Officially Summer

It’s officially summer (well, as of a few days ago, whatevers) and yet, the weather is gorgeous! We’ve had some of the most beautiful days of weather ever over the past few days.

I’m not even exaggerated. last year when my sister Leslie and niece visited, it was almost too hot to do anything outside. This year…amazing. We did a bunch of stuff: Grant’s Farm, the Magic House, various ice cream shops, lots of Asian food. It was a whirlwind visit, and unfortunately I had to work a bit, but it was great fun!

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I’d gotten Candy Land awhile ago with the idea of using it for teaching somehow. We opened it to play, but Athena (not 3 years) didn’t quite understand the whole board game concept. Good yogi though.

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Selfie on the Grant’s Farm Tram. I didn’t take too many pictures, but there were bison and ostriches and deer and more!

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The goats really liked Louie.

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Nothing better than getting a toddler to hug a giant poo emoji. I didn’t realize how many stuffed animals I had until I collected them all to play with.

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They have these outside pianos places. This was on the Loop. I think the moral is, don’t leave a piano outside. It kind of ruins it.

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I had to play a few weddings one afternoon so Louie put Athena to work washing the truck. She kept saying “bad, dirty truck!” and soaping over parts he had already rinsed. Gotta teach them young how to wash a car, right?

Anyway, it was nice to see Leslie and Athena (and brother-in-law Peter for one night too). Now it’s back to the “grind” of teaching and playing.

Yesterday we recorded two pieces for a CD of saxophone and string music I’m playing on, and then today I did all manner of car related things. I’m getting some car repairs (woo-hoo…wait…) and finally got my car properly titled after my divorce. (Learn from me, don’t put things off forever, especially when it turns out they are pretty easy to deal with.) Tomorrow I have another random chamber music rehearsal, and otherwise it’s just teaching, a few weddings this weekend, and reading. I’m loving this summer so far, honestly.  One month down, approximately two to go, and the living is easy and fun. Life as a musician might not be so bad after all Winking smile

Hawn State Park and the Whispering Pines Trail

Since summers can get so busy for me (weddings and other fun work events) I decided to set aside a couple of times in order to have normal fun summer activities. This past weekend I planned a short getaway to Hawn State Park near St. Genevieve, Missouri.

We left on Friday, planning to camp two nights and hike in between and on Sunday morning. We’d wanted to bring Mackenzie (my dog) but it was pretty hot and she just doesn’t do well in the heat (too furry) so we left her at a friend’s house. Louie and I have spent a lot of time thinking about how to streamline our camping experience, and this time we’d stored everything, all the odds and ends at least, in a large plastic bin that fit in his trunk, so it was a matter of taking stuff out of the garage, removing stuff from the bin we definitely wouldn’t need, and trusting the rest was there. (It was! This method worked pretty well.) I also planned out meals for Friday night, Saturday day, and Sunday morning, along with some drinks. It was easy planning for a short trip.

Hawn is about 1 1/2 hours away and we got there by 5 pm. We picked up a bundle of firewood just outside of the park but they sold it there, along with ice, so we wouldn’t have had to. I’d reserved site 29, since I wasn’t sure how popular it would be for Father’s Day weekend. It was pretty full but not completely booked when we arrived, but you know me, I’m a planner.

One thing that struck me was just how GREEN it was there. It was a very nice campground, well maintained, and a beautiful state park.

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We set up the tent and then wandered around a little bit, checking out where the trailhead for the hike the next day was. Then we cooked a nice dinner (chili!), sat around the fire, and relaxed. It wasn’t too hot when you weren’t doing anything much, and after the sun went down it was very pleasant. There wasn’t a huge amount of privacy and some of the neighbors were a little annoying, but that’s campground camping for you. Our site was pretty, except the tent backed up to a large patch of poison ivy! Good to avoid.

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There were large wooden poles to hang up your trash on, but the raccoons can scale them. Or at least the raccoon that visited us could. He (or she) came out just after dark, and I didn’t realize until the next day that he’d stolen a plastic bowl and dropped it in the bushes. The following night after dinner he got into our trash and ate an apple core. In any case, he seemed nice, but we didn’t want to feed him!

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Posing with the tent.

