Sunday, August 21, 2016

Our National Parks, Deliver The Unexpected

Cliff Palace
In celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the National Parks System and to answer the call of our personal family Bucket List, we planned an eight-day adventure to three National Parks, across three states in a Class C, 19' Motor-home. 
We expected unparalleled beauty, a journey into history and ancient civilizations, a lesson or two in both geography, geology and the power of Mother Nature. But, honestly, we experienced so MUCH more. During a year of social and political upheaval within the United States, I believe we experienced a reckoning. Truly, an account of all the people, from every walk of life, race, sex and social economic dimension, who worked tirelessly for decades, to insure the preservation of these invaluable places. I came home, reassured, if the National Park System could be established, if we can continue to fight the balance of demands placed upon it, if we can impart their irreplaceable value upon our children, we can accomplish anything, together. With my faith in humanity restored, from such an unlikely source, I can honestly tell you, this trip was life-changing for everyone in our family. I encourage you, to seek out these places, to observe all you expect and so much more, you do not. Gifford Pinchot, a pivotal individual who worked tirelessly along with many others, who were never made famous, once said " it is greater to be a good citizen, than to be a good Republican or a good Democrat." 
Cliff Palace

David Nighteagle, NPS Ranger
Our first stop, Mesa Verde National Park, was 
Balcony House
Overcoming my fear of Heights!
unforgettable. We toured Cliff Palace and Balcony House in total awe. The Ancient Pueblo people were brilliant, innovative and obviously undaunted by heights! Hauling children, game and other heavy items up more than 30` to reach their dwellings. A moment we will never forget started with the man on the left, David NightEagle, Lakota Tribal Member and Internationally known Flute Maker. He has played for the Opening Olympic Ceremonies and for several First Ladies of the United States. The acoustics in Cliff Palace were phenomenal and his music gave us goosebumps. Even more inspiring, he has served as a Ranger for Twenty YEARS! 
Kiva in Cliff Palace
Mesa Verde, translates to Green Table and boy was it GREEN. We camped in peace overnight at the Morefield Campground and attended a Ranger Led presentation in the evening. Very quiet, highly informative. 

Cliff Palace
Onward HO! We dispatched from Mesa Verde and made our way to Moab, Utah, where we would establish a base-camp at a SWEET RV Site within reach of our remaining two Parks: Arches and Canyon Lands. The RV site was tricked out with a pool, hot tub, showering houses and a very well stocked mercantile. Our first journey into the Colorado River began with PADDLING OURSELVES down 17 miles of Class 1 thru 3 rapids with another eager family, who joined us from So Cal. I have not been that excited or scared in a VERY long time but we had a total blast!
Lunch Spot on the Colorado River
Ogden's and Collins, inside Delicate Arch

We maneuvered the raft and jumped out to float the rapids with Gavin. Needless to say, the bulge of Gavin's eyes told me, it was an experience he was unlikely to forget. He road the nose of the raft, gulping gallons of water with glee! Only one picture to share, for what I hope are obvious reasons! Eric had never paddled a raft in rapids and he is officially HOOKED! Tons of fish as well.

Pioneer Cabin
Delicate Arch
Everything is made better with old friends and this journey was no exception. We were so anxious to see the Ogden's we could have burst! Both Ogden's are natives of Utah, so we knew they could hike us through Arches National Park and take us any place else we could dream up. And, they did. With FIVE adventurous boys in tow we hit the Delicate Arch Trail with amazement.  The drive through the Park itself, is spectacular. We lounged near Delicate Arch and admired all she could offer. 

