Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Phantom: So far so good

About three weeks ago—October 17, to be precise—I fell and sprained (I assumed) my left wrist. The next day, Monday, I noticed not all was well with Phantom. He wasn’t eating, which for him is a great big ginormous red flag. I got him into the vet on an emergency basis, and she found that his bladder was very full but she couldn’t get any pee from him by squeezing. She figured he had a blocked urethra (which apparently is a thing with male cats—who knew), so she anesthetized him in order to catheterize him, but found a tiny crystal right at the tip of the urethra she was able to pluck off. She kept him for a few hours to see if he was then able to pee. All appeared well, so I took him home that night.

But by the next morning, it was clear that in fact not all was well, so back he went. This time she catheterized him and kept him overnight, removing the catheter Wednesday to see how he would do. I took him home Thursday, but again by the next day it was clear he wasn’t peeing, so back he went, to be catheterized over the weekend, hoping and expecting that he’d be ok Monday. But he wasn’t. I think that was the day she spelled out options for me, which amounted to: 1) put him down (since not being able to pee is ultimately fatal); 2) try another round of catheterization; or 3) take him to either Eugene or Medford for a very expensive surgery (a reconstruction of the urethra so it’s shorter and wider so pee can get through even if it contains crystals).

Phantom is a very nice, sweet cat—arguably the nicest and most social being in my household, including me—and I was absolutely not ready to have him put down. This whole thing had come as a bolt from the blue, and my brain doesn’t cope as well with crises as it once did, so I opted for a third go-round of catheterization, but decided I should prepare for the worst. By the end of the day, I had decided that even though it seems an obscene amount of money to spend on a cat, I would do the surgery if it came to that (see above about sweet cat, plus he’s only 7.5 years old and I do have the money in the bank. I would probably have made a different decision if he were 12.)

The plan was the vet would keep him catheterized until Wednesday, remove it Wednesday evening, and we’d see if he peed overnight. Both the vet and I were assuming that if he didn’t, surgery was immediately indicated. Turned out the pet hospital in Eugene wouldn’t be able to do it until the following Tuesday, but the one in Medford is a 24/7 emergency care hospital, so I got him set up with a chart there and awaited developments. I was seriously hoping not to have to make the drive to Medford and back (about three hours each way) because steering is a two-handed operation unless you have one of those knobs on your steering wheel and my wrist, while getting better, was still quite painful when asked to do much of anything.

Thursday morning the vet greeted me with “You don’t have to go yo Medford”. I happily brought him home (Shadow, who was weirded out by Phantom’s absence, had by this time settled nicely into being the only cat and was not at all happy to have him back.) Phantom clearly had his appetite back, and we enjoyed some lap time that morning.

However, by that afternoon I was beginning to be worried. Phantom was peeing, but in tiny amounts at a time. I called the vet’s office, but the vet who had been taking care of him was off that afternoon, and the other vet didn’t call me back (although I asked for her to do so.) It was two the next day—Friday—before I got a call-back, from the first vet, and she had me bring him in. The news was not good—his bladder was full and tight. She called up to Medford and was told that if I could get him there by 6:00 that evening, they could do the surgery (which now that I know more, confuses me). Since it was then three o’clock, and I learned for the first time that our vets’ office no longer can keep animals in over the weekend because of lack of personnel (the vet had done it the previous weekend out of the goodness of her heart, but she was going out of town the coming weekend), and I had it firmly fixed in my mind that not peeing is life-threatening, and I’m not at my best by late afternoon these days, and don’t drive in the dark anymore, and it’s a three hour drive and I wouldn’t even be able to leave for another hour at least—I freaked. I saw no solution, no way out.

Eventually the vet removed his urine with a syringe and I brought him home, still trying to decide if I could maybe do the drive up to Medford that night so he could at least be catheterized and not die over the weekend. However, it was raining, the road up to I-5 is a curvy mountain road, and Phantom was peeing small amounts, so I decided the sensible thing to do was wait and go first thing Saturday morning. By morning, I was more relaxed and clear-headed, and Phantom was still peeing in small amounts, so I took the time to make sure I had what I needed in the van for a couple of days if necessary, arranged with neighbors to take care of Shadow, and headed for Medford.

Altogether, Saturday was a long day, for me and for Phantom. We arrived at the SOVSC about 2:00–and began a long series of waits. Wait for his turn to come up to go in (they are on Covid procedures, so animals go in but people don’t—business is conducted in the parking lot.) Wait for him to be seen by a vet (that was a particularly long wait.) Wait for the vet to call and talk to me. Wait for him to have some diagnostic tests. Wait for the results of the tests. Wait for them to come take my money. Wait for Phantom to be checked out, and for them to bring him out. By this time it was 9:00 PM, my bedtime, and I was more than ready to be done for the night. Fortunately, they had no problem with me sleeping in their parking lot. I learned from chatting with some other people who were waiting that SOVSC is short-staffed because of Covid—some people quit because of working conditions or because they got sick, and others refused to get vaccinated once that was possible and were let go. I tried to be patient and understanding, but waiting is HARD for me, and I kept wanting more information about what was going on than I was getting. I was sure grateful for the van, which made the waiting at least more comfortable.

It was a showery afternoon, so I saw several rainbows. Finally took a picture.

What I gained in return for all that waiting, besides rainbows, was information. Information about the SOVSC process: contrary to my impression from what I had been told by my vet’s office, one cannot just show up and have one’s animal taken care of. One needs a referral from one’s vet (unless the animal is clearly an emergency case). Fortunately, I had pushed to have that happen before I left on Friday. Nor, however, will they just take one’s own vet’s recommendation for what should be done—they insist on making their own evaluation. For which one pays. I was initially annoyed by this, but in the end was glad for it.

