The Big Move

moving-websize

After a brief layover in Owensville and Stanton to say goodbye to friends, and after a final rendezvous with the Current River in Southern MO, we were Kansas bound; the first obstacle that stood between us and our final destination.

Traveling through the state of perpetual prairies, in the dead of summer, promises many things: vast fields of blue stem and wheat grass, but also among them: no shade and sweltering temperatures  We sweated it out during the day and got up early in the mornings to stay ahead of the daily highs above 100 degrees.

We spent our first night in Kansas camped under a beautiful cypress tree alongside 20170717_173756Toronto Lake. What we thought would be a good watering hole offered little refreshment, offering lukewarm bathwater and requiring a 100 yards to submerge your body past your waist.

Our second night in Kansas we stayed at Scott Lake, a much smaller lake, nestled within subtle canyon walls, not too far from Monument Rock. Although hot, we were lucky to have shade and a shower house.

20170721_101056We crossed into Colorado the next day and chased the Arkansas River up to its head-waters, camping at Monarch Park.  We traveled north-west, up the Rocky Mountain corridor, spending our second night at Turquoise Lake just outside Leadville. By this time we had been on the road for a week and had showered once, in Kansas, at an outdoor bath house. It was time for some modern amenities.  We planned to hit up a RV park to score a shower, do some laundry and connect to some wifi; however, we ended up at a cheap motel because every campground (public or private) in an 80 mile radius was booked.

Colorado never fails to deliver diversity and as we traveled up HWY 24 we were reminded of its immense vastness seamlessly transitioning from desert dunes to barren peaks to colorfully carved canyons. Especially noteworthy on our ride through was the pass through Mountain Of the Holy Cross and the gap through Glen Canyon. Both remarkable. Both awe inspiring.

We scored a cheap motel in Parachute, Colorado. Never heard of it? Me either until I did a Google search for cheap lodging in the vicinity, and it lead me to the Parachute Inn. Judging by the website it seemed presentable enough; it boasted free wifi, continental breakfast, laundry faculty and, according to its availability, only had 3 rooms left, insinuating its high demand plus, and most importantly, it was the cheapest place around.

I must admit, I may have been a little misled. Its location was suitable, just off the highway, but it’s facilities were a bit rough. It was pretty obvious upon arrival that likely the reason for the scarce availability of rooms was largely due to the fact that the motel had residents rather than guests. Although a non smoking facility, the room reeked of stale Pall Malls. The carpet was a maroon felt and had a burned iron print in it. There wasn’t a cabinet in the room that was still fully connected to its hinge.  Truth be told, judging by that night’s activity, we were both convinced that many of the residents likely achieved an income through prostitution.  But, it had a shower, free wifi, a laundry mat and, lest we forget, it was affordable.

We departed the next morning for Dinosaur National Monument, crossing into Utah for a stay next to the Green River.

Dinosaur National Monument is significant not only because of its namesake, having dinosaur remains, but also as the confluence of the mighty Green River and the free flowing Yampa.20170723_070538

We stayed the next night next to the Green River though, due to a torrential down pour the previous night, was very much red having consumed the sediment from run-off carving its way down the sandstone canyon walls.

On our way out we visited the Dinosaur Quarry exhibit. Millions of years ago, when the drought came, dinosaurs often died next to river beds hoping for water to once again flow in them. When it didn’t, they died. Well, until the water finally did come, washing thousands of bones down river where they collected in one spot, in the north-east corner of Utah.

From there we followed the Green River up to the Fiery Gorge Recreation Area where it is 20170723_150128dammed, one of several along its 730 mile meander to the ocean, in order to reservoir blue gold to water the desert.

Traveling through an ancient sea bed, we crossed over to Wyoming and spent the night under the iconic Chimney’s in Firehole Canyon, once proudly displayed on The Equality State’s license plate.

We continued north into the Bridger-Teton National Forest, chasing the Hodack and Snake River through their consecutively chiseled canyons. We hiked two trails while in the wilderness: Black Canyon and Huckleberry Mountain; both boasted great views and amazing wildflowers.