As we left Arches, Jeanna knew the temperature would mandate some swimming and boy did she deliver! You can imagine the excitement of the kids and adults alike when we found the spot below. In the 90 degree temps the water felt incredible. We were transformed into kids again, jumping off what appears to be nothing, is actually quite high. Courage mustered by all, we each leaped, some repeatedly. :)

Hot afternoons were spent in the pool while evenings brought us together with our RV's sitting around watching the meteor shower and eating some BBQ off the grill! Bringing his Eagle Scout merits to bear, Jon and Jeanna made incredible tin-foil dinners and I whooped up a caramel apple cobbler in the dutch oven. We have missed them all so very much! 
Taller than it LOOKS! Cliff Jumping!
No one was prepared to return to New Mexico but the time came to head to Pagosa Springs where more adventure awaited us. We hugged our friends, said our farewells and began to jaunt South. Ending our journey involved a soak in more than one dozen (of 20 available) geothermal hot springs under a starry sky and a long inner tube float down the San Juan river, which Gavin absolutely loved! Full of all the senses only water can engage we returned to New Mexico with incredible memories of rafting, hiking, jumping and soaking. We were enthralled with the heat, the huge river and the very kind people we encountered in Utah. We joked about continuing on in our RV to Zion, Bryce, Capital Reef, Yellowstone, Sequoia and Yosemite. Another round of Parks with all their unexpected offerings await us and we them, as I now understand why John Muir said, "wildness is a necessity." 

In Gratitude,
"It is an incalculable added pleasure to any one's sum of happiness if he or she grows to know, even slightly and imperfectly, how to read and enjoy the wonder-book of nature." Theodore Roosevelt.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” 
― John MuirOur National Parks

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Adventuring Mama

Alas, I thought winter would never cease, but here I am enjoying the lovely 80 degree days you can only get in the mountains at 7000`. After a week in Texas, it feels like heaven. May and June had the entire family running between baseball, two companies to manage, a house for sale and five acres to mow and clear.  Oh, and four animals to love on, walk and groom! The listing of our house has kept us hopping as we attempt to dwell within it, while keeping it nice and clean, for the next group of potential buyers. So far, traffic has been very good, but no bites as of yet.

We had not seen my Parents in months so Gavin and I ventured into Texas at the height of their humidity/heat index. Setting State weather records meant Gavin and I were up early to head to the outdoors before it became unbearable. We kayaked Granbury Lake, performed illegal acts of trespassing by utilizing every private dock we could find, sprinting down them and jumping INTO the very warm water. We hit the skate park twice and Gavin had a blast. My Dad and I just took a seat, and sweated heavily, while in awe of Gavin's ability to take the heat.
Mema, Gavin and Papa. 
At the Folks casa
Gaming with Auntie
Fathers Day with The Girls
My Mom kept us stuffed with biscuits, sausage and homemade ice cream along with plenty of beverages to ward of the heat. Both she and my Dad dropped everything while we were there to puzzle, play games and visit. The time always goes by so fast.

We loaded up the Jeep and headed slightly North to Plano to see my Sister and Bro In Law and enjoy their pool. After a few cocktails, I found my mojo and was able to really compete with Gavin on the diving board with no repercussion the next day! Becky and David always let us run the roost while visiting and spoil us with really good food and a visit to one of Gavin's favorite spots, the arcade! Becky is all about the arcades and without her, I would not make it. TOO. MUCH. Stimulation for me! God Bless her!
Downtown Dallas from Ross Perot Science Museum
In route between Granbury and Plano, where I navigated the Metroplex traffic, during which I said only a handful of truly foul words, we hit the Ross Perot Nature & Science Museum and spent the entire afternoon. The dinosaur exhibit was amazing!
We drove every robot, tested every earthquake simulator and tried out every hands-on activity they had in the place. Really, one of the best museums I have ever visited, for the entire family. Timing is everything and we were fortunate not to be in this area during the recent tragedy of five police officers killed in the line of duty by one lunatic. God, help us.
Entrance to Great Wolf Lodge
Of course, no ten hour drive from Plano to Ruidoso would be complete, without a stop at Great Wolf Lodge! Gavin and I tore up the slides, while in the comfort of a nice 80 degree, park. Since I was a good Girl, I was given a wristband, to grant me all my wishes, including adult beverages and really amazing BBQ at one of the in-park restaurants. (No, a Pool Boy was not included.)  I found that waving my wristband and ordering vodka soda's made the slides even better! We made a few friends and joined them on the larger raft-rides. One was a Grandma of 73, whom I found very inspiring. She climbed flights of stairs repeatedly with ease and I had a moment of resonance: if I continue to eat well and workout, someday, I could be her, with my own grandchildren. Of course, I may still require the occasional cocktail! Again, we loaded up the Jeep and began the journey back home without issue. We enjoyed seeing the family and realize the older we get, the more precious the memories become.

