Monday, May 31, 2010

We survived our first holiday weekend...but "Chippy" almost didn't

Current location: Chester, CA

Our first holiday experience in our new lifestyle. Boy, do holidays have a different meaning now! We always looked forward to the start of a long 3-day weekend in our past lives. Now we look forward to them ending!

We knew we were in for a busy weekend, but didn't truly know what to expect. Although we feel like we're getting the hang of things, it still takes time to think everything through. And we knew that the pressure would be on with a line of customers waiting. The time was upon us to see how well we were trained.

The campground was not completely booked for the weekend, although close to it. We knew that this weekend would give us a taste of what was to come for the busy summer season, and hopefully prepare us for the Fourth of July. All in all, I think we did ok. I felt like I learned a lot and noted some room for improvement. I'm glad to have a couple of fairly quiet weeks ahead to work on some of those weaknesses.

I started my shift at noon on Friday and the campers started rolling in shortly thereafter. We had a steady stream throughout the afternoon and evening, but never more than 3 or 4 in line at a time. This was much better than last year, when they apparently all came in around 7:00. In between the rushes, we had several lulls which allowed for a bit of a breather and time to catch up. I didn't do as much of the gate duty as was planned. I was needed more inside the store. Unbelievably, we had a bunch of calls from people wanting to make reservations for later in the summer. During one of the busiest camping weekends? C'mon people! I'm sure the holiday got them thinking about camping, but could they not have waited until the weekend was over? These kind of experiences remind me to think twice before calling a business during a busy time or right before closing.

Anyway, I couldn't get away from the counter long enough to go out and greet the arrivals. Tracy came on duty at 6 and took over the gate duties. I was supposed to end my shift at 6, but was asked if I would stay to help through the evening. It was much easier with 3 of us. We closed the store at 9, had a brief rest at home - just long enough to take Hunter out for his evening duties, and then had to go back out for the 10:00 security rounds. Luckily, everyone seemed to be behaving themselves and quieting down, so we had a pretty easy time for our first time out. Admittedly, I think security rounds are going to be a bit of a challenge for me. I'm a bit on the shy side and not very confrontational, so having to ask a group of people (and probably inebriated people at that) to quiet down does not come naturally for me. But it is just something I will have to learn how to do. Every job usually requires some task outside your comfort zone and I guess this is it this time. I try to look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

We completed our rounds and were back home by 10:30. Friday was a long day, but it went by quickly. Although hectic at times, it was nice to be busy. Saturday morning came much too early, though. I wasn't on until 10, but since my shift ended less than 12 hours earlier, it seemed like a short night!

We had several arrivals on Saturday, but not near as many as Friday. Saturday was much busier with traffic...people going in and out of the campground all day long. The campground has a chain across the entrance which has to be lowered each time someone goes in or out. There is a self service button, but the driver has to get out of the car to push it. We have remote controls in the office, so we try to let it down for those exiting. For those coming in, they must have a car pass on their rearview mirror for us to allow them to enter and we try to keep a close eye on the traffic. This campground has strict rules about visitors. All visitors must be registered ahead of time by the on-site camper. Visitors are also charged an entrance fee, which must be paid at the time of registration. This doesn't always go over so well, with either the campers or the visitors. There are many reasons for restricting guests. First, on a holiday weekend, it is already very crowded so to have a bunch of additional traffic and parked cars around the campground creates hazards and difficulties. Second, we only have one bathroom building (there are a couple of porta-potties too). Having additional guests use the bathroom, not only costs the campground money but also makes it that much more crowded and uncomfortable for the paying campers. Thirdly, there are a lot of forest campgrounds nearby, so we need to try and prevent those folks from coming into our campground to use the showers. And fourth, it is basic security. It's not only important that we know who is in the campground, but it's also important for the safety of our guests. But I digress.

Saturday and Sunday were both pretty busy with traffic and kids coming in to buy ice cream and candy. But it was certainly calmer than Friday. People seemed to move a little bit slower on Sunday...maybe too much partying on Friday and Saturday?

