Hiking Hocking Hills

Being in nature is a way that Shane and I find God’s glory. It is no replacement for the unity we can find in a church, small group, or concert setting, but for us, it is a way to find “our Jesus” like I suggested in the last post. What is so extra wonderful to me is that as we stare in wonder at wandering waterfalls, I know that Shane and I are thankful to the same creator, the one and only creator, God.

As good as all the food was on Shane’s birthday getaway, I do have to rave a little about the amazing place we were at, Hocking Hills, Ohio. We arrived on a Friday after a stop at Cabela’s and only did one small hike, if you could even call it that, that evening. We thought we could hit the waterfall labelled “Cedar Falls” before the weather turned, but only made it down the meandering steps down the steep hill to a rock wall and lazy stream before we decided we should turn back. That rock wall alone was amazing and left me wondering how it would sound if it sung out praises.

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If you get a chance to visit this place, let me tell you something that I only learned in hind site: the steps leading down from the parking lot were created by an artist! Akio Hizume designed these nearly 100 steps that lead you to the path below based on the Fibonacci sequence and one dimensional Penrose lattice. Shane and I remarked on the stairs while we were there and their spacing, which now in hind site is funny, because the artist purposely spaced them so you would have to change your leading foot as you walked.

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Had we known how close the falls were, I am certain we could’ve reached them that evening, but instead we parked at the Cedar Falls parking area and viewed them the next day. They were part one to a long hike we planned out that included seeing the Old Man’s Cave and Lower Falls.

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To best describe our hike, we went in then out to the Cedar Falls location, and continued past the artist stairs and around a bend to head on our way to the Old Man’s Cave. Visually on a map, this seemed like an easy hike, and unfortunately there wasn’t a lot of good information in the pamphlets we received from the visitor center on what the hike was actually like. Right off the bat, we hit a little scramble that the dogs enjoyed, we could’ve crossed the shallow stream and avoided it, but we didn’t need to.

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By the time we reached the lower falls, we were passing people headed in the opposite direction asking how much further they needed to go to hit Cedar Falls, some with exasperated looks, and I don’t blame them. That particular path had quite a few ups and downs, narrow points, and was no easy walk in the park. This was fine for Shane and I and the puppy, but we both were aware of how much Jagger might be aching by the end of the day, and as it was, by the time we hit the lower falls, he kept laying down any time he could.

We debated at this point the best way to continue with more stairs to the right of us, should we turn back now or continue on? We decided to at least make it to the Old Man’s Cave, and took the stairs to do so, which weren’t all that bad. People of all ages were doing the stairs after all, so Jagger did well.

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Reaching the very busy Old Man’s Cave, we again stopped and debated, giving Jagger time to lay down, where to go. The was always the opportunity to go back the way we came, but to be honest, that wasn’t an easy hike and we weren’t sure how well the old man, Jagger, would do. We decided to go on towards the ‘A’ frame bridge that crossed the gorge and to take the Gorge Overlook Trail back to Cedar Falls. Knowing that over look meant it would be over the bumpy terrain we just hiked through, I said to Shane it would probably be similar to that hike we did in Ricketts Glen, where after fallowing the water and seeing falls, it traced the top of the gorge and was an easy walk through tall trees. Fortunately for Jagger, that is exactly what this trail turned out to be. It was funny because all along the way we passed people who we had passed at the bottom headed in the opposite direction, we would all give a smile knowing we had all reached our destination and were on the homestretch of our own hikes.

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We got to pass over the breast of the dam that hold back the waters to Rose Lake. This was one of a few metal grated bridges that made Grizz a little nervous.

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Finally we made it made it to a bridge that crossed over to a very small parking lot. We recognized the lot from our drive in, and though it wasn’t our lot, with the grey skies, we thought it would just be quicker to cross here and walk up the road a short distance to where we started. Before we did though, we stopped on a lovely rock bench to reflect, and actually got some cute shots of all of us together; proof that I was indeed on this trip!

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Surprisingly enough, that is the only hiking we did while at Hocking Hills. We agreed we could definitely explore more, because we missed the famous Ash Cave and didn’t even see the Upper Falls that were above the Old Man’s Cave. Unfortunately, I have more pictures of my dogs and man then of the sites because I didn’t have a lens on my camera that allowed for wide angle shots, but was more appropriate for portraits and low light, but I am okay with that. You can look up picture after picture that people took of these places online, and they are all great, but what mattered more to me was who I got to spend the time with, so that is what I captured.

