Monday, August 29, 2011

Cathi's Birthday Marathon Vacation

Last year I surprised Cathi with a trip to Ashton, ID and West Yellowstone and signed her up for the Mesa Falls Marathon.  We had such a great time that I decided earlier this year that we would do it again!

Check out Lucy's face.  She's interested,
but doesn't want to investigate
very closely.  Especially with Austin
in control of it.
Thursday, August 25th
So we left on Thursday morning, and drove straight to Hebgen Lake, just north of West Yellowstone.  Last year I swam one lap of across the lake and back.  I did this last year in really windy and choppy conditions and at the time didn't feel all that safe.  This year, we packed two kayaks and I also have a Swim Safety Device that I used.  I had planned to swim two laps of across the lake and back (A total of 3 miles).  As soon as we got to the beach, Austin had already found a very cool thing of interest:  A Grasshopper with some sort of a spike sticking out of it's rear.  I've never seen such a thing!  It was probably two inches long and looked freaky!  Everyone kept their distance and Austin had it on a extra T-shirt.  He wouldn't even touch it with his hands.

Lucy was eager to try the kayak and this was her first time paddling by herself.  I was totally amazed at how fast she picked up the technique and was able to keep up with me the whole time and stayed right by my side.  Now I have a third support paddler in the family!  I swam directly to the other side of the lake, offered Lucy a drink from my waterbottle that was stowed in my SSD.  She was glad cause she was thirsty.  Then I swam back and told her I would race her.  She was ahead of me about 10 feet most of the way and then somehow lost focus and started to turn sharply left and I had caught up by the time she corrected her bearings.

  When we arrived on the other side where the kids and Cathi were playing at the beach I beat her by about 25 yards.  She complained of a blister of her hand so I had Cathi take her place for the second lap.  I had Austin and Lucy babysit and keep a very close eye on the little ones and told them all to stay in water that was no higher than their knees.  The wind was non existent this year and I trusted Austin, Jacob and Lucy to keep an eye on them.  They did great.  The kids just played in the shallows and actually found a couple of crayfish hiding under a log.  They emptied out my large accessory case and filled it with water and used it as a fish tank for their new friends.
One of the Crayfish that Jacob caught.

Cathi paddled to the other side and a couple of waterskiers sped past a few hundred yards ahead of us.  Last year there was only one boat because of the chop, but this year with it being pretty smooth out there it was a good move to have the kayaks.  Just a couple weeks ago, Cathi sent me an article about a swimmer who was ran over by a boat out at pineview.  She died on the scene and the boaters stopped to see if she was OK, but got scared and left her there to die.  Here's that sad story.  Many lakes and reservoirs have too many boaters for swimming safely, even with an SSD.  But with a kayak, it's much safer.  Cathi stayed close to me and the boaters were well aware of us.  This lap was fun.  I enjoyed breathing to the side and seeing my sweet lover off to the side of me paddling.  She was so cute wearing her humongous sun hat with her fair white skin.  She's such a beauty!  It made me smile seeing her next to me.

When we arrived back to the shore with the kids, some serious clouds arrived and there was some thunder and lightning off in the distance.  We quickly got our stuff together and headed back to our camp site (Baker's Hole campground) just north of West Yellowstone.  We set up our tents and got changed.  On the way in to the campsite there were signs up all over the place about bears and how they often frequent the camp.  It reminded me of the Scout camp this summer.  There were bear boxes for storing food.  I was quite a bit more worried with this situation than with the scouts.  The scouts I can explain the importance of not having food in the tent, but with little kids, they just don't get it.  We had the discussion and I made sure that they didn't take ANYTHING in to the tent except what I had personally inspected.

We quickly changed into dry clothes and went directly to the Playmill Theatre where we had tickets to see the musical, "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat".  The kids had a ball!  It was very well done and very entertaining.  Very expensive though!  We were on the second row and Oliver got to dance with one of the girls during one of the scenes.
By the time the musical ended, it was past 8 o'clock and everyone was starving!

