Saturday, June 30, 2007
This is the view from our cabin door. If you look close you can see Mt. Moran in the back. Our neighbor's cabin looks remarkably like our own.
Jonathan and Dad took a canoe fishing trip on Jackson Lake, but didn't catch anything. Evan and Aaron took a bike ride along the shore. Poor mom did some much needed laundry.
Mt. Moran from canoe.
North Teton Range at sunset from Signal Mountain Lodge.
Who is that young fisherman?
Oxbow Bend of the Snake River. Saw some beaver here and a moose through the binoculars.
Who is that in the bushes, but Mr. Moose. Got really close to this guy just as we entered the park before we even arrived at our place.
View of the Teton Range from in back of Jackson Lodge.
View of Tetons again from Jackson Lodge. This is the view we get from massive lodge windows while blogging, checking e-mail and sipping coffee. Paula and I enjoyed a quiet breakfast together here this morning in their Pioneer Grill.
View of Tetons from Jackson Lodge
The straight-on view of Mt. Moran from Jackson Lodge great hall.
Evan and I looked over at the bushes and about ten feet away saw a brown bear about eight feet long eating the bush. Thankfully a dumpster was in between us and the bear, but we could still see the bear and it could still see us. The bear just continued eating the bush. We ran down to the shore. At the shore Evan and Aaron told a man about the bear while I went to get my parents. The man that Evan and Aaron told got his family out of the car and far away from it(since his car and family were about four parking spaces away from the bear). I got my parents and said "A bear is over in the bush."I pointed over at the bush and my parents were shocked at how close he was.
Meanwhile the bear started moving over towards the parking lot. We followed the bear into the parking lot. My dad got a few pictures (see below). I had gone to warn a couple who had two boys probably under the age of six, and a little girl probably three years old not to go into the parking lot because a bear was in the parking lot. The bear was on the other side of the parking lot by now(but it made a big commotion). Everyone on the restaurant deck was now watching the bear too.
We left the restaurant to go explore the national park and to see other wildlife. A half hour later we got the lakes dam. A few cars were parked and some people were looking and pointing at the other side of the lake. A man said a momma bear and two cubs were on the other side, but had just gone back into the bushes. We just missed them.
This is where my brothers and I were when we saw the bear
This is where the bear was, just on the other side of the dumpster eating grass.
There he goes like he owns the place.
Now he is headed up into the woods. I guess this is what happens when you put a restaurant in the mountain woods.
Friday, June 29, 2007
John with the "Go-T" look or whatever this look is called.
John, Jonathan, Paula, Aaron and Evan (from left) with snowcaps in back
At the continental divide. Been across it about 5 or 6 times by now
Family looking at Emerald lake with clouds all arounjd
Our friend the Marmot
Our friend the Marmot sunning on rock
Longs Peak rising out of the clouds.
John with the no facial hair at all look. Some say he looks like Uncle Mike, but kids are calling him Uncle Emil.
Another of John with the "Go-T" look
Evan and John on the summit in the clouds.
Sunset at Estes park
Way cool snow-capped peaks
More way cool snow-capped peaks
Paula gazing at snow-capped peaks
One view from our camp. The other view is equally as cool.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Two years ago, we drove up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, a frightening experience, and one that I don't want to repeat. I thought Pike's Peak would be that much worse, 7,000 feet higher than Mt. Washington, more twists and turns, more opportunities to plunge to our deaths in the ravine below. I was pleasantly surprised at how accessible the top of the mountain was and how non-threatening the experience would be. Sure there were switchbacks, and sure there were dropoffs into nowhere, but the road was nice and wide, roomy enough for two cars to pass easily. Looking down into the valleys was not my idea of fun, but when we were at a place that was a designated pull off/viewing area, I was quite comfortable picking out landmarks way down below. What I wasn't prepared for was the horrible way I would feel when I stepped out of the car at the summit. 50 degrees and gusty, the temps ought to have revived me, but I couldn't help but feel the same way I did when I was a little girl, going over the mountains to my Aunt LeeAnna's house. I wanted to enjoy the great meal she'd cooked, but barfing seemed more likely. Pike's Peak summit was one of those moments. I wanted to stand gazing off into God's creation, wanted to pray for the people I had on my list, but my prayer turned into, "Please God, don't let me pass out or barf on all of these tourists. My children will be soooo embarrassed!" I staggered around the gift shop, not even able to comprehend the gift items, and those of you who know me well, will attest to my sickness. Unable to shop is not the way to describe Paula Keller. John took pity on me and we left pretty speedily. I drank a bottle of water, fell asleep and when I woke up a few minutes later, a few thousand feet lower, I felt much better. I never want to see Pike's Peak again!
