PADI Rescue Diver Class and real world application

In my never ending quest of learning and becoming a better SCUBA diver, I took the PADI Rescue Diver course several weekends ago. I learned and practiced skills that I hoped I never would have to use.

During the course, we learned self-rescue (don’t become another victim), recognizing and managing stress in other divers, emergency management and equipment, assisting tired divers, assisting panicked divers, and finding/rescuing unresponsive divers underwater.

Two of the things we learned (and practiced) were bringing a diver up from underwater and “towing” a diver in on the surface. I used both of these skills this past weekend. I’m sure I could have handled the situation without the training, but I was more prepared and confident in my ability to provide assistance and I reacted calmly and effectively because I knew what to do and how to handle the situation.

The first real scenario was diving with another diver for the first time. She had stated previously she was working on her buoyancy, but had done well during the dive maintaining the same depth and had stayed close to me the whole time. We arrived at the surface toward the end of our dive a short distance away from the exit point. We had been monitoring our air during the dive and I knew we both had around 800 psi remaining. Since I dislike surface swimming in SCUBA gear, I suggested we descend to around 10-15 feet and swim toward the dock and she agreed. As I descended, she passed me and descended to the bottom of the quarry – a depth of over 50 ft. I waited for her to establish her buoyancy and ascend back up to 15 ft.

I observed her at the bottom of the quarry. She was kicking quickly while remaining on the bottom. I knew with the amount of air she had remaining, her current depth, and with her physical exertion she would run out of air rather quickly if she didn’t ascend. I waited for a minute and she had not made any progress.

Was this situation life threatening? Probably not, but it could have been rather quickly considering the amount of air we both had remaining. As her buddy, I should have been within an arm’s reach in case she needed assistance. With these factors in mind, I made the decision to provide assistance. I used the training I obtained during the Rescue Diver course to act quickly, descend, assist, and we safely ascended to the surface where we swam back to the exit point.

Scenario number two was assisting a diver at the surface. She (another diver) had experienced a regulator malfunction while at depth and it (rightly) spooked her since this was not her normal regulator. She was shaken by the experience more than usual because during her last dive several weeks prior she had experienced a regulator malfunction with a different regulator set.

She ascended with another diver and was ready to come out of the water while he needed to remain with the other divers. She wasn’t panicked, but could use some assistance swimming in and could use some verbal reassurance. I was still wearing my wetsuit from the previous dive. Once I confirmed my intention to provide assistance, the other diver descended and I communicated with the diver on the surface while I put on my fins. I swam toward her on the surface communicating the whole way. Once I arrived at her location, I fully inflated her BC and used one of the towing techniques I had learned to bring her to the exit point.

Life threatening? Definitely not. But I knew how to handle the situation and had practiced the procedures for providing assistance at the surface and towing another diver and didn’t have to improvise or wonder what to do. Once again, because I knew WHAT to do, it made the process much easier.

So, do I consider myself some type of hero for these actions? Not in any way, shape, form, or fashion. I give all the credit to my instructor and the PADI Rescue Diver course for teaching me what the appropriate actions are and practicing them until they became second nature. Because I had the knowledge and skills, I knew how and what to do and it made these two situations second nature.

I am always striving to be better and SCUBA diving is not any different. I can always learn, improve, and be a better diver in the future than I am now. I highly encourage all divers to take the Rescue Diver Class as you will be more prepared and confident in your ability to provide assistance calmly and effectively should there be a situation when these skills are needed.

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My first DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Project – A hammock stand!

After reading about a portable and easy to make hammock stand, I finally decided to make one. There are several threads about this on http://www.hammockforums.net – the original thread is here: https://www.hammockforums.net/forum/showthread.php/51787-The-TurtleDog-stand?highlight=turtledog. There are many other threads that incorporate different options although the basic construction is the same. The advantages are that this stand is relatively light, easy to make, and the materials are affordable. There are also several disadvantages as well. It is not built for swinging in the hammock, it can be unstable in high winds unless staked down, and care must be taken (several methods are available) to ensure the legs don’t spread out too far because you will find yourself on the ground….

