Posts Tagged With: adventure

Our Most Expensive Christmas Tree Ever, But Worth Every Penny

A few years back we finally followed through with my wish to go off into the woods to cut down our own Christmas tree.

“It’ll be fun!” I said smiling.

“Think of it as an adventure,” I cajoled.

“We’ll save money,” I smiled, as I played my winning ace.

My Dream tree… Photo By Nandaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My Dream tree… Photo By Nandaro (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

So off I went to the store to buy a twenty-dollar tree cutting permit. What a deal! Twenty bucks for the freshest tree we could get. I could hardly wait. I planned to bring snacks and hot chocolate and to dress extra, extra warm.

Did I mention that it takes two hours to drive to the forest where these trees live? Small detail.

We’d make a day trip out of it. I’d pack a lunch for us, too.

MSH prepared more than I did. He got the chainsaw ready, which I thought was excessive. I figured a small hand saw would serve us well. And he tossed our tent, two sleeping bags and a couple of big backpacks with camping gear into the back seat of our trusty truck. “Just in case,” he said. I scoffed.

Sure there might have been a storm aiming our direction. That’s why we planned on leaving extra early so we’d get back long before the storm made its way over the Sierra’s and across the desert to our neck of the woods. But, MSH loves to “be prepared.” I think he might have been an Eagle Scout in a previous life.

As we neared our forest service approved tree cutting area we saw lots of big trucks with fluffy verdant green trees, branches thick and full and just waiting for hundreds of twinkle lights and candy canes and such. I felt giddy with anticipation. We turned down a few roads and began scouting for that perfect tree. After a half hour or so we wondered if those trucks we saw had cut down every decent Christmas tree left. All we saw were scrawny things, twisted and bare branched.

We figured we needed to get out of the truck and hike around a bit. So we pulled off the main road, turned down a side dirt road and parked. As we got out of the truck the first tentative snowflakes began to fall. “Ambience!” I said.

Photo by Wsiegmund

Our reality… Photo by Wsiegmund

We saw what looked like a good tree in the distance only to find on getting closer that it was two trees snuggled in close to each other. That happened time and again. After an hour of hiking around we finally shook our heads and picked the least scrawny of the scrawny trees that surrounded us. The chain saw came in handy.

Turns out we’d hiked further from the truck that we thought we had. The hike felt even longer since we dragged a heavy, very fresh tree along the forest floor.

Of course, turning back on the main forest road we, once again, saw trucks loaded with bushy pines and knew we’d taken a wrong turn and should have kept driving another half mile to the next turn-off where everyone else seemed to know they’d find perfect trees. Too late, though. We’d cut and tagged our Charlie Brown tree.

By cogdogblog on Flickr (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By cogdogblog on Flickr (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0]

For fun we opted to take the scenic route. By scenic, I mean a dirt and gravel road that mostly followed the edge of the Mogollon Rim. Five miles in and far too committed to turn back, the storm kicked in a bit stronger. Winds from the south blew the snow horizontally. The huge Ponderosa pines around us seemed to brace themselves against the force. The further along we got on the Rim Road, the more the snow increased and the wind picked up. Luckily the snow wasn’t sticking to the dirt road.

When we took a little side road for a brief pit stop the truck wouldn’t start up again. Not even a click from the key turning. I pictured us huddled in our little tent for days, hoping someone noticed we weren’t around and would be found before we froze to death. But before I could imagine a great rescue scene or compile a farewell letter to my children MSH figured out a cable had shaken loose on the battery and had tightened it up. The truck started right away. Phew.

Crisis averted.

Not five minutes after that we had to stop the truck again. This time we stopped to stare in amazement and absolute awe at something we’d never seen.

By William Warby (originally posted to Flickr as Hovering Kestrel) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by William Warby (originally posted to Flickr as Hovering Kestrel) [CC BY 2.0]

A hawk hovered ten feet away from the edge of the cliff. And by hovered I mean just hung in mid-air, in place, not moving forward or backward, up or down. The wings tipped a bit to compensate now and then, but for the most part the hawk simply hung there as if suspended midair. The updraft on the cliff from the incoming storm provided perfect conditions for this beautiful creature to practice wing control and aerodynamics. Five minutes. Ten minutes. We watched, mesmerized at the skill and wonder of this bird.

Finally the bird either tired out or the wind changed. A small tip of the wings and the hawk floated up and away, slowly disappearing from view.

The storm let up long enough for us to get down off the Rim and into the nearest town just before sundown. We stopped for a warm dinner, took a reading on the storm and safety dictated the rest of the drive should wait until morning. So we checked in to a motel for the night. We enjoyed a late breakfast the next morning as the storm blew through and the sun came out.

Total cost of that scrawny twenty-dollar tree? After gas, dinner, battery cable part, motel and breakfast: One-hundred-ninety-five dollars.