If you plan to go to Hocking Hills for a quick weekend here is a list of tips to make the trip go a little smoother:

  • Print maps of hikes offline, they are a little more detailed than ones we received in the park
  • Remember, waterfalls don’t happen with out elevation, you are in a gorge, there are scrambles and stairs that the maps don’t go into detail about
  • The primitive camping is great and spread out, their normal campsites were a little more crowded but you have electricity and are close to a bathhouse, and in the summer time, a swimming pool
  • Wear good shoes, Shane and I are all about our Keen sandals, but were grateful we had on our hiking shoes for the hike we took
  • Give yourself time for these hikes to stop and wonder, the map may say a half an hour or hour, but if you are stopping to play fetch it takes longer!

Hocking Hills Birthday

I can’t begin to write all of the things that Shane and I did this summer, but I can tell you that when we looked back at a calendar, our weekends were mostly all taken up by some sort of gathering or activity. This is a blessing as much as it is an annoyance; I consider it a blessing because it means we are healthy enough and able enough to do all these different things, but it is also annoying to think of how little we got done around our home. It is a funny thing because if we did more at home, maybe we would be more inclined to finish projects at home, but as it is, we are hungry for adventure. So even though we want to get things done with in our walls, we are out and about in God’s nature.

That all being said, we are well into fall and I have barely kept up with this blog, this glimpse into our wildly busy little life. But as rain drizzles down outside and lesson plans are finished for dance classes tonight, I feel I can take the time to express my pure joy over Shane’s little birthday weekend that I planned at the beginning of summer.

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Hocking Hills, Ohio has been on my radar for quite some time, and knowing we were going to have a puppy this summer, no big trips were planned. When I say there were no big trips planned, I mean on both sides of the family no trips were planned by either side, unlike last summer where we spent a week with Shane’s side in Put-In Bay, Ohio. This would make it seem like our calendar was left wide open for little weekend getaways, but in fact little things kept pushing out any free time we might have had. The idea of Hocking Hills stuck though and I booked far in advance a camping trip there over Shane’s birthday in September.

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This place was beautiful! I could go on about the falls there, but I am going to focus more on our camping experience.

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We got there on a Friday afternoon and set up camp. I had booked a primitive campsite, which I am so glad we did after driving through their crowded campsites later that weekend when we went to the bathhouse to shower. I had chosen the furthest primitive site from the parking lot which was almost a mile down a gravel path. We took two packs in and carried a soft-sided cooler and bucket of water for the dogs. The cooler was refilled each day with the food we were going to eat which prevented us from hauling back a huge cooler.

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I had chosen the farthest campsite, figuring we would have a puppy and who knows how he would act while camping. To our great surprise, he was so well behaved! Grizz and Jagger both slept under the tent at night and we never heard a peep from Grizz. Honestly, it was Jagger who was the loud one. From time to time he would catch the glimpse of a neighbors flashlight and start barking.

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By the end of the trip, the two dogs actually seemed to get along a little better. Shane remarked that maybe this was a good bonding trip for them!

But it wasn’t just a good bonding trip for them, it was another brick in the foundation of Shane and I’s relationship. We didn’t have to go to Hocking Hills to appreciate one another more for their strengths, but it gave us a chance to in a different way. I had begun the craziness of my job and was only on the second week of it by the time we packed up the truck and drove out to Ohio leaving behind a big wooly mess of my fiber sculptures all over the dining room because I had just done my first art festival with my fiber sculptures.

Needless to say, it was mainly Shane that packed and prepared for the trip! Normally I am on top of the food game, but again, was caught off guard because I was so sidetracked with fibers and dance. We had long ago signed up for one of those home delivery meal services and honestly hadn’t received any in a very long time, but God had perfect timing because that week I had forgotten to cancel it and somehow an order showed up at our door step. Basically ignoring their cooking instructions, we had amazing meals over the fire with their fresh ingredients.

For Shane’s birthday meal, we had his favorite, salmon! We cooked it in foil with a sweet mustard sauce. It was paired with green beans cooked in foil and a hasselback potatoes in foil with sour cream.

 

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Thank goodness Shane picked up breakfast at our little local meat shop and got the worlds best bacon that we enjoyed with some jetboiled coffee and eggs.