Now, several days later, I'm at 12,000 feet, running down hillsides and back up again, in search of elk and the sick feeling has not reoccurred. Sure I can barely breathe, but I'm not woozy. John has described our hikes to the lakes, and I'll briefly describe our climb up Trailridge Road. What an inspiring trip, seeing snow capped peaks in the distance, crisp breezes making the air almost uncomfortable. We found out that the road had only been cleared of snow for 4 weeks, and much snow remained on the alpine hillsides. In fact, there were several places where kids were sledding and several places where people were skiing on crazy, straight up and down hillsides. John wished heartily that he'd brought his skis, and I thanked God heartily that he hadn't!
Elk dotted the hillsides, munching lazily on alpine grass, and down in the valley, large herds of elk grazed by clear pools of water. We drove along the trail, until we reached the pretty little lake named Irene, and ate a picnic lunch. We walked to the lake side, and there, just as pretty as you please, was a female deer, eating her lunch of lakeside grass, no more than 10 feet away. She didn't bolt or seem frightened at all, just looked us up and down and went on eating. The mosquitos chased us away from the lake but all in all, it was a great picnic.
Back on the road, we stopped at the continental divide and had our picture taken. John told the boys that if they peed a little on the one side, it would end up in the Atlantic and on the other side, it would end up in the Pacific. See what I have to put up with, the lone woman on this trip? No one peed, thankfully, although there was a wet spot from a previous visitor. I don't want to think about it!
Down to Estes Park to peruse the gift shops and have a little overpriced pizza and then back to the campsite to pack up for our early departure for Wyoming and the Tetons.
We're on the way, Interstate 25 into Wyoming and already have seen camels, antelope of some kind and tons of power generating windmills. I'm sure we'll have much to write about on the next post.
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
More later....if we get a signal.
We made the best of the weather situation by heading into the valley and looking for more elk. Our youngest son, Jonathan, spotted one about 35 yards off the road near a stream that no other tourists had spotted. We were able to watch him through a small clearing in the trees for as long as we wanted. We next found a beautiful rushing stream and explored that before heading on to the Bear Lake parking area at the end of the road. We hiked to some beautiful mountain lakes sometimes bordering a mountain stream. Paula spotted a half dozen large spotted brown trout in the stream just waiting for some food to float by. Along the way we scrambled up some of the many craggy outcroppings. My oldest climbed about 50 feet straight up in only about 30 seconds and barely used his hands. He could be a great climber given a bit more training. There was also plenty of snow encountered on the way and some kids from Texas were completely amazed. Trail Ridge Road has only been open to traffic since Memorial Day if you can believe that.
We hit the tourist shops in Estes Park last evening before heading back to camp for hamburgers cooked over the fire combined with sweet corn, mashed potatos and green beans. A little Colorado fudge filled in the empty crevices.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
The view from our camp here in Estes in the morning is simply fantastic and the weather again outstanding. The temp is 65 and the humidity 60% and there isn't a cloud in the sky. I will try to upload a picture or two, but bandwidth continues to be a problem. The air card is good for instant messaging and slow for surfing the web, but bearable if you have nothing else to do. Blog posts may become few and far between now as Internet access via the air card seems to be non-existent as we are now away from populated areas such as the Colorado Front Range and next headed to the even less populated areas of the Tetons and Yellowstone in the outer regions of Wyoming. We may now be solely dependent on camp and hotel networks. I am using the single camp computer now as the one we brought doesn't seem to like their wireless network. Sorry, I can't even get my thumb drive accepted on this computer w/o Administrator privileges so again, no pictures can be posted.
We are only 1 mile from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park entrance and looking forward to the views the day has to bring.
The walk and small bit of rock scrambling we did at Garden of the Gods was fun and beautiful, but perhaps cut short due to the heat, crowds and the inability to scramble whatever rocks we wanted. We did scramble on a few on a trail on the less crowded side of the park. The trip to the top of Pikes Peak was simply gorgeous. We had a picnic lunch by Cascade Lake with a great view of the snow spotted mountain peak on the other side. The road to the top was long, but surprisingly wide in all places and in very good shape. The drive was not nearly as harrowing as the shorter, steeper, and narrower drive up Mt Washington in New Hampshire. Storm clouds seemed to be brewing in the afternoon air, but nothing materialized other than the addition of majestic clouds to the view. Our summit experience was brief as us coastal folk had climbed too far too fast and felt light-headed and wobbly. From a Kansas elevation of probably 4000 feet to 14,110 in just 24 hours was a bit much, but going down just a little while everyone felt fine again and the views were worth it. Back at camp we just rested and tried to subdue the cold being shared around the family so we cancelled the semi-planned venture to Cheyenne Canyon and the waterfalls.
