Thursday, September 20, 2018

17 Years Together

This year we have been married 17 years.  And we still like to travel together!  We must still like each other!

Over our anniversary date we took the 5 youngest kids camping up to Hazard Lake.  But for our own celebration, David and I took a long weekend trip to Vancouver Island Canada.  It is beautiful here.  I think I say that about everywhere, but the world truly is a beautiful masterpiece.

We spent the first 2 days near Victoria exploring that beautiful area.  Our hotel, Villa Eyrie, was up a hill with a beautiful view out the window.  We visited Butchardt Gardens, built in an old Limestone Quarry.  We drove out to Port Renfrew on old logging roads and thought we'd been led astray by google and wondered if the road would truly lead us anywhere.  Sure enough it did.  Then we took the coastal highway to Sooke with beautiful views of the US across the straight.

The next 2 days we spent in Tofino on the west coast of the island.  The drive there was spectacular. Tofino is just north of the Pacific Rim National Park.  And our room at the Wickaninnish Inn,  was seriously right on Chesterman Beach.  We could sit in front of the picture window or lay in bed and watch the waves roll in and crash against the rocks and beach and watch the surfers.  Picture perfect!   The hotel had complimentary bikes for use, so at low tide we rode out to the island via revealed sand spit at low tide.  And the view from the beach at sunset was spectacular.

The weather here is pretty temperate year round, mid to upper 50s for the highs, upper 40s for the lows... year round.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Summer Trip 2018, stop 3

From Wisconsin we drove a few hours east into Michigan's upper peninsula.  We rented a little cabin in the woods outside Pictured Rocks National Park.

Our first full day there we rented a pontoon boat to go out on this part of Lake Michigan to see the shoreline of Picture Rocks NP.  After the disaster of our boat rental in Wisconsin, I was a little worried, but this place had the boat rental thing down.  They have more than a dozen pontoon boats for rent and know what they are doing.  We walked up and were settled on the boat and headed out within 20mins.  While the pontoon boat is spacious, the engine is slow.  It was a long hour splashing in the windy waves out, along the shoreline.  We decided to go to the edge of the boating area and then as we head back stop and see the sights along the way.  With the chop on the water we tried to follow a larger tour boat to lessen the waves by riding in their wake, but at one point we dropped down in their wake and a WALL of water washed over us.  Matthew and I hid under a raincoat, but I kept one eye out and watched David get drenched in the wall!  We were running after our water shoes that laid on the floor of the boat, reaching to grab them before they were washed overboard as the water receded.    We were now, wet and chilled from the wind.  But we all laughed as we discussed the great wall of water.

We reached the end of the boating area and stopped at a nearby beach.  Their was a hot springs runoff, and the kids enjoyed warming up in the cascading waterfall it created.  David and I took the pontoon closer to the nearby cliffs to check out the scenery.  We laid out our wet sweaters and warmed in the sun.

We enjoyed the beautiful scenery on our way back and took a more leisurely pace.  No more walls of water!  Instead we enjoyed the walls of the cliffs and their "painted" look created by minerals that have dripped down them over the many years.

We enjoyed a couple hikes in the area and checked out a few nearby waterfalls.  It is a beautiful area. On Saturday we drove a couple hours to the Mackinaw Bridge.  We crossed over and headed to nearby Cheboygan.  I had never visited these areas while serving as a missionary here, but I was familiar with the town names.  In Cheboygan we met up with the delivery man for our new camping trailer in the walmart parking lot.  After a couple hours of David fixing up the hitch, and me shopping for new trailer supplies and groceries, we took our new Rockwood Roo hybrid trailer back to our cabin in the wood.

On Sunday we attended church at a small nearby branch.  We believe it was the smallest church building we had ever been in.  We then went to the east end of the park and hiked to the log slide area, where loggers would just roll the trees down the immense sand dunes to the sea.  They would then be picked up and placed aboard ships.

Bright and early Monday morning we headed west, towing our new camping trailer.  After a day of driving we stopped at a state park outside of Fargo ND.  In the morning we stopped at the Bonanzaville museum in Fargo that showcased what life was like during the Bonanza days out in the territories.  Then we drove the rest of the afternoon to our next stop:  Medora North Dakota.

Medora is home to Theodore Rosevelt National Park.  It is very much in the middle of no where, or a pretty badlands area, but the town is set up for tens of thousands of visitors with several attractions.  We camped in the nearby state park.  Our first full day there, we drove around the park and did some popular short hikes.  That night we had tickets to dinner at the cowboy steak fondue buffet dinner.  Steaks were cooked on pitch forks dipped into boiling hot oil "fondue".  On Wednesday nights, kids 12 and under get a free hot dog dinner! After dinner we walked across the big parking lot to the Medora Theater to see the Medora Musical, a family friendly variety show.  On Wednesday nights all kids were free!  We enjoyed our day here in Medora, but there wasn't much left to do after 1 day.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Summer Trip 2018 stop 2

Minneapolis and Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

From the Black Hills of South Dakota we drove to Minneapolis where we arrived at bed time. In the morning our neighbors the Gardners flew in and we met up with them at the Mall of America. We rode a couple of roller coasters and the Fly Across America ride- which is similar to Soarin at Disney.  After lunch it was time to hit the road.