I am not a carpenter or handyman. My tool selection is rather small and this is actually the first thing I have made as an adult “from scratch.” So I did LOTS of research and planning prior to construction. Here is a list of the items I purchased from my local Lowe’s Home Improvement Store.

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The cost of the materials was $57.31 not including tax.

I began by trimming each board to 7 feet long. While this is higher than the recommended length of around 6 feet, it gave me some flexibility when I use the longer pole (more on that later). I can always trim off the bottom of the poles if they are too long.

Once I had the poles the correct length, I marked and cut the angles for the ends of the boards. By using the correct angles, the poles support each other and do not allow the poles to spread out any further than the desired 45 degree angle. The end result is that the distance between the feet of the poles are equally spaced 5 ft apart and the angles between each poles are also 60 degrees each. By all the spacing and angles being the same, this spreads out the force equally. The two poles that rest against each other are cut at a 22.50 degree angle and the third pole that rest on the other two legs is cut at a 45 degree angle. That allows all three to fit snugly together.

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I then marked and drilled the holes in each board to match up to the placement of the gate hinges. Having another set of hands and plenty of space makes this step easier. I first connected the two poles that rest against each other and then attached the third pole. (measuring and checking twice and drilling once was very important here). I did have to slightly enlarge the holes in the gate hinge with a 5/16′ drill bit to allow the bolts and quick link to easily fit through the holes. As a note, the bolts on the poles that rest on each other (the ones with the 22.5 degree cuts) do not need to be tightened too tight if you plan on transporting the stand as pivoting the legs become difficult.

Once each tripod was assembled, I attached the quick link to one of the holes in the gate hinge and used some spare cordage I had at the house and tied a loop using a blood knot. I then used the loop to form a prusik knot on the pole and used the quick link to secure the other end of the loop. The pole was then suspended under the tripod. It is important that the pole attaches directly underneath the hinge to keep the force directed straight down when weight is applied.

I then suspended my Warbonnet Blackbird (http://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com/blackbird/) by running the straps around the pole on the outside of the cordage and used a Dutch Clip (http://www.dutchwaregear.com/dutch-clip.html) to secure the strap back to itself. I tested outside on the grass just in case there was a failure. I slept in it several times and it feels very solid. After this picture was taken, I have sprayed the pole with flat black paint and also stained and sealed the wood just for appearance.

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My original plan was to use two 6’ sections of top rail, but my local stores didn’t carry it in stock and I didn’t want to pay the shipping cost. The 10.6’ section works well for one of my hammocks, but is too short for my tarp (for outside testing) and my other hammock. I’m still searching for two 6’ sections for use with those items. By using two six foot sections, I can easily disassemble and transport in my car with the back seat folded down.

As a note, care must be taken that the legs are placed on a nonslip surface (in my case either grass or carpet). If this stand is set on slick surfaces such as concrete, tile, hardwood, etc, stress will be added to the tripod possibly causing failure. Some people suggest placing rubber chair/table tips on the ends of the poles to prevent this but I have been unable to find any the correct size.

If you decide to make one, PLEASE do your homework and research first. And of course, hang no further than you are willing to fall….

Posted in DIY, Hammock Camping, Report, Testing | Leave a comment

Video trip report 

Last weekend I went on a hiking trip and have already posted the written trip report from that experience.  I wanted to try a video trip report, so I filmed some footage and have edited it into my very first video posting.