In other news, we have taken MY Bahama Mama out of storage and she will be gracing the trails, dirt roads and streets of Lincoln County. You will hear it before you see it, but both are unforgettable! My. 1971. Ford. Bronco. Dream. Come. True.

From the Trails,

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dead Run Fun

Gavin at Ski Apache rocking his snowboard
We have been running and gunning full steam this late, ever-lasting, never-say-die, winter but all is well at Casa de Collins. We are still getting snow on the mountain but given all the fires we have had, so early in the season, the snow and rain beat the alternative! We nearly lost our high school due to an arson-caused fire and lived on pins and needles for several days as this individual continued to light more fires during 55-70 mph wind. We are anxious for summer but need the moisture, so complaining isn't acceptable. And, no, the person has not yet been caught. ./

Gavin started his very first baseball season and is totally thriving! We have either practice or games four and sometimes five nights each week, so dinner time has become a thing of the past for NOW! He pitched his first game and struck five batters out! He has one hell of a side arm and I think it makes the pitches difficult to see coming over the plate. I am not sure who was more excited, Eric or Gavin! Ice cream to celebrate and off to bed for another day of school! Our last day is 26 May!

After making Gavin's academics our top priority for the past five years, we feel he is well-equipped with all his fundamentals and can now place more time upon his desire to become a jock. He will be old enough for track this fall and finally will have the opportunity to put his speed to the test. We always knew the day would come when he needed more than his little school could provide, and alas, it has arrived. So, we anticipate big changes next fall once we make a final decision on where he will be going. Life is all about change and we are excited about all this new experience will bring to him and the family at large. Eric and I are both busy working in between games, managing Cub Scouts and piano lessons. All three of us are taking care to exercise and I think we would be languishing without the endorphin boost and green smoothies!

Eric and Gavin have taken on a great deal more domestic responsibilities of late, as I am now working in the evenings.  I have my normal daytime clientele and am now coaching a Strength and Conditioning Camp three nights a week for the next eight weeks. Both have been a huge help, Eric shuttling and feeding Gavin and Gavin himself managing the animal husbandry tasks. I honestly do not know how single parents do all this...God Bless 'Em!

We hosted the annual Pinewood Derby and all the Cubs and their relatives seemed to have a great deal of fun. Gavin placed in the top three for his fourth year in a row and Eric built the fastest car he has ever raced for the Open Division. Our Pack hosts this event and it is no small under-taking. I am grateful for Eric's ability to run the racetrack software and the parents who arrive at the butt crack of dawn to decorate, set up chairs and provide snacks! I found the event filled me with all sorts of emotions as this was likely Gavin's final Derby Race before moving up to the Troop in 2017.

Well, I am burning daylight, and need to sign off!

Love to All,

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January. The Shit-Show.

Happy Belated New Year! I have not had time to scratch my butt, let alone update our blog, for months. So, here is what I refer to as a smattering of all things Collins thus far in 2016.

January, now that it is over, could be referred to as nothing less than a shit-show. We all have them, those weeks or months when one problem just follows another, and eventually you just have to scream, then laugh. Indeed, it was our turn.

After a series of challenges at D.T Collins Associates, including Eric replacing two sinks and two toilets, associated sub-flooring, a leaking roof, fluctuations in work due to the economy and some truly unrelenting ice, we feel like we have weathered the worst of the shit-storm. After working six and seven days per week, he has finally managed to get most of the ugliness behind him. Owning a business in a little tourist town is a righteous experience and not for the faint of heart!

