The Life of a Swamper

As many of you may know, I am spending a part of my summer in Donnelly, Idaho. It is up in the mountains and is, simply, a delightful place to be. I came into the area late in May and have been spending time, first, in Boise (a great medium size town) and now here in Donnelly.

I interrupted my stay for two weeks, so I could travel to northern Montana and join a group of people and raft down the North Fork of the Flathead River. I have never been on a private multi-day raft trip before. It has a very different flavor than a commercial trip. It is work!!! The rafts have to be hauled to the put in, blown up and outfitted. It takes approximately 3 hours to complete this project. It is not easy work. Many items are heavy.  Team effort is a definite must and this group of sixteen excelled in helping others.

I was the swamper of my friend, Mary’s, raft. What, you may ask, is a swamper? Originally the term was used in the logging industry but when it comes to rafting, well, it is a whole different story. Swampers help with everything. Loading the raft?  Yep. Unloading the raft? Yep. Hauling stuff from point A to point B? Yep. Now those tasks sound easy but there is a lot involved. Each item on a raft has a certain place. Everything is double checked to be sure it is strapped down and locks, locked. Does the raft need to be pumped up? Here, let me do that. If anyone needs help in and around the campsite, well there is another job to be done. I decided early on I wanted to make Mary’s and my life easier. I chose to learn quickly so she had less to do with the boat as each day progressed. She could, then, focus on other tasks. By the end of the week, I was pretty much responsible for packing the raft for the day. Mary and I worked well together and made quite a team. I am proud to be called a swamper.  Next trip, if there is one,  I want to learn to row.

At the end of the floating day, my fun began. I set up my tent and took off exploring with my camera. We camped mainly on sand or rock bars on the non-National Park side of the river. Glacier National Park was our east river backdrop. Each day was a beautiful ride. There was always something interesting to explore. I found bear tracks, Sandhill Crane tracks, and we think, wolf tracks. Now how cool is that? One night I camped near a Spotted Sandpiper’s nest. We made good room-mates for a night. I felt honored.

 

I found that the moments of alone time, helped me balance living for a week with sixteen other people. For those of you who have been following my blog, you may recall that being around large groups of people has been an issue for me since Jim’s death from cancer. I enjoyed all of the people I traveled with for the week. It was interesting and fun to watch the group dynamics unfold. Please remember that the majority of this group had already been traveling together for about a week. Some of these folks have been traveling together for many years. They were like one big happy family with all their quirks and fun. I enjoyed getting to know all of them. I enjoyed the stories and laughter. It was fun to join in.

Beaver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I am back in Donnelly, Idaho. I am recovering. I am healing sun burned lips. I have an infection in my big toe. It has given me the opportunity to soak my foot and relax a little. It is a good time to write blog posts.✍🏻 Soak and Write.

I am getting to know the area I am staying in for the next month plus. I take long walks, am hoping to rent a kayak and explore the lakes. I am also catching up on some much needed chores. Daily chores do not go away just because I am leading a gypsy kind of life.

My closest lake.

Sunset not too far from my door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this swamper rests and heals, I can look out the door at the mountains and get ready to hike. Life is an adventure I am glad to take on.

 

It’s All About Water

Payette River

I am about water. We are all about water. We are made of water. Without water we and this planet would not exist as we know it today.

I love bodies of water great and small. This spring is about water in the west. There has been an abundant supply of snow this past winter and spring runoff is happening, in the lakes, rivers and streams. I have heard several comments from the locals here in Idaho regarding the amount of water in the rivers this spring. “I have never seen the Payette River this high.” “There is usually a beach here.” “Wow!”

Since Jim’s death the ocean has been my friend. I sent his ashes into the Pacific and I have found some comfort in being close to the ocean since then. Leaving the ocean behind was hard for me and I was wondering how much I would miss it. When I discovered these wild flowing bodies of water, I find, I have not missed the ocean one bit.

Pacific Ocean in all it’s Glory

I love water. I love it when it is quiet and meandering. I am attracted to weather at it’s worst. I think many of us are. There is something about nature in all it’s fury that beckons me to go outside, climb the mountain, stand on the sand and witness the un-tameness of it all. Big waves? You bet. Wild surf and bad storms? Yep. I once had to crawl under a boulder on a mountain peak while lightening struck and hail was coming down, fast and furious (it was a surprise storm). At these moments, when nature is in it’s full fury I am reminded that I am a speck in this universe. It is a good reminder and humbling.

