Monday, June 1, 2020


I had the wonderful experience of getting to go kayaking in the San Juan Islands, at a time when our group was able to observe the sun sink into the ocean horizon!  We got to our departure point via this van from an outfitter in Friday Harbor, Washington:
Although the name "San Juan" sounds like a place "south of the border", it is just the opposite!  The San Juan Islands are located off the northern coast of the state of Washington.  Their name was given them by Spanish explorer, Francisco de Eliza, who charted the islands in 1791.
This photo shows the custom-made private dock the outfitter uses to begin their kayak tours.  The boat slips are just wide enough to accommodate the Seaward kayaks, that are approximately 20 feet long, and 28 inches wide. 

The outfitter advertises the sunset kayak tours as suitable for all skill levels, so in the first part of our instruction, our leader showed us how to get into the kayak from the adjacent wooden deck. 

Our next lesson was how to put on our "apron" that fits over the head and shoulders, and has an elastic edge that will fit snugly around the rim of the kayak opening. Of course, the outfitter also made sure we had our PFD (Personal Flotation Device) that they furnished, properly adjusted for our comfort and safety. 

Even though I was visiting the San Juan Islands as part of a Road Scholar group, the sunset kayak tour was not part of our program, rather it was something I had arranged on my on, to attend as a single person.  However, since the Seaward kayaks the outfitter uses are the Gemini (two person) design, I took this photo of the lady who would be my kayaking buddy for the few hours.  I gave her the choice of front or back cockpit, and she chose the back. 

Just as we were about to exit our watery stall, the instructor said, "Oh, yeah, I forgot to mention: Make sure the handle of your spray apron is ON TOP of your kayak, and not hidden underneath, inside your kayak.  Otherwise, he said, if you tip over, you will not be able to get out of your kayak, and you will die.  Personally, I would have appreciated knowing that piece of information at the very beginning, instead of as we were about to leave!

However, none of us were going anywhere, because the instructor did not pass out our paddles, until he had finished his safety briefing!   The paddles we used are called European style---two roughly spoon-shaped plastic blades, at either end of a cylindrical shaft. 

Our starting point was on the west side of San Juan Island, near the Snug Harbor Resort ( www.snugresort.com ), so we had to paddle underneath a pedestrian bridge that boat owners who dock there, use to access their boats.  However, it was plenty high enough for us to go under, and the water was calm, so it was not an issue. 

Once we passed the "snug harbor", we were out in the open water, headed westward!  Although the hotel where I stayed was in Friday Harbor, on the east side of San Juan Island, this outfitter prefers to take their guests on a 30 minute shuttle van ride, to the west side of the island for the sunset tour.  I think it is interesting to note that San Juan County, Washington, is the only county in Washington not to have state highways.  However, most visitors use a Washington State Ferry, a part of the state highway system, to get to the islands.  There is a fee to use the ferry to get to Friday Harbor, but once you get to Friday Harbor, there is no fee to use the ferry to travel between the San Juan Islands that the ferry services.  The ocean is their "highway"!

The Juan  Islands are an archipelago (chain of islands) between the state of Washington and the Canadian province of Vancouver Island.  Four of the islands are accessible by the Washington State Ferry system.  I asked the guide if the mountains we were seeing in the distance were USA or Canada, and he assured me that this "purple mountain's majesty", as the good ole USA!

The coastline we explored was very rocky, and we encountered this opening, which appeared to be a sea cave.  Our guide paddled into the cave, but since he did not give us any instruction as to whether to follow him or not, all of our group waited outside the cave, thinking he would come out momentarily.  That was NOT the case.  I began to wonder if he had drown inside there! Finally, he reappeared (with no explanation as to why he had been gone so long), and we continued to paddle up the coastline. 

This is a profile photo of our guide against the western horizon.  He was the only one who was not in a tandem kayak.  Crystal Seas said they limit their sunset tours to eight people per guide. 

