Saturday, March 3, 2018

'Round the Town Roadtrippin'

For the last few weeks we've had to put our roadtrippin' and hiking on hold. Truth be told, I'm a little surprised we've been able to do it this far, I was sure we'd have to hang up our hiking boots come the first snow storm. And while Montana didn't get dumped on right away, we sure did come the turn of the new year, making it more difficult for us to head outdoors. For one thing, we needed, like, twice the amount of clothing. Combining the seemingly unrelenting snow with extremely low temperatures meant we were better off at home, which got me thinking about the times during the summer when we were home-bound. I was itching just as much to get back into the wilderness then but at least we had some fun things to keep us occupied.

 A family that slides together...

(I just have to point out that those are my legs and, yes, they are amazing. And this was before we started our hiking adventures.)

If you don't have a picture like this, are you even a mom?

When you're taking pictures and don't realize the zoom is on. That's ok; only a few more years of this tushy being cute before it turns into a gross teenager tushy.

When we bought our house - literally one block away from the water park - we thought, How cool will it be to go to the water park every day of the summer?! Since then, we've - literally - gone once a summer. We always swear we're going to go more and never do. Well, maybe this year... 
For those not-rare instances when we don't go to Oasis, I got this:

 And - come Hell or high water - jammed it into the back of my Jeep Grand Cherokee. No damage! Go me!

Though sometimes having the pool made little difference...

Right before our obsession with hiking around the mountains started, I tried my hand at marching around the city for my very first PRIDE Parade, which might come as a surprise to those who know and refer to me as a "Flaming Liberal." An old high school friend of mine commented on my FB, "How have you never attended a PRIDE Parade?!" Well, for one thing, this particular PRIDE Parade was the first for Billings in, like, nine years. And - something else people who call me a "Flaming Liberal" might be surprised to learn - I don't actually know, or am friends with, any gay people. Sure, I have a friend with a gay sibling, I once had a boss who is gay, and I see it all over television and books, but I never felt an activist's passion to attend the parade. And, to be honest, the only reason I attended this year was because my coworker told me he was taking the day off in order to go so I thought, What the heck? I'll see what it's about. Turns out, a lot of rainbows and glitter, and, really, how can anyone be mad at so much rainbows and glitter?

 While I was there, I ran into my old college buddy, Birth Control.

I know these people in real life, all of us just a bunch of straighties in our less-glittery straight relationships.

It was shortly thereafter when we went to Yellowstone and our roadtrippin' was reignited. While we did manage to get out of town most of the time, there were weekends when we found ourselves at home, so decided to do some home-hiking. It was - as far as I was concerned - pretty boring, but at least it was outside.

 Walking a 100-year old dog is pretty easy.

 Most of the time...

 This was only a few blocks from our house, which, considering the alternatives, aint too shabby.

So, apparently I have this affinity for giant boulders, as we saw on our Mystic Lake hike and Woodbine Falls hike.

Even though I was a bit of a Drama Queen about it then - and am a bit of a Drama Queen about it now - having to stay home wasn't the complete travesty I made it out to be.

 At least I (we) had my (our) books!

 And when we weren't roadtrippin', we were preparing for roadtrippin'.

 Proper attire always matters.

 And thanks to Grandpa Jeff, we added two new pets to our household, and who are probably the more well-read fish of the neighborhood. We did lose one of the fish come early fall on account of *someone* (me) accidentally dropping it down the drain while they (I) was cleaning the fishbowl. I like to think - and tell the kids - that he made it all the way to the ocean.

 Dinner on uncomfortable patio furniture in the heat is just one of the perks of summertime.

And we got to witness the eclipse, which was pretty darn cool; and - quite literally - cool. The sun's rays might be more powerful, but when that moon slid in front of the sun, there was a very noticeable temperature drop, and the world sort of dimmed. After the many warnings about not looking at an eclipse, I'd be lying if I said it didn't take a LOT of self-control to not look at it (which probably explains why President Donny did). But I quickly noticed that if I turned my head just enough for it to be in my periphery, it was really uncomfortable. Among the many warnings I saw, one advised keeping dogs inside because some of them will stare at the sun. Personally, I have never known a dog to even pay attention to the sun, so during the eclipse, I let Louis conduct his usual dog business. He sat with his back to the sun, hid and re-hid his dog bone, laid in the grass next to me; just another day to be Louis.

