Happy New Year

First, let me wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! This morning I loved hearing my alarm go off, grabbing a half cup of coffee, and hitting the gym early. Routine…it is a wonderful thing! Tomorrow we are all back to work, a meal plan is made for the first time in over two weeks, and our shelves and refrigerator are stocked with healthy options to begin the year. I have made no great new years resolutions since I already feel I do my best physically when my body allows, I do my best financially when the funds are there, and well, I guess the only thing I can hope for in the new year is good health. Which I really have no control over above and beyond what I already do to stay healthy, so I will let it be what it shall be.

Let’s see, Christmas for us was wonderful. Family…as small as our is, is a wonderful thing. We ate, drank and were merry as many of you were also I would imagine.

We celebrated one birthday during the holiday…our son’s falls the day after Christmas.

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And since he is an adult now, many of his gifts revolved around getting out on his own and having the basics he will need when this happens. Yes, I did buy my son a laundry hamper as a gift. He told me to buy practical gifts which I did….and I LOVED every minute of it;-)

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We also had a milestone happen in our family. Our son bought his first car which we picked up the day before Christmas Eve. These moments make me proud as a mom….slowly he is making a life for himself and spreading his wings. Next, he tells me, is apartment hunting. Oh boy, this brings me back many years. Can I seriously be this old already that my son is ready to move out….wow, where do the years go?

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Lets see, back to Christmas, we ate tons of food….some healthy and some not so healthy…..but all artificial sweetener free. We host here at our home every year and we also pick a theme to celebrate the holiday. This year we decided on a home cooked meal and pajama Christmas. So meatloaf, glazed carrots, and mashed potatoes were on the menu. Birthday cake and ice cream was dessert. Along with some appetizers to share before dinner like this pickled shrimp recipe we tried for the first time which ended up being a big hit.

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I even snuck in a new treat….and I assure you it was well deserved some days.

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With the week off between holidays, I had ample time to restock the freezer with freezer meals. Soup is a favorite for me to freeze and eat later.

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I am killing the early morning workouts….which I am proud to say I missed not a single day through the holidays. However, this is more for my mental health than my physical health during this time of year. It’s a great holiday stress reliever.

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I also have been experimenting with some new recipes from a new cookbook I received from Christmas. I know most people get new recipes online now a days but I don’t have a whole lot of time to search and find recipes. So books are still my favorite way to find new recipes. And my slow cooker is going to be my best friend with two newborn babies starting with in a week of each other here. Oh boy, time will be limited for sure.

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Also over the holiday break I enjoyed an afternoon snow hike with my son and a few feathered friends we saw along the way.

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And let me tell ya, snow adds a whole different spin on hiking….wow, were we tired after about 3 miles of snow hiking an area trail.

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We did this hike while dad ventured out for the first time to ice fish an area lake. I, like always, thought it was too early, our son also thought it was too early, but arguing with a fisherman is pointless so we made ourselves busy while he took his chances with the ice thickness. He came home a few hours later with not a great ice report but enough to be able to limit out on his catch of the day. IMG_0099

That sums up my last two weeks. As I adjust to new children to care for and we all adjust to going back to work, let’s savor the reality that routine is really a nice thing to have. I loved the holiday break but for me personally, normal life is not a bad thing either.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How I’ve Learned To Simplify Life

It’s no secret that as we age everything gets a little more difficult to do. We can all deny feeling a bit older every year but in our hearts we are and we know it. This year I have noticed that things that used to be so easy for me to accomplish seem to have gotten a bit more difficult. I am not talking all physical things either, I mean anything and everything that pertains to life. Which really made me look at how to simplify life and be a happier person.

IMG_1870Like dealing with stress and stressful situations. In the past I would worry myself sleepless over things that I knew I could not change. As of recently, I now notice that unless it involves my direct family(myself, husband or son) I listen, give advise if asked, and wait and see what happens next. This wait and see approach really helps me see that no matter what I feel or think I cannot make things any easier by worrying about the outcome. Ultimately, it is about something or someone else and there is not a thing I can do about it anyhow.

