The Next Chapter

It’s been almost a month since I said “to be continued” on part one of my vacation story. There’s good reason and I will get to that here today, but let me start today by finishing that story of our South Dakota vacation.

I left you with a severely dinged windshield that had also cracked and was spreading and Mr. Knitting Sarah promising to just “kick the window out like a Cowboy” if it decided to shatter or get much worse. Instead of this option, we decided to do something crazy: we called our insurance agent and set up an appointment to get the windshield replaced. Thankfully we were headed out of Wall & the Badlands to base out of Rapid City for the remainder of our week and we could get in before the long drive home to get the work done. We set the date for Friday morning.

With the plan in place, we packed up our Adventuremobile, the 2 kids, and the dogs and headed for Rapid City Wednesday morning. It was snowing again or still snowing (it’s hard to know which) and as we left early and wouldn’t be able to check in to our hotel room until 3pm, we grabbed snacks from a gas station with the intention of driving the Wildlife Loop in Custer State Park, enjoy a hodge-podge picnic at Sylvan Lake, and head back to our hotel later that afternoon or evening.

It seems weird to see it now, but this was the drive in to Custer State Park on May 1st.

We stopped at the visitor center in the park where they seemed to think the roads would be passable for Wisconsin natives used to winter driving so we carried on with our plan and struck out on the Wildlife Loop.

We saw LOTS of brand new bison. None seemed very phased by the weather. We spotted some antelope and birds as well, but all in all the weather was formidable enough that we didn’t see a ton.

It was a beautiful drive up to Sylvan Lake though.

The picnic options, however, when we arrived were sub-optimal…

Unless you happened to be wearing snow pants (which we weren’t). We opted instead to hold on eating and go for a hike instead first since we had the lake to ourselves and the dogs really deserved a good romp. They both love snow so much and it would have been cruel not to.

Moose was contemplative because this:

Until Bear instigated some serious games of chase…

He had a lot of energy to burn off and got a lot of joy from the bonus snowy day and play with his big brother.

Knee-deep snow can’t stop us from a great time!

When we got back to the car, Bear really wanted to take the snow with him…

This is part of the reason we now bring extra towels with us whenever we take him somewhere. He is always trying to bring the outdoors inside with him one way or another.

We stopped for some delicious pizza at a little place in Hill City and by that point we could get into the hotel so we headed back toward Rapid City. As we descended out of the Black Hills, we were singing P!nk’s “Just Give Me a Reason” in true Carpool Karaoke style and just as Mr. KS hit his big note we heard this mysterious *crunch* from the back of the car. And then we hear our daughter, who was in the third row, say, “Uhhhh…. guys. Uhhh….”

The entire back windshield had shattered.

Now we joke that it was Mr. KS’ singing, but it was likely from previous rattling on dirt roads or pressure changes during the trip — who knows all we know is that it just went. Thanks to safety glass, it stayed in one piece for about a mile before chunks started falling off.

And just like that I was on the phone with our insurance agent again and then with the auto glass repair shop making a second appointment. Suddenly our last day of vacation on Friday was pretty booked.

We were not to be deterred though. Mr. KS got us all into the hotel and then struck out to the nearest store that sold heavy plastic and duct tape. Knowing we would be driving it around for a day before we could get it fixed, he got it as air and water tight as possible. Since we were losing Friday to auto glass repairs, he was not about to let Thursday escape without adventure.

It was loud and not exactly a relaxing drive, but we made it to our final big destination the next day…

It was a first time for the kiddos and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for it. The stress of the previous month, the car issues, and what was coming when we got home finally broke me a bit and I will admit there was some sloppy crying on my part at the empty Devil’s Tower Campground. It was cathartic though and I was thankful that Mr. KS was there to talk through it and just give me a hug. I was able to finally let the stress go and enjoy the afternoon and rest of the trip.

We took a brief detour to the Spearfish Canyon on the way back…

A place we’ll definitely be returning to to explore further.

The following morning, Mr. KS kindly offered to go in and handle the glass repairs while I sat with the kids and dogs in the hotel room.

Moose was ok with that.

So was Bear.