We finally had some nice weather too. It was sunny most of the weekend and I think we may have even gotten close to 70! Could winter finally be behind us??

Today, Monday, we were off so what did we wake up to? Clouds! What's up with that?? What happened to the sun? At times, it looked like it might rain, but it never did. It was temperate, around 60, so I guess we can't complain too much. We expected the campground to be hectic with everyone packing up and pulling out, so we just decided to lay low. This is one of those times that we're really glad that our site is off by itself. Occassionally, we feel a bit isolated and a little out of touch with what's happening, but overall we really like the peace and quiet where we are. This campground only has water and electric at the sites, so we expected a long line for the dump station. We can see the dump station from our back window and there was a steady stream of rigs, but never more than 2 or 3 lined up at a time. We walked Hunter around the campground shortly before 11 and it seemed like the majority of the people were gone. The few that were left were packing up. From our vantage point, it seemed like a pretty smooth day.

But today brought a different kind of excitement for us. Last night we heard what sounded like scratching on one of our living room windows. We've had several birds bump into the window and that's what we thought it was. Jasper (our cat) seemed especially interested in the window, but again, we didn't think much of it. As we were getting ready to head into bed, he jumped up on the couch. He's not allowed on the furniture, so we thought his behavior was kind of strange, but we shooed him off and he seemed to accept it. This morning, we heard the same thump on the window and once again, Jasper was alert. This time, I saw something out of the corner of my eye, but again thought it was a bird outside. Tracy got up to look and said it was a chipmunk. I thought, "really, that's odd, are they climbing up the side of the rig?" Then she said, he's inside! And I thought, "inside? inside what? between the window and the screen?" Again, she said he's inside with a little more punctuation. And then I understood. Oh, he's inside the rig! Apparently, he was behind the couch trying to get out the window. Then he was on the couch and then disappeared again. We were fearful that he burrowed inside to where the hide-a-bed is, but we found him wedged under the cushion. As soon as we lifted the cushion, he took off and Jasper took off after him. And we took off after Jasper! He ran up the stairs and into the bedroom. My immediate thought was "great, he's going to hide under the top of the bed where we can't reach him". But miraculously, Jasper followed him all the way through and chased him into the bathroom. Now, I say miraculously because Jasper is not a small cat; he's about 20 pounds. We've rarely ever seen him move so fast and certainly didn't think he could fit into the small space behind the bed. Once in the bathroom, Jasper had "Chippy" pinned for a second, but I think he even surprised himself and didn't know what to do so he let him go. Chippy ran for cover behind the toilet and I quickly shut the bathroom door to trap him. I then got Jasper out of the room. Now what do we do? How are we going to catch this speedy little bugger? I didn't want to get bit, nor did I want to hurt the poor thing. After a couple of minutes of thought, Tracy set up a barricade by the outside door so that when I shooed him out of the bathroom, he would have nowhere to go but oustide. Success! Phew, that was an ordeal! As soon as we shut the door, our next thought was "was that the only one?" We looked around but couldn't find anymore so hopefully that's it.

We have no idea how he got inside. We have A LOT (and I mean herds or swarms or whatever you want to call them!) of chipmunks around here. They're cute but quite pesky. And they're really not too bothered by us or by our animals. Hunter is often laying out on the deck but that doesn't stop them from running all around. We generally don't leave the door open, unless we're carrying things in or out, but that's the only way we figure he got in. At least we hope that's the only way. I sure hope there's not another way for them to get in or else we'll be in for a looong summer of battles. We'll certainly be extra careful with the door from now on.

Here's a picture of our "other hunter":

And this is what he usually looks like:

Tomorrow we're expecting our first visitors of the season. I'll write more about that in my next post. Good night!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Gearing Up For The Holiday Weekend....And Maybe A Glimpse Of Spring!

