Sunday, December 27, 2009

Family Fantastic

We had a wonderful and beautiful Christmas. Mom and Dad really enjoyed having those little monkeys there, even tho' bits and pieces of high-pierced squeals were squeezed in between bouts of running, they loved it. Bret and Sara arrived and Sara was really dressed up--she looked so beautiful. Bret looked happy and the boys were 'trimmed and pruned'. We had some horsey derves and a little wine, sat down to a lovely dinner---can you believe mom and dad got the whole thing from Safeway and it was DELICIOUS!--then we opened presents and it was just chaos, lol! I loved it. Of course, there was the obligatory big box that the kids went to right away after dropping their presents. It was a beautiful and sunny day with some wind but still, for Portland, it was great. Sara and Bret and the boys left and Kevin filled up the digital frame we got for the parents with all the pics we took that day and then we headed out, around 5:30. It usually takes about 3 and a half hours to get home but we had a real event on Christmas Day this year. Somewhere close to 6:30, shortly outside of Sandy, Or., we ran into a road block, literally. Traffic was backed up for over a mile, and police cars were flying by on our left side, racing up the highway. We must have counted at least 25, then there were plain-clothes cars flying by, the next thing were two news vans, a huge van towing a search light set-up, and a giant van with "Systems Control" on the side (that one carried the lieutenant!) in it. You know, times are amazing. Just a few years ago we would have been sitting there for hours with no clue as to what was going on. I don't think we were sitting there for more than a half an hour when we called up Kevin's parents and asked them to see if there was anything going on on the news channel and we got that info pronto. About 3:00 o' clock in the afternoon a 41 year old man had shot a 63 year old woman in the head and he fled, and at that moment he was "armed and dangerous and on the loose" in that area, they were actively searching for that person!
It was dark now and the wind was blowing circles around the vehicles, we kept trying to listen to the news on the radio but reports were rather sketchy, nothing we didn't already know at the beginning with the parent's report. Now and then a car or two would turn out of the line and head back to Sandy and we would inch our way up closer to the road block and the flashing police lights. A young man got out of the car ahead of us and skateboarded up to the checkpoint, as he made his return, he was giving information to drivers. At 8:30 he stopped to tell us that the police said they would be opening up the road closure at 10:30. It was a long wait and no bathroom, we had already eaten the left over pie we brought with us and my sun flower seeds were drying out my mouth. BUT...we thought we'd wait it out since the detour---which had been closed due to a downed power line--would take just as long. Shortly after that an ODOT employee began walking down the line of cars and as he did so, they would turn out and head back to Sandy. When he reached us he suggested we not wait even though the road would possibly open up at 10:30, but there was just something in the suggestion that made us decide to turn around as well.
So we joined the line of cars and returned to Sandy, stopping at the ONLY quick stop open, on Christmas night. There were only two young men in there and I think they were a little overwhelmed with the sudden influx of customers. Kevin and I grabbed something quick to munch on and a cup of coffee--here's the rub: I have NEVER EVER gotten a good cup of coffee at a quick stop but this time it was fantastic! I paid for the snacks and asked the young man if he could accept a small tip for having to work on Christmas night. His face lit up and he said such a gracious thank you, he said it made his day. I asked if there was a restroom available so the young man showed me the way, he had to wait outside because it was for employees only I guess. When I came out, I told him that someone had left their wallet in there and he anxiously said, "Oh wow, that's mine!". I know it was small but it did make me feel like I had done something good that night. There was just something in the way that young man had said such a sweet thank you, made me wish I could have left him a lot more.
We hopped back in the truck and joined the detour-bound procession. Now this wouldn't be much to talk about except that this entire string was going both ways on a very narrow and winding two-lane road, there were times when the tires on the vehicle in front of us were just barely on the road. The area we went through was quite rural with the occasional brightly decorated cabin, windows open to the world and families opening presents under their trees. You could just imagine their curiosity as this lighted ant line of cars passed by, must have looked like Los Angeles at 5:00 p.m. We must have been driving this detour for a good 45 minutes when we finally came back out on Highway 26 that takes you over the pass, past Mt. Hood which had already been in the news this week, too. I couldn't help but think of the so called climbers that lost their lives up there just days earlier, and how their families were not celebrating this holiday like we did. I was also thinking of how sad the incident was that caused our delay on this holy celebration. Finally, at 1:15 a.m. we walked through our front door at home. How but for the grace of God go I....
Now I clarify my statement earlier on the "so called climbers": These people went on a dangerous expedition without ANY GPS system, they went UNPREPARED and subsequently lost their lives and cost thousands of dollars for search and rescue, hundreds of combined man hours for search and rescue and undue loss and sadness for their families. As we drive by Mt. Hood a few times a year, I always think of those people who will be up there forever and always say a little prayer of some sort.