Part of that evaluation was diagnostic tests. They offered me a urinalysis, blood tests to make sure he was healthy enough for surgery if that proved necessary, and x-rays to see if there were any stones/crystals in his bladder explaining his inability to pee. I opted for all three (they were scrupulous about informing me of costs ahead of time and getting my say-so before going ahead at any stage.) Results: a bladder infection for which an antibiotic shot he got the previous week was not effective, blood levels ok (with indications of stress—duh), and no visible detritus in the bladder. All this being so, together with the fact that Phantom was continuing to pee small quantities at a time, and his bladder was not distended and tight, the vet said they wouldn’t do the surgery, even if we hung around until Tuesday, the first possible time to get it done in any case. Apparently they usually only do it after three episodes of blockage requiring catheterization. I said, but he’s had three episodes of catheterization. But apparently not—the entire ordeal so far only counted as one episode. If he has another such episode in, say, three months, and then another in another, say, six months—then they’d do it. This was not only news to me, but it turns out it was news to my vet also she was surprised they didn’t do it, because she too assumed three distinct catheterizations were three episodes.

Once I got home, I finally read up on the surgery, which I hadn’t done before because I was too stressed to think about it. Having done so, I understand their reluctance to undertake it unless it’s unambiguously called for. Not only is the surgery itself painful for the critter, the post-operative care is difficult for both critter and owner. If I had had what I thought I wanted when I headed up on Saturday, it would have not only been very expensive, but Phantom and I would be in the midst of this difficult process even now—unless he’d died on the operating table, which does happen.

Anyway, back to Friday night. The vet didn’t see any need to catheterize him since he had peed during the time they had him. They would have kept him in overnight, but I didn’t see the point of that—I knew he’d be more comfortable out in the van, which is his home away from home and in which he’s very comfortable. She carefully offered me three medicines—an antibiotic, prazosin to lower his blood pressure and hopefully help the urethra to relax, and a pain killer. Again I went for all three, though I should have turned down the pain killer, because I won’t be using it. Knock wood. I think it was another hour, maybe more, before I finally got him back, and then had to give him meds because he had threatened to bite when they tried it. He was NOT a happy cat, and let me know that in no uncertain (for him) terms. He ate, and peed a couple small ones in the litter box, I got his pills into him (I have a device to make this possible without getting bitten), and then let him stay inside the van overnight because I didn’t have the heart to put him back in the crate and put him out for the night. Which meant I didn’t sleep as well as I otherwise would have, but I did get some sleep thanks to my gabapentin and ibuprofen PM.

The vet had emphasized that if he got blocked (as evidenced by no pee for 6-8 hours), it would be life-threatening and he would need to be catheterized. I had thought I’d stay in the area one more night, so that if that happened it would be possible for him to be catheterized, since once back home it would not be possible until Monday. But Sunday morning, it was obvious he was still not truly blocked—while each pee was small, he had peed several times during the night. I dithered while breaking camp and getting ready to drive, and finally decided to drive back to the Rogue River rest area/CG for breakfast, where I could have a nice walk with Scamp, and decide then whether to stay or head home. In the end, much as I like that CG, I just wanted to be home, so drove home, getting here about 2:00. Wiped out. I knew coming home was a bit of a risk, but Phantom had peed again while Scamp and I were walking, so I felt it was more likely to be ok than not, and so it has proved. So far.

The drives themselves, both up and back, were quite nice, though I wasn’t in the best shape to appreciate them, due to stress on the way up and being tired on the say back. But fall colors were on display, with enough blue sky between rain bouts to add to the beauty. I took this while on the walk with Scamp—the best views were while I was driving, but somehow it didn’t seem quite the thing to do to try to take pictures then what with only one fully functional arm and all, so this will have to stand in for it the rest.

I’ve been back for a week now. Monday morning, I decided maybe I should go see my doctor about the wrist. It wasn’t healing as fast as I thought it should, and the drive had definitely done it no good, so I thought just maybe I should make sure nothing was broken. Got in to see him Wednesday; he sent me for x-rays, which revealed that there is indeed a break. I have no idea what kind of break or exactly where, but have an appointment with the orthopedist up at our little hospital tomorrow, so should know more after that. Took Phantom in to the local vet on Thursday to find out if the bladder infection was gone, and to show her what he’s doing in the way of peeing (I use clumping litter, so I can save the clumps). The urinalysis revealed he’s still infected, so he’s still on an antibiotic (yet a different one), and also prazosin and gabapentin. I don’t know whether he or I hate getting those into him more. So far, he seems to be getting out a good amount of urine cumulatively, though only a small amount at any one time. Shadow seems mostly resigned to having him back, and I’m letting Phantom outside for the first time since all this started. So—So far, so good.

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Mt. Humbug

Yes, that’s the real name.

I’ve driven past Mt. Humbug on highway 101 many times, and often had the vague thought that I should stop and explore it someday. I eventually realized that I would never do it as long as I was on my way somewhere else, that it would have to be a destination in its own right. A couple of weeks ago, when there was a weather window (a couple of days with no rain), I decided the time had come. There’s a campground on one side of the highway, and a trail up the mountain on the other. I loaded up for one night out and drove down after lunch (it’s just over an hour from my house.)


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Tardy trip post

At the end of January, I took a trip up the coast to Fort Stevens (near Astoria, for any out-of-staters who see this. Astoria being where ET was filmed, for any old out-of-staters 🙂 ). As usual, I came back with every intention of blogging it, but didn’t for the first few days, and then it (as usual) didn’t feel timely, and then it felt too late–well, you get the picture.

BUT I recently got fiber-optic wifi at the house, and am using that as the excuse/reason for doing it now, to see if it speeds things up noticeably. (Later–it did. Yay!)

The timing of the trip was predicated on the weather. The point was to time my arrival at Fort Stevens for the day before a predicted sunny day, so I could have the entire sunny day up there. And it worked! A minor miracle when it comes to predictions about weather even a few days out along the coast, at least three seasons of the year.

One can, should one wish, make the drive from my house all the way to Fort Stevens in one day, but my days of doing long, or even longish, drives are over, so I planned to stay at South Beach SP, just south (duh) of Newport. As expected, it was rainy and windy when we arrived, but I was prepared for that. It was my first time there, and it turned out to be a very good place for this time of year. There were quite a few people in the CG–more than I anticipated– but it was nowhere near full. I don’t think I’d like it full, but then I don’t like most CGs when they are really full.

After picking and claiming my spot, Scamp and I headed over to the beach. Interestingly, there are signs along the way indicating where the beach was in years past. Turns out, the river jetty causes the beach to grow. Once I read the sign that explained that, I could see the signs of the dunes near the current beach growing.

It was windy, and I was using my umbrella, but the rain gave me a bit of a break, and we made it all the way out.

