hiking

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It seems to me that with each Independence Day, the fight for our freedom grows more and more fierce. Our current political situation is not a matter of Republican against Democrat, but rather, Good against Evil. I suppose one might have their own opinion as to which side is which, but those who know me, know exactly where I stand. I am a firm believer in this statement by Thomas Jefferson, “When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.” The good news for the good people of this nation is that we know how to pray, and we know how to fight. What we don’t know how to do is to give up. It may take us a little while, but with God’s help we will prevail…and God is on our side.

Pretty much every year, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I go to the Black Hills for the holiday. The fireworks display in Custer, South Dakota is one of the best we’ve ever seen. The amazing thing is that Custer is a really small town…in fact, it has a population of only about 2,314 people. That said, for them to put on such an amazing fireworks display is really cool. Pageant Hill starts filling up early, so if you are driving up there, you need to go well before dusk. Bob and I would rather walk up there, because it’s easy to find a place to sit when you don’t have a car, and when the show is over, we don’t have to wait for all that traffic to get back to our room. That fireworks display is one of the main highlights of the trip.

Of course, the fireworks display is not the only thing Bob and I like to do in the Black Hills. Our main focus is hiking. There are so many beautiful trails in the area. We take a different one each day that we are there. There is no better way to experience freedom and liberty, than a hike in the woods. It is so peaceful out there, and absolutely beautiful. There are many places that you just can’t see driving down the road. Wildlife, mostly birds, because the bigger animals make themselves scarce…thankfully for the most part. I like seeing deer, but I draw the line at the mountain lions. There are no bears in the Black Hills, except at Bear Country USA, which is a wildlife park, and the bears don’t run free in the Black Hills. Bears don’t run free there, but we definitely do. Happy Independence Day everyone!! Let Freedom Ring!!!

My grandson, Caalab Royce has been making a few changes in himself lately. Most people have a tendency to let life get in the way of taking care of ourselves sometimes. It’s easy to do. Caalab has decided to get back in shape, so he’s been working out and getting buff. His sister, Shai Royce says he looks like he’s 19 again. I’m not sure if he would call that a compliment or not. Guys his age don’t want to look younger, hahaha!! Being an exercise enthusiast myself, I think he looks great. Caalab has always been a bit like me when it comes to our love of the outdoors and long walks. When he moved to Washington state with his family, though, he got to where he could outwalk me by quite a way. I was amazed at how far he walked. We both love being able to get out in nature and walk, while enjoying the beautiful scenes around us. Of course, these days, I think I have more time for it than Caalab does. Retirement does that.

Caalab and his dad, Travis Royce have long been playing guitar together. They don’t play professionally, and you can call me biased, but I think they are really very good. These days, Caalab and Travis and a couple of friends get together every Wednesday for band practice. It is really fun to sit in the “audience” during practice sessions. It’s always nice to have that talent in your own family.

With Caalab turning 25 years old, Amy and Travis are taking him to Vegas with their friends Burt and Amy and their kids. It’s going to be a great time. Caalab went to Vegas when he was 21, and they all enjoy going, so it will be fun to go again. They have been planning this for a while now, but Covid stopped it until now. They tend to do well on the slots, so I hope they will win and have a great time. Of course, there is lots to do in Vegas, besides gambling, so I know they will have plenty to do.

Caalab has always been such a happy kid. Always full of smiles, and mischief. He loves a good joke and never forgets the punchline. He is a teaser from way back, something his sister had to learn to accept, and finally agree was funny. Caalab loved being the “funny man” and never missed a chance to make people laugh. He has grown to be a wonderful man, but sometimes I miss the little boy he was, and since he lives far away from me, I miss having him around too. Today is Caalab’s 25th birthday. Happy birthday Caalab!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Kellie Hadlock’s boyfriend, Tim Thompson is an amazing dad, and a wonderful boyfriend to Kellie. She tells me that he is definitely her “far more than I could ask, imagine, or think” blessing! They make such a great couple and family that it is so sweet to watch. It’s almost as if they have always been a family. Jolene loves Kellie as if she were her own mom, and Kellie loves Jolene the same as if she was her own child. Whenever you blend a family, even if one half of the couple doesn’t have kids yet, it is a big step, and they are all navigating the journey together in love. Tim has been so good to Kellie, and in my book that makes him a great guy. I have really never seen Kellie so happy…and that’s saying a lot, because Kellie is one of the happiest people I have ever met.

