Sunday, December 30, 2012

Week of Donnie’s Basic Graduation Trip

Week of Donnie’s Basic Graduation Trip Day 1 July 28 It is time to leave. I let Don and Ariana pack the car. The pain shooting down my leg is unbearable. I try hard not to complain. I am so frustrated though knowing deep down something is really wrong. As we are heading to the car Don notices a black cat run in front of him….then another runs in front of us in the car. We head off towards Chattanooga TN. We are enjoying the drive. I love looking at the rock walls. At our first rest stop we are barely ready for a break but need to give our legs a stretch. As Don is getting out of the car he starts to put his phone into his pocket…..He missed. It falls to the pavement; it has an otterbox on it. It doesn’t matter the inner screen shatters! We are now with out GPS, thank goodness I insisted on printing all the mapquest maps out. A very upset Don starts driving again on to Raccoon Mountain. We arrive to Raccoon Mountain.
It has a cave and a nice little campground. Oddly positioned right beside some million dollar looking homes. I have a feeling the campground was there first! The caves are called crystal caves. The whole place just glitters! The pavement in most of Georgia glitters also! We got the tents set up, no, I can’t say that Ariana set up both the tents for us. We hadn’t even gotten to really set things up yet when we hear thunder above us. All of a sudden we are running for the tents to get out of the rain. We realized after a few minutes the big church group of tents did not have the rain tarps on their tents. It was really sad to watch later as they pulled all of their things out to hang up wring out and throw away…. Boredom kinda of set in so we decided to go and check out the cave. Pretty much it was a neat cave. The best part was how much it glittered. I was hurting so much I was fine as long as we were walking. Anytime I had to stand still I felt as though I was going to pass out. We sat at camp I tried to get comfortable. We sat watching other campers. It was funny watching a couple set up their tent. The wind sent it flying into the woods they tried to set it back up. It was torn beyond repair. I don’t know where they got another one but they pulled out another one and tried again. It also was blown over, use stakes would be our recommendation. Rain soaked through all of the stuff inside, they zipped up the tent and got in the car again and left. They didn’t return that night! We were so anxious to get to Atlanta that we cooked a quick dinner and as soon as it got dark we went to bed! Day 2 July 29 We woke up a little defeated but ready to hit the road. Off to Stone Mountain. We arrived at Stone mountain only to be greeted with a $10 entrance fee plus camping fees. I was kinda of surprised it was the most expensive campground to begin with. So we decided to see how far the Aquarium was and see if we could find anything else. I have only passed through Atlanta before so we were a little nervous as we drove in and saw all of the bars on simple places windows, like a waffle house with barred windows. We still ate at the Waffle house though!
Oh dear where are we driving! Arriving at the Atlanta Aquarium I was excited. I have a piece of advice though. Buy your tickets with a debit card at a kiosk or pre-buy online.. If you are paying with cash you stand in a horrendous line. I have mentioned standing in one place is what hurts the most right. So we stand and stand in line. Finally to be told oh yeah now stand in this line that was just the pre line… REALLY yes, so finally we have our tickets. Only to be told they stand here for just a second so we can take your official Aquarium picture.
Oh that is the fakest smile on that picture! I really just wanted to scream or cry. I love it though the Aquarium is really great. Worth every second of torture to get inside. We were allowed to touch a sea anemone. It felt so cool. We watched otters play, beluga whales, sea turtles. I had a whale swim over my head. I didn’t get to see the albino alligator. It was so crowded. It was time for lunch. They have a cafĂ© so we got in line to get food. More standing and crowds I have never been bothered by. Until today. Standing there people on all sides, me barely able to think past the pain. I handed Don my tray and bolted out of there. I was so hungry but I couldn’t stand in another line at that moment. People are wall to wall there. I wish I would have had a young one in a stroller to create a buffer haha. I settled on a pretzel from a kiosk. Don and Ariana found me and we settled in for a tiny lunch before the dolphin show.
The dolphin show, you first stand in this line at the bottom of some escalators. They told us we should plan on being there 30 minutes early to get good seats. We are, I leaned against a pillar and waited. We are finally able to go only to stand in another line right outside the auditorium doors. Oh the standing….The floor was wet or I would have sat down. We get in and lets just say if you need to lose 50 lbs before you go. The tiny seats we squeezed ourselves into. I was ready to see some really cool tricks by some dolphins. Let me just say Georgia glitters everywhere. This was no ordinary dolphin show. It was a musical with singing glittery costumes and just wow! I thought Don was going to die. HE says if you love show tunes you just may love it! It says it was fabulous with quite a flair in his voice! I was just laughing it was the cheesiest thing I have ever seen in my life!! I have seen a lot of cheese. The dolphins were good so I did enjoy it. It was also sitting still for about 40 minutes. We just conituned to look at all the sea life, turles, jelly fish, stingrays that are bigger then me. Windows into the tanks that are 2 or 3 stories high. It is a must see place for sure. We decide to head out to try to find a place to sleep. The Atlanta area doesn’t have many campgrounds. With no smart phone to find one we were a little lost. We started heading back to Stone Mountain the back way hoping to find another place. We did see one odd campground sign. We pulled into the drive after just a few feet we realized we should have taken a slight left at the beginning. We were inside a southern cemetery. Driving through it we were feeling quite off kilter. We realized that the campground was just on the other side of the cemetery fence. It pretty much overlooked the cemetery. The place looked like something out of a horror movie. We decided that Stone Mountain was looking really Good no matter what the cost.