We made a stop at Walmart to stock up on breakfasts and snacks for the next day or so. We then made the 4 hour drive to Wisconsin's Apostle Islands. Once there we checked in to these cute little cabins on Lake Superior. Our other neighbors, the Despain Family were already there, they flew in a few days earlier. We ordered pizza for dinner and enjoyed spending time together.

 In the morning, David and I took the ferry over to Madeline Island to pick up a small boat rental. We took the boat to the marina near our cabins to pick up our kids and the Gardner Family for a day out on the lake. It was a beautiful sunny day and we headed out 20 miles to Devils Island to see the sea caves. They were amazing. The water was so calm we were able to take the boat inside a few of the caves which was really cool.

We tied up to a rock area and met the volunteer rangers that were staying on the island. They gave us a tour of the lighthouse and some history of the island and it's light keepers. The kids had fun swimming in the cold water, then laying on the warm rocks to warm up. We decided to take the boat back near the caves and cliffs to anchor and have lunch. The kids braved the cold water again to climb through the caves and explore. Then they climbed the cliffs and jumped into the water. It was a fun day. 

The boat was acting a little odd so when we found we had cell service at Devils, David made a call to the guy that rented us the boat. He suggested we make our way back. So we did, slowly. We went by a few of the other islands between Devils and Madeline. We stopped at South Twin Island, and then went by Stockton to see larger cliffs and more sea caves. There were crazier teens climbing higher cliffs to jump. We stopped at Stockton to visit the ranger station there and pick up- you guessed it, junior ranger packets.

As we headed back, the boat seemed to get slower and slower and then started making a screeching noise. We'd stop and let the engine rest and then start slowly again. David texted the boat owner and he wanted us to just wait. After about 45 mins of just making our way slowly towards the mainland, he finally reached up, about 3 miles for the marina near our cabin, but he insisted he tow all of us back to Madeline Island. This was quite frustrating and took nearly an hour. SO instead of getting back at 6:30pm to the cabin for dinner with the Despains, we were all taken to the island and had to take the ferry back. David tried a few times to discuss the issue with him, but he was not interested in having a conversation about the the situation. I told David not to worry about it, to not let it ruin our day. After finally docking the boat, we made a quick dash to the ferry dock to catch the 7:30pm ferry. Had we been 5 mins later, we'd of had to wait another hour for the next ferry. We felt blessed we'd made the 7:30. A text to Diane, and she agreed to come pick all of us up at the ferry dock in town. She even agreed to squish all 12 of us in her 7 passenger SUV. And then she made all of dinner and brought it to our individual cabins while we showered and packed for our kayaking camping trip tomorrow. What an amazing friend! Despite the delay in our evening, we had a great day, ending with amazing service from a great friend.

The next morning the real adventure began. The Despains, Gardners, and Millers all met early in the morning at Lost Creek Adventures to take safety training and prep for our kayaking adventure. The national park only allows 21 people to camp in each group site in the Apostle Islands. Our group totals 22. Plus we hired a company to guide us in kayaking, bring tents, and cook for us(very important!). We have been planning this trip since December, the company we hired did not tell us until just before booking the campsites that our group was too large. So we decided our family would attempt to book and individual campsite near the group site so we could all still go together. Group sites are booked 6 months out, but individual sites can not be booked until 30 days before. So after booking our group site, 2 months later, Lost Creek owner informed us that maybe my family should book another family vacation that he did not think he could take my family in addition to the group, he didn't think he could book our individual sites near to the group site. Well this was disappointing. So I contacted another company, that agreed to take us, even with the odd situation. They also thought it would be easier for just one company to take us, but the 2 owners knew each other and agreed to work together.

So 30 days ago, Neal from Whitecap Kayak booked our campsites for us. As anticipated, he was able to get the closest sites to the group site booked for the other group. And here we are ready for our trip!

So the other 3 families, and Savannah- to even numbers out at the campsites, met early in the morning at Lost Creek Office. While our family slept in, and packed up that morning. We met our guides Kyle and Reiley at noon at the launch point, Little Sand Bay. The other 3 families were there, eating lunch when we arrived. Our guides soon arrived and set up lunch for us as well. We all packed our kayaks and set out in one large group to make the 3 mile paddle to Sand Island. Kyle was great to coordinate with the 3 Lost Creek Guides. Truthfully the LCA guides had more experience guiding, and especially in the Apostle Islands. Kyle was new to both this summer. Really, our second guide, was 15 and in training. Although young, he loves paddling and is quite experienced in both guiding and kayaking. They both did a great job.

We made it the first 3 miles! David and Benjamin kayaked in a tandem with Matthew in a middle hatch. Isabel and I kayaked in a tandem together and Calvin had a solo kayak. Savannah was paired up in the other group with Sawyer. We had thought she would be paired with Mirelle, but the LCA guides made the determination, and put her and Sawyer together and they made a great team.
The kids had a great time running around at the campground together. We had fun visiting as adults. We had made it 3 miles, but we still had tomorrow...

