Becoming Empty Nesters

As we embark on becoming empty nesters here in our house it has clearly proven to have a different affect on all of us here. Our son has signed his first rental lease and will be moving out in a few days. He is excited! My husband is sad but proud. I am proud but ready to see him spread his wings and fly. In all honesty, our lives here have been chaos for a few weeks. Not only helping him apartment hunt but there are a few more things going on in the background all at the same time. It’s not the image I had in my mind of how this summer would begin but I am learning to find the silver lining in it all.

Let’s begin at the call that solidified the one and only apartment we all felt good about. This came last week, he then signed the lease a few days later and then we scrambled to begin packing. One day my son and I also took almost 6 hours to go shopping together to buy some things he needed and we had promised him when he found a place that dad and I would buy him a bed. So this all happened in one day of power shopping which to my surprise went really well considering it was a Saturday and we typically do not shop well together.

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Then it was time to hit up the hardware store for a project him and dad were working on. IMG_1031

Then like a blessing from above, I had the gift of only having to work three days a week for two weeks straight which ultimately bought me some much needed time to make a bunch of appointments that I always have trouble making. However, one day I did sneak away for lunch and coffee with a friend to a new local cafe. IMG_1020After all this I felt a bit settled and ready to relax for a bit. That is until my husband emailed from work that travel plans would be crazy for awhile and I could only sit back take a deep breath. With Memorial Day weekend almost here, moving in the very near background, and hardly no fun plans on the calendar because life is such a mess right now, I felt like having a meltdown. Which, I really don’t do often and the only thing I could think of was escaping the place I call home that is piled high with stuff ready for moving, escaping the place I call work which is the same place I call home, and escaping the place where I need to find new normal routine soon which could prove to take some time after all this is said and done. I needed to get out and be one with the trail which I did and it immediately calmed my soul.

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This was exactly what I needed. Trees, dirt, wildlife, nature…..I just needed to breathe fresh air and find peace.

My next few weeks I know are going to be a struggle. I can hope my husband makes it back in time to help and be part of this next chapter. I can hope it don’t rain on moving day, I can hope adapting my recipes for two is easy, and I am excited to find  new normal after all this is said and done.

Until then…..have a great holiday weekend if I am not back before then with any updates and don’t forget to add fun to everyday no matter how hard it is to squeeze it in.

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The Rough Draft In Our Book Of Life Is Beginning

The rough draft in our book of life has begun and when I say rough I mean rough! Clearly, as you look back, the last time I blogged there was still snow on the ground. That was 10 days ago. Wow, where does time go?

OK, so without wanted to jinx anything here, I want to fill you in a bit on where we are since I get lots of support from friends and family that read here on the blog. I will admit, not proudly by any means but it is what it is…..here goes…..we have not eaten at our dinner table in well over 9 days!!!!! For this I am ashamed. Although, I have managed to precook meals in the morning hours to enjoy when we all do finally arrive home to enjoy them where ever this shall be in our home. I mentioned in the last post we have been apartment hunting with our son. Everyone…this has been SCARY!!!! Coming from a mom who does not always agree with her son…..we have been seeing eye to eye on most things lately and for this I am so thankful. Dad on the other hand is much more verbal and will tell him straight up when he don’t like something. I am more of a live and learn type of mom….however, unless it is just something I cannot look past and must give my input. Anyhow, here’s where we are with this….his one and only application for a place has been submitted and now we wait and pray. I am going with the hope of, if its meant to be it will be. Time will tell.

In between all the evening showings we had scheduled we took weekends and days to get other stuff done. That is when the tools for the other chores did not break while trying to get things accomplished. Frustrating I tell you….simply frustrating!

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I have been searching high and low for furniture and home items for our son in his preparation to move out of our family home and this too has been a battle. Garage sales here are mostly on Thursday and Friday and by Saturday if they are still happening all the good items have been scarfed up already. And Saturday is the only day I have to garage sale since I work. Although, we have lucked out on a few items and dad is lending a hand to fix, repair, and create quite the unique DIY home decor for when the big move finally happens.

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Also, with a well deserved needed break from daily life we escaped for our first camping…ok really it was glamping since technically we slept in cabins and not tents….trip of the year.