We finally figured out where we were and got back to SM. It was really nice after all. I would like to go back again with more time. We found a nice spot near the shower house. Ariana went and checked out the lake and gathered some pine cones for me. They have really good facilities. We had a great dinner and a little fire, I felt relaxed and was able to sleep. Day 3 July 30 Today was the day I was excited for, other then seeing Donnie of course. We were headed to Zoo Atlanta. I was going to see Ivan the gorilla.
He is a gorilla that our family first met in the State of Washington in the early 90’s. He had been kept at a local shopping/game center. He was in a tiny cage. We helped sign a petition to get him relocated to Atlanta. I was so looking forward to seeing him out in the open. I was in pain right from the beginning. Pretty much pain was constant, with occasional worsening. So my focus was look quickly at animals heading to Ivan’s exhibit. We were not disappointed by getting there quickly. Ivan was laying in the grass when we got to him. I just got misty eyed watching him. He slowly began waking up, stretching his arms into the air. Sitting up and looking around just saying good morning to the world. He then sat in his traditional position with his fist under his chin in a thoughtful pose. We stood around watching him for a while. Don even told people walking up Ivan’s story. We found out that August 20 Ivan passed away at the age of 50. I am so blessed that I got to go and say hello and goodbye to him. I know the rest of the zoo was nice and I would like to go back again. I just was mainly there for him. Ariana got to rock climb.
She really enjoyed that. I was so proud of her. She wasn’t sure whether she could do it or not, which made her nervous for basic training. She completed it like a boss! She is so much stronger than she knows. She was such a help on this whole trip. We were done with the zoo by lunch time. It really is not a huge zoo. So we decided to head on down to Fort Benning. We headed out on I-185, advice time, eat, pee and get some food before you hit this highway. It is long and BORING!!!!!!I had to stay awake to keep Don awake. We arrived at Fort Benning. It was so exciting driving through post just knowing Donnie was there somewhere. We keep seeing platoons and wondering is that him. It really never was his unit was in a part we never drove to! So on the other side of base was our next campground. Uchee creek we got our campsite paid for and headed out to set it up. We arrive at a small parking lot with a bathhouse. We see a sign saying no cars on campsite. So we decide to check it out. We follow a small trail into the woods. The campsites were raised from the ground by 2 feet. They were very small incredibly dirty. No water no electricity. There was a chain link fence between campsites and river to keep alligators out. We would have to carry everything from the car to campsite about 100 yards. Not happening with the way I felt, my pain level was so high. I started counting money and we headed back to find out if they had any cabins open.
We had hotel reservations in 2 days. So we got a cabin. The campsites at Uchee creek aren’t much but the cabins are really nice. A set of bunk beds, a full size bed. Kitchenette and a shower that we didn’t have to walk to! Although Don walked outside right after everything was settled to a little black cat staring at him!
I kinda lost it. I started laughing so hard. I was just so happy to have a bed and an ice pack. I loved seeing the moss flowing off the trees and a little armadillo running through the grass.
We cooked a good dinner, and I took a very painful shower and headed to bed. I was in such pain I felt like things were crawling on me. I tossed and turned most of the night. Day 4 July 31 We woke up feeling good after sleeping in a bed. I got up and realized it was not just my pain that caused the crawling feeling. I had bites of some kind all over my legs! Great still no sure what did it. There were a lot of spiders though. We didn’t do a lot that day. We did go over to the lake and Ariana got to see an alligator. We did go to the PX so Araina could get a visit in with her sister Andrea. I think I slept a lot that day. I believe Ariana and Don went and saw a movie. I really don’t know what happened that day. Breakfast lunch then dinner and sleep! It is moving day, we get to go to the hotel now. Day 5 August1 We got to the hotel, it was a nice little place. The people were very friendly. They let me know where places we needed to go were! We are in the hotel and I have had it. I broke down called the insurance and headed for the closet medical center. It was really a cool mec center. They were very up to date which made me feel good. They confirmed something was probably really wrong with my back. They gave me good meds to get me through until we got home. I also got a steroid shot. I was now at least in a bliss of medication. We decided to go to the National Infantry Museum.
I was nearing the end of my tolerance. I let Don and Ariana push me in a wheelchair. I felt so tired and so discouraged at this point. I knew I had to do something.This was really a spectacular stop. It leads you through all the wars and battles that our soldiers have fought in. There is a room that takes you back like you were in Vietnam, they even have a warning on the outside door that it may cause flashbacks enter at your own risk…That part made my tummy hurt. With the meds in my system, some of the displays that were realistic made me very dizzy! We had to check out the local Wal-Mart. Got us some snack food and I bought a new comfy dress. There was no way I could wear the fitted dress I had originally brought and heels haha! It was also very hot! After that we went to relax at the hotel only one more night until we get to see Donnie! We got a text from him that was nice. Also got the first picture from him! He looked so good! Movies on tv and medicine I was OUT! The best sleep this whole trip! Next Up Graduation Day!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Pain and Packing July 23-27