The next morning, we got a pretty sunrise, after a very windy and rainy night.

The forecast for that day wasn’t looking good, so I decided to delay getting to Fort Stevens by one more day. I was curious about Cape Lookout, so decided to at least drive out there and stay if I liked it. Which I did, a lot.

It started snowing on the drive up and out to the Cape. Very pretty. I tried, but this is the best I managed at capturing it.

The snow was rain down at the CG, but the next morning it had lingered on the hills.

You can’t really hear me well on that, but I was talking about the wind, which was intense. More on that later.

I’m getting things out of order here, but so what. I saw a lovely moon in the evening when I was putting the cats to bed for the night. . .

. . . and again in the morning when doing Scamp’s morning pee walk.

Neither picture shows what I saw, because my phone refuses to focus on a full moon so you get the smeary look instead. Which is also pretty, so it will do.

As mentioned above, the wind on our morning walk was impressive, which made for lovely surf.

Those were taken, I think, at two different stretches along the beach. You can see why I didn’t even contemplate a beach walk that morning.

Since it was raining some too, I tried to deploy my umbrella as best I could. On the way out, I gave up after awhile and put up with getting a bit wet, but on the way back, facing into the cold wind and rain, I decided to use it again. Even using both arms holding it up and angled correctly, my arms got tired from holding it up against the wind. At that point, I think Scamp was having more fun than I was :-).

The campground is protected by rocks and a short dune, as you can see here. It wouldn’t last long without that.

Here is some impressive evidence that storms have been known to be much more powerful than the one I experienced.

I took that the afternoon we arrived. Clearly, some storm had tossed that rather large log up and over the dune and onto the fence. Probably the storm surge was aided by a high tide, but still. It looked like the damage had been there awhile, so probably not this winter.

Heading out, I took the scenic route skirting Tillamook Bay. I’d forgotten, if I had ever realized, just how beautiful the bay is. It was one of those occasions when I had to make myself quit stopping to take pictures.

I think I took the first and the last because of the snow. As I commented on FB, fresh snow makes everything look prettier, even clearcut mountainsides.

Found an absolutely beautiful place for the lunch stop, north of Neahkannie. Watching the waves from above was mesmerizing.

I had to tear myself away, but eventually managed to do so.

It was intermittently cloudy and rainy and then just cloudy when I finally got up to Fort Stevens. Which wasn’t all that “eventually”–I had plenty of time to drive around getting oriented–it’s a huge campground– pick my spot, drive around doing some initial exploring so the map would make sense to me, get set up with plenty of time for a walk with Scamp for some more orientation, and then settle in for wine and our usual evening camping routine.

The next day was cloudy and a bit blustery in the morning, but ended up sunny and perfect. The first objective was a long off-leash walk with Scamp. I drove out to the jetty, checking out wach potential trail along the way. There’s now a short observation tower at the jetty, from which you see this view.

I could have stood there for another half hour just watching, but Scamp wanted to walk! Walk now! No, run! Let’s go! This is perfect! Sadly, there was not a good trail at that point, so I spent ten minutes tricking her back into the van, complicated by the damn DEF light coming on. Diesel exhaust fluid to you gas vehicle drivers. Once that light appears, I can only start the engine 20 times before replacing the fluid, or else the Mercedes engineers in their omnipotent and infinite wisdom will lock it off and it has to be towed to he nearest Mercedes servicing place to be dealt with. Freaks me out every time I see that light.

Anyway, I picked our trail and headed off for about a 45 minute walk with Scamp. There was no walkable beach–the tide was too high–so we ended up skirting some dunes. This was my attempt to capture the scene–not particularly successful, but the best I could do.

Here’s Scamp, posing for me. I was amazed–usually she (and every other dog I’ve ever had) runs up to me as soon as I point a camera her way. She started to this time, but I said “wait”–and she did!

After the walk, and to assuage my DEF anxiety so I could enjoy the rest of the day, I headed over to Warrenton to a NAPA store to buy four gallons of the stuff. It took almost all of it to fill the reservoir. The DEF light, however, was still lit when I started the van, which made me nervous–by this time it was down to maybe 12 remaining starts before the van would lock up, so I contemplated driving to a place that could take care of it, and got the name of a place from the NAPA guys. But fortunately I remembered that it sometimes takes two or even more re-starts before the system kicks in and does what it’s supposed to do, and the light went out on the second try.

Time for lunch. I debated briefly whether to cross the river and explore Cape Disappointment, which I am also curious about; every time I’ve thought to camp there, it’s been full, so it would have been a good time to check it out. And I love crossing the Astoria bridge. But decided to head back to Fort Stevens instead, eat parked at Coffenbury Lake, and then walk the trail that encircles the lake. Which turned out to be an excellent decision.

By the time I got there, the fog had entirely cleared, there were just enough clouds to enhance the view, and the rest of the afternoon was simply gorgeous.

Here’s Scamp, with the lake in the background, at the beginning of our walk. It’s about two miles, if I remember correctly, and more of a walk than a hike–there’s a bit of a hill on one side, but then virtually flat the rest of the way around.

More pictures from the walk. I was tempted to take a lot more, but figured they’d all look pretty much the same, so restrained myself until we got to the far end of the lake. If you look re-a-a-lly carefully, you might be able to spot my van in this one. It’s a tiny white dot next to the bushes at the other end of the lake.

This is what it was like on the other side of the trail at the same point where I took the above picture. There’s more trail that went on down the right side of this, and I was curious and briefly tempted, but decided to be sensible and not over-tire myself.

My self-imposed restraint on taking pictures failed me at this point–this was taken just a few feet from the previous two. But who could resist? Just look at the clouds reflected in the lake.

A close-up of moss and ferns growing on a tree. One such of many.

A couple from the way back.

And back where we started, with Scamp on leash this time on accounta there were a few people around.

That walk was definitely worth the whole trip all by itself.

Before going back to set up camp again, I drove out to the wreck of the Peter Iredale, which now has a road named for it, and a parking lot, and has become a Destination. You can see what’s left of the wreck sticking out from the sand here.