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We hiked all day Saturday, so it was a good thing we had loaded up on fat and protein in the morning. We grabbed a quick sandwich after the all day hike before returning to our campsite where we made my favorite meal of the trip of southwestern pork chops topped with cilantro lime sour cream, cheese and tortilla strips and a side of foil cooked squash and zucchini.

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We left in the afternoon on Sunday after we had an easy morning of oatmeal and coffee as we slowly packed up the whole site. Once everything was packed, we stood around the warm fire as the stuffed peppers Shane also grabbed at the meat market cooked. It was a perfect ending to all of our yummy meals.

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Everything that came in in one trip went out in one trip! And yes, I brought my felting things a mile hike in to a campground because I was in the middle of a pumpkin seed bluegill that I was really excited about!

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It was a wonderful birthday weekend slipped in between busy weeks and rushed schedules. Even though it was short, it was a great reminder of God’s creativity and how he has blessed us with one another! 

 

 

My Dog’s Beard

Between puppy naps I am trying to get some “to-do’s” done. Grizz is such a busy little puppy and it isn’t always the easiest keeping up with him with this bum knee. I am cautiously bending it now, but that doesn’t mean I am running. He had “bring” down by day five of being with us, bring meaning fetch, and he has sit mastered, because he has connected that when he does sit, he generally gets what he wants. I feel as though these pop up storms today are going to mess up our pattern of hanging out outside until I am absolutely certain he won’t make a mess on the carpet.

I have gotten some art projects done while I sit, babying my knee. With my dogs as inspiration, I created these fun images of a cartoon Drahthaar and German Wirehaired Pointer for merchandise. I know I am a dog person and love things having to do with my pets, so I figured others would probably enjoy my doodles of my pets as well. If you click on the image below, it will link you to my shop where you can purchase them in mug or t-shirt form and personalize it if you so choose. I know the cartoon image can also resemble a Griffon or Pudelpointer, so I made the breed text at the bottom changeable or removable.

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It has been fun learning how to work with this puppy. After frustrating moments, I try to not only refocus him, but myself and remind myself that this is a really smart breed, he just needs a job. So “sit” followed by “down” has been my next mission.

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A Deutsch Drahthaar is a very vermittle hunting dog whose native land is Germany and didn’t make an appearance in the United States until the 1920’s. They have wired hair and webbed feet because they do well in all terrains, including water. One thing Shane keeps reminding me of is that with this breed, when other dogs are getting tired, these tanks are just getting started.

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He will look a lot like Jagger, but they aren’t quite the same. Remember those sentences in English that made you think like “Every rose is a flower, but not every flower is a rose”? Well, Deutsch Drahthaars are considered German Wirehaired Pointers, but not all German Wirehaired Pointers are Deutsch Drahthaars. Jagger is just a German Wirehaired Pointer, Grizz’s breed is much more strict about breeding. When we got Grizz, the breeder explained how his color could only breed with a certain other color; forgetting what he had said, I looked it up when we got home with him and what I found about breeding them was a huge file with articles one through thirty-six with do’s and don’ts, exceptions and rules.

So that is a little background to our new furry member of the Elser household. To follow suit with Shane and Jagger, he is already working on a beard.

Meet Grizz

We did it. We got a puppy. He has been in our care for six days now and is a joyful, wiggling, floppy handful. His name is Grizzly Adams, but we call him Grizz.

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When we picked him out, we played with his other brothers first. You see, when we got pictures of the litter, Shane had immediately pointed to the all brown one and said, “That one!” At the same time, my finger pointed to the all white, with a brown head fella and I declared, “That one!” We eventually thought the all white one would be easy to see when hunting, so just from a picture said that was choice one and the all brown one was choice number two, even though, initially, he was choice number one.

When we got to the breeder, the all white one was gone, our number three pick, the one with the interestingly symmetrical spots on his back was still there and quite the hefty fella. The all brown one only stood out because he was just that, an all brown one compared to the spotted siblings. We got out the number three pick with another smaller, friendly one to play with as suggested by the breeder. Although the big guy followed the breeder around, he didn’t seem all too interested in us, and he was loud and pushy. We got out another spotted one with the big guy, and it could’ve cared less about us or anything else. Finally we got out the all brown one.