 As I mentioned in my Mystic Lake post, Durbin departed this earth early in the summer, though it was before everything I've posted here. School was still in session but the weather was getting warmer, and we could tell that Durbin's end was drawing near. Where dogs are known to distance themselves from their owners as death approaches, Durbin was the opposite; like he was afraid to go alone. I remember coming home from work one Saturday morning to find him upstairs (old dogs don't do stairs), laying on the bathroom floor as Jacob took a shower. The day he passed away was not unusual, but I needed to go to the store and decided to do it before picking Zoey up from school rather than after. The second we got home, the kids wanted to play outside and so we did. They sat at the kiddie picnic table, snacks in hand, with Durbin laying beside them. As Zoey ran inside to get more chicken fingers, Durbin laid all the way down, flicked his tail, and was gone. I'd like to think he died happy, with - and watching - his family. Jacob left work early and drove him to his final resting place in the expanse of Grandpa Don's yard in Columbus (when Louis is ready to go, his spot is right next to Durbin). Louis wasn't altogether surprised by the event, probably knowing it would happen long before we did. But he could tell we were upset so his usual anti-social, anti-snuggle self really stepped up and became the family dog. He let us snuggle him and give him hugs, licked our salty, tear-streaked faces, and continues to let us pet him whenever we want; though it helps if we smell like food, and he's too old and achy to jump up and run away like he did before.

Durbin still lives in our hearts, the kids still talk about him, and we always wonder what he would have been like on our camping adventures. One thing is for sure: his giant dog testicles would have taken him far and wide and we'd never see him again.

Being relegated to the indoors during winter feels a little more oppressive, as we're repeatedly warned not to go outside. And if we're getting snow here in the city, the mountains are getting about a gillion more, which will make for awesome hiking come Spring, but is frustrating now.

Such is life...

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Marking Mount Rushmore

Going to Mount Rushmore wasn't something that was on our long-term itinerary. Then again, neither was anything else we had done so far. But as the summer progressed and we saw more and more sights, we realized that it really didn't take that much to do a little traveling, and that some of the greatest world wonders weren't really that far away. So the weekend we went to Devil's Tower, Jacob also suggested we wander on over to Mount Rushmore, and at this point, why the heck not?!

Even though Mount Rushmore is in an entirely different state, it really didn't take too long to get there; just long enough for me to completely fall in love with South Dakota. And it's not like I even know too much about the state, or saw that much of it, but I deemed every town we went through to be greater than the last and insisted we move there immediately. That most likely won't happen as now I also have dreams of living in Fishtail, Montana and running a donut shop/hiking tours.

We were one of the last to leave our campsite at Devil's Tower, Holden repeatedly discussing the "molcano; the dead molcano." I told him, "We're going to see some heads on a mountain," to which he replied, "And knees and toes?" He slept most of the car ride to Mount Rushmore and when he woke up asked, "Where's the molcano?" And with every new sight we see, if it even remotely resembles Devil's Tower, he'll say, "There's a molcano!" It's easy to take for granted children's reactions - or lack thereof - to the places you take them, but it's nice to know when something really leaves a positive impression. He did talk about the "molcano" throughout the rest of the day but that doesn't mean he didn't appreciate the "heads," as well.

 Montana - gotta represent.

At the ages of six and three, they already know more than our sitting President.

 Learning about the construction of the "heads," which Zoey found incredibly interesting. She even asked to stay and watch the video, which I didn't find the least bit surprising; she has a very engineer-oriented brain; like her father, completely unlike her mother.

 As had become my habit, I saw something labeled "trail" and had to check it out. Like it was meant for me, the trail was called The Presidential Trail. I mean, why didn't they just hang a neon billboard that read, "BREANNE, HIKE HERE!"?

 Taking a break "hiking" the Presidential Trail. It is a trail, even with a warning that it's strenuous, but not because you're traipsing the hills but because the majority of the trail is stairs. There are two places to start the trail but both have their strenuous parts, and lots of benches to make up for it.

 Jacob and the kids at his favorite spot, Theodore Roosevelt, the Father of our National Parks.

 There is a stop along the trail, the Sculptor's Studio, where the scales and tools to make the monument are on display. As inspiring as the monument is, you can't deny how cool it would have been if the full-body idea had actually panned out.

Zoey said that Lincoln was her favorite.

 Like visiting the Grand Canyon (which is on our list), it's fun that Mount Rushmore is a place nestled deep within the Black Hills of South Dakota yet attracts people from all over the globe; the first person I asked to take this family photo didn't understand English. And Holden is looking like that because he loathes looking at strangers (the pictures of him smiling at the camera are either because me or Jacob is behind it, or we set up the camera timer).

The Black Hills, which I fell in love with and insisted on camping in for my birthday (which didn't actually happen), and tragically suffered a fire during this last fall. But no doubt we'll find ourselves in South Dakota again come summer.