Pain and Packing July 23-27 So I have returned from girls trip. There is a week until our big vacation to go see Donnie at his Graduation. I realize now something is really wrong. I have had twinges in my back since I put a box under the stairs after the North South Trail hike. I am now having to have others unpack the van. I am struggling to gather everything for Georgia trip. I am so thankful Ariana was here. She helped so much. The pain was not really in my back. It was a strange electrical pain going from my hip to my toes. I looked lots of things up and it appeared to be sciatica.
I am prepared to head to Georgia not matter what. In pain I am packing. July 28th 2012 we are leaving!

Girls Camping Trip July 2012

After completing the LBL hike I really wanted to show more people my love for the area. So I got Ariana, Lori, Jenn, and Kristi to go camping at Piney. Beth, Andrew and Aedan joined us also. Rachel, Billy and Aaron went on their first camping trip. They left ahead of us. It was a crazy few days for them. They faced storms and storms sirens going off the few days before we got there.Jessica, Billy's sister came as her first camping trip ever! I woke up so happy, I was quickly loading the van. This is when some of the first twinges of my upcoming injury really started. I have always had Donnie to help carry boxes. I guess I need to be more careful. But I got all loaded up and we rested and waited for Lori to get off work. We headed down, Lori was so nervous going. It was really great nice sun shiny day. Then 4 miles from the campground an absolute downpour stated. I mean pouring can’t see driving rain! It was no problem for me I knew it would be fine. I laugh thinking of the looks on Lori and the girls faces. They didn’t know what to think!
We got there in time to change and run to the lake. Swimming there is one of my life’s most relaxing moments. I have swum there since I was 5yrs old. When I run or walk on that soft white sand then into the green water of that lake any stress I have just melts away! It took a few minutes and some help from Rachel but we got the big tent set up and things unloaded. We walked around the site some just for them to check it out. The biggest negative of this trip were the bathrooms at Piney. They had actually torn one down closest to our site. I was way not used to that. We had to use a port a potty eeww!
We sat and watched the sun set it was so nice. By the time we finished swimming my girls had dinner for us it was really nice. Of course they were a little stressed out but I have to say it was kinda nice to get there last and not have to worry about cooking. We had corned beef and cabbage cooked over an open fire. Yum! It felt amazing sleeping under the stars. I woke up and was ready to make breakfast only to discover I had made the most rookie camping mistake. I had left my bread basket on the picnic table. Now I have tons of critter stories from LBL, so I totally knew better. I am not sure what it was but something tore a hole in the top of my basket. It bypassed the potato chip packets to move onto the sesame seed hamburger buns! Oh well.
I still love bacon and eggs, they are best over an open fire. I don’t think they taste that good any other time. My griddle also is perfect for pancakes. I really enjoyed having everyone there to enjoy all the sights with. Watching my grandsons see the campground for the first time was precious. Aedan really enjoyed swimming in the lake. I do say swimming because he got his little legs going. Everyone discovered a fun ativity in the lake, mussel hunting. We gathered a bag full and cooked them over the fire.
I did not try any. Kinda, to scary for me. You will have to ask them if they liked them 
The last night we had a concert at the Shelter house with CANTAGEUS (Can’t age us) Haha! They were really pretty good. I got to chase Aedan who was chasing bugs. He loved the mayflies. It was really fun because they really won’t hurt you so he could chase and touch all he wanted. It was really funny when we chased a huge spider. At one point he decided he was done with one of them and just stomped right on it! Aedan also loved playing on the slide. Watching him as such a big kid not my baby grandson was the coolest ever! Ariana and Jenn enjoyed playing some volleyball with some kids. Finally after the concert we took headed back to camp. Some of them hung out making smores. I was really more tired then I am used to. Sleeping under the stars was still awesome but for the first time ever I felt pain as I slept. We got to have a great last day also. We went swimming, small walks, and just relaxing. After we got all packed up we still had some things to see. We had to stop and get some pictures of the forest fire. We have had a horrible dry season and so huge sections in LBL had burned this year.
