Monday, January 30, 2012

And the deer watched me pee

See, I knew that would make you want to read this! ;D  I had the best weekend! It was totally spontaneous; one of my sudden Mad Schemes. All of a sudden, the weather warmed, roads cleared, and I realized there was no school on Friday. Suddenly, going North to help my lovely sister and her wonderful husband move into their Own Home became a possibility worthy of consideration!

We gathered all necessary information and input, and made our plans. Friday morning, we decided it was a "go." In Star Trek terms, "4 of 4" (younger daughter) decided to stay home and rest, using the three day weekend to catch up on things that needed doing. But "3 of 4" (younger son) was on-board for my Scheme. My Scheme wasn't really Mad, more of a carefully calculated balance of risk/vs/reward, but to those who prefer long plans made in good weather, it all seemed very Sudden and a little bit Crazy. We quickly packed up, making sure we had plenty of food and water, and good amounts of cold weather gear, just in case. I was raised in a family that takes safety preparations seriously for winter travel. For our potential safety, and for the peace of mind of all who love us, we were well-prepared. I also made promises and assurances, to get an early start, to be extremely wise and careful, and I told everyone that if we encountered conditions that were truly dangerous, we would simply turn around and come home. Planned, prepared, packed, promised, and with a full tank of gas, we headed out.

It was a simply beautiful day for a drive! The sun was shining and the roads were clear for much of the way. My awesome traveling companion is compiling hours of driving experience toward getting his license, so this trip was a great opportunity for him. We had a plan for which part I would drive, and when he would take over. Of course, the part he drove turned out to have the only remotely hazardous road conditions of the whole trip! He got to deal with the packed/glazed icy snow, with a deer crossing the road in the midst of it, and he handled it calmly and smoothly, with a steady hand on the wheel. No abrupt braking; no swerving. I was very impressed! He handled it all perfectly.

I thoroughly enjoyed being a passenger for the drive. I don't think I've ever made that trip in January, so I got to see a whole new face of our standard route. Along one of my favorite parts, river ice had recently broken up. There were large slabs of ice jacked up on boulders, or jumbled in rugged heaps on gravel bars. Some parts of the river were still frozen over. It was impressive and beautiful.

I saw elk! Because I was a passenger, I got to scan the hills, looking for wildlife. Suddenly, as I glanced up one ridge, I saw elk! I'm still not sure exactly "who" they were, as it was a brief glimpse. It was either a currently antlerless bull, with a very young cow nearby, or (more likely) a mature cow with this year's calf. Either way, it was such a treat! Where we live now, elk sightings are rare. To spy any has become a special event.

On Saturday, after a good night's rest, we joined the work crew. There weren't many of us, but we all worked well together. The tall, strong son I brought along was of genuine and valued help. We worked for over eleven hours! We got all the big, heavy furniture moved, as well as many heavy boxes of books, and other various cherished posessions. There is still work to do, to make the move complete, but we pushed through the most daunting part.

It was also like a little miracle, getting to see and spend time with my family this time of year! Due to weather and road conditions, I don't usually get to see them from about October until March or April, or sometimes not till June. I got to work all day with my wonderful mom and her wonderful hubby, and my dear sister and her dear husband, and my dear Son. Friday and Saturday nights, we spent with my loving dad and kind stepmom. It was just wonderful, a surprising and joyful treat, to see all of them. 

My husband's one most serious request, in discussing the trip, was that I please please please make absolutely certain to get an early start on Sunday. I am given to late starts and long weary trips; to arriving safely but very late at night. For years, I have adopted a "Whatever it takes to get there" philosophy of travel. But I am very tired of driving at night. And he very much wants me safe. Also, Awesome Son "3 of 4" needed to be home at a good time, to be well rested for school the next day.

We left my hometown in good time Sunday morning. As we were driving through the awesome scenery on our way north, we had made a plan that Sunday would be our time to stop and take pictures. Through the long, scenic river valley, we stopped multiple times, to hike up and down the shoulder of the road, getting the best angle and light. It was beautiful! Sheets of ice over basalt bluffs, with hanging clusters and fangs of icicles. Little waterfalls rushing down between margins of glossy, distorted ice. Then we got to where the river was still wearing its blanket of ice, and looked for a good place to pull off.

Here is where the deer come in: This part of our trip, especially during winter when state parks are closed, is very bare of bathroom facilities. There is a long four-hour stretch between actual public bathrooms this time of year. Given the amount of iced tea I was drinking, to combat tiredness, and how we had prolonged the drive with our photography fun, I had reached the point of truly desperate bathroom need. Finally I just couldn't take it any longer. We found a good pullout to take pictures of the river ice, and my kind son stayed in the car while I found a secluded spot. Down the shoulder of the road, in a huddle of bushes, I found what I needed. As I conducted my important business, relieving my poor tortured bladder, I looked up to see a group of four or five deer just across the small river, staring at me in puzzled interest. It's a little unnerving to pee while being closely watched by a family of deer. But I was desperate and had no other options. :)

We got great pictures of the ice there, then drove on down the road, stopping at a couple more places with good angles, dramatic scenes and beautiful light. At one place, we decided to see if the ice were safe for walking-on. There, the river is broad and shallow, so there would be no surprisingly strong currents under the ice to thin it unexpectedly. Son the BoyScout carefully tested the stability and strength of the ice before we put a toe onto it, and continued to check every bit before we walked on it. It was thick and completely stable. We were able to walk clear out over the middle of the river, which was so much fun! I've never gotten to do that before. Out past the middle of the river, he was able to determine that the ice was almost a foot thick! We got some great pictures, and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

After that, we got down to business and drove on down the road. There was much beautiful and enticing scenery, but we decided our photo shoot must end and we'd just have to enjoy it as we drove by. Due to our explorations and photo-dawdling, and some hazardously windy conditions we encountered toward the end of our drive, the trip took three hours longer than usual! The last hundred miles was a very slow hundred miles, but it was necessary. Learning Driver "3 of 4" was driving at that point. First, we had mile upon mile of stout headwind to deal with, so he took it slowly. Then, as we began to wind our way around the lake shore, the wind kept switching from head-on, to a strong cross-wind, pushing us toward the lake, on the narrow, winding, shoulder-less road! He took that long stretch slowly and carefully. It could have been hair raising, but due to the careful wisdom he showed, it wasn't too stressful.

Usually, that long last stretch is an endless trial of befuddled deer and suicidal jackrabbits. As we were already driving after dark, with a young driver, and troublesome wind conditions, I prayed the animals would all stay home...and they did! In that whole long stretch of back country, we saw one fat mouse, which scurried off the road, and one loose cow, feeding placidly in the ditch. That was a tremendous relief!

It was a truly wonderful weekend! I thoroughly enjoyed the time with this dear son. We got to be of real and deeply appreciated help to our dear people. We got to spend time with them during a stretch of the year that is usually empty of visits. He got about seven more hours of driving added to his total. We had a lot of fun together, and got some really cool and beautiful photos.

We helped with the Move!
I saw elk!
And the deer watched me pee. ;)

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