Aaaaaaaaaaand BREATHE….

It’s no coincidence that I work in the delivery industry and disappeared from The Land of Blog three weeks before Christmas.  This was the wildest season I’ve been a part of during my decade-long career, and I’m SO. GLAD. IT’S. OVER!  For everyone else, Christmas ends after December 25, but that’s just when I’m starting to enjoy the season!  I didn’t get my tree up until the 19th, did the vast majority of my shopping the 20th, wrapped (okay, mostly I stuff shit in bags) the 21st, back to work for three more hellacrazy days the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th, and finally…. FINALLY… when I locked the door to my office at 4:00 pm on Christmas Eve, I was able to sit down, breathe, and allow myself to feel Christmas.  I needed to hurry home to get ready for a family thing that evening, but I literally did just sit in my office for a few minutes to relax and let it sink in.

It turned out to be a really great Christmas for us this year.  I was so worried about how it would be on Dewayne’s side of the family given the recent loss of his mom.  His sister tried so hard to keep things the same as they would have been had she been here, but when she met resistance from a couple of family members who said they just weren’t ready for that, she gave up and we decided that instead of the huge dinner with all of her extended family that this year we would do immediate family only with pizza, BBQ, and alcohol.  hahaha  Seriously, who else’s family celebrates Christmas Eve with shots of Fireball cinnamon whiskey and a rousing game of Bounce Off?  hahaha  (Side note: That stock photo cracks me up.  They make it look so sweet and innocent.  There was a lot more yelling and cussing when we played.  I should send them a photo of us playing to use instead.  It’s just too bad that photo doesn’t come with sound.)

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I think we were better off doing something completely different.  We still felt Debbie’s absence, but not in the same sort of miserable way that I think we would have had we tried to pretend nothing had changed.  This was new, this was FUN, and I know she would have been laughing her ass off right there with us had she been there.  Her favorite thing in the world was always to have all her kids and grandkids there.  She loved a loud, boisterous, happy house, and we sure gave it to her!  It was nearly 1:00 am before we finished with the games and goofiness and presents and headed home.

The next day was spent with my side of the family.  It was quite fun too.  The little ones all kept us entertained that day.  And I don’t mean children.  Well, not of the human persuasion anyway.  haha  We brought our dogs with us, as did my uncle, plus my sister’s dog who lives there.  So we had four rescued doggies celebrating their Christmas Day with us.  That alone made my heart full.

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Pibble selfies
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My sister Kim and her not-officially-fiance-yet-but-we-all-know-it’s-gonna-happen Brandon and their dog Sangria. Sangria was appalled by all the dogs in her house and refused to cooperate and look at the camera. haha
My Uncle Mike's babygirl, Amy
My Uncle Mike’s babygirl, Amy.
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Bella was all Christmased out by the end of the night.

And with that, our Christmas was over.  The new year came very peacefully.  D asked a couple of weeks ahead of time what I wanted to do on New Year’s Eve, and I believe my exact words were, “I don’t wanna do SHIT!”  I was whooped from the last month of work and wanted more than anything to just enjoy a low-key night in, and that’s exactly what we did.  It was pure bliss.  I have a couple of goals floating around in my head for 2015, but that’ll be a different post for a different day.  (Spoiler: One is a pretty big one that I hope some of you will help me out with!)

And in other news…. IT’S MY BIRTHDAY WEEK!!!!  I’ll be turning 35 on Saturday, and I’ll be celebrating by running the Mississippi Blues half-marathon–the first of several that I have lined up for this year.

Maybe it’s just sheer hopefulness and optimism, but I’ve got a feeling 2015 is gonna be pretty great.

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Three Things Thursday

1.   My poor C.C… I had to take her to the groomer Monday.  I know, I know… who takes a cat to the groomer, right?  Well, trust me, you would have too.  I’m still not real sure what she did or how she did it, but over the weekend, she got some of her litter clumped in the fur around her … ummmm… lady parts.  I cleaned her as best I could, but I just couldn’t get it all.  She wasn’t very cooperative for me, and bless her heart she’s old and can’t really clean herself anymore, so she was no help.  The groomer bathed her and still had to shave some out.  She was none too happy about it, but it HAD to be done!

