Autograph Rock

Autograph Rock was an important camp site along the Santa Fe Trail because of year-round water. People began carving their names in the sandstone and many of them are still there today. Autograph Rock now sits on private property so you do need permission to see it, but that is easily done, and the rock is definitely worth the stop if you ever find yourself in the Oklahoma panhandle.

A wagon train owner, F.B.Delgado carved his name on several occasions.

Our W.C.Harper was really excited to find another W.C.Harper on the rock!

Off to Oklahoma!

Rob and I usually only have one day off together each week, but with the 4th of July and Rob taking Monday off, we ended up with three! We had debated staying home since we just got back from a big trip not too long ago, but knowing this would be the longest weekend we would have together for the rest of the summer, we decided to make the most of it. So, after some deliberation, we decided on Oklahoma.

Hello Oklahoma!

I had read about Autograph Rock in Boise City, OK, as well as some dinosaur tracks preserved in sandstone just up the road in Kenton. Black Mesa State Park is also in the area, as is the highest peak in Oklahoma. If you go just a bit further, you run into a fun tri-state marker. All of these things are only about five hours away, so the panhandle of Oklahoma was our destination.

We arrived at Black Mesa State Park at about 3pm. After setting up camp, we decided to go find the dinosaur tracks. There are no markers or street signs for the tracks, so you definitely have to have an idea of where to go. Before we left home, I wrote down every hint I could find as to their location. We found the creek bed, but went the wrong direction at first. We found the tracks just down the hill from the car. Apparently when the tracks were discovered back in the 80s, there were 47 footprints. You can only see about a third of them today. What an amazing find, though.

When we left the footprints, we continued down the road towards the tri-state marker. We were on a little country road that turned to dirt, and we did not see another car the entire time we were out there. We arrived at the state line marker for Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Colorado out in the middle of farm and ranch country. It was absolutely beautiful.

We had contemplated hiking up the Summit Trail, but it was getting too late to start the 4-hour hike, so we went back to camp for the night. There was a thunderstorm heading towards us, so we ended up hanging out in the car for a little bit while all the thunder and lightening passed.  Once it passed, the sky was amazing.

After the storm

Upon waking in the morning, we noticed that we had a flat tire. This kind of altered our plans just a little bit, but we found ourselves being extremely grateful that it was Monday and not Sunday, or the Tuesday holiday, when most repair shops would be closed. After dropping off the tire, we went to a little cafe for breakfast. Great food at a great price. Of course we were the only non-farmer/ranchers in the place, but that was fine with us. After we picked up our tire, which they only charged us $10 to fix, we were on our way again.

Our next stop was the Cimarron Heritage Center. Unfortunately they were closed. I was a little bummed because Autograph Rock is on private property and requires permission from the Heritage Center. I had the number for the manager, so Rob decided to give her a call. She was extremely sweet and even offered to have someone come open up the center so we could see the museum! We declined that offer so that everyone could enjoy their day off, but she did give us verbal permission as well as directions to Autograph Rock.

“Cimmy” at the Cimarron Heritage Center

Autograph Rock was incredible. It was a common stopping point for travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. There was year-round water, so it became a well-known campsite. Over the years, people carved their names in the sandstone bluffs. The oldest known name is from 1806, but we did not find that one. F.B.Delgado is the most popular, as he was the owner of a mule and ox train that used the trail, and he carved his name several times. We were the only ones out at Autograph Rock, so we were able to take our time and enjoy the history of the area.

On Tuesday morning, we broke camp and headed for home. We stopped at Fort Union National Monument on the way back. Another quiet spot with only a few visitors. We walked around the fort for a while, then loaded back up to finish our drive home. We arrived home in time to unload our little trailer, take showers, and head back into town for the 4th of July fireworks. We were all very tired when we got back home at almost 11pm, and it felt good to sleep in out own beds.