Tim is an avid outdoorsman. He is really into shooting his bow right now and practicing for hunting season! Tim loves to go hunting, and he has even managed to get Kellie into hunting (something I never expected). He also loves hiking, camping, or even just hanging out in Casper or Shoshoni with his girls, Jo and Kellie. He is a hardworking man, and every time he has days off, he is doing something for the girls. He lives and works in Gillette, Jolene lives in Riverton, and Kellie in Casper, so that means a lot of driving to see his girls. Nevertheless, he does it happily, because they are the most important part of his life. One day soon, I hope they can all live in the same place, because it is hard to carry-on long-distance relationships, be it boyfriend/girlfriend or daddy/daughter. Kellie tells me that Tim makes her a better person, but I’d bet that Tim would say that Kellie makes him a better person. That is what makes them a great couple. Tim is aways doing things for the girls, and just being there for them every day. In Kellie’s words, “He shows up for us every day and I couldn’t have asked for a better man!” The very best part of a great relationship is being there for each other..

I really believe that Tim and Kellie are a match made in Heaven. Their Christian beliefs, and those of their families, are the same, and that puts them both on the same spiritual path. God knew the right person for each of them, and when that happens, it is a great match. I find that our family is very blessed with many matches made in Heaven, and I’m so happy that Tim and Kellie are another one of those. I know that life is going to bring them many wonderful blessings and wonderful adventures. Today is Tim’s birthday. Happy birthday Tim!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My brother-in-law, Brian Cratty has been my sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely’s partner since July 25, 2011, and theirs has been really a wonderful relationship. They love doing the same things, like skiing, hiking, bicycling, snowshoeing, and hanging out at their cabin on Casper Mountain. They met at Wyoming Medical Center, where they both worked…she as a labor and delivery nurse, and he as a life flight pilot. Brian is retired now, and Jennifer soon will be, so their real adventures are coming up very quickly.

Brian has been there for Jenifer in so many ways. He has been there for the low points in her life like when her parents passed away; and he has been there for the high points, like hiking Mount Elbert’s 14,473-foot summit. You don’t get more “lows and highs” than that. Through every part of their relationship, Brian has been there to love and support Jennifer, and the rest of the family too. We have all grown to love him very much, and look to him as a brother, uncle, grandpa, and dad.

With their birthdays being so close together, Jennifer took this past week off, and the two of them made a trip to Colorado to have some fun…probably skiing, since Colorado had some new snow last week. They really do quite a bit of outdoor activities in Colorado, and I can understand why, because the Rocky Mountains have lots to do…for this fun loving, outdoor couple, even more to do than most people. While traveling is fun, I still think that their favorite place to be is on Casper Mountain at their cabin. It was pretty rustic when they bought it from a friend who, for health reasons, was unable to go there again, and moved to a warmer climate. When they bought it, the cabin was little more than a glorified tent. The interior needed lots of work. Brian and Jennifer have worked really hard to make it into the getaway they want, and I can say that it looks a lot better now. The land around it is much better too, and when they are at the cabin, they are close to some of the trails they love. Brian is probably more of a bicycler than Jennifer is, even though she loves to ride too. He will ride for hours on the mountain trails. Sometimes when the rest of the family are hiking, they cross paths with Brian on his bicycle.