The first time I ever camped there, way way back when, when none of the CG was paved, I remember walking down the beach and “discovering” the wreck for myself. I don’t remember where I had accessed the beach, but definitely not right at that point, and the wreck was much more impressive. It probably stood twenty feet over my head. There may have been one or two more wrecks still visible back then–they’re there in my memory, but since that would have been fifty or so years ago, that memory just may not be accurate :-). Somewhere I probably have pictures of the Peter Iredale taken then; they’d be rather faded now, I would imagine. The current bit is a disappointment every time I see it now.

The next morning, the fog was back, and with rain predicted for later in the day, I did not prolong the trip. Scamp and I took a short walk out by . . . something. I forget what it’s called. Clearly some remnant from military days.

The fog lent the scene a beauty all its own.

Heading back south, I stopped at our lunch spot from the way up. While still beautiful, it wasn’t quite as mesmerizing with the ocean calmer.

It was too early for lunch there, but I can’t complain about my lunch scene (though I did have to hunt a bit for just the right spot.) Tillamook Bay again.

Sure enough, by the time we were back at our happily still (or once again) available camp site at Newport, rain was pouring down, with wind out by the beach. I was curious about the jetty walk, so we made our way up a path through the trees,and found a nice view of the bridge out there. It was a bit of a challenge to get a picture, what with wind and rain and dog on a leash, but I managed. (Jane B., you may remember that bridge. You would have seen it from the other side, when we stopped at the aquarium in Newport on our wayback to Portland to put you and the kids on a plane for home.)

I’ll leave you with a selection of critter shots. No matter how repetitive, I can never resist taking more on each trip.

And they say you can’t buy love. Ha.

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Not the best title ever, and really not even all that accurate, but the phrase has been running through my mind, so I’ll stick with it.

A couple of days ago there was a confluence of a windy, stormy night followed by a beautiful morning, with a very high tide around 11:30 AM, so I headed over to Cape Arago. I’ve seen higher splooshes, but the ocean was churning, so here you are–more videos than you really need 🙂

After walking the trail to get those, I headed over to Simpson Beach, where so often we have a bunch of seals and sea lions hanging out. As I expected, no beach and hence no seals or sea lions. or those of you who have been there in the summer, you can see how high the tide was.

By this time, I was getting hungry, so began looking for a spot with a view for lunch. There were a lot of people out there–people come down all the way from Roseburg on days like this, for the same reason I was there–so the first several places I checked were all occupied. I ended up out by the jetty at Bastendorf, which is where the Coos river meets the sea, and it ended up being unexpectedly excellent. The tide was still high, and the waves coming up the channel provided some good action. I didn’t manage to catch the best stuff–I almost never do, partly because I get tired of trying and just want to watch–but still, not bad. And Scamp got some off-leash time, which we hadn’t been able to do out at Cape Arago because of how many people were there.

I was curious to see how my river was doing, so stopped by the park to check it out when I got back home. It was ju-u-ust shy of flooding.

I was going to stay home the next day, but with another very high tide in the forecast, I went out again, this time to Bandon where the Coquille river meets the sea. Scamp refused to come–she had heard me going in and out of the van, and she doesn’t like van rides, though she does like the destinations we end up at. I gave her two chances, then headed out without her. Went out to the jetty on the lighthouse side of the river. Sometimes we get some pretty good action there, but it seemed pretty tame after what I’d seen the day before. But it was mesmerizing nonetheless, so I watched for quite awhile.

And took a selfie.

There was a lot of driftwood piled up along there. Here’s some caught in the act of joining it.

By this time I was hungry, so headed into Bandon to see if I could get lunch there. It was the middle of the week, so there were no lines and I got takeout–fish tacos at Tony’s Crab Shack. I went there because it’s almost open-air. Not the best ever–I keep thinking I’ll get something good there; it hasn’t happened yet, but maybe someday. But remind me not to try the fish tacos again.

I thought about heading back to the jetty at Bastendorf to see if things were calmer there, but was feeling mildly guilty being out without Scamp, so headed home.

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Travails of travel

A pretentious title for my actual experiences, but the alliteration works. Though I will add that if you are particularly squeamish, you might want to skip this post. You have been warned. (I should probably add that I, the critters, and the van are all fine.)


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Virtue rewarded

It rained here most of the afternoon, so when it seemed to clear around three, I dragged myself out of the recliner to take Scamp for her afternoon walk. When we go down to the usual, I parked and hopped out of the car to try to capture this:

That almost does it justice.


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73 is.

Exactly one year ago today I was having a peak experience. Today I am not. But I am also not complaining.

I may not be up a mountain by a beautiful little lake, but I am in my comfortable house in a beautiful setting, strategically placed just enough inland to avoid the worst of the coastal fog and rain, and yet close enough to the coast to benefit from the natural air conditioning. [Which is apparently going to fail us in the coming week, but still–it will be the first time this summer the temperature has climbed higher than the eighties. (27-32 degrees celsius for everyone outside the US).]

I’m one of the Americans still practicing shelter at home, social distancing, and masking, but it has all impacted my life much less than most. My county has so far had a low incidence of covid, and in spite of the high proportion of conservatives and rabid trumpists*, compliance with masking has gradually increased, as far as I can tell (which is a good thing–fall and winter are coming.) I trim my own hair, but that’s not new–I have done for fifteen years or more. I canceled my planned cross-country trip–that’s probably the biggest adjustment I’ve had to make, but I have still taken some nice jaunts nearby. Like others, I miss in-person socializing and hugs, but I’m normally a bit of a hermit, so again it’s not that big a change for me. Day to day hardly any change, in fact, it’s just the length of time I’m going without socializing that’s the biggest difference. *Actually this is more of an assumption than any intrusion into my life. I know the majority of voters in this county vote Republican, and I do see trump signs around, but not a lot–did see a pickup flying a couple of trump 2020 flags a week or two ago, but it’s the only one I’ve seen–and I rarely get into political discussions around here, so . . . .

My shingles and PHN have affected my quality of life more than covid (knock wood and hope to God I never get it), BUT the PHN is gradually, ever so slowly, receding so I have hope I won’t be one of those who never get over it. And I got the first shingles vaccination shot this week, so hopefully this is not an experience I will have to repeat. My energy level is almost back to my pre-shingles level, and Scamp keeps me walking. Here’s some video from a short (about an hour) walk on the beach we did yesterday.

So. 73 is. And all in all I’m doing ok.