Before we left home last Sunday, we had worried that perhaps we would not be able to get a camp site, or that things would be crowded since it was the 4th of July weekend. Our worries were quickly put to rest, though. The campground at the state park in OK was almost empty each night. There was no traffic at all. There were no people at the places we visited. Even the playground we stopped at for the kids was quiet. I guess the panhandle of Oklahoma is not a tourist hot-spot for long weekends. For us, though, it was wonderful. A quiet get-away was just what we were looking for. Not to mention we were able to add Oklahoma to our state map.

I am still organizing pictures, so I will share those over the next couple of days. For now, here are a few random pictures I came across this morning…

Catheryn took this picture of Charbie at camp.

The kids really liked the glass coke bottles…

Nathan with his “You’re seriously taking my picture again?” face on.

Liam loves to photo bomb.

Idaho

We had a really nice weekend up in Idaho. My sister and her family made the trip up from Nevada, and we all met at my parents’ house for sometime together. It usually happens every few years or so where we are all able to get together. We always try and get some updated family pictures during these visits.

Grammy and Grampy with their grand kids

My mom, sister, and me with all the kids

Trinity and Catheryn had a blast together. As a matter of fact, they were always off doing things together, so the rest of us rarely saw them! I am so glad they were able to spend the weekend together. It makes me happy that no matter how long between visits, they always seem to pick up right where they left off the last time.

These two were inseparable

All of the kids are growing up so fast. My oldest nephew is 21 already, with his brother not too far behind him at almost 17. Then comes Liam at 14, the twins are 12, and Trinity is about to turn 11.

All the cousins

My only complaint about the weekend is that it went by way too fast. I wish we had had a little more time, but then time always goes by too fast when you are having fun…

Turkey Day Vacay

This year for Thanksgiving, we took a road trip to visit family. We had originally planned on venturing to the Spokane area to visit with Rob’s family, then down to the Boise area to visit with mine, before heading home. We later decided that we could not make that happen, so our plan was to visit Spokane now, and Boise later.

Plan A was to take Waldo, but about a week before we left, we discovered an issue with his front tires. Plan B was to rent a vehicle so we did not have to worry about any car issues that may arise. Deciding we were too cheap to spend that kind of money, we resorted to Plan C: taking our own car, along with all of our critters. For those of you who have never traveled 12 hours in a car with five people, two cats, and a dog, you may be missing out on something…

Charbie and Remi LOVING Jim and Mary Beth's fireplace!

Charbie and Remi LOVING Jim and Mary Beth’s fireplace!

Most people can probably make the 12 hour drive to Spokane in a day, but we are weenies. We made it about eight hours before it got dark, at which point we stopped to shop at Hi-Country Beef Jerky, then spent the night in Lincoln, Montana. I love small town motels, they do not seem to be as strict as large hotel chains. Normally there are occupancy restrictions, but not this place. They let all of us stay in one room with a double bed. And it was cheap! Thank goodness for sleeping bags and pillows in the car top carrier! (Funny thing is the kids were free, but we had to pay $10 for the dog!)

We got started in the morning just after the sun came up. It was hunting season, the there were deer everywhere. It made us glad we did not drive that particular stretch of road in the dark. As many of you may already know, Rob and I met in Missoula, Montana, so when we arrived in town right at breakfast time, we could not resist stopping at the same pancake house we used to eat at. Then we went into my old favorite new/used bookstore. After that, we drove through our old neighborhood, marveling at all the changes. The entire neighborhood was unrecognizable, all except for Rob’s old house, which was exactly the same, and Thermal Supply, where he used to work when I me him. A lot has changed there in the last 15 years…

Jim and Mary Beth's fantastic feast!

Jim and Mary Beth’s fantastic feast!

Needless to say, we arrived in Spokane later than we had planned, but arrive we did. Rob’s sister, Mary Beth, and her hubby, Jim, were nice enough to let us stay with them. Their quiet and peaceful house was anything but for the few days that we were there. We had such a wonderful visit with them, though, and it is always so nice being there.