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We were joined by my brother,sister in law, and our nephew on this trip for the first time. It was fun…we hiked the entire bluff lake loop at Devil’s Lake State Park here in Baraboo, WI and enjoyed the great outdoors.

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We even dusted off the discs for disc golf while we were here and played a few rounds. When its your first time out for the season we found that things are a bit rusty and you often end up searching out your disc in the trees.

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It was a nice break from our home life chaos. We had a great time, I was sore from the first big hike of the year until Tuesday and I don’t think any of us were ready to wake up and leave Sunday morning. Especially their pup, Coconut, who simply was exhausted by all the outdoor activity from the day. What a cutie….

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For now I will leave you here….but you can bet this shall be continued eventually.

 

 

 

 

Life Lately….

I have come to the conclusion in life that once one matter is handled the next big pressing situation is never very far behind.  It’s sort of like when you come into a bonus amount of money and you never quite know what to do with it….until…..the refrigerator decides to stop working in the middle of the night, the washing machine decides to spring a major leak during your last load of laundry, or you slip and fall on the ice and need an x-ray when your deductible is not met yet. Yeh, thankfully none of this has happened for us recently but just when things starting calming down after Christmas the next big thing(s) starting popping up. Let me catch you all up on life as it is here today.

We have our first glamping (glamorous camping) trip planned for 2018 and I am excited…very excited. Once again we are returning to what I consider is Wisconsins best state park….Devil’s Lake. We missed visiting this park last year and I really missed it. We have hiked Devil’s Lake every year for at least the past 5 years, but last year we skipped it due to other trips we had planned and we just could not fit it in anywhere. Plus, this year we are glamping for the first time ever with my brother and his family. We have cabins rented at our favorite nearby campground and we plan to campfire, hike, explore and celebrate springs arrival. No one will ever be as happy as I am when spring finally arrives!!!

I also am loving that my husband is finally getting some projects done that have been laying around waiting for completion for quite sometime. My brother, one year for Christmas, had some pictures made up into puzzles for us. Once they were assembled my husband thought it would be cool to glue them and make red rock frames to go with the red rock theme of the puzzles. I agreed, then life happened, and they sat there. Well, they are now completed and I love them. Now we just have to figure out where to hang them.

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I have now expanded my cookbook selection to include one more clean eating/plant based cookbook to make meal planning easier. Since cutting out artificial sweetener in all our diets and with the amazing success my husband has had with this change, I am now finding it much harder to make casseroles. And casseroles were my “go to” for an easy make ahead and throw in the oven meal in the winter months. However, I am really finding plant based meals to be fulfilling and much less work than I ever imagined. Plus, my grocery bill is pretty nice also.

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I do have to give a shout out to my other half lately. It’s been one of those winters where everything keeps breaking. Nothing huge but big enough that thankfully with his repair skills he has saved us so much money just this year alone so far. I love having my own maintenance man in the house. Some people marry for money, some marry for love, I married for love and the money he saves us.

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And last but not least, the one big thing I have been working very hard on is our next big trip…the one where we are renewing our marriage vows for our 25th. anniversary this year. Do you know how difficult it is to find a minister that is willing to hike up to the top of a mountain to perform a renewal ceremony for this occasion? Well, I can tell you how difficult it is……VERY DIFFICULT!!!! However, I found one, we have talked with him and explained how important it is for him to make this trek for us, and he assures me he can do this as long as we are not trail runners and plan to race up the mountain. I promised him we could take as long as he needed to arrive safely at the top and for him to grant us his services. Now I just have to figure out a proper tip to give this gentleman since he is clearly putting his life on the line to make our wishes come true. I cannot wait to say “I Still Do” to the one I love in a place that brought such happiness to us the first time we saw it.

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What would you tip the minister in this situation? I would be grateful for your suggestions.

 

Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park/Hiking Brandywine Falls

Finishing up our Virginia vacation was a planned stop about 4 hours into our 16 hour drive home at Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley National Park to hike Brandywine Gorge Trail.  I knew we would need to stretch our legs and this national park was on the route home so we figured why not stop and check it out.

We arrived at the parking lot for the trail and found ample parking and bathrooms.

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The trail is 1.5 miles long and offers a great view of the Brandywine Falls. It starts out as a boardwalk to the falls.