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Louie hard at work chopping firewood into smaller pieces.

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My view from my chair.

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Anyway, we had a nice relaxing night, sitting around the fire chatting. We agreed it was good to get out of the world for a bit, to be disconnected and just relax. It’s refreshing when you know you are out of touch (NO service to speak of, data wise-no news, no worries!).

It rained around 6:00 am Saturday, so we waited to get up until 8 am or so. We’d planned to do earlier just to get hiking before the heat of the day, but oh well. Our neighbors were pretty loud (shockingly so for 7 am) but oh well. The good news is the loud ones left that day Smile

We wanted to hike the Whispering Pines Trail, which is 10 miles if you do the north and south loops. The author of my book, 60 hikes within 60 miles recommended starting with the Pickle Creek Trail, and I’m glad we did!

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I believe this was the Pickle Creek.

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10 miles! I forget how far that is when you are walking.

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Why yes, those are purple hiking shorts. Or eggplant, or something.

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There was almost a view. Maybe in the winter.

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So green!

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Cool water area.

IMG_7641The entire hike was buggy, and it was really hot and humid after an hour or so, and we were pretty worried about ticks (we applied liberal amounts of Deep Woods Off), but the Pickle Creek Trail was the best part! It was a nice day, a challenging hike. We packed our usual pb sandwiches for lunch, had trail mix, lots of water, and a few breaks, and by the end I was suffering, but we made it, and lived to tell the tale.

If I did this again, I don’t think I’d do both loops, and I don’t know that I’d want to hike the south loop in the summer, ever again. But in a different season it might be really nice—it was VERY overgrown and often felt like hiking in the jungle (not that I have, but I’d imagine it’s similar, wading through elbow high weeds?)

Afterwards I was thankful the campground had showers and I only found one tiny tick which had not attached itself.  The campground had very nice facilities overall—nice bathrooms (for a campground, to be clear), and there were also vault toilets, I imagine for during the winter.

We relaxed by the fire again for hours after the hike (we hiked from about 9:30 to 3:30) and then made dinner and went to bed eventually.

We were awoken by thunder around 2:30 am. A huge storm swept through, probably at least 1 hour long, of severe weather. Louie and I sat there together in the tent, worrying. There was torrential rain, loud lightning and thunder, and no way to check the radar to see what was happening. Finally it passed and we were able to get back to sleep. The tent stays pretty dry but has some vents that a little wetness gets in through on the sides near the bottom. I was worried about tornados at the time and Louie said later he was worried about a tree or branch falling on us. I told myself that I just didn’t hear of too many people dying in Missouri State Parks in storms…another lighter storm followed that one but nothing too crazy.

Anyway, when morning finally came, we decided to pack up and leave in case there were more storms coming. We didn’t think any more hiking would be very pleasant since the ground was muddy and wet, so we just headed home. It was a nice weekend getaway!

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My view from the tent: I was packed up sleeping bags and pads while Louie made coffee and oatmeal.

The only good forest is a petrified forest

This is a continuation of my trip last summer. Yes, I realize it’s June, but it’s important to me that I have a digital record of what we did, so here you go! If you have any questions about camping or traveling through Colorado or Utah, don’t hesitate to ask, I might have advice on what to do and what NOT to do.

Previous posts:

And so it begins…to Aspen

Bear Necessities

Leaving Aspen…Good Riddance

Moving Along

No Such Thing as a Dead Horse

Feeling at home in Arches National Park

Entering the Fiery Furnace

A Night Off the Ground

We left off in Torrey, Utah, after visiting Capitol Reef National Park. Now we were driving to Escalante Petrified Forest State Park, which was only about 1 1/2 hours away, to camp for one night en route to Bryce Canyon. We stopped there mostly because I wanted to see more petrified wood.

When I was a girl, my family took a long road trip through the Southwest of the US. I recall really enjoying Petrified Forest National Park, and then, this is what I really remember, finding it so entertaining that when you left the park, the rangers would ask if you had taken any wood (stone, really) with you. And of course we hadn’t, so we said no, but it wasn’t like they searched. My brother was a very creative type, and he would write hilarious short stories about a bumbling pair of small time crooks who were trying to make a few dollars by stealing petrified wood. Naturally, they always got caught, because that was how the stories ended, but they were just so funny!

