Uriah isn’t the only one experiencing reminiscence during this trip. Haven grown up in Central NY, Florida was a common destination for us. My grandparents had a condo in Hollandale Florida, just outside of Hollywood.

All the grandkids had been sent down 1 or more times to visit them during various school brakes and being the youngest of all the grandchildren I was the last. I was in middle school at the time and the usual excursion to Disneyland was now off the list being that they had gone too many times and were getting older and did not want to go. They did take me to Sea World and another place with lots of exotic birds.  The fondest memory of that trip however was meeting my twin. Almost daily riding up or down the elevator to go to the pool people would say “hello Ellen, how are your grandparents doing?”  I was really confused at first why they were calling me Ellen until it was discovered they thought I was someone else’s granddaughter.  When they learned I was not Ellen they would all exclaim how we looked like twins, so naturally I had to meet this girl.  I’m not sure how we made it happen, but I eventually did meet Ellen and we became fast friends. We spent the rest of the trip together doing what pre-teen girls do, swimming, looking for boys, playing games and watching movies. Great times but sadly I didn’t stay in touch with her. 

Later on in high school I remember driving to Ft. Lauderdale for Spring Break with my friend Lori Marini.  We took turns driving all through the night to get there in one day.  We enjoyed much beach time, drinking in bars and sleeping. That’s about all I remember from that trip.

The memories that have really been triggered for the past month was my time working for Eckard Family Youth Alternatives in 1989.  My first career in my 20’s was working with youth. I served as a camp counselor, camp director and later the teen coordinator for the YMCA of Boulder Valley.  I always had a soft spot for kids with emotional issues or from broken homes so when a camper was getting kicked out for bad behavior, I would usually volunteer to take that kid on.  After doing this for some time and realizing that I was focused on only a few of the kids rather than the whole camp I was responsible for, I decided to go work with what was referred to at the time as ‘Juvenile Delinquents’.  I had found Eckard not long after completing my NOLS course. Though I didn’t have much counseling experience that outdoor experience came in handy and I was hired.  The main headquarters was in Clearwater Florida. This is where I went first to do my training, which included class work discussions, how to build a leanto and a river trip.  After training we got to choose where we wanted to serve. They had many camps throughout Florida, the Carolinas and Tennessee. I choose camp E- Toh-Kalu in Henderson, NC.  None of the teens had committed any terrible offenses, mostly petty theft and that sort of thing. The girls that I worked with were mostly runaways that had been sexually or physically abused. Once in the court system however, they were given the choice between Juvenile detention or Eckard’s camp so naturally many choose the camp.

It was an amazing experience. We lived in the woods in small mini-groups 2-3 counselors referred to as “chiefs” with about 12-15 teens. There were probably 6-7 small groups, making the whole camp around 100 teens or more.  In our little mini campsites we lived in leantos and the campers had various daily chores such as chopping or shaving wood, cleaning, or building something. Most meals were taken in the main mess hall except 2 day per week we planned meals to cook in our small camps. It was a pretty rigorous lifestyle especially since we worked 5 days a week 24/7. And when there were problems among the campers, we’d drop everything and go out into the woods to “work it out”. Rain or shine, day or night.  So on our only days off there was mainly only time for resting and doing laundry etc.  One of my favorite memories of that time was taking the girls on a back pack trip in Florida. I guess due to my NOLS experience that’s when my skill set really shined.  The day Uriah and I got into the Ocala National Forest, I suddenly realized I had been there before. I sent a text to my friend “Chief Laura” whom oversaw our backpack trip and she happens to be the only person I’ve stayed in touch with all these years. She confirmed that indeed we had been there and then said Juniper Springs was her favorite campsite. Amazingly we were only 7 miles from there and would be heading there the next day. Truth be known, when we got there I did not recognize being there before. One of my strongest memories of that trip was coming across a rainbow gathering along that trail. We stopped and all had a very interesting time talking to the people about what they were doing and why. I also remembered we did some site seeing on the way home after the backpacking visiting the beach and the fort at St. Augustine.

Yesterday we finally made it to Hendersonville. The Eckard camp had closed in 2009 due to budget cuts in State funding so we did not visit there. We parked at the library and I took a strole downtown. It had been 31 years and boy had it changed. My memory of downtown was just a few businesses on one main street. Now it looked like an earlier version of Boulder. Lots of cute little shops and restaurants on both sides of the main drag plus, a completely different feel!! The energy in the town in the late eighty’s was very backward such that I didn’t really feel safe. I used to drive to Ashville on my days off which felt like a safe haven to me.  Now Ashville is a huge City that Uriah did not care to stick around to see.  We only drove there to stop at Trader Joes from more chocolate bars. I guess it was a little too busy for the Sarge, so on to Hot Springs, NC and glory, leaving the memories of this wonderful time of my youth behind.


Birds of Florida

I love taking pictures of wildlife and I can’t really remember a time that I’ve encountered so many different species of birds in the US since arriving in Florida. When we first hit the Gulf Coast I started to see many gulls, shore birds, herons and pelicans. I couldn’t have ever imagined that our home base in downtown St. Petersburg was going to be a hot spot for birding. As soon as we got settled into our friend’s backyard he suggested we take Kiowa to the dog park at Crescent Lake which was about 4 blocks from his house. Naturally we did, and I was glad I brought my camera along. I was truly astounded when we got there to see the lake was inhabited by so many birds in general and such a wide variety. I was grateful that I had recently downloaded the Audubon app to help me identify the ones unfamiliar to me.  The irony is that the assignment for this months’ photo club is “birds”. I certainly have a good chance to get some good shot with so many opportunities. Since Uriah’s foot is still hurting, I had the daily job of walking Kiowa around the lake.  I honestly could not help myself and probably took anywhere from 10-40 a day! After about day 4 or 5, I had to start looking for other things to capture so I wouldn’t bore anyone following our Casita Chronicles page.  I got quite a few shots of turtles, but never did see the supposed otter that lives somewhere in the lake.  It was a bit of a challenge trying to take pictures while controlling Kiowa on his leash.  Especially because when Uriah was not with us, rather than Kiowa dragging me along on our walks like at home, I had to practically drag him around. He would stop ever 5 feet or so and look back, I guess hoping Uriah was going to catch up.

