Canadian Rockies

Oh, Canada!

4,500 miles driven, 15 days, 7 National Parks. Whew!

We did so much during our 2-week trip to the Canadian Rockies that I know I will begin to forget details like the places we saw and our timeline, so I wanted to make sure to chronicle it here while it’s still fresh in my mind.

We tried to take this trip 5 years ago but our plans changed drastically. Two days before leaving, I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that sidelined us for a long time. We cancelled the trip and thankfully got most of our money back from all the reservations we had made. I still thank God for the timing, for not allowing that tragedy to happen while we were deep in the wilderness. So. This was a re-do trip. Except this go-round we had more time and a little more money, which is always a win!

We started in Glacier National Park in Montana. Montana has been hit hard by forest fires this year and we were so sad to see just how much of the park had been devastated by fire, not only this one but from years past. We saw thousands of acres that had been scorched by fire. Some areas burned in 1967 and some burned just a few years back. The haze and smoke was so thick that it was pretty difficult to see the mountains on our first day there.

Lake McDonald with lots of smoky haze

 

On our 2nd day in Glacier, we hiked the famous Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet, which is a cool stone backcountry lodge where you can stay if you make reservations like 18 month in advance. We got an early start because this is the most popular trail in the park and we really wanted to avoid crowds. We spent almost the entire time hiking in the fog and clouds which was so cool!

 

After another day in Glacier, we headed on towards Waterton National Park in Canada. What a remarkable place! We stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel, which sits perched atop a hill looking over the Park and town of Waterton. We really only had enough time in Waterton to eat dinner, stroll through town, get a good night’s sleep and drive around in the morning. Of all the places we visited, this is the one where I wish we had more time to explore and appreciate.After Waterton we made a quick stop at a Canadian healthcare clinic because David got the Shingles. We were super impressed with how fast, easy and cheap the whole process way! After a stop at the pharmacy, we headed towards Banff. To be totally honest, I didn’t love the actual town of Banff. It was overly crowded, commercialized and it had a vibe like it was just catering to the rich tourists that were in town. Meh. Not a huge fan of all that. I did love the mountains surrounding Banff however – beautiful! We stayed in Banff long enough to talk with the Rangers about out backcountry trip, buy a topo map and set up camp while we prepped for our multi-day backpacking trip into the Assiniboine Provincial Park the next day.

This backpacking trip almost didn’t happen. Wildfires had forced the closure of Assiniboine and nearby areas for almost a month and we didn’t think that it wouldn’t open up in time for us. As luck would have it, it opened the day before we had planned to hike in. We did 10 miles on our first day and camped out at Marvel Lake. Bear activity was high and we saw…umm, evidence, of bears everywhere but we never actually encountered one thankfully.

 

Our goal on the second day was Lake Magog  which sits at the base of Mount Assiniboine (also known as the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies) and it has a campground that we were originally planning to stay at. But upon arrival we learned that the campground was actually not scenic at all. 20 miles in to this beautiful area and the camp sites were all tucked away in dense pine forests with no views at all. I was sooo frustrated!

Thankfully, the Assiniboine Lodge is also at the base of Mount Assiniboine. This is a luxury lodge and the only way to it is to either hike in or take a helicopter and they usually book out 12-18 months in advance. Rooms go for $650/night, cabins are $800/night and then they have cute little backcountry huts as well. We hit another streak of luck, the Lodge had so many cancellations due to the fire evacuations that they had several backcountry huts available for $20/night. Yes please! We took them up on that offer without hesitation.

Photo Aug 18, 8 01 31 PM (1)
Lake Magog at the base of Mnt. Assiniboine

We spent several days hiking around the Assiniboine wilderness, reading on lakeshores and sleeping soundly in our little primitive backcountry hut.

Next came the highlight of our backpacking trip….the helicopter ride! We decided long ago that if we were going to hike 20 miles in to this place, we were going to enjoy a wonderful ride out and get an aerial view of the terrain we hiked. It was AMAZING!!! I loved not having to carry all our gear back out after hiking a combined 40 miles in the area, we were ready for someone else to do the work in getting us out haha!

