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Helga & Clara Estby {from Mica WA} Story  Click on the link

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Exploring 101

Recently, an acquaintance requested that I take her with me on a typical exploration trip. An admirer of my photography and stories, she wanted to witness a day-in-the-life-of me on an adventure. I was, and am, flattered.

Heading north out of the greater Spokane area, we chose a random paved road neither of us had ever been on. We chatted as we drove along with no destination in mind, just admiring the natural landscape of Washington state, but not really seeing anything photo worthy.

As we drove along about 65 mph, I was being proactive in my search for something rare, unique, and beautiful. dsc_8959A foreign shape back in the woods caught my attention. As a child learning to hunt from my father, my brain was shaped to take notice when something in my vision was out-of-place. Skinny legs in a forest of thick tree trunks. A dark mass standing out green bushes. So a granite tombstone in an overgrown field of apple trees, bushes, and tall grasses was worth turning around for.

Let the real adventure begin! Wonderment, excitement, and the thrill of finding something so unusual filled our hearts with joy! Strapping on our camera’s, we began to slowly explore the area discovering additional tombstones in this old and overrun cemetery.

Most of epitaphs were dated in the 1800’s with a only a few in the early 1900’s. Considering most of the population during this time were poor farmers, the beautiful granite headstones are a tribute to the honor of the family. Many, like the one pictured above, marked several family members buried together in a family plot.

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These are graves not visited nor maintained, by the generations since. Perhaps the families have moved away as small farms were no longer sustainable and people moved into the cities for occupation. Smaller trees and shrubs planted nearby a plot over 100 years ago, have now overtaken the cemetery, turning it into a forest.

Apple trees, wild roses, chokecherries, and weeds have buried, hidden, and adorn the cemetery with color, texture, and beauty.

Even though it was early September, we were amazed to find this fresh Lupine wildflower. Typically a late spring bloom, it graced the floor of this forgotten place with the reminder that life goes on.

We enjoyed several hours on this wonderful adventure, while pausing to read each headstone. We’d often stop to question, then surmise the stories of the deceased buried there. So many had died in 1889. Was there a disease that caused so many of various ages to lose their lives at the same time? So many young children. So many young mothers. The grief and tears of those who had stood upon that land so long ago, as the final words were spoken over the freshly turned earth were felt by us.

We honored. We respected. We valued that afternoon in what we later learned was the Mica Cemetery.

My story could end here, but as part of the continuing education, let me add that once home, the computer searches began. Wanting to know the history behind the photos we now possessed as mementos and memory sparkers. Several more hours of sharing our finds with one another only added to the delight of this adventure, off the beaten path.

We could have gone shopping and out to lunch. We chose the path less traveled and were the better for it.

Buffalo Gals are out tonight!

I’m basically a cowgirl at heart. I love the combined experience of nature with a western lifestyle. So camping really makes me happy! It’s like living on a ranch without the ranch house. {or hard work!}DSC_8241

Several years ago, I started a women’s adventure group and named it Buffalo Gals Travelers and Campers. Like minded women meet together for a few days–and nights–of western themed camping. DSC_8249

My little sister gave me this wonderful wool carpet bag and glitzy purse jewelry for my birthday–so appropriate for the leader, right? I love its big size, because there’s even room for my camera!

Buffalo Gals Camp was last week here in Montana.  It involved a lot of work but I enjoy event planning so it was fulfilling to see it come off without a snag or hitch.

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Every detail was attended to for these Western ‘cowgirl caravan’ campers who pulled into camp throughout the day. They found snacks, cool water, a vintage wash IMG_5591station, and some sweet little swag bags waiting for them as they arrived.

Imagine my excitement when I found sterling silver earrings that matched this year’s camp theme “Kick Up Yer Heels and Have a Good Time”, to add to all the local cowgirl boutique coupons in their swag bags!

Thanks to Cowgirl Corner, Crazy Horse, B.E. at Home, and Antiqueology shops for your support of Buffalo Gals Camp!

 

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Don’t my Sam Edleman boots make awesome centerpieces? I’ve stuffed them with a narrow canning jar, water, and fresh roadside wildflowers!

 

Four EZ up canopies gave us plenty of shade! I added some of my cotton bandanas for color, and bug control. (I did not realize I had so many — 27 in all — until I started gathering them from my two trailers, backpack, fishing gear, etc.

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My Buffalo Gals enjoyed a lovely, inviting venue for their four night stay in Western Montana. There were many options to fill our time, but most of us chose to stay in camp, chatting while cooling off in nearby Lolo Creek, reading in the shade, or dozing in one of the hammocks.