Anyways back to the birds, not only did I learn the name of many of these birds, but I also learned so much just from watching them. For example, this probably isn’t news to anyone, but I am always impressed watching herons and egrets. They are the most patient of all the birds I witnessed. They would stand still in one spot for a very long time waiting for just the right moment to catch their pray.  There were multiple sizes and varieties of herons and egrets all with a patient watchful eye.  

The Anhinga is an interesting bird that spends hours sitting with their wings spread wide drying them in the sun. Nothing seemed to deter them from this tedious task. 

There were also many species of ducks. They were often found swimming together and near the trees or hiding in larger plant growth areas.

The two strangest looking birds were the wood stork and the white Ibis.

The later seemed like a scavenger type of bird. Not only would i see them all around the lake, but I would often see them in puddles, sidewalks and lawns in the city streets or roosting in large trees.  Pelicans are so cool, I love the way they glide through the water and can make turns almost on a dime, and when they are hunting whoa look out, they dive bomb into the water with sharp precision. Crescent Lake had both American White Pelican and Brown Pelicans.

One morning when it was raining these two pelicans traveling together where both gliding with their bodies slanted at an angle, I wondered if this was some sort of tactic to stay dry.  Another thing I learned while walking in the rain was that woodpeckers came out in droves!

I hadn’t seen any all week until the rain. I even saw more than one type. I supposed the wet bark makes it easier to find food.  The Gallinule, which seem very duck like were quite loud while either mating or fighting.  Many of the waterfowl like to stand on one leg, I have no idea why. You may notice if you’ve check out my photos, that I have very few pictures of smaller birds, that’s because they don’t stay in one spot very long, they flitter about making it really hard to catch them, though I did get a few shots of blue jays. 

After we left St. Petersburg we stayed a night at Myakka River State park. That afternoon we took a bike ride that ended at a larger body of water. There I watched some egrets and herons fishing. The smaller heron was doing this interesting type of dance where it would spread it’s wings squawking while he waited back and forth.

I imagined it was some sort of strategy to trick it’s pray. It was here that I had my first sighting of a rosette spoonbill. They are really cool because they are pink, only flamingos match this color- at least in the Northern hemisphere.  There was a ruckus going on by humans so I went to check it out. Apparently a young spoonbill had gotten it’s beak tied up in fishing line. One of the park rangers’ had waded across the alligator infested river to rescue it and was successful! He said they only intervene when a problem was caused by humans. Another ward, if an animal or bird was hurt from a natural occurrence, they would let nature take its course, but today he got to be the hero and exclaimed “it was a good day at work.”

On the ride back we stopped off at a little tributary. Uriah took a phone call, so I went for a little explore in the woods and saw my first raptor in Florida. It was pretty far away so I wasn’t 100 % sure but the way it was soaring above the trees made me think it was. When I downloaded it to the computer I was happy to see that I was correct. The osprey seems to be the most common in these parts, though I’ll have to check my app to verify.

Over the course of the next few days we entered the Everglades; well technically we were in the Big Cypress National Preserve. A freshwater Swamp  Which contains a mixture of tropical and temperate plant communities dominated by a wet cypress forest. Home of  diverse wildlife, including the Endangered Florida panther, alligators, snakes, turtles and of course numerous bird species, many that I already saw in Crescent Lake but it was very cool to see them in the more wild environment. I took many more photos of course. It sure is going to be hard to choose the best 4 out of hundreds of bird photos.  In addition to many egrets, herons, ibis & spoonbills, I’ve also saw a woodpecker and the big thrill of the day was seeing a huge barred owl! 

After leaving the Everglades we headed to the east coast to visit Ed Greenberg, Max & Chris Fowler and then my cousin Josh Lerman.  Seems like we’ve now seeing more people than birds except the usual gulls and pelicans along the beach.  We did camp one evening a little inland in a county park that was home to a couple of Sand Hill cranes. They had a couple of chicks and apparently live there year round. However a few days later we saw a single one on the beach and then while driving to meet Josh this morning we saw a couple right next to the road.  Just after seeing a bald eagle!  It’s a bit tricky to capture those sightings as your driving 50+miles and hour down the road. I’m sure we’ll see even more birds before we’re through with this trip, but since I started this blog a week ago and we have good internet access for the moment, I’ll post and sign off for now.

02-13-21_The Gulf Coast and Hope

Consistently on our journey from South Dakota through Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida we saw numerous Trump signs.  Even when we hit the Gulf of Mexico this did not change until we hit the big city, landing in St. Petersburg.  However, one thing did change once we hit the coast that gave me a little hope. We began to see signs of humans that are actually concerned about the environment and in particular, the wildlife. Private citizen groups, non-profits and municipalities at every level seem to be taking measures to educate the public and make amends to some of the human destruction that we’ve caused particularly to the ocean environment.

Starting with Gulf Shores on the coast of Alabama, where the beaches are pristine white is where we began to see “No dogs on the Beach” signs, not even if they are on a leash!  Here I learned that the Alabama Dept. of Natural Resources, Marine Division have created manmade reefs called “Circalittoral Reef”.  These manmade reefs are made of concrete and limestone discs or modules that are anchored into the seabed with pilings. They encourages the renewal of close shore marine life such as sponges, barnacles, urchins, crabs and many types of fishes.  The sign encouraged people to report if they found fishing line, ropes, nets which they call “fouling” if they are unable to safely remove it.  Additionally there was a hot line number to report dead sea turtles or ones that get entrapped by the reef complex.   According to another sign at Grayton Beach, these artificial reefs modules are conducive to marine invertebrate growth as the limestone used is composed of natural ancient seabed materials.

In Keaton Beach, there was a sign on the fishing pier for the Sturgeon hotline if you caught one or found one dead. Apparently this species of fish are endangered. There was a separate hotline to report hooked sea turtles, sawfish and dolphins and gave fisherman tips how to avoid accidentally hooking these species.

Another sign in the park talked about the importance of wetlands. In the US, we are losing 2% per year of our nations’ wetlands which amounts to about 290,000 acres to agriculture, development, mining and other manmade activities.

All beaches have ropes and signs protecting the fragile sand dunes.

