Battlefields, Monuments and Castles, Oh My!

Our first day of travel in Scotland saw us visiting battlefields, monuments and castles. There is so much history here. I really don’t know how anyone can keep track of who fought which battle during what year. People have lived in Scotland for over 12,000 years, but her written history dates back only to the 1100s. I do know this much – the Scots love Robert the Bruce and William Wallace.

After picking up our car in Glasgow, we headed 30 miles north to the city of Stirling.

Geographically, this is where the Scottish highlands meet the lowlands. Ancient artifacts and bones found in the area have been carbon dated back to the Bronze Age.

Upon arriving in Stirling, our first stop was the site of the Battle of Bannockburn. During a two day battle in June of 1314, Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, squared off against Edward II of England in a battle over Stirling Castle. After the 2 day battle, the English broke formation and the Scots were victorious in occupying the castle.

 

Our next stop, was across the city to the National Wallace Monument built in 1869. This is where, in 1297, William Wallace, Andrew de Moray and their troops defeated the powerful English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge – think Braveheart. We toured the visitor center, drank decadent hot chocolate and walked the footpath up the hill to the monument.

8919C13A-8571-405B-AB74-DDDFBBE7377F
The National Wallace Monument

Once there, we climbed the spiral stone staircase to the Hall of Arms level. The next level was the Hall of Heroes which housed 15 white marble and one bronze bust of Scotland’s most notable figures. The centerpiece of this exhibit was the Wallace Sword, said to have been used by William Wallace himself in 1297. Our tour guide was a former police investigator who has a couple of personal ties to sword. I teared up listening to his passionate account of Scottish history.

 

If you are familiar with the movie Braveheart, you know how William Wallace met his demise.  Each time I watch the movie, I get ripped up at how cruel his death was – shame on you, Hollywood, for making his execution worse than it really was!! After visiting the monument, I now believe Hollywood actually softened the blow for us.

50CF5857-4093-4685-8861-3532169D479F
Actual account of William Wallace’s execution

After walking down the paths of the monument, we drove back across Stirling to the Stirling Castle. (Have I ever mentioned about roundabouts being the spawn of the devil?) The city of Stirling was once the capital of Scotland and is home to Stirling Castle. Ancient ruins can be dated as far back as the 12th century. The structures now in place were built between 1490 and 1600. The castle has seen 8 sieges with the last one being in 1746.

For more than 600 years, notable writers have linked Stirling Castle to the legend of King Arthur. Recent research has revealed The Round Table may have been hidden below the castle.

 

Recently, nine graves were discovered under a chapel built in the 1600s. Two skeletons, one male and one female, apparently met violent deaths in the 1300s. It was interesting to view the exhibit and see the research on how they came to conclusions regarding the individuals.

The history of the castle is overwhelming, so buying books to read later is a must. There was so much more to Stirling, but unfortunately, we needed to hook it to Pitlochry 60 miles away and check into our inn before nightfall.

*Estimating time of arrival in Scotland is quite different than in Meeker. You have a lot of these to contend with….

C8127C64-9763-4206-BE4C-EFB9BA1AE29D.jpeg
Free range sheep! They love to lay in the road, too! Plus, they’re in no hurry to move….

 

Scotland…finally!

About 7 years ago, Dale expressed a strong desire to travel to Scotland. Our last name is Dunbar – pretty Scottish, eh? We excitedly tossed around the idea. What should we do? Where should we go? How long should we be gone? They have amazing scotch, right? And hiking? Right? What about the food? Haggis? What in the hell is that? What kind of hunting and fishing do they have?

Finally, last year, we started researching Scotland and all she has to offer. Last year? Why so long? Well, life always seems to get in the way when you’re making plans for something else. We attended graduations, our children’s marriages, the births of our grandchildren, our parents illnesses, and a host of travel adventures. The idea was always there, it’s just other things took precedent over Scotland.

Continue reading Scotland…finally!