Current location: Chester, CA

Well, there's not a whole lot to write about because we haven't been doing too much. We have continued to battle the wet and cold this week. We've had many days of rain, a few episodes of hail (minor), and even a bit of snow. The temperatures hover between 30 and 50, so we haven't had much inclination to get out and do much.

Monday (our normal day off) we worked for a few hours. I have to admit that I'm a bit frustrated with the groundswork coordination because they don't quite seem to know what to do with us. Each of us was scheduled to do a day's worth of grounds last weekend, but we were both told that with there wasn't anything that absolutely needed to be done and with the weather forecast being poor, our services weren't needed and we'd each have an extra day off. Now I'm all for an extra day off, but we're here to work and quite honestly could use the money. But I also understand that you can't control mother nature. So we accepted it and offered to make up some of the hours on Monday if the weather improved.

Monday morning arrived and it started out fairly dry, so we got dressed and met up with Randy, the head maintenance/groundskeeping guy. He seemed a bit surprised that we were wanting to work, but said we could both do some weed wacking at the tent sites. So we did that for a couple of hours. A couple of hours is about all you can stand at one time due to the vibration and weight of the models they have. And the rain started, so we figured that was a good time for a lunch break. When we followed up with Randy again, he said he didn't have anything else for us to do. Hmmm, so much for making up our hours.

I understand it's early in the season and things haven't gotten into full swing yet, but I have a hard time believing that there's not work to be done. And this was apparent yesterday (Thursday), when I was scheduled for a full-day of groundskeeping. The weather was far worse then it was last weekend, but I was outside working all day in it. I battled rain and a couple of brief hailstorms. And it was cold to boot. I don't think it ever got above 45. Not that I'm complaining. I like being busy. And I like being active. I would much prefer to be outdoors, even in weather like that. And I was busy. I weed wacked, mowed, and pulled weeds between the rain storms. I helped get one of the boats in the water and another one out of storage. I mounted a bunch of signs. I helped get the ice machine running. I bundled some firewood. What I don't comprehend though is why some of this stuff couldn't be done over the weekend? Why wait until the last minute? I'm getting the feeling that Randy doesn't quite know what to do with us, even though "there is more than enough work to be done". I am a bit frustrated by it and I'm hoping that it will work itself out when the owners are on-site for the summer (right now they're only here on select weekends while their daughter finishes up school). We'll just have to see, but I'm hoping that this isn't a problem of overstaffing. Last year they had one less staff person, but they were also experimenting with some different things. They said in years past that they had the same number of people as this year and it worked well. So hopefully the work will pick up as the campground fills.

Our other working days have been spent in the store, which is starting to get a little busier. Compared to past years, we've been told that this year is quite a bit slower, presumably due to the slow start of Spring. But the phones have been busy and reservations are starting to roll in for the summer. We're not completely full this weekend, but I expect that it will still be fairly busy. The forecast is for more rain this afternoon and then it is supposed to clear up for the remainder of the weekend. It is supposed to be partly sunny with temperatures in the high 60's to low 70's. I know that doesn't sound like much to all of you who have been battling the heat already (I see many pictures on blogs with people in shorts and I'm jealous!), but this sounds wonderful to us.

We really haven't done much with our time off. There's no desire to go hiking or exploring in the wet and cold. We have driven around some, just to get out of the house, but even that's not all that enjoyable in the rain. But hopefully Spring is upon us, with Summer not too far off. I'm looking forward to a busy, but hopefully not too chaotic, weekend. It will be interesting to see what's in store. This afternoon, I will be serving as the official greeter. Howard and Linda Payne introduced a system last year to greet each of the RV's as they're waiting in line on the driveway to check-in. (H&L - if you're reading, be pleased to know that they've continued to implement your suggestions!) I will help gather some important information, such as license plate and boat registration numbers, in order to speed the check-in process along. I'm not sure what else is involved - it hasn't really been explained to me yet. But I'll be outside, probably in the rain again!

