The Crown of the Continent – Glacier NP

The Crown of the Continent – Glacier NP

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Forever. That’s how long I’ve wanted to visit Glacier National Park.

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When I, Mrs. Dirty, was in elementary school, I was a library assistant. Library assistants were allowed to leave class to help the librarian. (Normally, they chose the kids who finished their work early & disrupted the rest of the class.) Anyhow! I distinctly remember shelving a book about America’s National Parks. On the cover: Glacier National Park.

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When we started planning this road trip, Glacier was my first request. Please, please, please!!

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Sadly, we didn’t have a lot of time to explore. I could spend weeks exploring this park & I’d still be sad when it was time to leave. In fact, I’m totally down with moving to Montana. Just saying.

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We had a few hours (yes, that’s all – remember the main objective of this trip is to visit family in Washington; everything else is gravy) to spend in Glacier, so we spent it on “Going to the Sun” Road. The road has only been cleared a few weeks, and it’s only open to Logan’s Pass. That’s just over 30 miles of heavenly beauty.

Seriously. God was showing off when he made this place.

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I can’t even begin to describe how in awe I was of this majestic place. Way back in 1908, George Bird Grinnell (co-founder of the Audubon Society) named the area the “Crown of the Continent”. I agree.

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All I can say is, “I’ll be back.”

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Badlands National Park

We hadn’t planned to visit Badlands NP, but the Dirty Boy successfully talked Mr. Dirty into dropping into the park from I90 to drive the Badlands Loop Road. (He doesn’t ALWAYS get what he wants, but this IS an adventure!)

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We completely unaware that you could hike into the canyons & climb around out there… at least until a park ranger suggested we get some dirt in our shoes. We definitely need to carve out a block of time to go back out & get lost.

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On a side note, we saw a young family (no picture, sadly) who were climbing around the Door area of the park. The daughter, about 6 years old – a total spitfire, told Mrs. Dirty that her brothers didn’t think she could climb down to a cave in the bottom of the canyon. She smiled a very familiar smile and said, “Watch me do it!”

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I’m happy to report that she made it to the cave – all on her own. She was so cool!!

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Thanks, Dirty Boy, for being so persuasive!!

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See America the Beautiful!!

Road tripping is a beautiful thing. You see parts of the country that you wouldn’t see from the air. You learn so much almost useless – but highly entertaining – information along the way. Just this morning, I learned that Laura Ingalls Wilder lived in South Dakota when she met Almonzo (it’s been years since I read the books).

One of the draws to a USA road trip is visiting some of the uniquely different national parks…and we plan to visit as many as possible along the way (I think we have five planned!).

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This morning we stopped at Badlands National Park (more to come on THAT story, just know: it was AMAZING). Guess what: IT WAS FREE!

Look, we haven’t talked much about it before, but one of the best skills the Dirty Nana passed down to her daughters was getting a deal. We got a deal! All of our national park visits will be free this year!

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It’s a military perk! All of you active duty soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and coasties – it’s free!!

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Find your park!

Keeping It Kool on the Keewaydin Express

Last summer, the Dirty Diva relocated to South Florida, where she started carving a life of her own on Marco Island. It’s been a little overwhelming for Mrs. Dirty to have her so far away – mainly because she’s out numbered at home.

We’ve made several trips to Marco Island over the last year. Who wouldn’t?

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Over our Spring Break, the Dirty Boy & I headed down to see our girl and get some Vitamin Sea. There’s nothing like the ocean to cure what ails you. Nothing.

Marco Island is the largest of the barrier islands within Southwest Florida’s “Ten Thousand Islands”. Can you imagine – ten thousand islands? Ten thousand islands scream, “Where’s your boat, woman?!”

Unfortunately, we were boat-less. No, we didn’t even bring our kayaks! Who comes to a place like this without a kayak, at the least?!

Enter the Keewaydin Express.

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The Keewaydin Express, named for the uninhabited barrier island that is their primary destination, is a water taxi service that shuttles visitors to the island for much needed relaxation.