I have been smiling for two days, what memories!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Great Summer

Where does the time go? I can't believe it's been over two months since I last offered up a post. Okay, so life has presented a few glitches but for the most part it has been a pretty good summer. My last entry was the day before heading over to Corvallis to spend a few days with Sara and "The Boyz", as I like to refer to them. Bret was heading for Bend to spend part of the week working and being with his dad. One of his comments after a few days without the little family was, "It's very quiet here". Yes, the little boys are quite noisy, but it's wonderful to hear those sounds again, of laughter and giggles and little voices repeating your EVERY word. We seem to forget how precious this explosive learning time is when they are under five. I was fortunate enough to spend the last evening playing for hours, yes hours, with Evan and discovering what a wonderful little person he is. Eric will be next, not quite two he is a little blond rocket whose destination point changes every ten seconds. I figure a couple more months and he might land in one spot a little longer for conversation.
The weather was very cooperative so Sara and I planned a day at the beach in Newport with Evan and Eric, needless to say, we all had a great time. There were the usual plastic toys to take, a small lunch bag with pb and j, some drinks, sunscreen and water socks. The Boyz did great on the trip over and were very excited when we hit the sand, they could hardly wait to rush to the waves. Do you know what it's like trying to hold back two charging toddlers? Sara grabbed one boy and I got the other so we could take off their jeans and socks, we left t-shirts and diapers and the water socks on and let them go. Eric is our little bull dozer and he went full bore towards the water with Evan carrying up the rear. We let them get their feet wet and then had to pick them up before they got knocked over. Squeals of laughter and giggles as we played tag with the waves for a few minutes. Then it was off to higher ground to build sand castles and fill the dump truck with whatever.
Little did we know that a few broken pieces of pb and j tossed at the hovering sea gulls would really pique Evan and Eric's' interest.
Sara discovered that if she kept tossing food bits in a small circle the birds would keep diving and dancing around to snatch them while the little guys would try to chase them. This kept Evan and Eric within a certain perimeter without too much effort. Smart mommy there, Sara.
By the middle of my visit I was finally christened "Beema" and at this point I think it's a pretty good name for grandma. The time came to leave and it was very hard. I waited for the boys to go down for a nap and then kissed my beautiful daughter good bye until the next time. I didn't want the little ones to watch Beema leave. Hard enough as it was.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Memorable Mothers' Day

And so it was another year was coming up, another year to pass that would add one more year to the many that I had not seen my son. We had made several attempts to get together over the last four years but something always seemed to occur that would prevent this. There were years when we simply didn't connect. Well in this life and on this planet we just don't have that kind of time to waste.
After re-uniting with my precious son and hearing that he had been in the hospital several times, I simply decided to take the time off from work and go see him.
Eleven years had gone by since we were last together. It's the same amount of time it took to bring him into this world and it was an eleven hour drive that brought us back together. The moment I saw him, all six feet four of him and 30 years old, the tears came flowing. "Aw mom, you don't have to cry" but oh yes, I did.
"Michael, whatever has gone on, whatever has happened is all water under the bridge. Let's not ever let this much time get away from us again."
I arrived at 6:30 p.m. and seemed to catch my second wind. As the night went on, we talked and talked and talked. Memories flowed through the both of us like lightening bolts, laughter erupted over silly things the family did, places we went and then there were some quiet moments. Somewhere into the night I suggested we should probably go to sleep and I asked Michael what time it was. He said I didn't want to know but I threw out this guess, "What, it's probably 1:30 a.m. or so?" and he responded that it was 4:00 a.m.!
I couldn't believe the time had gone by like that, just like the eleven years, in the blink of an eye.
This trip brought us back into each others' lives, healed some wounds and made me feel whole again.
What a fabulous gift for a mother. Not everyone gets a second chance.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Spring Notes