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Living life laid back. Oh, and maybe a couple of us danced by the light of the moon as the Pistorius Meteor Shower danced overhead through the night sky.

 

 

 

Ending July with Travel {naturally}

Two down and one to go! Months of summer that is. Here in the Rocky Mountains of Northern USA, those three precious months are all that is allocated to us.

With July ending on a weekend, I’ll start my diary of travel highlights with Friday evening. It was my dear mothers’  (“MaMa”) 90th birthday. So with the car packed full of decor, gifts, birthday dessert, and favors, plus my usual bag of overnight necessities (just in case), I headed into town. With a quick (45 minute) stop by her house to help her with some last minute primping, to look at her garden (unchanged since she’d proudly showed it off to me just 4 days earlier) and a reading of all the birthday cards she’d received, I packed MaMa into my car too.

We arrived at the restaurant of her choice, Finn and Porter at the Hilton. Our family has been celebrating special times for over 35 years at this venue, though none of the revolving staff realizes this fact. I’d reserved a private room for our party — which is ideal for us because it is a glassed in room that still allows us beautiful river views.

A few quick decoration touches of Happy Birthday banner and balloons, and my part was completed. Soon the room was brimming with the happy guests and we enjoyed a lovely time together. MaMa was pleased!

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On Saturday morning, I headed the car south toward my favorite Farmer’s Market in the Bitterroot Valley. Always a delightful mix of local artisans, growers, and vendors. The streets are filled with small town peoples that I simply love. No one is uptight or in a hurry. I search the crowd for familiar faces, and all too often the flow is stopped when a connection is made and the paths are blocked by happy voiced patrons. We gently ease our way around without a fuss.

A drive up one of my favorite canyons for some mountain breeze and rambling creek enjoyment, and I head home again.

Sunday morning dawned with a brilliant sunrise, in thanks partially to some hazy smoke from a forest fire somewhere.

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Traveling in my memory to other famous sunrises while I enjoyed my morning coffee on the back lawn. I could not linger though, as I had to travel north toward Glacier Park for a photo session with a client. A family reunion lakeside in Polson where a new baby was making its debut. Beautiful lighting but a brisk breeze that insisted hair and clothing go its own way was less than ideal. When we’d turn to pacify the wind, the sun’s light was wrong. Phooey. We made the best of it and as I assured the family, the memories are what’s important, not perfect photos. {not sure they bought it}

Taking advantage of the fact that a good friend lived nearby, we’d arranged for a light luncheon together with 2 other friends ~ all of us classmates in high school. One drove in from her lake cabin, another conveniently passing through town enroute to another destination, and of course me, who was there on assignment.

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What a great time we enjoyed sitting on the deck overlooking the Flathead River in Polson. Some reminiscing but mostly just catching up with one another’s lives. Years ago we discussed our babies. Nowadays we discuss our aging parents. And our grown kids. And of course, our grand-babies! Many laughs later, I traveled home to the high school tunes of memory lane ~ Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton and other favorites.

What a lovely end to July with my daily road trips, filled with favorite places, scenery, and people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Trailers 101

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Ask any Pinterest enthusiast about Vintage Trailers and their eyes will immediately light up! Hot trending vintage combined with the Tiny Home trend equals a passionate following for the 1940’s, ‘50’s and 60’s ‘canned ham’ travel trailers. This was an era when America was prospering, the National Park movement was growing, and highways were going more places. American’s responded heartily by making family recreation a priority. Travel trailer manufacturers—literally hundreds of them–met the need by producing hundreds of thousands of camping trailers.

Collected by men and women alike, these relics of the past are most commonly found in an overgrown weed patch out behind the barn. Unfortunately, most are ruined beyond repair short of a complete rebuild.

Here’s a quick primer on what to look for if you’re in the market;

  • Don’t trust the seller. Like any hot commodity, shysters come out of the woodwork to make a fast buck. It’s totally up to you to do your own homework and research.
  • Approach the For Sale trailer equipped with the necessary tools to help you make an educated decision. A ladder for looking at the roof, a flashlight for crawling underneath, an extension cord for checking electricity, etc.
  • Educate yourself. There are plenty of blogs, groups, and vintage trailer clubs with members willing to help you learn. Read. Listen. Learn.
  • Don’t be afraid to walk away. Even though these are scarce, there are many more potentials for you to buy so don’t be desperate.
  • Don’t be taken in by cute décor. This often hides telltale signs of abuse. Look behind everything! Open everything! Have a check list and stick with it.
  • Most importantly, is it road ready? Will it at least make it to the nearest tire dealership? Does it have a clean title? Do the lights all work?
  • This list is far from complete so be prepared to learn the tricks of the trade

I found my little jewel in WA State, while on vacation. It had been under a carport, somewhat protected from the elements, but still had a few leaks from the brittle seams coming apart as it swayed, bumped, and rattled down the road. Lets face it—anything built primarily of 60-50-even 40 year old wood, is going to have some rot. What you don’t want is something that is falling apart and will literally separate from the chassis while you’re hauling it home. The only way to tell is to look carefully at all seams.