The repairs took most of Friday and by the time they were done, we went for a brief walk through a couple parks, grabbed some ice cream as a treat because now it was very warm and sunny (as opposed to freezing and snowy) and then just headed back for an early evening knowing we’d be hitting the road for home early the next day.

I’m happy to report that the drive home was largely uneventful. And we arrived home to this.

Spring on the Marsh.

It’s hard to be sad about vacation ending when this is a short jaunt from your front door.

It was another one of those trips that teaches you to not give up, to just keep going and deal with whatever comes your way with the best attitude possible. Our family does seem to thrive in the best/worst vacation category. Sure, we spent a small fortune in auto glass and had to radically alter plans for weather and to spend the day getting our windshields fixed, but we made a lot of memories and we spent so much quality time together. In retrospect, I wouldn’t change a thing. These trips are special and I hold them close to my heart even when everything goes wrong and maybe I had a little stressed out sloppy cry in the middle. It’s all part of the journey and even if imperfect a lot of the time, it comes with a breathtaking view.

The Monday after our return home I officially returned to the workforce. For the first time in nearly a decade of being a stay at home mom, I took a part time job. It wasn’t something I was necessarily looking for or even expecting to do, but the schedule and type of work suited the family, my physical limitations, and my abilities so I went for it. The past month I’ve been working a lot of hours as I get my training in which is why getting back to blog here has been so difficult. I’ve been adjusting to a different schedule, trying to get the kids through the end of their school year, and learn my own job, so it’s been a lot.

On top of the job status change, my parents are making a move to our town! We’ve been asking since our son was born almost 14years ago and we are very excited to welcome them to their new home. In just over a month, they will be moving in just a couple streets over from us . I can’t say much more than I simply cannot wait. I think it’s going to be a wonderful change for all of us.

Which brings me to a bittersweet end here, in this post and in this space. I think we’ve all felt it coming for a while, but today I am going to put it in so many words: It is time for me to take a step back from my little corner of the blogosphere. The truth is that life for me is changing in big ways. I need to adapt how I am spending my time to fit my new normal and sadly that means letting some things go. As much as I love to write and share our stories and my craft here, it’s become hard for me to keep up. I have never wanted to be someone who starts every post with “It’s been a long time” or some variation on that, but that’s exactly what has been happening. It is time.

My subscription on my platform runs through November, so my plan is to leave this live until then. If by chance things settle down and I have more time or I find that I truly miss writing here, I will simply come back and pick it back up. If, however, November rolls around and I haven’t touched it and am happy with the new normal I’ve created, then I will simply let it go.

For those who would like to stay in touch, I will continue to pop in when I can on Ravelry and (hopefully) update my projects there. For the time being, I also plan to keep my Instagram account live and update it when I have time and it feels right with knitting or spinning or our nature walks or puppy updates. I am  @knittingsarah on Instagram and TheKnittingSarah on Ravelry, so please feel free to stay in touch.

It is hard to imagine. It is hard to let go. And I don’t know how it’ll all feel as I officially disengage from this space, but it is time for new adventures and new challenges. And I have to be open to all the promise and opportunities in front of me and make the most of them and do what is right for my family. For now, though, I’m going to take some time to contemplate and process the change from a very special spot with some very special people and two very special pups. And probably a cup of coffee, too.

I wish all the best in whatever is next on the horizon for you and I hope that, where ever you are reading from, that you can find a peaceful spot, enjoy a cup of coffee, and look forward to your own next chapter with hope and joy and peace.

There’s No Such Thing As Bad Weather

In the juggling act that is life, there are times we all have to set things down in order to give our attention to items of higher priority. Since it’s been nearly a month since my last post here, you can safely assume that for most of the month of April I set down not only this blog, but most of my knitting and spinning. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say there were lots of moving parts & challenges both big and small. As one does, I put one foot in front of the other and made it through all the meetings and events with as much grace as I could. And last week, my family & I were rewarded with a week of vacation. Today I thought I’m come back to this space by telling you the story of our vacation.

Many of you might remember from past posts that my family and I love South Dakota. There was a time, many moons ago, when Mr. Knitting Sarah and I even considered moving there. The moment our commitments for April were fulfilled, we hopped into our family truckster — aptly nicknamed The Adventuremobile — and headed West. Moose, always enthusiastic at the prospect of adventure, spent the entire time we were packing wondering what on Earth was taking so long.