We went to a pizza place and ordered a few pizzas.  It was delicious, but just like the musical, way overpriced.  But that's how vacations go in tourist towns I guess.  It was funny how they put us all in a separate little nook in the restaurant.  I think they wanted to ensure that the other guests wouldn't be disturbed with all the kids.  They were all very well behaved and I was proud of how non-disruptive we all were, but still had a good time together.

Joey is dumping all of his junk UNO
cards on Austin and everyone is
loving it!
Austin has enough of getting picked
on by Joey.
We then went to our campsite and it was pitch black outside at this point.  I was so glad we had already setup the tents and got settled beforehand.  We took our electric lantern into the big tent and played UNO for about an hour.  The kids all had a blast!  Jonas really enjoyed giving Austin Draw 4's and Skips.  I could tell Cathi was burning this image into her mind and she took a ton of pictures of us playing games.  It was very fun mostly because Austin was having fun.  Typically teenagers don't like hanging out with their family, but Austin was really getting into this vacation and so far up to this point was really acting like a member of the family.  This was turning into a perfect dream vacation!

We turned off the light and I attempted to tell everyone a scary story.  It didn't go so well.  I was getting really sleepy (I was the driver today and everyone was napping at various times so they were all still pretty alert) and the story that I was ad libing was turning into a disaster.  Austin took over.  I was out like a light.  I woke up to a sound of pounding.  I checked my watch: 1:30am.  The pounding was coming from the bear boxes about 20 yards away.  There were several other campers in the area and they may have used their own bear boxes.  I could hear them being thumped on.  You might ask, How do you know?  I spent a week opening and closing those boxes at scout camp for lazy scouts and I know the sound they make.  So either we had bears in camp, or some other campers were playing a very sick joke on everyone else.  I was envisioning huge grizzlies in the area and them getting frustrated with the lack of access to yummy food, and opting for a young child inside a paper thin walled tent.  I was mortified.  I couldn't sleep!  Jacob and Oliver were in the tent right next to us.  I wasn't about to overreact though and get up and try to move anyone so I propped my head up on my pillow and my ears were on high alert!  If any noise came whatsoever near our tent, I would be up and talking loudly trying to let the bear know that he was dealing with some alert people around and hopefully that would spook him.  My heart rate was probably double the rest of the evening.  I kept checking my watch and found that only 10-15 minutes had elapsed and I was praying this whole time for morning to come.  That was probably the longest night of my life.  I did manage to get probably an hour of sleep within those 5 hours of waiting for the sun to come up.  Come 6:30am I was very glad when the sun came up and I didn't have to worry about anything bad happening in the night.

Friday, August 26th
When we woke up we all sang Happy Birthday to Cathi and Sam and I gave her a birthday kiss.  Our plan for the day was to just head down to Ashton and check in to our campground down there and enjoy the day.  On our way down I decided to take the family up to Sawtell peak.  This can be seen from miles around because it has a big ball on top of the mountain.  It used to be white, but now it is painted dark silver.  It almost looks like a UFO on top of the mountain as you get closer to it.  The road leading to the peak is on a very rough dirt/gravel road.  It's very bumpy, and very steep as you get to the top.  There are a bunch of switch backs on the road and as you get to the top, you can see off to the road the huge dropoff.  There are no barriers on the side of the road and one moment of not paying attention, you can fall off the edge and that would not be good.  I had both hands on the wheel at all times and was going at a very safe speed.  The kids were amazed at how high we were.  You could see for miles.

When we got to the top we walked around the edges and took pictures.  They talked about this experience for a few days so they were really impressed.  We drove back down to the highway and made our way to Ashton.

When we arrived at Jessen's Campground we setup the tents and Cathi was very kind enough to let me take a nap in the tent while the kids played in the small stream next to the campsite.  Austin and Jacob took the kayaks and were going down the stream with it, getting out and then walking them back upstream some hundred yards or so and doing it all over again.  They all had fun and I was catching up on some much needed Zzzz.

