Posted in Adventure, nature, photography

A Little Bit of Adventure

Do you ever like to hop in the car, and go for a drive? Leaving the city far behind, just to enjoy the passing scenes of nature? Sometimes, if you travel far enough and the last remnants of civilization are no longer visible, you can gain a new perspective on life. No houses, no people, and not many cars. Only endless hills, and mountains stretching out farther than the eye can see. When you are suddenly outside of your normal environment, many things in life feel trivial. Arguments, grievances, or unpleasant matters feel so small compared to the vast expanse before you. It’s a lovely feeling, especially when society is pressing so hard on every side and clouding our vision, doing its very best to control our emotions, according to what it says matters. Sometimes you need to break away from all of that, and steep yourself in the beauty of God’s creation. It can help reorient your heart and mind. A few days ago, my family and I did just that. We piled into the car, and headed West for a bit of good old fashioned exploring.20200823_122112

We went to an area I’ve never visited much, so everything felt new and interesting. And after leaving the city behind, the great wide nothingness of the desert opened before us. It was a grand, beautiful nothingness, which is my favorite thing to see. After driving for nearly two hours we finally came to a town. It wasn’t a big town, just a little blip in the middle of the desert. Sadly the boarded up windows, and old crumbling architecture showed the tragic state of small towns these days. As cities grow wider and wider, the little ol’ towns that once thrived are slowly becoming extinct.

By this time, everyone was starting to feel hungry, and a little cranky (if I do say so). But in such a small town, we didn’t have many options. I’m quite a staunch McDonald’s hater, but if there is one thing I know, when you’re hungry in the Middle of Nowhere, USA, McDonald’s is pretty darn good. Needless to say, our bellies were filled, and our hearts lifted for the rest of the journey.20200829_091001

After a few more miles the terrain became steeper, and more foresty. We passed a sign that said, Ice Cave This Way, so of course we had to go. After turning off the highway onto a dirt road, we came to a stop outside of an old trading post, turned gift shop. Tall pine trees surrounded the grounds, and a few little cabins dotted the area. It was the perfect little forest getaway. I explored a bit, nabbed a couple of pine cones because I just couldn’t help myself, and enjoyed the mountain air before starting on the hike to the cave.20200823_111506(1)

“Four-hundred yards, and seventy two steps down,” the lady at the front desk said. That sounded like a breeze, until we remembered that it was summer, and there would be no breeze. Nonetheless, we ambled along the path, strictly adhering to the rules to not leave said path at any time. Even though I desperately wanted to climb across the lava rocks. Oh, did I mention the lava? Before arriving at the cave, we drove for miles through a sea of lava rock. At one point, I had to wonder if the massive volcanic eruption was what caused the dinosaurs to go extinct all those years ago. Volcanoes are fearsome wonders to be sure, and I’m glad whichever volcano once existed there, is no longer active. (For the time being, anyway.)20200823_111604(1)

After traversing some four-hundred yards, we arrived at the cave entrance. I wasn’t sure what to expect because it was allegedly an ice cave… in the middle of the desert. Pushing doubts aside, we began to descend the seventy two steps. The creaky old wood was a bit questionable, but I tried to ignore that, and seventy two steps didn’t sound terribly hard. (More on that later.)

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Something strange began to happen the lower I went.

During the first few steps the sun was beating down on us, and it was very hot—but as I stepped down one peculiar, particular step…WHOOSH. We suddenly felt an arctic wind blow over us. It was so shocking, I had to step back up and come down again. As we went down the remainder of steps the temperature kept plummeting. I don’t know exactly how cold it was, but apparently the temperature in the cave never exceeds 31 degrees (Fahrenheit), thanks to the thick rock walls, and perfect shape of the cave to capture the frigid air. When we arrived at the bottom, the cave opened up before us and there was a hug slab of green ice. Yes, green! According to the information pamphlet it’s apparently caused by Arctic algae. There’s a lot of history regarding the cave. Ancient Indians once mined the ice, and made their dwellings in the caves of the other lava tubes nearby. (Did I mention the cave was actually an old lava tube?) Many years later, settlers also mined the ice until the practice was stopped to preserve the cave. 20200823_113137