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It was around 5pm on Saturday when we headed out and the plan was to drive until we couldn’t and then sleep in the car in order to arrive at the earliest possible moment in The Badlands. This is how Mr. KS likes to roll. I will not comment on how the rest of us feel about the arrangement other than to say we love Mr. KS and it’s the least we can do considering all this guy does for us.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. KS’ coffee consumption and excess of enthusiasm carried us all the way to The Badlands that night. Bear — not a fan of the car to begin with — handled the 12 hours in the car with drool-soaked stoicism that was not always super dignified…

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But he emerged with a certain resigned awe…

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Or maybe it was exhausted acceptance. We’re not sure which. At the very least, he was very happy to get out of the car for more than a bathroom break.

Our first day there, we took it all in knowing it would be our best day weather-wise. Birdwatching, climbing, and grabbing a glorious hike in the Sage Creek Wilderness filled our day.

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Thankfully it was cool enough outside to leave the dogs in the car as they aren’t allowed out hiking on National Park lands and — with them happily napping in the Adventuremobile — we were able to take our time and soak up the landscape. And to quietly walk past this guy…

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I’m thankful for optics which mean we don’t have to actually get this close to let Mr. KS take photos like this (a lot of the photos I’ll use from this vacation are from him as he loves to take pictures and I happily handle wrangling/directing kids and/or dogs when need be so he has the freedom to do so). Even at a safe distance, I do not trust bison and spent this portion of our hike attempting (most likely unsuccessfully) to hide my sincere but unfounded panic from our children. This is out of my comfort zone right up there with wading in murky water where fish might touch me, so I’m just proud that I did it and that every time I do, it gets a little easier. Baby steps, you know?!

As we walked along the prairie and I regained by composure as we put distance between ourselves and the bison, I found a lot of this spinny significance…

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Bison fiber! All over the place! For those wondering, no, I did not harvest it. In National Park lands, I’m a firm believer in the “take only pictures and leave only footprints” ethos. There are birds and other little critters that’ll need this and I have no shortage of spinning fibers so I left it for the fauna out on the prairie.

Post hike, we enjoyed one of our coldest, windiest, and least comfortable picnics to date out in the Conata Basin. We picnic a lot because I truly love it, but the cutting winds put this particular dining experience on par with a time Mr. KS convinced us to grill out post hike at a local park in a foot of fresh snow while it was still windy… and snowing. We laughed a lot about how uncomfortable it was (I think normal people might move at this time, but we are far from normal) while the kids climbed around to their hearts’ delights to stay warm. We also enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and ate some of the most delicious local aged cheddar cheese I’ve had to date (and I’m from Wisconsin, so I’m kind of a cheese connoisseur who doesn’t say these things lightly). After a few more hours of exploring, we headed to our hotel and turned in early.

The following day was in the 40s and raining, so the kids voted that we take a drive down to the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs.

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We visited this spot a few years back and it’s seriously one of the coolest natural history places we’ve been, so we were happy to go back. To distill down what it is for you, basically a sinkhole opened up, filled with water, and — due to the shape and geology of the rocks around it — became a watery trap for many unsuspecting animals thousands of years ago and thus a treasure trove of remnants from the past. Most notably, Columbian & Woolly Mammoth remains are prevalent in astounding numbers along with remnants of at least 2 rarely found Short-Faced Bears.

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It is simply incredible and we all learned a ton and enjoyed the hours we spent here.

With weather conditions deteriorating, what else would we do but jet up to Mount Rushmore.

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True to form, I was very worried about the weather and hrmphed a bit along the way because it was — in my opinion — a silly risk. It turns out that all you need to get Mount Rushmore to yourself is an impending snowstorm. Who knew?! Basically our only company were a couple mountain goats.

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For anyone who has even been to this spot, you’ll understand that it is usually very crowded, so to have it to yourself is a rare thing. And the snow didn’t start in earnest until we were almost back to Wall, so I’ll say it — Mr. KS was right to make this memorable side-trip and I was being ridiculous to worry about it. It’s a special memory that none of us will soon forget.

The following day, our last full day in The Badlands, the views were magnificent.