You may see it here

Comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Report | Leave a comment

Sipsey Wilderness Loop Hike Trip Report (2 nights, 22.5 miles)

Summary: We parked one vehicle at the Braziel Trailhead, took trail 223 south to trail 208. We went east on trail 208 a short distance to trail 224. Turning southeast on trail 224 we traveled to trail 204 Friday afternoon and camped about halfway to East Bee Falls that night. On Saturday, we hiked trail 204 back to trail 224 and followed trail 224 all the way to the Borden Creek trailhead for lunch. After lunch, we hiked northeast on trail 207 to the Gum Pond Trailhead where my vehicle was located and camped. Sunday morning we finished the loop by taking trail 210 northwest back to trail 223 and followed trail 223 back out to the Braziel Trailhead.

The purpose of this hike was to knock out some of the official trails I have not yet completed in the Sipsey Wilderness. The only trail(s) I have not completed is trail 208 and 209 between Fall Creek Falls and the junction of trail 202. I will complete it this fall. Although we were tempted quite a few times, we did not venture off on any side trails as we knew we already had plenty of miles planned. There are several areas I will revisit once the cooler temperatures return.

Before we started hiking, we were going between vehicles from the Gum Pond Trailhead and Braziel Trailhead and saw three wild turkeys just walking down the road. We got rather close before they took off flying to the trees. This was not the last of the wild animals we saw during the hike. Friday afternoon at 6:19 pm in 88 degree weather we left the Braziel Trailhead and made our way down to our planned camping area on the ridgeline of trail 204. We made the 4.6 miles easily not too long before sundown. After dropping our packs, we walked down to East Bee Falls. There was not ANY water running over the falls but with some rain expected overnight and a deep pool just upstream from the edge of the falls, we knew we would be ok for water. After setting up camp, relaxing a bit, ate dinner (Mountain House sweet and sour pork), and it was quickly time for bed as a light rain began to fall. The low Friday night was 72 degrees.

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I awoke about daybreak to a light rain, but went back to sleep for a bit more rest. We ate breakfast (Mountain House Eggs and Bacon) and made a run to East Bee Falls to gather water for the hike. The tiniest of trickles was going over the edge of the falls – but there was water to filter. The day was hot and humid with periods of rain without any water on the trail until lunch so I packed 64 oz. of water to take me to Borden Creek – which was enough. We left our campsite just before 9 am. To our surprise, we found ripe blackberries along trail 224 and had an unplanned snack several times.

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I have heard horror stories about hiking the horse trails and this is why I have saved them to hike last. I was very pleased to find them in great shape and without any recent rain, there were no muddy areas to trudge through. Trail 224 has to be the flattest and straightest trail in the wilderness.

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As I stated earlier, there are several places of interest that call for exploration at a later date. Although the temperature Saturday was below 80, it was extremely humid – I’m not sure what part of my shirt was sweat and which part was from the periodic rain showers. Although it was overcast with some rain, the humidity was out of control and we needed lots of fluids. We made great time on trail 224 arriving at Borden Creek at 11:13. We had to climb up to the new trailhead where my friend had stashed a cooler filled with cold beverages the night before. IT WAS WORTH THE CLIMB from the creek to the trailhead! The distance from our camp on trail 204 to the Borden Creek Trailhead was 5.07 miles.

After a nice long lunch break was taken, we knew we still have several miles to cover before sundown. Traveling back downhill to Borden Creek, we took a right and turned on trail 207 at 12:50 pm. FYI – once you cross Borden Creek, trial 207 goes to the left. There’s no sign, and the trail seems to go either direction on an old road. If you go to the right, it is quickly evident this is not an official trail as it’s not cleared of blowdown and other foliage is covering the trail. At one point on the trail (somewhere around halfway), we spotted 2 wild hogs down the trail. We stopped and quietly inched forward but before I could capture a video or picture of them, they ran off downhill. That was the first time I have seen hogs while hiking in the Sipsey Wilderness. I also saw an interesting tree carving as well.

