Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dog Days of Summer

Well, I've now been a dog owner for about a month and a half, and things haven't been exactly as  I expected. First, I expected our lawn to suffer.  I made it perfectly clear to my kids (and Jerry) that if we were to get a dog, that the poop patrol would NOT be a mommy duty.  Well, the poop in the backyard hasn't been a big deal.  She's not that big of a dog, if you know what I mean.  What did surprise me was this:

Instead of a little brown patch everywhere she pees, it's like someone has poured miracle-gro on the lawn.  Too bad you can't teach her to be more methodical in her placement - our lawn now looks like it has some form of chicken pox or something.  It's even more noticeable as the temperatures have been soaring to well over 100° (today's high is supposed to be 113°) and the grass is turning a crunchy brown. 

Speaking of crunchy and brown, Terri bought Oreo a gift in Colorado to welcome her to the family.  Oreo got her very own moose. . . dog biscuit. 

Oh, Oreo! 



Well, hello there!  Care to come back to my crate for a nice snack? 

The dog biscuit was a nice diversion for Oreo.  Since it's sooooo hot outside, we've been keeping her inside quite a bit.  Most of the time you can find her here:

You can tell when she sees a squirrel or bird though, her stance changes:

But most of the time she just keeps an eye out for intruders:

*Sigh*.  These temperatures aren't fit for (wo)man or dog.  We've been having our walk early in the morning to avoid the heat.   The other day I slept in a bit and didn't walk until 9:00 - and it was brutal.  We play fetch in the house, because it's just too hot outside. 

We've signed up for obedience classes.  In general, Oreo is a well-behaved dog, but she likes to pull at the leash and bark at passing joggers in a threatening manner, so we are going to see if we can do anything about that.  We signed up for a time that the whole family can go, so that she'll learn to obey all of us, although Oreo seems most strongly attached to me - figures, since she's with me most of the day.  She's a sweet dog - who knows, I may end up being a dog person after all. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Not in Oklahoma Yet!

We took two days to drive back to Oklahoma, stopping in New Mexico for our overnight stay. We were amused by the variety of signs we saw along the way.  First we saw this one:

which seemed a little unbelievable, given the rocky mountainous terrain surrounding the sign.  We could just imagine cows rolling down the hill. 

The next sign was not all that unfamiliar - after all, we do have deer in Oklahoma and Texas, and seeing them on the side of the road is not unusual.  We did, in fact, see a mule deer shortly after one of these signs. 

This sign we don't see much of around our neck of the woods.  The girls thought there should be an additional sign for just regular sheep, not bighorn sheep, since the only sheep we saw on the trip were the flock that were crossing the road on the way to the camp (they were not there on the way home.)

You might think we would see more of these signs around where we live, but I think most people stick to their pastures or park trails.  You just don't see many horse and riders (or accompanying signs) along our roadways. 

We do have one of these right at the entrance to our subdivision - only it has a crosswalk, and two figures, who are wearing backpacks.  It's a school crosswalk crossing.  Apparently the people in Colorado just walk across as they please. 

Elk, we don't see too much of in central Oklahoma.

And no bears, thank you very much!  We didn't see any bears while we were in Colorado, although we saw plenty of bear deterrents.  Dad and Terri saw a campground surrounded by cowbells on strings - a bear detection system - and all the trashcans were "bearproof".

As we left the campground we got our own distinctive sign on the back of the car - everyone did - written into the Colorado dust that was inevitable after a week at Redcloud.  Ours lasted until somewhere in southeast Colorado, where we stopped for gas and cleaned off the windows.  The cool weather also left us as we headed down the mountain.  As we left, it was raining a bit, and the thermometer on the rearview mirror was in the 50's.  As we descended the mountain we watched the temperature rise 60. . .70. . .80. . .90. . .100. . . Are we driving to hell?  I wondered.  So much for Colorado coolness! 

As we were traveling home we saw this train - looks like an old-timey steam engine, but we couldn't find any information about it on the map.  It was neat to see. 

