Celebration in the Rubies

A couple of weeks ago we took a weekend trip to our nearest “city”, Elko. It is a three hour drive to get to Elko and it’s population is less than 20, 000 people (yep, our town is pretty remote). Our reason for going was pretty important, though. We adopted our son almost two years ago from the Democratic Republic of Congo and he just now officially became a U.S. citizen. We had to travel to Elko to meet with an USCIS officer to pick up his Certificate of Citizenship (Yay!!). We technically could have done it in a day trip, but we took advantage of the opportunity to visit an area we hadn’t seen before- the Ruby Mountains.

The Ruby Mountains got their name when an early explorer found garnet in them and wrongly assumed they were rubies. While the mountain range may be lacking in precious gems, it is most definitely not lacking in beauty.

On our drive to Elko we took a side trip to visit Angel Lake, the only lake in these mountains that can be reached via paved road. Unfortunately, we got there right as the sun was setting behind the mountains. Even though we ended up experiencing the place in the shade and the temperature started to quickly drop, it was still a beautiful sight. It is also a good thing that we went as Angel Lake ended up being the only lake we saw on the trip (spoiler alert).

IMG_0369 (2017_10_30 13_07_41 UTC)

The following day we took a breathtaking drive through Lamoille Canyon. We earnestly scanned the mountain slopes for mountain goats and bighorn sheep, but never saw any.

IMG_0381 (2017_10_30 13_07_41 UTC)

We reached the end of the road, had a picnic lunch by a pretty creek, and then set out on our hike to Lamoille Lake. The beginning of the trail took us through this cool rocky valley. We headed out into it for a while, mesmerized by the scenery, until we realized we weren’t really on a trail anymore. We backtracked a couple times until we discovered that we were supposed to cross a creek near the beginning of the trail. We lost some time and energy, but we finally found the right way….and that is also when things got tricky.

IMG_0386 (2017_10_30 13_07_41 UTC)

The aspen leaves were long gone (which was a shame since there were so many of them). All we had were these red stick plants to add a nice pop of autumn color.

IMG_0419 (2017_10_30 13_07_41 UTC) (2)

Just taking a breather on one of our many rest breaks. At least we had a nice sunny rock to sit on this time.

IMG_0400 (2017_10_30 13_07_41 UTC)

The Ruby Mountains are the wettest mountain range in Nevada and we soon found how their conditions differed from the mountains in our neck of the woods.

The trail started out at around 9,000 feet and went steadily uphill from there. There was patchy snow from the very beginning, but the patches became increasingly larger and the trail became increasingly steeper. It wasn’t supposed to be that long of a hike, but after over two hours of slogging uphill in the slippery snow and ice, there was still no lake in sight.

At one point Matt was helping me through an especially treacherous section. My feet lost all traction on the slick, melting snow and they slid out from underneath me. If Matt wasn’t holding onto my arms, I would have slid all the way down the trail. I don’t know how, but we managed to get to the side of the trail where there was a snow- free patch and I was finally able to stand upright again. We hiked uphill a bit farther, but my nerves were shot and I eventually admitted my defeat. I was a bit bummed to give up my chance of seeing Lamoille Lake, but it was not like we did not see gorgeous scenery the entire way. So we rested and then started our slip- and- slide descent off the mountain.

IMG_0413 (2017_10_30 13_07_41 UTC)

Even though we didn’t reach our destination, we still ventured farther than most people. The parking lot was full of sight- seers, but most of them just strolled through the sunny and warm rocky meadow. We saw hardly anyone anywhere on the trail. (Maybe they were wiser than us, but we had ourselves an adventure!)

All in all we had a great weekend exploring a new area of our state and celebrating our family and Roland’s new citizen status. We fell in love with the rugged beauty of the Ruby Mountains and we definitely want to visit them again (but maybe not quite so late in the season).

IMG_0402 (2017_10_30 13_07_41 UTC)

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature…We need to witness our own limits transgressed, and some life pasturing freely where we never wander.” 

~Henry David Thoreau

A Perfect Day

It is not often that a perfect day comes around. A day when nobody is sick and everybody is in a good mood, the weather is pleasant and the views are beautiful, and there are no little stressful hiccups along the way. A couple weeks ago we were fortunate enough to have one such day.

When we had our September snowfall, we assumed we missed our chance of going to Great Basin National Park for one last autumn hike. However, a stretch of warm weather melted the snow and opened the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive back up again. We were a little hesitant to go because the snow on the Bristlecone trail on our visit back in June made our hike pretty difficult. This time we tried out the Alpine Lakes trail and we were pleasantly surprised to find that the snow was almost entirely melted (even at 10, 400 feet!).

At the lower elevations of the park road, the aspens were dazzling in their yellow autumn leaves, but as we drove up higher the trees were past their peak and had already begun to lose their leaves. It was interesting to see the seasons change as we gained thousands of feet in elevation.