We stayed the night in Canmore with enough time to do a load of laundry and grab a burger and beer before heading north. Our next stop was Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and the Icefields Parkway on our way up to Jasper.

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Lake Louise
Photo Aug 21, 11 40 44 AM
What some of these amazing places are actually like….bleh. so. crowded.

Jasper was the place we stayed the longest and it was probably my favorite. It’s absolutely huge and the opportunities to see and do amazing things are endless. It was also much less crowded, it seemed like most people just didn’t want to venture up that far north. We did so much in Jasper! Boat cruises, mountain biking, hiking, fishing. It was awesome! I was really sad to leave this amazing place because I knew that it meant our trip was coming to a close.

We headed back south and made our way over to YOHO National Park, Glacier National Park of Canada and Revelstoke National Park. These 3 parks are on the smaller side but they were all beautiful and I’m glad we had a chance to explore them! Glacier was the only one that felt relatively inaccessible. In order to see a lot of Glacier, you had to embark on a 10-12 mile hike which we just didn’t have the time for.

My overall impression is that the Canadian Rockies are incredible! We saw so many jaw-dropping sights, I lost count. The mountains are rugged, jagged and steep. The glaciers are thick, the water is silty blue and the people are kind.

I could have done without so many tourists at a few of the places we went to, but that’s what you get when you only hit the National Parks. I frequently got overwhelmed by the crowds and had to leave certain sites.

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On The Road

The first half of 2016 was not terribly kind to us. David got seriously sick with 2 pulmonary embolisms in his lungs and almost died, I was still trying to fully recover from brain surgery, we lost a house we were trying to buy, a crazy lady surfaced at David’s work and took him to mediation (if you know my husband at all, you know how craaazy that sounds. He is maybe the kindest, quietest and most caring person in the world), we became basement dwellers in my in-law’s house as we waded through the hopeless housing market, I felt depression begin to resurface after a 10 year hiatus. Everything was looking pretty dismal.

We’ve had some crazy nights during these last few months. Nights where we bought cold beer and drove out of town to sit under the stars and have conversations I never thought we’d have. Nights where the tears wouldn’t stop. Nights where I worried about David. Nights where he worried about me. We took walks in the dark of night. We clung to each other for dear life before falling asleep. 7 years of trials had finally caught up with us.

We had many nights where we tossed out crazy ideas and discussed “what ifs.” Like, what if we just got the hell outta here? What if we just left? Like, leave it all behind. What if we took the equity from our house, bought an RV and just left town. Didn’t tell anyone. Just left. We could kiss our attempts to live a “normal” life with the rest of society goodbye and just do our own thing.

We were ridiculously close to doing it. Still are at times, if I’m being honest.

Ultimately, God intervened with a house. We bought a precious little bungalow and decided maybe we’d stay in town a little while after-all. If it weren’t for that house, we’d be long gone by now.

When we were on our trip to Utah, we encountered many people living the life that we almost lived. We’d pass a VW van barreling down the highway with the windows rolled down and sun-tanned faces smiling in the wind. We’d walk by a camper that was stocked with food from the latest grocery store, 80 miles away. We’d smile at a single woman and her dog as they walked back “home” which was a campervan with a doormat laying on the wet pavement. We’d catch a glimpse of a solar panel powering someone’s laptop in their RV as they answered emails and got a little business done.

It made me realize that there is a whole other world out there. A community of people who are perpetually on the road (and I’m not talking about retirees who are strategically vacationing in their motorhomes). These wanderers are not homeless. They are very much at home. Home is the road. They work from their RVs and Airstreams. They make a steady income. They live simply, in no more than 400 sq. feet of space. They see new things and meet new people with each week that goes by.

For whatever reason, these folks feel that life on the road is better than life at home, wherever home may have been at one time. Some of them are surely running away from their problems, like David and I would have been. But some of them seem utterly content to maintain a nomadic lifestyle, they aren’t running from anything or to anything. They simply enjoy life in the moment, wherever that may be. Call it perpetual wanderlust.