From the Tetons we headed into Yellowstone where we weaved between lodge pole pines and thermal landscapes . We treated the park more like a wayside, utilizing20170727_202106 the shower and laundry facilities. We camped in the park at Bridge Bay and, although corralled like cattle, got to have a very intimate affair with the wild when a bison strolled into our campsite, proceeded to get comfortable, and coexisted with us for more than an hour before sauntering off.

The next morning we crossed into Montana and stayed the night in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. We stopped for a short hike to Memorial Falls, a waterfall 20170730_082519flowing over some of the oldest, hardest rock in Montana, tucked inside the Castle Mountain Range; from there we headed for Glacier.  We spent our first night along St. Mary’s Lake, in a private campground, soaking in the nostalgia as it was 10 years ago we spent our honeymoon on the trails of this National Park. We were “Going to the Sun” the next morning, traveling out the west entrance where we skirted the park boundary, choosing the forest side for a day hike to an alpine lake.  The day was perfect for swimming, so we both waded out and paid our respects to the sun.

20170731_092611The temperatures started smoldering again, so we spent the next three days in water: first at Bitterroot Reservoir, then Stanton Lake and then at Hells Canyon, cooling off in the Snake River.  During the day, we left early so that we could chase a trail where we explored 20170731_121940
two ancient cedar forests:  Giant Cedars in Montana and Grove of the Ancients in Idaho.  Nothing makes me happy like a silent walk among ancient giants.

From there we lost the sun.  Although the topography was still amazing, smoke from near-by forest fires stole the sun from shining its light on it.  After spending some time with family in Kalama, Washington, where we floated the Kalama River and explored the lava beds of Mount St. Helen, we made a stop in Newport, Oregon and were off for the final stretch.

After 5 weeks on the road, we planted our feet in Eugene, Oregon.  We arranged temporary housing at an extended stay hotel but found ourselves moving into an apartment within 4 days of arrival.  We immediately began nesting, scouring thrift stores and 2nd hand shops until we were pretty much furnished.  Although our mattress still resides on the floor, we feel settled in for the most part, allowing time for exploration.

Because everything is in biking distance, the first wheels we purchased were pennyonbikeequipped with handlebars and pedals.  Although I was a little wobbly at first, the old adage rang true: riding a bike was “just like riding a bike.”  We’ve explored most of the
city in this fashion, linking bike paths, often with the dog in-tow (and by in-tow I actually mean in a dog satchel we picked up in Newport and later in a crate we attached to the rear of my beach cruiser).  So that’s happened.  Still too proud for a stroller, yet not ashamed to swaddle our 10lb cranky, old wiener dog; I suppose she likes adventure too.

We are anticipating a lot of adventure this coming fall and winter but are presently gearing up for a new school year.  As I enter my 13th year in teaching, I will be starting my first year at a new school.  Although the details on this new endeavor warrant a new post entirely, I will say that I am excited for what lies ahead, although I must remind myself to consciously remain in this beautiful present.

We’ll keep you posted.

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Best Laid Plans

dcr0500lTwo years ago we got the itch.  We were one year removed from the trail and wanderlusting.  We felt stagnant and unfulfilled in our present situation and were growing ever more agitated.  The trail had changed everything: our perspective, our priorities, our very souls.  We had become victims of habit and fallen back into a toxic routine– toxic because we were settling; toxic because we were unhappy.

So we devised a plan.  We would unroot and coddiwomple across the U.S. We sold our house, purged our belongings and quit our jobs.

But, best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.  And awry they went.

Now, instead of the anticipated 9 month peregrination, we have settled for a four week sojourn.

Why?

I’ve accepted a job in Oregon!

Not quite the adventure anticipated, but an adventure none-the-less.  And we couldn’t be more excited.

We will be taking the remainder of the summer to head to the Pacific Northwest, traveling with little more than the clothes on our back and the gear in our car.  A clean slate with no itenerary other than to see what happens.

I will be working for Pacific Northwest Youth Corps Twin Rivers Charter School.  A school whose mission and vision share my personal and professional philosophies.  As a brand new school, I get the amazing opportunity to contribute to the foundational components of this school’s evolving, innovative perspective on education.

The school uses a thematic approach to foster project based instruction in an experimental setting. Weekly lesson plans include instruction, service learning and field experiences.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m absolutely smitten for this opportunity;  I get to merge my passions: teaching and outside!