Also according to the pamphlet, the circular walls of lava rocks we noticed along the path in some of the other lava tube/caves, were remnants of the Anasazi Indians who lived in the region many hundreds of years ago. (And if you’ve never heard of the Anasazi, there are many mysteries related to the ancient tribe.) After basking in the glorious arctic air, it was time to head back to base camp. Remember when I said seventy two steps wasn’t all that bad? Well that was going down. I had forgotten that in the mountains the elevation was a bit higher than at home, and boy did I feel it. Seventy two steps never felt so far or  so painful. When I reached the top, I had to take a break and remember how to breathe normally again. My poor heart was pounding out of my chest.20200823_112145

Back in the car and on the road again, we continued our excursion into the wilds. We came to yet another town, this one even smaller than the last. My dad said there was even a lake there. But after seeing no evidence to support that fact, I doubted that his memory was serving him correctly. We searched and hunted and followed some dilapidated signs and finally found the parking lot for this evasive lake. We parked, and still saw no sign of a lake. But I knew that it must be somewhere hidden behind all of the brush, and shrubbery, so I took it upon myself to hunt it down. This time I brought my water bottle, and again, headed out into the blazing sun.

As my steps took me deeper and deeper into the thicket, I couldn’t help but wish I was back inside that dark cave where I could be nice and frozen like the ice. But just as I began to lose all hope and call this lake search a farce, I climbed up a steep embankment, and behold! A lake! A big, shiny, glorious lake! (Reservoir, to get technical.) It truly exceeded my expectations. It was still blisteringly hot, but just the sight of the water made me feel better. It smelled very swampy and, and looked a bit gooey, but I’ll take what I can get. We took lots of pictures, explored the rocky shores, imagined what it would be like to jump in, and then decided to make the trek back to the car. I’m glad I didn’t give up on my search for this hidden place, because it was a treasure indeed.20200823_132005

By this time we were all pretty tired and still had a couple hours on the road to get home so we decided to head out. But alas, we took a wrong turn on a dirt road, and ended up on someone’s “private” property. The owners were none too happy about it. We apologized as best we could, then left as quickly as possible. But not before getting chewed out for allegedly running over some plants, (which looked suspiciously like weeds, if you ask me). Unfortunately, the hostile encounter left a bad taste in our mouths, but we tried not to dwell on it.20200823_134726

Speaking of dwelling, just when we thought we’d seen all the interesting wonders there were to see in one day, we spotted some “prehistoric Indian dwellings” high up on the cliffs. A little plaque said they were some 800 years old! (Yet more remnants of the Anasazi, a.k.a., Ancestral Puebloans.) It’s fascinating to imagine what life looked like back then. To think there were whole civilizations that once thrived in these lands, and people who lived just like you and me is amazing to consider.

Eventually we made it home, and I was grateful to have air-conditioning once again, since I don’t have the luxury of an arctic ice cave in my backyard. It was a long day, but I’m grateful for all the sights and sounds I was able to experience. 20200823_130843

I hope you’re enjoying the last bits of summer, and spending time with your family, and maybe getting out of the city to enjoy the majesty nature has to offer you. It really is good for your soul! Blessings to you, my friend.

Have you gone on any adventures this summer? Or explored any ancient wonders lately? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

Posted in Adventure, nature, photography

More Mountain Mishaps

A few weeks ago, I went on another mountain adventure. Or should I say- misadventure? It may seem like mountains and I don’t quite get along, but I can assure you, we like each other very much. We just tend to have a lot of mishaps, together. (Read here about my last excursion.) This time though, might just take the cake, for being the mightiest misadventure yet. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves…

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My sister had the day off and planned a hiking trip with a friend. It was supposed to be a hike to a ghost town. Since I had work, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go, but the prospect of seeing a real-live ghost town, was very enticing. So last minute, I was able to get the day off. Woohoo!