Brian is a licensed pilot, and I sometimes wonder if he misses that part of his life. I know he could fly planes for people if he wanted to, but that would put him on someone else’s timeline again, and that is something most of us retired people don’t want to do. So, Brian spends his time doing the things he loves, and that suits him just fine. Today is Brian’s birthday. Happy birthday Brian!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My sister-in-law, Jennifer Parmely is a busy person in just about every way. Jennifer is a labor and delivery nurse who is close to retirement. I sometimes find myself amazed that she can possible have been helping to deliver babies for about 40 years now. She has assisted in the delivery of more babies than I’m sure even she knows or could count. It’s a lot of years of deliveries, some of which were her own grandnieces and grandnephews. I know that my girls, Corrie Petersen and Amy Royce were both very thankful to have their aunt in the room with them when they gave birth, and so was I. It’s hard to watch your kids go through so much pain, and it is comforting to know that their aunt, who was a delivery room nurse, and who cared about my kids, was there with them during one of the hardest times in their lives, even if they were also the happiest moments of their lives. Jennfer has been that blessing to so many people, friends, family, and strangers, and all of them are so thankful.

Jennifer is also an athlete. She hikes, skis, rides bicycles, and also does many indoor forms of exercise there is. Jennifer and her partner, Brian Cratty have a cabin on Casper Mountain, so they can be closer to the mountain and activities they love. For them, Casper Mountain is their “happy place.” Jennifer and Brian have hiked many places, including to heights as high as 14,473 feet when they climbed Mount Elbert in Colorado, called a 14er. She has also hiked in Vermont, Maine, and New Zealand…yes, New Zealand. That is a dedicated hiker, and I thought I was. Not nearly as much as Jennifer. I think when Jennifer retires, she will wonder how she had time to work with all of her athletic passions.

While being a nurse, an athlete, as well as mom of three boys, Barry Schulenberg (married to Kellie), JD Parmely, and Eric Parmely (married to Ashley), keeps Jennifer quite busy, her latest blessings are her grandchildren. Jennifer has three granddaughters, Reagan, Hattie, and Maeve Parmely, and grandson Bowen Parmely…these are the children on her son Eric and his wife Ashley. Jennifer loves to do special things for the kids, like their own special cake for their birthday, taking them on a special shopping trip for their birthdays, and taking turns spending the night with their grandparents. She works hard to make things special for each of them. Jennifer goes by Oma to the kids, which is German for Grandma…a fitting name for a woman of German descent (along with a lot of English). For Jennifer, life is good. Today is Jennifer’s birthday. Happy birthday Jennifer!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Kelli Schulenberg is a country girl, through and through. She loves living in the country and would love to raise donkeys. Unfortunately, right now, she and my nephew Barry Schulenberg don’t have any donkeys, but I think it would be cool if they got some. I know that every little kid in the family would love to ride a donkey or even just feed them. Donkeys can be so sweet. Of course, they can also be stubborn. They are a bit like kids that way, I guess. It’s just par for the course.

Kelli loves country music, and attends as many concerts as she can each year. That said, I guess you know that she has seen lots of country music stars in her lifetime. I’m not sure who her favorite star is and maybe that’s because she has so many favorites that no single singer exactly stands out…at least not to me anyway.

Kelli has two “men” in her life. My nephew Barry, who she married on January 31, 2004, and their dog, Scout…who she calls Sheriff Scout, because he is always on duty and ready to pounce. Of course, about the only thing Scout will ever need to “pounce” on would be a rabbit who is brave (of foolish) enough to get to close, or enter the yard, in general. Scout rules the roost, and Kelli will confirm that story for sure. Scout has tons of toys, and “needs” them all out at the same time…apparently. Scout is a source of joy and laughter to Kellie and Barry.

Kelli loves the outdoors and especially hiking and bicycling, which go hand in hand with the fact that she loves Summer the best. In fact, if it weren’t for cross country skiing and snowshoeing, Kelli would have absolutely no use for Winter at all…and as to the wonderful Wyoming wind…well, she’s definitely not a fan…but they, how many of us really are. Kelli loves the mountains and camping, which is no fun in the winter either, Spring, Summer, and Fall, with a heavy emphasis on Summer is right up her alley. Kelli and Barry go camping as much as they can in the Summer. They especially love camping in the Big Horns, but they also like Colorado for camping places. Kelli is an outdoor girl who loves lots of fun outdoor activities, and all things country. Today is Kelli’s birthday. Happy birthday Kelli!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My husband, Bob and I love the Black Hills. We go over every year for the Independence Day celebration, which also happens to be right around Bob’s birthday. It is a kind of double celebration for us. Bob and I love to hike, and we have a number of favorite trails in the Black Hills. Some trails we take every year, some only in years that we are in tip top condition, and we try to find a new trail once in a while. There is so much of the Black Hills that most people never see. The back country of the Black Hills, deep in the forest, is just stunning. These Independence Day trips are such a sweet retreat for Bob and me. We especially love the ride on the 1880 Train, as the grand finale. That ride is so relaxing, and it really never gets old.