Physically I have noticed that my level of activity is not what it once was. However, I will say that compared to most individuals I know, I am still much more active that anyone else my age. Maybe this change is from age, although I strongly feel I could have other factors effecting my activity level. It could be almost anything or it could be an assortment….anything from working long days with two very active toddlers that are only a few weeks apart from each other, hormones, lingering injury issues from my ankle tendon tears, having to do more around the house/yard since my husband hurt himself, and so on. Regardless of what exactly it is, clearly I am getting older and find myself slowing down just a bit. However, I am feeling good with my activity level since it also allows me a bit more time to enjoy life.

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Next, I think the big thing I have noticed in the past few years is that I just don’t have the need for a perfect, clean house anymore. Cleaning for me used to be a stress reliever believe it or not. If something would stress me I would come home and my husband and son knew to get out of the house and find something fun to do because I needed to clean. Which was really quite good but also so bad. I had a very clean house by Saturday evenings after I would spend the day with my mother whom, at the end of her illness, really stressed me out. After she passed away, I did not have that HUGE responsibility on my hands anymore which left me with a gaping hole I had nothing to fill it with. After a few months of twiddling my thumbs wondering what in the world I would do now on my weekends since caring for her every single weekend is what I did, I figured out that cleaning to relieve the tension and stress from caring for her was not necessary anymore. I could actually go and have some fun. Granted, I still have a clean home, just not as spotless as it used to be, which is really quite nice. The best part is I am actually having some really fun weekends now. If I am not with my family hiking, kayaking or doing something outdoors, then I very possibly have plans with a friend(s) to do something fun. This really took some getting used to. However, now, I can actually plan fun outings and enjoy the time away and not be so concerned that the house is not clean. I will get to it another time, day or weekend….it’s not the end of the world if it’s a bit dusty…..right?  IMG_2725

I can’t forget to mention meal times and how much that has changed. In the past year I really changed up how I grocery shop and prepare meals for my family. I never enjoyed grocery shopping and honestly I still don’t. However, it is so much easier today that a year ago. I used to be a once a month big grocery list shopper and in between run for the little necessities like bread, milk, fruits/veggies. This list was made on a whim with no meal plan and no thought as to what we would be eating when. I just purchased things and then came home and figured out from what was in the pantry what dinner would consists of. Which really was not all that great most of the time. Then one day everything changed. Our son graduated high school, started college, got a job, and then got two jobs. And literally overnight a light bulb went on in my head. There are many, many nights he is not even here for dinner so why am I making meals for a family of three and ending up with a ton of leftovers. Which brings us to today…every Thursday we discuss as a family the next weeks plans, schedules, and meals. From who will be present at dinner time during the week to if there are any requests for a special meal to be prepared. I post this menu on the frig, make my grocery list according to this menu, and only buy what I need to prepare these meals. I then shop every Friday night for the next week. My list is shorter, there is no wondering what I am making for dinner on said night anymore, and grocery shopping is so much faster which is awesome. And let me tell you, it’s saves a ton of money and time. I find myself buying much less junk food and things that we don’t need.

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It’s funny to look back and see how life has changed over the years for me. Ultimately the changes I see are for the better. I am calming down and not taking life quite so seriously. I am still very active and happy…yes I have my share of aches and pains, but who doesn’t? I no longer care so much about what others think of the life I lead. I can go to bed with the laundry still in the dryer…which would have NEVER happened a few years ago. And best of all, I have come to realize that you can only worry so much about others and sometimes taking the wait and see approach is the best thing you can do for everyone. The only person you can change is yourself and if you find that something needs changing….what are you waiting for…change it!

Simplifying life has been a complete success for me. I can honestly say, I am a happier person now at this age than I have ever been before.

 

Sunday Geocaching On The Ahnapee Trail

What a beautiful weekend. On Sunday I slept in until 7:00 AM and woke up to my husband making pancakes with dried mangoes in them. Yum,Yum, Yum!

After breakfast I headed to the gym to get my workout in and then we were off to a new trail to geocache. This is the first weekend in awhile that the sun was shining and neither rain nor snow was falling upon us. Thank goodness. We arrived at the trail and had to pass through a cool tunnel to start.

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It looked like the trail went on forever from this view, but that did not discourage us, so we headed on. We accomplished just over 5 1/2 miles and 16 geocaches.

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I enjoyed the crunching leaves underfoot along the entire trail. We even talked about possibly snowshoeing this trail come winter.

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There are many caches left for us to find on this trail and a whole lot more miles for us to cover along the way. The entire trail starts in Sturgeon Bay,WI and goes on for 46 miles. Maybe by next spring we will have covered them all, time will tell.