Unfortunately, my other sister wouldn’t be coming along due to a recent dental procedure, (I’ll spare you the details…). Though she kindly leant me her very expensive camera, to document the trip. Early the next morning, the three of us hopped in the car, and headed out to see this mysterious, ghost town.

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We were told that the hike is considered to be ‘intermediate’ and would be about three and a half miles, round-trip. I thought it sounded like a fair match for my abilities. I brought lots of water, a first aid kit, and a few other,  ‘just-incase’ items. When we arrived, it was still early morning and a bit chilly; I knew that would change later, so I enjoyed the cool air, while I could.

After only a few minutes in, we saw a serious issue ahead. The path forked. We had only seen one sign, (back in the parking lot) which had gotten us to where we were. Luckily, though, we had a book in our possessionwith “directions” to our destination. An old book, with simplistic, if not primitive, instructions. It went something like,  ‘After you pass this field, go right. And when you have passed that stream, go left.’ Clear and concise, right?

After an agonizing attempt at deciphering the directions, we did as the book suggested, and took the path to the right, though my gut was uneasy.  Nonetheless, we forged ahead, even with our doubts and uncertainties. The path was pleasant and peaceful. We passed a camp ground and a small stream,  just like the book said we would. But ever so slightly, and hardly noticeable at first, the trail began shrinking.

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Do you see a trail anywhere?

The terrain was getting more and more, rough. And at points, the trail would disappear altogether, and we’d have to wade through bushes, and ravines, to meet it again. The further we went, the more sure we were, that we had taken a wrong turn. So after climbing up a very steep hillside, and leaving the trail behind altogether, we decided we had to do something. GPS was finicky in the area, but after a few attempts, we got a signal.

Our suspicions were confirmed. We were definitely NOT on the right path. But we didn’t seem to be too far off, and thought, if we could just veer a bit to the west, we might bump into the correct trail. So we forged on, trekking uphill once more. When we checked the GPS again, we weren’t any closer. By this time we all agreed that our only option was to go back, and start again from the beginning. We had been traveling for over an hour in the wrong direction. Ouch.

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My ‘sloth’ sister.

With my energy level tanking, and several rough slides, and surfs down the mountain, I decided to employ the help of a sturdy stick, which was tremendously helpful in our slippery decent. We got plenty of scrapes and scratches, as thorns and twigs snagged at our skin and clothes along the way. Tired, grouchy, and by this time quite hot, we reached that cursed split in the trail, (another hour and a half later). After scouting around more throughly, we spotted a small map on the side of a tree, and we were shocked by what it showed. The path we had taken, was marked by a black line, snaking up the mountain. Black, indicated that the trail level was EXPERT!

I am proud to say, that I can now call myself an expert hiker, since I survived that trail. Just barely, though.

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That’s not creepy…

But the story isn’t over yet. With the help of our little friend, GPS, we started out once again, on the correct trail. It was hot, and we were tired and a bit discouraged, but we weren’t going to give up. We came here to see a ghost town and we weren’t leaving until we found it. The trail was definitely easier now, but still challenging. The path cut steadily upwards, and as we climbed higher, so did the temperature. Between the long stretches of burning hot sun, every small piece of shade felt like heaven. My dear old sister began walking at the pace of a prehistoric sloth. (I have no idea if such a thing existed, but if so, it probably would have walked faster than her.) Every fifty feet, she had to stop and take a break and would refuse to move, until I threatened to drag her behind me. Fortunately, these breaks did allow me to take some photographs. I myself, wanted to give up, but with my trusty stick in hand, I persevered. I imagined that I was Gandalf, leading the way through Mirkwood, with the help of my magical staff. That helped a little.

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My wizard’s staff.