Bob is such a hard worker. Even in Retirement, he spends a lot of time working on cars for people. There are people who totally depend of his knowledge and ability to keep their vehicles running, and I don’t know what he would do with himself if he didn’t work on the vehicles of all his friends and family members. Since his retirement, he has kept busy and has thoroughly enjoyed the work he does…plus the fact that he is his own boss. All the years he spent working for the City of Casper were great, but there is nothing quite like being your own boss. You work at your own pace and take only the jobs you want to take, and since Bob is such a social person, there is the added benefit of meeting people and making friends.

Bob is such a kind and thoughtful person, who always has something nice to say about everyone. Its a wonderful trait to be able to find the good in people, and that is just what Bob does. I don’t think he has ever met someone he didn’t like. That is something I love about Bob…his easy manner with people. It makes people comfortable with him. From adults to little kids. Everybody likes Bob. His nieces and nephews are all very fond of him, and love to spend time with him. They love to tease him and make him laugh, and he feels the same about them. Little kids are the best ones to watch. They can usually tell if a person is someone they would like, and Bob always falls into the “we like you” category. I have to agree with them. I like him too. He’s a pretty great guy. I liked him from the moment I met him…and I still do. Today is Bob’s birthday. Happy birthday Bob!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

My niece, Amanda Reed is a non-stop girl. Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall, she and her family go, go, go!! Of course, they work and do all the other normal things, but on the weekends, they are so active that it would make most people exhausted, and I am a really active person, so for me to say that, is really saying something. I don’t like Winter, however, so most of my Winter activity is indoors. Amanda…well, she doesn’t mind the snow. She is out there hiking, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, four-wheeling…you name it. Nothing slows this family down. The like to live life to the fullest. Its a great way to be.

Amanda works at a bank in Rawlins, Wyoming, as a BSA Agent. For any who don’t know, that is an agent who keeps records and files reports that are highly useful in criminal, tax, and regulatory matters. The documents she files under the BSA requirements are heavily used by law enforcement agencies, both domestic and international to identify, detect, and deter money laundering, whether it is in furtherance of a criminal enterprise, terrorism, tax evasion, or other unlawful activity. That is to say that she protects the bank, and the rest of us from thieves who would destroy our economy by the introduction of fake money with no value.

The two most important people in Amanda’s life, are her partner, Sean Mortenson and her daughter Jadyn Mortensen. Amanda is a horse girl’s mom, and is there to encourage Jadyn every step of the way. f course, it doesn’t take much encouragement, because Jadyn loves her horse, and riding is something she would rather do over just about anything in the world. Still, there are good days and bad days in any sport, and Amanda is one of Jadyn’s biggest cheerleaders. She also is a sports daughter, encouraging her mom, Deb Lucero in her hiking. They recently went on a winter snowshoe hike in the mountains, and had a great time. They have a lot more gumption than I do. The cold/snow part of that would be a big problem to me, but not for these girls or for Debbie Morgan-Fall, who went along.

When she is not working at her very serious job, Amanda, her family, and friends like to kick back, and be hilariously funny. In fact, they are among the funniest people I know of. These people have no problem with acting goofy, dressing funny, or funny comments. They love to laugh and make each other laugh, and that’s what it’s all about. This group of friends love to get together and have a great time. They go to the lake, the mountain, or just hang out at someone’s house. They love time together, and refuse social distancing…like most of us. Togetherness, yep that’s it. Today is Amanda’s birthday. Happy birthday Amanda!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

As one who loves to hike, I am always interested in a new trail, whether I will ever get to hike that trail or not. The Chilkoot Trail is a 33 mile trail that travels through the Coast Mountains. The trail travels from Dyea, Alaska, in the United States, to Bennett, British Columbia, in Canada. During the Klondike Gold Rush (1896–1899), the Chilkoot Trail was transformed into a mainstream transportation route to Canada’s interior. The gold rush was primarily focused around Dawson City in Yukon and the Yukon River. While not the easiest trail, the Chilkoot Trail was the most direct, least expensive, and consequently the most popular.