Neither of us are sure what to expect from the months to come, yet we feel that we are heading in the right direction. We’ll let you know where it takes us!

Special thanks to former students Rocky Apps and Kaila Aubuchon, and beloved colleague Melissa Bestgen, for the humbling references.

Also, big thanks to my brother, niece and sister-in-law for letting us consume a generous portion of their basement to store our remaining life belongings (which likely turned out to be more then they expected).

Additional thank yous to my parents who donated a space on the floor to sleep, a place in the shop to work and space to store the other remnants of our materialistic lives.

So much has transpired in the last year and a half and so much more has culminated in the last few weeks; we are eternally grateful for our family and friends for all the help and support.  See you soon!

 

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The Cat’s out of the Bag

Icatbag1 originally thought the expression, “the cat’s out the bag,” was an appropriate
introduction for this post; however, I became immediately fixated on its perplexity.  Is the cat okay?   Who keeps cats in bags!?

In order to understand this analogy further I Googled it and, to my disappointment, was only rewarded with more perplexity.  If you have 20 minutes or so I’d highly recommend doing your own investigation; however, for the sake of brevity, I will offer you the commonly accepted interpretation that a not-yet revealed truth has come to light.

So, I quit my job. Well, that’s a little harsh. Technically I resigned/retired (and that slash is deliberate as the true intention is yet unclear), but the end result of either is jobless.  Mike will be giving his due-diligence when the lease is up, and the lease is up in July.  This will leave us job and home-less.  Again, that’s harsh, and likely giving my dad a heart-attack.  Rest assured, there is a grand plan in place; however, it’s highly unrealistic and likely implausible. But, I digress.

So, back to jumping ship in July.  We are pretty certain we will be waving our good-byes and heading to Colorado first.  The Rocky Mountains have always been my unicorn, a magical illusion just beyond my grasp, so we are taking advantage of finally having the time to enjoy, and more importantly for me, acclimate, because the first anticipated trek is the Colorado Trail.  We anticipate staying west-ish for the first year or so but the plans are still a welcomed uncertainty.

This declaration brings us to several revelations: like the anxiety that revolves around leaving a life of security in contrast to the euphoria associated with the potential of a boundaryless horizon.  It also gives us a time line- 3 months.

And there is a lot to do in 3 months.17361577_1352228144838686_5152919036405099427_n

Presently, the mobile home that will make this grand adventure both economically and aesthetically possible is in a hundred pieces in my dad’s shop.  Step one to living deliberately from a vehicle is having something that is dependable.  That involves a few things for our 04 Land Rover Discovery.  Although predictable, they are particularly intensive and laboring, including installing a new engine, welding up a rear end and re doing a suspension.  It’s a labor of love, which I only say because I’m not the one laboring, and it’s officially on a dead line.

In addition, I’ve got a school year to finish.  With senioritis setting in, I think both my students and myself are beginning to feel a bit confined.  Spring will either help or further exasperate this.  Some days I’m ahead, some days I’m behind, but most days I get by.  Regardless, I can see the twinkle of light at the end of the tunnel and, sooner than I’m likely ready, the sun will be fully shining on me!

We’ve got packing and planning and more tedious, arbitrary details that are numerous, and probably warrant more attention than I’m presently giving them, but the countdown has begun, and time is a relentless motivator.

So, in a nutshell, we’re off on another adventure!   The details are still unfolding but I will become progressively more active in conveying them as our time to launch gets near.  Lots to do, and we’ll keep you posted.

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Our Overlanding Evolution

What started as an economical way to vacation has turned into an obsession to go ANYwhere.  When we first got hitched, we were divided between getting established and discovering something new.   We were establishing our careers, remodeling our first house, and in perfect stride, bought our first car- a Jeep Patriot.  Part of the criteria for the new purchase was fold down seats and at least 6 ft of back seat + trunk space as we anticipated sleeping in the rear as we vacationed during breaks.  In this way we traveled to Glacier, Colorado, Tennessee several times, Maine, Yellowstone, the Everglades, and the Grand Canyon.  We utilized the back space, and inflatable mats, and effectively saved in abundance on one-night hotel stays as we traveled the great American interstate system (the preferred route, for us, to train or plane).