Trekking through the snowy woods, seeing a hawk do a stationery hover on the wind, and quality time with MSH? Priceless.

Categories: Holidays | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Friday Letter to My Kids: Self-Made, Home Made, Lemonade

Dear J, J, L and L,

Picture an eleven/twelve-year-old girl, dressed for winter weather, a makeshift backpack on her back, trudging down a snow packed street toward an open expanse of hilly snow and frosted over trees. A gray ceiling of clouds make the skies seem ominous, but the air is dry and so cold the nose hairs freeze, eyeballs sting.

The girl knows this kind of weather. She’s lived it every winter of her life.

That girl is me.

I’d decided one day to hike down to the park, three houses away and build myself an igloo and then spend the day inside its peaceful and quiet interior. I’d brought a blanket, a couple of books, some snacks and a small school sized thermos of hot chocolate. I even had a bucket to press the snow into “blocks” to stack on each other.

Turns out the temperatures were colder than anticipated and the dryness of the air also meant a dry crusty snow. That snow wouldn’t stick together. Not even a decent snowball could form from its crystalline structure. It wasn’t the fluffy wet stuff we usually had piling up all winter. I could barely break through the crust of the snow with my bucket to fill it up.

Fifteen minutes into my adventure I was done.

I sat down in the snow, contemplated drinking the hot chocolate and reading for a few minutes out in the open, but it just wasn’t what I’d planned. I trudged back home to the noise of younger siblings, mom teaching piano lessons, chores, warm house and everyday boring life.

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I’ll let you guess which one is me.

I loved adventure as a kid. I especially loved invention and making do with the materials at hand.

  • Tree huts and forts made from found materials.
  • A drawstring bag sewn from leftover fabric and a shoelace.
  • A made up game, a cross between four square and tennis.
  • Pottery made from clayish mud, even if it fell apart when it dried.
  • Climbing out my second story bedroom window early on a Saturday before chores got assigned, so I could have some quiet time to myself.
  • Getting something from the almost nothing of a seed planted.
  • Hiking. The steeper and more challenging, made it all the better.
  • Riding my bike to get where I needed to go, instead of relying on someone else.
Yup.

Yup.

I never dreamed I’d use such “skills” and desires as a mother. And yet, the adventure of raising children utilized those things in ways I wasn’t even really aware of until recently.

  • I’ve lost track of how many times we “remade” home as we moved, and moved, and moved again.
  • Sewing came in handy using scraps to make clothes from a very versatile pattern for J and J when you were little.
  • Finding new ways to entertain and teach and cajole good behavior required invention and creativity.
  • As often as money got tight or nearly nonexistent we made do with what we had in surprising, although not necessarily successful, ways.
  • Rock climbing with you when you were younger turned my daredevil climbing skills into a pastime we loved and shared. Which led to lots of hiking and camping, adventures in their own right.
  • And a few years ago, my bike became my main means of transportation when we got down to only one car and four drivers.
photo by imoni

photo by imoni

I’d still like to live where I don’t need to rely on a car.

And I’d love living a completely self reliant life. Build a small rustic cabin, use solar, have a generator, get our water from a well, plant a massive garden and fruit trees, get around on a motorbike and a jeep or better yet, a mountain bike. Wouldn’t it be something to wake every morning to mountain views and the smell of pine or snow or crunchy leaves? One trip into town once a month for supplies.

I suppose you could say I’ve lived parts of my dream in some convoluted ways. We’ve relied on each other, which made us closer, crazier, and cozier. We own some wonderful memories don’t we? All crafted out of making do, making it up, making our own fun, making the best of things. It’s that whole making lemonade out of life’s lemons thing you’ve heard about.

'nuff said

’nuff said

I often picture the past thirty odd years as a roller coaster ride with all of us in the cars, hands in the air, screaming, eyes popping, certain that the next ninety degree turn or steep drop will do us in. And yet we survived, and had some fun, and learned a ton of stuff. Feels like now that you’re all married that particular roller coaster ride came to a stop. (Did you keep your hands and feet inside the ride at all times? I think not! hehehehe)

Now, you’re all off on your own adventures.

My life of adventure so far has surprised me in more ways than I could have ever imagined. I’m thinking there’s more adventure ahead, too. I’m just hoping the snow isn’t iced over and that I’m dressed warm enough for whatever happens next.

Here’s praying that your adventures turn out better than you can imagine.

Mine have, so far.

 

All my love,

Mom

photo-23 copy 5

      “An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” ~G. K. Chesterton

 

 

Categories: Family, Friday Letters | Tags: , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

How Many Ways Can You Say Stranded? #1

Before cell phones were commonplace, before cell phone towers dotted the country like stars dot the sky, car problems were trickier to negotiate.

Nowadays, if you have car issues, you whip out your trusty phone, call AAA or whatever service you pay for towing and flat tires, and within hours you’re on your way again.