Instagram is a fascinating way to look at the lives of this wandering sub-community. Hashtags like #vanlife #airstreamdreams #sheroams #homeiswhereyouparkit bring up images of hundreds of people who are living in this countercultural way. They’ve given up their mortgages and desks for camp stoves and folding chairs.

Honestly, there is an entire community of landscape photographers that do this full-time. One of my photographic inspirations, Sarah Marino, lives in her Airstream with her husband and travels throughout the US taking photos to sustain her business. Photography is a beautiful way to sustain this way of life.

Since being home, our conversations about buying a camper, RV, Airstream or some other type of mobile housing have continued. We talk about early retirement, living on the road full-time vs. part-time. We talk about the benefits of having a “home base” here in Colorado. We talk about passive and active revenue streams. We are not talking in what-ifs anymore. What-ifs have morphed into strategic vision and meaningful plans for creating a different kind of life. It stopped being about running away. It started being about cultivating a life that we both feel drawn to, and have been for many years.

I read a book for class the other week called Searching For Home: Spirituality for Restless Souls by Craig Barnes (great book if you’re interested). It’s all about how we wander through life in search of meaning and a destination. Some literally wander in their VW van, across state lines and through National Parks. Others wander through relationships, jobs, churches, friendships, the newest technology. They get married because they think it will make them happy. They have children because they think they will finally feel fulfilled. They switch jobs. They move states, thinking that a change of scene will bring happiness (I literally see this in Colorado every day. People flock here in droves looking for a better life.).

Everyone wanders at some level. But it is possible to wander with a purpose. If you know where our true Destination lies, you’re never just adrift. There’s a difference between wandering aimlessly through life and being a pilgrim with your eyes set on your Heavenly Home as you journey along. As my professor said, “In Christ, home is within us.”

Heck, Jesus was a nomad. He wandered from town to town. Paul roamed an entire region, as did most of the apostles. The Desert Fathers intentionally removed themselves from society in order to seek God in the wilderness. Who says the only way to live a godly life is by following American society’s standards of living in a stationary house with a lifelong career, freshly mowed lawn and 2 weeks of vacation each year? Couldn’t you live an equally obedient, prayerful, God-pleasing life while traveling? Ministering to your RV neighbors and campground hosts? Helping a fellow traveler who has broken down on the side of the road? Volunteering to do trail maintenance and picking up trash in the parks? Reading the Bible and praying while taking a walk through the forest? Is that life any less honoring to God?

The whole point to life with God is to receive His love, love Him back and love others in the process. I believe this is possible whether you are living on the road, at home or somewhere in between. If we do this thing, we want to do it well. I want to live a life that deeply fulfilling and also glorifying to God. I think we can cultivate a life on the road that has purpose and is full of meaning, focus, beauty, simplicity, community, friendship, formative growth and intentionality.

I’m pretty sure this will happen. One of these days we’ll have our mortgage paid off, we’ll rent our house out and buy something to travel in. Maybe it will be in 6 months, maybe it will be in 10 years. We’ll just listen for God to whisper now is the time, go. If we’ve learned one thing, it’s to never count on your own plans. “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail”(Prov 19:21). But holding your plans loosely doesn’t mean you can’t keep a dream in the forefront of your mind while you continue to refine a vision that might become a reality.Photo May 15, 6 44 55 PM (2)

Utah

Mmmmmm I love the desert. I don’t know what it is about this place, but I’m officially obsessed. Moab is a 6 hour drive from our front doorstep (uh, when you’re not driving in a blizzard, which we were, so it was technically a 9 hour trip for us. Boo.) and it’s kind of just become a little tradition over the years for us to getaway in the fall (and sometimes the spring too!) to this beautiful area. This is probably the 5th or 6th time I’ve been to Moab and it just seems to get better each time! Before you know it, we’ll probably just move there. I kid, I kid. Kinda.

We stayed at a place called The Red Cliffs Lodge, which has become “our” place over the years. It’s absolutely awesome. It’s beautiful. It’s affordable. It sits right on the river and in the heart of some of the best places to explore. They have a killer on-site restaurant and a to-die-for Sunday brunch. They even have their own vineyards and winery too! Mmmm wine….