I saw my first daffodil blossoms yesterday morning and as usual, I trotted outside today with coffee cup in hand to check out the two bright yellow faces and possibly some sister blossoms. But this morning...well, they were pretty sorry looking; all bent over and sort of irridescent. Apparently we had a chill factor of 16 degrees last night. Now that it is later in the day and the warmth of the sun has taken the chill off, they don't look as wilted and sad, still, they are a bit hunched. The tulips haven't sent their blossom stems up yet but the hyacinths were standing tall and ready to burst. They are only slightly wilted so maybe I'll still get a few of those to open in a day or so.
All the bulbs that have been poking through were planted by the previous owners and the first year we were here I had some nice surprises.
And now, we don't have water. We had showers and I even did the dishes when I got home from town earlier. Kevin went to water the backyard and pfffhhtt! Dribble dribble...then nothing. Good grief. Of course it's a weekend. Nothing ever happens on a weekday when you can call the plumber or the electrician on regular hours and regular pay. Ohhhh noooo, it has to happen on a weekend and at the moment, Kevin is on the phone with the plumber trying to figure out the problem. We haven't heard anything splashing under the house and water is going from the pump to the pump house but nothing from the pump house to our house. We shall see...

We lost one of our little chipmunks the other day. I found it amongst the tulip leaves, just kind of laying there. They don't just lay, you know, they are such busy little creatures. So I watched it for a few minutes and noticed it had labored breathing, then it kept trying to hop but it did a wobble hop. This was not a good sign. I tried to see if it had bite marks from a cat or a dog or even one of the squirrels but I couldn't see anything. Kevin seems to think it might have gotten into some mouse poison somewhere.

My dear husband found a little plastic plant container and an old clean rag and bundled little Chip in it to keep it warm, hoping this might be some sort of passing thing and maybe it would be alright by then next morning. We left it alone so we wouldn't be a part of it's stress but by the next morning, Chip had gone to the big cornfield in the sky. Chip's little mate is still running around and I have no clue as to which sex either of them was/is, so the waiting game is on for any mini Chips.

We had three days of HOT, hot compared to 30's and 40's mind you, then we went back down to 50+ the last two days. Now, I'm not sure if this 16 degrees last night had anything to do with our not having water. The well pump is working out in the front yard, hmmm, guess it's a good thing I know how to take a shower with one gallon of water. Thank heavens the laundry is all done because doing laundry in a bucket is the real nightmare. Havng lived in Alaska for a few years without running water in the winter taught me a few things on how precious water is and how fortunate we are to have the inventions we do today.

I'll keep ya posted...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Yahoo! Spring is Coming!

It has been a long and dreary winter, not so much that we were buried in snow this year as it was that there wasn't much snow. The brown flora from last fall was the predominant feature and a bit depressing. Every now and then I would wake up to a lovely blanket of pristine whiteness only to have it melt by that evening or the next afternoon. There was no promise of building a snowman and topping it off with a steaming cup of hot cocoa and my dream of building my own personal toboggan run melted with each dissipation.
All this has been dispatched with the first sight of several purple and white crocus popping open their little heads! Every morning I walk out with my coffee and savor their gift, they will soon be gone and I'll have to wait for the tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. I thank them for being the first harbingers of the new season and for giving me something to look forward to, their cousins soon to follow.
This morning was the same but with an added bonus; two tiny chipmunks were feeling the effects of the warm sun as well. Scampering over the lava rocks and chasing each other around the tulip leaves, they sped right past my legs, never afraid of the human standing so still above them. I read earlier that these little critters are hermits except for mating season so I am under the assumption these two are dating. They would chase and turn to each other, nuzzle their noses and resume their chasing.
I guess there will be little ones to come in the next month. They have found a safe and predator free homestead by burrowing under our house!
A few months ago Kevin was trying to tell me that he kept hearing things in the walls and under the floor. I did my wifely duty and replied with, "Yeah, sure honey. How the heck can anything get under there?" Of course I did my inspectionn tour of the entire building circumferance, noting there were no holes dug and the vent blocks were all still in place. And then after my visit with the chippies this morning I watched them high tail their little selves right up under the framing at the corner.
Okay Kevin, you were right. I digress, you win. (:
Another sign of spring here in Central Oregon are the deer. After wintering over in Christmas Valley they are passing through here and returning to their various hunting grounds. Our house just happens to be in one of their migration corridors so we get them coming and going and even just hanging around here as well. Kevin said he saw one of the does and her two fawns from last year, she showed them the birdfeeders where one can nuzzle out a few goodies if you get your nose in there just right. Then she meandered over to the watering pan we leave out for the birds and squirrels.
I'm sure if you listen hard enough you would be able to hear her say; "Now children, this is a pretty regular spot to catch a drink, it seems to have a running stream of fresh water every day. And over there where that sweet smell is coming from? That's a real treat of oats and molasses and corn! This is just one of the mother load stops so keep this in your memory for the future and for your children."