That's it for now. I hope you all have a wonderful and safe Memorial Day weekend!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Waiting On Summer To Arrive

Current location: Chester, CA

Last night we had snow...again. It's been a cold, wet Spring so far. For the past week or so, the forecast each day has included a chance of precipitation; sometimes we get it, sometimes we don't. But the clouds usually roll in and the wind whips up every afternoon. Each night, it's been getting down to around freezing, so we've been unhooking our water, just to be on the safe side. Each morning we wake up to find that we probably would have been ok. So that had made us question whether we should continue to go through the trouble. None of our other co-workers are unhooking. Maybe we're just being overly cautious.

Yesterday afternoon, the rain, and then snow started around 3:00. We were thankful that our shift ended at 2:00 and we were back home and inside, warm and dry. I sure do like this commute - off at 2, at home by 2:05! The temperature continued to drop and around 8:00, the thermometer read around 32. If it was already at freezing that early in the evening, we figured that it would get pretty cold overnight. So we listened to our guts and unhooked our water once again. It got down to about 27 last night and from what we've heard, the water spigots in the campground are frozen! Boy, are we glad we are being "overly cautious"!! We haven't checked on any of our neighbors yet (since we're so far away from the rest of them). Hopefully they all made it through the night with no issues. As of 9:30 this morning, it is still only 32 degrees. BRRR.

This weather cycle is supposed to continue most of the next week and into Memorial Day weekend. So I guess we won't see summer for a little while yet. Unfortunately, this weather is playing havok with our work schedule too. Tracy and I were supposed to spend part of the weekend on groundskeeping - first our assignment was painting the dock, then it was moved to mowing and weed wacking - none of which can be done in this kind of weather unfortunately. So we'll each have an unexpected day off this weekend. If we get a break in the weather on Monday or Tuesday (our normal days off), we may work on one of those days to make up for the lost hours this weekend. But we'll just have to wait and see. Until then, we'll stay huddled in front of the fireplace, with our books and computers in hand. It certainly could be much worse!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Settling In and Our First Days of Work

Current location: Chester, CA

I haven't written much the last few days because we haven't done a whole lot. This site is so beautiful and peaceful, we find that we just want to relax on the deck, watch the fishermen, and have very little desire to do much else.

The view from our deck...why would we ever want to leave?Our site. The lake is in the background. We are away from the main campground and totally secluded, until the cabin (on the left) is rented. We'll enjoy the peace while we can!
Our "beach". This is the lakeshore in front of our site. We're not right on the waterfront, but are separated by a grove of trees.
To give a better perspective, this is the view of our site from the lake. That's us behind that very large dark pine. Very private.
We spent our first few days here just getting to know the lay of the land and our fellow workers. We were the last of the staff to arrive; the others all started when the campground opened on April 30. We've also become somewhat lazy. We're generally up early, thanks to Jasper (his stomach alarm goes off about 6am), but we tend to just hang out for several hours before getting dressed or doing much of anything. Then it takes another hour to have breakfast, get dressed and do the dishes, so before we know it it's 10:00 or later! We rarely had such slow starts in our previous life, but when there's nothing that has to be done, it's easy to just let the time tick on by.
Once dressed, the first order of business is to take Hunter for a walk. He's not a morning dog and usually goes back to sleep after breakfast, so the delayed starts suit him just fine. We've been walking the campground a couple of times a day to familiarize ourselves with the layout. There are roughly 130 sites, and although they are somewhat sequentially laid out, it's a bit of a zig zag route. The sites are also deemed for a specific use - tent sites are for tenters only (no pop-ups, truck campers, vans or RVs allowed); RV sites are for all the rest, but won't allow tents. Some sites have lots of trees and therefore are very shady, but that also limits what size rig can use the site; others are fairly open, so that means sun, but allows for larger RVs. Thankfully, there are good notes on all of this, but it's still helpful to actually view the sites.