A few days after we got home I met Jerry for lunch, and we saw a sign that looked like this:

Nope, we aren't in Colorado anymore.  This is a sure sign that we are back in suburbia!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Farewell to Redcloud

Our week at family camp flew by.  We packed the majority of our stuff after the variety show on Thursday night, so Friday was just last minute items into the suitcase.  I hadn't really had a chance to take photos with my zoom lens, so once the girls were ready, I headed out just to get some photos of the campsite. 

I realized on my way out of the room that I hadn't really gotten any photos of the cousins all together, so I called them to the front of the loft where they were sleeping and took a quick shot:

Our family and Amy's family actually shared a room for the week.  Originally we each had our own, but we moved into the larger room together so that an additional family could come for the week.  There were two doubles downstairs for the adults, and eight twins in the loft.  I think the kids used six of the eight while we were there - the novelty of the top bunks wore off pretty quickly. 

Dad and Terri did not stay in the lodge, but brought their own lodging which they parked outside.  I knew they were over by the staff cabin, but it wasn't until the last day that I actually walked down to see their accommodations.  This was the first time I'd seen "Ronald Vega" (the girl's name for the RV) in action, and it seemed quite comfortable. 

When we packed I had gotten a lot of grief from Jerry about all the shoes I had packed - boots for riding horses, mud shoes for rafting, tennis shoes for everyday wear, slippers for around the lodge, and so forth.  We had one tote bag filled with nothing but shoes for our family of four.  Dad however, packed an extra trailer and brought along a bike, motorcycle, six lawn chairs, etc, etc, etc.  Now I can say that all I brought was a bag of shoes and it doesn't sound so excessive! 

This is the front entrance to the lodge.  It looks deceptively small from this shot.  They said it was 27,000 square feet, with 13 rooms for families, a big common area where we met for worship, a dining room, and an area downstairs for the kids that I never even saw.  The logs for the lodge were harvested from trees that had been killed by beetles.  We passed through an area like that on our way up, killed by the pine beetle.  It looked like a great big tinderbox just waiting to go up in flames. 

Here's the view down the valley towards the barn and the youth camp:

And here's the chapel, which you can also see in the shot above,  just down right below the center of the photograph.  Today I had my zoom lens!

I really wanted to catch some wildlife in action, but it was drizzling and cloudy, and I think most of the wildlife was sleeping in.  During our times out on the patios all week there had been many, many hummingbirds, squirrels, and chipmunks scampering about.  One particularly brave chipmunk even joined us in the common room for a couple of worship services, scouting for any crumbs we might have dropped.  This morning, however, I only saw one hummingbird at the feeders on the porch. 

And walking out farther, spied a squirrel who was nice enough to give me a few good shots before the breakfast bell rang.

The chipmunks, however, were non-cooperative.  They apparently didn't want to leave their warm nests this morning, and the hundreds of chipmunks that had delighted me all week long were nowhere to be found.  This was the best shot I got - chipmunk butt:

After breakfast we had a concluding "ceremony" where each of the kid's groups performed a little song or skit, and the staff members gave out awards to the kids and a few special adults to encourage them.  Here the girls are about to do an "interpretive dance" about creation: 

At the end, on the 7th day, they fell to the floor and snored.  Maggie got an award for "Most Valuable Cousin" for her patience and helpful attitude towards her cousins, and Gracie got the "Fearless Award" for being up for pretty much any adventure.  The awards were pretty much reserved for kids, although Nana and Granddad got one of the few awards given to adults, for Most Adventurous Grandparents!  The awards were given by our "host" staff member.  Each family had a host for the week - ours was Klay.  By the time we left the kids were quite attached to him:

After the awards had all been given out it was time to eat lunch and load up the cars.  Nana came home with us so she could get back to her goats at the farm, and Amy, Brad, Will, and Carissa joined Granddad for an extended RV adventure before heading home.  (Granddad finally made it home after another week or so - he loves retirement!)  We had two days of driving ahead of us, and lots of fond memories behind us! 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

That First Step is a Doozy!