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Anyway, we headed out on Route 12 to Escalante. This highway was part of the journey as well as the destination, as the guidebooks said it was pretty amazing and a must-drive. Drive we did! (Well, Louie, because driving on mountain roads freaks me out.) You are basically driving through Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which my understanding is that Escalante means staircase, and the whole name of the monument is redundant…but every two minutes you will gasp because the views are just so incredible. To really explore the monument you have to backpack into it, because not too much of it is accessible by car. We weren’t spending much time here because we were on a National parks tour. But anyway! There’s places to pull over, and information about Mormon settlers and all kinds of stuff.

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We stopped in the tiny town of Boulder to get an espresso on the way. Things we did a lot of on this trip: eating ice cream, then getting sleepy and needing coffee. Odd Smile

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We made it to the campsite without much trouble, and set up our tent, took, showers (yay, rare occurrence!) and walked around. This park was by a very nice lake, but we couldn’t find a way to get down to it.

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To be fair, we didn’t try very hard, because we were busy doing other stuff too, and I was tired. (I’m assuming, I can’t remember, but I was often tired.) We were pretty relieved we seemed to be out of bear country for the time being, but we were still paranoid and frantic about bears.

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You can see the lake in the background. It was a lovely location (site W116), and the campground was really nice. Individual shower areas, a covered picnic table, clean bathrooms, and enough privacy. There were a ton of European families driving rented RV’s, as was the norm in Utah (at least while we were there. I worry this summer will be different.)

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The next morning we got up and took a short hike from the campground, called the Petrified Forest Trail. We saw some nice rabbits and large rabbits (jackrabbits?) and lots of petrified wood, which I love. I think the hike was about 1 1/2 miles, and not too challenging, but very nice. IMG_5965

We didn’t take any petrified wood, and the signs seemed to indicate doing so would bring bad luck! In any case, if you took some, and everybody else took some, there would be none left to look at.

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We didn’t want to dawdle long (I think we left around 9 am), so we headed to Bryce Canyon, which was about 1 hour away! To be continued…

Nights Camping: 9

Miles Hiked (estimate): 56

Favorite Camping Meal: Couscous, tuna and white beans, green peas, beer

Float Trip and Baseball Sized Hail

I never got back to telling you all about my camping trip over Memorial Day weekend. It was meant to be two nights camping with a float trip in between. Louie has some friends that have been organizing the trip for years and years. We went two years ago (it’s not always at the same place) and then last year we were going to go but it got rained out. This year would be different…

We were camping at a place called “One Eyed Willy’s” in Lebanon, Missouri. We brought the dog, Mackenzie (had to get a canoe because no dogs allowed in rafts) and our tent and all our camping gear. We figured we’d be car camping so we didn’t worry too much about what we brought.

When we got to check in the guy behind the desk asked what we drove and we said, well, a Corolla. He guffawed. Evidently the group site we had was on the other side of a creek and he told us we couldn’t drive down there. What to do! We “luckily” met a few members of our party who were up with a pick up truck and we loaded all the contents of our car into the back. It turned out that two people in the group tried to drive their cars down and one hit a large rock and cracked her bumper and another got stuck in the creek and the car was tipping over. I’d like to think we wouldn’t have attempted the crossing in the Corolla, but you just never know.

Anyway, we got all set up and then hung out with everybody around a nice campfire. Mackenzie loves camping, and by that, I mean, she loves going around begging for food: hot dogs, potato chips, whatever. She’s not picky! She doesn’t love the outdoors when she’s not on her turf though, so when I finally brought her into the tent to sleep, she eagerly jumped onto the sleeping bags, getting sand EVERYWHERE (I wish I had a picture of her amazing expression, she was so excited). But she had to sleep on a little yoga mat we brought, and I think it was comfortable enough. Louie stayed up later chatting and the tent was not terribly roomy for the three of us!