Besides the evergreen and pine forests that cover large areas of the San Juan Islands, a visitor will also see the gnarled, ocher-colored,  Pacific madrone tree.  To me,  the big tree in this photo reminded me of  a deer head mount with big antlers, that I have hanging in my house in Arkansas!

This photo not only shows two of our kayakers silhouetted against the setting sun, but you can see the retractable rudder that each of our Seaward kayaks had as a part of their design. 

There is a group I belong to on Facebook, called "Look at the Front of My Kayak", so I took this photo for them!  The only requirement for the pictures that are posted on that site, is that it include the front of your kayak.  It is great fun to see kayaking photos from all around the world there!

The outfitter tells you up front, that your excursion will last from the time you get to their office at 6 pm, until your return to Friday Harbor, around 10 pm, depending on the exact time of sunset.  I have to admit, that we paddled for so long AWAY from the harbor, I began to be concerned that we were not going to make it back to our starting point before dark.  The kayaks (nor any of us paddlers) were not equipped with lights, so my imagination was swarming with all sorts of alarming scenarios.  The only thing that kept me calm, was remembering Scripture verses that promised, "FEAR NOT, for I am with you.  I will never leave you nor forsake you."  (Hebrews 13:5).    And, just when I thought we were not going to be able to find our starting point, we made it back to safe harbor, just before darkness fell upon the water. 

I was glad to make it back to land, not only because of the impending darkness, but also because there was a restroom for us kayakers to use, after being inside our boats for quite some time.  This is a photo of the facilities where the restroom and parking area is located.  I am very thankful to have had this opportunity to try my hand at ocean kayaking, in such a beautiful location.  It gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!!

ADDENDUM:  At the time this article was published, the San Juan Islands are closed to all non-essential travel, due to the COVID19 Pandemic.  To get the most updated information on planning your vacation there, log on to their website at www.visitsanjuans.com

Friday, May 22, 2020


The photo of this group of women was taken at a rest stop along the Interstate in Illinois, as the two cars in our "Canoecopia Caravan" stopped to obtain travel information, and check out the facilities.  The headline written in red above our heads is very appropriate with the phrase "We Were Women", because each of us was a member of a group called "Women Hiking the Ozarks", or "WHO", for short.  In the Ozarks, the hot (and tick-laden) days of summer are not ideal for hiking, so the group started getting together regularly to kayak the many lakes and streams of the Ozarks, and decided on the name "WHOyakers" for their paddling endeavors.  For several weeks, we had been planning a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, to attend the world's largest paddling expo, called Canoecopia, scheduled for March 13-15, 2020.  When we left Arkansas, the event was still scheduled to occur, although we were hearing a few reports from other parts of the USA that there were concerns regarding a new type of flu, that was caused by the Corona virus.
the way to Wisconsin, we stopped to spend the night at a rental property adjacent to Starved Rock State Park ( www.starvedrock.org ), in Illinois.  I was excited at the prospect of visiting this particular state park because I had heard it was famous for its large population of eagles, and claims to be Illinois most visited state park.  We went to their historic lodge that evening, to check out a local talent contest they were having, that was similar to those currently popular on television.  And of course, the beautiful and immense fireplace in the great hall was another photo opportunity, for this structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.    The letters "SRL" above us stand for Starved Rock Lodge.

The next day, we arrived at the park very early so that we could hike some of the trails the park is  famous for, many of which use pedestrian bridges to "even out" the "hills and hollers", plus 18 canyons, that the trails traverse:

One of the most scenic spots takes hikers into a box canyon, with a waterfall at the back, that makes for yet another great photo opportunity!

Another scenic spot the trail leads to at Starved Rock State Park, is a bluff overlooking the Illinois River, where one has a good view of the Starved Rock Lock and Dam system that has been built across the river to control flooding, while still permitting navigation.