She haaaaaaaates riding!
You will pay for this, servant.

2.   I found this at the grocery Tuesday!  I had seen online that they were releasing it and was excited to try it.  I was shocked to find it here so soon.  This little po-dunk town is waaaaaaay behind the times when it comes to plant-based options.

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3.   I had a dinner-and-a-movie date with my sister Monday night!  We checked out a new (well, it opened in the spring, but I hadn’t been there yet) Japanese joint here in town called Miso.  She had some kind of raw fish sushi shit, and I had a veggie/tofu entree.  We both really liked our food.  I’d definitely go back!  Then we drove a couple of towns over to a theater where Annabelle was playing.  (They’ve already taken it down here–WTF?!)  That is one creepy-ass doll.

Have you ever given a cat a bath?  C.C. is 15 years old and this is her first one.

What’s your favorite non-dairy milk?

Do you like scary movies?  I love ’em!  We’re going back to see Ouija when it opens.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

I’ve been playing out a lot of “if this happens” scenarios in my head lately hoping like crazy that things would work out where I would get to go to a St. Louis Cardinals division championship game at home this season, and all those “ifs” fell right into place last week when San Francisco knocked out the No. 1 seed Washington Nationals and St. Louis defeated the Dodgers.  With the NLDS starting on a Saturday in the higher-seeded team’s home town, that put Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis this past Saturday and Sunday!  D and I treated my parents to tickets and the four of us roadtripped it up to St. Louis on Sunday afternoon.

Me, D, and my parents.

Me, D, and my parents.

I’ve been a huge Cardinals fan as long as I can remember, so I’ve been to lots of games and always thoroughly enjoy them, but there’s just something about the post-season.  The energy, the electricity, the excitement… it just doesn’t compare.  We were lucky enough to score World Series tickets last year when the Cards played the Red Sox, but it was during my blogging break, so you guys didn’t get to hear about it!  But if any of you are baseball fans… remember Game 3 when it went into extra innings and ended with the Cards winning on an historical obstruction call at home plate?  Yeah, we were there!  Couldn’t have picked a better game of that series to go to!  And it happened again Sundayt.  Whatever the outcome of the series, this game is one I’ll remember forever!  Everyone goes to a game hoping to see their team hit a home run and we saw FOUR.  Taveras’s homer put us ahead in the 8th, bringing the stadium to a high, then our closing pitcher Rosenthal blew the lead in the top of the 9th, firing everyone up even more, and then when Wong nailed a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 9th, the crowd was deafening.  I’m just now getting my voice back myself!

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Giants’ buses arriving at the stadium

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My boyfriend, Matt Holliday
My boyfriend, Matt Holliday

 

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I can’t wait to be back in St. Louis next weekend with friends for the race and to enjoy more of the city!

It’s taken me a while to write this, but on Monday, August 25, 2014, at almost exact 4 pm, this world lost a remarkable woman.  At the way too young age of 58, after eight months of fighting for her life with a ferocity that left everyone watching in awe, D’s mom decided it was time to rest.  In her last days, she taught me so much about life and love and strength.  No one loves life or their family more than this woman did, and I’m convinced that’s the only thing that kept her here this long.  When she first came home on hospice, she was given 48 to 72 hours to live, and she made it 17 days by the power of sheer will.  We were blessed to have some really good days in there.  She was awake, alert, relatively pain-free, and just as full of spunk and wit as ever.  The last several days of her life saw a steep and steady decline until she smiled and took her last breath.  She died the way she lived:  peacefully, smiling, surrounded by family.  My sister-in-law said something beautiful a couple of days ago.  “She was with us (referring to her and D) when we took our first breath, and we were with her when she took her last.”

Our last family portrait, minus my father-in-law, who took the picture.  It was taken at her request.