And in local parks we saw city ordinances prohibiting the pursuit, catching, molesting, or killing of wildlife or disturbing nests or dens. Fish were the only exception.  There was still a fair amount of trash, particularly at Crescent Lake in St. Petersburg, but even here they have a solution. Something called a “Watergoat”, a netting system that catches trash that washes in through storm drains and surrounding neighborhood streets.

Although our human habits and perpetual growth still outweigh the negative impacts to the environment and wildlife, I am glad at least to see that some people are making efforts to correct or at least decrease our impact.

1-30-21_ From Arkansas through Mississippi

We’re all settling into life on the road.  Tawnee’s still is not crazy about the car ride, often meowing while wandering around the vehicle but overall she’s managing just fine. 

We have a pretty decent mixture of walking around to check out a site, town or forest, with driving a distance. Watching out the window mostly on back roads I’ve witnessed a pretty interesting observation about the homes we’ve seen.  Huge contrasts from little shacks and motor homes to huge fancy houses and estates, and some in between. The interesting part is that they are often right next to one another. Of course the larger homes have more land surrounding them, but still the next house you might see on the same road may be a small run down one littered with old cars and trash.  Out west or in large cities these obvious wealth disparages would be separated into differing neighborhoods.  We wondered if these neighbors of vastly different means talk to one another, get along, argue or if they just let each other be.  Since we haven’t really stayed in any one place very long, we haven’t had that many conversations with locals except for some brief ones from time to time at a coffee shop or a site we’ve stopped at. 

The other main observation is the large amount of water, moisture all around.  It hasn’t rained much, but everything is always damp. There are many swamps, bogs and bayous.  I’m still trying to understand the difference between these different names and even looking it up on the internet did not make it crystal clear.

Although it has been a LOT warmer than back home, it’s still been pretty damp and chilly out.  We’ve only hit one day in the 60’s when the sun was out and it was dry and warm enough to do yoga outside, and boy did that feel good!! I’ve spent most of my down time hanging in the camper painting. 

Before we left, I signed up for my friend Lani Kai’s, ‘Creatrix Codes’ workshop. This young woman is an inspiration to me and has helped me feel safe enough to come back to a creative side that I abandoned long ago. I highly recommend her course! I’ve also been participating as much as I can in Valerie Kaur’s, ‘People’s Inauguration’ put on by Sounds True. It is a 10 day online training/exploration into Revolutionary Love.  She developed this program from her recently released book ‘See No Stranger”. I also highly recommend this work.  It is really timely and transformational. I am so grateful for both of these opportunities to deepen, rediscover and rebirth.

We haven’t seen a ton of wildlife yet, and I always enjoy this part of traveling.  We did have a red tail hawk fly in front of us a few days ago, and this morning the same thing happened with a barn owl. I wish I had a quicker reaction with the camera, but I suspect it was a more a sign from spirit than a photo opp.  That same barn owl showed up during the practice with Valerie Kaur where she led us through a guided mediation. That owl came to me as my wisdom guide and the protector of my doubt.  

We’re camping the night in the DeSoto National Forest and head to the Coast of Alabama tomorrow.  I can’t wait to see and smell the ocean!

01-26-21_The Other Hot Springs

In 2017 when I was trying to create an email address for the farmers market,  HotSpringsFarmersMarket@gmail.com, and was told that email had already been taken, is the first time I realized there was another town called Hot Springs. This one was in Arkansas.  I’d never been to Arkansas so I began to wonder about it.  Over the years I occasionally would be contacted by someone on Facebook about our farmers market only to realize they were referring to the one in Arkansas. Then this summer while soaking at Moccasin Springs I actually met a couple from Hot Springs, Arkansas. I don’t recall the entire conversation, but I think they said they liked our Hot Springs better because it was outside and the ones in Hot Springs, AR were inside in bath houses.  So when Uriah said that Hot Springs, AR was on our route, we both were curious and wanted to check it out.  I always imagined that it was a small little town like ours but it’s actually about 10time more people than our town. And the most shocking part for me was the fact that the entire town of Hot Springs Is in a National Park! How do you have a whole town in a National Park? For the details of historical reference, I’ll let you read Uriah’s blog (assuming he will write about the history per usual). From the perspective of a simple observer, lets start with the fact that their really isn’t an entrance to the National Park as you would imagine. There are signs but no official entrance. In fact, we pulled into the National Park campsite off the main highway and used an automated machine to pay for our camp site. Later on we drove into town to find the Hot Springs. We drove about 7 miles on a highway to the main downtown part of town where the “Hot Springs Row” is. That is the several blocks of large buildings that held the various indoor bathhouses to soak in the Hot Springs water.  A few are still open but some have been converted to hotels, restaurants, and the like.  Across the street from these buildings are all the smaller shops, restaurants, gift shops and everything you would expect from any tourist town. The highway between is busy with cars driving from one side of town to the other. Both sides of the streets are lined with metered parking.  All of this IS the National park!?

It was already afternoon when we headed to the only pubic bathhouse open, Quapaw. The other open bathhouse was only offering packages that included private soaks, massages and other various spa services, we opted for the less expensive version.  After going through the covid procedures of identifying ourselves, that we hadn’t had any symptoms and verified we didn’t have a fever we were okayed to enter the building and on to main desk for more identifications and making payments, determining if we had suits and appropriate footwear. Uriah didn’t have footwear but was lent a pair.  The all indoor bathhouse included 4 pools ranging in temperatures from 98 to 104, though it felt a little hotter. All the pools were generous in size and could accommodate many groups with plenty of social distancing; we were 1 of about 4 other parties in the place.  It was an enjoyable experience but no where near as nice as we’ve got it at Moccasin Springs!! Mainly due to ambiance, being outdoor rather than indoor and the little bit of freedom to be oneself.  The Moc certainly has a few rules, but this place had an employee station just there to mop the floors, hand out water and make sure everyone followed the rules. You so much get out in the wrong place and she very kindly comes over and corrects your actions.

After a few hours of soaking, we walked over for a bite to eat at the Grateful Head pizza shop. It had been a very long time since I’ve enjoyed one of my favorite foods so I went along when Uriah suggested it.  It was simple but tasty and apparently we got there just in time before close. They were closing early due to a slow night.