Out of all the things offered at Camp Redcloud, rappelling was at the top of my "want to do" list.  When it was time to sign up for activities, I was ready to put my name down.  Jerry was a bit surprised.  "Really?"  He asked.  I asked him why he was surprised, but he couldn't really give me an answer.  (Apparently I think of myself as adventurous while everyone else sees me as more cautious!)  He signed up with me, and when we explained to Gracie what it was, she signed up too.  Maggie, however, gave us a quick, "No way!" and promptly made plans to be with Nana during that particular time slot.

After we finished our trail ride we quickly went up to the lodge and changed out of our jeans and boots and into shorts and sneakers.  We hopped into one of the camp vans and headed down to road to a rock face that was on federal land that the camp receives permits to use.  We pulled up and got our first look at the rappelling area:

As usual, pictures just don't do it justice.  Perhaps a different shot, one that includes a person, will give you a better idea of the scale of the rock face:

What?  You can't see the person?  Look again!

Yes, up top is a person, waiting for us to climb to the top.  At this point, Gracie is getting a bit nervous.  Can you tell?  

Actually, I was getting a bit nervous too.  Not about the rappelling, but about the climb to the top of that rock.  I'm remembering our leisurely hike to the waterfall, and how quickly I tired on that one.  This trail promises to be a lot steeper!  We get in our harnesses, grab our glove, and head up the trail.  About halfway up the trail we stop for a breather.  Jerry has his camera, so he takes a few shots - that's the equipment truck down there:

Now we come to a large area with lots of loose rocks.  There are a couple of staff stationed to help us up this last part, which is very steep.  Gracie goes first, and I'm convinced she's part mountain goat, as she is up at the top, lickety-split.

I make it to the top, and flop, exhausted, down on a rock.  Jerry is behind me, and then Dad.  Jerry has the presence of mind to take more pictures - here's Dad on the way up:

And me, wore out from the climb.  (Later Jerry would ask me why I stuck my tongue out for this picture - poetic justice!) 

There are six of us rappelling that day, and we can go three at a time.   They ask for the first group, and no one moves for a moment.  Gracie is more nervous than I thought she would be, so I decide to lead by example, and get up.  Gracie and Jerry decide to come with me - one whole family on the rock at once! 

I take the middle rope, with Jerry on my right and Gracie on my left.  Jerry goes first, then me, and then Gracie gets started.  She's having a hard time getting started - that first step is a real doozy, and she wants to stand up straight, not lean into her harness.  I am so focused on her, helping her remember to lean back into her harness and keep her feet wide apart, that I barely remember to look around.  Jerry and I encourage Gracie, and we begin to make downward progress, very, very slowly. 

Once we get part way down, Jerry goes ahead and speeds up to make it to the bottom in time to get a few pictures of Gracie and I on the ropes.  The wind is picking up a bit, and Gracie is so light it blows her around if she forgets to keep her feet wide apart.  All the sudden the rain that had been threatening all afternoon came down, and it was cold!  We started moving a little faster!  

Pretty soon we were all down, all in one piece!  We took some photos, but Gracie was a little reluctant to let go of us now that she was down.  In each picture, she released her grasp a little more, and by the time Granddaddy got down she was relaxed again - although she wasn't sure if she would want to do this activity again next time! 

Next it was Granddaddy's turn - along with the other two campers that had come with us.  They had gotten to sit in the rain on top of the windy rock, so they were cold.  They didn't take nearly as long as we did to get down the rock face, and in fact, one of the guys that had been rappelling several times before took the whole thing in about five big jumps.  He was cold, and he wanted off that rock! 

Granddaddy didn't go quite that fast, but he looked like a pro:

There's not much that Granddad won't try once, and lots of people told me how much they admired him for all he was willing to try on the trip - they said he owned that 30 mile bike ride, but that was no surprise to me!  

