We've had an exciting month.
On Friday, June 19th, we left Tennessee for a 2 1/2 week vacation to Utah. We've never taken a 2 week vacation before, so we knew we were starting out on an adventure. We broke up the 1,600 mile one-way drive into 2 1/2 days. Friday we drove to St. Louis, Saturday we stayed in Laramie, WY, and on Sunday, we attended Church in Laramie, before driving to Karl's home in Utah.
The drive was exciting. One of the highlights was Rachel getting her blanket caught on her braces. We're still a little puzzled by that one. We watched DVDs (well, everyone except the driver) while traveling, which made the time pass quickly. It was surprising just how well the girls cooperated and avoided fighting during the drive, despite packing 7 of us into a minivan, with all the luggage. Every day the kids rotated clockwise to make sure everyone got a chance to sit in the best seats, that plan prevented any fighting over who would sit where. Whoever sat it the middle captain's chairs had the responsibility of making lunch for the family (we didn't stop for lunches). It was usually something simple like PB&J or a meat & cheese sandwich wrap.
Piling kids and luggage out of the van, and into motels during the drive was an adventure. Rachel was a great help every day unloading the luggage with Nathan, and repacking it into the minivan again in the morning. Amazingly we'd get into the motel, into bed by 11pm, wake up at 5:30am to start running people through the shower, and be on the road again by 7am. We were a well oiled machine. Nathan, for some strange reason, would always be the last to shower, sleeping to the last available moment. He changed that habit once we were at the cabin, always being one of the first awake, and the first to shower (the prospect of a warm shower must have been a great motivator for him at the cabin).
Monday, June 22nd, we acquired the keys to the Double G cabin, and stopped by Dale and Evon's for a quick visit with Grandma Gold. Despite not seeing Grandma for the past 3 years, she recognized and knew all 5 girls, and all the key events happening in their lives (Perhaps even more impressive was that Evon knew them all too!). The Gold Nugget is certainly the blessing that makes it all possible!!
Following the visit, we travelled up to the cabin, we'd finally reached our destination!!
We spent the next 2 weeks at the cabin with a couple of trips down to the Salt Lake Valley. On those few trips, we attended the Oquirrh Mountain Temple Open House with Wendy and Aunna. What a beautiful temple!! We visited the Church History Musuem, and enjoyed the magificent art exhibit of the Church's International Art Competition at the Conference Center. We were able to vote for our favorite works of art to later receive the "visitor's choice" award. There were some amazing sculptures and paintings! We also visited the "This is the Place" monument and park, enjoying train rides, pony rides, explanations about dyeing wool, and many other enjoyable pioneer activities. All of these activities were spread throughout the 2 weeks we were there, and between two family reunions.
While up at the Double G, we spent the first week with a family reunion with Nathan's family. They travelled from Washington and Idaho to spend time with us. During the reunion, we enjoyed time at the Jordanelle reservoir canoeing, and playing in the water. The night before, we were concerned that worsening weather would ruin our lake plans. At a family scripture reading and fireside, Nathan's brother prayed that the Lord would hold off the weather so it wouldn't conflict with our plans. While the weather wasn't perfect, we were able to enjoy our time at the lake. A highlight was at the end of the day at the lake, just as we were trying to load the trailer with the canoes and picnic supplies we were hit with rain, lightning and hail Nathan had just changed out of his swimsuit, and stood out in the rain tying up the trailer, while using his swimsuit as a hat to keep his hair dry. In the end, he was wetter than he had been in his swimsuit. Yet we were thankful that the Lord answered our prayers, delaying the storm until our time at the lake was over.
Between the two reunions we enjoyed 2 hikes, one with just our family, and the second with Marty's family. Both hikes orginated at trailheads off highway 35 near the Double G. One was a hike along some ATV trails that eventually would have split off along the Pine Valley (with the Provo River). We never made it that far though, due to how hot it was, the lack of shade, and kids complaining about the hike. Surprisingly, it wasn't the 4 year old complaining! It was 14 year old, Leah, complaining about it being boring! The second hike was much better, through a beautiful "Riley's Canyon". While having to carefully watch out for "horse apples" while we walked, Andreas led the group up the canyon. It was very beautiful with meadows and woods, and wildflowers. Nanae stopped to pick a few flowers that ended up being a lovely and fragrant centerpiece on the cabin table throughout the reunion. We didn't make it all the way to the end of the trail. It seem to just keep going up, and up. In the end, Andreas, Elliot, Nathan and Rachel made it the farthest up the trail...okay, it was Andreas that went the furthest.
During the second week at the cabin, Monika's family came from Lehi, Riverton, Provo, California and Oregon to spend time with us at a reunion. It was well planned and organized by Karl and Monika. We enjoyed late nights playing Scrabble, Boggle, Pit, 10 Days Across Oregon, Chess and especially foosball! (Thanks to whoever put the foosball table at the cabin!!). Monika's familiy also enjoyed a day at the Jordanelle reservoir. While the weather was cooler, there was no lightning and hail. Karl brought his sailboat and did a masterful job of running everyone out on the lake for a tour. He even made a few neices and nephews become deckhands to help with the sail and rigging.
We desperately missed Marina and Shaad, and Mom and Dad Wolf, all of which were unable to attend the reunion. While still a wonderful family time, it wasn't the same without them.
We had some great wildlife adventures while in Utah. We loved nudging the cows off the road on many occasions. One such occasion, in which the cows were reluctant to move, we discovered they were simply waiting for a polite request--Karl offered them one, "Move Cows." To which they responded favorably. Karl, having been taught well, also thanked them for their obedience. Deer were plentiful, including a beautiful doe and fawn that we chased out of the cabin driveway one evening while returning to the cabin. We saw buffalo near Evanston, WY on the drive to Utah. And the thrill of the trip was the cattle drive up Highway 35 near Francis that brought us to a stop. Brahma bulls charging your minivan are a sight to see!!
Our family enjoyed attending church twice at the Woodland Ward while at the cabin. Surprisingly there were more visitors that regular members both weeks we were there, the last of which was July 5th. There were so many visitors that the building was packed to capacity. A member of the Quorum of the Seventy was even in attendance.
Our return trip was not as well oiled. We slept in longer, and got out of the motels slower. We stayed in Laramie, WY again, but took a different route, staying in Topeka, KS before returning home. The different route was to meet the family goal of visiting all the states West of the Mississippi within the Continental US. Kansas had been eluding us. It was markedly uneventful, except for some "rumble strip" excitement in Western Kansas that woke Nathan up from his nap. And no, he wasn't driving at the time.
Surprisingly, our home was still there when we got back to Tennessee. Perhaps it was wise to leave it in the care of our Home Teacher and a responsible neighborhood teenager.
One of the great things about the time at the cabin was that there was no TV, no computer, no cell phone reception, no phone of any kind. As a result it presented great opportunities for reading, quiet reflection, and family communication.
In the end, we travelled 4,800 miles. But the trip was well worth it. The cabin was perfect. The views from the deck were spectacular. The spiritual experiences were refreshing. The time with family was precious.
We will post pictures soon.