Hiking With Little People

The words, “Grammie! Can we go for a hike?”, are music to my ears. I get excited thinking about the memories I’m instilling in the little brains of my 2-year-old granddaughter, Brooklyn and my six-year-old grandson, Jackson. 

We had been camping in our favorite spot on top of the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado. My husband and I, our oldest son and his wife and their 2 kids and 2 dogs made up the camp. Camp was set up, we had no sooner settled back into our chairs with a nice cold drink when Brooklyn and Jackson patted my hand and asked me to take them on a hike. 

I was a bit tired but eagerly jumped at the chance as I know as they get older, they won’t want to tag along with their grandmother but rather, hang with high school buddies at the mall ( hopefully at Cabela’s or REI).  I grabbed my backpack and instructed them to pick out snacks and pack them into my pack. They also got their jackets, sunscreen, hats, hiking poles, chapstick, playing cards (just in case), Capri Suns, extra clothes and crayons (just in case). 

After 15 or 20 minutes of preparation, we were ready to set out into the unknown. We touched base with everyone letting them know of our intentions. My daughter-in-law, Heather, looked at us then at her watch as said, “I give you 15 minutes.” My son, Kevin, said, ” See ya soon.” “Ha! ~ we will be gone longer than you think”, I thought to myself. My husband just grinned. After 33.5 years of marriage, he knows when to keep his mouth shut. 

We said our goodbyes and hiked off into the forest following an old jeep road. About 20 yards down the road, Brookyn suddenly shouted, “Grammie!!! I have to go pee!” Oh shoot! We were potty training her and I had forgotten to get a diaper on her. Before I could grab her, she was standing in the middle of the road with a wetness dribbling down her pants. Jackson decided we’d best go back and change her pants. I agreed. 

As we walked back into camp, my daughter-in-law looked at her watch. “Wow. Missed that one’, she said. I changed Brooklyn and we headed out again. Jackson put another water bottle in my backpack, just in case. 

Off we trotted down the road again, the kids skipping as I was strolling behind, watching their enthusiasm, until…… “Grammie!!! I pooped my diaper!” We immediately turned around and headed back to the campsite. I couldn’t even look their parents in the eye. We did manage to knock out 50 yards before that accident. 

Ten minutes later we were back on the trail. Along the way we saw the Colorado State Flower, the Columbine. I pointed out Wild Onions.

 

We picked them and chewed on them. After that, I think the kids stopped to pick every single one in the forest. They decided they were hungry and sat down to have a snack. I showed them Wild Irises. We also spied Wild Strawberries. They learned about Glacier Lilies and how bears like to eat them. 

Bears?? Eat these flowers?? These flowers right here?? They come here and eat these flowers?? Panic started to set in. Jackson said he wasn’t too fond of bears. Brooklyn started crying. Oh no! What have I done? I rounded them up and we scurried back to the campsite where we were safe. Never mind the fact we were never out of sight of the camp, to the kids, we were miles from safety.

Back in camp, Brooklyn and Jackson excitedly told their parents, both science teachers, what they had seen and learned about while they were in the wild. Flowers, onions and bears. Sometimes we get caught up in our hurry up and wait world. We forget to cherish the small things in life and the little people who help us stay grounded. I got to see the forest through the eyes of a 5 (now 6) year old and a 2 year old. I learned patience and gained a new perspective of my surroundings. We had only been gone for 20 minutes and had hiked maybe, 100 yards, but to them, it was a long way and warranted all the snacks, water, clothing and crayons. For them, it was the best day ever. And to me, it WAS the best day ever. Everyone should hike with little people. 

Girls of the Fire

Camping with the grandkids is always an adventure. Their level of activity keeps me on my toes! I’m constantly telling them to keep away from the fire. “Don’t stray too far from the campsite.” “Don’t swing sticks around the dogs.” “Don’t throw things into the fire.” “Watch where you’re stepping.” My radar is extra sensitive as the outdoor hazards are not as controlled as they are at home. 

I forget they enjoy the outdoors differently than adults do.