A section of the campground. It's hard to tell much through all of the trees, but if you look closely, you will notice picnic tables and fire pits.
Lake Almanor from the campground. There are several lake front sites, but even those that aren't right on the water, have a great view of it.

A different view of the lake. The campground's boat docks are on the left side. There are not many public access points for putting in boats, so we get a lot of day-use boat launchers.

The remainder of our days have been mostly filled with cleaning, reorganizing, restocking, and laundry. Just the general settling in routine. Nothing very exciting to write about, but it feels great to have all of that out of the way.

Our first day of "work" was Saturday. We spent about 4 hours in the store being trained on the reservation system, the cash register, and all of the procedures and policies. Wow, there are a lot of rules here! The owners have tried to develop a fairly strict set of rules to keep the campground quiet and peaceful, but also ensure its profitability. I'm sure there's a very fine line in making the customer happy while still making it enjoyable for all customers. Some of the rules seem a bit excessive, but I know they all came about from previous bad occurrences. Most customers accept them, but there will be a few who complain and question. There's just so much to remember!
It's pretty quiet this time of year, but we did have a couple of phone calls requesting reservations and a few walk-ins for sites that night so it was good to get some real-life experience. All the training seems easy until you have a customer standing in front of you waiting. And then the panic sets in. What do I do first? What if I forget something? But I think we both did pretty well. At least they haven't told us not to come back! Each day will bring a little more confidence. We left our shift on Saturday with the rule book in hand, but ran out of energy before we even made it a quarter of the way through. We have a lot of reading to do. We might have it all down by the end of the season!

Sunday morning, we resumed our training at 8 am! What happened to our leisurely morning?? When Jasper woke us up this morning, we actually had to get up and get moving! We continued our training in the store, mostly just reiterating what we learned yesterday. We also got some training on the management reports. We will both be helping out with the daily income reconciliations.

We worked about 4 1/2 hours yesterday and about 5 1/2 hours today. That doesn't sound like much, but after having 2 months off of working (we both ended our professional careers on March 12, and although we've been hard at work on other things, we haven't had much of a schedule to adhere to) and feeling overwhelmed with so much to learn, it's been tiring. Luckily we have the next 2 days off! Mondays and Tuesdays will be our regular days off so we'll have a little time to let it all sink in.

Other than having set days off, we don't really know what our schedules will be. We do know that we will be spending about 50% of our time in the store; the remainder of the time will be spread out over a little bit of everything else, which is what we requested. Being our first workamping gig, we wanted to experience as much as possible. So we will serve as the rovers, filling in wherever is needed. During the holidays and weekends, I suspect that we'll spend much of our time in the store. The rest of the time, we'll be doing yardwork, helping with boat rentals and launches, cleaning cabins, pumping propane, restocking the bathrooms, running nightly security checks and anything else that comes up. We're excited to get started. Although the leisurely lifestyle was nice for awhile, it will be nice to have a bit more of a routine and a purpose to get up in the morning. Otherwise, I think we would end up becoming slugs!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Our summer in paradise!

current location: Chester, CA

We arrived at our summer home...amidst a blizzard! The forecast was for rain with possible snow, but I now think that was for lower elevations. Northshore Campground, where we will be workamping for the summer, is at roughly 5000 feet. As we began climbing the mountain from Susanville, CA, the flakes began. First they were mixed with rain, but by the time we came over the pass (I can't remember the name), it was seriously coming down. This morning, we had briefly talked about postponing our arrival until tomorrow based on the forecast, and now we were thinking that maybe we should have listened to ourselves. But we're here now and are thrilled to be here!

It is absolutely beautiful. It reminds me of the Colorado mountains. Back in our previous life, I always wanted to live in the mountains. We spent as much time as we could there on weekends, but could never figure out a way to live there while making a living. So I am now living that dream and it feels great.