Spring is a juicy time of the year. Water abounds and is usually at it’s most prevalent. There is still snow on the mountains, more water is still to come. This year I am going rafting for six days on the Flathead River in Montana. Ah, more water. I love to put my feet in water and if it is warm enough I love swimming in it. In San Diego, the summer is boogie-boarding season. There is a quiet joy in kayaking or paddle-boarding a peaceful lake. It is fun to  meander the shore-lines and see what I can see. There is nothing better than the sound of a loon on a quiet lake.

Fields near Donnelly

Since I have arrived in Donnelly, Idaho, I have been surrounded by large bodies of water, Cascade Lake and Payette Lake. As a nature photographer I really enjoy all this water. It attracts birds and all sorts of wildlife. If I want a chance to photograph, all I have to do is put on some mosquito repellant and sit by a lake or stream and wait. Right now the open fields have quite a bit of water in them. I can stop almost anywhere and wait. If I am quiet and patient enough the animals and birds will come. My favorites this spring are grebes and sandhill cranes. They are my current favorites until something else attracts my attention.

Greebe

Greater Sandhill Crane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cascade Lake

Ponderosa State Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water attracts all of nature, People, animals, birds, bugs-the list could go on. Water is a part of my life and I am happy to have it there. I like to camp next to it. Fishing is fun. There are times that I enjoy renting a hotel room right on the beach and sit and contemplate life, as the waves gently or not so gently crash onto the sand. When evening falls and a lake is still, the sunset is awe inspiring. It quiets my spirit before sleep.

Today and every day I celebrate water in all of it’s wondrous forms.

 

Breezes of the Desert

75ccc72e53440b46961e7776d2add1faimagesEarly this morning I awoke around 1:30 am, windows open in my Roadtrek and the gentlest of breezes was beginning to blow. I love the desert. When the night breezes begin, the desert is beginning to cool down from the heat of the day. My RV begins to cool off and now it is a time where snuggling into the blankets begins to feel really good.

Coyotes are howling out in the countryside. Despite how I worry about coyotes and Elsie the cat, I love them. They remind me of the wild country before we had big cities. They remind me of Jim, (one of his major spirit animals) and they give me comfort. I embrace the wild-around me and in me. It gives me the will and desire to wander into uncharted territory.

Instead of worrying about not being able to sleep through the night, I accept the waking and explore the dark, welcoming the moon and the moonless nights. I listen to the wind. Reaching over I open another window so I can get a cross-breeze. I love the feel of the coolness on my face, arms and hands.

Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert

Before I arrived on the outskirts of Tucson, where I am for the next few days, I was in the desert north of Ajo, AZ. I was boondocking(dry camping). I had driven about a half mile off the main road into the desert. Each day I would go on my own short walk-about, exploring my temporary home. For two days I sat in silence. My only conversation was with Elsie the cat. In the distance I could hear the occasional braying of the local wild burro population and the occasional coyote. Silence is hard to get used to at first. Then it becomes familiar. Then I embrace it. It is hard to let it go, when I go back into the city or even the small town. I hope that some of the silence follows me back into the noise of the everyday world.

Wild Burros

Wild Burros

In the quiet I can begin to hear and feel in a deeper and clearer way. I feel the gentlest of breezes and welcome it’s whisper, quieting my heart and mind.  The sky becomes clearer and the world around me brightens. Sitting out after dark I begin to hear the scurrying of little critters and have a passing hope that a pack rat is not setting up home in my engine, they do that.

When I first moved west I thought I was going to see sand and dirt and nothing.  The desert is so alive. There are plants big and small and so many different cactus. The birds and wildlife are varied. In Suguarjo National Park there are over 200 species of birds. They all have their own unique way of surviving in the hot summer months and cold winter months.

Late Afternoon Hike, near Gilbert Ray Campground

Late Afternoon Hike, near Gilbert Ray Campground

I would like to consider that I may also have my own unique way of surviving. This is why I sold my home last July. This is why I moved into my RT. This is why I accept my questioning spirit. This is why I know it is OK to grieve. This is why I know it is OK to roam and wonder what is next. Maybe just maybe when the wind whispers, I will hear the answer I am seeking.