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With upper and lower viewing platforms easily accessible.

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Then you follow the path up and over the actual waterfall and begin to follow a crushed gravel path.

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This crushed gravel path leads you a short ways until you then make a left hand turn down a rocky slope. Eventually it leads back to a crushed gravel path ending back at the parking lot after following the river bank.

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I liked this park. Off the beaten path and not well known meant not a whole lot of people were here. We did see many families with small children although, I can only guess its because its close to residential homes. There was no fee for entrance into this park and its widely spread out over a few miles if you want to explore all it has to offer. We did not explore, simply stopped to hike and stretch and then got back to driving as far as we could before night fall.

This was our last stop before returning home from a week of mountain hiking and relaxation…or at least what we call relaxation. It was quite the vacation and I am already beginning to plan our next adventure. We have a big anniversary coming up in 2018 and we plan to celebrate big……with more big mountains of course.

 

 

 

 

Virginia Part #3- Blue Ridge Parkway/Skyline Drive/Shenandoah National Park Hike

I knew by today we would be tired mountain hiking and would need a bit of a break from the trail. However, we knew from past mountain hikes in Utah,Tennessee, and Sedona that sitting and doing nothing only makes the pain prolong itself so we had a plan.

Our third day we checked out of the Salem, VA hotel and drove the popular scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way to the Shenandoah National Park and then continued onward via the Skyline Drive through the entire park.Gorgeous…..simply gorgeous once again.

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Again, like the day we traveled to hike Sharp Top Trail, we saw numerous bear hunters lining the road all along this route. And this is where I saw my first 2….yes 2 wild bears ever! Exciting I tell you….and wow can they run fast…..I was amazed.

We drove for 6 hours this day ending at a trail head we choose to hike to stretch our legs before heading to our next hotel in Winchester, VA. Hotels near the park are an enormous amount of money…and I am cheap…so this worked out very well. The trail we choose was the Compton Gap Trail.

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According to the sign it was a 2.4 mile trail but we clocked a bit over this.

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The parking for this trail was easily located if you follow the map given to you at the entrance of the park. Parking was sufficient and the actual tail starts on the opposite side of the street.

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This trail is also part of the AT as was McAfee Knob so you will follow the white blazes you see in the trees until you reach the post marker directing you to then follow the blue blazes to the overlook.

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The trail itself offered a bit of everything. Flat dirt, rocks, and boulders you weave through once again. There seems to be a pattern to Virginia hiking.

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The overlook is easily located since the trail simply comes to an end.

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On this trail you head down the same way you hiked up.

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My opinion of this trail is its a nice short trail for families. Not too steep and not too rocky like others if you have the proper footwear for hiking. It was a great choice for us to have a bit of time on the trail and out of the vehicle.

My opinion of the Blue Ridge Parkway is it’s gorgeous. We traveled it early in the morning until mid afternoon and had no problems with traffic. That being said, I can only imagine with fall colors and mid summer it could get a bit crazy. NOTE: There are NO gas stations on the parkway so fill your tank before you travel it.

 

 

 

 

 

Virginia Part #2 : Sharp Top Trail @ The Peaks Of Otter

After hiking McAfee Knob on day one while in Virginia we woke up sore and stiff. Although, we were not going to let that hamper our plans for the day which were to hike Sharp Top Trail next.

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Across the road from the trail head is the Peaks Of Otter Visitors Center where we first stopped for a trail map, restrooms, and a chat with the park ranger.

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Why??? Well, all the way to the Peaks of Otter on the Blue Ridge Parkway we saw numerous and I mean numerous trucks full of dogs and bear hunters.

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And sure enough when we were pointed across the road to the trail head there were also signs warning us of the bear problems nearby.

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We made sure before heading down the trail that our bear spray was on us at all times.

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This was a hell of a hike!!!! Short, at just over 2 miles according to our GPS, but wow was it rocky and very hard to manage at times.

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About 3/4 of the way up you reach an area with big boulders once again that lead you up some steps and brings you to an old building.

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Round the corner from this building and you will be speechless. Suddenly you are once again on top of the mountain looking at 360 degrees of beauty.

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Simply amazing!!!!