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There was one portion that the briars covered the trail and it appeared to be good territory for the slithering ground dwellers. That stretch was my least favorite section of the whole loop. We took it slow through this section checking for snakes before we progressed forward. While none was spotted during this section, just a mile or so before the trailhead at Gum Pond, we spotted a slithering snake in the middle of the trail and it took a few minutes to get past that area. After 5.25 miles, we arrived at the Gum Pond Trailhead at 4:00 pm where my car containing a stocked cooler waited for us. We decided to use the vehicle and make a food run to Moulton for a late lunch/early dinner. That was also a great decision. Since the “hiker funk” was in full force, we were nice and just went through the drive-thru. We sat in the parking lot and inhaled a Frisco Burger combo meal from Hardee’s. I figured we deserved since we had hiked over 10 miles earlier…. A decision was made to “car camp” and a spot was found close to Flannigan Creek. After setting up camp just before 7 pm, a much appreciated wash-down was in order and dry clothes were donned. It was heavenly. It was heavenly until the frogs on Flannigan Creek started making noise and another strange noise – it almost sounded like a turkey but it went on well after dark and never moved. I should have recorded it but didn’t. Regardless, I quickly fell asleep in the hammock. I believe the high that day was 80 and the low during the night was near 60.

Sunday morning, we dropped everything but the essentials (food, water, navigation) in the car as we drove back to Gum Pond Trailhead. We headed out on trail 210 at 8:12 am. Knowing this was another trail away from water, I carried another 64 oz. of water for the hike. We kept our eyes open on the way to trail 210 passing the spot where Mr. No Shoulders had been spotted the day before but thankfully we didn’t see another one. After the bridge over Hagood Creek, we turned off trail 208.

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Trail 210 follows the bottom of a bluff containing some very pretty rock formations for the first portion.

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Eventually a switchback is discovered and uphill we go. Thankfully, the trail maintainers have built some stone steps here allowing an easier climb. Thank you! The rest of the trail meanders the ridge and would be very pretty when there are no leaves on the trees. This is a nice ridgeline trail that flirts with an old road(s) many times along the way. Beside the trail there were several interesting items. One was what appeared to be an Indian Marker tree, and another old tree carving.

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There are many switchbacks on this trail through the draws on the ridge. You can see either where you are going or where you had just walked from for much of the last half of this trail. Even so, the trail was enjoyable as most of the elevation gain and loss was gentle rolling hills. The high was around 80 degrees but since the sun was out the humidity was much lower. I sweated much less than on Saturday. Unfortunately, about 2.5 miles from the trailhead, we spotted/almost stepped on another Mr. No Shoulders. I was now ready to be out of the woods! We were more than happy when we finally hiked the 7.58 miles to return to the Braziel Trailhead arriving at 12:37.

Overall, we had a great trip. We covered the miles we planned – actually a couple of miles more than my estimate of 20.5, had plenty of food and water, made great time, no ticks, and no equipment issues. The trails were easy to follow – even trails 207 and 210 except for a spot or two and even then it was easy to figure out which way the trail went. The predicted storms never materialized and it was pleasant – although humid – hiking weather. If we had seen just a few less wild animals the trip would have been perfect. We only saw two other people on the trail out for a day hike. I have decided that my next hiking trip will be in the Fall/early winter when less wildlife is out and about. Except this guy – he can stay there and I won’t mind:
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Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking, Report | 3 Comments

Lightweight 2 night, 20 mile hiking backpacking packing list and description

It seems that some people cannot figure out how to lighten the load when backpacking. While this is totally subjective to the individual, I created this blog post detailing my load for a two night, 20 day hike in a couple of weeks. Yes, I have upgraded gear (no Cuben Fiber) and I’m using very common items found in the backpacking/hammock camping world.

Spoiler alert: with food and water I’ll be leaving the trailhead with 20.04 pounds on my back. I do have a food drop (in a car left at another trailhead for a bail-out if needed) that weighs 33.6 oz, but I could carry that easily from the start if needed.