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My next project:

Strip wallpaper off this,

And paint to match this,

An finally, install hardware and get curtains, and put it all up here.

BECAUSE that miniblind, which I think cost all of $20 or so, was worth what I paid for it and not a penny more. It has lasted less than a year, about half the slats at the bottom are broken, and it no longer will go up. It’s cordless; cordless miniblinds are apparently all you can get these days. It’s not worth replacing with another that lasts less than a year, so I’m finally getting around to doing this project, which has been in the vague “someday, maybe, probably” category ever since I found the whatchamacallit in the basement. Someday has arrived.

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Regarding my health, progress has happened, but it’s slow. The PHN is somewhat better, but not gone, and recently seems to have plateaued. I’m able to forego the lidocaine patches, but the scalp pain is lingering irritatingly. Literally irritating–it feels like a sunburn much of the time. But no longer like the worst sunburn you’ve ever had–now down to a run of the mill bad sunburn. I’ve tried weaning myself off the gabapentin several times in the past six weeks, but to no avail. It’s going to run out next week, so I’m going to ask my doctor for another couple of months based on how slow my progress is.


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Y’all might want to skip this one. It’s (mostly–I added a story at the end that’s more entertaining) just the gory details of my almost six weeks dealing with shingles. I’m writing it just for myself, really. Though I will say to anyone who reads this far–if you haven’t had shingles and/or the vaccination for it yet, count yourself lucky and go get the vaccination. Unless you never had chickenpox–in that case, you’ll be OK. I’ve kicked myself a lot for not getting it when I could have— I’ve basically lost six weeks of prime time to the damn shingles. And it’s not really over yet.

So–first symptoms on June 2, felt like I’d been stung or bitten by an insect or spider, on my scalp about and inch and a half back of my right ear. Rapidly escalated–miserable night, up and crying with the pain. Like little lightening bolts going off. Toughed it out for two nights, then went to the doctor the next day, mentioned the possibility of shingles, but he decided that wasn’t it because he didn’t see any lesions. I’m STILL not happy about that decision, because lesions don’t always show up, and certainly don’t show up right at the beginning, and he knows that. If he had prescribed me the antiviral that day, it would no doubt have been more effective, because it would have been within the 72 hour time period they tell you to get an antiviral. Turns out that’s because it’s only effective when the virus is replicating. Instead, he prescribed a pain killer and sleep aid, which were mostly useless, plus the pain killer had acetaminophen in it, which makes me nauseous. Spent a really miserable weekend, sleeping very little, up out of bed and wailing when the pain spiked. You can do that when you live alone.

Back to the doctor on Monday, by which time there were plenty of scabbed-over lesions to show him, so he agreed it was shingles, changed the sleep aid and pain killer, and added an anti-viral.

The next weeks were at best not good and at worst miserable. The pain was up and down, sleep aids only sorta worked, opiates made me constipated and I’m still trying to get my gut back on a steady course, did a second round of anti-virals because after the first set of scabs, which covered maybe 40% of my skull by then, fell off some new ones developed so I thought maybe that indicated the virus was still active. The scabs coming off was a miserable couple of days, because they itched, so I had the delightful experience of my scalp simultaneously itching, hurting when touched and sometimes hurting just because, and on parts, being numb to the touch. I was sorta sleeping, using ibuprofen PM or diazepam, ice packs, and still more ibuprofen to get through the nights.

I’m not sure how long it was after the scabs came off, but just when I was starting to be slightly more hopeful that I was on the road to recovery, I had a weird experience. A wave of the most intense pain started on my scalp, and traveled across the whole affected area. It was like having heat lightening on my scalp. It was so intense it put me on the kitchen floor–I had headed to the kitchen to get an ice pack when it started. Probably lasted five-ten minutes, then subsided to normal levels. I was afraid the phenomenon might recur, but so far it hasn’t, to my great relief.

I was tracking my pain and energy level pretty closely–I am a Virgo, after all–and noticed some improvement the first few days of the second round of anti-viral. However, the week after that there was no improvement, and when the anti-viral was finished, the pain seemed to be maybe getting worse. So that Tuesday–last Tuesday as I write this–I went back to the doctor, carrying an ice pack along, which made an impression. He decided I have post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN–you can look it up), which means nerve pain that lingers after an outbreak of a herpes virus, the culprit in chickenpox and shingles. He prescribed gabapentin and, when I asked for them, lidocaine patches for my neck. My shingles were in the facial nerve, and the pain had spread to affect areas of my neck, face, and ear. The neck pain was doing more to keep me awake at night that my scalp pain by that point.

The jury is out (sorta. See story at the end) on whether or not the gabapentin is helping, but the lidocaine patches are an unmitigated success. The doctor mentioned almost in passing that I was probably suffering from quite a sleep deficit, and I think he was more correct than I even realized. I woke up the next day feeling good for the first time in weeks. My brain worked, I had some energy, and I didn’t have to fight pain for the an hour to two hours as I had been doing for the past several weeks. The neck pain overall hasn’t returned to the levels it was at (though there’s a little point on my jaw that is acting up as I write this–makes me wonder if just thinking about it is activating the nerve.)

Some time ago I had bought a number of things that I hoped might soothe the pain when it twinged. Yesterday I noticed that this

Is 4% lidocaine. The patches are 5%. I had been wishing I could apply a patch to my scalp to calm the nerves there, but not quite willing to shave off my hair so 1) the patch would stick, and 2) the lidocaine would make it down to the skin. I decided to glop a whole bunch of the alocane on, and leave it an hour or so–sort of imitating a patch. It definitely soothed the scalp. When bedtime came, I was SO sleepy I didn’t want to shampoo it out, so this is how it was when I woke up this morning.

It really did help. I made it through the night without ice, and my scalp is sore but not getting the sharp pains that it has been. I did shower this morning and shampooed it out, but I’m going to do it again tonight. I keep thinking if I had the skill, I could do a stylish do–the consistency isn’t that different from hair gel.

Better sleep definitely leads to better energy, but after six weeks of mostly languishing in my recliner or on my couch, doing the bare minimum necessary to sustain self and critters, sometimes not even taking Scamp for her walks, my strength and stamina are definitely down and need to be built back up.