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Oh wait? You can’t see the formations? We couldn’t either on and off through the snow and freezing rain! Maybe this is better?

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No worries, that didn’t deter us.

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Kids, don’t try this at home…

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We’re professionals (not really, but we spend a lot of time doing stuff like this and know our limits).

In all seriousness, the weather brought out a lot of rarely seen beauty in this landscape.

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The colors in the Yellow Mounds almost glowed.

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And the snow taxing the little Prairie Buckbean plants I found bittersweet in its beauty. I’m so thankful that we were there to see it. I’m also thankful that the previous week when we saw the weather forecasting snow most of the week, we changed plans from camping to staying in hotels. It’s much easier to enjoy — for example — a romp in the National Grasslands for the dogs in driving 30 degree sleet…

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Knowing that at the end of the day you can take a hot shower and climb into a warm bed.

With the first half of our week coming to a close, I think normal people would be discouraged by the “poor weather conditions” of this vacation, but we subscribe to the idea that there is no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices. No, the main thing weighing me down was this:

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We suffered a couple high speed rock strikes kicked up off the dirt roads which cracked the windshield of the Adventuremobile and then the cracks started to spread. We contacted our insurance agent and made the necessary plans to get it replaced before heading home, but there was a wait involved and I was concerned about the next 2 days of travel with it damaged. It’s safe to say the stress of April’s busy-ness had not yet burned out of my system, so I was more tightly wound that I’d like to admit. Mr. KS assured me everything would work out and if it shattered he would “just kick it out, like a Cowboy” and carry on. I did not find this reassuring nor did it help me relax.

Little did I know, things were going to get a whole lot more interesting on the second leg of this journey…

 

Stay tuned! I’ll be back with part 2 of this story later this week!

 

Tina Takes a Road Trip

Last week my family and I loaded up the aptly named Adventuremobile (also known as our van) and headed South. Mr. Knitting Sarah’s parents live in Southern Missouri and we were off to spend a week visiting with them. Knowing we had a pretty slow, relaxing week ahead of us and we had a fair bit of room in the van, along with — you know — clothes and toiletries and dog food, I packed an obscene amount of fiber, my Jensen Tina 2, a sweater knit, and a sock knit. I was planning to spin. A lot.

We figured with our puppy, Bear, the drive would take about 12 hours. Puppies require frequent bathroom breaks and poor Bear is not a huge fan of car rides. He struggled through it with a lot of TLC from the kids…

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If you’re wondering about the towel, he is a nervous drooler, so unless you want to be drenched we’ve found towels to be a necessity.

About an hour and a half from our destination, we were making plans for the following day with my husband’s brother when the tire pressure alarm went off and shortly after we felt the tire go. On a busy interstate with almost no shoulder, rather than risk someone being injured, we called in roadside assistance.

While we waited, a very kind state trooper stopped to help out and with his coverage from behind, we were able to start work on getting the spare out. Unfortunately, in order to get at the spare this had to happen…

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There is something pretty humbling about splaying your belongings out on the side of the road. I mean, my poor Tina!!! In any case, in order to avoid too many cooks in the kitchen with the tire, I hung back in the car with the kids and the dogs until I heard from the back, “Let me go get my expert.” Mr. KS and the trooper were having trouble releasing the spare from its bizarre locking system, so I was called in as the “expert” at figuring this kind of thing out. A couple minutes later the spare was free (go me!) and shortly after that a very kind gentleman with roadside assistance showed up to help finish the job.

img_5206As you can see, the tire was pretty much toast, so when we made it to my husband’s parents’ house just a couple hours late, we were feeling thankful that nothing else had gone wrong. Tina — and the rest of us — had made it safely to Southern Missouri!

As you probably have heard me say, very few plans survive contact with realty around here. Saturday morning with the car at the tire shop getting all new tires (Happy early Valentine’s Day to us!), I settled in for a few minutes of spinning. Those 15 or so minutes were the extent of my awesome spinning week though. After all my lofty goals and ambitions and the huge load of fiber I’d packed for my quiet week of spinning, I discovered that when you aren’t in your own space and you have a puppy, spinning is pretty much impossible. Between exercise and play and trying to keep the pup out of the cat food, your time is pretty much spoken for.