Recently, I got to enjoy some one-on-one time around the campfire with my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter, Brooklyn. Everyone had taken off for a few hours and the two of us were left to hang out at camp. We sat around, relaxing in our camp chairs. She started to get a little squirmy, so I asked her if she wanted to help me start a campfire.

She jumped up and down, clapping her hands. I can’t believe what I was about to do was totally contradictory to what I had been telling her all day. Without the distraction of others, I taught Brooklyn how to gather wood and start a fire. She added sticks to the fire and placed them in a pyramid. I lit them and we enjoyed a nice blaze.

She volunteered to gather more wood and stacked it neatly in a pile for later. This was a completely different task from earlier in the day when she and her older brother were throwing sticks and knocking over the woodpile.

Brooklyn and I sat in our chairs and talked about how much we enjoy camping in the woods. We listened to the sounds that appear when it gets dark in the forest. We imagined what they could be. Squirrels? Birds? A bear? Or maybe a cow that had strayed from the herd that was grazing nearby?

 

I had my phone and asked if she would like to listen to some music. I played American Authors and she danced around the campfire in the dark to the song, “Best Day of My Life” and “Oh What A Life”. Seeing a 2 1/2 year old dancing around the fire to those songs made my heart soar.

We were enjoying being the only ones in camp and we were doing what girls do when they camp ~ embrace each other and the outdoors. She even sang the National Anthem at the top of her lungs. What makes us want to sing at the top of our lungs around a campfire in the middle of nowhere? Maybe it’s an instinct as old as time that kicks in. Whatever it is, I love it! And so did Brooklyn.

I look forward to being alone with her in the woods again, doing what girls to best ~ making fire and singing!

Lucky Charms for the Trail

When we pack for a backpacking trip, we pack the essentials to ensure our survival.

Simply put ~ Food, clothing and shelter. But, there are other tricks we have up our sleeve that we can’t do without on the trail.

marvine1
Please do not make me leave my 4 year old trusty compression gloves at home!

Lucky charms, tradition or superstition, call it what you will. I’m a firm believer. If it works to ensure a safe and uneventful trip for us, then I make sure I do the same thing over and over again.

I wear the exact same clothes. That way there is no overthinking of what to wear. Worked last time. It’ll work this time. Unless I’ve gained weight and have to buy something new ~ which now makes me cranky to think that I have gained some weight and I’ll be a Nancy-No Fun on the trail. 

I wear the exact same jewelry as I did on the previous backpack trip and I paint my nails the color of the trail I’m on.

Before our hike in the Grand Canyon, I had scheduled a nail appointment. I thought that was a silly thing to do, as I’d probably screw up a good manicure. Nope! It turns out that my nails were extra strong and didn’t break. Plus, they looked good, too! They hid the dirt well. We all need to utilize a little vanity every now and then, plus have fun with it.

The only jewelry I wear while backpacking and my CT green nails!

Before our hike on the Colorado Trail, I scheduled a manicure. My nail technician suggested I paint them the color of the iconic trail markers. They matched perfectly! I wore the same jewelry on the trail that I had worn in the Grand Canyon. 

img_4343
Spidey always goes where Dale goes…. They’re a team!

Dale packs his lucky Spiderman bendable action figure as his co-navigator. He goes wherever we go. He transfers Spidey from his daypack to his backpack when necessary. That little man goes with us wherever we go. Why? No reason other than it wouldn’t feel right if we left him home. 

My trowel always clings to the left side of my pack ~ never the right. Do not ask me why…

Then there is the trowel I carry. It can always be found on the left side of my pack. Dale suggested putting it on the other side and I about stroked out. I don’t know why I can’t pack it on the right side ~ I just have a phobia about screwing up the good vibes. When I try to go against the grain, it just doesn’t feel good. 

I have an irrational fear of screwing up good karma on the trail. So I do everything in my power to make sure I won’t upset the trail gods. All our pack trips have been successful and uneventful. So, I believe all our charms, superstitions and traditions have paid off. What are your superstitions? Do you have any lucky charms to ward off the bad vibes one might encounter in the woods?