It was obvious by the nonstop parade of people paying their respects Wednesday night just how many people loved this woman.  People we had never even met.  We laid her to rest on Thursday after a beautiful service.  She looked positively stunning, more like herself than we’ve seen her look in months.  Several people spoke and did a fantastic job of honoring her and her legacy.  A couple of family members picked out songs that held special meaning for them or brought back special memories.  The youngest granddaughter had them play “I Won’t Say That I’m Okay” by Front Porch Step, an acoustic indie band.  Awesome song.

So now it’s about finding a new normal.  Everyone will feel her absence, but it’s going to be especially hard on her daughter and her husband of 43 years.  She and her daughter were the best of friends.  You never saw one without the other.  They did absolutely everything together, whether it was a shopping trip, a beach trip, or a trip across the country to visit their son/grandson.  It will be so hard, but we’ve all acknowledged that we just have to step up and keep doing all the things she would have wanted us to do.  We all went out to eat Saturday night as we have done as a family unit so, so, so many times before, and it just felt so strange with her not being with us.

One day at a time.

I will never remember her as the bedridden cancer patient.  That only defined the last few days of her life.  This is the beautiful, vibrant, classy woman that will forever be my mother-in-law.

With my father-in-law
With the oldest granddaughter

Taking selfies trying to get a photo for her real estate company’s web site.  haha

With her sister a couple of Christmases ago

Master Griller at work at one of our epic cookouts

With D

With my sister-in-law and me in Destin FL in my bleach blonde days

Gorgeous even when she’s sleeping

Recalculating

Sometimes the route you were planning to take changes.  Sometimes you encounter roadblocks and have to go off course and do some unplanned twisting and turning.  You’ll still get to your destination, but it may take you a little longer to get there.

I won’t be ready to race RnR St. Louis in October.  Due to the circumstances with D’s mom, I just haven’t had the time to invest into quality training.  I’m running here and there and will no doubt be able to cross the finish line that day, but it will not be in a PR attempt as originally planned.  I’m spending the weekend with two FABULOUS LADIES, so there will be no shortage of good times, and October 19, 2014, is going to be about having fun running through Cardinal Nation and showing my team pride!!!  One of those ladies will be racing her first 70.3 only two weeks before this, so depending on how recovered she is, we may just have to shoot for a new personal worst!  haha  If I remember right, there are plenty of bars on the course.  And how cute will I be in these?!

WTF is it about an article of clothing in the floor that attracts animals???

The PR attempt will be delayed by at least six weeks when I’ll be running St. Jude in Memphis again.  And I’m even toying with the idea of running Mississippi Blues in January since it JUST SO HAPPENS to be on my birthday!  (And probably Little Rock again too since I’m so in love with that race.)  So yeah, my route has had to be recalculated, but I’m not one little bit upset about it.  The time I would have been running (and everything else, for that matter) has been spent with family, and that’s where I both need and want to be right now.  There’ll be plenty of time for everything else very soon.

The Outtakes:

Things I Never Want to Forget

The past week has been a blur.  Especially the last four days.  This post will probably be as choppy and as all over the place as my mind is lately.

My mother-in-law was airlifted back to Nashville last Sunday night.  Things steadily went downhill with one setback after another until finally on Thursday the doctors waved their white flag and admitted defeat.  They made the decision to stop all treatment and send her home on palliative care for her last few weeks/months. That very night things got even worse when SEVERE pain prompted a scan, which showed that the tumors had become so large that they were cutting off blood supply to her major abdominal and thoracic organs.  Her prognosis quickly changed.  No longer were we looking at a few weeks.  We were told on Friday that she had a couple of days left.

Imagine that for a second.  This is a 58-year-old woman, perfectly awake, alert, and coherent (a state that so very quickly declined over the weekend), being told that she only has a couple of days.  She (as well as we, the rest of her family) was devastated.  As horrible as that day was, and as horrible as what is coming will be, I want to document this time because there is so much happening that I want to hang onto forever and never, ever, ever forget.