We felt very fortunate to get to have such an enjoyable experience at Starved Rock State Park, because the next day, the park closed down, due to fears of the Corona virus!  When we went across the river to the Corps of Engineers Visitor Center ( www.mvr.usace.army.mil ), the employee told us that we would probably be his last visitors, for "who knows how long?", because he had instructions to lock the doors after we left!  But at least we were able to get yet another group photo of our crew sitting on a giant propeller from a river boat:  (I guess a propeller could be thought of as a type of modified "paddle", and hence appropriate for our group!)
When we finally made it to Madison to the Alliant Center, where Canoecopia was scheduled to be, it was one big empty parking lot---with rope barriers, locked doors,  and orange traffic cones, indicating nothing was going to be happening there---in particular, the world's largest paddlesports expo! HOWEVER, we did find a LARGE WORLD to get yet another group photo!  As you may recall, Wisconsin is called "The Dairy State", and this sculpture was erected for the 1967 World Dairy Expo. 

This photo shows the group of seven ladies from the Arkansas Ozarks, that traveled to Madison, Wisconsin, to participate in the early March, 2020, event known as CANOECOPIA.  Through a series of circumstances no one could have predicted, we ended up not only meeting the originator of this popular paddle sports event, but he used his phone to get the all-important group photo with him!  His name is Darren Bush, and despite the monumental disappointment he was experiencing, he managed to put on a smile for this photo!

 Darren gave us a thorough tour of his store ( Called Rutabaga, www.rutabagashop.com ) that is as much like a museum of paddling sports worldwide, as it is a retail business!  Notice the cap on his head must be one he quickly grabbed out of his inventory, because it still has the price tag on it!  In addition to the paddling artifacts and retail merchandise, it is filled with creative details that he has made himself, using his wood and metal-working skills.  After the store tour, we followed Darren to his desk, where he went on the Internet, to patiently map out the area attractions we could visit, since the Canoecopia event had been cancelled.  The locations shown in the remainder of this blog represent the "Plan B" our group experienced, after "Plan A" turned into a "vapor"!  We greatly appreciated Darren's assistance with developing an alternate itinerary for our group of outdoor enthusiasts!

  During much of our time in Wisconsin, our automobile route was designated as part of the Frank Lloyd Wright trail.  This included a drive to the small town of Spring Green, where famous American architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, had his home and architectural studio for many years.  The name of his estate there is called "Taliesin", and our group stopped to get a photo of the sign near the entrance, with the expansive home site at the brow of the hill behind the sign.

Diana took this photo of me, with the sprawling Taliesin ( www.taliesinpreservation.org ) in the background.  I included the photo because it shows the "cat walk" extension on the far left of the structure.  In Arkansas, there was another famous architect, known as Faye Jones, who was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Jones designed a home on a hillside overlooking Huntsville, Arkansas,  for Arkansas Governor Orville Faubus.  The Faubus home has that same catwalk feature on it!

Other characteristics of Frank Lloyd Wright designs are the low-hanging roof eaves and low-clearance entry ways.  I am only 5'2" tall, yet I can touch the ceiling of the entryway to the Visitor Center at Taliesin.  Before this structure was the Visitor Center, it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, to be a restaurant overlooking the adjacent river. 

Another place we visited on this Wisconsin expedition, was Devil's Lake State Park ( www.dnr.wi.gov ).  I first heard about this place from my son, who went there to try out their popular rock climbing sites.  It did not disappoint!  We even got to visit with some rock climbers along the trail!

The photo below shows us "explorers" perched on the side of the mountain, with the frozen 360-acre Devils Lake below, in the background.  There were very few places along the trail that were wide enough for a group photo that met social distancing requirements, so we ended up having to get closer to each other!

