Mystery Walk Challenge

It had been in the mid-90’s for days, and this week’s upcoming forecast was going to be more of the same–hot! It’s been really hard to get a walk in the extreme heat, so I came up with a challenge for the week, which I proposed to Debbie on Sunday. I suggested that we take turns Monday-Friday, planning and surprising the other with different walking locations. The rules–shade after 5:00 p.m., and we needed to walk a minimum of 2 miles (which would also fulfill my ongoing Camino Coronavirus Walking Challenge). She accepted and we had a great week!

Monday–Debbie opted to go first and we headed to the Hagerstown City Park, which is located in Hagerstown, M.D. We’d both been there before, but it had been a long time since our last visit. It was still hot, but there was a cool breeze and we were in the shade for the majority of the time. The park is home to many types of water foul, including swans and several varieties of ducks and geese.

Are we in London?
Hurry up and take the picture–there’s no shade!

Tuesday–I picked Spruce Pine Hollow Trail for my ‘shade walk.’ Debbie had never been here before, which surprised me, because it’s so close to where we live. It was shady which kept the sun from beating down on our heads, but it was hot & HUMID! The best part of this hike was that it was a NOHOT, which in my lingo means: No Humans on Trail! As you can probably tell by the exclamation marks, this is my favorite kind of hiking!

Wednesday–It was Debbie’s turn again and she took us to the Yankauer Nature Preserve. The back end of the Preserve is situated high on the banks of the Potomac River, offering a nice overlook. Again, we enjoyed another shady location, and we scored another NOHOT!

Thursday–It was my turn again, but we had previously made plans for the day, including a road trip to Debbie’s favorite liquor store in PA (Yes, it’s true, she has a fav! LOL!), and lunch with my sister, Missy. On the way home, we stopped in Williamsport, M.D., so we could meet the requirements of the week—walking in shade!

They had a nice French selection! LOL!
Plenty of shade…

Friday–Debbie opted to stay local for today’s walk and she took me to Poor House Farm. We’ve been here many, many times over the years, but today offered a surprise…the hilltop trail was lined with wine berries, which are an edible invasive related to raspberries. We filled up two water bottles with berries as we walked.


Saturday–Not much of a surprise, but I was really excited about the wine berries, so we went back to get more, and this time we came armed with buckets! We walked and picked for almost two hours…yes, we were in the shade!

Enjoying the Simple Things…

The Coronavirus has hit everyone hard in different ways. For me, it stopped me in my tracks regarding travel. I had eleven weeks of international travel planned for 2020, all of which had to be cancelled. My job has radically changed as well, switching from traveling all over the United States conducting face-to-face trainings, to virtual trainings. In the beginning I felt stuck…not just stuck at home, per se, but stuck because I couldn’t really adventure anymore…or so I thought!

Very early on, I set up my “Camino CornaVirus Walking Challenge,” and that helped out A LOT! It got me out of the house every day, and it kept me active. As my life has changed over the last several months, I’ve tried especially hard to pay strong attention to the little silver linings or blessings that we sometime seem to miss in the hustle and bustle of our regular lives…

Since I’m home this summer instead of traveling for work & pleasure, I’ve been able to plant and take care of a tomato plant, and a little herb garden. I’m not joking, this is such a thrill for me!
I’ve enjoyed relaxing in my yard—I’ve gotten a lot of reading in this summer!
I’ve enjoyed hanging out in Debbie’s back yard and spending time with her…
I found and collected wineberries…
And of course I’ve enjoyed walking….lots and lots of it!

Does everything seem different, and does life feel uncertain at times…yes, but I’ve learned that I can still adventure and enjoy the summer, even though it’s much closer to home!

My Dad’s Favorite Rock Group–Mount Rushmore

I was scheduled to work in Wyoming for two weeks, so it really didn’t make much sense to fly home between the trainings. Instead, I decided to take a road trip to South Dakota. I actually wanted to see two things while I was there–bison and my dad’s favorite rock group, Mount Rushmore, which has been near the tippy-top of my Bucket List for a long time!

I checked and re-checked the weather forecast, because the drive was in an isolated area, and I didn’t want to add bad weather to the mix. On Saturday morning, multiple sources said, “No snow,” so I set off early, insuring that I had many hours of daylight in front of me. The landscape of southeast Wyoming is flat, flat, flat with a backdrop of hills and mountains in the distance. And trees? What trees? The ground had a bit of snow cover from the last storm, and for the most part, the roads were clear, but remnants of snow and ice came and went in patches as I drove past.

