Ed’s Love Affair {with the outdoors}

Ed loves spending time outside. I like being outside, too, but Ed LOVES being outside. He spends 10 hours a day as an engineer in a machine shop, so for his vacation time, he wants to be outside as much as possible. Because of this, he literally plans our vacations around National Parks. The summer before our wedding, we drove to Yellowstone National Park, which started it all. We stopped at every possible stop on our way; the Corn Palace, the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower, Wall Drug, and then six days in Yellowstone. One day, we told each other, we were going to take the same drive with our kids.

The summer I was pregnant with Lily, Ed planned a trip around Lake Michigan, which included camping at Twelvemile Beach up at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The campgrounds were remote; the dirt road leading up to the campsite was extremely bumpy. (I hear it’s now a paved road.) On the shore of Lake Superior, this is not the beach vacation you may be imagining. We were plagued by insects; mosquitoes up at our campsite, biting flies on the beach. Somewhere in the woods, I got a huge spider bite on my arm, which alarmed me, but it went away after a few days with no harm done. The water was frigid, and it turned my legs bright red when I went wading. I also made Ed get up with me every time I needed to use the outhouse at night. I was pregnant, remember? Plus, it rained. It rained, and rained, and rained. If anything made me realize that our marriage was going to work, it was being stuck with Ed in a tent for eight hours. I cannot tell you the relief I felt when we checked into a hotel in Mackinaw City. I took a long nap on a real bed while Ed went swimming in the pool. We still laugh about that trip.

The next time I was pregnant, we traveled with our two-year old to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We rented an amazing little cabin close to Cherokee, North Carolina, and we went into the park everyday and hiked. Lily was an amazing hiker. We hiked up and down trails to waterfalls, picnicked by streams where Ed and Lily walked on the rocks in the water, and saw a black bear with two cubs, along with a variety of other wildlife. Ed insisted I could hike anywhere, even though I was six months pregnant.

smoky mountains cabin
Our cabin on the mountainside

When Emmy was almost two, we went back up to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and explored the Porcupine Mountains and other state parks up by Lake Superior. It is simply gorgeous up there, and on this second trip, we didn’t notice the swarms of mosquitoes that we had experienced before. I also refused to camp this time around.

Exploring Presque Isle with Emmy
Exploring Presque Isle with Emmy

The next year, we were off to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado for a family reunion. The following summer, a trip to Cook Forest in Pennsylvania and Niagara Falls. Last summer, we traveled the farthest yet, and took a trip to Alaska. All our vacations have involved outdoor activities of some kind; whether it’s hiking, canoe rides or ziplining. This August, we’re off for another National Park adventure to…

I’m going to keep you in suspense. No, it’s not Yellowstone; we’re waiting until the girls get a little older for those long drives! But it is an exciting place… Visit Gretchen at Second Blooming for more outdoor adventures!

Which National Parks have you visited?


An Alaskan Trail


I looked at the dogs, envying them, wishing I had their thick, furry coats to protect me.

We had arrived in Anchorage late the night before. It had taken all day to get to Anchorage from Chicago, and Lily and Emmy were exhausted. Even so, they were up at their usual time the next morning, raring to go. We spent the morning eating cinnamon rolls with my aunt and going to church. Ed was determined to see some of this town that he had never visited before, so we planned to go exploring after lunch.

Four year old girls have a way of changing plans, however. Before we could even get in the car, Emmy had a meltdown. She was just plain tuckered out and didn’t even know what she wanted. As her parents, Ed and I knew what she needed: a nap. We laid down the law; either she needed to stop throwing a fit, or Daddy would stay with her while Mommy and Lily went exploring.

The meltdown continued.

Now we were stuck; we had to stick to our edict. Ed took Emmy into the house to try to get her calmed down, while Lily and I got into the car and “went exploring.”

Part of me was tempted to stay put. I was in a strange city and had no desire to drive around without Ed at my side. But the other part of me thought that I needed to take Lily somewhere; she shouldn’t be punished for her little sister’s behavior. So I started to drive.

Not far from my aunt’s house, I found a trailhead. There were plenty of cars in the gravel parking lot, which I took as a good sign. Lily and I would take a little walk together. As soon as we got out of the car I told Lily to put up her hood. Swarms of mosquitoes flew around us.

I expected mosquitoes–we were in Alaska, after all. We started walking along the path. Two big dogs bounded toward us, their owner following behind. I was a little nervous; the dogs were as big as my Lily and not on leashes. But they weren’t even interested in us humans; there were too many other fun smells for them to chase. And the mosquitoes didn’t bother them at all through their thick pelts.

We saw more dogs; the mosquitoes kept biting. Power lines followed the path, airplanes flew up above. Did I mention the path was by the airport? Lily and I couldn’t even see any of the Chugach Mountains from our viewpoint. We walked a little ways, holding hands, unwilling to give up this time together. When I figured I had provided enough of the blood suckers with a meal (Lily seems to be immune to mosquito bites), we turned around and headed back to the car. Lily and I, along with approximately 56 mosquitoes, hopped back into the car.

I just had to laugh.

When Lily and I got back to the house, Emmy was fast asleep. I told Ed and my aunt how I had managed to find the worst trail in Anchorage. My aunt confirmed that yes, it was a popular dog park with not much for humans to see.

It was good to get out there, to see a part of Anchorage that most tourists drive right by. Maybe I did go down the wrong trail; but it was all part of the adventure.