Although we did not do the type of technical climbing with ropes and harnesses the way my son did, the trail we followed required a great deal of "bouldering"!  Someone in our group took this photo of Peggy and me, inching our way along the route.  (Peggy in front and I am the one in back with arms uplifted)

I was excited to get to visit a nationally-known trail, called the "Ice Age Trail" (www.iceagetrail.org ), while we were at Devils Lake State Park.  A WHO member in Arkansas (she also lives part time in Wisconsin), had told me about the Ice Age Trail, but at the time she told me, I did not know that I was actually going to get to experience it!

This photo above shows Diana peaking from behind one of the landmark rock formations.  It was not an easy task to get to the point where she is standing, so I was happy to just be the photographer at this formation, and not try to stand on the edge of it, like Diana was!  We could call this her "Post Card from the Edge"!

After her safe return to the main trail, she took a photo of the rest of us, standing in front of the famous natural landmark:

As a comparison, I am posting a photo from the bottom of the Ice Age Trail on the left, and a photo of the top of the climb on the right!

In keeping with its frigid-sounding name, it actually snowed on us a bit, while we were on the Ice Age Trail, which accounts for the rosy cheeks in this photo by the trail marker with the Ice Age logo!

As a souvenir, I  purchased the Ice Age Trail medallion to put on my hiking stick.  It gives me great joy to get to hammer in another national scenic trail souvenir, to go along with the ones I have from the Pacific Crest Trail, and Appalachian Trail.

Yet another scenic place we hiked was the area around Stephens Falls, located in Governor Dodge State Park ( www.dnr.wi.gov ).    The falls themselves were frozen, and provided a great backdrop for photographs!

At a location several miles away from Devils Lake State Park, we hiked at "Pewit's Nest" ( www.dnr.wi.gov ).  It is a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources State Natural Area.  The site had a frozen waterfall, and a trail that followed the creek through a riparian habitat:

One of the ladies on our Wisconsin trip has a visual impairment, but none-the-less enjoys hiking and paddling, whenever possible.  This photo shows that Wisconsin DOES have some paved, accessible trails, that she was able to enjoy, accompanied by another hiker on each side of her, as she walked.  She is a wonderful example of a person who is determined to live life to the fullest, despite the obstacles she has to overcome to do so!!
This same lady was able to have a version  of  an "Ice Age Trail" experience when her daughter gave her a "snow facial", as the group posed for a photo in front of a huge mountain of snow and ice we encountered during out "Up North" adventure!

I read it was a Wisconsin tourism faux pas to leave the dairy state without sampling their legendary "fresh from the farm" ice cream, so we made a stop at a popular ice cream store in Madison, on our last full day in that city.  What made our visit to the store even more enjoyable is that Peggy (shown in photo holding a sack of their ice cream) read the description of all 100plus flavors they listed on their website ( www.chocolateshoppeicecream.com ), as we were driving back to Madison following a day of hiking out in the boonies! 

 The visit to downtown Madison gave us a chance to take an "urban hike", with a view of the Wisconsin State Capitol on the horizon!

No trip to Wisconsin is complete without sampling their famous cheeses, and so we stopped at Carr Valley Cheese ( www.carrvalleycheese.com ) store to check out what they had available.  All of us bought various types of cheese at their store, thinking we were buying enough to give some away as souvenirs to friends back in Arkansas.  However, on our drive home, we learned that the restaurants in Illinois had been closed, by order of their Governor, so all that cheese we had purchased was consumed---serving as both breakfast, lunch, and supper, on the long drive through Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas!  We were definitely "Cheese Heads", by the time we made it through four states, eating nothing but cheese curds!

To help me learn various Scripture verses, I often try to find a visual aid from my photographs that will help "imprint" that verse in my mind.  The way the Canoecopia event turned into a "vapor",  is a reminder of the words of wisdom in James 4:13-15 that says, Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.  Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."