The campground is on the shores of Lake Almanor in Chester,CA. Our site is very remote, away from the rest of the campground. We are in the same site that Howard and Linda Payne (RV-Dreams founders) stayed in last year. We knew it was going to be a bit challenging to get in based on what Howard wrote in his journal, but it was a little worse than what I expected. We (or should I say Tracy) had to back down a driveway and then make a 90 degree turn to get into the site. We eventually made it with a lot of back and forths, a little this way, a little that way. Tracy did great; she's always been better at backing up than me, so there was no discussion about who would be attempting this one. It was well worth the effort (easy for me to say!).

Here's a picture out of our front door. The lake is much closer than it looks; the shoreline is just a few feet away!

I'll take more pictures in the next few days once the weather clears up. Even though the picture above shows a little blue sky, the forecast tonight includes about 4 inches of snow and it's supposed to get down to 27 degrees. Brrr. And I thought we were done with winter! But I'm not complaining. That's springtime in the mountains. Luckily, we're used to this kind of weather.

We don't officially start work until next week, but wanted to get here a few days early to get settled and familiarize ourselves with the area. It will be nice to finally have the chance to unpack and we desperately need to do some serious cleaning, both inside and out.

I'll write more about the campground and the area once we figure it out! As I look outside, the snow has started to fall again. Sure glad we decided to get the optional fireplace!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hualapai Mountain Park

Current location: Kingman, AZ

Best laid know the saying. Well, we've had to slightly adjust our plans, again. We had planned for Kingman to be a one night stop, but when we pulled into the Blake Ranch RV Park, the attendant told us we were lucky to get a site without a reservation. Really? Hmmm, we've had no problem thus far. According to her, it's the northern migration of the snowbirds and this park is booked. I would have thought that most snowbirds would have already headed north by now, but I guess not. And that got us thinking about our next stops.

Our next planned stop was to spend a couple of nights at Terrible's Casino in Pahrump, NV. Howard and Linda Payne had stayed there and gave it high marks. We were planning to spend a few days there to replenish groceries, do some laundry, etc before our last push to California. So after the news, I thought I better call to make a reservation. Uh oh. They are sold out! They have three different rallies going on plus are full of migrating snowbirds. OK, plan B.

After some research and some additional calls, we decided to skip Pahrump altogether and extend our stay here in Kingman. The RV park has a very large and modern laundry and the town of Kingman appeared to be sizable enough to have some decent grocery stores and such. Luckily they were able to fit us in, although we had to move sites. So here we are.

One of the other reasons we decided to stay in Kingman was that it's not terribly hot, although getting warmer everyday, and there were some nearby hiking opportunities. So yesterday was our "chore day" and today was play day. Hunter loves to hike and he started getting excited as soon as the pack and the water bottles were set on the counter. He knew it was his day.

We drove to the Hualapai Mountain Park, which is about 15 miles outside of town. I had found what sounded like a nice hike on (for those who like to hike, bike, etc, this is an awesome site. It requires a nominal annual membership fee, but it saves having to buy hiking guides everywhere you go). The hike was stated to be 4.3 miles round-trip and about 800 ft elevation gain. That's pretty typical of what we used to do in Colorado, so we headed out about 9am this morning.

I wasn't really sure what to expect. Our campground is typical Arizona - shrubs but no trees - so we were prepared for more of the same. We wanted to get an early start to beat the heat in case it wasn't real shaded. Wow, were we surprised. It is called a mountain park and it actually felt like the mountains. There were lots of big pine trees and lots of shade. It is a beautiful area.
The trail...that's Hunter dodging trees:
When we entered the park, there was a trailhead almost immediately for the Aspen Springs trail. This was the trail that would take us to the one we wanted. So we parked and started hiking. Up and up and up. About a mile later we entered a campground and what did we find? The trailhead that we were supposed to park at! Oops. Oh well, it was a nice hike up to that point so we continued on. Now the guide said that the 800 foot elevation gain would be reached in about 1.5 miles and then it would level off. But keep in mind that we had already hiked a mile and climbed about 500 feet. But we kept going and kept climbing. It was very peaceful, the fresh pine smelled devine (hey, a rhyme!), and the temperature was just about perfect.