I was so fascinated by the landscape, that I pulled over several times to take pictures. At one point, I just stopped in the middle of the road to take a ‘road shot,’ because I couldn’t see a car in either direction!
South Dakota–another new state to add to my list!
This scene was so surreal that I stopped the car to check it out. Everything was frost-covered and the low lying fog and burned trees created a mystical looking environment.

I barely saw any cars as I was driving through Wyoming and into South Dakota. I finally entered the “tree zone” area of the Black Hills, which is where Custer State Park is located. While I was in park, I didn’t see another single vehicle (or person) for the entire time that I was there. It was magical and eerie, all at the same time! I was told that my best chances of seeing bison was at this park, so I kept looking and looking!

At one point, I came round a curve and I saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I pulled the car over and looked out to see hundreds of prairie dogs popping in and out of their holes. I opened the window and listened to their elaborate communication system–where each would squeak and chirp, disappear underground for a few seconds, then reappear to seemingly start the process again. They looked like the ‘whack-a-mole’ game that many of us have played when the carnival rolled into town for the weekend when we were kids—pop up, squeak, pop down, pop up, squeak! The only thing missing was the whack, whack, whack! I could have watched and listened to them all day!

It was hard to capture them with my cellphone camera, but you can see three prairie dogs in this picture, and you can faintly see many of the mounds in the distance. Look carefully!
This was the only bison that I saw while I was in the park! Bummer!

One lane tunnel–Mount Rushmore can be seen on the other side!
I never knew that you could view the sculptures from outside of the park–you can! Amazing!

They say timing is everything…about 45 minutes after arriving at Mount Rushmore a huge fog bank rolled in. Check out the difference in the pictures! As I was leaving, I stopped at the visitor center and I was told that the fog was expected to stay put for the rest of the day–I was SO lucky! I felt bad to see the visitors walking in and overhearing them ask, “Where is it?”

The restaurant lined with tall glass windows, overlooks the famous rock face, and as I enjoyed the scenery I enjoyed a bowl of bison stew.

When I asked the rangers at Mount Rushmore about seeing bison in Custer State park, they agreed that was the best place to see them. I told them that I didn’t see any and the ranger guessed that the animals were probably huddling up to keep warm, and to protect themselves from the approaching snow. SNOW?

“It’s supposed to snow?” I asked, trying to hid the surprise in my voice. “The weather report said that we weren’t expecting snow.”

He smiled, and replied, “It’s going to snow….soon.”

I saw three deer on the side of the road as soon as I left the park. It was already snowing and the fog was rolling in quickly.

It was snowing by the time I pulled out of the parking garage of the park….so much for no snow! I left Mount Rushmore at a few minutes before 3:00 p.m. and I was heading for Deadwood, which is located about an hour and twenty minutes north of the park.

To sum it up–the drive was beautiful, Mount Rushmore was amazing, but no bison sightings—‘two out of three ain’t bad!’ Now I have to worry about the snow…

Chile: Paso de Jama–Going Up!

Day 6/Part 2–

This was the day that Pierre had been waiting for…driving through the Andes Mountains and crossing from Chile into Argentina using the Paso de Jama crossing point at the border between the two countries. The highest elevation along the route is a whooping 15,780 ft. The elevation at the border is 13,800ft. I was excited too, because of the adventure aspect, but mostly because I saw how happy and excited Pierre was. He was determined to get his passport stamped in Argentina!

A gate is closed and locked every day at the bottom of the mountain, and during the summer months, it opens at 8:00 a.m. and it closes at 6:00 p.m. If you don’t make it to the gate before it closes, you have to park on the side of the road, and either wait or camp there until morning.

Last night, we parked in the desert between San Pedro de Atacama and the closed gate. We could see that trucks were lined up through the night waiting for the gate to open in the morning. We decided at that point to let the truck traffic thin out a bit in the morning before we set out. Our goal was to get up to the pass, enter Argentina, get our passports stamped, and get back down the mountain before the gate closed. We weren’t keen on the idea of heading up a mountain surrounded by a convoy of big rigs.

When we crossed through the gate in the morning, there wasn’t a truck in site, so we liked the way our plan was shaping up. In fact, there was hardly any traffic at all. The road was paved and in excellent condition. Before we knew it, we could sense that we were quickly gaining elevation, and the view surrounding us was breathtaking.

A few days earlier, we had seen a volcano in the distance that we figured out was Lincancabur, a 19,409 ft tall volcano that straddled the border between Bolivia and Chile. Pierre was fascinated by it, so I started describing it as “his mountain,” or calling it, “Pierre’s Mountain.”