We showed the girls the fire tower. They loved climbing up parts to see out. Arian was having fun also just getting to show what she had seen earlier in the year with Donnie.
Our last stop on the way out was Colson picnic area. We stopped and made them lunch like I had eaten on the hike. I don’t know if they liked it or were just humoring me. It was really a wonderful trip. I hope to set up a time where a bunch of us can go camping in the future as well.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

LBL N/S Hike 2.1 day 3

LBL N/S Trail Hike 2.1 day 3 We started day 3 at the Great Western Iron furnace.
We passed by Bison Hideaway On Ginger bay road. The Bison were all hiding from us! Thank goodness before they lost signal or we had gotten down the actual trail. We realized we hadn’t put the stove into the backpacks. That would have made lunch a little difficult to cook! We started off and the path was really a great path. It was much drier so no mud! The weather was cool but sunny, so it was really nice to be hiking. About 3 miles in we came to the Iron Mountain Camp and the fire tower.
I could not have slept in the shelter; it was kind of freaky to me. Also we were to close to the fire tower.
The fire tower house and barn were really creepy. Things from when it was used were still there. Papers and couches it looked so abandoned that you just felt like you were walking into a horror movie!
We did see a nest of baby birds up in the shelter. One little baby had hopped out and was sitting in the poison ivy.
Don didn’t feel so bad about his shoes when we saw on the ground an entire sole from someone’s boot. They had hiked in the mud the day before us. We kind of laughed at the invisible person because they always walked straight in the muddiest parts. We always knew where not to step because this person had slid and sank in the mud so much. As we continued on we came to amazing pine forest. I loved seeing all the tall pine trees. You just had to stop and look up every once in a while at the majesty of the trees. Also the wind was picking up so we also were on the look out for widow makers (branches weakened by the storms)! The softness of the needles was really nice to walk on. The piney smell just filled your nose. I could have popped a tent up and stayed right there. We thought about the fire risk though.
We made it to Tharpe Road, this is the final leg of the Hike, there is no road to be picked up at so once you start you gotta just go the last 8 miles! We went a head and stopped for lunch. There was a nice little bench so we were able to take a good break sitting off the ground. We were ready to finish so we began the last leg. It was a wide nice path so it was easy walking. We just kept waiting for the turn on the path heading to the last couple of miles. That seemed to take forever. It was 6 miles but we just kept trudging on. We walked up hills, down hills, over dry creek beds and thru pine and regular woods. Finally we got to the last 2 miles.
Donnie and Ana met up with us. We gave them our packs. You feel so light after you take your packs off. I was so excited to almost be done I just took off walking faster then I had the whole time. I was giddy to be so close. It was still 2 miles though. So as we got closer Donnie and Ana ran on ahead to take pictures of our finish. All of a sudden the path thinned to a small steep trail. We smelled the strong odor of a skunk. All I could think was no way did we come this far to get sprayed by a skunk the last 100 yards. Thank goodness that didn’t happen! I was racing to the end! Glad to have completed it. Also really glad to know a flush toilet was right across the road!!
LOL We went across the street and took our final Hike Photo at the South Welcome Center! Yeah!!