A huge rebuild project was not in my budget or interest level. So I settled on doing all I could to stop further rot damage, repair all the seals, and paint with a good mold inhibitor, stain cover, and primer.

My 1967 Aristocrat Lo-Liner has a small potty room, closet, and all the luxuries available in the mere 13’ interior. Her name is La Belle Vie (The Beautiful Life) and reflects my love of French Country décor. She’s ideal for me, but would be a tight squeeze for the smallest of families. These canned hams come in all prices, sizes, and conditions. Be sensible about what will work for you, be patient, and you, like me, may just find a new passion!

 

 

 

Fire {cooking} {BBQ} Works

There are 50/50 odds that you will be either in the backyard barbequing or in the woods camping for the Fourth of July celebration. We’ve chosen an easy and satisfying menu for creating your own mouth-watering fireworks on a skewer!

I was camping with friends in Glacier National Park in NW Montana. Such a stunning setting that encourages first-class dining, even over a campfire and picnic table!

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Kabobs are always a tasty and pleasing meal idea. The key is choosing ingredients, which will cook for approximately the same length of time, and that list is virtually endless. Use fresh, in-season and family favorite vegetables and fruits.

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When using meat (steak, chicken, sausage) on my kabobs, I will always use a pre-cooked variety so it will char and heat the same as my vegetables. Marinating your meat for an hour or so before cooking gives you a tastier flavor. Cut the meat into approximate 1” long pieces.

If you’re cooking over a campfire, make sure you’ve got your fire going at least an hour before you need to cook, to utilize those red-hot coals. Grilling over a hot, low-flame fire is a must to keep your kabob from burning.

Start by preparing your vegetables in advance so you’ll have a quick and easy time of skewering your kabobs. Wash and cut into approx 1” size. If you will be using wooden skewers, be sure you soak these in water for at least an hour before placing them on the hot grill.

Skewer your ingredients, but don’t squeeze together too tightly because you want all sides to be exposed to the heat. Some people like to use one ingredient per skewer, which does allow you to cook specific to that food. (I.e. a skewer of peppers, a skewer of meat)

Here I’ve used cooked, spiced polish sausages, green bell peppers, sweet onions, fresh pineapple chunks, and small button mushrooms. Alternating each piece on a skewer, I placed on the grill without any seasoning. I rotate each skewer four times for good equal time grilling.

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During the last minute or so of grilling, I like to drizzle a sauce, such as my mango-jalapeño salsa, down each skewer. (I also place a bowl of the sauce on the table for anyone who wants more)

Using a hot pad, carefully remove each skewer to a baking pan or platter before serving. This allows the hot ends to start cooling down before they come near your guest’s fingers or mouths. It’s always dramatic to serve the kabobs while still skewered, but you can opt to remove the contents into a serving bowl too. Use the tongs of a fork to easily remove the cooked food from the skewer by sliding the fork down the kabob.

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Of course you’ll want some yummy side dishes to round out your menu! Watermelon is always appropriate! I’ve done some camping tradition foil packets of coal-baked potatoes to accompany my kabobs. Using Yukon Gold potatoes, I’ve washed and cut them in fourths. On a heavy 12” square of tin foil, I place the cut potato with some cut onion pieces, then drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkled with some salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary sprigs, I wrap the foil tightly and carefully place down in the ash and coals of my fire pit. (Be sure to use long BBQ tongs and a hot pad glove to avoid burning yourself) Make one foil packet of potatoes for each guest.

These need to cook while you’re making your skewers. (Approximately 15 minutes on each side) Remove with great care as not to puncture the foil or have the packet unwrap in the process. Place on a platter and serve immediately.

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Nicely seasoned, beautiful to look at, and ever so satisfying this is true fire cooked, BBQ works at its finest!

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Heart Thought

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“Travel writing is not about the country alone. We’ve got encyclopedias for that tedium.

Travel writing must engage the reader, drawing them into the adventure.

I must write and tell my story, my experience, as the traveler.” Carole Dean