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Update pending

Soooo, uploading pictures apparently uses a lot of data, and I’m almost out of data.  Yikes.

But, we’re still trucking along.  We made it though Minnesota, picked Gabe and Chet up in Minneapolis, transferred the kids off to Chet’s parents, Chet and picked up the Boy Scouts from the airport, drove them up to northern Minnesota to the Northern Tier Canoe Base.  I dropped Chet & the Scouts off and then headed down to Wisconsin to meet up with Gabe, Beka and Chet’s parents at our cabin

I’ll fill in all the lovely details later, but right now I’m sitting in a McDonalds with painfully slow free wifi (alas, can’t reasonably get all the pictures uploaded that I would like) headed back up to the Canoe Base to meet up with the Scouts and Chet.  We’ll shuttle them back to Minneapolis, where the Scouts are flying home.  Chet and I will then head back to the cabin and spend a few more days.

Thus far, it’s been lovely.  I’ve enjoyed just relaxing, watching the kids enjoy the lake and fish.  Oh, and I got a bit of fishing in yesterday and was pretty pleased at all the fish I caught fly fishing in the lake.

But, I can’t have a picture – free post, so here’s a couple teasers.  Here’s Gabe and Beka out on the paddleboat fishing away on Torrey Lake.

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And, a lovely evening view from the porch of the cabin.  Not too shabby, ‘eh.  Yah, needless to say it’s been a lovely relaxing trip thus far.

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After our Yellowstone traffic jam, we slept in and got a later start to our morning than I really had hoped.  But, it was all okay.  We set off for the day without any specific plan, other than to head east, stop off at Yellowstone Falls, and see where the day took us.

Let me tell you the hype for Yellowstone Falls did not disappoint.  The volume of water this year made the falls simply spectacular.

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And standing over the lower falls, it was truly awesome, and a little bit intimidating.  I made sure to grip my camera extra tight, even though I had the strap around my neck.

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Rebeka and I headed back up the trail, and low and behold, she cooperated with my request for a picture.

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We headed to the overlook and just was amazed at the power of the lower falls.

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And, the canyon was completely beautiful.

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And look at this utterly adorable young lady, and her Yellowstone Junior Ranger Patch!

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When we entered the park, the ranger gave Rebeka a sheet of paper, where you checked off animals that you saw in the park.  Each animal sighting was worth 10 pts. and apparently, a score over 70 was considered “very good.”  One of the animals on the list was an osprey.  As we were looking out at the canyon, Rebeka told me she saw an osprey flying.  I was skeptical, until we found (with help) an osprey nest perched atop an outcropping.  It was beautiful, and another gentleman had his spotting scope with him, and let Rebeka and I take a peek, and in the nest was an osprey sitting on the eggs.  Pretty darn cool. Oh, and by the way, she scored 120 points by the time we exited the park.

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After the canyon, we headed off eastward.  The views, again, utterly spectacular looking out east after coming over Dunraven pass.

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And, again, a totally a sucker for the pretty flowers.

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As we entered the Lamar Valley, it was just amazing as well.  All those little dots – those are bison.

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Just incredible and amazing creatures.

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Again, the scenery is so varied, and so amazing in Yellowstone.

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And, because we were too excited heading into Yellowstone, I made sure to snap this on our way out . . .  and there is my little sassy pants.

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Finally, even though we spent a couple days in and out of Wyoming, I finally got my opportunity for Rebeka to get her picture with the Wyoming state sign.

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We headed up the Beartooth Highway, and the views were awesome and we made it to almost 11,000 feet elevation.

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So, over the pass we went.

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And we kept on driving and driving.  We made it all the way through Montana and ended up stopping in North Dakota to our next destination.  Here’s a hint . . . it’s another national park.

Day 2 in Yellowstone was quintessential Yellowstone in virtually every way. Rebeka and I slept in – we’ve just been trying to stay on Pacific time, so after a leisurely morning, we headed out to drive the loop up to Mammoth Hot Springs, around to Tower-Roosevelt, and then complete the loop through Canyon back to our camp at Madison.

Our first stop was to check out Gibson Falls.  Absolutely stunning.

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And, look, someone wasn’t being all cheeseball on me for a photo op. But she had her souvenir baby bison named “Tatanka” who accompanied us on our tour.

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After that we stopped at the Norris Geyser Basin, which was absolutely incredible in a different way than what we saw in the Old Faithful area the day before.  A lot more trees and stark contrasts of the landscapes.

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And, if you heard the story where a person fell into a Yellowstone Hot Spring and his body was dissolved in 24 hours, well, this picture below is the location of that fateful incident, also known as Pork Chop Geyser.