The next day we spent hiking the trails In the National Park.  There are many small winding and intersecting trails. We took the longest one, just over a mile and ½ to the downtown bathhouses. We enjoyed the nice hike after sitting in the car for days, the warmer weathers and even had a nice conversation with Arkansan, Charles a retired nuclear plant worker. Despite the 50 degree weather, most of the leaves have fallen just like everywhere else, except one tree in the forest, which we’ve learned is an evergreen magnolia tree. We certainly enjoyed our time here, but I would agree, there’s no place like home and this place has nothing on our little Hot Springs.

01-24-21_Settling in

I guess the birthing theme is still lingering as I awoke at 2am with this acrostic poem floating to the surface.

Breath deeply

Into new possibilities 

Resolving the past

Together we remember, grieve and heal

Holding each other accountable with love.

We camped on the border of Kansas and Missouri at a rundown roadside park, a perfect place where we’re usually left undisturbed. With the freezing temperatures now behind us, we were able to fill up with water and now completely self sufficient. We pulled in close to dark, had a quick light meal then without the distraction of the internet, gave me the perfect opportunity to work on my painting. Though I do consider myself creative, I mostly express it through cooking or rearranging my home or some other crafty projects like weaving or collaging. Its been years since I have painted with acrylics. I’m really excited that i decided to take a friends workshop “Creatrix Codes”.  So far I’m loving this reconnection with the more free creative side of myself that doesn’t always get a lot of play time.

With an extra layer of cushion, Kiowa has been staying on his bed at night, so my fears about being claustrophobic and not having room to sleep have been averted, Life is good. Even Tawnee seems to be adjusting to life on the road better be than I expected. In the morning as we prepared to leave, I went to throw something in a trash can, only to be surprised by the sight of a possum sitting looking up at me. Out of instinct I screamed but then went back to check it out. I’ve had very few if any experiences with a possum so I didn’t know what to expect. We figured it had probably gotten stuck in there for God knows how long, so naturally we tipped the barrel over so it could be free. It didn’t run or scurry as most wild creatures would. As a matter of fact, I went to get my camera to take a photo and couldn’t find it for quite some time and by the time I did he was still there! Ok here’s the part that some of you may disagree with, I couldn’t help being concerned about it’s well being, assuming that he had been weakened or in shock from being stuck in that barrel, so I put Tawnees’ wet cat food she wouldn’t eat in a little dish I found on the ground, and Uriah found it some water which we left to give it a fighting chance.

Off we went towards Hot Springs, Arkansas by way of Eureka Springs, the Gem of Arkansas. It was a cute little artsy town very much little Bisby, AZ. We had one of the best brunches I’ve ever had! However, they didn’t have any springs to soak in or camping sites so with no place really easy to park we carried on after brunch through the Ozark mountains. The curvy roads that ran up and down like a ribbon made me a little nervous with Uriahs speeds. No wonder the cat was meowing so much, even I was starting to get a little car sick after a while. We found a nice campsite before dark in the forest and seemed to be the only ones for miles around. Uriah made a campfire then we feel asleep to a nice gentle rain.

  1-22-21, Birthing a New Paradigm

January 22, 2021
We finally left Hot Springs, SD our home yesterday in the midst of the pandemic and the day after our new President and Vice President were sworn in! The word “birth”, recently came up in a woman’s group I’m a part of and it feels so perfect for these times! Despite the rampant fear and division that persists on the planet, I also feel and am experiencing a new pulse, inspiration and birth of consciousness, if you will amongst our humanity. I am so very blessed to be engaged with many progressive and spiritual communities whom are walking the path of courageous love. We can not do this alone, we can only co-create the New Earth with our collective wiliness, vulnerability and action. Just as some believe that if enough of us take the vaccine we can combat the corona-virus, I believe that if enough of us take the journey within to look at our shadow selves, the part of us buried deep within to face and accept it, collectively we can heal and move forward to birth this “New Earth”. Many cultures have some form of belief, legend or stories about this time, the Aquarian Age where collective consciousness comes together, rather than a time of individualism. It appears we are birthing this new paradigm. From the words of our oldest elected president during his inauguration speech focused on us setting aside our differences and coming together as a nation to solve our many challenges, to a poignant poem from the youngest speaker at the inauguration, that inspired us to imagine and create the kind of world we long to live in, to an invitation from another young evolutionary activist Valerie Kaur, to participate in a people’s inauguration, an opportunity for all of us to engage in this process together. I’m excited to be a part of this birthing process, by taking personal responsibility to do my part. I hope you will join me.

I don’t claim to have the answers but I have the wiliness and courage to take steps everyday. We all have our own path to follow. When we listen deeply and follow that guidance, we know we are on the right path. So that is how we set out on this journey well into winter and during a pandemic. There we’re plenty of reasons to stay home such as staying in the comfort of our little cocoon, to concerns about what others would think about us traveling during a pandemic, fears of claustrophobia of traveling in our little 17 ft. Casita with a large dog and semi wild cat, and finally guilt about having the luxury to take such a trip while others are just struggling for survival. My internal compass said to push through all of these doubts and fears. Like traveling through the birth canal, moving forward into the unknown, facing these feelings by acknowledging them and being curious. I know from experience a journey like this offers so many rich experiences just by being, observing, interacting with others and the natural environment along the way. These experiences always expand my perception which in turn help me to see more clearly just as Valerie Kaur asks us to practice ” See others, even strangers, as a part of ourselves we do not yet know.”