 It’s tempting to stick with tried and true hikes and adventures in this area. There’s 2 National Parks right here and an abundance of awesome trails that we’ve done before. But we decided this time we should try new stuff.

Our first day was a hike through Negro Bill’s Canyon to Morning Glory Arch. I’ve driven by the trailhead 40 times over the years but have never stopped to hike it. What a fun hike! There was very little elevation gain except for the very end. About 5 miles roundtrip and at the end is a beautiful arch called Morning Glory arch. We got to see a few people repelling down it, pretty cool!

It may be winter in Colorado now, but fall was in full force out in Utah. The trees were beautiful! Here’s a photo of Morning Glory arch above the yellow foliage. Beautiful!

After our hike, we drove around Castle Valley and Fisher Towers. These two areas are super popular for commercials and movies. There are dozens and dozens of movies that have been filmed in this area. Mission Impossible, Thelma & Louise, and pretty much every John Wayne movie ever.

On our second day, we headed over to Dead Horse State Park, which sits right next to Canyonlands. You get all the beautiful views of Canyonlands without all the motorhomes and RVs clogging the roads. David did a 14 mile mountain bike ride and I did a 5 mile hike along the eat rim. I picked a less populated trail in the hopes of finding a little solitude. My reward at the end was astounding. I sat on the edge of a cliff (couldn’t have done that 9 months ago with my vertigo!) and listened to the wind blow through the canyons below. It was pure silence and pure perfection. See the edge of the cliff in the photo below? That’s where I sat. Pretty cool!
 I snapped a few long exposures on the ledge
Our third day was probably my favorite of all. We hiked to Bowtie and Corona arch. They’re not in a park of any sort, just a standard trailhead and a 3 mile hike to see them. Wowza! What an incredible spot! I was also pretty jazzed because this made for my 3rd day of hiking in a row…a true sign that I getting back to normal after surgery! I’m not 100% yet and this trip gently reminded me of that. David caught the picture below where I was attempting to look up at the arch. I was soooo off balance, I had to keep my arms out and my feet super wide in order to not fall over. Haha! Nothing to worry about, but looking straight up like this isn’t a regular part of my vestibular therapy. I suppose it should be if I want to ever look up at arches again without falling over. 🙂
 Can you spot David?

Here you can see both Bowtie arch (left) and Carona arch (right)
After our hike out to Corona arch, we headed back to CO. Thankfully our drive home was less eventful with no blizzards to speak of. Our long weekend to Utah was one of the best trips we’ve had in a while. I’m so lucky God gave me such an awesome travel partner, hiking buddy and best friend like David. We have so much fun on trips like this, I’m just the luckiest girl to have him!

Kentucky

3,512 miles was the total over the last 10 days. That’s how many miles it took to drive CO–>NE–>IA–>IL–>IN–>OH–>KY–>TN–>–>KY–>IL–>MO–>KS–>CO Phew!

David has wanted to do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail for years and after finding out he had a business conference in Lexington, we thought it made pretty good sense to just stay a little longer and explore all that Kentucky has to offer! I really wanted to bless David with this trip…he’s done so much for me over the last year. I wanted him to have a vacation he’d love and I’m pretty sure he loved every second! 🙂
I am not ready to fly again (it’s going to be awhile before I subject myself to that experience again! Brain surgery + pressurized airplanes = no bueno) and I had a funeral in IL to attend, so I combined the funeral with driving to Kentucky. It all lined up really well! I drove to Chicago last Tuesday,14.5 hours in one straight shot! I spent a few days in Chicago with family before heading out for a short little 6 hour drive to Lexington, where we started our Bourbon Trail experience.
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a really fantastic thing. It’s a combo of brilliant marketing and lots of great distilleries dotted throughout the state. You get a “passport” with all the distilleries in it. Basically, you visit all the different distilleries, collecting stamps from each distillery and at the end of your trail, you can submit your completed passport for a t-shirt. Not a bad deal! It’s a great way to see some really cool bourbon distilleries and also some beautiful parts of the state! 
Our tour was pretty inefficient in terms of driving route, but it kind of had to be that way due to starting in Lexington, hotel availability and working around distillery hours. There was some backtracking, but we got to take some scenic routes and see parts of the state we would have otherwise missed.
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 1
We started out in Lexington, where David had his conference. We left in the morning and headed towards Louisville and visited Evan Williams and Bulliet. Evan Williams was really neat, they had a great interactive tour and put a big emphasis on the history of the area and distilling. We got caught up in a tour full of Clemson football fans, we were the only ones not wearing orange haha!