And in this fashion we thought we had found the hidden gold mine of travel.  Yet, as our travel and recreational desires diversified, what was once seen as a quaint and comfy arrangement became oppressive and restrictive.    Additionally, we discovered that the catch 22 to the 4 wheel drive was that it lacked the ground clearance necessary to really be considered off-road capable.   We needed organization, comfort and an all terrain vehicle that went beyond the established road.  So, it was in this interest, we acquired our Toyota 4 Runner- a roomy,  reliable 4×4 that we beefed up and built a portable platform inside that reinvented how we traveled.   It was in this way that we traveled to Grand Escalante, Colorado, TN several more times, the Mojave Desert, Sequoia, Redwoods National Park, the Oregon Coast and the Washington woods.

Then we began to feel cramped again.

As the growing pains increased, and as our travel and recreational desires diversified, we decided to add to our offroad orgy.  We purchased an 04 Land Rover and began the build of our future (because this one we anticipated living out of).  The Rover offered more clearance, better off road potential and more comfort in its spacious interior.  However, this is really sugar coating the situation, there were some issues to address, (like the shit motor and the over-seas parts to name a few), but with a car that pretty, we (or as my husband would be quick to point out: I) couldn’t resist.  From there it has been an ever evolving build that will serve as the mobile home to our nomadic life.

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A New Direction

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It’s been just about two years since we stepped off the trail, leaving Katahdin and the 2,200 miles of the Appalachian Trail behind.  A surreal experience where we embraced wild ponies, waded through an ocean of fresh powder, felt the kiss of the sun (and the bite of the wind), talked to strangers, humbly accepted the generosity of others and loved fearlessly all that we encountered.

Now, in a little less than a year, we’ll be lacing up our boots again, strapping the remaining contents of our materialistic life to the car, and running away.

Let’s back-up…

The re-adjustment after returning from our sojourn, although it looked nothing more than sliding back into the same routine we slid out of, was nothing less than jarring.   The transition from deliberate and intentional living back to a reality of anxiety and accountability was difficult and often over-whelming. 

What happened?

For me:

Even though I had returned to the classroom (my happy place) with a renewed sense of purpose, it wasn’t long before I felt the four walls of my cinder block classroom slowly closing in.  By the end of the year, I felt like I was crawling over my students in a 12 x 12 cell, and like them, I was trying to escape. 

To leave teaching would be like pulling a tortoise from its shell, I wouldn’t survive.  What I’ve come to realize though, is my ability to make an impact through education is not confined to a classroom or dictated by learning objectives.  My students have helped me learn that the most enduring learning moments happen when you forfeit control and allow the environment to intervene.  And this has become the foundation of my educational philosophy.  A philosophy I continue to grow as I expose myself to the magnitude of adventures that abound. So, now it’s time to say go.

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For Mike:

We were in New Hampshire, calling it a day in fear of an approaching storm, after accomplishing one of our first real obstacles in the high country: Mt. Moosilauke, the gate-keeper of the White Mountains.  We were in a clearing, looking out at Franconia Ridge, so Mike turned on his phone to snap a picture.  Surprisingly, the temporary lull in the forecast must have allowed for perfect reception because Mike received a message from his previous employer that they had his old position available if he’d be interested in returning. 

So, just like me, Mike slid back into his captain’s chair, renewed with a sense that luck was on his side.  And luck would have it, everything was EXACTLY the same.  And that was the problem.

 We both felt sedentary even though we had been quite the opposite.  Since our return we’ve traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, Nashville twice, Bryson City, North Carolina and Butler, Tennessee; over Christmas we embarked on a pretty epic road trip that took us to the Mojave Desert, Sequoia, Yosemite, Redwoods, Oregon and Washington; we’ve been back out to Colorado and spend most weekends anywhere but home, yet we feel like we’re being slowly eroded by time.  We need to keep moving.