Casita Chronicles; Northern Wyoming Loop/ Big Horn Mountains_Part 2

8-01_10Our campsite in Cody, Wyoming

Aug 2; I enjoyed another deep nights sleep, so I have no idea how long the storm lasted. We guessed not long as the land was still pretty dry this morning. After a wonderful cup of freshly grounded coffee, I got up and did my yoga practice while Uriah went for a walk. After our not so happy evening, I gained some new insights this morning during my Sadhana which inspired me back to a more positive perspective (see prologue on part 1). Mr. O worked on the lights again and got them to an acceptable working condition that we were finally able to head back into town. The main reason we are in Cody is so Uriah could visit the Buffalo Bill museum, which is housed within the Cody Museum which actually has five different museums contained within. You can learn all about it in his blog (I’m guessing). I saved the $19 entrance fee and used the time to finalize the 1st part of my blog and organizing my photos from my three different devises. I also took the dog for a walk and caught up on a few phone calls. Funny how you think you’ll have so much free time on vacation to catch up on various things, when indeed it just isn’t possible as far as I can tell.  Cody felt like the epitome of the old west, between the world renowned Buffalo Bill museum, nightly rodeo, gun shooting range, large boot factory and just the western vibe reverberating throughout the whole city that just makes you wanna go out and buy a gun, NOT! I guess since it is at one of the entrances to Yellowstone National Park, I can understand why the community took advantage of capturing the economic tourism opportunity. When Uriah returned about 3 hours later, we had a late lunch and searched for the RV dump station which was not easy to find, gassed up and finally left town around 4pm.  Cody was the farthest west we would travel and now we reached the turning point in our loop where we head a little north but mainly back east toward the medicine wheel, one of the other primary destinations of this trip. We passed through several rural farm towns like Powell & Lowell nothing noteworthy to mention. As we headed back toward the Bighorn Mountains we crossed over Bighorn lake, a damned up section of the Big Horn river used for electricity production and recreation. There was something calling me and I asked Uriah to pull over. The heavy haze from the California fires, along with the birds flying over the large body of water surrounded by mountains and this whole scene nearly devoid of any humans created a mythical feeling of peace that made me want to stay a while. Being that it was already 5:30 pm I asked if we could camp here and he agreed.


I was quickly drawn to walk along the waters edge. Beside an occasional car passing by and the sound of water fowl, it was very quiet and peaceful. My body, mind and spirit quickly relaxed into this precious moment. Before we left on the trip my friend Barb told me how sacred the medicine wheel is, so I now wondered if this longing to stop here was to create an opportunity for me to have some time to prepare myself for the experience. To ponder what I might want pray for and get clarity about, or just to clear away all the thoughts of the past several days. I don’t know how long I sat by the waters edge but I do know that this was one of the highlight of the trip thus far. When I returned to the camper Uriah and Kiowa were inside & he was on his computer. Apparently he was the one getting bitten by bugs for a change. A huge storm rolled in and we enjoyed a lovely dinner watching the lightening fill up the valley. The rest of the evening we enjoyed each other and re-connected once again. I think the storm has finally passed.

Aug 3;  I woke early 4:00am and contemplated getting up for Sadhana. Anyone that does this practice knows that contemplating is the wrong thing to do. As Sat Siri once said on a IKTYA webinar, you’ve got to let the masculine lead this one, you just get up and do it. The feminine energy will have you think about all sides.  Lol,  oh well I didn’t obey the masculine, I convinced myself in light of the past week it was better to stay snuggled in close to my lover to solidify our renewed love. 

Another wondrous coffee meditation as we discussed the road ahead. Only a few days left on our journey and I’m just now starting to really get into it. Makes me really want to get back to more traveling and less committing to things back home. The daily Hukum was so profound however that I am feeling ready for about anything. Think I’ll take a quick dip before we head out.  I took Mr. O down to gem beach, the beautiful shore I had discovered last night filled with numerous colored rocks.

We both took a ritual dip and returned to finalize repairs for returning to the road. I did a short practice while he fixed the trailer brakes, a major blessing we would realize later. After breakfast we finally started our assent back up the Big Horn mountains toward the sacred medicine wheel. If you read Uriahs blog, he’ll likely rant about how it was all made up and it was there long before the Native Americans or some kids playing around created it. I’ll never truly understand why he has so much animosity towards them, not individually but as a nation. I think it has something to do with any underdog group that has been used or abused by the white man and called out on it. For some reason he feels the need to mock them perhaps on some unconscious level to stay in denial of the past atrocities helps him feel less guilty as one. (? just a theory) Anyways, as someone whom is attuned to the sacred in life, I was very excited to have the opportunity to be there and practice ceremony. As a priestess, I would just allow myself the freedom to be a vessel of the divine to allow what is needed to move through me. At the top of the very steep Big Horns we finally reached the road to the national historic site. We dropped the camper to drive the remaining 1.5 miles to the parking lot where we would walk in my case and run in Uriahs the remaining 1.5 miles.  There was a pretty steady flow of visitors throughout the entire time we were there, both whites and native Americans. I was grateful that things lined up for me to have my ceremony. Not only was I able to get some clarity for my own life, but prayed for the Native people in general, the Lakota in particular and the health and balance of all life on earth. (no pictures except on the way up as i was totally immersed in ceremonial space)

As usual it finished in perfect timing as there were others that came to pray and it was their turn.  I returned back in the truck just when Uriah was also complete with his journey. We then drove back down to retrieve the camper, have a quick snack and return to the road. The drive through the Big Horns was beautiful. We passed through miles of pine forests, large open meadows, waterfalls and seemed to be following the north fork of the Tongue River, which had a wild feel to it. We both felt it had a familiarity to Colorado.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would have enjoyed to stay and camp a while but our time is running out and Mr. O has some battlefields he wants to visit. By late afternoon we were driving back down out of the Big Horns. It was very long and steep, 8% grade and why it was a blessing that he got the trailer brakes working. I was griping the over door handle, tensing up and kept telling Mr. O to slow down, it was quite intense despite being on a paved road. When we finally reached Dayton a very small town at the bottom I was very relieved. We filled up on gas, water and Mr. O got some kettle corn and we continued on to Decker, Montana to the Rosebud battlefield. It was pretty country but seemed to take forever to get there and at one point we weren’t even sure if we’d make it. The gps on my phone was saying it was somewhere that it was not but Mr. O felt confident that we would reach it up ahead. Sure enough we did sometime after 5:30pm just about when huge winds started blowing across the plains.