This is my longest hike so far and it will take place at the end of June. Saying it will be warm is an understatement. I’m predicting hot and humid weather so I’m traveling about as light as I ever have. Hopefully packing light (but still having everything I need) will help the miles fly by.

Everything will be packed my ULA Ohm 2.0 that weighs 27.45 oz. Instead of the stock backpad insert, I use a blue foam pad from Wal-Mart that I traced the stock pad onto and cut out. This has multiple uses (back pad, sit pad, etc) and weighs 2.45 oz. I also hang a bandana from my strap to wipe the sweat from my face, soak in water to cool down, etc and it weighs 0.9 oz. For a pack liner, I use a trash compactor bag weighing in at 2.4 oz. I ALWAYS use the trash compactor bag – not only for rain, but there are a lot of water crossings where I hike in the Sipsey Wilderness and I like to keep my stuff dry. I consider all of the above items “backpack weight” and it totals 33.20 oz or 2.08 lbs.

In my “Shelter” category, I will be taking my Warbonnet Blackbird 1.1 SL with bishop bag, Dutch Clips, and Dutch Cinch Buckles that all weigh 21.9 oz. I’m taking my Hammock Gear 20 degree Burrow topquilt because it weighs several ounces less than my Army Surplus Poncho Liner at 16.5 oz. For my underquilt I’m using the Arrowhead Equipment 1 season Jarbridge weighing 15.5 oz. My Superfly will be making the trip with Mountaingoat Mesh Sleeves, Dutch continuous ridgeline, and Lawson Glowire for tie out in a Zpacks cuben fiber bishop bag. All of the tarp related items weigh a total of 23.85 as I have it rigged. The only item not listed are 8 titanium tarp stakes from Lawson equipment weighing a total of 2.45 oz in a stuff sack. That brings my Shelter weight to a total of 80.2 oz or 5.01 lbs. I’d love to lighten this, but cuben fiber is so dang expensive and a bug net is required during the summer in Alabama!

Next I’ll address my “Cook kit” weight. I have a fire rod and striker (1.4 oz) , cuben fiber stuff sack (0.2 oz), long handled titanium spoon (0.55 oz), aluminum flashing windscreen (0.5 oz), Zelph Fancee Feest wick stove (0.9 oz), Fancee Feest Simmer ring by Zelph (0.65 oz), full fuel bottle – about 4.5 fluid oz of denatured alcohol (4.10 oz), Imusa 10 cm mug (2.8 oz), Imusa lid from Zelph (0.3 0z) and a Refletix cozy. Total weight with fuel is 11.8 oz or 0.74 lbs.

For clothing, I’m not taking much as this can add a LOT of weight quickly. Cuben fiber stuff sack (0.25 oz), 1 spare synthetic boxer brief underwear (3.7 oz), and 1 spare set of Darn Tough socks (2.8 oz). I’m also taking synthetic shorts (4.4 oz) and a short sleeve synthetic top (5.4 oz) to have a dry set of clothes once I set up camp and for sleeping. Currently there are storms predicted, so I have my Golite Tumalo rain jacket listed at 12.0 oz, but may leave it out if the weather forecast clears. My Patagonia Nano Puff jacket (12.35 oz) is on the list but I’m considering leaving my Nanopuff at home – but I may appreciate it once I cool down from hiking and I use it as my pillow. Taking everything listed brings my clothing weight up to 40.90 oz or 2.56 lbs. By leaving both jackets at home, I’ll save 24.35 oz, but it will largely depend on the weather.