So, we started purging our possessions; we sold the house and eliminated our debts; we’ve poured our time, and extra money, into outfitting an 04 Land Rover with the aptitude to travel just about anywhere, all in the anticipation to reunite with the trail in a year.  In which direction and for how long are welcomed unknowns.  We have chosen a life of unknown possibilities over a life of expected outcomes.  We will take to the trails again and continue our earthly education so that we may share our experiences with others. Everyday something beautiful.  Everyday a new adventure.

Peace.

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Lost Creek Wilderness, Colorado

lost-creek-wildernessColorado, like Tennessee, is a trip we tend to take every year.  Like Tennessee, although a little further, Colorado offers us the closest proximity to a mountain range with some elevation.

Because of our thru hike, and the prep work prior, almost 3 years have passed since we ventured west to the Rockies.  So, we were excited to be reunited with the 14,000 foot mountains that dominate the area (although my lost-wilderness-boulderbrain was dreadfully anticipating the hell it would do to my body).

A new area to us, we traveled south of Denver (our usual go-to was Grand Lake north of Denver) to Pike National Forest, north/west of Colorado Springs.

After stopping at Paradox Brewery in Divide (good beer, great logo), we winded our way up a gravel road to a camping-at-large area just outside Lost Creek Wilderness.  We car-camped that evening, prepping for a multi-day backpacking trip which we embarked on the next morning after a road-side breakfast of chorizo and eggs alongside Goose Creek.

We hiked into Lost Creek Wilderness via the Goose Creek Trail Head and immediately began ascending to Hankins Pass.  The trek was made especially difficult as the weight of alost-wilderness-boulders 1 lb breakfast burrito made its presence known in combination with the normal onset of altitude sickness having traveled from sea level to 8,000 feet and climbing beyond 10,000.  The discomforted was conveniently offset however, by the beauty of a rocky paradise.  Boulder gods stood guard among a rock fortress stretching towards the sky; it was brutally beautiful.

We linked Lake Park with the McCurdy Park trail, camping shortly after the trail intersection.  We had miraculously dodged the potential of afternoon showers and were equally lucky as we slept through dry skies that evening.  The next day we made acquaintances with GPS Ger, a hiker out for a trek along the Frontier Range who coincidentally dominated our conversation with trail directions and travel recommendations.  He was a talker from Toronto who’s “safety plan” included making conversation with everyone he encountered, ensuring that someone would always know his where-abouts as he adamantly shared them.

Our afternoon highlight was the headwaters of Lost Creek, which seemed to appear from lost-creeknowhere, as the terrain was predominantly comprised of various forms of rocks, boulders and stones.  At the headwaters, Lost Creek flows through a boulder jam that can best be described as a stone cathedral.  An archway marks the opening as the water rushes through the gateway into a slot canyon lined by stone soldiers.  We lost-wilderness-historic-siteregret not shedding our packs and wading through the canyon, under the rock archway, flowing with the water until it poured out the other side.  Perhaps another time.

The next day we explored the Lost Park Reservoir Site, the remains of a failed reservoir operation (1891 -1913). The only evidence remaining of a time long ago was the log houses used for employee lodging; simple log cabins, slowly returning to nature.  We reconnected with Goose Creek shortly after, enjoying the meander along the creek as it gained momentum, winding through narrow gulches and wide valley floors.  We were back at the car when the sky opened up; it was a welcomed shower as we headed out to make camp.

We spent the afternoon exploring red-dirt roads before picking a spot to spend the night.  We made our dinner and enjoyed our final evening under the omnipotent watch of Pike’s Peak, recently dusted with snow, perhaps a little more from the brief storm earlier.

It may have been a short trip but it was filled with wonderful weather, beautiful landscapes and the ever present sense of adventure whilst exploring something new.  It’s just a taste of what’s to come…

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Pisgah National Forest

After being cooped up in the classroom for 9 months, I was ready for some much needed rest and relaxation over the Memorial Day weekend.  Doing what we do best, stretching out our holiday weekends, we accommodated our extended weekend with 5 days off to constitute a mini vacation before hitting the summer school crowd, the only thing standing between me and our next vacation over 4th of July weekend.