Oct. 7 Great Basin (3)

The weather was wonderful as we headed out on the Alpine Lakes trail: sunny and hovering right around 60 degrees. It wasn’t a difficult hike, but I could definitely feel the high altitude as we hiked uphill to Stella Lake and Teresa Lake. They were both petite in size (one barely more than a pond), but they were surrounded by grand, snow- covered peaks, creating the most picturesque of settings. It was pure bliss to set myself down on a rock, bask in the sunshine, breathe in the cool air and take in all the beauty surrounding me.

Oct. 7 Great Basin (13)

Roland’s moods are usually the limiting factor on the enjoyment level of our hikes. His whininess and grumpiness can spoil even the most grand of hikes. However, on this day, not one whine came out of him. He kept up with us without a fuss and he was in a happy mood the whole day. Even when he fell down, he cried for just a minute or two and then he was able to move on and get back to enjoying himself, which is no small feat for him.

Oct. 7 Great Basin (46)

If you have met our son, you know he is not a quiet child. There is always some sort of sound coming out of his mouth, whether it is words, songs, or just senseless noises. On our hike back down from the lakes in the darkening woods, I noticed it was perfectly quiet. I turned around and saw Roland was just walking along, playing with a couple sticks AND WASN’T MAKING ANY NOISE! It may not sound like much, but being able to enjoy the quiet serenity of the woods is not something that happens often when you have a kid like mine.

Oct. 7 Great Basin (25)

I soaked it all in and marveled at how everything came together to create a perfect day. Days like that feel like a little sneak peak of what heaven might be like. In the midst of a string of ordinary days, sometimes God will give you a day that feels like a slice of heaven on earth and you can almost hear him whisper, “Don’t worry, there is an eternity of more days like that. Just wait.”

Oct. 7 Great Basin (28)

“I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in.”

~George Washington Carver

Family Traditions

We have been blessed to have family visiting with us over the past week. Matt and I love living in the West, but unfortunately ALL of our family live on the East coast so we don’t get to see them very often. When family does visit, we try to make the most of it and cram as much fun as possible into a week. This was the first time we had company since we moved, so it was extra fun showing off our little corner of Nevada.

We started off the week with a hike at Ward Charcoal Ovens State Park. Our walk started off pretty slow as the intense sun baked our skin, but our steps definitely became swifter when the clouds rolled in and the sky began rumbling with thunder. Even though we sort of rushed through the hike, we still ended up walking back in the rain. Although, I think we all agreed the cool rain was more pleasant than the oppressive heat.

040

Charcoal Ovens

On another hot afternoon we drove out to Garnet Hill. It is an area not far from town that is open to the public for garnet collecting. We had fun searching through the rocks looking for the shiny, dark red stones. We did find some, but most were little more than specks inside of larger rocks. We weren’t quite serious enough to bring a hammer and chisel with us so we left most of our findings on the hill for the next person.

056

058

Of course we had to pay a visit to Great Basin National Park. We first took a tour of Lehman Cave. We admired the amazing formations and enjoyed the cool, dark air. Then we headed back out into the sunshine and drove up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive. Gaining over 3,000 feet of elevation greatly cooled the temperature, making pleasant conditions for walking the forested nature path at the end of the road.

064

On my birthday we took a ride on the Nevada Northern Railway. We rode out on a steam engine through Robinson Canyon up toward the copper mine. Matt and I braved the sun and sat in the open- air car, but we found out that the coal flakes showering our skin were even more uncomfortable than the heat. We stuck it out and we can now claim we had the full steam engine experience.

066

This train has been in operation for over a hundred years. As we rolled through the desert, it was interesting to think of what life must have been like in the early 1900s in rural Nevada. People think Ely is remote now. Imagine living out here without amazon.com, major road systems, or reliable communication.

081

Before the train headed back to the depot, it took us by the ghost town of Keystone Gulch. It was not a real town, but created by volunteers for the entertainment of the train passengers. It was a fun surprise and was a cute addition to the train experience. I don’t know if you can tell from the picture, but the jail was located adjacent to the saloon, keeping things nice and convenient for the sheriff.

089

091

093

We all had a great time together and Roland got to experience two new firsts: the first time in a cave and the first time on a train. When our week together came to a close, I began to ponder  the importance of family and the traditions and values that are passed on from one generation to the next. The two most important gifts my family gave to me as a child were encouraging my faith in God and my love of nature. Those gifts are precious to me and I try to instill the same values to my son. We had a special week of three generations of my family enjoying ourselves in the great outdoors while giving glory to God for all he has done. It brought back all the happy memories of my childhood and it makes my heart glad that my son is being exposed to the same positive experiences I had. Of all the traditions some families may have, I think my family has some pretty good ones.

 

Start children off on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

Proverbs 22:6

 

Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth. 

~Walt Whitman

Mother’s Day

It was a chilly and gloomy day for a Mother’s Day hike at Cave Lake State Park. We put on all the layers of clothes we brought (and wished we had brought more) and headed out into the cool misty air, intermittent drizzly rain, and gusty winds. The scenery was still beautiful even though the highest peaks were shrouded by the clouds.

May 15 Cave Lake (14)

We have had bad luck the two times we visited this park. Our first visit, two months ago, was sunny and warm, but the trail was hidden under snow so we had to turn around. The trail was clear this visit, but the weather was much less enjoyable.