Such as…

The family unity in that hospital room upon hearing the news.  As we all were crying, and as MIL was expressing her fears and worries between sobs, we were assuring her that we would be okay.  My sister-in-law reminded her that after her father and brother passed, she grieved and she missed them like crazy every day, but she adapted and moved on and healed with time, and we all promised her that we would do the same.  We vowed to all be there for one another.

Feeling the most pure and powerful love I have ever felt while watching my husband spoon feed ice chips to his mom on her first really bad day.  I had to leave the room to ugly cry.

Watching the fight left in a woman who only has days to live.  The day after receiving the news, she was in the bathroom taking a sink bath (a shower was impossible with all her attachments), washing her hair, putting on lotion and perfume.

Seeing the love my husband has for his mother as he sobs over her unwillingness to give up.

Some of the hilariously funny things she said while under the influence of morphine:
MIL:  *Starts to get up out of hospital bed, IV and drain lines be damned*
SIL:  Mom, where are you going, what do you need, what are you doing???  (Her reaction every time MIL moved a finger)
MIL:  I ain’t doin’ nuthin’!  I swear I’m gonna get me a damn bell that says, “DING!  I’M DOING SOMETHING!”

Some of the excruciatingly painful things she said while under the influence of morphine:
MIL:  Where is my medicine?
SIL:   You’re getting it through that needle in your stomach, remember?  Why, what do you need?
MIL:  I just need to know.  I’m leaving tomorrow.
(We know she didn’t mean that the way we heard it.  According to her, she was going shopping the day before that, but when a dying woman says she’s leaving tomorrow, that’s enough to make all the eyes leaky.)

All of the family togetherness.  MIL has always been her happiest when surrounded by her big, happy family, and we are all determined that she go out that way.  There has been tons of family, tons of food, tons of reminiscing, and unlimited laughter.  The past couple of days she’s been in and out of it, but we want to make sure that all she hears are the happy sounds of her family.  We promised her in the hospital room that she would be surrounded by family for the rest of her life, and we are making good on that promise.  Her kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, siblings, parents, in-laws, extended family, and friends have been there around the clock, some of them coming in from across the county to do so.  The French gatherings and cookouts have always been pretty epic, and that’s how we’ve always celebrated everything–holidays, birthdays, graduations, weddings–and now we can add life celebration to that list.  I’ve taken a week of vacation so I can be here and cherish every last second of these final days.

Being a part of her … dreams?  hallucinations?  memories?  Whatever it is that comes at the end when they start talking to people that aren’t there and going through the hand motions of doing things that they aren’t doing.  The past couple of days, we’ve watched her, seemingly wide awake, patting out burgers, even asking for the kosher salt (she’s always been the grill master at these cookouts!), cut her food and eat it, put on her makeup, and fold clothes.  We think she was packing for vacation because the rest of the day she kept talking about leaving and telling her grandkids to go finish getting ready.

The fact that she still hasn’t lost her sense of humor even through the haze of what’s real and what’s a dream.  She woke up once and looked over to find SIL, BIL, and two of their kids zonked out on the couch and asked for her camera.  Apparently the instinct to take funny and embarrassing photos of your children is something that never dies.

A Fourth to Celebrate (And a Mother-in-Law Update)

Happy Belated Fourth, y’all!  I hope everyone had a safe and fun-filled holiday.  We had the best one that I can ever remember having.  For starters, it’s been a solid 10-15 degrees cooler this year than what we’re accustomed to.  We were all actually chilly sitting outside lighting fireworks Friday night.  The truck on the way home said it was 59 degrees out!  That’s just nuts for Tennessee in July!

We didn’t know till fairly last minute that we were going to be doing anything on the 4th, so we didn’t even hit the fireworks stand until about 10:00 that night.  By then they had everything marked waaaaay down, so we all pitched in and got $100 worth of stuff, which actually turned out to be quite a bit considering how cheap we got it all.  That was all we did that night.  Well that and we threw together plans for a big cookout the next day.  That was when we truly celebrated the holiday.  Family, food, alcohol, and cornhole–that’s how we party up in here!  We do that a few times a year for various occasions on D’s side of the family, but this time was extra special for a couple of reasons.  First, my parents came too!