 *Remember ~ it’s only weird if it doesn’t work. *

Is It Summer, Yet?

Summertime is a long time coming when you live in the northwest corner of Colorado. It can snow one day, be 65 degrees the next, blow the salad off your plate, then rain that afternoon. I have sat in my front yard, wrapped in a sleeping bag on the 4th of July, watching the fireworks while it spit snow on us! While waiting for the weather to straighten out, trip planning is on the books.

10498527_10152509618552398_5243992896956331235_o
Camping at Steamboat Lake, Colorado

Our favorite summer trips are the ones we take with our friends. And family, of course. But because our kids don’t live in town, anymore, we often hook up with friends. Dale and I have taken our friends fishing, hiking, backpacking, camping, boating and 4 wheeling. Going on adventures is so much more fun when shared with other like-minded adventurers. Our fun meter always seems to get cranked sky high.

friends4
Bechler River Trail, Yellowstone National Park

I have laughed with my friends in a cabin until my sides hurt so bad that I prayed for a somber moment. I have played cards for shots of my favorite drink at an outfitter’s camp located deep in the Flat Tops Wilderness of Colorado, only to brush my teeth with the leftover rum and coke in my coffee cup the next morning. My husband and I have listened from our sleeping bags, to our camp mates in the next tent trying to herd a bat in the direction of the nearest exit while trying not to wake us up with their squeals. We all take turns fixing the best camp dinners ever ~ it’s kind of an egotistic validation type of thing. We have fished until our arms hurt from catching too many fish. We have  hiked switchbacks while hollering to each other, “Hellooooooo!”, in a British accent. Somehow, I don’t think these moments in time would have occurred if it was just Dale and I by ourselves. Dignity seems to go out the window when we run in packs.

 

Blair Mtn
Los Blancos Locos

There are 6 of us who are great friends. Our kids have grown up together. Two of us are co-workers. Four of us are co-founders of a business. We all come from diverse backgrounds, but our thirst for adventure has brought us closer together.

Every trip we take together is a grand adventure in companionship. We have climbed up mountains together.

We have slept under the stars together. We have crossed over 12,000′ passes. We have hiked into camp only to play cards and cheat our way to victory (Doug!) We have sat in the hot springs of Chalk Creek together until our skin wrinkled and almost fell off!

We are more than just friends, we are a small gang. 

It takes a certain type of chemistry to hang with people who like to have the same adventures as you do. It doesn’t work for all couples, but it works for us! All the decisions are made easily.  All the small jobs that come with a hike or camping trip are distributed with ease.  I don’t know how or why it happens ~ it just does.

Just before the beginning of summer, we will all meet at the local hangout, Chippers, in Meeker.  We will get out our calendars and pin down a weekend when we are all free. We will mark it down then discuss where to go and what to do.  As the special date gets closer, we will meet on a back porch to outline details of the trip. A few days before the trip, us gals will head to the grocery store with a list of food that would feed a kingdom. We will not starve.

When the day of our adventure arrives, the vehicles will be gassed up, our coolers packed, our backpacks ready to go and we all pile into our cars laughing and yakking all the way to our destination.  Our trip together will be filled with non-stop adventure. We will return exhausted but with many memories that will be revisited between ourselves year after year.

friends

Has Hiking Ruined You? Are You A Dirtbag Hiker?


Modesty, manners and appearance. Those words resonate politeness, discretion, and dressing appropriately for any occasion. Every day I strive to practice these characteristics that I want to be remembered by. But recently, I have come to the conclusion that this is not always possible.  Why? Because I fear hiking has ruined me.  It’s ruined my manners, my politeness and certainly the way I dress. It’s turned me into what we hikers affectionately call ourselves ~ dirtbag hiker or hiker trash.