It was a great hike on a beautiful Sunday:)

Devil’s Lake State Park/Our First Visit With Our Son

This summer we never found the time to make our yearly trip to our favorite hiking destination in Wisconsin, Devil’s Lake State Park. This did not make me very happy. I mentioned to my husband that I sure would like to try and make it there before winter. His favorite saying is, “Happy wife,happy life!” So, he agreed to set aside a weekend to hike this beautiful park and make his wife happy:)

While talking with our son, I mentioned we were planning this adventure and he said he would like to join us if we made the trip on a Saturday. We clearly thought this would be a great way to sneak in a visit and spend it hiking as a family like always. (Otherwise we would not be seeing him until Thanksgiving normally) So we worked out the best weekend and decided to leave extra early to travel a little further and pick him and his friend up from campus for the day.

We left home at 4:45 am and picked them up at 9am to head back to the park arriving about 11:00 am. Our goal was to make it to the top of the first cliff and have a picnic lunch together. Upon arrival it was gorgeous, not too hot  and very sunny.

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We stopped a few times to take pictures and let his friend take in the view.

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This park has my favorite terrain to hike, boulders everywhere. I have climbed this trail numerous times and it never gets old.

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Upon reaching the top we found a fairly flat boulder on the edge of the cliff, off the beaten path and enjoyed a nice spread of picnic foods and some catching up with the kids. It was so nice to sit and talk.

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After lunch we headed to Devils Door. This is a spectacular rock formation at the very top of the cliff.

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Popular for many different reasons. Here you can find rock climbers, scenic helicopter rides and hikers that love to climb into and out to the edge of this formation.

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The colors of Autumn were just beautiful from this view.

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Then it was time to head back down and refill water bottles for the next hike. This one is a killer, but well worth the view at the top. Unlike the rock climbing on the other side, this side is mostly paved with many steps built into the the path. The incline is steep and exhausting. The view from the top is breathtaking and so worth the effort.

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When we reached the top, we had the opportunity to watch some rock climbers do their thing, which is always exciting.

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From this side we could look over and see the side that we had just climbed. It does not seem so high until you see it from this angle.

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After this we hiked back down and headed to our next destination, our campsite.

The town that our son’s campus is located in is very small, has a total of two hotels and they are by far, not the nicest hotels to stay in. So, we had planned ahead and decided we would camp at a near by state park. We  really wanted to have our tent set up by dark so we decided to bring freeze dried meals and all have dinner together at camp before returning the kids back to campus. Ahead of time we had informed our son of this plan, and told him to ask his friend which meal she preferred to have in freeze dried form.

We reached the campsite and my husband starting setting up the tent while my son and I started getting dinner ready.

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This was his friends first experience with a freeze dried meal, so when he opened her meal of choice and showed her the inside she was somewhat speechless. I couldn’t help but laugh at her facial expression. Thankfully we had enough picnic food left over from lunch just in case.

Everyone’s boiling water was added to their meals. When it was time to start my husbands meal of choice, chicken breast with mashed potatoes, his needs to be done in steps, so I took out the freeze dried chicken breast and placed them on a plate.

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She was again rendered speechless, and just turned up her nose. I guess you had to be there to realize how funny it really was. They began measuring out the proper amount of water for this meal, looking like two mad scientists doing an experiment.

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While we waited for this meal to be prepared, it was time for her to take a look in her bag and see the outcome of her chili mac after it sat with boiling water for the required time. I don’t have a picture of this expression because I was laughing too hard. Although, she opened her bag, tried it and said it was pretty tasty. She took a picture to document her first freeze dried meal for future reference. It must have been edible because she ate the entire meal. It was a fun dinner with lots and lots of laughs.

Then it was time to bring the kids back to their dorms. We did stop for a quick Dairy Queen dessert before dropping them off and saying good bye. They both seemed to have a great time, and enjoyed their well needed break from campus life for a few hours. I have no doubt they were both feeling a little stiff the next morning from hiking, but they are young, they should recover fast. We told them on the second, more strenuous hike, we were helping them keep off the freshman 15 lbs. that everyone talks about. I don’t think either one believed us though.

All in all, we had a great day with them. We were tired by the time we headed back to our campsite for the night but were confident after seeing the two of them that they are getting along on their own just fine. As a parent, you never really know what will happen when they go off to college, but mine seems to be doing quite well and that makes me feel good.