 Bulleit was not my favorite…it was in a weird industrial part of town and I kinda didn’t want to get out of my car. We didn’t do a tour here, just wandered around the grounds, gift shop and took some photos.

Then we headed over to our final tour for the day, which was at Woodford Reserve. We almost missed our tour due to construction traffic, but we discovered a one-lane backroad (one of many that we drove on in Kentucky haha!) and got there just in time. Woodford was reaaaaaally busy! They have gorgeous property and seem to gear their marketing to a higher-end clientele, so the entire place was full of golfers and fancy ladies, not what you’d typically picture for a bourbon crowd!
We stayed at a really cool inn called the Woodford Inn in Versailles, KY. It is an historic inn that also has a restaurant attached. We had a great meal and a wonderful night’s sleep. The neighborhood nearby was having a “block party” which we explored after dinner. You haven’t lived unless you’ve been to a Kentucky block party, let me tell you 🙂

Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 2
We deviated off of the trail in the morning to hit up one of David’s favorite places, Buffalo Trace. We got there early in the morning and did the first tour of the day. We both agreed this was our favorite tour. It was super informative, our tour guide was awesome and they did a great tasting after (can I just say it’s weird to be tasting bourbon at 10am?).

I’m not a big fan of straight bourbon, but Buffalo Trace makes this delicious stuff called Bourbon Cream, which is just bourbon mixed with cream. They combined some with root beer and it was SO good. I had to buy some since you can’t find it out in Colorado. 
Buffalo Trace’s beautiful grounds
 We did a quick visit to Wild Turkey and Four Roses before heading over to Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark is another one of David’s favorites, so we spent a lot of time exploring and doing a tour of the distillery. They have some really beautiful areas!

 They let you dip your own bottle in red wax to seal it at Maker’s Mark. David did a great job, he’s a total pro! After the tour, we drove to Bardstown, KY to stay in an adorable cottage we rented for 2 nights. The Kentucky Bourbon Fesitval was going on in town, so every single hotel was booked for the weekend. This was the only place available and we were so lucky that it turned out to be fabulous! When I booked, there were no photos of the cottage so we walked into this one totally blind and just hoped for the best. Lucky us, it was perfect!

 They even included breakfast at the cottage. It came pre-stocked with fruit, pastries, juice, yogurt and other breakfast goodies. And if that wasn’t enough, there was an amazing bakery just across the street. Perfect! We visited the Kentucky Bourbon Festival while staying in Bardstown. It was quite the experience!

Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 3
We enjoyed some bourbon coffee (yes, it’s a real thing!) on our front porch before heading out for our third day on the trail! We started with a craft distillery, which was a really nice change! Most of the distilleries we visited were massive and had enormous productions. Craft distilleries do small batches, sometimes less than 5 barrels. They do interesting flavors and unique techniques that the larger distilleries just can’t do. Willett is just a stone’s throw away from several large distilleries. We had a great tour at Willett, they really took their time explaining their process and allowing you to explore.

(Why do I look so creepy in this picture?!)They let you taste the mash as it’s cooking! It’s like a weird sour porridge made of corn, barley and wheat or malt. Not very good. It’s amazing that they can take a bunch of this stuff and turn it into a $70 bottle of liquor. 
We went from this tiny craft distillery to the 2 biggest distilleries in Kentucky, Heaven Hill and Jim Beam. We did a “connoisseur experience” tour at Heaven Hill, where we got to sample 4 of their most expensive bourbons, including a 23 year Elija Craig that sells for $300! I don’t have enough knowledge or a mature palette for bourbon, so I took a little sip of each and then passed my sample along to David who could actually appreciate what he was tasting haha! 
Jim Beam had some truly beautiful grounds. I loved visiting here! They also had a really cool tasting system, with little machines that dispensed your samples out. They have a lot of history on their property, from the Beam’s first farmhouse to their first still. It was beautiful to walk through. 
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 4
Day four was a little less about bourbon and a little more about sightseeing and nature walking. A nice break 🙂 We headed into the Daniel Boone National Forest and Red River Gorge area, which I had read was a “must-see” when visiting Kentucky. We did 2 hikes in the morning, one to Sky Bridge and one to Rock Bridge. Sky Bridge was cool because it was a natural arch that you could walk on top of and under! 
 