One more story. When I woke up Wednesday morning feeling so much better, I wanted to DO THINGS and GO PLACES. Checked the tides, and the tides Thursday and Friday were just right for a morning beach walk, so I decided to go for it on Friday morning–take the van, walk on the beach, have lunch there. Gabapentin makes me feel spacey and woozley, so I was nervous about driving the van for the first time in over a month and driving it so far under the influence, so to speak. Tried doubling up on the gaba Thursday night and skipping the morning pill on Friday, and headed off to the beach feeling pretty good.

It was beautiful.

Grabbed a couple of sticks for Scamp and headed for the water. The idea of two sticks is throw one and when she brings it back, she drops that one so I’ll throw the other one. It sorta works. We set out walking into the wind, towards “the rocks”, as I think of this outcrop.

They didn’t look all that far away, and I was feeling pretty good, and I usually walk much further, so I figured that was a good goal.

However, I had underestimated just how much strength and stamina I’ve lost, and maybe underestimated the distance too. I didn’t quite make it, deciding to go back before I was completely out of gas. When we were nearly back, I saw a couple of guys standing around chatting, as I assumed, and a woman and (I thought) her dog just coming onto the beach. Got a little closer, and realized she was videoing something. Looked more closely, and saw this.

He walked like his feet hurt (though for all I know, that’s just how porcupines walk) and seemed to be rather intent on getting to the water. However, when I called Scamp and knelt down to put her leash on, he turned and headed our way. Scamp of course by then had homed in on him and wanted to go check him out. I had to pull her back quite forcefully at one point.

I’ve encountered porcupines there before, though always in the grass and brush up by the cliffs, never right out on the beach.

I’m calling it “he”, but it could have been a she for all I know. But it reminded me of a slightly scruffy, grumpy old man, so he it is. He gave up on the water and headed back for the cliff. I wrote to a friend that I could practically hear him grumbling “Come down for a nice dip in the ocean, maybe get me a little salt, all these people and dogs standing around staring at me, stupid dog wants to check me out, good thing for her she got stopped, can’t get any peace around here, whole thing’s not worth it, might as well go home”, and she came back with “Now see, you should write a little book called, “The Porcupine Monologues.”” I love the idea of a book–or blog–with that title, but am not sure I’m quite up to it 😄.

I did have lunch there, with this view.

On the drive home, I was feeling the stress of having tried to do just a bit too much, and the scalp and a couple of spots of neck pain were back, but it was so good to get away and do something different it was all worth it. I don’t think I’ll skip the gaba again, though, when I decide on another outing. Maybe it’ll stop making me so spacey? I can always hope. And I’ll make sure I have ibuprofen along with me. The pain only went back in its cave when I had my wine. The wine definitely works on the pain–too bad it has such negative side-effects of its own, or I’d just control the pain by drinking all day.

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Camping during covid

Having done a two-night, local camping trip and experienced what that did for my head and sense of well-being, I set out ten days ago on a longer venture, with my goal being to get out to Hart Mountain, for two reasons. First, the desert (sagebrush desert up here) is at its best in the spring, and second, I had never been there and wanted to scope it out. It ended up being a six-night trip, two nights in each of three excellent spots.


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Brief escape

At the beginning of the lockdown here in Oregon, when I was figuring out my coping strategies, I decided making short trips out and about to our open spaces was an important strategy for maintaining, psychologically. Within a couple of weeks, they closed the state parks and beaches (😢), which was good for us collectively because it stopped people coming in from cities and out of state (mostly) (🙂). This left the coastal mountains as my main area of escape.

I’ve done several day trips, some in the car and some in the van. It feels slightly wicked to use the van for short trips because of the low mileage it gets, but it’s really nice to be able to kick back out of the wind, make lunch, have a cup of tea, and enjoy the scenery while doing so. But I hadn’t done any overnight trips, until this week.

A couple of weeks ago I did a day trip partly with a view towards finding some good boondocking spots, since all the regular CGs are closed. It was good that I did, because it gave me a sense of how many other people are going out there too, and where I’d have the best chance of seeing no one else. Which is always my preference when camping, virus or no virus, unless traveling with friends. Unfortunately, that is also the preference of pretty much everyone else, which can make it tricky for us to all find suitably isolated spots.

But this week, my scouting and the weather all came together to afford me a couple of restorative nights out, one very nice and one nearly perfect. I’m not going to say exactly where, just because the irrational part of my brain doesn’t want other people to think “Oh! That sounds lovely!” and head out there. No one reading this is in a position to do that, and the rational part of my brain realizes that. But still. A harmless win for irrationality.

Anyway. My first spot, in a wide spot up an almost unused old forest service road.

All the critters were happy to be out too, even the cats, who had to contend with Scamp harassing them. Scamp stayed out almost all the time, though I did manage to coax her in for meals and to sleep at night. The cats did a lot of in and out and back in again, thank you, but at least neither on disappeared when I wanted them back in for the night or to leave in the morning.

One of the desiderata for a good camping spot is adequate walks. This was moderately good.

Scamp loves forests, possibly because of the ample supply of sticks. She is becoming more discriminating though, no longer going after small logs.

We explored a ways down the road we camped next to. It is blocked by fallen trees a ways down, which from a walker’s perspective is perfect.

The road started going down a bit too steeply for my taste (if I’m going to do steep, I prefer doing it on the way out), so we didn’t go too far.

I took the bike along for the trip, and got it down the afternoon we arrived with the intention of using it to explore (and give Scamp more of a run) the next morning. Out of an abundance of caution, I locked it to the ladder on the van. I have noticed that I feel less safe in the world these days than usual; I told someone local where I was going and approximately how long I expected to be gone, which normally I never do for an excursion such as this, and locked up the bike knowing it was probably foolish but also knowing the back of my brain would relax a bit more knowing it was secured.

Which turned out to be a mistake. The next morning, when it was getting warm enough to contemplate a ride, I went to get the bike ready–and the key wouldn’t turn to unlock the bike. I think it wasn’t quite inserting all the way, but regardless, it just would not turn. I tried WD-40, and worked at it for 10-15 minutes. By this time, I was getting concerned–I wasn’t going anywhere with the bike attached to the van, and I didn’t have any bolt cutters with me to cut the cable. I got as far as thinking about how far out I’d have to walk to get a signal so I could call for help, and what I’d need to take with me, while continuing to work on getting the bike free.