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Captain Jordan, our guide & owner of the Keewaydin Express, was extremely knowledgeable about the flora & fauna of the area. He provides beach chairs & umbrellas, if you forget yours (of course we did!). Best of all? He was very patient with the barrage of questions coming the Dirty Family.

If you are planning a trip to Marco and you don’t have a boat (or you just don’t want to fool around driving a boat in unfamiliar waters), I highly recommend you give Captain Jordan & the Keewaydin Express a call.

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They have a discounted summer fare available now!

While you’re there, tell him I said thanks for everything!

Disclaimer: I stole most of the pics from the Keewaydin Express Facebook page. You can find it here.

Mr. Valentino

I know it’s been awhile since Valentine’s Day, but life was a little too busy back then to tell you this story. It’s an important story – one that needs to be told. Today.

We didn’t have plans for Valentine’s Day this year – mainly because we needed the weekend to catch our breath; however, we wound up having one of the most memorable weekends EVER.

The Dirty Boy was going with the church youth group to Winter Place Ski Resort in West Virginia for the weekend. We were stoked to have a kid-free weekend (nap time!). You know what they say about hearing God laugh?! Dirty Boy had a late soccer game (did you know those get over at 10pm?!), and the ski trip bus left earlier that day. Guess who got an impromptu road trip to WV? The Dirty Duo!

Around midnight, we loaded George with the Dirty Boy & his friend, Ms. Not-so-Dirty. Everything was lovely until we neared the West Virgijia border. Just as we passed the Welcome Center, things got really interesting… George died. Literally.

In the middle of the Jefferson National Forest & among the Appalachian Mountains, George died. Right there in the side of the highway in 19 degree temps at 4 am, George died.

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Thanks to USAA roadside assistance & a fearless tow truck driver, we made it to Bill Cole Subaru in Bluefield, where we waited for 1) a fabulous youth leader who came to pick up the kids, 2) the light of day to diagnose George’s ailment (spoiler alert: he was dead).

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We piled on ALL of the clothes from our suitcase & used the heated seats to keep warm while waiting for Bill Cole (the dealership, not the person – assuming there IS a person) to come to our rescue. Looking like homeless people, we walked to a nearby gas station for a healthy breakfast of coffee & powdered donuts. Breakfast of champions, my friends.

With tears in his eyes, the mechanic delivered the bad news: busted crankshaft. Since we needed a car to get back home, we bought a new Subaru: Mr. Valentino, a Venetian Red Crosstrek XV.

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As we were finishing the paperwork to make Valentino a part of our family, it started to snow. And snow. And snow some more. By the time we left the dealership, it was a full-fledge blizzard (at least in my Florida-girl mind).

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Since it WAS Valentine’s Day, we decided to grab some dinner. Yeah. Nothing was open except the truck stop by our hotel. Our dinner? Pringles, bottled water, and gourmet truck stop fudge. Yum.

To top off our adventure, we were asleep for about an hour when the fire alarm went off in our hotel. Mrs. Dirty’s shower-wet hair froze solid before we know it was a false alarm (thanks, hotel DJ).

With the Dirty Duo, life is an adventure. Every day, especially Valentine’s Day.

Burning Up the Highway

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This is my current view on the world. As I write this, the Dirty Boy is piloting the Great Valentino (RIP George, that story is coming soon) down the interstate as we embark on our summer adventure: road tripping to the Pacific Northwest to visit the Dirty Grands – the Ma & Pa variety.

Our main objective is to visit with the Dirty Fam; however, every day is an adventure!

A few sights we plan to see on our road trip:

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Want to go? It will be an adventure!!

Rest Stop

To anyone out there who still reads our blog: We’re back!!! I’m sorry for our absence. It was a hectic year! I’ve never been more grateful to see summer vacation!!

The very first day of summer break, I had the most interesting dream:

I woke from the best sleep ever. I was sleeping in my Grand Trunk Ultralight hammock – one end was tied to my car and the other to a large oak tree. Above me, the clearest blue sky was peaking through a green canopy of leaves. On the other side of the oak tree, a steady flow of traffic cruised the interstate. A roadside sign read, “Next Rest Stop 100 miles.”