Next I’ll address what I call “Tools/Misc.” The Garmin eTrex Venture HC GPS with batteries and tie on cord (so I don’t lose it) is 4.95 oz. I use this mostly for tracking, but I like to have it with me JUST IN CASE. Of course I take a compass (1.7 oz) and a map (1.85 oz) as well as my primary means of navigation. I take a camera that’s a bit heavy, but it’s waterproof and shockproof – the Olympus TG-1 weighing 8.1 oz. My Princeton Tec Remix headlamp with batteries weighs 3.0 oz. I also pack a 32″ Amsteel dogbone that I mostly use to hang my pack. The dogbone weighs 0.35 oz with a small metal s biner. Although I treat my clothes with Permitherin, I have a small container of bug spray weighing 1.15 oz to treat any trouble spots. I have an AcuRite thermometer that weighs 1.25 oz and my luxury item is a DIY Jerry Chair (thanks Secret Santa!) that I can use for a pack cover, but it is mostly used to sit around camp and have some back support. The Jerry Chair weighs 4 oz. That brings my total Tools/Misc weight to 26.35 oz or 1.65 lbs.

What I consider “HBA” or “Health and Beauty Aids” consists of a small first aid kit weighing 3.0 oz, lip balm (0.4 oz) because my lips always seem to get chapped, a keyring that has a small back up light, whistle, and tick key for a total weight of 0.9 oz, my “poop kit” consisting of wipes and a small bottle of hand sanitizer in a ziplock bag. The total weight on the poop kit is 1.6 oz. Finally, I have a small bag holding a small toothbrush, small tube of toothpaste, a small container of dental floss, a small section of a camp towel, a small container of Dr. Bonners peppermint soap, a small container of powder (because sometimes you REALLY need it) and a small container of deodorant. The weight of my personal cleaning supplies is 4.5 oz. The total weight of all HBA items is 10.40 oz or 0.65 lbs.

For water, I carry an old Gatorade bottle (1.65 oz) and the Sawyer Squeeze with container that I covered in a previous blog post. The filter including the container, flush syringe, and 32 fluid oz bag weighs 8.1 oz. I plan on using the additional 32 oz bag to carry water between water sources in addition to the Gatorade bottle. I plan on carrying 64 fluid oz of water. Total water/filter weight is 73.75 oz or 4.61 lbs. This weight will drop rapidly as I hike and drink water.

All that is left is food. I will be using the Ursack Minor (rodent proof) food bag weighing 5.10 oz. My food for Friday night to Saturday afternoon weighs 38.9 oz. We’ll have a car parked close to our camping spot for Saturday night, so I’ll pick up my Saturday night/Sunday food as we pass by. That total weight is 33.6 oz. Leaving the trailhead Friday afternoon, I’ll be carrying a total weight of 44.0 oz for food/food storage. Of course, this weight will decrease as I eat each meal/snack.

In summary:

Backpack 33.20 oz or 2.08 lbs
Shelter 80.20 oz or 5.01 lbs
Cooking 11.80 oz or 0.74 lbs
Clothes 40.90 oz or 2.56 lbs
Tools/Misc 26.35 oz or 1.65 lbs
HBA 10.40 oz or 0.65 lbs
Water 73.75 oz or 4.61 lbs
Food 44.00 oz or 2.75 lbs

That brings my total weight leaving the trailhead as 20.04 lbs. Not too shabby in my opinion….

Not included in this is things I consider “worn.” This would be my Merino short sleeve shirt (6.05 oz), Columbia zip off pants (10.15 oz), Cinch Buckle Belt (1.9 oz), synthetic boxer brief underwear (3.7 oz), Darn Tough Wool socks (2.8 oz), hiking shoes (Moab Ventilators – 37.35 oz), Gerber Evo knife (1.85 0z), watch (Casio G Shock – 2.15 oz), my “summer hat” 2.55 oz, and my Komperdell trekking poles (19.0 oz). That is a total weight of 87.50 oz or 5.47 lbs.

If you would like to count the “skin out” weight, it would be my pack weight of 20.04 lbs plus “worn” items weighing 5.47 lbs for a total carried weight of 25.51 lbs.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them in the comment section.