It was in a very small State park which did not allowing any overnight camping and was surrounded by private land. Mr.O braved the winds to read the historical signs while I remained inside the truck. When he returned we discussed the current dilemma. It was really too late to try to find camping somewhere else so we’d have to take our chances either camping illegally in the State park or on someone’s private property.  The choices didn’t seem all that promising however, there didn’t seem to be any other reasonable option at this point and since we were in a very remote area the likely hood of getting caught or bothered was slim. In the familiar confident Uriah fashion he drove on through the park, just outside the park boundary was a wide part in the dirt road large enough to pull over and be out of the way of someone driving down the road. It happened to also be just below theta the area of the battle scene he wants to explore. That would have to wait till morning since it was windy and getting late. I got to work on dinner, someone did drive by us, but simply waved and didn’t stop to ask us to leave.


By the time we were enjoying our dinner, the wind had died down and it turned out to be a perfect evening. We were even blessed with two large Sandhills cranes that flew into the field below us and hung out for the night. I got a pretty good look through the binoculars but it was getting too dark to get a good shot with the camera. The most exciting part however was the very unique sounds they made. At one point after I had already slipped to sleep, I though I heard them cooing by our camper.  Again the whole experience felt like a blessing, esp. since it was a pair.

Aug 4;  I heard the cranes one more time in the morning just before our coffee meditation and never heard or saw them again. I accompanied Mr. O to the top of the ridge to survey the area of carnage. He relayed the whole ordeal of the engagement which still does not peak my interest even slightly. I never have and doubt will ever be interested in the stories of war and humans killing other humans, I just don’t get it. I did however enjoy the beautiful meadows and rolling hills and being by my husbands side as he relayed the stories of his interest.


Since we have a huge day of driving ahead we didn’t dawdle. The plan was to drive to the Northern Cheyenne reservation to stop at the grave of Dull knife and Little Wolf, then on all the way north to Mile City, Montana (God knows why, but not me) then back east through North Dakota to Slim Buttes battlefield which is south back into our home state of SD, a good 300 mile day! Unheard of for he O’s. When we arrived in the Northern Cheyenne Reservation we both noted how beautiful the landscape was and it appeared a bit more prosperous than some other reservations we’ve traveled through. We were getting hungry so we asked a guy walking down the street in the town center if there were any cafes that served breakfast. He said that he thought the casino stopped serving breakfast so likely no. Uriah inquired about the cemetery in which he replied which one? then directed us right at the turnabout and then left on top of the hill. When we drove over there we only saw a college which he didn’t mention at all in the directions. We drove around for a bit looking to no avail and finally asked some other ladies whom directed us back to the general area he had tried to send us. As we finally entered the area that looked like the cemetery, whom was walking in front of us but the guy whom we had initially spoke to. We ended up spending the next two hours talking with him. He was there visiting his sons grave who had died at the young age of 22 years old. Robert Yellow Fox, or “Old Man” as people call him was a very interesting, intelligent and engaging man. He shared a love of history that impressed Uriah tremendously and earned his respect.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe told us numerous stories of past historical events of his people, personal family experiences and some local legends and beliefs of spiritual significance. I asked him what the medicine of the Sandhill crane was and he responded “patience & perseverance”, which I found quite appropriate. At one point, I had offered him some food as we were still hungry and he said he would  not take it with his wife and son at home. So I made three sandwiches for him to take home and share with his family. After we ate our sandwiches we bid our new friend farewell with names and numbers exchanged and an invitation to come back next summer to support his Sun Dance. He intends to Sun Dance to help heal the anger he felt toward his sons’ murderer whom will be getting out of jail soon. He believed that if he took revenge upon this man he would not get to see his son again nor be reunited with his people. We took this honor of the invitation very seriously and felt compelled to support his journey. We both enjoyed talking with Old Man, though he was only 42 yrs but it pushed our long travel day back some and we needed to make up some time. Therefore the remainder of the day was spent driving long distances without brakes through the Tounger River valley and a lot of agricultural land. I personally didn’t find Mile City worth the extra drive, but Mr. O got a DQ and got to see the Yellowstone River which was pretty massive. The short drive through N. Dakota was mainly wheat fields and before we knew it we were back in South Dakota reaching our destination by 7 pm. Fortuitously there was a campground In Custer National Forest very close to where the slim butte battle took place. It’s beautiful, free and not too crowded,  which was more than could we ask for on the last night of our trip.  After diner we took a nice walk, visited with our neighbor’s and enjoyed a nice little campfire. A perfect way to end our trip.

Aug 5;  Unfortunately the reality of all the commitments I have to face when I return made for a fitful night. I awoke at 2 am and couldn’t get back to sleep for a while, then had stressful dreams. Again the contrasts I am feeling is truly telling. However since I enjoy the many things I do, I’m not sure how I’ll be able to change anything but I guess it’s a process. This place truly is a little gem in the middle of nowhere and only 3 hours from our home. Mr O plans to run down to the battlefield and do his weekly yoga practice there. I enjoyed my practice right here in our campsite then went for a little walk up the rest of the dirt road. At the end of the campground area is a national landmark called “The Castles” the purpose to preserve this natural phenomena. It truly is wondrous and we look forward to returning when we can spend more time. Mr. O was returning from his run at they act moment I was walking back to our campsite. At the camper he exclaimed that he was going to take a shower. Even though our Casita is equipped with a shower, we rarely use it. It take a lot of propane to heat it up and then the water usage. We usually find other places to shower on are travels but do use it when necessary. I think it will be a nicer drive back after his run now that “he’s a clean man.”

We finally hit the road around 11:30am, Mr. O had to make his “Sunday calls” to his family and return the other calls from messages left, why he couldn’t make them when he returned home is beyond me.  The 3 hour trip according to the gps took us 5.5 hours! And it really wasn’t because of Sturgis.  We stopped once to get something to eat, (1hr) and did take a little detour down some county roads to avoid driving through Sturgis but it just seemed to take forever. I drifted off several times.  We finally arrived home around 5ish. Though we both felt like taking naps, we got right to work unloading. We just couldn’t help ourselves.  Then checked in on the chickens, garden (all well) then the mail and the messages. The neighbor down the street where Odysseus supposedly had been seen, finally called back. I had left him a note over two weeks ago. Aparently he had been out of town and said he has a cat that looks exactly like mine, so all the people whom thought they saw Odysseus probably were just seeing his cat.  So i took this as a sign and started cleaning up and putting away all his stuff I had left out for him.  A short while later Uriahs friend Dan called and said there was a kitten found up near the VA. Apparently the VA police had a stand-off with a mountain lion and they assumed this kittens parent and maybe siblings had been taken. The employees have been taking care of it the last week. They had an adult cat that had come to them and had been living there whom also disappeared recently (which they think the lion got). However, they just didn’t feel the boiler room was a safe place for a kitten and was hoping someone would adopt her.  Probably not much of a surprise that i told Dan, yes i would go check out the cat and would likely want to take it home. And so I did. The conclusion of a wonderful journey opens a new journey with life with a kitten! We are going to name her Tania after a brave young woman explorer. This kitten is just that!!