We spent a good amount of time up here where we had a small snack before deciding to head back down by the way of the shuttle offered at the gift shop at the bottom. Down is so much more painful than up for both my husband and myself that we agreed with the rolling rocks we climbed to get up here that the shuttle would be the safest route back. This shuttle can be taken both ways or one way either up or down. For us one way cost $6 each. The shuttles run on the hour and the entire ride up/down takes about 15 minutes.

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My opinion of this hike is its rough on the knees and ankles. It took us just under 1.5 hours to get to the top and the trail itself is straight up. We saw no bear on this trail but I will tell you we did see them very nearby so some type of bear repellent would be a safe idea. If you are not a hiker and don’t have the proper gear to attempt this hike the shuttle is worth every penny to enjoy the view from the top.

 

 

 

Memories I Will Have Forever From Virginia: Part One….McAfee Knob

Memories….they are made everywhere. Many of my memories are from here in Wisconsin where I was born and raised for the past 40+years of life. However, this past week I made some more memories with my husband on a bucket list trip to Virginia where I know my heart aches to be……in the mountains.

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We live in the flattest state around(in my opinion) and I have seen almost all there is to see here numerous times. So when the chance comes that I get to escape the grind of every day life to go to my happy place I am the first one packed and ready to go. So let me share with you the past week in the mountains of Virginia.

For this vacation we drove from WI to Salem, Virginia to begin our adventure. Now you may wonder…why such an off the wall city like Salem? Well, I had a bucket list dream to fulfill and I wanted to make sure I could do this before we packed in anything else. My dream was to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and get the iconic picture that you see in many, if not all, hiking magazines, on hiking websites and so on. Every time I would see this picture displayed I would tell my husband….some day I will get there. And as usual, he would just smile and say….I have no doubt you will. Love you honey!

The morning of our hike we left before sunrise to make sure we could find the trailhead and get a parking spot. I had read that parking was sometimes packed but was hoping it would not be too bad since our hike was happening Monday morning. We arrived with about twenty minutes to spare before the sun started peeking over the mountains. The lot had a fair share of cars but all looked to have been there overnight. The lot was easily located of the 311 and marked clearly.

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The trail itself starts across the street from the parking area. Again, clearly marked with signage once you cross the 311 carefully, since cars zip around this mountain road fairly quickly.

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The view going up was so beautiful.

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A bit up the trail you will come to a split. Signs are large and arrows point you in the correct direction. ***Now, I will tell you that many AT hikers recommend hiking the fire road up to the knob and then taking the AT back to the parking lot or vice versa since the AT is quite rugged. We did not do this. I did not train physically and drive for two days to hike any fire road for whatever reason what so ever. I came to hike the AT up to McAfee Knob and back and I am so happy we did.

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The trail we found to be difficult. Remember….we hike flat ground in WI almost all our life. This part of the AT was covered in rock, boulders, and roots in many places. Very little was ground and being we were headed to the top of of a mountain it was clearly up all the way.

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Eventually you will come to a crossing that again is well marked and will lead you across the fire road.

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Then you reach an AT shelter where you head up another clearly marked trail.

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Eventually you see the trail start to have huge boulders and you weaving around these while you make the last stretch to the top.

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By this time I was tired. And I mean TIRED!!!! Hiking up the entire trail was difficult plus our GPS clearly did not agree with the mileage that was posted with all the information I had read regarding this trail. So if you attempt this hike and find your mileage is also different keep going…..you will be so happy you did. We finally reached the top of the knob and immediately we checked the mileage to compare.

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I soon forgot about this little issue because when I rounded the corner I felt like I wanted to cry. OK, maybe I did a bit. It was truly amazing in every way!!!!!!

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We had did it and we did it together. We arrived to find a few others but the longer we stayed the more others arrived. We ate a small snack and rested a bit before returning to the bottom by way of the AT once again. We saw deer, lizards, and many, many caterpillars along the way.

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When we finally arrived back at the 311 parking lot we had clocked a total of 9.5 miles and almost 6 hours of hiking with I would say about 45 minutes were at the top exploring, resting and having lunch.

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Most importantly……I crossed something of my bucket list that I will cherish forever…..my own iconic photographs on the top of McAfee Knob with the love of my life.

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A dream come true!!!!!!!!!!!