David bought me a new camera backpack for my birthday last November. It is the only backpack built specifically for female photographers! It was in production all year and it finally shipped to me at the end of August, just in time for me to try it out on our trip! LOVE it! 🙂

Sky Bridge
 

Rock Bridge. This was really cool! Somehow the water from the river cut through this rock, making a bridge out of the rock. I’ve seen plenty of rock arches before, but non with water flowing underneath them!

 David grabbed a candid of me taking photos of a waterfall. Here’s the photo that I took:
The colors were just starting to turn. I really want to go back sometime when it’s in full swing, I’m sure it’s just beautiful! After the Red River Gorge area, we drove down south through some winding country roads until we reached Cumberland Falls. I originally wasn’t sure if we were going to be able to make this stop, but I am SO glad we did! The falls were breathtakingly beautiful and we had the entire state park to ourselves, there was absolutely no one there!
That night we stayed in the most amazing place. When I thought about visiting Kentucky, I always had a vision of staying in a little country cabin with a wrap-around porch. I searched and searched and finally found this little cabin. The pictures were blurry and terrible, but I had a hunch it was going to be a great place! As luck would have it, the property owner let us stay for free in exchange for some good photos of her place. Yay! How cute is this little place?!
Kentucky Bourbon Trail: Day 5-8 
We left the cabin in the woods and began our trek towards Nashville so that we could visit David’s grandmother who lives there. We went through Bowling Green, stopped at another craft distillery called Cosair, ate lunch at an awesome place called Moriah’s and then came into Nashville. Nashville seemed so congested and crazy compared to the open country in Kentucky! We did a quick 24 hour visit in Nashville before heading back towards CO. We stopped back in Kentucky and visited another craft distillery called MB Rolland. This place was literally in the country…like in the middle of a corn field! They made more moonshine than bourbon, but we still enjoyed our time there. I found a pink lemonade moonshine that is yummmmy!
 
I’m wearing the t-shirt we got after turning in our completed passports, I think it’s pretty cool! A stopover in Kansas City (with a delicious dinner at Jack Stack BBQ!) and then a 9.5 hour drive back to CO and we were home! 3,512 miles, 7 days, 12 distilleries, 16 bottles of bourbon, 80+ different tastings and we made it back happier than when we left! We had a wonderful time exploring Kentucky, getting to experience the food, culture, people and natural beauty of this area. I’m certain we’ll be back again one day…

Wonderful Wyoming

I love Colorado, I really do. But so does everyone else in America and they all love to travel here and clog up my roads and scenic places, especially in the summer. It kind of drives me bonkers. By August, I feel like I’m suffocating in a sea of tourists. It’s usually about this time that we’ll head north. We live pretty close the Wyoming border, which I am thankful for for many reasons. I love everything about Wyoming (except for the wind!) and feel very blessed to be so close to such vast, empty, open beauty.

David and I headed to the Snowy Range, which is ridiculously close to us, all things considered. We wanted a long weekend away to camp and hang out in the mountains and that is exactly what we got. This place is so gorgeous, I’m amazed it isn’t a National Park, it really should be!

 David has this awesome boat that he takes out on lakes to fish with. He caught 30 fish! 

 We had sustained wind for 2 of our 3 days, but the 3rd day was so peaceful and calm. The lake in front of our campsite was so still, the reflection was incredible!

This was my favorite place of all. While David fished for an afternoon, I went nature walking and stumbled upon this gorgeous scene. The trailhead was decently crowded, but the weather was scaring people away, so while everyone was walking back to their cars, I discovered the Klondike Lakes all by myself. I had to scramble up some rocks to get this vantage point…something I could not have done 6 weeks ago, 6 months ago, 9 months ago…but now I can! Yay for healing!

