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Coyotes and Wild Turkey

Like pitch on the pine, Priest Lake stuck with me, seeped in my soul and lingered in my heart – even after 25 years of absence.

Scratched in the Idaho Panhandle, carved by energy and force, Priest Lake is shouldered by the mighty Selkirk’s mountains. Shawled in pines, adorned with sandy shores, islands and bays – the deep emerald water sparkles in sun and moonlight.

Some say this area is a crown jewel. I say it’s the tiara that tops North America.

I fell in love with this place as a child. An affordable destination where blue-collar families could make lifetime memories, Mom and dad would save all year to treat us to our annual two-week summer vacation.

We’d count the days throughout the year till once again we could enjoy lazy lake days playing in the water, picking wild huckleberries, waterskiing, lying on the warm sand, making beach fires, roasting weenies and marshmallows and spending countless hours watching shooting stars in the darkness of the Northern sky.

So, in our quest to find a new home, we decide to put on the brakes and stop for a few months to see if this could be it.

A call to a childhood lake friend who made Priest Lake her home, we find a place to live and summer jobs. We spend the summer relaxing in this unspoiled place, spending time with new friends, meeting the locals, making a little money and enjoying this place of silence and solitude. Scrapers my cat is relieved to be out of the cramped quarters of the camper for a while too.

Void of society’s distractions, you become aware of your surroundings here. The natural beauty lifts your eyes up, out, and around.

The songs and ceremony of the forest are constantly playing if you listen and hear, if you watch and see: the thump of falling pinecones thrown down by scurrying chipmunks; the caw of the raven soaring above the trees; the tapping of woodpecker; the fluttering of moth wings near the lights; the swoosh of tree branches in the wind; the vibration of hummingbird wings as they stop to sip on flower nectar; the buzz of bumbel bees; the cries of coyotes chasing moonlight shadows; the purr from baby wild turkeys foraging with their mama on the forest floor.

What’s out there hiding in these trees – a deer, an elk, a wolf, a bear? This is truly the land of great beasts that outnumber humans.

This Northern exposure is a polar opposite from where I’ve spent the last 25 years. On Maui, predators swim in the water and natural disasters come in the form of wind or surging seas. Here, predators roam the land not in the water and natural disaster comes in the form of flame and fires.

But like Maui, the people here are warm and welcoming and full of tenacity. The challenges of staying here fulltime are great, but so are the rewards. Those who call it their home are here because the love it.

As best they can, these gatekeepers try to preserve and protect it from the exploiters who take and never giving back. But like all desirable places, they are creeping in. I pray this special place remains wild and accessible to all and not overtaken by millionaire’s mansions and unwanted development, like Maui has.

Autumn settles in this Northern exposure and Mother Nature bejewels her coronet with ruby, amber and garnet tones. As the wild baby turkeys have plumped over the last three months, so has my spirit.

Could this be our new home? We’re not sure, but we depart knowing it’s a top contender.

We feel the itch to get back on the road so we pack up our stagecoach and decide to keep moving to destinations unknown, knowing we’ll be back again. Like pitch on a pine, Priest Lake will forever stay on my mind.

The Gift of A Griddle

Before I began my adventure, I was organizing my supplies in my mom and dad’s garage when I noticed they had a whole storage shelf filled with their old camping equipment. They stopped camping over 30 years ago, but they haven’t given this stuff away.

Neatly organized were coolers, a Coleman stove, gas canisters, a lantern, tablecloths, and even a Ziploc bag filled with bug spray and sunscreen, many years past their expiration dates. Under the pots and pans, I see the 50-year old cast iron camping griddle, wrapped in aged newspaper and covered with an old brown paper bag.

The griddle was a gift to Dad from his first cousin Louie Ambrozic before he died in a car accident. Louie grew up with Dad in Butte Montana. He was, in essence, Dad’s little brother whom he loved dearly, and Louie worshiped the ground Dad walked on.

