/who had done that to the deer.  (Or the rest of the deer…which was the concerning part…hmmm) But just a reminder of the way wildlife truly is. (Insert images of random animal body parts #nature)

It is a blessing to have the opportunity to connect with the atmosphere.  It is almost like my religion.  I feel refocused, like I could tackle anything that came my way.  I have been able to enjoy the beautiful city of Rapid City here in South Dakota.  It has statues of almost all of the Presidents on the street corners in the downtown area.  We stayed in the Hotel Alex Johnson, right in the hub of a myriad of candy shops, bars and restaurants.  We are here of a couple more days, I haven’t made it to Mount Rushmore yet but it is on the list!

If you are ever in the South Dakota area, I not only recommend visiting the downtown area of Rapid City, but also the beautiful National Parks.  This location has so much history to it, even just in the land, that you’d be a fool not to!

Keep wandering! <3afk

**Check out more photos from my hike in the Black Hills National Forest on my instragram: thewanderinglily3