The tickets we purchased for Canoecopia have been applied to admission for next year's event, listed as March 12-14, 2021.  So, if the Lord wills, I hope to have  "Miles of Smiles" at Canoecopiea 2021, but in the meantime, I have learned that I can have "Miles of Smiles", regardless of whether things turn out as planned!  Tricia

Friday, May 1, 2020


On one of my many trips driving across the country to see family living "Out West", I saw this sign beside the rural road I had traveled, to attend Sunday worship services in a small church outside Carson City, Nevada.  Since I was not on any set schedule, I followed the direction of the arrow, and pulled into the parking lot, to see what was happening.
To my great delight, I arrived just in time to see hundreds of Native Americans, dressed in the most colorful attire imaginable, gathered in the center area of the location, doing the type of rhythmic movements they are famous for!  It appeared to be mostly men, who were out in the center, "strutting their stuff", to the pounding of loud drums, that could be heard as soon as I exited my car in the parking lot!  It was easy to figure out where the "action" was taking place, based on the sound of the drums!

During this particular dance, I observed many of the women gathered around the dancing "Chiefs and Warriors", keeping time with their hands and bodies, as their male counterparts dominated the center of the lawn.  It was at this point, that I had to quit taking photos, because the Master of Ceremonies for the event, got on the loud speaker and said the next portion of the Pow Wow was NOT to be filmed or photographed, because of its sacred nature.  So I complied with his request.  (Later, when I googled the topic, I saw that YouTube has versions of the ritual available on line, for anyone interested)

Before I stopped, however, I took one last photo of these amazing Native Americans, as they stood at attention, for the presentation of flags. 

People come from all over to see and participate in this event, many using it as a time for family reunions/celebrations.  Many families set up a modern-day "teepee" around the dance circle area, to provide shade, seating, and cold beverages for their loved ones.  With that being said, it was pretty difficult for a "foreign" interloper such as myself to see what was happening in the inner circle---and probably that is what they had in mind!  However, there was one small section of metal bleachers on the sidelines, but as you can imagine, every single seat of those bleachers was already taken by the time I happened onto the scene.  

Therefore,  I spent the remainder of the time wandering around the many vendor tents/displays that were set up outside the circle, displaying a wide variety of items for sale, that reflected various aspects of Native American culture and design.

Most of this display of blankets and jackets reflects Native American designs, but I would have to comment that the "mossy oak"-appearing camouflage design, looks a little more like Bass Pro Shops, than Native American!

There was an abundance of original art available for sale, either with a Native American motif, or being the non-specific creations of a Native American artist.

These purses looked very durable, and in keeping with graphic designs familiar to  Native American culture. 

As is typical for most craft festivals these days, there was display after display, of hand made jewelry.

Jewelry made from silver is especially prevalent in Native American cultures of the Southwest.
I was fascinated with this breast plate attire made from hollow bones and beads.  That is because I have found hollow bones out in the woods while hiking, and often bring them home, to put buckstring through them, and turn them into a decoration for my "Southwestern Room", full of souvenirs from trips Out West.  I can only imagine how many animals, and what types of animals, it must have taken to come up with this many hollow bones of the same size and type!

Just about anywhere you travel in the USA today, you will see these "Dream Catchers" available for sale, with references to legends that the Native Americans used them to keep "evil spirits" out of their thoughts/dreams at night.  The "Dream Catcher" could actually serve as a visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com )Scripture memory verses that talks about the concept of "catching--or taking as captives---bad thoughts and dreams".   2 Corinthians 10:5 says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."

As you can see from this photo, the weather for this event was perfect!

I took this photo to show another example of how the Native American families set up their version of a "tailgate" party---notice the tent with the red, rectangular, portable baby crib!

This placard, with a map of the Stewart Indian School campus, gives the visitor an idea of how large the campus is!  The school first opened in 1890, and was part of the Native American Boarding Schools Project.  It was the only off-reservation boarding school in Nevada.  Funding for the school was obtained by Nevada's first senator, William M. Stewart. 

This building will be the welcome center for the newly-opened Cultural Center.

reputation of long-time school director, Frederick Snyder, is that he wanted the school to be an architectural showplace.