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That, kids, is why you stay on the lovely boardwalks.  And, it helps to take your baby bison piggyback for the walk.

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The Norris Basin was incredibly fascinating in the variations, and overall a lovely, albeit warm, hike that day.

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After our tour of the Norris basin, we hit the road and headed up to Mammoth Hot Springs.  My motivation on taking this loop on this day was concern for my finger.  While I was happy with my wilderness first aid skills, I knew my cut was pretty bad, and there is a Medical Clinic at the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  My plan was to change my dressing, assess the status of my injury, and if needed go to the medical clinic.  But, first, we had to check out the area.

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It was amazing, again, in how different and unique this area was compared to the other hot springs we had previously visited.  And, another no cheese picture.

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After touring all the sites, getting some ice cream, watching Elk in the middle of the activity in the Mammoth Hot Springs visitors center area, I investigated the finger.  I was finally able to get steri-strips on it, and decided that was sufficient instead of stitches (and I felt embarrassed to go into and be, hey, I was a bonehead).  Then we got Rebeka’s Junior Ranger patch, which I failed to get pictures of, and then headed back out on the road.  We took the Blacktail Plateau Drive, which offered stunning views and a magnificent bull elk in the distance.

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And, I am a sucker for pictures of the bison.  I just am so impressed at their mass and the striking contrast of this bull against the green was beautiful to me.

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Of course, the wildflowers were beautiful too.

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After we stopped and saw the petrified tree, which I shared in an earlier post.  Then we headed off back to the campground with grand plans of enjoying another campfire, roasting marshmallows, and relaxing after a fair amount of driving.

Overcast skies quickly turned into a thunderstorm, which Rebeka was enjoying.  As we headed up Dunraven Pass, the intermittent sprinkles turned into heavy rain, and as we were heading down the pass, the rain turned to hail and Rebeka started to panic about sliding off the road.  The poor girl, as much as we  have driven in snow, the heavy rain coupled with hail was something she is not accustomed, an the ruggedness of the pass coupled with the weather was too much for her sensibilities.  However, we both survived, and made it to the Canyon area and were happily on our way back to camp.

Now, take a moment to look at the map below, including the distances between Canyon, Norris and Madison. Remember, our campground was at Madison.

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We approached the intersection at Norris to turn to head out to Madison, and the traffic was backed up a good 1/2 mile.  Okay, it’s the summer peak season, it’s the evening, everyone is heading back to their lodging for the evening, like us.  So, we make it through the intersection, turning toward Madison, get up to the speed limit for about a mile, and then bumper to bumper traffic at a complete stop.

There we sat, not moving forward, and intermittent oncoming traffic.  I contemplated turning around and going around through West Thumb and Old Faithful, the loop we did the day before, but I knew that would take us a couple hours.  So, there we sat, occasionally moving a few hundred yards or so forward.

We continued to sit.  And sit.  And sit.  Finally, an hour or so into our wait (I’m thinking there must have been an accident, so eventually it will clear and traffic will begin moving again), we hear from a passing oncoming vehicle that there were bison in the road causing the traffic delay.  Okay, well, so that’s causing the backup, how bad can it be, right?

Remember, I said to pay attention to the mileage – that is because we got caught in a “Yellowstone Traffic Jam.”  Yes, something similar to this:

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Photo credit http://tvblogs.nationalgeographic.com/2012/05/14/greetings-from-yellowstone/ng_untamed-2661/.

Yes, that is not my picture, because we were HUNDREDS of cars behind the bison traffic, but I envision it looked something like that, as the bison moved between Norris and almost all the way to Madison.  The 14 mile section of road took us – wait for it – 4.5 hours to drive.

At least along the way, I was able to snap some pictures of the sunset.

 

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When we made it back to our campsite, it was late.  It was cold cut sandwiches for dinner and straight to bed.  As I said to Rebeka, we went bison speed that evening.  She didn’t find it funny until the next morning.  But, those Yellowstone traffic jams are no joke.  I heard stories of them before, but I didn’t imagine that we’d get stuck for over 4 hours in one.  Sure did make some pretty awesome memories though.

A Day of Firsts

So, neither Rebeka nor I have ever visited Yellowstone National Park.  We pushed it to Idaho and about an hour from the West Yellowstone entrance.  We got up bright and early to make the push to Yellowstone.

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We made good time, and seeing the entrance station was exhilarating.  Our first day in the park definitely got off to an amazing start.  We entered around 8:15 a.m., and we were almost immediately greeted with our first wildlife experience.