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Not only did he seem interested in us, he was somewhat submissive, not loud, and seemed calmer than all of them. So our number one pick, moved to number two, then ignored for a quick moment at the sight of all the other spotted, mostly bigger brothers, became our Grizz. Even the breeder seemed happy with our choice, as though he knew that was the one for us and was holding his breath until we said, “This one!”

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We stayed and chatted with the breeder for a bit before we headed off, back to my folks place to show him off, and to meet Jagger. From there we went to see our friends at a camp on the Allegheny where Grizz met more dogs, more people, and water! It was a busy first day, followed by a Sunday and Memorial Day of more playing at Shane’s dad’s home. It couldn’t have been a busier weekend for our new little addition.

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Trout Season

Last year Shane teased about standing shoulder to shoulder on opening day, until on my first cast, I reeled back in a lovely, little rainbow. What really began, besides friendly competition, was Shane joining in on one of my traditions. I can’t believe that, with all the build up to the moment, that the time is now long passed by and it is May.

I had gathered snacks the whole week before, this included a desperate search for peach rings at a big, blue chain store. Did you know that there are no peach rings in the Clarion, Pennsylvania Walmart? At least they had Shane’s other requested treat, pull-apart Twizzlers, which were a huge hit with my nephew, Marcus. (Note to self: before they ever come visit, pick up chocolate milk and pull apart Twizzlers.)

So I had done all this searching for snacks and had even gotten sweet rolls from my favorite local bakery, which I promise to gush over in another blogpost, intended for a breakfast. Well, on our way to my folks, Shane and I stopped at a little local market, where, first off, we scored peach rings, but Shane asked if we could take the little camp stove to cook breakfast while we waited to cast. When it was agreed that we probably could, we grabbed some delicious, garlic bacon to fry up.

Saturday morning, we loaded up all the food, and oh, yeah, the fishing stuff and headed to Parker Dam State Park. We brought the sweet rolls, heated them in the camp stove, and ate them while we waited for the bacon to fry up next. It was a quiet, cool morning, with the sun promising to shine, which was good being that my brother and sister-in-law were headed up with the niece and nephews.

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The shore was crowded with family and friends of all ages. Groups sitting side by side, apologizing when their kid’s line crossed over three stranger’s own line. We cast for the kids in our own party most of the time, but now and again, we were the ones apologizing and correcting a crooked cast from a kid. Even my Grandma Hayes and aunt joined us that day, my grandma wanting to take advantage of her lifetime license.

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After the hustle and bustle of keeping an eye on the active kids, catching trout, and snacking all morning, my dad, Shane and I headed to the quieter creek setting and hit both Laurel Run in Parker Dam and Moose Creek on the mountain. Moose Creek was one of the places where I first got to see Shane and his best friend Scott in their truest form. It was good to finally go back there, remember that day with Shane and Scott, but also to make new memories.

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Something that my whole family thrives on is quality time. After listening to The Five Love Languages book with my parents and Shane on our way to Chincoteague one summer, we all decided it was one of the top, if not the top language of us all. I am so lucky that we all have that in common, it is easy to fulfill when you all have the same goal, shared, quality time. But, I also have to back up and say how fortunate I am to have a husband and parents who would all listen to that book together and enjoy discussing it afterwards.

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With out intending it to be so, I have to summarize this entry by saying it is one full of thankfulness. I am thankful we found peach rings and pull-apart twizzlers that the kids enjoyed and for the breakfast we had. I am thankful I got to see the joy on the kid’s faces as they saw trout pulled from the water at the state park I am thankful for, Parker Dam. I am thankful it was a sunny day after all the crazy weather that lead up to it. I am thankful for the quality time spent with everyone at Parker Dam and the quieter quality time at the creeks later that day.

Eating at a Soda

Shane and I had a goal in Costa Rica, and that was to have some really authentic food while we were there. This is one of those little reasons I love that I am with Shane. When we want to find the best burger, we know that the hole in the wall place normally has just that, and it neither scares or grosses out either one of us. So we knew that to have some real, local food in Costa Rica, we had to find a Soda.

We didn’t rent a car, and although our hotel had bicycles, we had the hotel drive us into town after figuring out it would cost about the same for a taxi to take us. As we went driving up and down steep hills, we were glad we took the hotel’s van instead of a bike! The curving roads slithered up and down the not yet green hills, I think the “short ride” might have turned into an all day event.

