Cairn Box!

I’m so excited! I signed up to get a Cairn box this month and I got an email saying it shipped. Does anyone else do Cairn boxes? 

I am going to do a post after I get it and share what I received! =)

Also, the Midwest is very wet right now, and will be further so as the weekend comes so…our camping trip is a no go. I’m pretty bummed because I have some crazy work weeks coming up in May and I was looking forward to my reset button that is sleeping outside and waking up to forest sounds. I suppose I can finish some things at home and catch up on laundry and other such adult things. 

Like a trip to REI, Lush, a Mexican lunch date with M, and possible VFW karaoke Saturday. Sounds good to me.

Have a great week!


Lewis & Clark Trail

Located in Weldon Spring, MO about 45 minutes from where we live!

This last week was crazy at work (thus the few day gap in posting) – and also crazy at home. My husband and I are purging all of the things we don’t need in our home and lives to make for simpler living. We also have plans to eventually add a new bathroom to our tiny 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house, so we decided to start with getting everything out of our small space that we don’t use or need anymore. Good riddance!

Short story shorter, we decided to do something outside this weekend since we were so busy working, plus with it being Earth Day Friday we wanted to do something to keep our newly active lifestyle going. Normally Sundays would consist of getting up whenever we felt like and then laying around on the couch and Netflixing until bedtime. Which is absolutely okay and needed sometimes, but not all the time! 

So, maybe next time Netflix!  We decided to tackle the Lewis and Clark Trail. We grabbed a semi-heavy brunch on the way and set out on the trail around 12:10.

I’ll tell you what. I’ve been consciously moving my body an extra 2-4 miles nearly every day for close to 3 weeks, and have been feeling great; lasting longer and going further as the days go on. But a 9 mile hike in the bluffs of Missouri really took it out of me! I won’t lie when I say felt a little discouraged that I was lagging behind everyone (B, M &C!) and breathing loud and clomping along. I thought I’d be a bit beyond that, but it just showed me that I need to keep working toward my goals and maybe by the end of the summer those inclines will be a breeze. What’s the best way to work through or train yourself for more strenuous terrain? 

Pretty decent time for someone struggling to keep up!

Another issue I have is dry mouth and constant thirst! I feel like I downed more water during and after the hike than everyone else I was with. 

Going from avid camper to hiker is difficult but absolutely rewarding. I stated a few posts back that I knew I had earned my title as a camper, but I have yet to acquire hiker. I’ll get there. And I will know the moment when I get there! 

Regardless of my feelings about today, I overall am proud of the accomplishment. My end goal is to become a multi-day hiker, and maybe even one day a thru hiker. I’m starting here! This was my longest trail yet and I will embrace the next – it’s just another obstacle to overcome before I can be where I want to be. 😎

There were lots of pretty overlooks on this trail, but I was more concerned with powering through this mentally and physically than pausing to take lots of photos. We snapped these in the first mile and a half – two miles and after that, my phone was tucked away in my pack! 

Thanks for following along! 


Getting myself back

I’ve mentioned before in a previous post, I lost my grandmother last June. She was more like a mother to me. She helped my own young parents raise me through my infancy into my early awkward preteen years. And once when I got into a fight with my mom, I stormed off down the street to grandma’s house and never came back. I moved in with my grandparents at 15 and stayed until I was 21. Gram was the most annoying, wonderful, nosy, hilarious, tacky, nagging, unconditional loving human I have ever known. She was my person; I was hers. It was no secret I was her favorite.

The day she was diagnosed – June 5th 2014, B and I were out having dinner and drinks celebrating his new schedule that would allow us to spend more time together. On the way home we stopped at my sister W’s house to see our niece, she was 11 months old at the time. I remember my mom calling me and asking where I was.

“I’m at W’s. What’s wrong??” I knew immediately that something wasn’t right. I prepared myself for whatever it was she had to say. “Is it my grandpa?” I asked, panicked. “Just calm down, I’ll be there in 5 minutes. Don’t leave.” She said. I hung up the phone and immediately felt that anxiety lump rising in my chest. I started pacing, telling my sister something happened. My mom walked in and looked concerned, like she didn’t want to say out loud what she had to say. Desperation in my voice I asked again, “What’s WRONG?” 

“Jen, your grandma was diagnosed with leukemia today.” She didn’t have to time to finish the entire sentence before I ran to the bathroom and threw up. I sat in there by myself for 15 minutes, shaking and waiting for my hearing to stop ringing. I could hear muffled voices outside the door. “Is she going to be ok?” “Jen or grandma?” “We don’t know much yet.” 

I stood slowly and rinsed my face in the sink with the coldest water. All while looking into my own scared eyes. “It’s okay. People survive cancer all the time. It’s okay.” My grandpa had just beaten Lymphoma a few years earlier. My other grandpa came out just fine after prostate cancer. (Side note, I still had all 4 of my grandparents at this point at the age of 30, as well as a great-grandmother who has also since passed. I’ve been very fortunate!)

