To Alex -

To Alex...who is far away in person, but never far from my heart. I miss you. Enjoy these snippets of everyday family life here in the states.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Blue Elephant Island

The name has been changed to protect the location of the island. It is now forever to be referred to as Blue Elephant Island. Oh, there's a story as to how it got it's name, but that's best told by the 5 y/o who named it and he's not here. You may remember that my family makes up stories about everything so trust me when I say the island's new name is very appropriate.

We arrived last Friday evening with plenty of daylight left to get in an exploratory paddle and even a hike, although we did walk back to camp by moonlight.
My kids will tell you that I'm not a fan of marshmallows cooked after dark, that I prefer to cook them during the day. Yeah, and I still have no idea how Sir S's marshmallow ended up stuck to my butt, and my arm, and my chair, and my hair. Yep, cook those gooey things during the day I say.
We slept well, but it got darned cold, probably mid-30's, so I was pleasantly surprised when this little guy agreed to leave his cozy sleeping bag before dawn to jump in the canoe for a sunrise paddle. He wasn't even awake but was nodding his head like crazy when I asked if he was ready to get up. Dressed quickly, jumped in the boats and we were off. I'm not sure he's ever seen a sunrise, but boy did he like the canoe. We had eagles flying overhead; an osprey passed us on the river; there were loons, 'honking birds', turtles and a few fish. And one muskrat. We spotted an aerie too. The sunrise was beautiful.

Look at these great reflections. Lots of cool things to see when you watch the sunrise from the water.
This might have been the highlight of Sir S's weekend, when he got to paddle the kayak by himself. Not to worry, I'm the one on the camera and we were right there helping him along. Ok, we were helping when we weren't laughing because everything was too big for him and he went in circles more than he went straight, but with a well positioned bump or two (or a few more) we managed to all get across the lake and back to our camp.
And being a boy he had some serious exploring of the shore to do. You know, rocks to throw, shells to pick up, sticks to poke in the sand, and all that leads up to a very wet boy. Here's his very own drying spot. It turned out to be the place he put everything he was using. There's even a slingshot hanging from the branch. Alex, you'll recognize that slingshot from our many trips to the river.
A quiet moment by himself.
It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon. Do you think he got up rather early?

Monday, April 13, 2009

I don't recommend you try this...

unless you're crazy like us. We were warned about paddling this particular stretch of river, but the latest update was from 2001 and we wanted to see if it was doable. My friend Brent and I have been scouting the river the past couple weekends from different bridges and short forays into the woods and, from what we could see, the river was beautiful and required paddling. We also saw no evidence of deadfall or log jams. Mind you, we couldn't tell what it was like in the State Game area because there are no access roads and, although we figured there might be a few portages, we've paddled tough rivers before and 'we ain't skeered' of the occasional carry over. I think my friends and I are pretty hardcore paddlers and since we're willing to put ourselves through all sorts of paddling shenanigans, we decided to run the upper stretch of the White River from White Cloud to M-20. heh heh heh.....

Brent and I went up early to scout a couple more take out spots. Baldwin Bridge didn't seem like a long enough trip so we went one further and found the park at M-20. Perfect...not too far...not too short.

This is one of the sites we scouted, for next time.

Early morning has the best light for pictures and since that's what we like to do....

Here's our put in site. We thought the boils might be a fun place to play around when the water gets warmer. No sense risking a soaking in April.

Our first leg took an hour and 15 minutes - lots of riffles, fish, clear water, sunny and crisp. This river is beautiful - and no one paddles this? Wow! Have we found our new favorite river?

And look how blue that sky is. We never saw a cloud the whole day.

We came to this bridge thinking it was Baldwin Bridge and we were ever so grateful that we decided to go to M-20. We stopped for lunch and kept marveling at our good fortune in paddling this stretch. Yeah, and then all hell broke lose.

SIX hours and 20 portages later - we finally came across the real Baldwin Bridge. Holy crap! We counted 7 and Karen said if we hit 10 portages then Brent buys lunch. Lunch! And then we hit 10....then we hit 15....then I turned to Karen and said, "here comes 17," and she just rolled her eyes. No less than 20 portages and that doesn't count the ones where we simply refused to get out of our boats and bashed and bounced our way over log jams. We pushed and pulled and hauled and dragged our boats through the woods. Not just around the occasional log across the river. No, this river is C.L.O.G.G.E.D. with trees and deadfall and log jams. It was hard and exhausting work and today I am sore from my fingertips to the bottoms of my feet. We maintained our sense of humor and good spirits for the most part. We had to. There was nothing we could do except keep going because there was NO place to get off the river. (We talked about that before getting on though.)

I think these are some sort of pitcher plant and I swear they opened up as the day progressed. They were everywhere and we had plenty of opportunity to look at them on our woodsy treks.

Oh, and may I just say that every one of us was soooo wishing we had spotted a car at Baldwin Bridge. I can't say we enjoyed the last 45 minutes to M-20 because we just wanted off the river at that point. It was starting to get cold and windy and we sort of wondered if we were going to make it before dark. We did - with plenty of time to spare.

Still, this picture speaks volumes to me and is exactly the reason we paddle. I'm happy we paddled this stretch of the White....but we won't be going this way again. Well, maybe the stretch up to the first bridge. It really was beautiful and I'm sure we'll have plenty more exploratory paddles in the future, but not too soon. I need to recover from this trip.

Update: Sounds like we're paddling to an island this weekend for camping. My 5 y/o grandson is coming along. Ooooh, now how am I supposed to work when I'm excited about the weekend?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Girl's Night Out

I never had a daughter. I raised boys, and I loved raising them, I did, but I always wanted a daughter. My first 2 grandchildren were boys and I suppose, after 30 years, I just got used to being surrounded by boys. But then, the sweet beautiful Miss M was born. Oh. My. Gosh! Don't get me wrong, it's not that I love her more than her brothers, it's that I love her different. I named her during a bonfire at her mom and dad's house the summer of 2005. My son, d-i-l and I had been trying to come up with the perfect name for this little baby girl who would be joining us soon. Nothing we came up with seemed to work until I said her name, which is Miss M for posting here, but you need to know that her name fits her perfectly as her full name means 'light of the sea'. She is.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I like to take one-on-one dates with my grandchildren. This was a beautiful Girl's Night Out consisting of dessert, sightseeing and ballet. We began our evening at Tre Cugini, my favorite downtown Italian restaurant, because of the 'big girl' atmosphere. After being seated at one of the high-tops we ordered a Shirley Temple (for Miss M) and a strawberry champagne gelatto to share. (shush! I'm sure there's only a tiny bit of champagne in there)

I think we were two bites into the gelatto when she leaned over and whispered into my ear, "can we come here again?" Um, yeah. Whenever you would like, darling.

One of many highlights for Miss M was when the accordian player approached her and asked if he could play her a song. It was sweet and adorable as she watched him play, her little chin resting on crossed arms, completely absorbed in his music.

We had time after dessert to explore some of downtown, but since it was quite cold for walking outside we wandered over to the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel. The hotel is beautiful and elegant and it was fun to watch Miss M as she explored the fountains and curving staircases. This photo is on the second floor balcony - much better to see the chandeliers from here. I imagine she would like one of these in her room?

Next it was off to see Coppelia with the toys and dolls and dancing. Miss M called it a ballet movie. I can see that. The stage did sort of look like a movie theater.

Fabulous evening! Fabulous company! I enjoyed every minute.

Here she is the next morning making us crepes. Yummmm. I didn't bring her home for 2 days. They knew where she was.