And I would like to credit Mr. Richard Cameron at for giving me permission to use his photo.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Official Grandma Milestone

There are a lot of firsts in ones' life, each and every one of the good ones are a thrill. It doesn't stop amazing me how many there are that are so wonderful.

Yesterday, February 27, 2009, I got my official welcome into grandmahood.

It was a lovely day today, it's been cold (okay, cold for here in Oregon as opposed to Alaska, lol!) although the thermometer rose to 45 degrees around 1:00 p.m. with lots of sunshine. We had about four inches of snow the other day, winter is still sneaking in and out, telling us he's not all here but not all gone, either.
I did some housecleaning, changed the sheets, did the laundry, cleaned the bathrooms and made my favorite fruit salad for munching on. I have been engrossed in a great detective book by James Patterson so I pretty much had my nose buried in it the rest of the day and around 6:30 p.m I sent off a little email to Sara, just telling her I was thinking of her and loved her.

At 7:00 my phone rang, I know Sara's call, ha ha! We chatted for a bit about school and her projects and then about how she and Bret know all the words to all the Sponge Bob shows and how it's time to get a few shows in there now and then for grownups. Eric was already in bed and Evan gets to stay up a little later now, Big Brother stuff ya know. I kept hearing little mutterings in the background and finally Sara says, "Do you want to talk to Evan?" Well of course! Uh..Duh, lol!!
Evan and I did our little banterings which consisted of his "yrgyu truck knwros hsithy SPUNNNNGE BOB eriyth truck" and grandma here said things like, "Oh yeah? That's so cool, Evan, how are you, you like your trucks, I love you! Can you say I love you grandma?" stuff. In the background of our conversation was mommy (being Sara) coaching with, "Evan, can you say I love you grandma?"

And then...

"I wuv oo guhmomom!"

My very first one. Gads, what a thrill it is to do this again, it's even sweeter the next round.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Let's Go Snowshoeing! (original story 2002)

It was one of those few-and-far-between Alaskan days; crisp, clear and blasting with sunshine when I decided to get out of the house for a snowshoe hike in the woods and do a little photography as well. Taking my camera gear, a backpack with film (before digital was popular) and two side arms, one a Berretta Matto .338, the other a .454 Casul in case I encountered any grizzlies along the way. Contrary to popular belief, grizzlies do not necessarily hibernate all winter long. If they haven’t built up a significant amount of fat, they will keep foraging for food until their fat stores are sufficient for their long sleep.

After weeks of the intense February deep-freeze, this was not a day to be ignored, so strapping my snowshoes across the top of the backpack and making sure that I had easy access to the weapons, I left the truck behind and trudged on down a winding snowmobile into the bright sunshine.

I had never been on snowshoes before and had no clue what was ahead of me. Walking along the snowmobile trail only a couple of hundred yards I spotted a lovely rolling meadow, it was a beautiful expanse of blinding white mounds and it was calling to me. This looked like a great place to start, I wouldn’t be disappearing into thick woods and I figured I could get out fairly easily if I had to. I took off my backpack and proceeded to strap on the snowshoes thinking this is easy enough. I can do this. I was exhilarated! This was going to be fun!
Snowshoes on, backpack refitted and I was off, stepping out from the trail onto snow that was at least three feet deep with the first two or three inches soft and powdery.

It took a few yards to adjust my body and balance to the Bozo feet but it certainly wasn’t difficult, although it did take a bit to get the rhythm. Now one thing that all of my friends and family know about me is that I have never have had any rhythm or grace! I would recommend practice before adventure; learn how to get yourself up and to take walking poles along. Did I do this? Nooooooo. I learned along the trail and herein lies the story…

One thing a person should know BEFORE they go out and play with snowshoes is how to get up if you fall while traversing DEEP snow. The area off the snowmobile trail turned out to be waist deep as I soon learned. I had stopped about a quarter of a mile out, sun shining on twinkling snow, no other intruder had marred the area. I walked in circles and I walked straight lines, inhaled that unbelievably fresh air, everything seemed so much more intense; the green of the Sitka spruce trees, the blue sky and white clouds, even the color of the sun was different, always a late afternoon hue at that time of year.