Finding Beauty, Joy & Pleasure

Finding beauty, joy & pleasure in every thing is my intention for 2018.

As the new year began I was absorbed in getting ready for our two month adventure to Nicaragua, a step into the unknown. A few days before we left I had a relapse of Vertigo, a very ungrounding experience. I’d only had it one other time in my life, seven years ago and wasn’t sure if traveling to another country in this condition was a good idea. Time was running out to make the decision to go or cancel the trip. I did the best i could to self remedy the issue and proceeded with getting ready. With all of this and dealing with the transition of living in completely new and different environment i hadn’t even thought about my intention for the year. Instead I’ve been focusing on riding the waves of trust & surrender to move through the fear and discomfort I’d been experiencing on and off.

During our first three weeks in Nicaragua we settled into a simple life in Estali, a fairly large city in the northern region of the country. The upside of being here is that it is a bit cooler and we’ve had the opportunity to assimilate to this country by living with a family, In what you would call a “home-stay”experience.

The downside of living in a large city is the intrusion to the senses. When you practice a lot of yoga, you become even more sensitive to sensations and the environment around you. My comfort zone of peace, quite and fresh air seems a million miles away. There is a constant stream of sounds that infiltrate every space. Everything from neighbors loud speakers booming latin beats, the cars with massive speakers on the hood announcing some product to buy or upcoming event, taxis & motorcycles honking, engines rumbling, roosters crowing, dogs barking neighbors talking, and Carlito crying or screaming for hours at a time is the daily norm. In addition to the noises, the smells have been particularly noticeable. As I mentioned in my first blog, one of the first things I noticed upon entering the country was a thick smokey pungent smell in the air. Though Managua was noticeably worse pollution wise, my nose is still bombarded regularly with this vile smell.  It seemed like the excessive smoke was from burning trash but Martha and Heyling assure me they do have a landfill or at least I think that’s what they said, and they pick up trash once week.  Where it actually goes remains a mystery, due to communication issues. Still I smell smoke several times a day and it’s not the pleasant smell of grilled meat. The neighbors apparently cook on a fire every day and I’m certain they burn plastic along with wood, because it’s the kind of burning smell that screams of toxicity. I’ve also seen large burning fields when we’ve hiked above the city. It’s  been confirmed by an english speaking friend of Heylings, that most people burn their trash.  Then there’s the smell of emissions from all the vehicles. Though many people walk, bike and ride horses, there is the usual city traffic but without the emission protections required in the US. One of the many regulations my husband is against and I am grateful for. The final disturbance to my senses is seeing excessive trash strone everywhere!! Along the streets, rivers & nearly every nook and cranny is trash. Though the small towns have waste baskets and I’ve seen signs telling people “no botemos basura” Don’t litter, it’s pretty much universally everywhere in Nicaragua. The cities, small towns and even in the remote mountain trails. I’ve actually watched people young and old simply throw their wrappers on the ground without a second thought.  The prolific use of plastic to this earth lovin’ momma is atrocious, even plastics bags are sold in plastic! Everything sold from a donut, piece of chicken, hunk of cheese are all sold in a plastic bags which of course end up as trash on the ground.

So let’s get back to my New Years intention. All this habitual noticing things that are displeasing to my senses have distracted me from the intention. It wasn’t until one afternoon after our usual morning routine we decided to take another walk to the east. We headed up the road that Uriah thought would take us to Jinotega, when he was still considering walking there over the mountains. Once we entered new territory heading up the hill, we began to see larger than normal amounts of trash. Apparently people were using this road as a dump, and by the smell this likely included dead carcasses. The smell was putrid, yet it was a pretty nice day out and we were happy to be walking and getting out of the house for a bit. It was on the way back when spirit sent me a message. I was gazing at all the trash and a dead skunk when all of sudden I see a heart shaped rock in front of me admits all this trash. There it was in plain sight to remind me, thank you spirit!


I’m grateful for this little reminder and all the moments in natures glory that help me to see how beauty can be found anywhere even amongst the trash. I can see it in the faces of the people, in the painted murals everywhere. And of course there is Mr. O by my side, always trying to make sure I’m okay, giving me a smile, cracking one of his usual jokes.  I’m truly blessed.

Since writing this blog, a week or so ago we had an incident. If your not following my husbands blogs, the short of it is that we finally left Estali to head out on the motorcycle to experience the last month driving all over the country and exploring the many beautiful locations this country has to offer. Unfortunately on our second day out, we tried to take a less traveled back road to short cut to the next town rather than backtracking to the highway. We accidentally took the wrong road and found ourselves in a very dangerous predicament which we survived but caused my husband to brake his ankle. IMG_1350

This was by far my most trying experience thus far. I honestly didn’t know if I had it in me to do what i needed to do to get out. It required helping push the motorcycle out of a spinning rut in the dirt on a 60 degree grade road, carrying my and his backpacks back up an extremely steep road! Since we were in the mountains and yes it was beautiful, I tried to concentrate on this and my mantras to give me strength. Spirit sent us an angle, a Nicaraguan man whom appeared out of nowhere when the motorcycle feel on my husband and he heard & felt the click of his leg braking and yelled out. I threw down our bags and tried to run to help him, but I was slow on that steep sloop and by the time i could see him, I saw the man helping, so I went back to get the backpacks. As I have a spine injury, just carrying  my own backpack was a struggle, adding his was nearly impossible but i kept moving. Once Uriah and the man navigated the motorcycle up the steep dirt road, he offered to pay our angle to come back down and help me carry up his backpack.  We made it out and spent the night in the highest town in Nicaragua. Did I find joy in this experience? No, just relief that we made it out alive and appreciation for those sweet souls that helped us.