I’ll see you between the trees…

Posted in Backpacking, Hammock Camping, Hiking | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Becoming a foster and/or adoptive family

Most (if not all) of my previous blog posts have been related to my various hobbies and it is my desire they are informative and entertaining. This post will be a bit different from the others. Sharing this experience through this venue has been on my heart and mind for some time, but it was my desire for it to be concise so people would actually read and understand my viewpoint. So, without further ado, here we go.

Even before we were married over 8 years ago, I knew about my wife’s desire to have/raise a child after marriage. We also openly discussed any medical/physical barriers that may need to be addressed. I’m extremely happy to say all issues have been resolved and the doctors cannot find any physical reason my wife and I can’t produce our own children. That’s the good news – almost a miracle by itself!

Through the years we have tried to just let nature take its course, suggested “home remedies”, had more tests and been to more doctors than we care to count (the wife more than me), and even used an infertility specialist for a period of time. So far we have been unsuccessful after many years of trying on our own and with the assistance/guidance of various doctors.

Before I ever faced this issue, I made the assumption that everyone could produce children easily and if there were difficulties the issues were easily corrected. Was I ever wrong!!!! For those that have never struggled with infertility, you cannot imagine the emotional roller coaster ride that a couple faces together. The doctors and specialist inform you nothing is stopping you and success is a short time away. Months go by. Success is elusive and no one can explain the reason for failure, so you take it personally. It is a tough situation that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. That has been our struggle and life for many, many years while seeing peers and friends get married and have healthy children time and time again.

This is an extremely difficult experience full of hope, heartbreak, and frustration. Why are there couples desiring a child with every fiber of their being and have so much difficulty while there are other couples without the desire to have children that have multiple children without any issues? While I’m not expecting an answer, it’s a natural question one faces when going through infertility issues. Other natural questions/statements include: What is wrong with me? What have I done wrong to deserve this? This isn’t fair!! There are many, many others as well. We are taught from young age that if you want something hard work and determination are the keys to obtaining that goal. This is not the case with fertility issues and what makes it so difficult. As a couple, you are doing EVERYTHING within your power and control for the desired outcome but the goal seems to always be a mirage on the horizon.

After many years of tears and prayers we still have the desire to be parents but have been unsuccessful (up to this point) in creating our own creation. While we are still holding onto the hope of having our biological child, we have the desire to be parents and are open to raising a child other than our own. This is not an easy decision and it took many prayers to have a peace that passes all understanding about taking this “unconventional” route. We have explored the option to foster/adopt through the local Department of Human Resources (DHR). This could be a separate blog post on its own (and may be in the future).

Regardless of your opinion of foster/adoptive parents I will assure you that from my perspective we were well investigated and vetted for approval just to be eligible to be a foster parent. Not only were we fingerprinted with criminal background checks, but many very personal questions were asked regarding childhood, finances, previous relationships, and opinions on various discipline and child rearing techniques and history. Questions were asked about what type of issues (medical and emotional) we would be comfortable with in our home. The tough questions were asked and answered. The teachers/instructors were honest and blunt about some of the challenges we may face. This process took place over a period of 10 weeks in addition to a pending home inspection by DHR where they “interview” each prospective foster parent individually to address any additional issues that may have arose but not addressed previously. Needless to say, it isn’t an easy process to work through and by the time you finish, you must really want to help a child in need to continue and be willing to be a foster parent.

I have learned several lessons from going through this process up to this point that I want to share. First – as much as we like to believe it, we really aren’t in control – especially after you become a foster parent. Second – biologically speaking, conception is miraculous, a medical phenomenon, and not at all guaranteed regardless of the desire or wishes. Third – even without obstacles and with lots of hard work, there are some things in life that don’t come easily (if at all). This can also be summarized as “Life isn’t fair.” Lastly – there are times when our ways are not His ways. Probably the most important thing I have learned is to keep my heart open because He may be giving me an alternate path to the same destination.

While we are not giving up the desire to “create our own creation” we are finishing up the final steps to become foster parents. If that is the route God leads us, it is our desire to be a foster family to a young child that we will eventually adopt to raise as our own. Please lift us up in prayer for whatever direction He directs our path.