Just going nowhere soon lost it’s hold when I had this bright idea to kneel down for a few minutes and inspect my little area. As I leaned over to inspect the bindings the weight of the backpack propelled me face forward into the snow. I had been hand carrying the camera and my first thought as I was going down was "Don't land on the camera, don't let the camera fall in the snow!" As I went down I threw my left arm straight up over my head and with a certain amount of body contortion I managed to save the camera. Okay, I thought, no problem, piece of cake.
As I put my free hand down my whole right side promptly sank up to my shoulder. Then I was down, my right arm buried up to my neck, my body weighted down by all the gear and thick clothing while the snowshoes were pointed upwards at right angles. I took the camera strap and gripped it between my teeth, then attempted to roll over to my left side.

My left hand was down on the snow, which went up to my shoulder blade as fast as it did with the right arm! Slight frustration had begun to set in; I had no clue what I was in for during the next very long and strenuous ten minutes. With much groaning and whimpering, I pulled my arm free and rolled on my back, still holding the camera and the snowshoes still pointed in a cockeyed fashion towards the sky.

So I had two left feet attached to the Bozo shoes, I was encumbered with the heavy pack and still trying to keep the camera from making contact with the white stuff. I had learned NOT to put my hands down (hey, once was normal, the second time was reactionary). There seemed to be one area that was packing down fairly well, the spot right where my bottom was: I had made a complete 360 during my struggle. I thought if I could just move enough of my body out of the center spot, the snow would be packed down hard enough for me to put my hand down and possibly get myself out of that situation. Having squirmed a fair amount to make the attempt and with false security I tried to rise, only to break through the thin crust I had formed! Where the heck is help when you need it? Besides, nobody could help unless they were wearing snowshoes, too.

Finally I had remembered a relative conversation just days previously, to lay flat and crawl out so your weight is evenly dispersed. Still grasping the camera strap in my mouth I brought the camera up to my face as close as possible. Here’s the picture; a backpack holding a few thousand dollars' worth of gear and film, camera straps worn like a bridle and legs crossed like a giant X with huge, metal and plastic 'fins' sticking up. The soul of this moment? "Why don't you take one off and use it as a lever?" Hey, given enough time to calm down and think things out rationally, I would have figured that out. The simple difficulty laid in the attempt to bend into the right position to reach the straps on my feet, unbuckle them and yank that ice flipper off. Again I rolled over on my side, placed the aluminum shoe on the terra-unfirma in front of me, put both hands on the makeshift support and pulled myself erect. Relief flooded me, how stupid I felt for not thinking of that earlier!!!

I have come to the conclusion that in any given predicament, one will opt for the rescue attempt if there is another human being within a reasonable distance, despite the inability of that person to do so. So next time maybe I’ll practice on the living room floor before going out alone. Not a bad idea, ‘eh?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Take A Drive


It's amazing how just taking a drive through the surrounding country can revitalize your soul.
It's also great to just jump in the truck and point your nose to...well, wherever. No plans, no directions and no time table. Now that's relaxing! We didn't have to worry about how long it took to get to the destination and there was no rush to return as long as we were somewhere by o' dark thirty.

There is a little creek that runs through some BLM land about two miles from our house. Everytime I drive by it a little voice in my head says, "You've got to stop and just appreciate the beauty, take some pictures". Yesterday I did that. Even though the morning started out overcast and foggy I thought this would provide some great photos anyway. Most people would just change their mind but weather of any kind can produce some fantastic shots.
There was a slight wind blowing which caused a white dusting of frost to form on all the firs, ponderosas and willows lining the creek. The short winter we've had so far has formed a crust of ice on the shallow lakes and ponds. It may be a small area but I can still get moments of feeling alone with the wilderness.

So I clambered around the icy banks of this little creek, trying to get some good angles. It was just cool to be outside, breathing in the crisp fresh air and listening to the cracking ice as I walked on it. It only took a few minutes but I had finally listened to that little voice. The next time I'll stop when the sun is just short of setting for a different perspective.

Kevin and I took off and headed west into the hills on the other side of the main highway, driving through patchy, snowcovered dirt roads and the forest of jack pines. The truck tires crunched over frozen puddles and the fog burned off, leaving crystals of ice on the branches glistening like millions of tiny reflecting mirrors. Farther up the winding, one-lane road the trail turned into two lines of frigid trenches, forcing the truck to follow and slide at it's will rather than ours. Good thing we were headed downhill on that, it reminded me of being in a bumper car at the fair. We reached the crest of the low ridge and had a bright and clear view of the Matterhorn-like Mt. Thielson with Diamond Peak sitting just to the right. I took a few pictures but my little camera just doesn't give them the majestic credit they are due.

