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.

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

learning.

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well it’s been a week. (technically almost two) but, man.

we learned a lot on this adventure so far.

mainly; we packed too much of the wrong things.

should have bought the tent first thing.

rain is the enemy.

walmart

walmart

walmart.

as much as I hate to say it, walmart has been a lifesaver. sleeping there, undisturbed…ok, undisturbed except in Virginia on xmas eve when the local boys like to ride their pickups around and around until the wee hours…undisturbed; meaning we can be there and it’s cool with walmart.

“Radjit, you need someone on carts”

New Jersey is the worst place on earth. Anything worth getting to, you just can’t. hence our new  phrase, “that’s a New Jersey Shake Shack” meaning, it’s there, oh it’s RIGHT there..you can see it…practically touch it. you just can’t (and won’t EVER) get to it. (only people who have driven in the labyrinth that is Paramus, New Jersey will understand this)

learning how to ‘flip’ the car from driving mode to sleeping mode has gotten easier.

privacy screens: yes.

fan: hell yes.

learning how much you need to take into the starbucks bathroom in the morning to come out feeling fresh as a daisy (wipes, deodorant, toothbrush/paste new undies, new socks and freshen up the hair: boom.)

time.

there’s so much time when you really have no where to go/be.

that’s probably been the hardest. it’s also been the gift.

we’ve seen so much:

DC on xmas eve, virtually empty (except the flocks of Asians with Selfie Sticks)…seemed like we escaped from a middle school field trip and finally got to see all the ‘good stuff’

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waking up in the Croatan National Forest to rain gently dripping on the roof of the car, and the pink sun rising over the Neuse River: we did it! we spent the night in the woods! cooking breakfast in the clearing, while the other campers started fishing, carving, doing their thing. eating the best meal I’ve ever had, only because it was cooked on a single burner propane camp stove under towering North Carolina Pines.

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of course there have been times that weren’t my favorite;

Having a mental breakdown in New Jersey (I mean, who wouldn’t?) in a park, in the rain, over all of our “stuff” not being organized. Throwing the excess away and realizing this, this has to be the worst day.

(that was day 2)

watching an old Asian lady get hit by a car in Atlantic City, and being the only car to stop. sitting in the rain on the wet street, each of us holding her hand while we waited with her for the ambulance and police to come.

Learning how to use my GoGirl at 2am while parked in a New Jersey Walmart parking lot, just as the night shift was leaving. “can they SEE MEE?!” as headlights lit up my white butt in the rear window of the car.

Christmas Dinner in a North Carolina Waffle House was less than ideal…but not the worst thing that I’ve done on Christmas.

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New Year’s Eve spent waiting around all day for an amazon package that never came; the package that is essentially delivering our freedom; our tent.

realizing that you don’t really have anyone to depend on except yourself. that’s always a hard lesson to have to keep learning; but we’re all in this alone.

the days just staring at the ocean in South Carolina (Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms…) at the end of December seem to wash away the bad, at least for the moment.

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