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After another torturous two hours, of muscle twisting climbing, we saw the first actual hint that we were getting close. The “hint”, took the form of an ‘ancient red car’, as the book described. And the second hint, was an old wooden sign with the word, ‘hotel’ etched on it, and an arrow pointing ahead. With the teeny-tiny, bit of energy we had left, we forged on toward the abandoned ghost hotel. We noticed small remnants of civilization; just broken bits of debris, really. Despite the exhaustion, our hearts still stirred with some amount of excitement at the prospect of finding this ghost town. But then, we ran into another group of hikers, who were heading down the trail and, bluntly delivered the news. That pile of debris we had just passed, well… that was the so-called ‘town’.  It couldn’t be.

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…And the disappointment of the year goes to…

An old car, and some old boards, was a ghost town? It seemed too cruel to be true. But alas, the truth really does hurt. (In the knees, especially.) We had hiked for four exhausting hours, and were rewarded with a pile of old sticks. Our only consolation, was that we need go no further. We could finally have our lunch, and have a well deserved rest. Before hiking another two hours back to the car, that is.

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Worth nearly 7 hours of pain and hardship? I think not.

There you have it folks. If you thought this tale would have some kind of redeeming reward at the end, you are sure to be disappointed. But I can assure you, you won’t be nearly as disappointed as we were. The one small takeaway though, is that if you asked me beforehand, if I thought I could go on a nearly seven hour hike, I would answer with a resounding, no. But I surprised myself, and finished strong. And got some pretty good photos along the way. Yay me!

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In hindsight, it was quite a spectacular adventure and I’m glad I took it; misadventure, though it was. (I hope it was a bit entertaining for you too!)

P.S. If you happen to hear about a ghost town in the mountains, don’t believe it.
Trust me.

Thanks for reading,

Lady S

 

Posted in Adventure, photography

Spring At Last

For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12

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Spring has arrived, at long last. It’s become visible in the small green sprouts, poking out through the old leaves, and the small buds forming on the trees. Winter wasn’t much in terms of coldness, and snow, it was very dry and mild. Nonetheless, I’m excited to have leaves on the trees once again, and to see colors breaking up all the dull brown.

With every new season, there comes with it, its own set of tasks and duties.

One of spring’s first tasks is yard work. Lots and lots of yard work. Through the winter, the garden rests, and so do I. There’s very little that needs tending, but in the spring, oh my! The soil needs to be turned, beds need to be cleared, debris needs to be raked up, and plans need to be made. I don’t think I’ve ever really “liked” yard/garden work, but recently, I’ve really come to enjoy it.

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Another of my spring tasks, and one of the biggest undertakings of the season, is brushing out my dog’s fur, which may not sound like a big deal, but let me tell you, he has a lot of fur. Two layers, to be exact. Come spring/summer, he sheds an entire coat, (his winter insulation) and it takes me almost the entire summer to brush it all out before it starts growing back again. In the end I’m left with big bags full of ‘wool’. So much so, that if I knew how to spin, I could make enough yarn to turn it into a sweater. Who needs alpacas, anyway?

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Look at him, not a care in the world!

Spring is also very busy for me, because it means I go back to work, where my job-title is planter-in-chief. I work seasonally in a greenhouse, and in the early part of the year, we work fast, and furiously, to get thousands of flowers, and vegetables planted. All this must be done in time for folks to purchase the plants, and get them in the ground of their own gardens. Fortunately, the “growing season”  in the nursery is only about four months. But let me tell you, it’s a very tough four months! But I love my job, and wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

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Each one of these has been planted, and placed by hand. (My own, and a couple others.)

Spring also means it’s my birthday, dun, dun dun. Which is both good, and bad, I guess. Good because, I get cake and presents. Bad because, who actually likes getting older every single year, and making the announcement to the entire world? This year is an especially dreaded one, because it happens to be a landmark birthday. I will be exactly two decades old. Perhaps it’s time to start saving for my funeral, and begin thinking about my will? Who will I leave all my books to?
I suppose I’ll get over my melancholia at some point. I mean, next year it’s just going to come round again, and I’ll have to bemoan the fact that I’ll be older still. I’ll never get used to this whole ‘growing up’ thing. Bleh.

