What a gas! The tug, breaking wind and ice, to get the fuel barge in place.

The frozen harbor

It has been weeks since Beaver Island has had a shipment of fuel. Confined in ice since mid December, the PetroQueen (fuel barge) and tug boat, have been unable to make the journey south from Manistique Michigan. Despite sunny skies and warming temps of March, the harbor is still thick with ice.

Fuel supply for the island is now critically low. Call the maritime cavalry!
Talk about excitement. Two U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers head to the north west end of Lake Michigan to free the 2 boats and escort them thru 40 miles of frozen waters to the shores of the island. Seeing those large vessels appear on the horizon gave a thrill like spotting land thru a telescope after days lost at sea.

Cheers bounced all around the bay “We have gas! We have gas We have gas!”
Last week: Just last Friday a mundane trip to the grocery store takes an exciting turn when I notice the unusual activity across the bay. What are those men doing? What is that noise?

Holy crap! The tug boat is crushing the ice at ramming speed! If there are 3 men and 2 pickup trucks on the ice, surely I can walk along the tread marks and not bust through. Let the adventure begin.

Levi and his team of mighty men have been drilling hundreds of holes, carefully spaced, in hopes that Buddy’s tug will be able to crack the ice, making way for the fuel barge to find her home once again in the harbor.

“Do you want to climb aboard?” Buddy yells to me from the bridge of the tug. I think that is what he said. I can’t hear. The sound of 3 electric augers scream and chew thru the thick ice around me. If NASA were to take a picture from space, Paradise bay would look like a block of Swiss cheese.

My mother (along with my husband and a few friends) would kill me if she saw me out in the middle of paradise Bay on a sunny day. I stand, heart racing, watching and hoping that Buddy will be able to ram the tug far enough onto the ice so my short legs can stretch to the tire that is chained to the side of the boat.

It happened so fast. The ice chunk under me gave way and I went down. Dave grabbed my free arm and pulled me up while Buddy reached over and hauled me over the edge of the Shamrock. I stumbled around on deck, trying not to catch my feet in the thick heavy ropes snaking all over. Above the sound of a humming engine I think I can here Buddy shout “Hold on tight!” It was an exciting day.

This week: 3 augers, 2 chainsaws and 1 excavator later, the Petro Queen, tethered to the tug, waits to be moved into place. This has gone on for days. The ice is so thick and dense.
Each new day calls for a new idea and a new piece of equipment. Some progress with the chainsaw is made, however, an excavator could really speed things up!

Buddy swings the bucket down, scoops up the enormous blue chunks and dumps them on the shore. As the sun sets I get to blow the air horn on the tug. “Give it a good long blast.” says Buddy. I pull the grubby rope and empty the air compressor. The little boy standing close, covers his ears as the horn emits a loud long toot.

A sunny day in the frozen harbor brings out the ducks and their gorgeous colors.

 

Frozen harbor at sunset.

 

 

The USCG Mackinaw icebreaker and Shamrock tug boat.

 

The Mackinaw is so huge it cannot come into the harbor to crush the ice.
Smaller USCG ship breaking ice in the harbor.

 

Rob, Levi and Joe are going to have very sore shoulders after all this. Thank you for your hard work.

 

 

Rob working hard drilling holes with the electric auger.
That is a lot of holes!

 

The ice is about 2-3 feet thick.

 

Go Joe!

 

Climb aboard!
Nathan watching and helping.

 

Hold on! Ramming speed!
Buddy and Nathan navigate the icy water.
Up and over the ice we go.
3 men and a tug.
Watch your step.
Happiness is riding on a tug boat.
Fresh off the boat!
Captain and crew

 

Using the excavator to break and move the ice.
Nathan pushes ice chunks around so Buddy can scoop them up.

 

Cold and windy. Buddy and Nathan work for days to break up and move the ice.

 

The fuel barge Petro Queen.We have gas!
The Shamrock tug boat

Sex, beer or darts? How do you survive the Beaver Island winter?