The Playa Del Coco was a twenty minute ride through the countryside. Our driver pointed out a grocery store across from a Hard Rock Cafe and proceeded to say something about a rodeo. Honestly, we were distracted and I got hung up on how he was saying rodeo, unsure if he really meant what I traditionally think of a rodeo as being, and began looking for some sort of stadium that could host a rodeo. Before he dropped us off we, despite him pointing out the Hard Rock Cafe, we asked where the best local soda was and he seemed excited to share where to eat.

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We wandered the sidewalk that lined the beach for a bit, taking in the kids laughter, music playing, and seeing plenty of food carts, and were never approached by someone trying to sell their goods. People were just out enjoying their weekend. There was even a skate park that had tents set up, music blasting and people watching maybe a small competition. Everything was small and condensed, so soon enough, we had walked what seemed to be the main part of the beach and we headed to the recommended soda.

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Shane got a fried red snapper, and I got my favorite Latin American dish of ceviche. Locals were basically the only other customers around us in the bright pink space. Air and sounds flowed through the walls from outside since there were no windows, only stacks of rectangles out of cement. With Catholic images, silk flowers, stacks of glass coke bottles and a beautiful hand painted mural on the wall surrounding us, we had one of our yummiest meals.

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It is so fun exploring with your best friend, laughing that our bright pink room that we have yet to renovate was the same color as the soda, and trying each others lunch choices. I love that a year has trickled by, and there is no less charm to our relationship. We both enjoy similar things and still surprise each other and introduce each other to new things. I love spicy things, and Shane has pointed out, since being with me, he hasn’t ever not liked spicy things, but finds himself searching it out and enjoying it more. So one thing we discovered during lunch was this tabasco sauce, Lizano Tabasco.

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It was so much better than any tabasco sauce we had ever had, it was thicker, more flavorful, and we knew we had to bring some home. After our lunch, we walked to the grocery store as live musicians played on the streets with horses trotting up and down the road. We passed vendors and shops, again, never approached about buying things we weren’t looking at, which left a big positive impression on us. We left the tiny, but vibrant town with some fresh avocados, delicious Lizano Tabasco and some soda-pop and juices since we weren’t at an all-inclusive kind of hotel and drove back in our hotel van pointing out monkeys dotting the tops of trees excited about our new discoveries.

 

Costa Rica

It was a busy fall week for Shane, a stressful week, and one night he came home and said, “Plan a trip!” The trip wasn’t going to be for that week or weekend, we looked ahead to our anniversary and decided now was the time to book something for January. So I spent a whole day comparing prices, points, and flights and decided on Costa Rica. If we were going to use some points, might as well go big.

We flew into Liberia, a small airport about twenty minutes away from our destination, the El Mangroove hotel in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. We arrived in the afternoon and walked out of the airport, following our hotel driver in winds that could knock a toddler over.

“Ah, yes,” our driver said with a smile when we commented on it. “It is our windy season.”

Our drive to our hotel took us past sugar cane fields, fields with horses and cows and strange trees. The road was winding and wove up and down hills. Motorcycles zipped past us in the other lane. We soon found out that having a fast motorcycle there was the thing to have, and when it wasn’t tourist season, you could have fun flying on these winding roads, but it was less safe to do that during tourist season.

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We were greeted at our hotel with a cool cloth and a passion fruit juice and as we waited for our room we had our first meal of ceviche and fried chicken skins. The fried chicken skins were so amazing, fatty, and flavorful. When we ordered them, our waitress lifted an eyebrow, and we reassured her that they sounded delicious.

“Not many people order those,” she said.

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We ordered them multiple times on our trip. We had them for lunch, dinner and breakfast. Considering our fat-fueled diet, they seemed like a good fit and were delicious.

After discovering our beautiful welcome to your anniversary get-away treat from the hotel of chocolate covered strawberries and champagne, we took a walk on the beach, just enjoying the water and the black sand. Shane’s mind ever on fishing saw a fisherman and had half a notion to ask him how he was doing but passed. The fisherman had his car right in the trees on the beach, a hammock set up, and a kid digging a hole in the dark sand. It was a public beach, and almost immediately Shane and I agreed this was a kind of vibe we were good with.

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Laid back.

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Relaxing.

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It was a good start to our anniversary trip.