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And finally, the next not so pleasant, sign that spring has sprung, is the timely arrival of my allergies. The loathsome side effect of this thing called ‘nature’. I actually begin to feel it in my very cells. Tissue and allergy meds become my constant companions. My face can get itchy, and my eyes can swell shut, but that’s just par for the course, right? Who’s complaining?

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In short, spring is probably my favorite time of year. It’s a nice in-between, where the days are warm, and the nights can be a little chilly. The trees are pink and flowery, and I can make grandiose plans for summer, all before the sweltering heat of summer sets in. For now, its time to enjoy my time time outdoors, and be grateful for my opportunity to see the world wake up.

So, just wanted to take a moment to commemorate the changing of the seasons, and what that entails for me. I hope that this spring will be a good one for you, (or Autumn, for my pals ‘down under’), and that you will take some time to touch, see, smell all the beauty that is, spring.

Thanks for reading, Lady S

 

 

 

Posted in photography

An Ode to Autumn

Oh, Autumn, you are upon us once again.
You’ve moved in so subtly, until your presence was quite unmistakable.
I could sense your arrival on the wind; from the scent of rotting leaves, smoking wood fires, and a cool crispness in the air, so tangible.
I could hear you too, in the chilly winds rustling the papery leaves, brittle, yet still clinging to the creaking trees; in the hoot of owls calling to one another, deep in the night, and in the buzz of busy bees preparing for winter.
But most of all I could see you, in the shortened days, bursting with the brightest shades of purple, red, orange and yellow, transforming every growing thing. And I could see you also, in the inky black crows, lurking amongst the trees.
It is time to bring out our beloved hats, scarves, and sweaters, which I have missed dearly,
and spend our days wandering and exploring in the brisk, exhilarating air.
And though I may be a bit sad to part with our dear old Summer, I am pleased to see you, and I bid you WELCOME!
I look forward to the many nights spent in, curled up with a warm cup of tea, and a good book or two.
And now that I’ve shared my welcome greeting, please make yourself at home; our time together will be short, as Winter is heading this way, so I hear.

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Yours Truly,

Lady S

Posted in Book Reviews

Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne

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Professor Otto Liedenbrock is an eccentric, and esteemed boffin, (person engaged in scientific research), of Hamburg, Germany. One day, he discovers a slip of paper, fallen from an old manuscript, written in an ancient runic code. Sure, that it will lead to an incredible discovery,  he stops at nothing until he cracks the code. When the message is revealed, Liedenbrock prepares to depart immediately to the destination mentioned.
Together with his unwilling, yet ambitious nephew, Axel, and indomitable guide, they make their way to Iceland, where the true journey will begin. Their travels will result in one of the most remarkable discoveries of the nineteenth century.

5/5 stars

This was the first Jules Verne book that I actually enjoyed AND finished. 
Written from Axel’s point of view, I was pleasantly surprised by his humorous, reluctant, and dramatic personality. The exchanges between uncle and nephew, were very silly and entertaining. There were many times that I found myself laughing out loud, or smiling, while reading.
Their relationship was reminiscent of the one between Sherlock, and Watson, from the BBC show Sherlock.
Professor Liedenbrock, with his strange ways, and wildly excited attention was much like that of Sherlock.
Counterbalanced by Axel, who is quick to point out the dangers, and risks, (though he is unfortunately ignored).  Yet he too, eventually finds himself as interested and invested in their schemes, as his uncle.  The pace did slow a bit in the second half of the book, but being that it was such a short read, it didn’t bother me.

If you haven’t read many classics, or are perhaps intimidated  by them, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, is a fun, and easy read.  A true classic filled with adventure, and discovery; you should definitely give it a try.

 

Posted in Book Reviews

The Mermaid’s Sister, by Carrie Anne Noble

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One, of them was delivered by a stork, another was delivered in a seashell, and a third, was found beneath an apple tree. Such is the story of the three orphans, that Auntie shares with Clara, Maren, and their best friend, O’Neill.
Clara, and her sister Maren, lead quiet lives in their cozy cottage on the secluded Llanfair Mountain. They spend their days frolicking in the woods, gathering herbs for Auntie’s potions, and awaiting the day that O’Neill returns from his travels.
But, when Clara, discovers shimmering scales growing beneath her sister’s skin, she soon realizes the terrible truth: Maren, is becoming a mermaid!
Not only that, if Maren doesn’t get to the ocean soon, she’ll die.