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Me, as a fat faced child, ready to climb out on the ice of Niagara Falls

 

I am a Michigan girl. I grew up in the 70’s, when we had 6 feet of snow and loved every minute of it, except the chore of shoveling the driveway. I spent the winters cross country skiing, building snow forts, sliding down Chapel Hill on cafeteria trays and having snowball fights at the bus stop.

The winter fun stopped when I moved to Champaign Illinois in 1987. Beautiful flat farm country. We had 1 hill in our city where the children of 60,000 residents would flock on the first snowfall and hope for a few good rides before the hill would become a bump of grass and mud by the time the sun rose in the sky and all the red faced kids went home for lunch. Winters were brutal! Extremely cold and icy. Thank God they were short.

As I would meet people and share our journey about moving to the island, I got many wide eyes and raised brows.”You will be living here year round?” “Ohhhhhh you haven’t experienced an Island winter.” “Hahahahhahahha. Get Ready. Some people pack up and leave after that first winter.”

I was all “Oh BRING IT ON! I am going to be just fine!” And I was. I survived my first Beaver Island winter no problemo. Mother nature is this all you have? I will take more. Really! I only got to ski about 6 times, snow shoe 5 times and didn’t even  get one ride on Phil Becker’s snowmobile!

Bryan Foli …Lord of the North, x country skiing in the neighborhood.

Ice has melted from fringes of the island. The crocus and spring flowers are up. The turkeys are mating. The peepers are peeping. The roads are mud. Winter is done and spring has crept over the pond from the mainland.

All the roads look like this.
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Waiting for the thaw.

Dec 18-April 10 the ferry rests in the harbor. Her hull embraced by the freezing bay waters. How happy we all were to hear her horn a few days ago announce the beginning of a new season! During the winter months the only way to/from the island is by plane and only if the weather conditions permit. There was a 4 day stretch that the fog was so heavy we didn’t get mail for those days and the grocery store ran out of provolone cheese.

Thinning supplies at the grocery store.

 

The isolation can be hard for some people as the island dwindles from several thousand in the summer down to 350ish after labor day. It is the same faces (I love all those faces) and only 2 restaurants open. The bank is only open 3 days a week (no weekends) and you better get your grocery shopping done before 6pm.

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Where are all the people?

The winter season is absolutely amazing. The hush that comes to the island after the summer buzz is like a blanket of peace.

Winter beauty. Sunrise on the north shore.

It may well be my favorite season. I thank God for 2$ Tuesdays at the pub and Open Mic Night (Thirsty Thursday as KK calls it) at The Beachcomber.

Open mic night. “I don’t want to work. I want to bang on a drum all day.”

These provided the social connections I crave. One winter evening I conducted my own poll of how island people make it thru the winter. Sex, beer and darts were rated as the top 3. Sometimes, even all 3 at the same time, for those who have been married a while haha!

So, if you are looking to improve your sex life or skill at dart throwing, come visit the island some winter. I guarantee you will have a good time. The beer is on me. Cheers!

The pub. How we keep from going crazy.

Hunger For Life

What is it about Beaver Island that I love so much? Why does breathing this fresh air and walking alone on dusty gravel roads make me so happy?

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It was exactly 1 year ago today that Bryan and I flew to the island for his job interview. 1 year ago that I thought my life was ending. Little did I know that a new story was being written. NEVER would I have imagined that moving here would bring me so much joy. There are no words to describe it. It is a feeling really. When you are on Beaver Island you forget everything…except happiness.

dsc00116There isn’t any glitz and glam that living in a city has to offer on the island. It is basically like camping in a house. You walk out your front door and are in the woods. Assaulted by nature and overwhelmed by it. The island is very rustic and remote. Since there are no city sounds and sights to distract you, you just become more of who you really are.

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When I romp thru the woods or along the shore by myself I am completely satisfied. When I look out over the water and see the horizon kiss the sky, I realize there is nothing I need. The past is gone. The future is yet to come. I only have THIS moment. I feel so free. I feel so alive.

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Hunger For Life

I am an animal of the wild.

A wild child.

Solitary in my journey on the earth.

I walk in darkness. Roaming this way and that.

My keen senses lead me to a feast.