As we climbed, we could see Lincancabur rising majestically off to our left. Even though we were climbing fast, we were dwarfed by it. I felt my ears pop and I asked Pierre if his ears had popped as well. He said they had, and then we had a quick talk about altitude sickness. Apparently, it can strike hard and fast, and it’s not really clear why some people are more affected by it than others.

A short time later, Pierre said that he was getting a dull headache. I reminded him that we would have to pull over and turn around if he started to feel lightheaded, or if he developed any other symptoms. Other than my ears popping, I was feeling fine. A few times as we continued to drive, Pierre commented on his headache. I asked if he felt dizzy or sick, and he said that he was feeling okay…just a slight headache.

At think at this point, I think pictures will speak louder than words. This is what the scenery looked like as we climbed higher and higher into the Andes Mountains…

We saw so many alpacas and llamas, and I’ve kept a running tally since seeing the first one!

We’re getting close!
Finally at the Top! The actual border station was about 2 more miles down the road.

We made it to and past the 15,780 ft. mark! WOW! What an amazing adventure this is!

Chile: Llamas and Alpacas, and Goats…Oh My!

Chile: Day 5/Part 4–
We were driving back from seeing the flamingos, and were almost back to town when I yelled, “Stop! Stop! Pull over!” Pierre is used to me yelling things out like that, so with cat-like reflexes, he pulled the camper over to the side of the road in a flash. I was so glad that he had listened, because I really wanted him to see the animal menagerie that was walking by! A man on horseback was leading llamas, alpacas, goats, and sheep. Several dogs ran around the animals keeping them all in place and moving forward—it was quite a scene!

P.S. Pierre—do you remember the sunflower field in France? LOL! ?

Llamas and alpacas, and goats…oh my!

Chile: Pink was the Color of the Day!

Chile: Day 5/Part 2–

After getting ready for the day, we headed back down the road toward Laguna de Chaxa: Reserva Nacional “Los Flamencos’–we wanted to see some flamingos!

We weren’t sure if the park was going to be open to private vehicles, because last night we had learned that the 10 km. long dirt road leading to the lake was under construction. When we got to the turn, we saw that the road was clogged with construction vehicles. We pulled to the side of the road unsure of what to do. I was SURE that I had understood that the park would be open during the day, but keep in mind that the man last night was speaking in Spanish, and I don’t speak or understand Spanish. Okay, I know a small handful of words, but that’s about it.

We had just decided to turn around, when a van pulled up next to us and beeped. The driver rolled down the passenger window, and was trying to tell us something. I was too far away to hear or understand, so I got out of the camper and approached his van.

He smiled while pointing to the turn, “Laguna?”

“Sí, Laguna,” I replied. I told you my Spanish was limited!

He spoke for what felt like a minute, but it was probably more like ten seconds. I heard a definite, “Sí,” as he motioned down the road. “Sí…flemencos.”

I took a shot, “It’s okay to drive down the road to see the flamingos?”

He answered in another long string of Spanish words, but once again I heard, “Sí.”

I thanked him and got back into the car. I turned to Pierre and said something like, “It’s okay for us to drive down the road. The park is open and we can see the flamingos.”

Pierre gave me a look that said—Yeah, right

Visibility was low because every vehicle was kicking up a lot of sand and dirt. We already knew from last night, that the road was going to be narrow and tight, but it was even worse during the day because of the construction vehicles moving about.

Oh yeah, this is fun!

It was slow going, but we finally got past the construction as we entered the Nature Reserve. We saw a visitor center in the foreground, two lakes surrounded by salt flats, and the whole scene was framed by snow-covered mountains in the distance. Three types of flamingos makes their home on the lakes here–Chilean, Andean, & James. The area was beautiful. It almost had a mystical feel to it, except for the presence of the tourists who were dotted along the walking trail in the distance.

We barely squeezed past the construction vehicles–how in the world did this bus do it? Tune in to Unsolved Mysteries of the Atacama Desert at 7:00 p.m. tognight!

After paying a very small entrance fee, Pierre and I walked down a trail that was carved through the salt flats. It lead out to a viewing area by the lake. Pink was certainly the color of the day–we saw lots of flamingos!

Requesting Permission to Land!!
Salt! This was our 2nd salt flat in a year–the 1st was Death Valley in January!
Mirror Image
Flamingo Food!

Cape Cod Sea Turtles—

Ohhhh…so sad!

The temperature on the Cape plummeted after we left, dropping into the single digits. Fortunately, eighty-two sea turtles were rescued on Wednesday, but 87 died on Thanksgiving Day.

Think of the volunteer effort in took to rescue so many animals in such a short period of time!