 

 

 

 

Elsie, My Mini-Adventure

my latest favorite spot to hang and sleep

my latest favorite spot to hang and sleep

Hi everyone, Elsie the Cat here. Lately I have been quiet and let Janet write all the postings. Mainly it is because I haven’t had much to say. I have been spending my days doing what I do best: sleeping, eating, getting petted and going outside where I enjoy the chase of the lizard. They are one of my favorite preys. I hardly ever catch them but the chase is fun and entertaining.

I digress. On Monday, I am happily laying in my favorite window, watching Janet go in and out of the house & in and out of the house, again and again. Now I was suspicious she was going somewhere but I had no idea that what she was doing would involve me. She has gone places since our big outing over the spring and summer but they have not involved me. I am happy about this as I like my routine. You should try the above sometime. Living is good.

Around noon she comes back in the house, picks me up, puts my halter on and the “short leash”. Oh No, the leash is never a good sign. Next thing I know I am in the little house on wheels and we are going somewhere. What??? Janet could have said something.She didn’t even give me a chance to hide or protest.

This house looks familiar and there are all my comfy items; the sheepskin, my litter pan, my food and water bowls, and one of my favorite toys, Miss Piggy. Okay then, let me crawl under the sheepskin and I am ready to roll.

We travel over hill and dale (I am not sure what that means but it sounds good). For a while we drive quietly and then all of a sudden I am bouncing all over the place. I am not sure what that is about but I am hanging on for dear life, under my sheepskin. When we stop and I look outside I know I am not in San Diego anymore.

the desert

the Desert

There are miles of nothing, just shrubs and the wind and one of my most favorite things in the whole world “DIRT”!!! I love dirt, I love rolling in it and becoming one with it’s color. Janet took me to the desert. The wild ride was riding on sandy roads to a perfect camp site. Okay I am good with this.

She hooks me up to the short leash and we go walking. She tells me that the short leash is important because there are coyotes here and I would make a tasty little snack. I don’t like the sound of that. I thought all animals got their food from cans. I certainly don’t want to be anyone’s snack. NOPE!!! I am not sure if I remember what coyotes are but if they will eat me, I am good with the short leash.

My climb up the hill and way down there is the RT

My climb up the hill and way down there is the RT

We climbed a hill. The wind was blowing a lot and it was kind of chilly. I thought the desert was hot. Not this time. And there were clouds and did I mention the wind? I could not find one lizard. I thought with all these rocks there would be lizards everywhere. Not one. Where do they go?

After our walk, I was ready to snuggle in and look out at the big wide world from my small home. After Janet fed me I snuggled up on the bed and pretended I was in my favorite window at home.

We stayed there all night. The wind blew and it rained. I was very happy to be inside this little house sleeping next to and on top of Janet. There is even heat here so I could be comfortable all night long. It was snuggly and fun.

I like that this little house on wheels is familiar to me. I don’t have to go through it being a first time thing any more. I am becoming a pro. I am glad Janet takes the time to make sure I am comfortable. The one thing I like about being in this little house and on-the-road is that I have Janet all to myself. We bond. When we are in our “sticks and bricks” house, Janet is often busy and goes out a lot. She hasn’t learned to sleep in the window yet. When we are in the little house, she is all mine. She does go out for hikes and stuff but mostly we hang. I like that.

IMG_7094Because the wind was wicked, we headed to the mountains. This morning we are camped in the oaks. Late yesterday afternoon we heard all this howling. Janet said they were coyotes. They sounded like the neighborhood dogs when the fire engines go by. There seemed to be a lot of them. I was glad to be inside. I have decided short leash walks are better than no walks at all.

I remember that sound they make from this summer. I thought and thought and then I remembered that coyote on the land in Colorado. He was just a little thing. I guess what looks harmless is not always true.

Now I am back home and in my favorite window. I am dreaming of that big land of dirt. Even though I don’t mind my routine, well, sometimes it is OK to jump out of the routine and do something adventurous and fun. I am glad Janet helps me do this.

A rainbow kind of morning

A rainbow kind of morning

I think I will go to sleep now and dream of the next big adventure in this very small cat’s life.

An Update-Janet is Camping on the Property

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Janet, walking the ditch.

I thought I would sneak into southern Colorado, yet, I knew the whole time I could not do this.

I spent yesterday and last night with a good friend. Deana was the realtor who helped Jim and I find this piece of land. Now she is a dear and close friend. After shedding many tears she packed me into her jeep and we drove to the property. It was good to have her support.