Whenever I am on a long day-hike or a backpacking trip for a week, it’s like flipping a switch in my personal habits.  My manners, modesty and appearance pretty much go out the window. My trips usually entail a survival mode so I’m not really too concerned about fashion or being classy.  I can dress up pretty good when I want to.  But when I’m hiking, there’s a certain type freedom I feel when I get to throw away all the con-

Stayin’ classy at 11,800′

straints that society puts upon us. 

I started thinking about some of the ways hiking has ruined me and how it has made it much harder for me to flip that switch. My hair gets tucked up into my baseball cap. Sunscreen takes the place of makeup. Hiking clothes take the place of a nice blouse and high dollar jeans.  Boots take the place of my Dansko clogs. I wipe my nose on my sleeve instead of using a tissue.  I drop my drawers behind a bush only if there is one available. If not, well, my hiking partners just need to avert their eyes (my poor husband!).

A couple of weeks ago, Dale and I were traveling through SE New Mexico and West Texas. We stopped in Carlsbad, NM for a few nights to visit the Carsbad Caverns NP and to hike up Guadalupe Peak.  We pulled into the trailhead parking lot. The lot was filled with quite a few hikers and campers and other tourists just milling around. I still had my jeans on and needed to change into my hiking pants. Without thinking, I jumped out of the car, stripped off my jeans, grabbed my other pants from the backseat and proceeded to put them on in the parking lot, not hiding behind a car door or even aware of the people around me. I had forgotten to flip that little switch from “hiking world” to the “act like a lady world”.  

There are numerous other forehead slap moments, but I thought I’d ask my fellow Hike Like A Woman ambassadors for their epiphanies, their moments when they realized they were ruined and had become a Dirtbag Hiker:  

Kristin Smeltzer ~ “I think hiking has ruined me!!  On the way to work and I thought…not sure if I put deodorant on before heading to work. So I stop at a shop on the way and pick some up. Waiting for my connecting train, in my work gear, and just started putting it on! No filter didn’t even think

Amanda Lucy Haskins ~ “I came home from camping for a week by myself in Cataloochee, NC. Hadn’t had a bath all week, had been chopping wood, hiking, fishing, building fires, etc. And went to the grocery store on my way home. Smelling like a cave woman and campfire.
Covered in mud, suit, dirt and who knows what else. Didn’t think anything about it until every one started staring at me and smirking. Not to mention I shop in the upscale section of town and it was a Sunday so everyone else had on their “church clothes”. Lol”

Mara, right, and her friend, Lagena, getting coffee and food after a week of being in the wilderness

Mara Kuhn ~ “One of my best friends always worries about how we look and smell after hiking when we go out to eat. And I’m like, “nah, it’s a hiking town
they’ll understand.” He’s a guy and I’m a girl, something backwards about that 😂 But he never wants to go to the “nice” places. I just don’t care. If I saw anyone who knew me, they’d totally know what I was up to anyway”

Gretchen Elizabeth ~ “Hahaha, that’s great! About a month ago I ended up in a fancy restaurant in the middle of nowhere New Mexico. I had just finished hiking the Badlands all day, but was still feeling pretty cute in a mostly black ensemble & flowy white scarf. Unfortunately, the ENTIRE backside of me was coated head to toe in thick, hard, caked on red mud from when I took a brief tumble down the slippery hillside. It was pretty funny to watch the whole dining room double take as I walked on in” 

Kathryn Petroff ~ “When I got back home from the CO Trail last fall, I had the whole day to myself without my husband and kids. That’s a rare gem of a moment to 

Looking her best on the Colorado Trail

have the house to myself. I was filthy and tired, but all I wanted to do was sit down on the ground and read. I had no motivation to peel my hiking clothes off to take a shower…not even my boots! I just sat there on the hard ground like I was at a campsite. For the next several days all I wanted to eat was my trail food.