View Larger Map
When I woke up I was eager to get a swim in, so we headed to Warm River Campground Road, where there is easy access to a slow moving river that is only a couple feet deep.  We took the kayaks and took turns letting 3-4 kids take the two kayaks downstream where I would go pick them up about a 1/2 mile downstream.  They were in view nearly the whole time, and Austin, Jacob, Cathi or myself went on every trip.  Everyone wore a PFD.  We did about a dozen of these trips and they all had a blast!  It was getting later in the afternoon and I still had not had a swim yet.  So I convinced everyone to take a break and let me swim in place at the pick up point.  The water was moving fast enough that I could swim upstream and nearly stay in one place.  It was a little slower than my pace, so every couple minutes I'd stop and float back downstream to where Cathi had setup a chair and was watching while the kids explored near the shore.

I measured the temperature of the water because it felt cold, sure enough it was only 61 degrees.  That's cold considering I've been swimming in 70+ degree water over the summer in the valley.  I got in up to my waist, but was hesitant to get my upper body under the water.  I had lost my cold water acclimatization at this point. But once I got in fully, I was fine.  I swam for about 10-15 minutes when I noticed a couple fish just ahead of me upstream in the water.  I yelled out to Jacob, "There's fish in here!"  He was in the water within a few seconds with goggles trying to find them.
Can you find the three fish that are
in this picture?

I kept swimming and also was enjoying trying to take pictures with my underwater camera of them.  Unfortunately not many of them really turned out.  The camera is a fish eye lens so you really have to get close to the subject of the picture for it to come out clear.  You just have to be there to experience it.  It is really unreal!  I tried several times to touch the dozens of fish that I saw, but only got within 6 inches.   I was in the water for 40 minutes, and the sun was started to hide behind a big tree.  I was getting a little cold, and to be honest not getting that much of a workout.  The water just wasn't moving fast enough and I was spending just as much time floating downstream to my sweet spot, than I was swimming upstream.  The kids were throwing rocks and some were getting awfully close to me, so I decided 1 mile of swimming upstream (my average mile is just under 30 minutes, so 40 minutes should be a conservative guess at 1 mile) was good enough.

What I look like to a fish in the water.
We then went back to camp and started a fire.  We had tinfoil dinners.  They were delicious.  The kids all found sticks to carve points on for S'mores.  I had two pocket knives and taught Jonas and Isaac how to carve with a knife safely.  Jacob was there to make sure they kept everyone out of their "Blood Circle".  There were some other campers nearby and Isaac started walking timidly over to them.  Cathi mentioned "Isaac's got my genes".  He invited them to come over for S'mores.  There were two retired couples there who were touring the western US and was heading up to Yellowstone.

That night I slept SO MUCH BETTER knowing that we were far from bear territory.  However I did set the alarm for 4am to take Cathi to her Marathon pickup.  She woke me up around 1am and said she wasn't feeling well.  I put my hand under her shirt on her back and she was HOT!  I would guess she was over 100°.  Cathi's not one for taking medicine, but I commanded her to take four ibuprofen which is good fore reducing fevers.  She only gave in enough to take two.  I gave her a blessing.

Cathi high-fives her support crew!
Saturday, August 27th
When the alarm went off at 4am, I felt her again, no fever.  She said she felt much better and got her shoes on and ready to go.  What a miracle!  After that point, she never got that fever back again and she felt fine.  Fortunately it was only a couple minutes to the school where the buses were all waiting.  I went back to camp and fell asleep for 4 more hours.  We woke up and the kids were really helpful in tearing down camp.  We went out to cheer for Cathi.  Mile 17-18 is uphill.  I told Cathi we'd meet here there.  She was over 30 minutes late.  I was worried that she had given up and had taken one of the four wheeler escorts to the finish, or that she was really sick and was way behind.  We finally saw her and apparently she wasn't sick.  But had a small accident with her bowels only two miles into it.  When that happens, chaffing is a real issue.  That was the cause of her slowdown.