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He’s probably worth it.

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All right, he’s definitely worth it.

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I like the little guy. A lot.

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And this guy, too. He’s pretty majestic and awesome (in this photo he’s watching Mr. KS try to photograph an armadillo we spotted — so focused!).

 

And they are both pretty good porch sittin’ knitting buddies, too…

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We did enjoy some beautiful weather and I managed to get quite a bit of knitting done on my Weekender sweater. In fact, I am almost done with the main body and the front up to the shoulder seam as well.

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We did take the short drive over to Prairie State Park on the Missouri-Kansas border to see their bison. In addition to the bison, we saw loads of different hawk species, had a very brisk picnic (does anyone else have picnics in 30F temps? I didn’t think so!), and took a nice walk through a freshly burned area.

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It was beautiful.

And it was good practice for this guy…

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Who is slowly learning to handle being in the car with a bit of zen and slightly less drool.

As our week came to a close, it became apparent that the drive home would be a snowy one…

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And it was. It was pretty grueling through Missouri which saw much more snow than they are used to and most of Iowa, where the weather was worse, but the roads were clear. We were thankful for the flat tire we suffered on the way down which allowed/instigated us to invest in better quality tires, something we’d been putting off because they weren’t a necessary expense. Thankfully we’d saved a few pennies to be able to afford it and the investment made the snowy trip back markedly safer.  Even when things go wrong, they often work out for the better at the end of the day.

To pass the time, we listened to an audiobook as a family, I knit on my sweater, we made a playlist and sang along, and the pups…

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Well, they figured it out.

After a long day in the car, we were all happy to get home. We ate some dinner, I sat in my chair, and promptly fell asleep.

The next day, we took the pups out to one of our favorite spots where they frolicked and played…

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Happy to be back among the land of snows and marshes and trees downed by beavers…

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And skating on murky ice.

And after that nice long walk, it was nice to come home and do some spinning after that week long, puppy induced hiatus…

 

I on my Schacht Reeves…

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And Bear chose the Lendrum.

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Tina, well, she’s tired from her little adventure. And even if Tina’s road trip ended up being for naught, we made a lot of wonderful family memories, basking in the glorious and fleeting days of the puppy while Tina stood stoically idle. Sometimes that’s just the way it should to be.

 

 

 

 

 

Springtime in Wisconsin

I’m not positive, but I think that when normal people hear that there is a winter storm bearing down on their home they stay put. We are not normal people though and I’m beginning to suspect that Mr. Knitting Sarah views such events as a personal challenge. Instead of picking out some movies and holing up in our cozy house feeling like we can’t go anywhere, he is especially motivated to find the answer to the questions: “Where can we safely go for a fun day in terrible weather conditions?”

Earlier this week we had such an instance. The weather reports for my husband’s day off spanned anywhere from a foot of impending snow, to an ice storm, to sleet, to rain to raining ice pellets as our spot on this Earth seemed to be falling right on the line between freezing and not freezing. But… that meant that everything south of us would just be rainy… unless of course the weather system shifted south which is always possible. Alas, knowing I’d probably not be on board with his idea, my dear husband waited until 5:30am the day of to announce that we’d all be headed to the Chicago Field Museum for the day. It’s a favorite spot for the kiddos and he skillfully built it up as an opportunity for the kids to show me everything they’d learned on their last trip in October when I’d stayed home. We get in for free with our Milwaukee Public Museum membership so aside from the cost of the 6-hour round-trip drive, the inevitable incidentals, and the treacherousness of my generally grouchy demeanor when it comes to getting going unexpectedly in the early morning, it’s a relatively inexpensive day-trip for us that is a ‘WOW’ for the kids so I got cleaned up and out the door.

img_2656It was pretty worth it to get to experience this place through the wide eyes of my kids.

img_2637This cross-section of a conifer trunk from the Triassic period pretty much blew my mine…

img_2626As did the Dunkleosteus, a giant armored fish from the Late Devonian. And I’ll admit that it was pretty funny to see the reaction of the docent who, in the Carboniferous era display, asked my daughter what the giant millipede looked like. Instead of saying, “a giant millipede,” my girl chirped, “That’s an arthopleura.” Of course, she was correct.

img_2638I was surprised that Protoceratops was only about the size of a sheep. For some reason, I always envisioned them bigger. Thankfully my guide (my son) was very knowledgeable on the subject. He also wowed a docent who had a table of fossil replicas when he correctly identified a dino toe that was mixed in with teeth and claws. I never would have gotten that. I don’t know where these kids get their brains! I just try to keep up around here!