Thank you, Lord, for summer break – the Rest Stop on the highway of life!!

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Dirty, Stinking Tree High-Fiver

I’ve never considered myself to be a tree hugger. A tree climber? Yes. A tree hugger? Nope. It’s funny how the older you get (I’m getting comfortable with the old-er label), the more you value life. So  I’ve become something of a tree high-fiver… They are friends who I couldn’t imagine living without, you know, since we really couldn’t. The best part (other than the oxygen) is that they never tell me when I stink!

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My simple story goes something like this:

Wow. That’s a beautiful mountain. It really stinks that people are dumping their trash out there.

Wow. That’s an amazing beach. It really stinks that people are destroying it with their four wheelers/condos/beer bottles.

Wow. Those sea turtles are beautiful creatures. It’s a shame that people are killing them by being careless.

I’ve learned that when we truly love something, we would do anything to protect it. It’s how parents – most, anyhow – feel about their children. It’s why I eat my key lime pie extra slow – I want it to last as long as possible. It’s the same reason we have fan clubs, PTA, health insurance, and charities. We want to preserve what we love so that we can continue to enjoy it & share it with others.

Call me a crazy tree hugger all you want, but I’d rather see a sea turtle looking like this:

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Than like this:

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Just in case you’re wondering, that’s the string from a balloon hanging out of the mouth of a Kemp Ridley. What goes up must come down. Balloons that come down over the ocean look like jelly fish to sea turtles. Turtles love jelly fish. Remember that when you are having a planned balloon release (it kills me that people still do this).

See. That’s the kicker. Did you KNOW that balloons kill sea turtles? I don’t know too many people who do. I didn’t, not until I visited the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, Florida.
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I don’t know too many people who, when faced with the knowledge that their actions are endangering an entire species, would continue to plow on. But most people don’t know. I believe most people care & would be willing to change. I believe that we have to do what we can to protect this blue marble for future generations. I believe that children are the future – teach them well and let them lead the way. Ahem. Sorry, I got carried away.

Education is key to preserving our environment – the mountains, beaches, lakes, creeks, all of it – and the plants and animals that live there. So, I signed us (me & the mister) up for a Leave No Trace trainer course.

To be honest, I don’t think Mr. Dirty had any idea what I signed him up for, but like a good man, he did what his wife said to do 😉 If you are like Mr. Dirty and have no idea what LNT is, let me explain. Leave No Trace (LNT) is an outdoor ethic meant to preserve our wild spaces & wildlife. There are 7 principles:

– plan & prepare
– travel & camp on durable surfaces
– dispose of waste properly
– leave what you find
– minimize campfire impacts
– respect wildlife
– be considerate of other visitors

Simple, right? It’s so easy to protect what we love, but we have to be educated on how to do it. It’s the same reason the Dirty Duo took infant CPR before bringing home the Dirty Boy who had respiratory issues as a baby(He’ll kill me for this, but he ate poop! Not real poop, that meconium prepoop babies do in utero. Anyhow, it jacked him up – what do you expect from POOP?). We have to learn how to help.

Our class was held in Shenandoah National Park. We were blessed to be a part of a phenomenal group of outdoor enthusiasts; all of us learning at the feet of the BEST LNT master educators in the country. I was in awe of the knowledge & experience these two shared with us.

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Our instructors – Hal Hallett & Alex Lampros

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LNT Trainers Course, 2014, Shenandoah NP

Fear Not! I will share more on the LNT principles… one principle at a time (it’s less overwhelming that way & way more fun!).

– Mrs. Dirty: a dirty, stinking tree high-fiver

Athletically Challenged?