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Rebeka as beside her self looking at the elk and the babies hunkered down in the shadows of the trees.  You can imagine the squeal of Rebeka saying “BABIES, they are sooooo cute!”

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At this point, it was too early to check into our campground at Madison.  Instead, I decided to head down toward Old Faithful and just see what we got to see during that day.  To say the least, it did not disappoint.  We did the whole loop from Madison, down to West Thumb, back up to Canyon, and back to Madison.  It was a full day, but we squeezed in a lot for our first day in the park (though, of course there are dozens of stops along that loop I still want to go back and do).

However, as we are heading down the road we encounter our first Bison, or the goofy person in me who kept saying “Tatanka.”  As we watched the Bison, I observed this mother down by the river with her calf and she then leaned in and gently began to groom it.

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The mass of these animals is awesome.

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And, Rebeka decided it would be her mission to be silly or goofy in every picture.  But, I nevertheless try.

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Not long after our bison encounter, off in the distance we see our fist real glimpse of the hot springs and geyser features.

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It was incredible as we approached and then joined the giant crowds to go take a walk a about at Upper Geyser basin, which did not disappoint.

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Rebeka was not a fan of the sulfur smell or getting sprayed with geyser water.

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After walking the loop, we headed off down the road.  I was going to stop at Midway Geyser basin, but wholly crowds batman.  So, we kept on our way to Old Faithful and vowed to get back to Midway in the future.  We have to leave things for our next visit, right?

After getting to Old Faithful, we stopped, put some air in the tire (its looking like we have a very slow leak on a tire) lucked out on an amazing parking spot right near the Visitor’s Center, and then made sure to get Rebeka’s Junior Ranger book and started straight away on touring the sites there and working on her Junior Ranger requirements.

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And Rebeka’s mission to be a goofball continued.

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Oh yah, and her stuffed Elephant, Sugar (?) came on the tour with us.

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And probably the oddest moment of the day is we’re walking the path, and I am standing next to a couple older ladies whom I overhear pointing at some stuff on the ground next to a hot spring, and one lady asks “what is that?”  Her companion friend replies “Oh, I think that’s a fungus.”

This was the “stuff”:

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Was it wrong of me to laugh (inside of course), or should I have been a kind person and corrected them and told them, no ladies, that’s POOP!

Besides poop, there were other beautiful features out in the basin loop, like these lovely wildflowers.

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And the hot springs and geysers just continued to be amazing and awesome.

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Then, according to my plan, while we were out it was time for Old Faithful to go.  Much to Rebeka’s surprise, we had a great view, away from the masses of people.

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After enjoying Old Faithful we continued on our way, and past one of my favorite features of this stop:

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After Old Faith and its many friends, we continued on to West Thumb for another tour of hot springs and geysers.  Somebody was rather excited to get out of the car and walk again.

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One of the really interesting features of the West Thumb area is the presence of geysers within Yellowstone lake.

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And, I couldn’t pass by a picture of Emerald Pool.

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After a tour of the West Thumb geyser basin, we headed off on the road again, as it was starting to get late and I knew we had some time and miles to compete the loop and get back to Madison and check into our campground.  But, of course we had to stop and observe another herd of Bison.DSC_0272

I love how their coats shed.

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We finally get back to the campground and start to get settled.  Rebeka wanted desperately to have a fire and roast marshmallows.  Which we accomplished.

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However, not without incident.

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As I was splitting kindling into smaller pieces, I got distracted by a little one, and not looking combined with a very sharp instrument spelled near disaster for me.  I got myself really good.  So good that I contemplated trying to figure out how the heck I was going to get myself to get stitches.  But, I’m stubborn and it really would have been a massive inconvenience to try to get the camper popped down, gear loaded back up, and off to medical help.  My mad backcountry first-aid skills came to hand, and after what felt like forever (because it really was), I got bleeding under control and wrapped the bad boy up and then called it a day.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it’s a doozie, but I was able to get steri-strips onto it the next day, and while it’s going to leave an ugly scar, but, again, made first-aid skills came to my rescue, I don’t think I hit a tendon (which I was initially concerned about but who needs to bend the tip of their finger, right), so onward we go.  And, kids, this is why you always have a good first-aid kit in your gear.

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It has been an amazing couple of days.  We are finally back into cell range, at least for the moment.  It is late, it was a long day driving, and it is softly raining outside.  Honestly, I don’t know if there is a better sound than rain softly tapping on the roof of a camper.