Once Granddad was down we took a photo - three generations of rappellers, victorious! 

We climbed back in the van and headed back to camp - just a quick drive down county road 30, and on the way back we saw a moose feeding.  The gal driving the van stopped so we could get a good look:

I didn't have my large zoom lens, but I had enough zoom to get a couple of decent shots.  I am still a good distance away though, because I've heard that moose are fast and mean!

That evening was the variety show.  We had a great time laughing.  Maggie and I entered an act, and we played chopsticks as a duet, just like I used to do with my Amy Sr.  Maggie did very well. 

It's hard to believe it's our last night at camp, and tomorrow we'll be heading back home. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Horse 101

Of everything that Camp Redcloud offered, horseback riding was the thing that the girls were looking forward too the most.  Our first opportunity to ride the horses was on Thursday.  The trail ride was open to riders 10 and up, but if you were under age 13 there was a prerequisite of Horse 101.  At 1:00 we headed down to the stables, where Maggie and Gracie participated in Horse 101 to learn how to start, stop, and steer a horse, while Will and Carissa participated in the pony rides. 

Once everyone had a helmet we headed out to the arena to learn how to act around horses. 

The smaller kids were divided up into two groups and then lead on a pony through an "obstacle course" on their pony, racing to see who could finish first.  Will and Carissa really seemed to enjoy their pony rides, both offering up big smiles when they got on their horses:

They were on opposite teams, so they even got to race one another at one time. 

Maggie and Gracie were each assigned a horse - Maggie was on Star, and Gracie's horse was named Sparky. 

Once each girl was mounted and her stirrups changed to the right length, it was time to learn.  First thing:  Kissing noises to the horse means go, "whoa" and pull back means stop. 

Once stop and go was mastered, they learned how to do a reverse, which meant they turned their horse into the center of the arena and made a circle, ending up going around the outside of the arena in the direction opposite of the way that they were traveling before. 

Before we knew it, it was 2:00, pony rides were over, and it was time to hit the trail.  Jerry, Dad, and Terri came to the arena, where the girls, Amy, Brad, Jerry and I were ready to hit the trail.  Carissa and Will were not quite old enough for the trail ride yet, so they headed back to the lodge with Granddaddy and Nana to seek out other adventures.

Done riding horses, now climbing fences!
Once Daddy had on his helmet, he and Gracie began "butting heads". 
The riding director spent a few minutes matching us up with our mounts.  Maggie and Gracie were relieved to remain on Star and Sparky.  My horse was named Regal, Jerry's was named Hildago, Brad's was Doc, and Amy was on Scooter. 

Once we were on the trail ride it was easy to see why the camp requires trail riders to be 10 and up.  Some of those trails were really skinny, with a nice steep slope on the side of the trail.  I took my camera up, but had it strapped across my chest so it wouldn't bounce around.  This made it very hard to actually take a picture.  Gracie figured out what I was trying to do though, so if I managed to get the camera turned around and pointed at her, she smiled, even if she was wondering what in the world I was trying to do!

At one point, our guide stopped and let us take a few pictures - but when I looked at them later, I realized that I had managed an epic photography fail.  Here's the original photos I took, looking forward:

and backwards:

See, right before I took these shots, I took a photo of the pretty vista in front of us, but when I took the photo of the folks at the front of the line, I totally cropped the vista out.  Fortunately, I have some nifty tools, and if you ignore the fact that my horse moved its head between the shots, I have a fairly decent stitched shot that includes the vista:

Shazam, no?

Unfortunately our ride was very short, due to both a delay in starting, and the sounds of thunder, which forced us to turn around and head back the way we came.  When we arrived at the stables, Granddad, Nana, Carissa, and Will were ready to welcome Maggie back to their group, as she did not want to participate in the next activity that Jerry, Gracie, and I had signed up for.  Instead she took the next Horse 101 class again, because, hey!  You can never have too much time with horses, right?