May 15 Cave Lake (19)

We were lucky enough to spot this pretty mule deer standing up on a hill. She just stood there and watched us instead of running away so we got to enjoy looking at her, too.

May 15 Cave Lake (25)

The skies began to clear by the time we reached Cave Lake. We took one layer of clothing off and enjoyed the gorgeous view.

May 15 Cave Lake (36)

It didn’t matter if it was cold and dreary or warm and mild. Our family was together, unplugged from all screens and distractions, making memories out in nature. What better way is there to spend Mother’s Day?

It should be apparent by looking at our pictures that our family was not created in the usual way. Our family was forged together through pain, loss, trials, and miracles. The endless waiting and financial hardships tested our faith and perverseness almost to the breaking point. The three of us endured so much before we were united together and I think we are now the stronger for it. I know my faith is stronger and deeper than it ever could have been if I had not pursued this adoption. The adoption started out as a leap of faith because we couldn’t really afford it, and then the situation became even worse as Roland was stuck in Congo for years longer than he should have been. However, God was with us every step of the way and brought us out of a seemingly impossible situation. It was a hard fight just to become a family and every day we are together is precious.

May 15 Cave Lake (33)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:2-4, 17

Venturing Outside

Venturing outside the warm comfort of my home to take a short hike during the long winter months is no easy task, but it is vital to my sanity. I first have to figure out which areas of the forest are accessible or completely snowed in. Then comes the hour long process of getting the three of us in our winter gear and actually out of the house. It requires some extra effort, but the fresh air and the quiet beauty are worth the trouble.

We paid a visit to the very large and completely frozen Cass Lake.

feb-3-4

To get to the lake we first had to climb over a large snow dune.

feb-3-1

We admired the vast snowy landscape, but it was about 16 degrees and extremely windy out on the lake and I couldn’t feel my cheeks so we headed back into the protection of the woods.

feb-3-8

The winter landscape is mostly made up of varying shades of white and gray. Without the flowers and foliage that adorn the other seasons, things can get monotonous. That is why I got pretty excited about this area of the forest. The mix of green, red, and white tree trunks added color that could only really be appreciated in the winter.

jan-22-norway-beach25

jan-22-norway-beach29

After a week of above- freezing temperatures the snow became crunchy, compacted, and unstable. It made taking a casual walk a bit nerve- wracking. We would take one step and sink in only an inch and then the next step we would sink up to our knees. And then every once in a while there were the hidden snowdrifts that would engulf us even more and we just about had to climb out. It kept things interesting.

Getting outdoors in the winter can be more difficult, but spending time in nature is rejuvenating, regardless of the season (and trudging around through deep snow is great exercise!).

jan-22-norway-beach21

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

~Robert Frost

 

The Simple Joy of Sunshine

As summer becomes more of a distant memory, these increasingly rare warm and sunny days feel ever more glorious. When the majority of the days now are cloudy, windy, and just plain chilly, I want to soak every ounce of sunshine out of days like this. Walking around without a jacket on a northern Minnesota October day is a gift from God that is to be truly appreciated.

oct-3-diamond-point-2

Roland running off some energy before gymnastics class at Diamond Point Park on Lake Bemidji. Walking with my family along a lake in the lovely sunshine makes my heart happy. I hope these are the kind of memories I carry with me through life (and not the tantrums, the bickering, the chores, the stress…).

oct-3-diamond-point-13

I could sit here and watch the waves and birds and falling leaves all day (on a day like this at least).

oct-3-diamond-point-18

This boy absolutely loves the warm sunshine. (Maybe it has something to do with the fact he lived the first three years of his life in Congo- a climate a bit different than Minnesota). The poor kid does not know what is coming. Enjoy it now, Roland!

oct-3-diamond-point-4

What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity.

These are but trifles, to be sure;

but scattered along life’s pathway, the good they do is inconceivable.

~Joseph Addison

A Serene Evening Stroll

After our camping trip, life fell back into it’s normal routine, but that does not mean there is no time to appreciate nature. Even when we are not taking a weekend hiking trip, we can still set aside some time to enjoy being together outside. That is actually one of the best things about being outside- the togetherness. There is no television or computer screen to distract us and pull our attentions in separate directions.

After Roland’s gymnastics class we took an evening stroll by Lake Bemidji. We watched the geese waddling by the lake and the changing colors of the sky as sunset came and went. It was a perfectly serene evening. It is always so soothing to just be outside and take in the world at a slower pace.

sep-6-9

The legend of Paul Bunyan and his Blue Oxe was born in the Bemidji area. These statues were built in 1937 and are now considered the 2nd most photographed roadside attraction in the nation. When we first moved here in the spring, Roland would not get anywhere near these massive statues without crying. On this evening, he walked right up to them by himself and asked me to take a picture. My brave little boy.

sep-6-15

Over the summer Bemidji built a new Northwoods- themed playground. We never got around to checking it out, so on the way back from our walk we made a short visit. It is now officially Roland- approved.

sep-6-16