Still working on those Milky Way shots. We lucked out with no moon, relatively clear skies and almost no light pollution at all. I even got a shooting star in this one (center of the photo, just below the Milky Way, you can see a straight line that goes up and down). Lucky shot!

The Wilderness

I haven’t written about infertility in a long while. But I have things on my heart and time on my hands, so here we go. David and I struggled with infertility for 3 years – then I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy which was taken from me before it took my life – then that has been followed by another almost 3 years of infertility. We do not feel called to adopt (yet), we do not feel called to foster (yet) and we do not feel called to (or safe) pursuing fertility treatments anymore. The only thing that feels right in our hearts is waiting upon the Lord and enjoying our life together as husband and wife. We’ve been waiting for quite a long time with no answer in sight other than to stay in the place where we are.

I frequently feel as if I’m walking on a path in the wilderness. A path that has not been walked on by someone in a very long time.

For the past year, I’ve held on to this picture of traveling in the wilderness. I love word pictures. I love when I can conjure up a scene, a mental allegory of sorts, because it helps me to keep pressing on when reality seems harsh. I really believe God gave me this image of the wilderness. I first encountered it one day as I was driving deep into the woods for a photoshoot. I had just hung up the phone with my last 2 friends who called to announce they were pregnant (yep, they told me at the same time. Band-Aid approach, I guess?). It was now official, all of my friends in their 20s and 30s were either pregnant, currently giving birth or had a complete family. I felt utterly alone. It was in this moment that I felt God whisper, “It’s just you and me now Beck. Get ready for a wilderness experience. You’re going to learn the meaning of ‘Jesus alone is enough’. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be good.”

Let me tell you about this wilderness path that I’m on. It’s overgrown, covered in mud and fallen tree branches. Completely unmaintained. It’s so faint at times that I frequently lose the path altogether and find myself just bushwhacking in hopes of eventually catching sight of it again. I trip over roots and stumble daily as I try to make my way along.

This path is lonely and isolating. I look around desperately hoping to catch sight of another fellow traveler. Occasionally I see someone off in the distance, but they’re on their own path and heading in the opposite direction. They might throw their hand up and wave as they continue on, as if to say “I see you there friend, but my eyes are fixed on the destination ahead of me and I don’t have time to stop and chat.” Yes, this wilderness can be lonely. It’s often just me and the trees. Just me and the stars at night. Just me and God traveling this broad piece of land.

This wilderness is also vast, lush, beautiful, holy, inspiring. There is majesty in this wilderness and intimacy with God like I’ve never known before. There is healing here. Deep healing. There is discovery and peace, a sense of calm and trust that I don’t think I’ve ever known before. God didn’t bring us out here to just dump us off and leave. He is with us every step of the way. And like all cross-country travelers, we have been outfitted with the best survival gear, a trusty compass and a healthy sense of adventure (oh how different things would look if I kicked my feet in rebellion every step of the way!). God has given us everything we need to get through this wild land.

The fact that we are in uncharted territory undoubtedly means that others will not understand the journey we are on. Some people may think things got too hard, that David and I just gave up. Some believe we’ve closed ourselves off to the idea of parenthood, that we’ve simply walked away. But that’s not true. We are simply being obedient to God’s calling on our life right now. We have diligently followed God’s voice every step of the way over the last 5+ years. And at this moment, He just happens to be calling us into a place that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense at first glance. A place that is unfamiliar, unknown and doesn’t look like what everyone else is doing.

It’s frustrating for sure. It’s hard to be misunderstood or judged. It’s hard to go against the current and do something that virtually no one else in your peer group is doing. It’s tempting to question God’s plan and wonder if He really knows what He is doing. It’s sad watching friends live the life you thought you were going to live. It’s painful and confusing, disruptive and often feels endless. It’s just plain hard sometimes.