That whole collective 30 minutes – nervously waiting for my mom, puking in my sisters hallway bathroom, staring at the hot pink walls wondering…letting my mind go to scary places…will forever be burned into my memory. When I came out of the bathroom B embraced me and rubbed my shoulders. My mom told me grandma didn’t want to bother anyone, but wondered if I could drive them all to St. Louis to the hospital she was being admitted to. “Absolutely. I need to see her.” I said. I drove my grandma, grandpa, mom and myself over to Barnes around 8pm. Gram wanted to stop at Taco Bell on the way. Of course we did, it’s always been her way or none. She’s the boss. Who would be the boss when she was gone? I didn’t have an appetite. I kept glancing at her in the backseat through the rearview mirror, wondering what was going through her head. How could she be so calm? I was screaming on the inside.

Holding back sobs as I held her hand not wanting to let go, I reluctantly left my grandmother in a terribly lit hospital room on the 6th floor that night. “Honey, I’m going to be just fine.” She let me know this often. I knew from the beginning she wasn’t going to be fine. This was my greatest fear playing itself in real time. I had to accept this as our new normal. 

I’ll tell you what…through the entire experience, the woman didn’t complain once. Didn’t show fear ONCE. Didn’t let us talk about anything scary until it was time to talk about it. She hung on for almost a whole year. I witnessed her at every stage in this sickness. I knew when she was tired but faking it to accommodate everyone around her. I could see the pain in her eyes. She died in her home surrounded by everyone who loved her on a gorgeous afternoon – June 2nd, 2015. She was only 68. Watching the life leave my most beloved human being changed me. 

I started mourning my grandma’s inevitable death the night my mom told me of her diagnosis. I didn’t stop mourning; I haven’t stopped. 4 days after she died I colored my natural blonde hair she loved so much near jet black. “That’ll show her.” I was angry. She can’t leave me yet. I managed to put on about 25 pounds in the last year, push away many people who genuinely care for me and become a bitter, angry person. I know I’ve been hard to live with. My husband has said it nice enough many times “Why are you being so mean? What’s going on with you?” 

I cut my hours drastically at my salon, which is and always had been my pride and joy. My life. I let go of a chunk of my clientele. All I cared about was babying myself. Pity parties and traveling wherever and whenever to escape the sadness that would grip me every night. At least when I was away from home, I could see new places and feel bright new feelings and excitement that were vastly different than the sinking ones I had grown accustomed to living with.

I’ve been letting the grief and devastation just consume me. I can’t anymore. We’re coming up on the one year anniversary since she left us. 8 days ago, the first night I started my blog, I decided to change my way of thinking and along with it, work on bettering my life. I would talk about the things I loved; camping, travel, nature, hiking, love, my family…to bring about those feelings that make me feel good. Gram wouldn’t want me to be miserable. She’d tell me to get myself together.

I began walking (working on jogging!) just a couple days before blogging started. I’m walking the sadness right out of my bones. I want to love wholly again and not be terrified that someone else will leave me. I deserve to be rid of that stress, and B deserves it. I want to smile and bask in it instead of feeling guilty that I am enjoying a moment. 

This is how I’m getting me back. It’s how I will live my life from now on. Trying to ajust to my new life without my grandma and making new healthy habits to go in place of the ones that bring me down. 

Thank you for reading, and allowing me to share this still raw part of my story. 


Rewild Your Life Daily Challenge

Has anyone else signed up for the RYLDC for May? 

I’m looking forward to connecting more with the outside! Basically it requires you to spend 30 minutes outside once per day sans electronics (photos ARE encouraged! Try airplane mode if you use your phone for photos.) For $9 you work through an online course as well as taking the 30 minute challenges daily. This program is through a great and inspiring organization – We Are Wildness.

Since I have been trying to walk/run once a day outdoors I feel like this challenge would be great for me – although not listening to music will be hard, it’s only a month! 

Give it a looksie


Lake of the Ozarks

Happy Sunday! We just got back from my husband’s family cottage in the Lake of the Ozarks. This won’t be a camping or hiking post, but sometimes this place is nearly just as good as a weekend in the woods. It sits on the 4 mile marker, in a small cove where some of the houses date back to the early 1950s. A handful of the surrounding weekend houses have been torn down and built again from scratch. One thanks to a fire and others gladly inherited by the next generation of family lake-goers, looking to up the value even more of the coveted property on the water. 
My husband’s family has had their cottage for 50+ years. His grandparents then avid boaters and water skiers. They raised their 4 girls here during their childhood springs and summers and inevitably the girls married and had children of their own to raise at the lake.  

My husband B and I try to make it down at least 3-5 times a year. Once to open the cabin in mid spring, once per month in June, July and August, and then again to close up in October. Every other weekend we aren’t there with my in-laws it’s filled with B’s extended family. Aunts, uncles, cousins, their kids. It’s always a guaranteed entertaining time. 

Sunburns, long boat rides, napping on the dock, cold drinks, music and the nostalgic summer smell of everyone’s barbecue grills drifting across the cove. Time goes by too fast at the lake. A weekend is gone before you know it.

This weekend we went to celebrate my brother in law’s 26th birthday. We arrived Thursday night around 10pm, unloaded the car and headed to bed so we could get up early. Friday we hit Stewart’s for breakfast (phenomenal!) and then some kitschy souvenir shops along the strip. Can’t forget to get saltwater taffy! 