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Anyway, the next morning they’d moved the float up because there were supposedly really big storms coming through. I was pretty nervous about this: they kept talking about “baseball-sized hail” and here we were, heading away from the camp to go on the river! They also keep talking about how the gravel bar we were all set up on had flooded earlier in the month, and not just by a little, and the people from the campground suggested everybody move their trucks to higher ground just in case. Our car was already far away on high ground, so we locked some valuables in a pick up (big mistake, you’ll see) and nervously got on the school bus to get a lift upstream. We’d get a canoe, and then 8 miles later be back at the camp. We decided as a group to not dally as much as usual in order to get back, and likely pack up and head home rather than stay another night. I was a little concerned than instead of simply leaving we were insisting on this trip, but I was also determined to have fun.

It rained almost right away when we got started. I had a rain jacket, but poor Mackenzie just sat in the canoe looking miserable. We were the only ones in our group with a canoe (the rest were all in rafts) so we tried to stay with them but it became too difficult and we just decided to do our own thing. It kept raining and not raining, and we just kept going. It was pretty fun, though a nicer day would have been my preference. We got back to the campsite and started packing up. One issue though: our car keys and wallets and such were in our friend’s pickup truck. So we packed up and then we waited. And waited. And then the storm came.

Some members of the group had returned, and as it was pouring, things just got crazy. The campground hosts were taking people up to the top in a school bus, and so Louie decided to start taking our stuff up, get it up there and then find our keys. He headed out with a bunch of stuff and I waited around. It was pretty crazy, I had the dog and tons of camping gear, and neither of us had phones since those were in the truck. We’d found out that there might be a hide-a-key on the truck so Louie was planning to look for that. The school bus came back down and I decided to take the rest of the stuff and make a run for it. It was a mess! I was completely soaked and had Mackenzie, and I got on the school bus and was stuck in the seat with tons of gear all around me trying to get the dog out of the aisle. Luckily she is super cute and friendly and other people were very helpful. We got up the hill and I saw Louie and he hadn’t found the truck, so he headed back down to look again, and I waited then. I started worrying we’d never get our stuff or that we’d get stuck for good, or get lost from one another, so when the school bus showed up again and Louie got off triumphantly showing my purse, I was so relieved!

The next challenge was getting the car out of a dirt parking lot. Keep in mind, it was still pouring, there was mud and gravel all around, and we had ALL of our things with us, that we intended to be using to camp out of our car. But miraculously it all worked—Louie had a little trouble with the car, but he’d recently gotten new tires and I imagine that helped. He pulled up in front of our stuff, we loaded up (Mackenzie was super relieved to lie down in the back seat) and we hit the road. We found out later there had been a tornado in the area, and we did pass some trees that looked like they’d been pulled out by the roots. We were worried about the drive home but the worst of the storm stayed out of our way, though there was quite a lot of rain most of the time.

We got home, unpacked, showered, and hit up the local Mexican resturant, Amigo Joe’s. I decided, never again will I camp somewhere where I need to depend on somebody else to drive me out. Either my car is there or I can carry everything! And never again will I canoe when a huge storm is predicted. But the weekend was an adventure, a team-building exercise (Louie and I prided ourselves on working well together under pressure) and a great story.

I guess, the more you camp and travel, the more ridiculous stories you end up with. Bear attack, hail storms, mosquitos, biting flies, evacuating a campsite in the middle of a storm…it all adds to the travel adventures, right?

Day Off

A random Friday off is always nice, even though this month is pretty easy overall.

I feel I’ve lost my motivation to do anything musical. I haven’t really practiced at all this week! Maybe I need the downtime, but I have a stack of music to be working on, at least in the abstract, so hopefully next week will bring more motivation. Then again, motivation is something that comes from within, so I’ll look there first.

I’ve been working on reorganizing my house, especially my music collection. I keep getting more music, and hate getting rid of things, so getting it more in order will be nice. I think I’m going to get some magazine holders in order to keep stuff more together, and try to organize somewhat alphabetically/by genre/category. Any musicians have any successful ideas to share? I am not organized by nature but can work hard.

I’m working on my fall schedule as well. Well, as much as one can in June. I’ve got some wonderful “borrowed” students over the summer, but definitely have openings in the fall, especially on Wednesdays. Pass it on! I’m sometimes surprised by how quickly I go from absolutely insanely busy to, well, blogging in my pj’s after spending a few hours organizing. That’s right, I may or may not still be in my pajamas. That’s what days off are for, correct?

