public lands, a love story.

last year we were so fortunate to be able to experience so many of our public lands, parks and monuments. I decided to start collecting patches along the way as a way to remember the places we had seen.

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I bought our first official patch at the padre island national seashore. the kind volunteer behind the counter at the gift shop explained to us how we could drive onto the beach and camp there. he also told us how the beach in texas is considered a highway, and if we chose to we could drive for miles on it. we were thrilled with the possibility.

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it was there that I started thinking about this quilt. from every park, monument, forest or historical site that we stopped at with a visitor center, I bought a patch and added it to this quilt. it’s like a living memory, a work in progress. hand stitching the patches over fabric that is covering holes in the antique bedcover that is older than me.

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when we were at yellowstone, it just happened to be the month of the 100 year anniversary of this amazing place. we were lucky enough to be caught in the middle of a herd of bison crossing the road; they were feet from our car, and I will never forget that feeling, the feeling that we were visiting their home. we were their guests. it was humbling. and it was my favorite day.

death valley was spectacular.

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our year of travel took us from cleveland ohio to the eastern shore of texas,

to the peaks of alaska, and back around…

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we stopped at badlands national park after visiting deadwood and sturgis.

we were not disappointed. even saw the elusive big horn ram.

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this is one of our favorite campsites; a wildlife preserve in western nevada.

without the bureau of land management, the national forests, the department of antiquities, the national monuments or the national forests none of this would have been possible. we have so much left to see. and we saw so much.

it is vital that they stay funded, operating and protected.

after alaska.

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our trip to alaska was a learning experience.

we realized a lot about what we need to exist.

number one on that list:

our car = our freedom. without it we were trapped in a cycle of bad food choices, nothing to do that didn’t rely on the shuttle schedule and ultimately a scary health moment that led us to the decision to leave. isolation is one thing, but being hours away from medical care is a whole other ball of wax when you have a chronic illness.

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number two:

good friends can be made everywhere you go. we met a handful of people that we will definitely stay in touch with. and then we met a few people who became close friends. being in the same situation; living, working, eating, playing together builds strong friendships. that was a positive. that was something we wouldn’t change.

number three:

alaska is just alaska. so on the bus ride (the torturous, five hour bus ride from anchorage to healy) I kept waiting. waiting for the “WOW!!” moment when alaska would knock my socks off. that never came. I mean, it was pretty and it had trees and mountains and more trees…but it wasn’t like, OH OK THIS IS AMAZING. it was just, *shrug* alaska.

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number four:

I never saw a bear: in fact in the months we were there the total wildlife I saw amounted to three moose and a handful of sea gulls. seriously.

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(ok I did get to see this, which was pretty freaking cool. the bus they used in the filming of into the wild which was an inspiration for coming here in the first place.)

number five:

we really just need each other. (I know, right?) but for real. life is about the people you choose to share it with. and then making that time the healthiest, happiest time possible.

stay tuned. we’re moving this party east 🙂

 

 

All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

 

alaska.

hey friends.

I’ve been the worst at blog-updating, but with good reason. we’re in alaska, as I might have mentioned in a previous post and we’ve been working six days a week. on the seventh day we try to get in adventures, laundry, internet time and rest. *try being the operative word.

we’re seeing most of the wilderness through the windows of the employee shuttle to and from work.

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last week, on our day off, we were able to take a hike in Denali National Park (this is our 26th National Park/Monument since December)

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it was beautiful

and exhausting.

a few weeks ago we had the pleasure of seeing snow…..

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which we had avoided all winter, but we didn’t mind as it was short lived and kind of beautiful to see.

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most days it looks like this. (except when it’s raining, like today)

most nights it looks like that as well…which has been the hardest thing to get used to. the white nights. right now we’re at about 19 hours of daylight, which makes insomnia even more fun 🙂

we are looking forward to being back on the road at the end of september.

seeing friends and family back east.

seeing sunsets, sunrises, the stars. the moon.

driving aimlessly and stopping randomly.

camping.

more parks!

but for now, here we are.

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All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

months and miles.

today marks the day. the sixth month anniversary of loading up the car, waving goodbye to lake erie, cleveland, ohio…..and heading out on the great adventure.

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we honestly had no idea what we were doing.

like, no clue. 

I mean, sure we’d plotted out a general course…looked at a million blogs about how to do what we were doing, but, seriously.

not a clue.

 

so here’s a bit of what we’ve learned:

–you’re going to need half of what you think you’ll need.

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–travel slow, and  if you find a spot that looks good, stay there.

–always stop for the brown signs on the highway exits (they mean good things: national parks, state parks or really touristy fun stuff!)

–buy a national parks pass. just do it. the national parks are the best idea the US has ever had.

–if you find a spot you like, stay there! (btw: free camping is abundant, you just have to know how and where to look for it. we’ve spent a total of $16 on camping in 6 months, all of that in Texas.)

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–adapting to your environment is key.

–travel bloggers on instagram are not showing you everything (like where do they poop?)

–you’re much tougher than you think.

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–time is a social construct. (think about that one….I must ask at least once a week, “wait, what day is it?” because we don’t have to be anywhere, do anything, on anyone else’s time….weekdays or weekends don’t matter. it’s weird and takes time to get used to.)

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–this country is huge, beautiful and is so vastly different if you just travel more than 300 miles outside of your comfort zone. if you don’t like where you are: move! there is so much out there to see and experience.

–people out there (away from the cities) are much nicer, kinder and more generous than you know.

–don’t wait. we’ve met so many women, couples in their retirement years who’ve said to us (all_of_them_have_said_this) “we should have done this at your age, good for you guys.”

don’t wait. 