I have it easy. My company has no infrastructure and no staff members. Thus, and in contrast, my business is going very well and I am busier than ever before! Referrals from clients and physicians keep the pipe full and my retention of existing folks stays quite high. Needless to say, the busiest time for a Trainer, is the first quarter of every year, when resolutions are at there height. Therefore, I will make hay while I can and let other things slide for awhile.

Scouting is keeping the whole family busy. Gavin is working on his Webelo requirements, Eric is Leading Gavin's Den and curriculum and I am orchestrating the Pack. Between planning projects, helping my Den Leaders, managing paperwork and planning field trips, there is rarely a dull moment. I am soooo grateful I have several dedicated families with whom I can depend upon to follow through on assignments and favors. All the Cubs are growing into who they are meant to be and honestly, it is such a joy to watch. The shy ones, spring from their skin, the rowdy ones find time to be calm and those lacking practical project time at home, are getting exposed to carpentry, use of tools, science, music and song.

In addition to working with the Cubs (younger kids), we will be helping with the Boy Scouts throughout the spring as well. We will be leading several long hikes to prepare them for their much anticipated trip to Philmont Scout Ranch this summer. Many of our Saturdays will be dedicated to them for most of the upcoming months in an effort to get them physically prepared for their backpacking adventures while at camp. Gavin will be looked after by friends, as the distance of the hikes and sheer number of Boys (responsibility) make it difficult for him to join us. Eric and I will no doubt have our hands full.

Gavin's most recent sketch
PBS Building Big Project at School 
Gavin is rocking his way through 4th grade. I have found it to be a tough year for children in general. The workload nearly doubles from 3rd to 4th grade and hormones begin to play a role. At home, Eric and I would love to be able to offer him a neighborhood of kids to play with in our next housing purchase. In the meantime, his self-administered drawing lessons are really paying off. The dog pictured is his latest work of art. He continues to thrive at building, the more complex, the better. Piano is also a growing skill. He plays beautifully for someone who has only 2 years of training.

Pictured is Gavin and his class, finishing prototypes of dams, the conclusion of a three phased project, Eric and I led at Gavin's school. The project included presentations on a local dam, it's building blueprints, recent fixes to substantial leaks and a field trip INSIDE the dam itself. The kids learned alot but were having such fun, I doubt they even noticed! :)  I got a workout hauling all the substrate materials in buckets to the school (rocks, topsoil, crushed granite, water and sand) and then cleaning up! Eric had the inside scoop on our local dam as he was one of the key contractors hired to make repairs. We had all the original blueprints, changes and contours for teaching purposes. For our next enrichment activity I would like to talk Eric into covering his latest efforts associated with relocating the Villages ENTIRE sewer line currently residing in our river. Eric will begin working on Phase II shortly and will have the inside....Poop/Scoop!

Wild mustang herd
Our driveway has been a block of ice for nearly 5 weeks so we are working with our realtor to plan a big spring launch placing our house officially on the market. We have finished a huge list of big projects and it is looking brand new. Eric finished off our 400 square foot, unfinished workshop, I have painted and cleared every closet and drawer and Gavin is doing his part to discontinue the collection of further crap! More items need to be sold, but we will handle that when spring bursts. If you need furniture, a tractor or a vehicle, keep us in mind!

Gavin and Smokey cuddling
The wild horses have dropped down to our elevation (7000') given their normal locations are under several feet of snow. We have been blessed with a killer winter thus far and our ski area has more snow than any other in New Mexico. Not bad for the high mountain desert.

After fifteen years of drought, it's a sight to behold. Eric and Gavin have enrolled in the Ski School Discount Program and are enjoying skiing every Wednesday, ditching half day of work and school to hit the slopes with the locals.
Gavin's snowboarding has really improved and he is enjoying the time with friends and his Dad.

Puppies and I have been running and hiking in the snow and enjoying all the beauty of the season. Smokey is growing fast as he comes upon his one year birthday. We tortured both he and Bandit at Christmas with these lovely handmade hats a friend crocheted.

In closing, I think this smattering of information concludes the latest and greatest at our house and in our lives. Stay tuned for a Shit-Show event near you! Love, Ness