D and his niece grilling

Cornhole!

My Dad and D’s niece’s dogs

Can I just say how much I HATE that high-waisted shorts are back in style?  According to my 14-year-old niece anyway.  If those are in style, I will just have to be out of style.

And the second reason this holiday was special… well, that brings me to the mother-in-law update part.  She finished her chemo and radiation back in May.  She’s been going back for checkups periodically but wasn’t scheduled to have any more scans until August.  They said she would have too much dead tissue and scarring from the radiation for them to even really tell how effective her treatment was.  Well last Monday, while they were on vacation in Colorado visiting their oldest grandson, she went to the hospital with severe stomach pain with violent vomiting and diarrhea.  They thought it was her gallbladder, so they did an ultrasound, and on that ultrasound they saw something suspicious.  They did a CT scan to check it out further, and they found masses on her liver, gallbladder, pancreas, and the main artery running from the heart to the leg.  They kept her one night to get her rehydrated then they released her to come back to her oncologists in Nashville.  They admitted her on Thursday, and they were under the impression that the team would be in to consult with her on Friday, but then on Friday afternoon they found out that since it was a holiday weekend they wouldn’t be in until Monday.  So she pretty much said, “It’s a holiday for me too!  I’m going to the house!”  It was about 9:00 Friday night when they got back home, thus explaining the last-minute fireworks and BBQ plans.  I don’t want to sound negative, but ,guys, it doesn’t sound good.  We don’t know how many holidays we may have left with her, so we wanted to at least make this one fun before she goes back into the hospital tomorrow.  But no matter what they say, we ARE NOT GIVING UP.  We know of too many people that have had successes using unconventional treatment methods, and she’s ready to start trying some of those if western medicine says they have nothing else to offer her.  I ask for all of your prayers and good thoughts.  We should know more in the next few days.

Three Things Thursday

1.     My mom and sister and I had a yard sale at my house last weekend.  My sister and I know how to work a yard sale.  Mimosas:  The most socially acceptable way to catch a buzz before 8am.

2.     D designed a new logo for the shop!  This is a cheap, temporary sign that the print shop made up for us to make sure we liked the way it looks on the building before we throw down the big bucks for the real one.  We also just ordered a bunch of T-shirts sporting the new design on them.

3.     Things kind of came full circle this weekend.  My sister brought a couple of sleeping bags to the yard sale that she’d had since we were little.  Hers was The Simpsons and mine was Garfield.  Of course they didn’t sell, so she left them for my babies, who are ALWAYS stoked to have a new anything to lay on.  I slept in it when I was five, and now my five-year-old girl is sleeping on it.

Tuesday Tidbits

There’s been some pretty fun things going on here lately that I just haven’t taken the time to share.  In no particular order…

  • I had the opportunity for another blogger meet-up Friday night!  Kim from (Just) Trying is for Little Girls (who I’ve been following I think ever since I joined this community) and Erika from MCM Mama Runs (whose blog I really wasn’t that familiar with, but I’m still stoked to have met her and made a new connection!) were staying in a town about an hour from me while they were in the area knocking a few more states off of their lists.  I drove up to meet them for dinner, and I’m just sorry that we all had to get up early the next morning and didn’t have a chance to hang out longer.

Kim’s friends Trish and Sonya, Kim, Erika, and Moi
  • My niece turned 21 a couple of weeks ago, so we had a big cookout at my in-laws’ in celebration.  There was family, booze, food, and cornhole–some of my most favorite things in the whole wide world!  I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed family time, but I think my mother-in-law’s ongoing battle with cancer has made me appreciate every minute even more.
Mariah and Dar (not pictured) totally cornholing me and D)
  •  I qualified for my permit to carry concealed.  I bought my first handgun about a year ago and have been shooting it fairly regularly but I just took the class last weekend.  I filed my application with the state and had my background check and fingerprinting done this week, so now I’m just waiting on the permit to come in the mail.  I’m excited to continue taking more advanced classes!  This was just the first of many to come.
  • One of my favorite employees at work retired at the end of March.  I miss him so much already.  He shared my inappropriate sense of humor and was always good for a laugh, and it’s just not the same without him.  I’m so happy for him and his wife though.  They’re enjoying themselves immensely.  We threw him a little surprise retirement party last week.
The Springville Crew–love them all to pieces!