I lick the bones.

I suck the marrow.

I howl at the moon.

I AM ALIVE

~Becca 2/12/2017

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Moon setting over the Back Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wild Passion

Falling into YOU

I moved here for a new life
and I met YOU.
Beaver Fever burning intensely from the first day.
Your red lust sunrises wake me like the ringing of a bell.
Early in the morning I walk in the woods, surrounded by quiet whispers, like the back corner of a library.
Your rhythmic waters pound the shore like lovers who are crazy and lost in each others embrace.
The eagle swoops into view and suddenly soars away like a stolen kiss, planted quickly on my lips.
Your brilliant golden sunsets blind me like the brass buttons of a pirate’s jacket.
I close my eyes and deeply take YOU in, filling myself with your sweetness.
Your breath touching my body brings a thrill like holding hands for the first time.
When YOU wrap your arms around me and hold me,  I am like a sail boat tethered to the dock, resting safely in the harbor.
YOU take my breath away.
YOU make this girl alive. YOU make me feel brand new. This is a fire that cannot be quenched.
Thank YOU!
Have you heard the island rumor?
Yes, it is true.
I am in love with YOU!

My beautiful Beaver Island.
Until death do us part.

~Becca

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Coming to YOU in June 2016
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Red lust sunrise
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Sunrise at Gull Harbor
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Destruction on the horizon. Wild and fierce shore at sunset (photo by Cynthia Johnson)
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The eagle’s nest kissing the sky
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Sunset at Donegal Bay. YOU take my breath away
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Sunset at Donegal Bay
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Thank YOU for loving me and breathing new life into me
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My heart is bound to YOU and I will never leave YOU
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Ahhhhhhhhhh. Standing near YOU gives me peace.
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I feel safe in your arms. Whiskey Point Light House
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Childhood in Michigan; Nature Center Camp. I am the grubby one standing on the far left. Experiencing Michigan as  an adult and living in the woods feels like falling in love as a teenager. That crazy wild kind of love.
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I love YOU
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I have given YOU my heart
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I Do!  Until death do us part.

Junk in My Trunk: Taking a dump TO the Dump.

 

img_20161230_105730If you are not horrified by my title and the nod to bathroom humor (I blame you for that dad) keep reading and you will get a lesson on how we dispose of garbage and unwanted items on the island. Everything has to be shipped off by barge or ferry.  It all happens at the Transfer Station. Mom, you will be so proud of me. I now take the time to rip the plastic ring off the cardboard lid of the oatmeal container!

Happy 2017, out with the old and in with the new.

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Out with the old. Off to the Transfer Station to drop a load.

 

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To the dump to the dump to the dump dump dump.

 

As a child  I wanted to be an ironing lady when I grew up. Instead I have become a garbage man. Making a weekly trip to the dump is one of my jobs. Which really is a good thing for a girl who loves to trash pick!

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Entrance to the path that leads to the dumping grounds
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My heart starts racing as I round the corner to the scrap metal dump pile.
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But first we stop at the rubber pile. Tire swings for every branch.
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Be still my beating heart.

My days at the dump started when I was a child. I grew up on the top of Cherry Hill in a cute little cottage style house that my grandpa had built. My dad was born and raised there. My parents met as students at Kalamazoo College and after getting married, they started their family in that house. Me and Lindsey.We lived there until I was 12 years old.

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My sister and I lived outdoors. Mostly because we loved our yard so much and sometimes because we were locked out until we could “work it out and get along.” We could survive for days outside. There were 2 huge trees that we would climb and swing from the branches like little monkeys. Those trees also supported the rope hammock that was our boat where we would explore the world and had many adventures at sea. We foraged our yard for food. It had had blue berry bushes, apple trees, tons of loaded grapevines and our neighbors pear tree which we looted. The best part though was Uncle Dan’s dump. He was our next door neighbor, not our uncle.

The dump was at the bottom of the hill, on the edge of a pine tree forest. We would scour the dump for items to set up in the house we were building in the trees. And it was awesome! Rusty bed springs, showers cobbled together with broken hoses and hung from the branches, empty coffee containers and tin cans lined the splintered shelves above the rusty cast iron sink resting on a rug of pine needles in  the kitchen. We survived our childhood without tetanus or poison ivy!