Dirtbag hiker babe

It took me a while to readjust to the comforts of home, and I didn’t even realize I was doing it until my husband pointed it out. I’m sure I’ve picked up all kinds
of interesting habits as a hiker, but living in a mountain town, they go unnoticed…it’s the norm here  ~ This is a great post idea! Hail to the sweaty, stinky hiking goddesses! ~ Andrew (Kathryn’s husband) said to tell all y’all it’s totally hot when women embrace their hikertrash

Jennifer Hewitt ~  I just came off a 4 mile hike, it’s 87 degrees today, I’m hot, I’m literally dripping in sweat, I’m covered from head to toe in a gross suntan lotion/dirt mixture, and I’m sure I smell, but I needed groceries so here I am at the grocery store… and no f*cks are given about how I look or smell because I feel great  ~  I love the smell of campfire on my clothes”

This dirtbag hiker LOVES mud!

Michelle Carner Long ~  “I think, for me, I’ve kinda always been this way in some ways. I’ve never had much personal modesty. My motto “If they ain’t seen it yet, it time they did”. I’ve never been super girly, so I’ve never really dressed to impress. Though I’ve still wanted to look pretty. Age, has taken care or that vanity.

There’s no denying the graying hair, loose, sagging skin and body parts. Facebook has been incredibly helpful in letting go of vanity. I purposely put up and let stay tagged unflattering photos of myself. Aging is hard enough without being all hung up in it. As for being dirty, stinky and messy from the trail. I love it. No need to primp and tidy myself before seeing the public. As Jennifer said, I have no f#$%s to give. It’s really freeing. I too, sometimes stay in my nasty clothes once I’m home. Relishing the feeling of a job well done” 

Tina M. Lanciault ~  “we were backpacking for 7 days in WY one year (about 6 of us) and we had just come off the trail, dirty and smelly after not taking a shower for seven days. We first thought we should go to our hotel and shower first before going to get something to eat. I was so hungry, all I could think about was eating a bacon cheeseburger and fries. We stood around for a few minutes and said “screw it” let’s eat and drink we can get showers later. So into the first restaurant we saw. Some people looked at us funny but I must say those where the best tasting french fries I ever had and I didn’t care then what anyone thought and I still don’t today after a day on the trail. I love coming home from a backpacking trip or camping trip and still smelling the campfire on my coat or jacket. I guess we’re all HIKER TRASH I love it!!!”

Ardeen Duckworth ~ “I love that, how the need to eat – and eat ALL THE FOOD – trumps everything else. I’m the same, I feel like Pigpen from Charlie Brown tromping into the restaurant, but nothing will stop me! And inside my head I am, to be honest, pretty righteous as I look at the lovely dressed up ladies and think of how hardcore I feel. And yeah, the waft of campfire out of the coat closet a few days later is the best!!”

 ChuckandLorna Radcliff  ~ Hiking or backpacking in Florida is just a hot, sweaty and stinky experience. I personally don’t glisten like most ladies ~

Even grandmas can be dirtbag hikers!

– heck no I sweat buckets in all the awkward places. My pants always look like I peed them, my back is drenched, my pits are huge circles of sweat, and my hair will be drenched. In fact, I put the hair up in a hat from the go, wear black hiking pants to camo the sweat but nothing covers or masks the unmistakable smell of sweat after a day or two of hiking without a shower. Last backpacking trip my hiking pants were literally ringing wet with sweat. I was hoping I had sweat my butt off, but it was still back there. I wear my sweat, dirt and stench with pride! This Grandma gets out there – that’s all that matters to me.

Lisa Munniksma ~ I prefer “dirtbag hiker” to “hiker trash,” but I identify either way. As a farmer, too, I am always meeting friends in town for a beer or just going to the grocery store and running into people looking a wreck–no one even bothers asking anymore.

 

In the end, I think it goes back to the basic fact that hikers don’t care what others look like – we are all equal on the trail. But when society rears its ugly head, all the stares and negativity start to flow. I cherish my dirty nails, crazy hair and sweaty clothes – granted there is a time and place for it – but, it’s a sweat and dirt earned from hard work and massive enjoyment.  We are all ruined…. and that’s not a bad thing! And don’t forget to flip that switch!

img_2181
And, yes, I can clean up when I need to!