The Wetlands

The Wetlands

Oh my it is gorgeous here right now. they have had a very wet spring and early summer and everything is green and lush. The natural wetlands are high with cattails and other moisture loving plants. We were greeted by a hawk who flew out of the cedar trees. It is just a pretty piece of land.

I had lunch yesterday with Miss Carrie and Ron of Ron-d-View Outfitters. Ron leases my property to run his horses and mules on. We spent two hours talking and catching up. It was decided by the end of the meal that I needed to camp on my property. Ron came over in the afternoon with his tractor and a major lawn mower attachment and cut a section of grasses down so I could camp in comfort.

Ron carving out a spot for the RT

 

Deana and Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I ran errands. I think I was putting off going there until I had nothing to stop me. Around 3 pm I drove over here and am happily ensconced on the land. I was greeted by the summer monsoon thunderstorms. They remained in the distance yet put on a beautiful display. Then I took a nap.

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I am sitting outside at the moment and am enjoying the early evening. Elsie has seen her first deer. Boy did her eyes get big.

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Tomorrow I am going to walk the property and say hello. It is not the most emotionally comfortable I have been on this trip. In fact I find it hard to be here. There were so many plans involved with this place. They were Jim and my plans. I am not feeling yet whether these can become my plans. I miss my buddy.

I am planning to be here tonight and tomorrow night and then I will be on my way to San Diego. It is hard to believe that next week I will be back at work. Thank goodness I enjoy my work.

I want to thank everyone for their support. I am so glad that I have so much support on this continuing journey.

Mom and Nova Scotia

Cape Breton

Cape Breton

When I was much younger than I am today, I remember talking to my mother about travel. She said that she always wanted to go to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. For several years this subject would arise now and then. We talked of traveling there together. It seems it was one of those dreams that was a dream, until this past week.

I arrived in Nova Scotia at the end of July. Although I don’t know if my mom and I would have seen the part of it I have seen so far, I feel like I have brought her along in memory.

I decided upon arriving at the island that I would travel the Cabot Trail to Cape Breton on into Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I love National Parks. This one was amazing. For three nights I camped right on the ocean. Both campsites were a little piece of heaven. I hiked, saw waterfalls, wandered the grounds of Gompa Buddhist Monastery Retreat, and have yet to see any Moose. Everyone but me seems to have seen a Moose. Sigh.

IMG_5161I am also enjoying the people I meet along my travels. People seem to talk to each other in the National Parks. For two nights I camped at Corney Brook Camp Ground. Kathleen and Gary my neighbors invited me to dinner both nights I was there. The second night They had bought some king crab that was in season. Kathleen took me and the neighbors down to the oceanside to learn how to shuck crab. Oh my was that crab delicious.

Crabs for Dinner

Crabs for Dinner

Kim and Jim were on the other side. We kept meeting on the trails. When I moved up to Meat Cove Campground, well there they were again.

Petra and Udo were my neighbors at Meat Cove. They had brought their RV from Germany with them. They started their travels in Uruguay. They have been traveling for a year and are getting ready to go back to Germany in 10 days. I had the best evening with these two. We talked about travel and Germany and the USA (even skirted the issue of politics). I enjoyed laughing and drinking with them and getting to know these two remarkable people.

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Petra in the Fancy Vehicle from Germany

 

 

 

I am including pictures of their vehicle. Man that ride could take on almost anything. It was big, and comfortable and has been their home for a year. I wish I had met them sooner. I could have followed them as they saw different part of South America and North America, including Alaska and Canada. If you are interested, here is Petra’s blog. It is in German so you might have to use Goggle Translator to interpret it for you. That is what plan to do.

When the three of us said good-by I felt like I was seeing a good friend depart. Their next tour is the Silk Road. They, of course, are driving it in their mighty vehicle.

At a time when I am starting to miss my San Diego friends, it has been nice to meet up with good people who were willing to include me in their lives, if even for a short time. I enjoy the depth of knowing my long time friends yet there are times when a chance encounter can enrich my life and make it deeper. The other good thing about meeting people while you are traveling you sometimes find out about places and events that I might have missed otherwise. We are all a great source of information for each other.

I am camped in St Peters, on Cape Breton tonight. I am in a Provincial Park and like state parks in the USA, the camp sites are quiet and separate. I enjoy camping where Elsie feels safe going outside. If there are too many people around she runs for the blankets.