A Sunday Drive To The Fish Hatchery…

We were able to sneak in a little time this past weekend to take a drive to Kewaunee, WI and watch all the trout and salmon coming up to spawn.

We arrived at the fish hatchery and it was obvious others had the same idea. We ran into many people here to witness the same thing.

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We immediately saw many trout and salmon all along the river. This is the Fall run and it brings many spectators. Some fishermen do try and catch them while fishing well downstream from the hatchery. (No fishing is allowed in the area we were in)

Sizes varied greatly among the fish.

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Clearly they were all quite determined to make it upriver to spawn.

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This hatchery has a nicely paved walkway and a great viewing window for the kiddos to get up close and personal.

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Next, we made our way to a park nearby called Bruemmer Park. Here we had the pleasure of feeding the deer some green leaves off nearby trees.

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The fawn was not as brave and just would not come close enough.

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The chickens were very interested in getting a snack also.

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After this we headed to Algoma, WI and did some fishing from the pier. It was so gorgeous and the water was perfect for stand up paddling. If only I had thought to bring my board!!! Oh well, maybe next year. I am certain the water had to be freezing anyhow.

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That was all the fun we could fit in to this weekend. Chores, yard work and home maintenance were high on the to do list , but we made great progress. Next weekend we have much more fun plans to look forward to.

Our 20th. Anniversary Vacation-Zion National Park-Day 4

The only destination for today was the top of Angel’s Landing. An elevation gain of 1488 feet, rated as a strenuous hike, 5 miles round trip, with an average time to complete being 5 hours. The last 1/2 mile is up a narrow ridge with anchored support chains to hang on to.

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I knew this was going to be the hike that would be a dream come true if I could accomplish it. Climbing to the top of a mountain has been a life long dream of mine, and this was my chance. (When I read the sign that said 6 people have died from falling off this cliff, I prayed I would not be the seventh.)

We started out our day with a good breakfast and checking out of the lodge. All luggage was loaded into the REI trailer and we were all asked to visit Megan’s room where they had a spread of wraps, lunch meat, veggies, granola bars, chips, peanut butter, etc. all nicely arranged for us to prepare a pack lunch to carry to the top of the mountain. We all did this and loaded up and headed to the trail head.

The path is a paved path and the incline was immediate. The guides said there would be many breaks along the way because this was a climb they like to do all together as a team for moral support. (That should have been my first clue something big was coming) We continued up with gorgeous views. When we reached Refrigerator Canyon, we were cooled by a nice breeze and some shade which is where we took a break.

Next, up the trail was what they refer to as Walter’s Wiggles. This is a series of 21 short switchbacks with extreme elevation.

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When you reached the top of this you arrived at Scout’s Landing. Another break was taken here and this was when we could see our destination. The very top of this ridge.

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I can only try to explain the feelings I had from this point. They posted a nice sign stating the danger involved.

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No photography was taken while we climbed this VERY narrow ridge. I was gripping the chains with all the strength I had in me. I will admit, my eyes never left the side of the cliff, I knew if they had, I would have never continued. A few of us were ready to give up at the half way point, because of the sheer terror of this climb. Our guides patiently talked us through our fear and said they would clear the path. We would take it slow and steady as a team, supporting each other.

There is nothing I could ever put into words that would ever come close to the feelings I had. Our guides talked us through this, repeating over and over, “three points of contact at all times.” Two feet on the cliff and one hand on the chain, or two hands on the chain and one foot on the cliff. Each step was carefully planned before taking it. My knuckles were sometimes scraped from being between the cliff side and the chain and I didn’t even care, I was not letting go for nothing in the world.

When we finally made it to the top and the platform was flat enough to walk, I did this with shaky legs all the way to the end and took a seat. I swear I have never seen anything like what I saw from up there. It was like being on top of the world.

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Some of us ate our lunch and some of us just had a small snack. My  stomach was not ready to hold down the lunch I had packed, but I was able to eat a bit.

As we all got settled on top of this mountain, our wonderful guides pulled out a bottle of sparkling cider and cups. It was time for a toast, they said, to an amazing accomplishment as a team. None of us even knew they had carried a bottle up the entire mountain side, it was just amazing. So special!!!!

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We spent a half hour on top of the world literally, and then headed back down the same way we came up, slow and steady.