We went to the Air force Academy yesterday and also stopped at the Focus on the Family offices, bookstore and welcome center. We also took time to resupply our food stocks and the kids wanted hair cuts of all things so we obliged. That put us a bit behind schedule, but no one cared as flexibility is a must. We did pay for later in the evening though as we got to camp in Estes Park after dark. We missed our turn for the second time and did a little damage trying to quickly backup onto the main road. Our camp spot was also a very difficult one to maneuver into and frustration mounted after several failed attempts, but alas we arrived and setup and looked forward to the morning view of the peaks that we could only see silhouetted at night.
Monday, June 25, 2007
I don't know why I was surprised at the poverty we saw, either. Jesus said the poor will always be with us, and I saw abandoned farms left and right and homes that were in ramshackle conditions, again going against my notions that folks out west had it better than their counterparts in Appalachia. Don't get me wrong, though, because we saw homes that were movie star qualitiy, high on the hill, with private drives that rival the Pike's Peak highway.
John says that Colorado Springs has exploded since he lived there and suburbia has taken over. Food chains I recognize and many I didn't were everywhere, along with strip malls aplenty. With the exception of the beautiful Rockies in the background, this city could be any other city in America. Huge masses of suburban homes dominate the hillsides, though, because there are few trees to hide them, so the landscape looks overrun with development. Thank goodness for the preserved areas where we were headed.
Next post, Lone Duck Campground, Garden of the Gods, and altitude sickness.
Saturday, June 23, 2007
The temperature that afternoon was in the mid-90's and somehow felt hotter. We were glad to look around the air conditioned Westward Expansion Museum below the arch and take the tour to the top of the monument. The view of the city and surrounding area revealed how flat the Midwest is compared to the Piedmont region of Virginia. The girth and power of the Mississippi was also evident from the top. The river's importance for commerce was also evident as 12 barges lashed together into one large barge seemed to be the preferred method of moving goods. We ate some dinner, watched a movie dedicated to the westward expansion and then walked down to the Mississippi and threw in some sticks that are now destined for New Orleans.
The next day, we slept late, missed breakfast, hit the pool and only did a short day of travel to Topeka, KS where we again enjoyed the pool and just hanging out. The kids really enjoyed the Turbo Twister pool slide at the Holiday Inn in Topeka as did Dad.
Today is a long day on the road as we are traversing the bulk of Kansas. The eastern portion was surprisingly hilly as I thought we left all the hills before the Rockies behind us on the other side of the Mississippi. The central portion has something I don't remember from my previous treks across the state, oil wells. I certainly hope the farmers are getting the profit from them. The combines are out in force here in the western portion where the wheat is ready for harvest and the fields go as far as the eye can see. It is almost like being at the ocean where you can see all the way to the horizon with nothing to block the view and the wheat and corn substitute for the water. Corn is abundant, but not like I remember it. A sign promises to show us the largest prairie dog in the world and a six-legged cow, but I don't think we have the time for that. Huge puffy white clouds float in an otherwise perfectly blue sky. The temperature is 90, but not nearly as hot as is seemed in St. Louis.
God willing we will be camping on the foothills of Pike's Peak outside of Colorado Springs this evening. I anticipate the elevation will make the temps cooler than we have experienced so far and am looking forward to that and a view of beautiful mountains. Travelling is surprisingly easy with the kids reading books, watching movies, playing video games, texting and the van just humming along. The trip is tiring though probably due to inactivity and stiffness more than anything plus sleeping in unfamiliar beds.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Crossing the Ohio River was a neat experience and I felt really proud of myself that the family had lived to see Indiana. We were entering flat land, the heartland of America, and I have to say that I was very excited. They boys were sharing in my excitement, but were trying to hide it by playing video games. Huge flat farms, row after row of corn and what we think might have been soy beans, lay green all around us. Nowhere in Virginia, except maybe the Tidewater region, have I seen farms that large...hills, valleys, mountains, suburbs, tend to get in the way of big farming.
John kept saying we were going on the "Autobahn" parkway or that's what I kept hearing. Fear struck me, as I remembered being 16 years old, in Germany on an exchange program, careening down the Autobahn at mach speed, imagining death in a fiery crash. Well, my fear was for nothing, as the "Autobahn" I was hearing turned out to be the John James Audobon Parkway, named for the speed demon of a birdwatcher. At a liesurely pace of 55 mph, we trundled along a two lane road, rolling through towns no bigger than postage stamps, and the most harrowing thing to happen was being squirted by a field irrigation system. I'm sure I held everyone enthralled by my original conversation, "look boys at that huge field", or, "look boys at that big irrigation system"(they were everywhere), or "this is the heartland of America". I began to sing "Oh beautiful for spacious skies..." but had to end it suddenly due to overall crabbiness.
Back on interstate 64, still alive and kicking, we sailed along, heading for St Louis. Interestingly enough, we had forgotten about Illinois (sorry Illinois) and were moderately happy to be able to include another state under our belts for the day. Traffic was not bad at all and a little Penske rent a truck followed us the entire way, being our highway buddy. I had told John I would not drive in St. Louis, absolutely no way no how, and so I pulled over with 20 miles to go. Just in time, I may add, because as soon as we got back on the highway, traffic really stepped up and then we were in the thick of it. The city, as we approached, looked quite a bit like Balitmore, except for that huge arch thing sticking up out of nowhere.