The bad thing about leaving in such haste is that I’m apt to make careless mistakes, and in this case, we weren’t more than 20 minutes in when I began to notice the err of my ways.  Needing a blanket for our sleeping arrangements, I grabbed a quilted throw from the laundry room prior to leaving, feeling confident that it had passed the necessary sanitation requirements to make it on to the shelf in the first place.  Apparently, that wasn’t the case, as I sat in the passenger seat catching occasional whiffs of some foul smelling offender.  After an odiferous scavenger hunt, I correctly identified the culprit as the blanket I had scored off the laundry room shelf.  It was a putrid combination of animal musk (as if an opossum had laid low for a month or so wrapped in the cottony confines) and the sour smell of laundry left in the washing machine too long before it’s transference to the dryer.  To make things worse, within the temperature regulated confines of our Toyota 4-runner, it had no place to escape without passage into my nose first, and apparently, I was the only one sensitive enough to smell it.

And smell it I did.  For 9 hours.

When we reached our destination, Bryson City, North Carolina, there was a ceremonious eviction of the rank bedding and then a 5 minute cleansing period where I stood waving incense in and around the car and myself, likely resembling some form of séance, in an effort to eliminate any remanence of funk from my presence.  To say the least, it made for a longer than usually drive.

Our first destination for this trip was Deep Creek Campground, just within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where we were united with friends, to enjoy some leisurely recreation together.  Now, if you don’t know anything about Deep Creek, allow me to introduce you to some quite entertaining fun: white water tubing!  We spent the day taking turns running the creek and enjoying the camaraderie of friendship.

We parted ways the next day to hike individual paths.  Our friends took to a trail in the park, whereas we headed out the Blue Ridge Parkway to find a more shark-friendly trip.  Like most National Parks, pets are not allowed beyond the parking lot and/or a few paved trails, so we ventured out of the park to find something more fitting for us.  We enjoyed a beautiful sojourn along the Blue Ridge before finding a suitable trail.  We got ourselves packed up when it began to sprinkle and, before we hit the trail head, it had become a more persistent drizzle.  We weren’t in but a mile when the persistent drizzle turned into a substantial shower, and we decided to turn around.  We were drenched from head to toe by the time we got back to the car where we stood under the cover of the hatchback as we peeled clothes from our wet bodies.  It wasn’t until I was pouring the water out of my boots that I realized our second error of the trip:  getting every item we brought to hike in soaked the day prior to heading out for a two-night backpacking trip.  It’s one thing to get wet while hiking; it’s another thing entirely to start off wet.  We were going to have to improvise a way to get our clothes dry by the next morning, so we headed back to camp to string a line.  The silver-lining (or perhaps the irony): it had stopped raining no sooner than we had packed up the car with our saturated clothing and wet dog.

All had dried enough, but our boots, by the next morning when we headed out to our second destination of the trip: The Pisgah National Forest.  We utilized the Big East Fork parking area to access the trail which would lead us to Cold Mountain (yes, that Cold Mountain).  Eager to get out there, we ascended the 3.6 mile trail along the Old Butt Knob Trail.  Anticipating nothing more than a glorified meandering (I mean, we were thru-hikers not even a year prior), we were abruptly confronted with the reality that this particular trail showed no mercy and were quickly humbled, as often is the case, by the mountainous terrain.  It didn’t matter where we had come from, or what experience we may or may not have had a few months prior, it utterly and thoroughly kicked our ass.

After salvaging what pride we had left, we continue on to the Art Loeb trail, a much easier feat, to Cold Mountain where we had to turn away from our anticipated summit because of over-crowding.  It was surely a glorious view from up top, but I wasn’t about to fight to see it.  So, we continued on the Little East Fork trail where we found a great camp spot along a cascading creek; it was a good day.

The next day, in drastic opposition to the day before, we hammered out 20 + miles re- connecting to the Art Loeb trail, traversing the open ridges of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain.  The panoramas were plentiful and the over-cast made for cool breezes allowing us to stay awhile and enjoy.  We camped in the back country that night, close to the car, allowing for an impromptu run to the vehicle to retrieve 4 celebratory brews from our cooler to conclude our successful trip.

We left the next morning, leaving behind the green mountains, crystal streams and fresh air to return to a sweltering St. Louis to pass the time until our next trip.  We’ll keep you posted!

Check pics on our Facebook or Instagram!

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