When we reached Scouts Landing, they said it was tradition to all huddle together in a circle, so we did. Brian then said, everyone take a deep breath and yell REI, and we all did, but the aroma in our huddle made it quite obvious that we all worked up quite a sweat on this hike!!! It was pretty funny actually, we all had a good laugh at this moment.

A very nice gentlemen even offered to take our group picture.

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After this it was back down the steep path to the van. We all had time to change into some clean clothing before the three hour ride back to the Green Valley Ranch Resort where they dropped us all off.

Our last day of hiking was made possible by two special people. I know for a fact, we would have never made it to the top without their support. A special thanks to Brain and Megan (REI guides) for making our dreams come true.

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If any of you are ever considering a trip like this, I have a few words of advice.

We were sent the itinerary of the trip and what the hikes all involved. We were not required to finish or do anything we did not feel comfortable doing. My husband and I trained for this for a few weeks before leaving and I truly believed this helped us get the full trip experience with the least amount of discomfort. Also,when mother nature is involved, things can change and you need to be flexible. We were very lucky that we were able to hike the Narrows with the amount of rain that was in the area before we arrived. Our REI guides made this trip very special in many ways, even though we were lodge based. We would highly recommend REI and plan to travel with them again someday.

****These are all our personal thoughts and opinions.

Our 20th Anniversary Vacation-Zion National Park- Day 3

Bright and early I got up, did some yoga and filled our packs with the required water for the day. We went down to meet everyone for breakfast in the lodge and sat out back on the patio overlooking the mountains in the distance. I could eat breakfast every day and never get tired of this view.

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At 7:45 am we all loaded into the van and headed for our first trail head. Weeping Rock and Echo Canyon was our destination.

We started up a small hill and made our first stop at Weeping Rock, just a short hike from where we parked (1 mile round trip). This is a ledge that constantly has rain water from hundreds of years ago dripping from it. It’s very refreshing.

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After this, it was off to Echo Canyon. This is a pretty good hike with some good elevation involved. It was mostly shaded at this time of day, which was a good thing, otherwise it would have been much more difficult.

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We saw all kinds of critters here that we don’t have where we live.

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Upon arriving at the canyon, I was amazed. The walls and the depth were just unbelievable.

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We walked about a half mile past the end of the canyon to get a glimpse from above, down into the canyon and this was just breathtaking. Everywhere we looked there were mountains and mountains, and not a single one looked the same. Our guides were very good about making us stop for rest, water and snack breaks along the way.

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Then it was back into the canyon to find some shade and gather for lunch. Our two guides carried enough lunch for 11 people on their backs. This was quite impressive to us. We found a nice little sandy area where they prepared the lunch assortment.

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After lunch Megan applied some first aid to a few blisters on one of the hikers

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while Brian had some fun playing in some quick sand he found.

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Then we headed back to the trail head to make our way to the Virgin River to hike the Narrows.

We refilled our water bottles at this point and headed down another trail one mile to the Virgin River. Upon arriving at the river, we all changed into water shoes and put our hiking boots into our packs.(Hoping that none of us fell in and soaked our packs!) We entered the river and hiked a mile or so down river in the Narrows.

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It was pretty cold, with a lot of rocks but all soon forgotten with the beauty of our surroundings.

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We reached a small swimming hole and a few of us took a quick swim, and then all headed back to change back into hiking boots and hike the mile back out.

This was our biggest day of hiking making it a total of about 10 miles.

We were all tired and hungry. So, back to the lodge for showers and meet up for dinner, which was at the Bit and Spur.

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On this night, we all ate, drank and laughed. It was a superb ending to our day.

As we headed out to the van, Megan and Brian (our guides) asked us to all head back to our rooms and grab a jacket and meet in 10 minutes in the lobby of our lodge for a surprise. So we all arrived shortly back in the lobby and were handed campfire sticks and were lead out back on the property of the lodge to find Brian building a makeshift campfire. The making for smores were all passed out, and again an apology from the guides for not being able to give us all the full camp experience we had all planned for on this trip.

Even the owner of the lodge joined us for his first smores ever. He is from Spain and had never even heard of them, but he was soon hooked on the chocolate gooey dessert. We all shared our favorite moment of the trip so far, again were briefed on the plan for the next day and were all in our rooms and sleeping by 11pm.

One more day to go with the most mentally and physically challenging day to share with you. A moment I will never forget!!!!