For our younger readers, here is a link for some more information
and another question.....What is the river that flows alongside the city of St Louis? I'm sure you can figure that one out.
St Louis deserves its own post, so that's all for now folks. Tune in later to the continuing saga of THE KELLERS ROLL WESTWARD
1. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.(I kept telling myself that as I drove the trailer)
2. John is a wonderful husband who pushes me to be my best, even when I want to wimp out on him.
1. Free continental breakfast is over at 9:00 am in Central time zone...not Eastern.(We missed breakfast this morning)
2. 9 year old boys have boundless energy. (Jonathan could care less about breakfast. He's in the pool!)
More later.....John has a facial surpise for everyone.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
The cave tour was interesting. We saw an entire 2 miles of the 367 total miles of cave. Only 12 miles are set up for tours so the vast majority of the cave is just has it has been for millions of years, quiet and dark. Our joke of the day is, "the cave sure is big, but I don't see any Mammoths". Ha Ha. The cave was huge by Virginia standards, but it was also quite plain. We saw very little in the way of stalactites and stalagmites and other interesting formations, perhaps because the cave was formed by rivers and not seepage. The Historic tour was theoretically moderate to difficult, but we had no problem with the 2 mile distance, the 418 steps up, nor with squeezing through the Fat Man's Misery stretch. The Mammoth Dome was over 200 feet tall and quite an impressive site.
1. Get vehicle work done more than 2 weeks before the trip so the mistakes the mechanics make can still get worked out well before you leave.
2. Be pleasantly surprised by the extra time you get going west, but plan for losing an hour and being early on the way back.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Mary had arranged an impromptu reunion for us, a chance to meet other cousins and see Aunt Emma (91) and Aunt Loretta (89). They are the last of their generation, and no gathering would have been complete without these fine ladies in attendance. Raymond and his wife Helen, Dorothy, her husband Bill and daughter Amanda(hi Amanda), and Raymond's sister Bert, stopped by, bringing the Aunts, and we fell to eating and talking, laughing and reminiscing. These cousins all know each other and have for their entire lives. They grew up across the road, rode the bus to the same school, went to the same church, etc. You get the picture. Their lives are entertwined in ways we can only imagine and they know things about one another that suburban counterparts will never know. I feel for my children because they will not know their own cousins in the same way.
After a superb lunch, we looked and laughed at old pictures and someone suggested a stroll along the creek. With no recent rain, the water level was low, but in places, deep enough to amuse our city boys. Dodging cowpies, cowpatties, meadow muffins, whatever you call them, followed by dogs, we took off in search of "the tree". Years ago, Raymond had carved his initials and some mysterious girl's (not Helen's) into a tree. We thought we found it but it was difficult to tell as so many years had passed. Raymond was kind enough to carve a P and J in the tree to mark Paula and John's romance, and there we were on the tree for the next generation to discover. A little distance on, though, we found the real tree and it had quite a few initials on it. It don't know what that says for Raymond's love life, but since he's a happily married father and grandfather, I won't dig too deeply.
Back to the house to eat again, chat about politics, the price of gas, and Paris Hilton (go figure!) and it was time to go home. What a wonderful day, one to cherish, until the next time we can come home to Kentucky.
1. 20 years between visits is too long!
2. Farmers are definitely under-appreciated.
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
The trip was uneventful and the boys behaved beautifully, watching videos, reading, and playing games. We stopped for gas twice (I think we'll have the national debt equalled in money spent on gas) and arrived in KY at 9:30. Setting up the camper in the dark was a little challenging, but everything was in place and we were in bed by 11:00. First day on the road, done.
1. God has a reason for all sorts of delays and diappointments. Trust in Him and try not to fret.
2. The best laid plans of men, yada yada yada
3. Always pack more sandwiches than you need.
Monday, June 18, 2007
We're on the road, finally, after months of planning and days of packing. Our initial departure time was 7am, but we're approaching 10...behind already. I'm not stressed and everyone has gotten along pretty well so far. I'm sure you're thinking that it's early days yet and the fight is sure to come, and you're right. There's no way 5 people can be in close proximity for 30 days and not have some disagreements, but I have to say, we get along really well. We enjoy each other's company when there are no other distractions and we enjoy new experiences, a combination which is win-win in my opinion.
Our first destination is visiting family and having a cookout and after that we're pressing on. For our younger readers, here's a hint as to where we're headed next. It's in the state north of Tennessee and we'll be underground for a few hours. More hints to come and if you think you may know already, post your answer in the comment section and I'll tell you if you're right:)