I know my mother is not with me in person. I know she is traveling with me in spirit. I think of her often and know she would have enjoyed seeing this part of the world. The ocean on the Atlantic side is even warm enough to swim in. My mom loved to swim. I have yet to swim but have dipped my feet. I hope mom is enjoying her trip. I know I am.

Tomorrow, on to Halifax.

Meat Cove

Meat Cove

Moving On With Elsie and the Roadtrek

Elsie directing traffic

Elsie directing traffic

I just realized that it has been a while since I have posted. I think I was a bit jealous of the responses Elsie got to her post. Heh Heh.

I have been traveling. I left North Carolina about a week ago and had been steadily moving north to Kitchener, Ontario. I am here today. Yay. All issues Roadtrek are hopefully being addressed.

Before I tell you where I have been I want to tell you where I am. I am at the Roadtrek factory this morning. I have been taken on a tour and met Leo who is helping me with the issues concerning my RT. I am so happy.

This is a family run business and they are treating me well. Each concern I have they have taken seriously. I like being respected and honored for who I am, the owner of a Roadtrek.

While I am here Miss Elsie is hiding under the bed at the Radisson Hotel. At least she is safe and happy. The do not disturb sign is on the door, along with  a Cat in the Room sign. She is back in the dark. Poor baby. It does make her feel safe.

After leaving North Carolina I began to travel first west and then north. I spent a night on the Pigeon River in TN. It would have been a nice place except that the traffic noise was pretty heavy.

Camping at The Horse Farm

Camping at The Horse Farm

I have had a lot of favorite places to stay on this trip and I found another one outside Lexington, KT. It is called The Horse Farm. It is a beautiful place with beautiful horses and a bit of money. It does give one the flavor of the Bluegrass Country. Being a horsey (meaning I love horses not that I am horsey) kind of girl I really enjoyed the chance to tour the farm. I camped at the Horse Farm Campground and was able to ride my bike on beautifully kept trails over to the barns. I even watched  a dressage competition. Have I told you yet that I love horses? If it hadn’t been for the heat (93 degrees) and the humidity (75%) I would have stayed longer but I have to admit that by that day the heat and humidity was becoming old and I was ready to move on.

Dressage at The Horse Farm

Dressage at The Horse Farm

Camping at William Sterling State Park, Monroe, MI

Camping at William Sterling State Park, Monroe, MI

Next stop was William Sterling State Park, on the edge of Lake Erie, south of Detroit. After the oppressive heat further south, it was nice to be back where it was still humid but the temperature had dropped by 20 degrees.

Elsie and I were camped on the edge of the campground and El felt brave enough to come out and sniff along the edges of the tall grasses.

It was at this state park that I noticed the feeling of vacationing in my RV left me. I began to feel like I was living in my RT rather than just being on vacation. One afternoon Elsie and I laid in the back and she napped while I read. All the doors and windows were open, a breeze was blowing and the book was good. Sweet

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Eating May Flies. If you look close you can see them in the gulls mouths.

IMG_2911Have you ever heard of Mayflies? Neither had I but there was a hatching of May Flies while I was at the Park. They were everywhere. They look a little like eeny teeny tiny reptiles. I guess they are good for the fish. The seagulls loved them. It was interesting to observe the gulls behavior. I have never thought of gulls as being a group kind of bird. These gulls worked together. Every morning I would hear them calling. They would almost methodically work together in the same section of the campground eating many flies in the grass and then would fly en-mass to the next section. It was fascinating to watch. It reminds me how when almost any species works in a group, collectively, they are smart. Hmm is there something we humans can learn from this?

flying to the next section

flying to the next section

Sunday morning I drove north of Detroit and drove along Lake St Clair in the mist and fog to Marine City. I crossed over to Canada on a little ferry with 3 other cars. There was no wait time at that border crossing. A look  at my passport, a few questions and I was on my way. I rode across a river that connects Lake Huron to Lake Erie. Cool country up here.

Waiting for the Ferry

Waiting for the Ferry

On The Ferry

On The Ferry

The Ferry

The Ferry

I am in Kitchener for a few days before I head toward Niagara Falls  and New Jersey.

Where my cute RT came into being.

Where my cute RT came into being.

I am feeling grateful to my friends, today who are so lovingly watching my home. Without them being there it would be much harder for me to be here.

Feeling thankful. Really thankful.