LBL N/S Hike 2.1 Day 2

Hike 2.1 Day 2 We woke up to a very cold morning. Making the coffee that morning even the propane was cold!!
The rain had stopped. Don unpacked the cooler and totes and was off to Wal-mart! Donnie Ana and I started getting breakfast and cleaning camp. The gatekeeper came by and checked on us. He let us know that the rain had moved out maybe just a sprinkle left. YAY!! We got out the propane stove and made bacon and eggs. The smell was so good and tasted great.
I felt a little guilty for having them without Don. The cowboy from last night came and said goodbye and good luck. When he left we got all their leftover wood. He had left a huge stack of old barn wood. We were gathering tiny sticks and stuff to start a fire. The neighbor behind us came over and poured some kind of fuel on the wood for us and really got it going. We aren’t sure what kind of fuel it was it was thick and green?
Oh the fire felt great. We were able to dry the blankets and pillows that had been rained on. We just sat huddled around the fire warming up and waiting. When yet another neighbor came over and offered hot coffee or hot cider! It felt really great this is the way camping had always been for me. People taking care of one another. Not being ignored like we were at Sugar Bay the first time. Donnie and Ana went and got Hot Cider made fresh for them and got to meet the ladies horses. I felt just wonderful! As we were preparing to leave camp tents had been cleaned and packed when a mystery arose. Donnie has lost a sock! How do you lose a sock when we only have limited places we have been. We were all contemplating where it could be when I looked down and there it was in his pants leg! What a funny way to start the day! Donnie and Ana take us back to Fords Bay road and we begin to hike. This particular part of the trail is just pretty normal walking. Had it not rained the night before! Our feet were sliding in mud. We had to walk around thick mud and would get it on our shoes the added weight was not okay!
We came to one section where the trail went off in five different directions. Thank goodness for the white diamond markers. We were also thankful for the advice the Cowboy had given us. We came upon the first logging area. It was very confusing. The trails seemed to go everywhere and now where. He had told us that the one that least looked like the trail wad the one we needed. I was so confused and nervous we didn’t even get picture. It was pretty crazy to see. All I could think of was Fern Gully and the monster eating the forest. We stopped at Blossey Cemetery for lunch. It was interesting because there was this sign:
And the Cemetery only had one stone in it.
It was a nice place to stop and eat though. Open at the top of the hill. We had decided that the kids would have a check point today. So they met us at road 165, the road that Donnie and Ana had gone to the day before! I felt better having a check point. Right after our meet up we realized a bridge was missing so we followed the horse trails for a little while. We continued on happy to cross back over to the other side of the Trace. We crossed over and ran into the detour! We had to walk the road until Ginger Bay Road because there was a major logging and controlled burn area. So we walked on down to where Donnie and Ana were waiting for us. We decided from there to drive on down to Piney campground for the night. This is the campground I have went to since I was a little girl so I am very comfortable there. We again set up camp and started a fire then went to bed! The end of day 2