My parents and beautiful sister came to see us!

My parents and beautiful sister came to see us!

Our time in Spokane was filled with family visits, dinners, a little shopping, and a whole lot of talking, laughing, and catching up. Mary Beth and Jim cooked the most amazing Thanksgiving dinner while we were there! Rob knew I was a little bummed about not being able to make it down to Boise, so he secretly arranged with my parents and sister to come up to Spokane for a day! (Thank you, Honey!!!) So we had members from both families in one place for Thanksgiving dinner, which was absolutely amazing!!

Eventually, though, it was time to leave Spokane and head for North Idaho. We were on our way to Bonners Ferry, where Liam was born many moons ago. Rob’s brother, Rich, lives there, and he invited us to stay with him for a couple of days. Their brother, Jeff, and his girlfriend were there, and we enjoyed another amazing turkey feast! The brothers had not seen each other in a few years, so they spent the night visiting and catching up.

Brothers!

Brothers!

And last but not least, we headed into Montana to visit with Rob’s brother, Chad, and his family. Unfortunately we only had about a day to spend with them, but we had a really good time. The kids had a blast playing with their cousins, Alex and Nick. Liam had fun riding the snow mobile while the twins enjoyed riding horses. Rob and Chad had not seen each other in a few years, either, so it was nice for them to have the time to catch up.

Rob, Nathan, and Chad visiting the horses.

Rob, Nathan, and Chad visiting the horses.

As is usually the case when on vacation, the week went by way too fast. Before we knew it, it was time to head home. We were able to visit with Rob’s aunt and uncle on our way out, but we were pretty much out of time. We left on Saturday, thinking we would make the 12 hour trip in one day this time. We got a late start, though, and only made it to Butte, Montana before it was dark and we were tired, resulting in hotel room #2. (This one had two beds!) We woke up Sunday morning with 522 miles to go until we were home. About eight hours later, we pulled up to Waldo, thankful to have made it home in one piece.

We quickly learned that Waldo had been busy while we were away, but I will share that story with you tomorrow…

For now, I want to sent out a huge THANK YOU to all of our family. You took in not only the five of us, but our fur-babes as well, and we cannot THANK YOU enough. For taking time out of your schedules to spend time with us, THANK YOU! For driving eight hours just to see us for a few hours, THANK YOU! For making us feel so welcome in your warm homes, THANK YOU! For the laughs and the love, THANK YOU! You are all so amazing, and we love each and every one of you dearly.

A Trip to Treasure

I had given up on the plan to run the Disney World Marathon a couple of months ago when we decided to take a volunteer position here in North Carolina. Driving all the way down to Florida for a run seemed a little excessive, so I decided that I would just try again another year.

Until…

My friend, Carolyn, said she was driving down there to visit her family anyway, so why didn’t we just go together? I turned her down at first, thinking it too inconvenient for her, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made.

Kitty at Carolyn's sister's house

Kitty at Carolyn’s sister’s house

And so last week she came to pick me up, and we went down together.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ride and all the stories she shared with me. Her family was so nice and it was really neat to meet them, especially after hearing so much about them all. She showed me all around her home town and the swamp, black water and cypress knees, which I had never seen before. She shared so many special places with me, and I was so grateful that she took me along.

Cypress knees

Cypress knees

And of course, we made it down to Disney World for the marathon. Carolyn was so good to me. She dropped me off at the start at 4am, which was not easy for either of us, and she was there waiting for me at the finish line. She drove three hours further south than she would have had she only been visiting her family, not to mention dealing with the traffic that the marathon weekend brought to Disney World. And she did it all for me.