I’ve never been one to play organized sports. When I was in the third grade, I played softball… sort of. By “played softball”, I mean I hung out in the outfield with my glove on my head and dandelions in my hands. When it was my turn to bat, I rarely actually hit the ball. In my defense, it wasn’t long after my foray into organized sports that I got my first pair of glasses. It’s hard to hit a ball – even one as large as a softball – when you can’t see it!
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Little Me

Because of my lack of success, I never truly considered myself athletic. I highly doubt anyone else did, either. I was gangly & awkward. I was never picked first in PE class, but I don’t think I was picked last. Maybe second to last? As a matter of fact, I know that I failed PE in high school at least once. I hated “dressing out” since there was this one girl (who shall remain nameless… for now) who always made fun of my legs. They were bony little bowed legs, and she teased me mercilessly from about the fourth grade until graduation. She made me hate PE.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that I am not necessarily athletically challenged!! I’m pretty decent in rock climbing gym & dying to transition those skills to the outdoors, improving significantly at mountain biking (not quite ready for anything too extreme but better than someone who doesn’t try), I run when I want to, and I rock at backpacking.

Somewhere around Tray Mountain, I realized that backpacking counts. It’s not a traditional sport because it’s not competing (unless you are trying to break a record or something… which I’m not). It’s really only walking, but it’s slightly more challenging when you add the altitude gains and pack weight.
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Mrs. Dirty being “athletic”

I spent almost 40 years believing I was athletically challenged. At 41, I learned an important lesson. A lesson that I hope to teach to as many kids as I can. Today, I will start spreading the word: labels suck.

You know you’ve heard it – or maybe even said it, “She’s the ______ one.” We add the labels to kids. The pretty one, the smart one, the athletic one, the mature one, the funny one. Guess what? You can be ALL of them at once! You can be pretty, smart, athletic, mature, and funny. Don’t settle for less. Don’t let your kids settle for less.

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I was blessed to hike with this smart, athletic group.

– Mrs. Dirty, a formerly athletically challenged kid.

Magic Beans

Jack, of Beanstalk fame, was sent to bed without supper by his furious mother when he brought home magic beans. According to the story, the beans grew into a beanstalk – a virtual staircase to “a land high in the sky”. Jack would climb the beanstalk and be rewarded with riches: a bag of coins, a goose that laid golden eggs, and a golden harp that played all by itself.

Remember this story? Good. Now, we can discuss the real magic beans!

One day, the Dirty Boy brought home magic beans. Don’t roll you eyes at me! He really did!! He was given magic beans by his cross country coach before a big match. They really do exist!

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Yeah, yeah. The good folks at Jelly Belly call these Sports Beans, but they don’t know. They actually call these jelly beans when we all know they should be called crack beans:
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I swear. They put a little crack in each bean. That’s why you (I’m assuming you are an addict like I am) can’t just eat one!

In that same way, they put a little bit of magic in each of those Sports Beans. No, I’m not joking. I couldn’t be more serious.

Imagine, if you will:

When the sun came peeking through the canopy, you packed all of your gear and hit the trail. It was a beautiful morning of easy hiking so you were able to breeze through three or four miles with only a protein bar for breakfast.
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At the bottom of the trail, you come to a clearing (called a Gap) where you can refill your water and have a little break. Life is good.

Break’s over.

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Yup, the rest of the day is ALL UP HILL. You decide the break can last a little bit longer. Long enough to eat a tortilla with peanut butter (a hiker staple) for lunch. Then, you are off.

Dang. Who put a stinking mountain on this mountain?! Ten steps. Break. Five steps. Break. What in the world were you thinking when you thought you could do this?!

It’s time for… Magic Beans. You pop a few and – whether it’s all in your head or not, and let’s face it, it’s ALL in your head – you have enough energy to conquer another mile or two.

Seriously. It really works that way. Just like Jack. You are transported to a land high in the sky where you are rewarded with a cool breeze and a beautiful mountain view.

According to the packaging, these Magic Beans are “scientifically formulated to maximize sports performance.” What good stuff did the wizards in the Jelly Belly labs put in these itty bitty beans? Carbohydrates for fuel, electrolytes for fluid balance, vitamins B1, B2 & B3 to help burn carbs and fat, and vitamin c to protect muscles and cells against oxidative damage. By the way, all that smart sounding stuff comes from the package 😉

Those geniuses did some clinical trials that they say prove these improve performance. I did some trail trials that prove they are magic.

Get them. Try them. Love them. You will thank me.

(For the record: I was NOT compensated for this by Jelly Belly. I bought these magic beans with my own non-milk producing cow from a man at Academy Sports.)