(the proprietor of the place we stayed whom gave us a ride back down to a lower elevation town, about half way to Estali.)

We are now safely back in Estali. Uriah’s leg is broken, he now has a cast and needs to rest for the next three weeks, nearly the rest of our vacation.


(Francis, Martha’s sister that helped Uriah get medical attention promptly)

Although i had surrendered to this fact with peace, I began feeling some other emotions bubbling up under the surface. I won’t go into detail here, but let’s just say I hit an all time low Sunday evening. After expressing those feelings to a friend, and picking myself back up with my yoga practice, a shower and some determination, over the past few days I have been receiving many insightful blessings about myself interacting with others, and our human predicament.

Beauty, joy and pleasure can be experienced in many ways! It doesn’t always show up in a fancy package or an ecstatic feeling. It can be as simple as the satisfaction that you feel trying to communicate, accept and share with another human being with totally different ideas & ways of being in the world. It can be as simple as finding a heart shape rock in the dirt, a rainbow in the sky,


and asking a stranger how to say rainbow in Spanish “arco iris”, a bird landing on the clothes line, discovering painted murals around town, Murals of Nicaragua, sharing a meal with your new family, tending to your injured loved one, calling a friend or family member to tell them you love them, and on and on… You just need to be open to listen, see and feel these blessings in your heart. I’m grateful for this intention for 2018, I know it won’t always be easy to remember in difficult times, pero yo estoy feliz!

Managua to Estali_1/11-12

As we flew into Managua at night, I could see the immense sprawl of city lights. In the center were brightly colored lights of red, blue, yellow and green. I wondered if this was left over from Christmas or if they were a permanent fixture in the city. I’m not sure the size of they city, but it looks highly populated. Not surprising as it is the Capital.

Our entry into the country was flawless. We moved through customs very quickly and simply walked across the street to the Best Western hotel. Since we had such a long trip and arrived so late, Uriah sprung for this more expensive and nice hotel that Carlos recommended. This will likely be the one and only time to enjoy such creature comforts that most of us Americans take for granted. We luxuriated till the last moment, check out time 12 noon the next day!

We took a cab to the bus station where we intended to take a bus to Estili. The taxi drivers at the hotel charged $9 for the ride, Uriah haggled with a taxi driver on the road for $7. My husband always the frugile spender. One of the things I appreciate for this is how we are able to travel in the winter. There are many buses to many places, by which is how most people travel here. Some buses are express and some stop at every little town. Estali is about two hours north east of Managua on the express bus, I have no idea how long it would have taken on the other bus perhaps 4-5 hours. With God’s grace, as we walked toward the ticket counter, the bus driver looked at us and said express bus to Estali and tried to take my bag. I have no idea how he could have known that is where we wanted to go and I was amazed how quickly and simply it all happened. Before we knew it, we were sitting on the express bus ready to go. 

Behind us in line for the ticket and next to Uriah on the bus was a young woman from Austria. She was traveling alone. She had already traveled to Cuba and was heading to Costa Rica next. I didn’t get many details as they were behind me. I was sandwiched between a young man on the seat to the left and two other men sitting in the isle of the bus on little plastic stools. Being seated between these men made it more difficult to look out the window, but I did my best.
In Managua, the city looked crowded, dirty and very poor. The streets were filled with cars, trucks, buses, motorcycle taxis-consisting of a wooden seat attached to the front of the motorcycle, and horse drawn carts. All the houses and stores are pretty much the same concrete blocks and or bricks with a tin roof. Each small store primarily sold separate items from shoes, tortillas to auto parts. There may be and likely are some parts of the city that are nicer and more beautiful but we didn’t see any in our short stay.
As Uriah had told me before we came, there was much trash along the roads. However what was/is even more disturbing to me is the constant smell of smoke which I believe is from people burning their trash. Even when we were at the hotel I could smell it. At first I thought is was a forest fire or just car pollution, but it’s everywhere. I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but I actually preferred the smell of chlorine at the hotel pool over the constant smell of burning trash. I can’t imagine how people with asthma could deal with this. Nobody else seems to notice or be troubled by it but me. When we got out of the city and I started to see larger expanses of land, trees and green I immediately felt better. I started to even breath easier. However, every once in a while I would smell it again. A big swafting smell of something burning. Somthing I guess I will just have to get used to.
I didn’t try to talk to anyone on the bus, but I notice that I am now constantly thinking in Spanish. When I have a curiosity about something, I practice how I would ask in Spanish. Unfortunately when I do begin to speak, even though I think I know what to say, I get a confused look on the receivers face. I know that I have the correct words, so perhaps my pronunciation is way off.
It was very hot and humid in Managua and on the bus, so I was relieved to be going to Estali. It is a smaller city and in the mountains so it will be much cooler there. We arrived at about 3pm and asked a man to borrow his phone to call Martha, Carlos’s wife. We are renting a room and living with her and her two children Heyling (19yrs) and Carlito (2 yrs.) for the first part of our journey.
As we waited, Uriah went to buy an apple and I sat down next to an old women with some open seats for Uriah. As soon as I sat down, three young men whom looked like they were up to no good sat down surrounding me. There was something about the way they looked at each other and then me that seemed like they were targeting me. I said good afternoon and left. Now I want to make something clear and especially after I read Uriahs post this morning. My expressing thoughts and feelings of fear on my previous blogs is not about an unreasonable paranoia. I think my fear is similar to many people. I simply was expressing my inner process as I am a person whom is always trying to push myself to grow and expand. So although my intuition was telling me the boys were up to no good, I did not in fact feel afraid. I simply was aware.

After about 30 minutes or so Martha arrived. She doesn’t drive, so her neighbor and Carlitos God father, Alberto drove Carlos’s truck. We exchanged hugs and greetings and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening becoming acquainted with limited communication skills. The girls want to learn English and we want to learn Spanish, so with the help of our translator tools and our limited knowledge, we had a good time in our attempts. A note about translator tools. Just because the tool gives you a translation, doesn’t mean it’s the correct one. The online Spanishdict.com seems to be the most reliable. The Google translate App on my phone is fine for single words but sentences are problematic.
More about Estali later, time to go ex

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