It had been many years since I last visited this museum, so it was very fun to have a refresher on so many aspects of science and culture. I had two favorite exhibits. First, Inside Ancient Egypt, simply because I have a real fascination with the culture. Most incredible, I thought, was the royal boat they had on display which belonged to  Middle Kingdom Pharaoh Sen-Wosret III.

img_2649There was not way to get a good photo, but seriously, this is a 4,000 year old boat. That’s not something you see everyday.

I also seriously loved the special exhibit, Lichens: The Coolest Things You’ve Never Heard Of. It was truly incredible. Perhaps funniest of all is that my hubby teases me from time to time because I often stop on our hikes to take photos of lichens. We agreed that I may have missed a true calling in lichenology, but as they say, hind-sight is 20-20.

img_2647For my friends who are into natural dyeing, I though this little tidbit was worth snapping a photo of and sharing. Who would think that grey lichen would produce such pretty colored yarn?

I looked, but wasn’t able to find any spinning or knitting displays, but I did find plenty of weaving.

img_2646This reminded me that to get started weaving I probably don’t need an expensive loom. If folks in Arizona & New Mexico in the 1900s can make this with little more than two sticks, and some pretty yarn, I can probably figure something simple out, too, should I want to try weaving.

Of course, with a 6-hour round-trip drive, I was able to make some excellent head-way with my Antarktis using the lovely Ancient Arts Fibre Crafts Reinvent in Kismet.

img_2657After settling in at home after our long day on the road, I was making great progress into the last repeat before the border. I should be done in no time!

It’s worth noting that despite the bad weather to the North our drive was almost entirely through rain only. The temps didn’t even dip below freezing until we were just a few miles from home. At our house, the ground was definitely covered with some slippery slush and the following day we did eventually end up getting a couple fresh inches of snow. This is spring in Wisconsin though and sometimes when the weather doesn’t cooperate you just have to get creative in how you face it.

img_2645Sometimes you just have to find your adventure farther afield.

In the Badlands: The Final Two Hikes

Warm and clean and with a good night’s sleep under our belts, we decided to undertake the Notch Trail after our first night in the cozy cabins of Cedar Pass Lodge. The recent rains had awoken a number of wildflowers…

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Now the Notch Trail has some somewhat steep drop-offs and requires a trip up and down this fantastic ladder…

IMG_9009… but we were rewarded for our bravery and exertion (it really isn’t as steep as it looks) with a secluded canyon all to ourselves and some more spectacular views…

That’s me, getting a healthy dose of perspective and looking for Townsend’s Solitaires.

My son, he gave this particular hike…

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As we wound up this hike, it started to rain again and we headed to the infamous Wall Drug for lunch and I was treated to a famous cup of 5cent coffee and a delicious pecan roll.

IMG_9034Really, these are so incredibly good — De-lish!

The following morning brought more rain, but since it was our last full day and we had the warm cabin to return to, we decided that we’d go for another hike. Little did I know, the clay-y mud would make the hiking roughly like ice skating. On mud. We had fun with it though…

This camper was ecstatic that she had earned her own hiking stick this trip and was having an absolute blast, yelling out things like ‘Mind the chasm!’ when there were big drops to avoid and ‘Happy Birthday, Little River!’ for all the little run-offs streams.

No one does cold-rainy-mud-hike quite like us!

Of course it was not all fun and games when this one decided to try her hand at ‘mud-skiing’…

It was all excitement here…

Then the sliding happened…

And the full on mud-tumble…

IMG_9045Followed by sobs of embarrassment and anger at her failed attempt (and muffled hysterical laughter from the rest of us). The full coat of head-to-toe mud she now sported did not help her mood. Thankfully, the very, very sweet Mr Knitting Sarah picked her up and carried her back the one or two miles we were from the car. I am impressed because mud-skating with a 50lb kid on your shoulders cannot be easy. The rain was actually pretty cold though so giving her a lift got us to car a lot quicker than if we’d have had her trudge it out. We delivered her straight to the warm shower and final fresh pair of pants she had. Clean, dry, and warmed up we went back for another lunch at Wall Drug after which the little lady & I went to the bookstore…

IMG_9039Twice.