My trash picking aptitude was honed by my mother. Let me note that this teenage girl was embarrassed by the random stops at the curb to be the muscle, often in my friends’ neighborhood! I averted my eyes and pulled my hat low as I helped wrestle a heavy sofa into our Volkswagen van. However a foundation was being laid in those years. I can proudly say my own daughter has no shame in digging thru a pile at the curb even with traffic whizzing by.

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In with the new! Eliza and I made a haul at the thrift shop after our dump at the dump.

My first trip to the Transfer Station on Beaver Island was profitable. After digging thru the ‘Aluminum Bin’ I came home with a golf club, a galvanized bucket and a blue metal shelf with cubbies! I haven’t used the golf club yet. Lets just say Bryan isn’t a fan of my love for rooting through people’s trash. His mother never made him stand in the street directing traffic while she tied a table to the top of the car.

The workers at the Transfer Station, Bob and Joe, told me “Your husband isn’t going to like you bringing home that shelf.” They were witnesses to the excitement of my first day of treasure hunting. And heard Bryan saying “Honey we are not bringing that crap home! Get out of that box and get in the truck.” Well they were wrong about the shelf, it is in our closet with shoes on it. And we even have a second one in our laundry room. Joe laughed one day as I pulled up and said he was thinking about me that morning. The restaurant in town disposed of their booths earlier in the day. They were down the road in the “wood pile.” He was convinced I would drive off with one stuffed into the back of the pick up. I think he and Bob even had a bet going on it.

One of the most notable differences on the island is the darkness and quiet. There are no street lights/lamps, and no 3 am garbage trucks.  Each person has to bring their sorted garbage to the Transfer Station where it is compressed, bundled, and loaded into containers and shipped off the island. Green bags to dispose of garbage cost $1. Recycling is free.

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Containers that are loaded and shipped to the mainland on ferry.

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Eliza adds to the drywall heap.

 

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The drive thru dump.
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Farewell tuna noodle casserole!

Items that can have another life are given to the thrift shop, which by the way, is worth the price of a ferry ticket to get here and check it out! All the profits from the Thrift Shop (Island Treasures) go to the Volunteer Fire Department. How cute is that.

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So much junk in my trunk. Treasure hunting at the island thrift shop.

 

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My portion of the yarn haul from Thrift Shop. Everyone gets a new hat for Christmas.

Another home run at the dump. There are worse things to have a reputation about on an island. I will hold my head high as they cover their mouths and whisper “Here comes the trash picker.”

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Trash picker!
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Living the dream!!

I Say Goodbye. I Say Hello.

Hello!

6 months ago I said goodbye to a  busy life of physical work, dear friends and a kick ass community/neighborhood where we raised our 3 children. 6 months ago we moved to Michigan; to Beaver Island island in the middle of Lake Michigan.

I had moved to Champaign Illinois 30 years ago after I graduated from MSU. My roots went deep. I had no idea how difficult it would be to leave the life I was living in Champaign and start new. When Bryan accepted a  teaching position that would tear me from my place and people, I thought life was over.  June 14th, 2016, we pulled away from our home on Church street and headed north to Michigan. Well, my heart did start beating again. Thank God.

HELLO BEAVER ISLAND!

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Goodbye Champaign Illinois. Hello Beaver Island.
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Goodbye university town of 83, 000 people. Hello Beaver Island, population 400ish.
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Goodbye summer. Hello winter. Photo by my friend Cynthia.

 

“I don’t get all the weeping” my daughter told me a month after we moved here. Presently, 6 months later,  I still cry EVERY morning, tears of joy, that I am in this place.  Bryan was offered the job in February 2016. The bottom fell out of my life emotionally that day as I realized I was going to be saying goodbye to a life and people I loved and moving to a remote, isolated, rustic island where I had no job, no friends, no connections at all. There are more deer and wild turkey running around than there are humans!

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Goodbye concrete, noise pollution and shopping. Hello quiet, nature and wildlife.