The colorful stones were quarried from a nearby river.  I was amazed at the streaks of turquoise running through some of the stones!

What a blessing that these children may now visit the Stewart Indian School under much different conditions, and enjoy the benefits of a self-governing society, rather than the socialism-type society that characterized Native Americans until the mid-1900's.  In 1980, the federal government eliminated funding for Indian boarding schools and closed the facility.  

The image of these children randomly running, and dressed in typical children's clothing, is a much different scene, than would have been seen when the school was in operation in the late 19th century.  During that time period, the students were required to cut their hair, wear uniforms, and march in formation to class. 

However, the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 permitted native American self determination and self government.  The Bureau of Indian Affairs encouraged schools, such as Stewart, to let students speak their native language, and to promote classes in native cultures.   The school closed in 1980.  During its 90 years of operation, about 30,000 students attended the school. 

This photo of diners as a picnic pavilion tent, are a reminder to say that food vendors are available at the event, many specializing in foods unique to Native American cuisine.  

I read that when Frederick Snyder was put in charge of the school in 1918, he turned it into an horticultural showplace.

Perhaps the beautiful yellow rose bushes, growing beside one of the buildings, are a result of his efforts.

If one prefers eating their dinner, "picnic style, on the grounds", under a shade tree, there are plenty of large trees throughout the property that make such a choice possible!

Since this was originally a school for Native American children, it is not surprising that the State of Nevada Indian Commission would have an office on the Stewart Campus.

This photo shows how former Stewart School Administration Building, which has now been turned into a cultural center.

II read that recently, about 5.7 million dollars of the state of Nevada budget, was used to renovate the building into the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center.  If you would like to learn more about this fascinating place, and when their next Pow Wow will be, visit their website at www.StewartIndianSchool.com .

The narrated walking tour that uses your cell phone, is a very helpful feature, for folks taking the tour as "self-guided", like I was.  You can dial 775-546-1460 to hear the voices of actual student alums.  Also, you can do this NOW from your living room!  You do not actually need to be present on the campus to hear the tour!

The cross at the entrance to this building, and on top of the bell tower, are a reminder that the school's history includes a Christian work ethic, meaning I should do all my work to the best of my ability---as if I were working for the Lord Jesus, Himself!

Remembering that this school first opened in the 1890's, the need for a bell, atop a centrally-located tower, would be very important.  There were no telephones, radio, or loud speakers to tell folks scattered throughout the campus, that it was time for a meal, beginning/end of class, or worship services, or other possible group gatherings.

You can see from this photo that a ramp has been added to the entrance, to make it wheel-chair accessible.

The buildings throughout the Stewart Campus are said to be of the vernacular architectural style.  That means that they are characterized by use of local materials and knowledge, usually without the benefit of trained architects.  The Stewart School is noted for its masonry work of colored native stone, and was built with the labor of dozens of student apprentices. 

The original stone beneath the archway of this building, shows it was built in 1931---that is, during the Great Depression.  The large number "89" refers to its number on the campus map. 

I was surprised to see a state agency housed in such a historical building as this, partly because I am so used to thinking of Nevada, in terms of the shimmering glitz of Las Vegas!  You can find out more about the Nevada Department of Corrections on their website at www.doc.nv.gov .  Back in my home state of Arkansas, then Governor Bill Clinton appointed me to the state's Prison Review Commission, to visit various jails across the state to see what needed to be improved.  We visited some very old prisons, but I do not believe any of them could be considered as old as these buildings!  The Stewart Indian School has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1985. 

This lovely little church captured my attention as I was leaving the Stewart school.  It sits across the street from the main campus.

Another thing that captured my attention as I was leaving, was this bumper sticker.  No matter what fears one is dealing with, the message on the bumper sticker is accurate!  This visit to the Stewart Indian School gave me "Miles of Smiles", and I would recommend you check them out if you are ever in their area!   Tricia

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