For the first time ever, Clara leaves home, with O’Neill, to take their mermaid girl to the sea.
Their travel is not without it’s struggles; along the way they have an encounter that threatens their very lives, and that of Maren’s, who grows weaker everyday.
Ensnared by nefarious traveling performers, Clara and O’Neill, must plan an escape, before it is too late.

4/5 stars

This was a very different story; simple, yet completely captivating. The first half was on the slower side, but I didn’t mind. I was drawn into the little cottage, in the quiet woods, and became acquainted with Clara, Maren, and Auntie.
But, before long, things took a dark turn, and with each chapter, the stakes began to rise.
I really enjoyed the simplicity of the novel. The author achieved an awesome story; not in a big, flashy, over the top way, but in a subtle, and profound way.
It portrayed the love, and sacrifices one makes for their family, despite the costs, (which is something many of us can relate to.)
If you are in the mood for something truly different or just feel like reading a good story, you might try, The Mermaid’s Sister.

Posted in Adventure, photography

Mountain Calling

It was my sister’s day off from work, and she was complaining about staying home. She said, that we seem to do all the fun stuff while she’s busy slaving away at work. (I mean grocery shopping is so very entertaining and all.) So to appease her, we decided to sacrifice a day of being home, and actually go somewhere.

Slightly last minute as it was, we decided to head up to the mountains!
The drive takes close to an hour, so we had to rise bright and early to get there before the heat settled in…(our usual upper 90’s).

After lots of twists, and turns, car-sickness, and ear popping from the elevation, we made it all the way up! We stopped at a trail near the top of the mountain that we had never explored before…and now it has got to be one of our favorite places.

It had rained the night before so everything was cool, damp and fresh. There were delicate wildflowers everywhere, wild strawberries, raspberries, mushrooms and thick spongy moss. There were majestic pines, birch groves, and so many grasses and plants that I couldn’t even begin to list them. From our vantage point, the misty view of the mountains in the distance, and the flowering meadow below was breathtaking. (I would really like to try painting it.) I felt like I was in Narnia, or Middle-earth.

But alas, the day was not without a few bumps in the road. (As with any adventure.)

Since this outing was quite spur of the moment, we were a bit unprepared, (camera-wise anyway). The wrong lens was on the camera, so I was very limited in what I could actually photograph. And secondly, the memory card was almost full so I had to quickly delete whatever I could, to be able to take a handful of photos.

The third very unfortunate event was a big-fat parking ticket. While we were off enjoying our adventure, we didn’t know how much our little walk was going to cost us. We hadn’t actually planned to explore this spot, and take off down the trail like we did. And after returning from our longer than expected hike, coming very close to cardiac arrest, while trekking back to the parking lot, (in the thin air, I might add), wanting only water and an air conditioned car, we were in for a surprise. Lo and behold, patiently waiting on our windshield was a parking ticket with an $80 fine!!

Here’s a lesson, kids: always pay the $3 day fee. Always.

While that put a significant damper on our mood, I can still look back fondly on everything else.

I’ll stop jabbering now, and share a couple of the photos:

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This reminds me of something Anne Shirley would enjoy. Can I pretend to be her?
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10,679′ above sea level.
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There were so many butterflies…and other scarier, clicky, buzzing, flying bugs.
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Check out that awesome mountain-color-gradient in the distance.
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Say, ‘hi’ sisters.
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The only decent shot of this cool, dripping, mossy, rock-cave thing. Doesn’t do it justice.

While the day was a bit of a fail in the camera department (and parking -_-), I guess at the very least I was able to enjoy it with my actual eyeballs. And in the end, I’m so glad we took the journey.

And it was a fun day spent with my mom, and sisters……I guess.

Just kidding.