  • And not that this was like a majorly exciting life event or anything, but we watched The Wolf of Wall Street Saturday night, and it was SO GOOD!  Best movie I’ve seen in a while.  Super long but damn good.
What’s the last really good movie you’ve seen?  I’ve also recently watched Dallas Buyer’s Club and loved it.  And Prisoners!  I had never even heard of that one till someone suggested it.  Excellent movie!

Gatlinburg (and my bear encounter!)

As you may recall, we spent the majority of last week in Gatlinburg.  The whole family was there because my nephew was getting married on June 1st.  They all (and I mean ALL–nephew and his bride-to-be, his parents and two sisters, both sets of his grandparents, her parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncle) all rented one big cabin to stay in.  We got our own place.  We were invited to stay in the cabin, but that’s just a little bit too much togetherness for me.  Besides, if I want to get up and walk to the kitchen nekkid at 2:00 am, by George, I’m gonna do it.

We drove up on Tuesday, arriving in just enough time to get checked in and changed before the rehearsal dinner at Tony Romas.  After dinner, we joined everyone back at their cabin, which had a gameroom, for a lot of this:

D and his Dad

and this:

Father of the Bride and the youngest neice

While they were doing that, I preferred to sit on the balcony with a cold beverage enjoying this:

We left around 11:00 when everyone started turning in to get a good night’s rest before the big day.

It was SO AMAZINGLY WONDERFUL to be able to sleep in the next morning!  SO nice not to be awakened by a dog needing to be let out or a cat howling that her breakfast is late.  The drawback to sleeping in?  It got hot and I was planning to run.  It was a pathetic three miles.  (If I had known that’s all I was going to be able to do, I probably wouldn’t have even done it.  I HATE getting ready and getting all nasty for three measley miles.)

Then it was time to get ready for the wedding!  The ceremony was outdoors at the very tip top of a mountain, and it made for an absolutely stunning setting.  I don’t have any pictures because photography was prohibited while the professional photographer was there.  We were able to sneak in a few with my camera after the ceremony, though.  I couldn’t let the occasion pass without at least a couple of pictures.  It’s not too often we’re all dressed up.



Dang sun, making us squint



Neice, T

And then we all loaded up and went back to the cabin for the reception, which was lovely.

After the party was over, we went outside to discover this little fella in the trash.  He was licking cake icing off of a plate before I disturbed him.  If you look, you can see he still has some on his nose.

The next day was a very laid-back one, spent walking around the downtown area, window shopping, playing putt-putt golf, eating fro-yo, and we ended the night with The Hangover 2.  HILARIOUS.  Oh, and you know those old-time photo things?  We got those done too.  I’ll have to remember to scan the photo and post it later.  I’m not a big country girl or anything, but I’ve got to say that my husband makes one damn fine cowboy.

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The day was relaxing, but by that evening, I was wondering what in the hell we were gonna do to keep ourselves occupied for the next two days.  Good thing the rest of the family was there, because they go to Gatlinburg all the time and know of lots of things to do.  The next day we all went to Cade’s Cove.  I had heard of it before, but I honestly had no idea what it was.  Basically it’s just this preserve that you drive through and supposedly see lots of wildlife.  Several people have told me about seeing bears there, but, as is my luck, we saw a grand total of three turkeys and two deer.  And lots of gorgeous scenery.