An old mine ("Silver Bell Mine"), we found along the trail. I don't know what was mined here, maybe silver? gold?
Rest stop for the weary...
Overlooking the town of Kingman (I think) in the far distance. Notice, a bit to the left of center an image of a dragonfly cut into the trees:

Here's a close up. The dragonfly is "our symbol". Read my post about it's symbolism here. How cool!
We made it to the point where the trail started to level off and we needed to make a decision. We were now on a section that was a 2.5 mile loop. Should we continue around the loop or turn around? If we continued around, the hike would end up being about 6.5 miles, which would really be pushing it for Hunter. And we were feeling a bit weary ourselves. I think we've had too many days sitting behind the wheel or just lounging around the house and we were feeling it. So we stopped for some lunch while we pondered.
While we sat atop a rock enjoying the view and our lunch, Hunter found a nice bed of pine needles under a tree that was perfect for a quick nap.
After sitting for awhile and filling our bellies, we turned around and headed back. And a good decision it was. Hunter started lagging further and further behind and by the time we got to the car, he was just about pooped. We were right there with him.

But it was a great hike. In total, we hiked a little over 5 miles and climbed about 1400 feet. Our legs are tired tonight, but it's a good kind of pain. What a nice little surprise Kingman turned out to be. I guess there was a reason we were meant to linger for a few days.

Tomorrow we'll head on to NV, taking it slow. We plan to arrive in California on Monday and I have to say that we're all looking forward to settling down for awhile. We've learned a lot on our first journey as full-timers. We've become more confident with hitching and towing and we've learned how to relax quite a bit. We are able to sleep well the night before our travel days now and have found it to be quite an easy routine. I'm sure after being stationary for 4 months we'll have to relearn all over again, but that's ok. We have our whole lives.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Petrified Forest National Park

Current Location: Holbrook, AZ

One down, 63 to go! One of my lifetime goals is to visit every U.S. National Park. I've been to many of the major ones, but there are so many others that I have yet to see. We decided that we would start our new life with a clean slate and not count the parks we had visited previously. So yesterday we knocked off the first one with a visit to the Petrified Forest National Park.
This park is made up of petrified logs which were created over 225 million years ago. They fell into streams and were buried in a mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash, which cut off the oxygen and slowed the logs' decay. Silica-laden groundwater seeped through the logs and replaced the original wood tissues with silica deposits. Eventually, the silica crystallized into quartz and the logs were preserved as petrified wood.
From far away, the logs look just like wood logs:
But up close, you can see the beautiful crystals:
This park was first created as a National Monument by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906 and was later elevated to a National Park in 1962. Another interesting fact is that this is the only National Park through which Route 66 ran. This portion of Rte 66 has been replaced by I-40, but the old roadbed is still marked by the weathered telephone poles:
This land was also home to the Peubloan people and some of their remnants are still visible today. The puerco pueblo was thought to be home to as many as 1200 people and consisted of approximately 100 rooms. There are many areas where petroglyphs can still be seen.
It felt good really good to be outside, breathing in the fresh air and enjoying some exercise. We took several short hikes and because this is one of the national parks which allow dogs on the trails, Hunter was able to go too. The weather was cool, which was a blessing since there is no shade in this park. As the day wore on, the wind picked up and by the time we reached the end, we were sick of being blown around and skipped the last couple of short trails.

For the first time in quite awhile, we felt like we were back in our element. Our weekends of our past life frequently included hikes in the Colorado foothills. Many of our vacations included visits to National Parks and Monuments, National Forests, or any scenic place outdoors. It felt good to be back to the familiar. As we were hiking, I had a bit of a revelation. In our past life, whether it was a weekend or a weeklong vacation, our adventures always had to come to an end and before we knew it we were returned to the drudgery of life as if our adventure never occurred. But this time, I realized that our adventure won't end until we are ready for it to end. And that put a smile on my face!