Not that many years ago, it wasn’t that simple.

Driving North with two of my young daughters we crossed the Reservation, enjoying the strange and changing scenery, when the Honda van we were in started hesitating. That particular stretch of road was only two lanes, with a narrow shoulder. I pushed down the panicky feeling and watched for a pullout area, which was usually only the size of a car and just inches from the roaring traffic.

Vermilion Cliffs from Kaibab Plateau overlook ...

Vermilion Cliffs from Kaibab Plateau overlook  (Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ)

As the van sputtered and lurched forward, I put on my emergency flashers, hoping there’d be time for the cars behind me to slow down before plowing into our backside. Fortunately, the next pullout we chugged up to was actually one of those spots built to accommodate sales of Native American trinkets, jewelry and fry bread. There were no people, and no cars, just us, the wind, and an occasional scuttle of clouds overhead.

I popped the hood and looked inside. I checked out the parts I knew about. Oil levels. Coolant levels. Loose belts. Battery terminals. We had plenty of gas since I’d filled up in Flagstaff. All appeared as it should.

Maybe the car just needed a bit of rest. We got out the snacks, had some water, explored the nearby sagebrush and torn up barbed wire fencing. Half an hour later, we all climbed back into the van and I started it back up. Everything sounded fine. So off we went. Ten minutes later, the chugging and spluttering began again only worse. Again I looked for a pullout.

This time we rolled into a large pullout with a Semi truck and trailer parked. I felt lucky thinking I could simply ask the trucker for help. Or at the very least, he could put out a call on his CB radio and send a tow truck. But as far as my knocking could tell, there was no one in there. More than likely, the trucker had crawled into the sleeping nook and was catching some Zz’s.

My next option was a quarter-mile hike to what looked like a tiny settlement, a small church, some kind of housing structures, a dirt path between them. And best of all, a thick wire hanging from the church to one of the buildings, indicating electricity or phone service. What I found was a solitary, ancient grandmotherly figure inside the open doorway of one of the huts who didn’t speak English. I did my best sign language for indicating the need for a telephone and she did her best to let me know I was up a creek without a paddle.

I hiked back to the van. We had plenty of water and food in our ice chest. So the heat wouldn’t be a problem. But what to do?

The girls were coloring on some paper they’d brought for getting through the boredom of the long drive. I decided to make a sign. “Please call AAA” it said in large block letters. Then I taped it, using their stickers, to the back of the van. Forty five minutes later a couple of women in a red convertible stopped to get our story, check on our status and offer to call a tow truck for us when they got to Flagstaff.

Hours later a tow truck lumbered into the pullout where we sat bored beyond all reason. It was nearing evening and I was relieved to not have to spend the night on the side of the road.

English: A car being loaded onto a flatbed tow...

A car being loaded onto a flatbed tow truck (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The driver filled out some paperwork and then proceeded to hook our van up with a thick chain. Then he lowered the back-end of his truck at an angle and was ready to pull it up on the bed of the truck, which would then level out. He looked at the three of us and said, “you’ll have to ride in the van, I don’t have room in my truck up front.”

My heart nearly stopped. Surely that wasn’t safe. Or legal.

“Are you sure? I could hold one of the girls on my lap,” I replied, desperation in my voice.

“We do it this way all the time,” was his only reply. Conversation over.

Next thing we knew we found ourselves perched high atop the back of a tow truck, a stellar view of the sunset, the reddening cliffs and the heart stopping path ahead. A winding road barely clinging to the side of the cliffs.

As we proceeded up the cliff, the tow truck sputtered, the driver down shifted, the gears made a horrific grinding sound, and I was sure we would plummet in a fiery mass down to the bottom.

It was all too terribly reminiscent of another cliff side drive I had endured.

All the way up the mountain the gears ground and roared and argued with the driver. I told the girls to pray. I prayed like I’d never prayed in my life. Being stranded overnight on the side of the road seemed like a better alternative at that point.

After the longest ride I’d ever endured in a vehicle, we finally, miraculously made it to the closest town for hundreds of miles. The driver dropped us off at one of dozens of motels, our suitcases dragging pitifully behind us. He dropped the van off in the parking lot at the back. I was on my own to find a mechanic the next morning.

Oddly, the mechanic could find nothing wrong. We drove it around town, out on the open highway and back to the motel and it behaved perfectly.

“Probably some bad gas you got in Flagstaff,” he concluded. He was kind enough not to charge me for his time or his opinion.

For the rest of the drive to and from our destination, the van performed as if nothing had ever been wrong. Perhaps the precarious ride up the side of the mountain had scared it into submission.

Nowadays, the Reservation has some of the best cell phone reception in the western United States if I should need my trusty cell phone. But I’d rather not have to use it to call a tow truck.

Never again.

Categories: Humor, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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