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where we go from here:

today we are in yakima, washington, on our way to a town north of seattle for the week. we are then boarding a plane friday for anchorage, alaska.

yes, alaska.

we’ll be working up there for the summer outside of denali national park.

I can say this: we are excited to be off the road for a while, but last night as we spent our last night in the car (fittingly in a walmart, just like our first night in new jersey) we were talking about how we are actually going to miss the freedom we’ve had, the autonomy, the rising with the sun, going to bed when it gets dark, and the general not-seeing-any-other-humans that has been so great. we’re going to have a bit of a time adjusting.

but it will also be nice to have showers and meals and a bed whenever we want.

that will be nice.

so, stay tuned from alaska!

xoxo,

j

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All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life

living without.

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hard days. days like yesterday, when we went to do laundry, find internet and get groceries and only accomplished two of the three. (the internet we found was so slow it was worthless for what I needed it for; mainly downloading new things for us to watch during the dark, cold hours between sunset and sleep; and to update my blog. hell, I couldn’t even get Facebook to load, or send photos to my phone via messages.)

hard days, but also learning to live without things, live like we (well, like I) used to live….no internet. today, for example we made a decision to not go to ‘town’, to stay at camp, even though we had not accomplished what we needed yesterday. staying put meant not spending money, but it also meant we had to learn to keep occupied. easy on warm days, not so easy on a chilly day.

I spent some of the day working on the old quilt (of my mom’s) that I’m patching. it was on her bed as a teenager in the fifties, and I’ve had it since my grandpa passed away in 1997. it’s been well loved, and is threadbare in many spots—holes right through in many others. I’m sewing patches on it with embroidery floss, using a blanket stitch. patches of all different sizes, in fabrics I’ve acquired through various means, mainly tiny prints, some from Japan, all very quaint. it’s more than a way to pass the time, it’s marking the days that I’m on this journey, it helps me focus on something other than the road going by, or the silence of the forest. it’s a great meditation, a purpose.

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xander spent most of the day reading. we picked up some books (2 each at under .80/pc from goodwill) while our laundry was washing yesterday. after my fingers started turning numb (even in the wristwarmers I pulled from my jeannieknits stash… it is still. so. freaking. cold!) I crawled in the car, and under the blankets, and passed the rest of the afternoon reading as well.

I joked later we were living like Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I’m not sure x got the reference.

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we also looked at the map (MAP!) of texas that we picked up at the welcome center and mapped out 2 possible routes through the state (see, internet, we don’t need you!) and are planning on heading out from here tuesday and head to the shores of the gulf…time for some sun and sand.

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sam houston national forest 1/19/2016

we have your dog.

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the other day while cooking lunch, we noticed a dog wandering around the campground. white and brown, lean; a hunting dog, clearly. she had a tracking collar on (they have a large box with an antennae sticking out of it) and another leather collar. we watched as she got closer and seemed interested in something under our car. sniffing, pawing….I was afraid it was a dead animal, but she popped her head up with a piece of wheat bread in her mouth. after eating that one, she went back and got another. apparently a loaf of bread had fallen out of our car when we were unloading, and she was hungry. 

xan went and grabbed the bag from under the car, occasionally tossing another piece to the dog who was still lingering around. after a while, we went back to eating our lunch and building a fire, going about our day and not giving much more thought to our new friend. 

about an hour later, I was heading a short ways from our site to gather some wood and the bright white of the dog, nestled in under the magnolias and vines and tall pine trees caught my eye. as I approached her I noticed she was shaking. the temps were about in the high 40’s, and in the dampness of the woods it was very chilly.

I called xander over, and we decided we’d better call and get her owner. clearly the tracking device wasn’t working and this little gal was lost.

getting a signal to the phones is futile out here, so we unhooked the car from the tent and xander drove about 25 minutes up the road until he could get a connection.

after several dropped calls he finally got through.

“Is this Ryan B***r?”

“Uhhh, no?”

“Wait, is this Ryan? I called the number on the tag that had your name on it. we have your dog”

“Aw, heck I thought you was a bill collector!”

after telling him where we were, he said he’d be there in 15 minutes (which in the south means thirty)….so in about a half hour, a mud caked white pick up truck pulled up (of course it was a white pick up) and out of it jumped Ryan and the cutest little mini version of Ryan, about 3 years old, both decked head to toe in camo and boots and southern hospitality.

the dog, who had seemed depressed and forlorn all day, perked up, as if to sense his cause was not lost as he smelled the familiar scent of “his people” when they exited the truck.

I asked the little one, “Is that your dog?

“yes, m’am” came the sweetest little southern drawl.

“What’s her name?”

“Bobbie”

“well I hope it’s ok we fed her some bread”

“yes, m’am”

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Bobbie struggled to lift herself up—something was wrong with her back right hip—and the tail started wagging for the first time.

the two southern gentlemen each grabbed her collars and escorted her to the truck, thanking us over and over again….explaining along the way that her collar must have dead batteries, that they had been looking for her since last night.

they loaded her into a cage in the back, and off they went.

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about two hours later, while making dinner, xander sees another dog come sniffing his way into the campground.

brown and white, hunting dog, tracking collar.

sniffing around…on the trail of something…..wandering in circles…searching.

“you’ve got to be kidding me!” xander yells, throwing his hands up in the air.

the dog looked his way, head cocked as if to say:

“bobbie said something about some bread?”

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desoto national forest, mississippi

 

 

All images © 2013-2016 Jeannie M. Starks / two daisies life