Louie handcrafted the griddle in the metal casting workshop when he worked at the Anaconda Copper Mining Company in Butte. Weighing nearly 10 pounds, the 18 x 12 inch smooth griddle has curved edges and skinny handles on each end. This was Dad’s pan of choice for cooking bacon and eggs over a campfire – it accompanied us on every camping trip. Continue reading “The Gift of A Griddle”

Living in the Extremes: From Maui to Montana

Island to continent

Beach to mountain

Palms to pines

Sand to snow

Green to white

Warm to cold

One season to four.

Waves to snowflakes

Surfing to skiing

Bleach blond to dirty blond

Tan to pale

Beer to brandy

Bikini to long johns

One layer to three.

Living in the Extremes:

From Maui to Montana –

Only an 80-degree differential!

Mining Memories In Montana

Where the days last forever

The hours you won’t measure

The memories you will treasure

It’s a camping state of mind.

When the odometer flipped 2,400 miles, we knew we were no longer on an island in the middle of the Pacific. While it’s a good distance to travel, it’s just a fraction of the distance we will go before we finish this adventure in the American West.

After our tour of the Centennial state, our tires turn towards Montana’s Big Sky Country. Whizzing across southern Wyoming, we pass by big rig truckers and desolate landscape on I-80.

Heading north, the dramatic landscape returns as the peaks of the Rocky Mountains once again are thrust into the blue skyline when we reach Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Continue reading “Mining Memories In Montana”

John Ford Meets John Denver

A couple weeks on the road now and, like running antelopes, we’re covering a lot of territory very quickly. Traversing Western Colorado’s scenic byways, the highlighted routes on our map now resemble large linking puzzle pieces.

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We go up and down and up and down the many mountain passes like a roller coaster ride. From the summits to the prairielands, the views are panoramic scenes straight out of an old John Ford Western, but we’re the cowboys in this thrilling adventure. Continue reading “John Ford Meets John Denver”

Nomadic Travelers

Like jumping into a cool tropical pool after a long sweaty hike, hitting the road with the new camper is exhilarating, eye opening and refreshing.

While we are officially homeless, we no longer feel that way. On the road our tiny house on wheels provides shelter, privacy and protection from weather, wild animals and weirdoes in the wilderness. Continue reading “Nomadic Travelers”

Tiny Home, Large Landscape

The thought of ordering a custom camper from the Internet sight unseen made me nervous. Having never been in a truck camper, and not having the resources on Maui to research them made it a big challenge.

Continue reading “Tiny Home, Large Landscape”

The Plan is No Plan

Our first destination is Denver to pick up our new camper. Like kids on Christmas morning, we can’t wait to open it up and play with it.

Leg one: 1300 miles – the sound of that delights us.
After being cramped on a landmass 40 miles by 60 miles with an island wide speed limit of 45 mph, we couldn’t wait to travel some distance and double that speed.

Colorado here we come. Continue reading “The Plan is No Plan”

The Landing

Hard Work Does Pay Off

Like a plane traveling through a turbulent sky, my emotions bounced around.

As the wheels of the plane touched down in Seattle, the melancholy mood of saying goodbye to Maui jumped to feeling joyful to be saying hello to my parents and to be starting my adventure.

I would spend a month at my parent’s house in North Bend Washington. I had to wait for the truck to make its journey across the Pacific and for Trenton to finish his farm lease, and I wanted to spend some time visiting with and helping my mom and dad.

After my folks turned 80, their health became more fragile. Continue reading “The Landing”

A Couple, A Camper, A Cat

Yes I did.

I brought my pet with me from Maui – an 11-year-old, one-eyed cat named Scrappers.

I looked for a good home for Scrappers but no one was interested in my half-blind buddy. I tried, maybe not as hard as I could have. I loved the little guy and I really didn’t want to say goodbye to him.

I found Scrappers in the road on a full moon night, Continue reading “A Couple, A Camper, A Cat”