My girl is a voracious reader and after a little lobbying she got to pick a chapter book on Sacagawea for the ride home. She’d already read the 3 chapter books we’d brought for her, so it was really only fair.

We drove slowly back to the cabin, enjoying the brilliant colors of the Badlands one last time…

The colors are made more intense by rain and it was kind of the perfect end to our trip, to see this gorgeous place all lit up.

We awoke early the following morning, packed up, and headed East toward the sunrise, toward home. And I clicked away on my Togue Pond

IMG_9044For which I’m very excited to report is knitting up quickly and was a most excellent car knitting project. It turns out the 1700+ yards of yarn I wound and carried on the trip was maybe just a little bit overkill…

IMG_8752-0But at least I didn’t run out while I was on the road.

And now? Now we’re home. We’re tired and a little sore and a little sad that this grand and extremely memorable adventure is over. For as much as I love to laugh at all the mishaps and mayhem we experienced on this trip, I can honestly say it was the time of my life. I’ve never had more fun and I’ve never loved my little band of misfits more.

So strong…

So adventurous…

So beyond their years in leadership & maturity…

And… well, and so fun…

To an extent, we go on these adventures in search of something. Freedom. Peace. Challenges. Perspective. This trip provided all these things and we did our best to meet each of them with good humor. And while perching on the edge of a cliff staring out at miles of rolling plains or sharing space with a 2-ton beast that is giving you the stink eye certainly serves up a healthy dose of perspective in an instant, I don’t think any landscape or hike could make a person more humble or feel more lucky than spending a week with 3 such amazing people and, of course, Moose. To be a part of this group, is to be a part of something truly extraordinary.

We’re busily planning our next two big adventures — one up near the Boundary Waters and one to Glacier National Park (and if you think I am ridiculous about being wary of bison, just wait until you hear my thoughts on vacationing in grizzly bear country). We’re checking out trails and fishing gear and pricing new camp stoves and figuring if we can use a tent we already have. And I am, of course, starting to think about what yarn I’m going to bring. Most of all, though, I cannot wait to be in those moments, making those memories with my favorite people (and dog) on Earth.

In The Badlands: “Camping”

So. On a cold, wet morning, our 13year-old camp stove finally died. We knew it was failing, but had hoped it would survive a few more trips. It did not. A lukewarm cup of coffee for both my husband and myself and warmish a cup of hot cocoa for each of the kids and that poor contraption made the short trip to the dumpster. And we headed out, reconsidering our options now that we were down both our tent and our stove. After a brief debate, we found a spot where we had internet reception on our phones and made a reservation for the final three nights of our trip at the new Cedar Pass Lodge cabins.

With warmth and showers in our future, we spent the morning in a new spot, Sheep Mountain Table in the Stronghold Unit of the Badlands National Park. Admittedly, the minimum maintenance road up to the top of the table was a little terrifying after the heavy rain the night before, but it was worth it.

IMG_8861The views were hands-down the most breath-taking in the park.

It was still quite windy and cold, so I stayed looking in awe until my hands were frozen and then we headed back toward the campground just to clean up the last of our things, have a quick picnic lunch, and another hike down into Sage Creek…

IMG_8884where my hubby & son found a fossil baculite.

Along with a few other small fossils. We reported it to the rangers and although this is a pretty common fossil to find, they still let our son fill out the paperwork locating the fossil and took his photo for their wall of fossil fame. He was pretty excited.

We did another small hike in the Yellow Mounds area…

IMG_8903before checking into the cabin…

IMG_8964 My daughter claims this still counted as ‘camping’ because we were ‘still in the middle of nowhere’. I’m not going to disagree since I got a hot shower and a cold beer out of the deal. The dog was clearly relieved to have a real bed again.

I have just two more memorable hikes to share tomorrow and I promise you will finally get the details behind this…

IMG_9009And this…

IMG_9045And I promise, it’s as funny as it looks.