After breakfast the next day, we broke camp and packed up our tents and gear. LCA took a little longer to get going so our family and guides headed over to the sea caves on Sand Island to explore. Once the LCA group arrived there we started towards our first of 3 stops for the day. I thought we'd just paddle slow and they'd catch up, but they must have been paddling slow too. We arrived on York Island with them trailing behind us still. After a short bathroom and snack break, our family started out again in the lead. David was anxious to start out and keep a slow pace. The other families soon followed but were still behind us just a bit as we arrived for lunch at Raspberry Island. Lunch was delicious and needed! Paddling was hard work and our muscles were tiring quickly! We started out after lunch as one large group and stayed together for our last paddle to Oak Island where we would spend 2 nights. The paddle was hard, and we were all tired and struggling by the end, but we made it! 12 miles over the day, and we did it! We couldn't have planned the trip more perfectly. We had great weather for our days of paddling but that night rainstorms would pass through with winds and high waves. We were blessed that weather would pass on the day we planned to rest and hike on Oak.

After setting up camp, the kids played in the water and David jumped in with Matthew. I braved the cold water just to rinse the last 2 days of sweat off! It was so very cold, but I was so glad I did it! The rain dropped the air temps more than 10 degrees and it was so nice not to spend that time with sweat glued to my skin. The rain started early the next morning and drizzled on and off through out the day. Two days ago I was wondering if I had over packed. Nope. No way. I used all my layers. Savannah even used the extra fleece shirt I had packed for her, since she refused to pack it with her stuff. She was sure she had enough warm clothes. But we all had to layer up, including PJs under pants, to stay warm.

The kids did great playing games in tents or hanging out around the fire when the rain would stop for a bit. They enjoyed the day and just hanging out together. Even the teenagers seemed to enjoy their day. They even included our 15 year old guide with them. Of course the girls were happy to have him along; Reiley is pretty cute.

The adults took a hike out to the other end of the island to see if we could see the waves raging off shore. We heard from the campsites on that end of the island that there were bear problems over there the night before. As we started our hike we hadn't realized that Matthew and his buddy Olivia, the two 8 year olds, had run up ahead of us on the trail. Olivia's mom and I were at the back of our hike group. Once we realized they were far out of sight, we picked up the pace, and even jogged a little to go find those 2. We knew the kayak guides were a head of us on the same trail, but hadn't realized how slow we were hiking behind them. It took us several minutes of jogging and fast walking to catch up with them. When we finally did, we found the guides aggressively scaring off a bear near the trail. Olivia and Matthew had even tried to run a head of them, when they came upon the bear. All was well, the bear was off the trail aways, but not scared of humans or moving away. So the guides were taking progressive action to chase the bear away from the trail. I was glad to know the guides were ahead of us and watching out for the two kids, who got a stern talking to by us, to not run off from their parents! Once the rest of the adults caught up with us we finished our hike out to the shore line on the south east end of the island. But we couldn't see the waves any better from this area. So we headed back to our campsite. The rain eventually died down late afternoon. We enjoyed the rest from kayaking for the day.

That evening we discussed several ideas for where to kayak to for our finish point. Hoping the wind and waves drop as predicted we could head towards Bayfield. Or we could maybe Kayak to a closer take out point, but it would require a short hike with the kayaks. In the morning, the wind and waves had dropped as predicted, but the closer take out point was ruled out due to damage from a previous storm. So we opted for heading towards Bayfield but pulling out on the Indian Reservation, so not quite as far as originally planned, but still a distance of 6 miles. We put in, and started on our way. The water and wind were so calm. The sun was still hiding behind clouds, so the air was still a bit chilly, but really it was a pretty perfect day. We took it slow and just kept paddling. Little by little we crept closer and closer to our finish point. We even stopped to see a few shipwrecks hiding just below the surface, but without the sun shining over head they were hard to see. Finally we pulled up to shore! We had made it! over 20 miles in 3 days of paddling. We can do hard things! And we even got to see beautiful scenery along the way, and enjoy it with good friends!

LCA provided a shuttle for some of the adults to go pick up our vehicles parked at Little Sand Bay. Once they returned we quickly loaded up our stuff. Well not as quick for us, we had to unload the bikes from inside the van and move our stuff back to the back of the van. But i'd say we did it in record time. We were done not too long after the others, and they only had to pack up their kayaking stuff. They did have to unpack it from LCA's dry bags and repack in theirs, but still... we did good.
After all that kayaking, the kids deserved ice cream so we all headed into Bayfield for ice cream. Then we realized we were hungry so we walked to a nearby restaurant for a dinner. The Gardner clan had taken off on their drive to Minneapolis already, but the Millers, Despains and us, enjoyed some dinner together before each starting our long drives. Like the Gardners, Millers and Despains were headed to Minneapolis for a few days before flying home. We were headed east to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.