 In a leather store I came across a Minnetonka outback hat I HAD TO HAVE but couldn’t bring myself to spend $50 on it. B suggested looking online for a better price (found one pre-owned for $15 less…score!) 
We had to stop for celebratory birthday drinks between every few shops – Lucky’s, Tucker’s Shuckers, and ended our afternoon at Beaver’s at the Dam. I’ve seen the latter place so packed before it takes them damn near over an hour to get your food orders out. I must say I enjoyed the prompt service and the sparse patronage this early in the year.

Saturday, B golfed all morning with his dad and brother, while I slept in and then migrated to read a book on the dock. (Currently reading: Wild by Cheryl Strayed – thanks M for the recommendation!) Later in the afternoon we went for a little hike in the hilly foliage and rocky back roads near the cottage. If anyone is familiar with Lake Ozark/Rocky Mount, MO and knows of any good hiking in the area I would love to hear about it for our weekend in June out there! 

Today we opted to come home a little earlier to get back to our dogs and get some stuff done before this week begins. In 2 weekends I have a camping trip coming up, meeting a girl friend from Arkansas at a mid-Missouri halfway point, with a Saturday day hike planned. M will be joining as well! Can’t wait to prepare and get there, and then write about it. I have been trying to get out of my winter funk by walking a few miles a day over the last 2 weeks. This is especially helpful for getting back on trails this season! I am not a pretty walker/hiker. I breathe loud and get all winded and yeah. Not cute. Gotta get in shape!
Anyhow, I still have quite a few entries of past camping trips and lake weekends I will make and share about between present and future ones that I will get to eventually. Lately I’ve been enjoying the Midwest weather segueing from spring into early summer; today I plan on getting some yard work done and then going for a few mile walk this evening!

Close to home…

You will see a lot of posts featuring Lake Glendale at Shawnee National Forest in Southern Illinois, near Paducah, Kentucky on this weblog. I like to think it has basically become our unspoken home base campground. We were there probably 4-6 times last year. 
One of my favorite features of this place is the very tall, slender trees:  

M’s in-laws keep their Airstream near here year round as it’s the grounds the men in their family use for deer camp during hunting season. 

M’s husband C has an awesome family that brought their kids up coming to Shawnee so they are very friendly with the camp host and some of the surrounding businesses. 

Also, Lake Glendale campground has THE NICEST bathroom/shower house I’ve ever been in. It’s super clean, cool in the summer and heated in the winter, which is nice! We spent this past winter doing weekends in Lulu and sometimes in C’s family Airstream.
This post is mostly sharing my first trip to Shawnee last April; another M and Jen camp weekend sans husbands (they do accompany us sometimes, I promise!)

This campground is close enough to home at 2-2.5 hours, has a great liquor store on the way (shout out to Speakeasy!) and sits on a beautiful lake. It also features a stable nearby for horseback trail rides plus firewood and ice at the entrance. This campground is nearly always quiet, the primitive camping section is spaced nicely and feels private. The RV electric sites are also super nice!  
This entry isn’t as wordy in detail or filled with weird unexpected guests (I digress…most fellow campers we’ve come across have been helpful, kind, trustworthy or non-interactive at all…I know Campfire Mike on my last post was truly harmless. It’s the thought of two women by themselves being approached by a lone camper in the night that adds a little flavor of sketchiness! Disclaimer: no need to be offended or disgusted when I half-jokingly refer to people we meet in the woods as creeps or weirdos, they’re always treated respectfully, it’s all in jest for the story.) 

What I really remember of this trip was how beautiful the weather was (actually one year ago today! Came up on my timehop.) I also remember my body aching from riding a horse, which I hadn’t done since I was probably 11 years old. Oh, and falling off of it. Twice. M says it was the most graceful fall off of a horse she’s ever seen. The second time I fell off of it however, nearly dropping my elbow in a nice steaming pile of horseshit was not as graceful. I’m severely awkward at dismounting apparently. Definitely feeling grateful that I don’t get embarrassed easily and can laugh at myself. Let’s be real, if I saw anyone fall off of a horse twice within an hour, I’d absolutely make fun of them. It’s just that person was me. You’re welcome. 

Another delightful slice of this trip was spending the afternoon out on the water. M has a couple kayaks we drag with us often and this trip they were very welcome. A bottle of wine each, some sunglasses to shield our highly possible sleepy sun naps from passers (floaters?) by and some music drifting from one of our iPhones. For those of you curious – our campground playlists often consist of Neil Young, The Eagles, several bluegrass and Americana artists, CCR, Nikki Lane…and the occasional Slayer and Metallica. 

This trip was also when we dubbed our cowboy boots “piss kickers” thoughtfully derived from the traditional term “shit kicker” – because peeing in the woods at night is tricky. Hey, I never claimed we were entirely ladylike. 
All in all I am always happy with our stays here at Lake Glendale. If you should ever find yourself in the vicinity do yourself a solid and spend a night! 


You can follow our past, present and future trips on IG #winetimewithbigfoot