But honestly, I must admit that I often find myself kind of loving it out here in the wilderness. I guess over time as I realized we may be here for a while, I decided to at least try and find the silver lining. Despite the isolation and lack of knowing where we are going or when this path will end, it sure is a beautiful place to roam. I love that God has created our story to be so unique that I am hard-pressed to find others like us on this path. I love that He drawn close to me, provided for me and picks me up when I fall (which is often). I love how much I’ve learned about His character and the Spirit inspired insight I’ve gained. I love the peace and healing I’ve found out here. I love walking hand in hand with David along the way. We try our best to enjoy our life to the fullest right now and that is beautiful. I love that our story isn’t over, we just have to keep walking a little ways further.
 

Winter Camping

Camping in the winter! That’s a new item I can cross off of my bucket list. We’ve talked about it for years but never actually acted on it…until now! We’ve had unseasonably warm temperatures here lately (except for today…it’s currently a blizzard outside ha!), so when we saw that last friday and saturday night were calling for a lows in the mid-30s (that’s really warm for the mountains in February!) we decided to pulled the trigger and headed for the hills. Crazy, I know.

We loaded up just like any other camping trip, maybe adding an extra set of gloves and an extra sleeping bag. 🙂 Quick drive to RMNP and we were in the campground. They keep one campground on the east side of the park open year round to accommodate crazies like us. 😉 To my surprise, there were actually a decent amount of people up there! Quite a few camp sites were already occupied, which completely floored me. I couldn’t believe there were other wackos who had the same idea as us haha!

We picked a great site that had a great views of Longs Peak and Moraine Park. We had two perfect pine trees for a hammock set up and for sunset watching.

 Our tent. Oh our tent drama. I know that I wrote this glowing review of our new tent last year. Well, truthfully that tent failed us miserably. The rainfly (outer covering which protects the tent from getting wet if it rains) made horrible flapping noises with the slightest breeze. It kept us up every night so we ultimately returned it with heavy hearts. We since got the REI Quarterdome 2(pictured above), which also has rainfly flapping issues. So it will be going to back and our hunt for a new tent will continue. *heavy sigh*

Saturday was full of swinging in the hammock, eating a slow fireside breakfast with coffee, reading, sitting in the sunshine and soaking in the views. I had an elopement to photograph, so we headed over to a different area of the park to take photos for my clients. Unfortunately, since Saturday also happened to be Valentine’s Day, the Park was absolutely packed with lovebirds driving around gawking at all the beauty together. It was pretty tough to find spaces for photos that didn’t include tourists in the background! 
We made it back to camp in time to watch the sunset and start a fire. The sunset was absolutely breathtaking! I was really surprised at how well we slept both nights. I was really afraid that I would just be freezing through the whole night. I had visions of me shivering and wide awake through the entire night, but that really wasn’t the case! My sleeping bag is rated to 20 degrees and I bought a sleeping bag liner that increases the temperature by 15 degrees, bringing the rating to almost 0 degrees. Smart layering and a down jacket added extra warmth and helped ensure a good night’s sleep! I woke up in the morning toasty warm and not cold at all! I’m not sure I’d want to head out when it’s 0 degrees, but it is good to know that we can make it through a really cold night!

 I’m still trying to get the hang of astrophotography. I would LOVE to one day be able to accurately capture the milky way. I spent the better part of an hour our first night trying different settings to get a sharp shot. This was my best try, which I still think is lacking compared to what I know can be done. Oh well, it’s good to have ambitions to strive for when it comes to these nighttime creative endeavors!

 On our second morning, we woke up to a pack of coyotes howling less than 100 yards away. I climbed up on the ridge and saw a group of coyotes circling a huge herd of elk. They were attempting to hunt, which I thought was remarkable because coyotes typically won’t try for elk because of how huge they are. It was amazing to watch the elk react. They grouped together tightly, putting the babies in the middle and the bulls on the outer edge. The coyotes chased them up and down the valley but were ultimately unsuccessful. We sat on the ridge and watched for a while as the sun came up.

As we turned our heads to the west and saw the incoming storm. We decided to pack up and get out before the snow set in. We got out just in the nick of time, the snow descended on the Park just 30 minutes later. But we were happy and warm in our car with hot coffee and a bag full of freshly baked donuts 🙂