Cutting a long but boring story short (heh), I ended up using my hatchet

to whack through the housing of the lock mechanism. I’ve carried that hatchet from the beginning, and almost never use it for anything, but it totally earned its keep on this trip.

Here’s the result, after 15-20 minutes of whacking.

The bottom rung of the ladder got slightly banged up, but altogether things worked out ok.

Finished getting the bike set up, persuaded Scamp that running after me was indeed what she wanted to do, and headed down the road a mile or so to another spot that was on my radar from the scouting outing. And found this.

Didn’t take long for me to decide to shift camp to that spot. (Note to certain friends, you know who you are: there’s room for both vans there.) The weather was ideal for a sunny site, and there’s something about being by water. Rode back to the van, and got everything loaded up, including the bike. But not Scamp. She was big time into her “But this is perfect, we should stay here forever” behavior. I had anticipated that, but figured she’d be ok with running after the van–we’d done that a few times already, and she seemed to enjoy it. BUT. Nope. She was having none of it. She seemed prepared to just stay at the old camp no matter what. I went anyway–took off at speed (for that road, that meant somewhere between 25-30 mph), figuring I could go back for her on the bike. Apparently my disappearing down the road had gotten to her, because once I was there, got the bike down and ready, and headed back, she was running toward me only a hundred yards or so from the turnoff.

Camp was set up in time for lunch.

Had my after lunch cup of tea sitting outside–even the bugs were leaving me alone. Must be the season, I’m sure there are both mosquitoes and flies later in the summer.

Scamp was working on trimming that small branch into a stick and trying to tempt me into playing with her with it.

Walking options weren’t as plentiful as at the previous spot, but we made do. The road continues just a bit further, to another spot where people obviously have camped based on the trash they’ve left. There was what looks like an old logging lane going up the hill from there. It’s now covered with manzanita, a few years old. I picked my way up; Scamp scampered. These were taken about halfway up when I stopped to catch my breath, the first looking up, the second back down.

At the top there’s a cleared knob from which you can catch a view from just the right spots. I remain uncertain if those are the Cascades in the far distance or still part of the coastal range.

If you look carefully, you can see just a few touches of snow on the peaks in the bottom picture. The mountains are quite dry for this time of year in this geographic location. I just hope and pray we don’t have a bad fire season on top of everything else that’s going on.

The rest of the day I was mostly lazy; reading, sitting and gazing at the water, napping, taking short saunters with Scamp. Some more pictures:

I got interested in a grove of trees which were my view when lounging on the bed, and decided to pick my way back into the grove, where I took some close-ups. The phone didn’t quite capture the full beauty of the details, but these will give you an idea.

There’s a lot more left up there for me to explore later. As the saying goes, you never step into the same river twice, and the weather will heat up from here, so the perfection of that day is unlikely to be repeated, but it’s good to know the spot is there. And if I get up there to find other people enjoying it, there are others close by I can go to, and entirely unexplored side roads I can check out for more camping spots.

By the next morning, all of us were quite relaxed.

Even Scamp had calmed down, interested but not yipping with excitement or running up with a stick every time I stepped out of the van. I got loaded up in a relaxed time frame, and headed off with Scamp running behind for the first mile or so. She was much more persuadable to follow this time, and when I stopped fairly early, she let me pick her up without too much persuading.

I started off that morning not sure whether to just return home or stay out another night. When I got to the deciding point, I decided to head for a spot I had discovered last spring that had been perfect at the time. However, when I got there I found my memory had enhanced it somewhat, and in any case it felt like a bit of a comedown after the perfection of the day before, so I continued on out to I-5 and back down to home, making a large loop. It’s a pretty drive, so enjoyable.

Altogether, the outing was just what the doctor ordered. Part of the therapeutic effect was that it allowed me to be and feel completely normal for awhile. I did just what I would normally do on such an excursion, and taking such excursions is something I’ve done several times since moving here. The feeling was greatly aided by being offline, also normal for such an outing. How long the effects will last I don’t know, but I do know revisiting it by doing this post has been good, bringing the details back into my mind.

Take care of yourselves and stay safe, everyone.

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Morning walk, 4/5/20

Had sun for the walk this morning, after a couple of rainy days. It does lift my spirits. It brings out the beauty even in our weedy vacant lot. This was right after we got out of the car.

It just kept getting better.

You can see that spring is springing more—the trees are greening up.

Couldn’t decide which one I liked better of those two, so included them both.

These caught my eye. I think I liked them in part because they are growing up through the gravel.

Scamp keeps trying to tempt me down to the river, but it’s still a bit cold and muddy for that. Soon, Scamp, soon.

The air was still, so I got another whiff of the perfume from these trees.

And now we’re home, with rain in the forecast for this afternoon. But the forecast for the rest of the week looks gorgeous. Unfortunately, I won’t be the only one emerging from the house to enjoy the outdoors, so I’m thinking maybe doing some yardwork may be the solution. There’s plenty to do, and once I get myself started I can obsess quite satisfactorily over it. That should see me through several days of “sheltering in place.” Hope you are all safe and well out there.

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There was no escaping the rain this morning, so I decided to head out to Johnson Mill Pond for the walk, thinking it might be an opportunity to have it to myself. They stocked the pond several weeks ago, so there have been people out there fishing the last few times I’ve gone. And sure enough, it worked—nary another person to be seen, though there were tracks that indicated a pickup or two had been there earlier.

Walking in the rain can be quite nice, though—or perhaps because—I do the very non-Oregonian thing of using an umbrella. The subdued beauty of this struck me as soon as I got out of the car.

And this shortly afterwards.

Spring is springing rapidly. It’s only been a couple of days since we were last there, and I don’t remember this stand of flowers being so prolific.

There’s a story about these two.

The domestic goose (the one with his butt in the air in the top photo) has been hanging out at the pond for months now. At first he was with a whole flock of varied domesticated geese, but for some time now—maybe since January—he’s been alone. And lonely, if persistent honking and following us during part of our walk is anything to go by. This morning he and this Canada goose were clearly companions, and there was no honking or paying attention to us (once Scamp had chased them into the water, that is.). Made me happy to see it. For the sake of the domestic guy, I hope the friendship lasts awhile.

Another shot of the pond.