The stuffing came out of me and I could not function for awhile. Racing, fearful thoughts kept me awake for days. Nerves made it impossible to eat. I lost 17 lbs in 20 days, wasn’t sleeping and was so full of fear I was paralyzed on the sofa, in my purple fuzzy robe, desperately  clutching my Xanax and Zoloft that were prescribed to help get me back to who I was. I am on the other side now!!!

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Goodbye fear. Hello hope and joy!

4 months of weekly therapy, sleep meds, anti anxiety, anti depressants, prayer, the support of Bryan, family and friends was what it took to help me get to the other side of the fear of saying goodbye to the life I was living and to choose to go with my husband on an adventure and start a new life.

 

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Goodbye busy Church St. Hello to my home in the woods where the only car that drives by is the snow plow in the winter and the gravel road grater in the summer.

 

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Goodbye old dark bungalow house. Hello stone fireplace and bright cedar home!
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Goodbye forced air. Hello wood burning stove.

3 weeks ago I had to say goodbye to my BIF, my best island friend…the first friend I made 2 days after moving here. It was so hard!  I wish saying goodbye wasn’t so painful. Yet here I am, still breathing.

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Goodbye my BIF. See you in the spring. Hello to your new house, sailing lessons and our Pickle Ball challenge in 2017!
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Bon voyage

I am learning that when we say goodbye to one thing we are making room to say hello to something new. Life is like that. You can’t hold on too tight. You have to be flexible or you will break.

If you are faced with difficult choices and circumstances that seem hopeless and inspire absolute dread; take a deep breath, turn up the corners of your mouth and say hello to what is coming.

When you feel like you are free falling in life and it is hard to breath, run, don’t walk to the therapist/doctor and get some professional help. It took a village to get me back to ME. I remember the moment when I decided that I had to get back to the activities that brought me joy (dancing, spending time with friends, helping others, riding my bike) and start participating in life again.

 

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Goodbye dark brick house. Hello fun times at the Foli’s

 

 

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Goodbye house cleaning business. Hello substitute teacher.

 

My heart started to beat again and I was moving forward, petrified at what my future might look like and willing to go there anyway. I’m not afraid anymore. In fact I cannot contain the joy and wonder that I am experiencing in my new circumstances. People think I am drunk, but this is just me! Embracing and loving my life. Sometimes the fear will not go away so you just have to do it afraid.

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Hello new friends!!
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Hello  island soul sister!
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Hello sweet girl…my library story time partner.
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Goodbye Seven Saints restaurant and Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Hello $2 Tuesdays at Stoney!

Life begins again. Now. With the intake of the very next breath. You don’t even notice it happening, and yet, you inhale and began again or just continue. It’s a matter of perspective. Life can begin again.You can begin anew now.  The choice is yours each and every moment.

 

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Goodbye darkness. Hello sunshine.

 

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Goodbye fear. Hello peace.

 

You say goodbye, I say HELLO!

What are you saying ‘hello’ to in your life today?

 

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Life is an adventure. Don’t be a chicken.

 

 

 

 

A Thankful Girl

A cozy fire. 2 of my 3 kiddos. Our good friend Don. The BEST stuffing ever and coffee toffee chocolate cheesecake. This is how I celebrated my first Beaver Island Thanksgiving. I am so thankful that we are living out our life in this magical island. Everyday is an adventure.

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The crowd of 7 folks stormed the Thrift Shop  on Black Friday when the doors opened at 11 am. Amazingly no one was trampled. Eliza and I made out like bandits. Our truck loaded with random items and the $55 we spent, supporting the Beaver Island Fire Department.

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The chaos!
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The loot!

We were able to enjoy a long hike on The Hidden Valley Trail. There was a light drizzle that brought out the tangy earthy smell of the forest. Bryan insisted we all were something bright colored so we don’t get shot. The hunters are still seeking their trophy bucks. It was a peaceful walk with no gunfire.wp_20161125_14_38_15_prowp_20161125_14_59_24_prowp_20161125_15_32_17_pro

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I am so very thankful for my wonderful life!!!!