After that, we found this groovy little swimming hole just off the side of the road in one of the gazillions of streams that run around the area.  The water was FREEZING!!!
I couldn’t believe how clean and clear the water was.  Try just stopping off the side of the road and jumping in a creek here and you’ll become crawdad and cottonmouth food before you know it.
And on the agenda for Saturday?  HIKING!  I had been looking at trail maps all week long trying to decide on which one we were going to do.  I wanted something that would be challenging for me but that wouldn’t kill D.  We ultimately decided on Ramsay Cascades.  It was eight miles long (four-mile out-and-back) and was rated as “moderately strenuous.”  It was classified as a “backwoods trail” that featured waterfalls and breathtaking scenery.  Sounded like a winner.
We packed a lunch and headed to the trail head to get started about 9:30 Saturday morning.  The first mile and a half I was thinking, “Really?  This is a piece of cake!”  Yeah, there was some elevation gain, but it wasn’t bad at all and the trail was well maintained.
And then we got to the trail.  (I read later that the first mile and a half is an old logging road that just isn’t used anymore.)
When they said “backwoods trail” they meant it.  You KNOW you’re in some backwoods shit when your Garmin starts going backwards.  I’m not exaggerating at all.  I wore it just so we would have some idea as to where we were distance-wise on the trail.  When we got to the road/trail split, it read 1.4 something.  Several minutes later I looked at it again and it said 1.38 miles.  I just thought I had looked at it wrong the first time, but when I looked at it again a few minutes later and it read 1.35 I knew something wasn’t right.  I  turned it off and threw it in the backpack.  With the heavy tree canopy that we were under, there was no way it was going to keep a signal.
Oh, and all that elevation gain that we didn’t have the first mile and a half?  FOUND IT!  And it’s not like it was just elevation gain.  It was elevation gain with a natural obstacle course built in.  

We definitely got the challenge I was looking for!  And the scenery along the way was as beautiful as was promised.

And four miles later we reached our destination.  It was worth it.
There were lots of big, flat rocks there that everyone was sunning and picnicking and resting on.  We picked out a spot and did the same.  It was very relaxing.  Laying there on that rock… eyes closed… sun beating down on my face… cool mist from the falls… sound of rushing water… ahhhhh, nature.
After we got our bellies fueled back up with PB sandwiches and pretzels, we started back down.  I learned something hiking in the Grand Canyon a few years ago, and I relearned it again on this hike.  I am an uphill-hiking rockstar.  I seriously could have done that all day long.  But going downhill is a WHOLE ‘NUTHER STORY for me.  I can’t keep my footing for crap.  I kept having to stop and tighten the laces on my shoes because it’s like my whole foot was sliding into them, cramming my toes into the tip.  And my quads were definitely feeling the burn on the way down.  But good ol’ out of shape D must be part mountain goat because he just bounds right down on the downhill.
We got maybe half a mile back into the trail when we caught up with a big group of about 10 or 12 hikers that had left quite a while before us.  They were stopped on the trail.  As we got closer we could see why.
BEARS!!!
A momma black bear and her two cubs.  Well, we didn’t see the two cubs.  They had already moved down off the trail too far for us to see, but the other hikers told us they were there.  But Momma Bear didn’t seem to be in any big hurry to leave.  There she was, less than 100 feet away from us, just doing her bear thing, not minding in the least that we were there.  But still we didn’t want to continue on, because if we had, the trail would have led us right between her and her cubs.  I don’t know a lot about bears, but I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have been a very good idea.  So we just watched her poke around the ground, climb over the rocks and into the stream and splash around there for several minutes before she finally moseyed on her way.  Some of the people in the group were scared to be that close to her, but there were a few of us who were absolutely thrilled.  For some reason, I found it absolutely exhilarating.
As I mentioned, we were under a very thick canopy, which made the majority of the trail somewhat dim, so taking pictures was difficult.  We didn’t want to use a flash and scare Momma Bear, so we just did the best we could.  They still turned out too dim to really tell anything about them, but when I overexpose the heck out of them she shows up crystal clear!
That was definitely the highlight of my trip.
All in all, the trip was a win.  I wasn’t sure whether or not I would enjoy the area, but it had more to offer than I realized.  I wouldn’t mind going back for a couple of days here and there.  I don’t think it’s a place I’ll ever go back to for any more than a long weekend, but it could be a nice little three- or four-day getaway.  But for me a vacation just isn’t a vacation unless it involves a beach.
Hurry, September!!!!