We got a short respite from rain, then it started up vigorously again. You can see it speckling the river.

It’s still raining as I write, so it looks like the afternoon walk may be wet as well. I’ll try the river walk and see if the rain reduces walkers there.

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Morning walk 3/27/20

Just a short post.

The river walk was deserted when I arrived this morning.

I think the latest rain must be coming in on a warm front. The last one definitely brought us colder temperatures, but it felt almost balmy this morning.

About halfway down the path, a lovely, very faint flowery scent stopped me. I sniffed deeply to make sure I wasn’t imagining it and looked around to see where/what it might be coming from. Eventually I tracked it down to a stand of trees next to me. I tried pulling down a branch a foot or two above my head to confirm my hypothesis, and this pulled off.

Sure enough, when I sniffed the catkins (? Unless catkins—thanks for the word, Nina—only droop down and these are called something else), I could just detect the scent. The flowers are tiny, and don’t put out much odor—if conditions hadn’t been just right (zero wind, cool but not cold temperature, a stand of at least half a dozen trees) I probably would not have detected them at all. As it was, it was a gift and a pleasure.

And now I know I’m definitely not experiencing that covid-19 symptom!

I did see one other walker coming down the other side of the loop. He’s a guy we all see often, and discuss as well. He started walking last summer, clearly on some kind of getting-healthy program. He does multiple loops several times/day. At first, he wouldn’t look at anyone or return a greeting, but lately he’s even spoken to us occasionally. This morning, just as I was debating whether or not to step out into the street to keep that six-foot distance between us, he chose to cross to the other side, and gave me a wave when he got there! Definite progress.

May you all stay safe and well.

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Morning walk, 3/16/2020

Scamp’s and my morning walk hasn’t changed much while we here on the coast hunker down hoping the virus will pass us by—but not counting on it. Scamp and I have been doing the river walk by ourselves in the morning for months now. This morning we had some fog to beautify the hills.

I took that picture from about where Scamp is on that pile of rubble.

Sometimes we meet a few people, and sometimes when we do we stop and chat a few moments. From a safe distance. This morning, while I saw a few people in the distance, we had no close encounters.

We did, however, see these two.

They’ve been hanging around down there for a few weeks now. I assume they are a mated pair and may have a nest around somewhere nearby, if it’s not too early for that. Scamp chases them when she sees them—I always want to apologize to them when she does. This morning, however . . .

. . . she had found this, and was intent on chewing and playing with it, so she ran on past the ducks without noticing them.

That’s it. Just a quiet, routine morning walk. I’m grateful to have so much of my normal routine intact. Knowing how many people are having their lives turned upside down, I almost feel guilty about it. But that’s another post for another day. Maybe.

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Social distancing. . .

I am fortunate in many ways. One of them is that the current need for social distancing has not impacted my life all that much—I’m pretty solitary to begin with.

Nonetheless, the knowledge that I can’t travel, must stay home and avoid people, immediately made me want to hit the road. I have womanfully resisted the urge, until today, when I decided a trip to the beach in the van would be ok , since I would still be isolated in my own “home”, and when out, could easily be more than six feet from any other person.

I figured even my favorite walking beach might be unusually crowded, and it was. See all the people?

Look carefully—they’re there. I think I counted ten vehicles in the parking lot, and saw at least seven people on the beach. About what I would expect on a summer weekend.

It was typical spring Oregon beach weather, which means windy. I figure any virus trying to get to me—or anyone else for that matter—didn’t have a chance.

More pictures.

Holed up there out of the wind for a bit. Scamp kept bringing me the remnants of her stick, and I actually managed to get it away from her to throw it a couple of times. It finally got too short for me to risk playing tug any more—she’s not particularly careful about avoiding my fingers, and her jaws are very strong—to her disappointment.

Heading back downwind to the van:

And now I’m here . . .

. . . overlooking my beautiful valley home, creating this post.

Hope this finds you all well, coping, and not overly anxious.

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Bastendorf Beach at low tide

We haven’t had a lot of sun lately, but today was our third sunny day in a row, with rain in the forecast for tomorrow, so I decided to go to the beach. I haven’t been to Bastendorf as much as other beaches in the area for a couple of reasons, so decided to head there. And am glad I did. Started by heading toward the cliffs. (more…)

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Am headed south on I-5 to California for Christmas. One would thing that winter weather when driving in the winter would not come as a surprise, but today . . . did. For one thing, it was weird.

Usually if there is anything to worry about, it’s over Mount Ashland, but that was dry. No, things got intense south of Weed. First rain, then a little snow mixed with the rain, but nothing to worry about. But a few more miles, and it looked like this.

You can’t see it, but more snow than rain was hitting the windshield at that point.

The temperature dropped as we got lower (DROPPED! THAT IS WEIRD!) and the visibility got worse as the precipitation increased. All this exacerbated by traffic–trucks can throw up a LOT of water spray. I didn’t get too worried until there was slush in the traffic lanes, though.

It never go to the point where snow or even slush accumulated where tires go, though, and eventually the snow stopped, though the rain and winds intensified, with visibility dropping further because of fog (low flying clouds). I did slow down for most of this, though probably not below 40 mph. I pulled off at the rest area at Lakehead to gather my wits and breathe a bit.

Had decided to head for a new CG, and Army Corps CG that Allstays claimed is open all year. It’s not. Got here just after three, to closed and locked gates. I should have known better and checked beforehand, because I’ve run into this at other AC CGs. I need to send feedback to Allstays and prompt them to update their info.

Anyway, I was tired, and it gets dark early at this time of year (winter solstice and all), and there is a nice pullout to park in, so . . . here we are. So far, three other vehicles have come out, but turned around and left (it’s a dead end) without saying boo to me, so I think I’m ok for the night. One of those times when it’s particularly nice to be self-contained.

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All three of us–E, J, and me–have memories of being taken to Glacier National Park when we were kids, and it had been on our planned itinerary from the start. We were able to keep it in our revised itinerary, so we headed east on Highway 2 toward Kalispell, where we spent two nights so we could do a day trip in Glacier. The drive over was beautiful, enhanced by seeing blue sky for the first time since Saturday, but I didn’t stop to take pictures.

I stayed in a private CG along the Flathead river that was quite nice. (more…)

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