North South Trail LBL Hike 2.1

Night Before We arrived at Sugar Bay to restart the hike. I was very nervous and excited! We right away set up tents in the daylight and gathered wood to start a great fire. There is plenty of wood to be gathered thanks to all the storms that have happened in the LBL area. Once it started getting dark we walked down to the boat ramp to look at the stars. They were very pretty. We all headed to bed so we could get an early start in the morning. Of course I had to get up and pee about 3 am, thanks diabetes!! So I walk with the flashlight to the bath house, I looked up and was in utter amazement. The stars were so bright, I almost fell over looking up at them. You could see every star out there! I had to go back to the tent and wake everyone up to see them. So much for sleeping good before the hike! So we finally went fully to sleep. N/S LBL Hike 2.1 Day 1
Day one started out pretty uneventful. We walked around a few bays and saw beautiful views of the lake.
We saw a lot of tornado damage. Massive trees knocked down in huge sections. You could see where the bark had been stripped off. Trees around had the tops snapped off.
Really noticed the poison ivy and oak had sprung up quite a bit in the 2 weeks since I had been here. Don’s shoe started giving him trouble, it began to split... not good. He carried on though. We made it to Golden Pond/Planetarium! I was so happy that was the first goal. Although for me it was to early to stop. Maybe I should have just stopped. We decided that we would go to Wranglers Campground for the night. So I set up for us to go ahead a walk five more miles. It was only 240pm so we had plenty of time. Since we only had a few more miles we took out our extra clothes, dropped the stove and some other weight from our packs to walk even faster. We set up for Donnie and Ana to pick us up. (They were our drivers so we had lighter backpacks and could walk further each day.) We said Fords Bay Road, and then we would head to Wranglers camp. So off we went on a really lovely wide path. That didn’t last long. It turned to a very narrow windy poison ivy filled trail. At one point the color on the trail tags had faded so they were yellow. I was panicked for a few minutes because the tags are supposed to be white. I had to climb over a very big fallen tree covered in ivy! I was so not happy. We were okay after about a quarter of a mile we saw a white tag. It was getting colder, but we were getting closer to where we had set to meet the kids. We got the road, no kids. We tried calling no answer. We have gone 12.91 miles so we are pretty tired. We keep texting and calling. Now the rain begins, so the Trace is only a ½ mile away so maybe they are waiting at the Trace. Don's shoe has busted across the bottom. His foot is hurting now so I head up there. No car! I am mad as a hornet. So then I decide Okay we had told them to hang out at Closon overlook so it is only another ½ mile away. So I call Don and I let him know I am walking up there. No luck. Now I am struggling between being angry and concerned, the Trace is a very winding and hilly road. Are they okay? An hour passes, the cold rain is soaking me. I have left my pack with Don so I don’t even have my jacket at this point. We decide Don should carry both packs up to Colson overlook so we can at least start a fire in the picnic area. We are really regretting taking all the extras out of our pack! We finally get a hold of them basically we were not looking at the same map and Donnie went to the next road the went to Wranglers Campground. It was a paved road about 8 more miles down the Trace. We were only about 3 miles from the campground where we were! We were on a gravel road that did not have signage for the campground. We decided right away we must use the same map!! I was still so frustrated and freezing to the bone that I really had no desire to talk yet. I was sure Don was gonna call it off. We finally make it to Wranglers campground.
They are so nice get us a great spot near the shower house. I let them set up camp and get a fire started while I go shower. When I first walked in I was nervous because it was push buttons showers. Sometimes they do not heat up well. This one did thank goodness. So I stood under the streaming water and just cried. I did however also warm up and gain some resolve! We decided that Don would leave first thing in the morning drive on to a Wal-Mart find some shoes and we would get this hike done. I loved sitting by the fire that night listening to all the horses around us neighing. And watch the wranglers brushing and caring for their horses. One cowboy came ever and was telling us about a confusing area on the trail. We would face tomorrow. I was very grateful that. We ate and headed to bed rain came down all night long. A little leaked in on both tents getting blanket and pillows wet. I woke up once in the night to find Don writhing in pain he had a pressure headache. So I got him meds, it was so cold getting out from under blankets was not easy. I actually put my head under blankets to sleep. At this point we really were so physically and mentally exhausted it didn’t matter we went to sleep. End of Day One!!