Oliver, Isaac and Jonas finish the
race with Mom!
Austin decided he was going to run with her for moral support.  I thought he'd last maybe 1/4-1/2 mile at the most.  That boy ran uphill with her for about 2 miles!  He was awesome and Cathi was picking up her pace.  Then at Mile 22 Jacob jumped out and and ran the rest of the way with her.  I took the kids to the finish and waited.  I had them positioned about 100 yards from the finish line ready to run the rest of the way in to the finish with her.  She finished just under 5 hours.  It actually was a miracle she finished.

She is a real example of determination!  She had a major issue right from the start and stuck with it and finished!  We were so proud of her!

We picked up some lunch and headed home.  She stayed in the backseat laying down the whole time.  She slept probably 80% of the time home from Ashton.  I picked up a few 1 lb bags of M&Ms and we played texas hold'em the whole way home with everyone starting out with an equal amount of M&Ms.  Austin ended up with them all by the time we got home.  That kid has spent WAY too much time learning how to play online and has become a real expert at knowing when to fold and when to play.  It was fun and everyone enjoyed the drive home which went so much faster than on the way up.

Here's a slideshow of all the pictures from our trip.  Click the image to go to the site and see the pictures in full size, and see the caption that goes with the pictures.  What a fantastic birthday it was for Cathi and a wonderful family vacation!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Break trip to Moab

On Wednesday afternoon, Cathi pulled up in the van at my work with all the kids and the trailer all loaded up with the Kayak. We drove to Moab and played games along the way. One where we earned points for spotting things along the side of the road such as:

Fedex truck - 3 points
Tree Trailered diesel - 3 points
Out of state License plate - 1 point
Motorcyclist - 1 point
Horseback rider - 2 points
Policeman - 1 point
Car broken down on side of road - 2 points
Schoolbus with kids in it - 3 points
and more... you get the point.

The kids had fun, but Cathi (who was also driving for most of the drive down), was really racking in the points and was winning! That troubled me. The driver shouldn't be winning a "spot it" game. They should be focused on the road! She was highly entertained.

When we got to our camp, it was 9:30 so we had to set up camp by lantern light. In the morning, the kids immediately wanted to go fishing, so we went down there and tried to catch something for the longest time! The sun was out and there were only a few small white clouds. It was a little breezy, but nothing major. I decided to hold off on my swim for the afternoon where it might be a little warmer. Waiting was a big mistake because it only got worse and cloudy, and more windy.

We made a fire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows for dinner. It was good. We had a good time. When we went to bed, the wind had really picked up and it was really violent. In fact, I put water on the fire before going to bed, but a couple hours later it had restarted and half a log was on fire out of the firepit. I dumped alot more water on it and spread it out and that did it. Before going to bed I had tied the tend poles in three different sections to a post and that made the difference in our tent staying up all night (although it shook like crazy). I personally was a little worried that our tent and all of us inside would be blown away in a tornado it was that crazy! The next morning we had to really be careful when eating cereal not to have our bowls and cereal boxes get blown away.

Cathi mentioned the idea of going home early. We really came down for the marathon which she was going to do on Saturday. Going home on a Friday meant that we would miss her marathon. I suggested that instead we check her into a hotel and have her hook up with a couple of her running buddies that were also coming down for the marathon. She did that and stayed in a hostel where she had her very own tiny cabin to stay in. She walked to town to get her packet and then did some shopping on the way back. I'm sure she enjoyed the peace and quiet while I on the other hand had 7 rough kids to deal with on the way home and back at home.

Actually it went quite well at home. We all worked really hard for several hours to unpack, get the house cleaned well, and then celebrated Jonas' birthday at Classic skating. We had alot of fun! I also was able to get in a really long swim on Saturday morning which I didn't expect, so that was really nice!

Cathi called in and told me that she did her race in 4:20. She had to deal with a bit of wind at the end of the race, and also forgot her mp3 player so she instead carried on conversations with runners and so she wasn't in it to really push herself. She had a good time and we're going to think twice before going on a spring break vacation that involves camping. It's just too risky in counting on decent weather. But for the parts that didn't involve getting blown about, it was enjoyable being together and roughing it.