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Random Location Sipsey Trip Report

My usual hiking buddy “skillet” and I had planned a quick trip to the Sipsey Wilderness over Memorial Day weekend. Our plan was to meet Sunday afternoon and visit several locations that we have passed many times, but have never stopped and/or explore some new areas close to the road. We were then going to car camp and explore a bit more Monday morning before heading back to friends and family to enjoy Memorial Day activities.

Par for the course, we left later than planned (not that there was really a plan) and met at the trading post in Wren. As usual, I was packed, ready, and excited for exploring new to me areas. He shows up in shorts and “flip flops.” That’s not really appropriate attire for off trail exploring…. He explains that he packed everything (including some extra socks) but had forgotten shoes. Well, that drastically changes our plans….

We went to Wolfpen to set up camp but it was quite full. After discussing and looking at other possibilites, we headed toward the Eagle Creek “parking area.” I have been to this location and have camped at Eagle Creek several times, but we wanted to stay close to the vehicle. Instead of going North toward Eagle Creek, we noticed a trail heading East and walked down it to find a suitable campsite not far down the trail. We set up camp and it was time to explore.

Our first destination was Kinlock Spring/Shelter. We parked and found the spring very quickly. As expected, it was a spring. Many years ago, someone had built a stone/concrete area around where the spring comes out of the ground. We got a sip of water, but didn’t explore down the trail any further.

spring

Next we headed to the Kinlock Shelter. Man is this thing HUGE. It was approaching dusk, so it was rather difficult to see much deep in the shelter, and I will have to come explore this area more in daylight. We did see the initial “JGB” and the date 1912 as well as “grooves” in a rock. I have been told (but can’t confirm) that this is where Native Americans would sharpen/grind various tools using the rock as an abrasive. I took a couple of pictures from the deepest part of the shelter as well as one looking out from the main section. There was also a neat area where the water dripping from the shelter edge made indentions in the rock below. We walked through a mini field of wild ferns. This is a beautiful area.

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We left Kinlock Shelter and headed for the old CCC camp just down the road. We explored around the area, but didn’t see anything noteworthy. There are many quite a few concrete columns laying around that I assume are the foundations or supports for the old cabins. After I left, I learned there may have been an old mill site nearby, so I’ll do more research and see what I should be looking for in this area.

One of my pastimes when hiking is looking for various flowers (even if they are weeds). I take pictures of them because my wife appreciates them more than pictures of rock. I took a few this trip that turned out pretty well.

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After leaving this area, we went exploring via vehicle. We turned on FS 215 and drove to the turn around area. We ran across quite a few hogs, but the picture was blurry. It was not nearly dark so we headed to camp. The next morning, I woke up early and decided to see where the trail we were camped beside headed. I grabbed my GPS and headed off down the trail. It followed some old roads. I’m assuming they were logging roads since I can’t find them on any of the older maps I study. At one point the trail forked. After referring to my GPS (and knowing the area), the one to the right headed toward Wolfpen Falls and the one to the left headed toward Hemlock Falls. Since I haven’t yet seen Hemlock Falls, I took the trail to the left.

Not long after turning left, the trail became less evident and I lost it several times while heading toward Hemlock Creek/Falls. When I arrived at what was labeled Hemlock Falls, I was dissappointed. It was only about four feet tall and a bare trickle over a cascade even after all of the overnight rain. I wasn’t sure if the large Hemlock Falls was upstream or downstream… Since I had left camp about 40 minutes earlier, I decdided to turn around and try to find the REAL Hemlock Falls another day. I arrived at camp to find my buddy was awake and had already packed up his equipment. We ate breakfast, packed up my stuff, and headed out.

With all things considered, we had a great time and I have a couple new areas to research and investigate (CCC Camp and Hemlock Falls) for a return trip to the wonderful Sipsey Wilderness.

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