Once again we pointed our noses south through forests of ponderosa. The fog had just lifted from the woods leaving behind powdery white branches and needles. The deep reds of the ponderosa trunks starkly contrasted against the snow, it was ethereal, very calming, oh so quiet out there. You could hear yourself think. Turning my back to the occasional passing vehicle, I could shut out the world and simply feel and smell the peace out there.

Just a few miles south of the enchanted ponderosa woods the landscape totally changes from volcanic rock strewn veins bubbling up through the mixed forerst to a basalt like wall that lines Horse Ranch Canyon. Juniper trees define the cross over immediately and the veiw morphs into a wide plain of sandy, rocky soil dressed in sagebrush named Christmas Lake Valley. This is where Fort Rock is located, a gigantic volcanic bowl that rises up like Ayres' Rock does in Australia. The valley community consists of ranchers and farmers, homes dot the landscape intermittently, you could almost count the ones you can see on both hands. It doesn't snow much down there but the wind can blow and howl enough to put any hurricane to shame. Still, it is a different kind of beauty.

I opted to stop at the local (and only) restaurant for lunch, which Kevin eagerly agreed to.
After ordering a BLT for Kevin and a chicken sandwich for me, we settled down to read the local self-published valley news pamphlet. It's amazing how much goes on 'way out there'. I counted ten churches advertised and a handful of fund-raising potlucks going on at any given time. The highschool was raising money so the band kids could make a trip to Disneyland, someone else had an ad for clothes for the needy, etc., etc. Then I mozied on over to the local want ads. Now here is where you will meet the real people. The real estate jumped from a $3,000.00 lot in town (the town is about as big as one lot) to a three bedroom, two bath stick built home on two acres for, get this, $69,000.00!! Moving down the column to MISC FOR SALE was this one, fit for Jay Leno's blooper ads:
"For Sale: two ton wench, needs some work". Now, most ranchers I know use a winch on their farm equipment but maybe there's something going on 'way out here' that I don't know about. Maybe their winter was a little more harsh than ours even though the snow was almost non-existant. Maybe this little restaurant had the best biscuits and gravy that wench ever had. Kevin and I sat at our little diner table and had a field day tossing that one about while we waited for our meal. We did keep it very low key, though, in case any of the locals took offense to our funnin' with them.

Lunch finished and with a few hours to spare until sunset, Kevin and I drove off down the main highway again, veering left onto another narrow and winding dirt road. I personally believe that winding roads are a lot less boring than a straight-through-get-there trail. And to make it more fun if you're piloting a haymower are the swimming pool sized 'potholes' interspersed about every one hundred feet. As we came upon one that could have been a pond, I asked Kevin, "" This could have been some ranchers' idea of a "Let's see if the furriners go thru the middle, Clem I'll betcha a few chips they do and boy, when they hit that hole we'll make us a bundle hauling 'em out, har har har!!"

Surviving the icy mine fields, there was a sign that read "Guard Station 2 Miles" and another one that read "Derrick Cave 8 Miles". We both were wondering just what it was out there that would require a guard station. I was thinking it's where all the bad "guards" go for punishment. The only thing out there are minute volcanic mounds, juniper trees, sagebrush, jackrabbits and coyotes. Oh, and those Godzilla sized power lines that run from one end of the horizon to the other.

Surviving the off-road trail, we came upon an area with a cylindrical formation jutting up into the sky. At first we thought this may be where Derrick Cave was. I told Kevin, "You know I HAVE to go up there!". It was there, it had to be clumb. Of course, standing at the base of it doesn't look anything like it does when you reach the rim. It was kind of cool, though. Looking at the rock you could see millions of big and tiny holes, some looking like porous bone and other parts looking like melted chocolate. There were a few small caves but we discussed the fact that they certainly weren't worth climbing all the way up there for. Derrick Cave had to be somewhere else. As we learned later, we hadn't gone far enough but that was due to the fact that the rest of the road was just a sheer sheet of ice, uphill. So we'll save that discovery for another day.

I like Christmas Valley, I like the name, the wide open vastness and listening to the wind whistle through the 'bob-war' fences and windmills. I like the simplicity of information you get. If you are on some back road as we were and you think you may be lost, just look for the cross-shaped post with a sign that says, "OUT". I'm not quite sure why but there are signs all along the two-lane highway that say, "COWS"...and they're only two feet tall. Maybe with all that time during the long winter they teach their cows to read.

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