It is midnight and I’m finishing a glass of wine as Rebeka is fast asleep in the bed.  My camera is in the cab of the truck, so the following snippets will have to do until later, when I’m energized and have more time.

Guess where we have been:

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Here:

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And here:

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And here too:

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Drove along witnessing this:

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And managed to get here before dark.

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Stay tuned for a full update in a day or so.

I’m Back . . .

Kind of.  The past several years have been an interesting ride.  Maintenance was supposed to be some point in life where everything was smooth, you found a groove, and just road out the end of treatment to the end.  Our experience was anything but smooth.  Then, being out of treatment has been its own challenging experience.  Honestly, I don’t know how to describe how f’d up Chet and I have felt the past few years.  In treatment we held it together because we had no choice.  Out of treatment has been a crazy weird, unsettled, dark time.  I have often heard people say that parents of cancer kids suffer their own post-traumatic stress disorder.  I don’t know what PTSD is like, and I don’t know if what Chet and I have felt and battled is that, but I know we have both struggled greatly once Gabe got out of treatment.  It’s been hard.  But, we’re three years out of treatment, Gabe is doing amazing, and I think we are finally, and I mean finally, finding ourselves again.  We are finally getting back into things we used to do and love.  We are figuring out our new normal.

But, here I am again.  Rebeka and I are taking a road trip.  We hit the road today and our first destination is going to be Yellowstone National Park.  We pulled a long haul today.  Traveling across Nevada, I don’t recall in my life seeing the state look as green as it is in mid-June or as much water.  Carson Sink is just full of water, the rivers are flowing well, and there is standing water and just lushness.  It is amazing, and I am so grateful to be doing this trip.

Rebeka and I have made it well into Idaho (and pretty darn close to Jellystone, I mean Yellowstone).

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So, tomorrow we will hit Yellowstone for a spell before heading off for the next adventure.  Stay tuned as we travel around the country, camping and road trip’n again – like we used to, and like we love to do.

CANCER SUCKS

First, let me start this out with “Gabriel’s doing awesome.”  We have truly been so blessed with his health and progress.

We are two weeks away from him getting his central line/Broviac out.  This my friends is worthy of five exclamation points!!!!!  For those of you who have not experienced a Broviac line, this is a huge step forward in his treatment.  For us it means a lot.  First, no more weekly blood draws.  Second, no more weekly dressing changes.  Third, no more daily flushes.  Fourth, no more almost guaranteed hospitalizations if he gets a fever, even if for some reason his counts are low, because the fear of a blood infection isn’t there due to the absence of the central line.

Yes, there are some downsides.  We won’t be doing weekly blood draws, we’ll do monthly, which means we’re going to be in the dark about where his counts are at – and we’ve gotten pretty accustomed to knowing that information.  And, Gabe’s going to be getting pokes, real pokes, for every Chemo treatment and every blood draw.

However, the upsides are just too much, besides all the stuff just related to the maintenance of the line, Gabriel will be able to go swimming, take baths, get in our hot tub, and do all sorts of things like that, things he hasn’t been able to do for the past year and half.  It’s amazing how little things can mean so much.

Outside of that, there hasn’t been a whole lot of news to report.  We’ve been hunkered down for the past few weeks.  Gabe’s been having fun doing his Cub Scouts activities.  Chet’s a running fool.  And, slowly, ever so slowly life is beginning to feel a bit more normal and there are moments where you almost forget that you’re still living with cancer.

If you haven’t seen this video yet, it’s awesome.  It makes me just cry, tears of understanding, compassion, pain, joy, empathy, sorrow, all in a single moment.  But, again, it is just awesome.

You know, cancer makes you stronger.  Whether you’re the one actually dealing with the physical disease, or whether you’re the loved one sharing the journey.

Today, Chet and I found out a dear friend has just been diagnosed with cancer.  It’s a cousin to leukemia, and man it just hurts deep in the gut.  The pain is just too deep to describe and there’s no way to express the emotions associated with knowing another person you know and love has to deal with such a crazy disease.

We shared with Gabriel our friend’s diagnosis.  Man, the kid is absolutely astonishing, empathetic, and incredible.  He started crying.  Today he got a stress relief squeezer thing.  Gabe was so frustrated that through gritted teeth he asks me for the squeezer.  I dig it out of his bag and hand it to him.  He starts squeezing it as hard and he can, and then throws it across the room in anger.

He is such an amazing person.  I hope he never looses that empathy, compassion and just real nature.  It makes him into an absolutely awesome soul to be around.

We’re all stronger from this experience.  Our most fervent prayers go out to our friend and we ask that you pray for his health and prognosis too.