I suppose I spend too much time here acting silly Winking smile I was thinking earlier that I’m getting to be old and should be mature soon. I’m in my last year of my 30’s now…but I don’t always feel like I’m an adult, in the same way that I always thought my parents were adults at this age. Granted, I don’t have kids, and did I mention I’m in my pajamas? But I suppose there are times I feel adult. Right now, for instance. Spending a day off organizing my house and doing laundry is pretty adult. Also the other day I gave a student advice on how to help a younger student with a posture issue. Sometimes, in fact, I completely surprise myself with my adult-ness. (Or I’m still being silly. I think I need more coffee. Even with the day off, the sun woke me up by 7:30 am and I was planning to sleep longer after having stayed up late watching an episode of House of Cards.)

Other things I’m doing: uploading CD’s to iTunes (this is a project I started years ago but never finished) in order to be able to listen to anything I want whenever. My current impetus is because Louie is putting in a new radio in my car (the old one works only as a radio because the CD player is broken, and has no accessory function) which I can use to listen through my phone and also use as a bluetooth to talk on the phone. If I have all my music on the phone, then I can listen to any of it anytime! I learn music best when I combine the visual and the aural, and I just haven’t been listening enough since my CD player broke Sad smile

Also making an omelet with leftover potatoes from my “birthday dinner” last night (one night late.) I’m doing what I call a spanish omelet where you mix up eggs and add potatoes and whatever else to it and then cook it on low heat in a cast iron pan for around 30 minutes until it sets. It better be good!

(Last night’s dinner at Peacemaker Lobster and Crab. Lobster doesn’t fit great into my mostly veggie/fish diet, but I am okay with it plus a little sausage for special occasions. )

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That biscuit is SOOO GOOD too. I wish I could eat it right now, but I already ate it.

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And some oysters. The night was quite a splurge, but was a lot of fun. Thanks Louie!

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How are you all?

So you want to host a house concert…

 

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Do you? It will be an awesome experience for you and your guests! My friend Amy and I just played our first one and we learned a lot.

Here’s what we would want in the future.

You: Invite your friends and family. Have them bring wine/apps or provide for them, along with providing the normal party things such as glasses, plates, napkins, etc. Have chairs and space set up for the concert. You’ll want to be able to have 20-30 people (or more, depending on your space) be able to attend and see/hear the concert.

We: Show up. Bring our own stands and  stand lights. Mingle with the guests. Play a concert, interact with the audience. You’ll learn about our music and enjoy it too. We will play for around 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, with a short break. We’ll also get there beforehand and stay after and answer questions! This is a way to get up close and personal with musicians.

You: Provide a basket or jar for musician tips. We did our first one at a friend’s house for fun and to learn. The next one we will need to make some money or we can’t keep playing! If you find that gauche, talk with me. We can work it out. I’m sure your guests would be happy to chip in $10-20 each for a unique and enjoyable evening!

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Here’s how the first one went. Woke up the morning of and worried that no one was attending (we helped out with inviting more than we will in the future, because it just added too much worry and stress, and honestly, you can’t keep inviting your friends over and over, we need MORE audience members, that’s also where YOU come in!)…decide it didn’t matter. Panic that everybody would hate the concert. Decided it didn’t matter because the hostess would love it and we’d have fun playing and whatever, it didn’t matter, who likes classical music anyway? (Spoiler, YOU do, you just might not know it yet.)

The evening arrived: We got to the house. We’d told people 7 pm, and by 7:15 there were probably 25 people. People showed up! Lots of people. They loved it! We started the program around 7:30 and went until close to 9 with a short break. We had a blast playing and talking with the audience, and loved the setting and the gorgeous house and the up close and personal interaction with everybody. Chamber music the way it was meant to be! And the audience was wonderful and attentive and friendly, and of course it’s more fun to play for people like that. These were friends! New and old friends. I had so much fun performing and talking with everybody.

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I’d love to do it again! Look at how much fun we are having! Imagine having two musicians play in your living room. Impress your friends and family with your culture and connections! You can make an ordinary night extraordinary.

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I’m sure I’ll learn more if I play another house concert, but that’s where I am right now. Advice? Interest? Suggestions? Comment or contact me.

thoughts about violin, teaching, running, life.