Disney World Marathon

Disney World Marathon

We arrived home last night after a six day adventure. It doesn’t seem like it should be over already, but then vacations always go by too fast. I guess that is what makes us treasure them so…

On the Road Again

Well, not really I suppose, but we did venture out for another day trip. This time we headed to Mammoth Cave National Park, which happens to be the longest cave in the world. (Jewel Cave, which we visited when passing through South Dakota, is second.) There are over 365 miles of passageways, but it is believed that there could be 600 more miles yet to be discovered. Of all these miles, we were able to see two. Just two. Write it off as laziness since none of us were up for walking 365 miles today. Maybe next time…

I never seem to get history right, my names are all wrong or I am way off on my dates, so I don’t tend to share a lot of specific details, but I will tell you that Mammoth Cave was first discovered 4,000 years ago, and then exploration ceased about 2,000 years ago until the cave was rediscovered in 1798, so this cave has been around for a day or two.

Back when the cave was privately owned, visitors were allowed to write or carve their names on the walls. The owner hoped this would encourage people to come back, or at least send some friends. A lot of the names were “written” with candles. I found it fascinating how well they were done, almost as if they had been written with a large typewriter. These days you aren’t allowed to touch the walls, let alone write on them.

Of the two pits we saw, one of them was originally thought to be bottomless. It was later discovered to be just over 100 feet deep. Regardless, they still call it the bottomless pit. All the evidence of slaves working in the cave still remains. The wagons, the boxes, the tree trunk water pipes. It is all perfectly preserved, giving us a tiny glimpse of what life must have been like for those working underground.

By far, the tightest area we had to squeeze through was Fat Man’s Misery. We had to duck and turn sideways to fit through some of the areas. Even the kids had to watch their little heads in spots. Rob later confessed to our guide that he touched some rocks through that area. Everyone laughed because we all did the same thing.

We were all wondering about bats, and while they do live in the cave, they do not live where the visitors go. I can’t say that I blame them, I wouldn’t exactly like people taking my picture while I was trying to sleep either. We were also informed that insects and reptiles do not live in the cave because it is too cold and there is no food. Not three minutes later, William was kind enough to find a rather large spider on the wall and held the flashlight on it to make sure I could see it. What a sweet boy. I would have loved to show the ranger, but I was too busy trampling people to get away from it, there was no way I was going to go back. Not voluntarily anyway. I don’t think I touched any walls after that, either accidentally or otherwise…

We were warned that the lights behind us would turn off and the lights ahead would turn on as we went. Don’t straggle, we were told. Take your pictures and keep moving. Keep up with the person in front of you. The ranger was not kidding. Every time he came upon an electrical box, he turned the lights off behind us, and it gets dark. Very dark. I straggled. I took too long for a picture. The lights went off. I nearly choked on my own breath. I was saved by the other straggler, who just so happened to have a flashlight with her. I love her. I didn’t straggle again. I am a fast learner that way.

We had a really good time. Mammoth Cave is completely different from Jewel Cave. The sheer size is overwhelming. I couldn’t pick a favorite, though, because they are both amazing in their own ways. My recommendation? Visit them both. You’ll be glad you did. We sure are. Just remember not to straggle…

Smooth Sailing

My gypsy spirit is singing tonight. She is so loud and proud that I am almost certain she can be heard around the world…

Besides a little road construction, which is to be expected in the summer, our drive went smoothly. We had time this afternoon for a geocache and then spent some time touring Billings. They have the most beautiful overlook up by the airport. Billings is a pretty big city, much bigger than Great Falls. One of the main things we noticed while out and about this evening was all the activity. There were people everywhere. Sidewalks, parking lots, walking downtown, you name it. Lots to do here in the big city, apparently.

We made it back to Waldo a little while ago and the kids are all writing in their journals. We had planned for this to be a part of their schooling anyway, but their Auntie sent them all a personalized journal to share their thoughts in. It will be fun to look back in the years to come to see what they wrote about. It seemed only fitting that they would begin on our official launch date.

I think perhaps now it is time to get some rest, all the excitement of the day is catching up with us. 🙂 And what a wonderful day it was.

A beautiful evening in Billings, MT.