The other primary route, the White Pass route based out of Skagway, was slightly longer but less rigorous and steep, whereas the Chilkoot was shorter and more difficult. Skagway, because of its deepwater harbor, served as the principal port for both routes…nearby Dyea, the beginning of the Chilkoot Trail, was built on the extensive, shallow Taiya River delta. Prospectors who chose the Chilkoot Trail were ferried to Dyea by small boat. The trails turned Skagway and Dyea into bustling tent cities during the gold rush years, which caused men from across the United States to leave their jobs and family to travel up the Inside Passage to Skagway. They had gold on their minds, and the thought of going home rich was all they could think about. Most weren’t successful, and many didn’t make it there or back, but many went.

I don’t think this would be a trail I would want to be on in the winter, but it might be interesting in the summer months. There are many trails in the world that I would love to hike, but many of them I would probably only hike one time. I always find the history of the many trails that weren’t just for hiking originally, to be very interesting.

In the Black Hills of South Dakota, south-west of Rapid City lies a natural depression in the Earth. Apparently, the depression is a sinkhole that has 700 feet deep cliff walls all around, that prevent wind from reaching the bottom. The windless part of the site is what makes it perfect for balloon launches. The site was noticed by the National Geographic Society and the United States Army Air Corps, who set up what they called Stratocamp in 1934-1935. Stratocamp was a joint effort code named Explorer to launch two manned giant helium high-altitude balloons capable of stratospheric flight. The crash of the Soviet Osoaviakhim-1 after setting a world record flight of 72,178 feet (13.71 miles), the Explorer program set a new goal…to beat that record. The first Explorer balloon was launched on July 28, 1934. The balloon made it 11 miles up before it disintegrated. Thankfully the astronauts onboard had parachutes on, so they survived.

The second balloon was launched in November 11, 1935, and ascended 14 miles up, before landing near White Lake, South Dakota. They had done it. That second flight set a world record that would not be broken until astronauts started flying into space. Astronauts, Air Corps Captain Albert William Stevens, Captain Arson Anderson, and Major William E. Kepner became the first men to view the Earth’s curvature. This exploration helped the Air Force build better planes and helped scientists build satellites.

In the 1950s, Project Manhigh and Project Strato-Lab launches were made from a man-made crater of an iron mining pit near Crosby, Minnesota, and if weather allowed, from Fleming Field in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. The Stratobowl was used as a backup location, if launches could not be made at the Minnesota locations. As it turned out, the Stratobowl was needed for a number of launches. The first such launch was on November 8, 1956, when the Strato-Lab I gondola lifted Malcolm Ross and M L Lewis from the Stratobowl to a world altitude record for manned balloon flight of 76,000 feet. There were also three Stratobowl launches in 1958, and seven in 1959. The most publicized flight was that of Strato-Lab IV, piloted by Malcolm Ross and Charles B Moore, which lifted off from Stratobowl on November 28, 1959. The balloon reached an altitude of 81,000 feet, and landed safely in Kansas after 20 hours in the air. The purpose of the flight was to perform spectrographic analysis of the planet Venus with minimal interference from the Earth’s atmosphere.

These days, the Stratobowl is usually seen from a popular hiking trail that takes you up to the rim…which is how my husband, Bob and I first saw it. You can also drive down to the bottom, and there are festivals during which balloons are launched…to go to normal heights and to take tourists and owners for a normal ride. No records are set to be won, or experiments to be made. Still, looking at the Stratobowl from the top of the trail is very impressive, and while it is not a difficult or a long hike, we enjoyed it very much, and it is a short hike that I very much recommend. It was really interesting, and to think it is a sinkhole.

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