Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Kenny and Renee Russell operate a draft horse farm in Mississippi.  For years, they've hosted classes on how to farm with horses.  This is where I met the Mitchells and Gina, birds of a feather do flock together!

A part of the student body at the Russell School about 6 years ago.  Good grief, I still wear the red T and Dickie pants, I guess I need to update my wardrobe!

My Dad even learned to plow!

I bought that plow and the Mitchells wedged it in Dad's rental car.
 Eventually, I brought Kenny a team of Belgians to train.

Kenny working Indy and Opie.
 Indigo and Opal had the craziest blue eyes, hence the names I gave them.  I'd drive to MS on weekends to visit with them while they were in school.

Me, discing my rodeo arena over and over again.  Fun times.
 OK, enough strolling down memory lane, back to my stop at the Russell's!

Cole was very excited to see that Kenny now had chickens!

They still spend every spare moment supporting their nieces' barrel racing habit.  Renee is prepping a horse for another day of competition.

In my opinion, the most beautiful view of a horse.

Proud Papa and his ace team.

Sadly left Kenny and Renee's farm Sunday morning.

The trip isn't over until you roll into your driveway.  Part of a day left before I had to be at work and I was going to milk all I could out of it.

Watching seagulls while riding the ferry from Dauphin Island, AL.

Dog beach at Fort Morgan.
 Cole can brag that he drank water from Lake Superior and the Gulf of Mexico.  Yeah!  The half mile stretch of sand was littered with dead fish.  The smell was a bit nauseating and deterred me from swimming. 
The tour of Fort Morgan was interesting.  Completed in 1834, the fort's purpose was to prevent enemy forces from entering Mobile Bay.  The fort has been modified over the years,the older sections are incredible!

the entrance

Cole in a cannon well

Just following the tour guide!

Memorial Day traffic delayed my escape from the Florida.  I was getting a little frustrated with it all in Pensacola when I spied a college campus that appeared to have meandering sidewalks between the buildings.  A good spot for a break.  Perfect as it turns out.  A connector trail leads to the Jones Swamp Trail.  A boardwalk has recently been built over a wetland area.  How cool to happen upon that?!

Great place for a short run.

Short 2.5 miles, but it averted road rage.
The plan had been to be in Slocumb, AL at 5 PM, in time for milking at the Alabama's Own Organic Dairy.  I didn't get there until 7.  I did get to meet the owners and walk around to inspect the farm that produces my milk.  I love knowing where my food comes from! 

Pity I missed the 48 stall rotating milking carousel in action.

Unabashed plug for their business....available at Earth Fare in Auburn.

The vacation came to a close around 10 PM Sunday night.  What an adventure!  It wouldn't have been possible, nor as fun without the support of my clients (who allowed me to muck up our schedules), my friends (who cheered me on and gave me sustenance), to my neighbors (who tended to my loved one left behind), my bovine vet, Dr. Carson (who fast tracked Mack's care so we wouldn't miss our trip) and my canine vet, Dr. Moore (who mends Cole on a regular basis)!

I met so many interesting and kind people, saw so much of the landscape...somehow it made me appreciate my life on this Alabama plantation even more.

I need to pull the portable coop back out into the pasture before Cole digs a trench around it! He's happy we're home.

My goatlet, Morel has outgrown my rat terrier, Jinx.

No need for Peterson's Guide here!  My daylilies are all about to pop.  Yipee!

19 states in 5600 miles.
Only one warning for speeding.
$2.50 left in my wallet.  Three months saving and I remained under budget, thank you very much.
3 toe nails sacrificed to the trail gods.
Would have loved to see more State Parks, National Forests and run some more miles, next time...

Pin points indicate all the places where Cole and I have trail run in the past 5 years.

 26.  The number of states we've covered trail running.  Why not do the whole country?  Yes, lets....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I awoke Saturday morning on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma.  Got a little lost in the dark around 10 PM.  Alright, I have learned my lesson.  Three strikes you're out.  I promise to never, never, never attempt to find a campground after the sun has set.  I obviously cannot do it and should therefore cease believing that it can be done. 
One very cool thing I discovered:  tribal license plates. I never knew of their existence.  Instead of having Oklahoma tags on their cars, many sported Wyandotte Nation tags. 
I wanted to avoid the interstate highway to get to East Texas because it would have been easy.  We don't do easy on this trip.  No, I had the choice of two somewhat parallel scenic road meandering South, one in Oklahoma, the other in Arkansas.  I've had a hankering to see Arkansas, so I hopped a little East.
I had the scenic OK route mapped out by Mapquest and it wouldn't have taken me but 20 minutes to find my way back to it, but I struck out to AR with no more than a US atlas book woefully lacking in detail.  Add to it that my reading glasses were stashed away in my luggage, so reading the small print on the map was impossible anyway. 
Eventually, I found myself at Devil's Den State Park.  A quick run should ease the pain in my leg, right?  The park was full due to the long weekend, so I asked the ranger about a back country trail.  My eyes lit up when he pulled out the special permit I would need to hike the trail.  Rugged, isolated, no cell phone service, music to my ears.  I was even instructed to call in when I was back at my car.  Geez, how tough can this trail be?   Toenail #3 a goner, that's how rocky it was.
The Butterfield Trail is a 15 mile loop.  I planned to run in a couple miles and turn around and run back out.  Simple.  Nope, we don't do simple.  Unlike the other Devil's Den trails that come with nice color brochure maps, the Butterfield map was pulled out of back filing cabinet.  It looked like a mimeograph from the 50's.  I was so blurry, you couldn't tell road from trail or waterway!  I may just have it framed!

Cole kept leading me back to this spot and I finally figured out that we were to cross the river to connect to the trail on the other side.  Markers would have been nice!

In lieu of retracing my steps, I tried to jump onto a connector trail and make my own 4 mile loop run.  We ended up running 9.5 hard miles.  Oops.  Ordinarily, I welcome the opportunity to get lost in the woods, but I did have folks waiting for me in Texas!

The current was strong and Cole was insisting that he be carried across.

9.5 miles through Devil's Den SP and Ozark National Forest

What a gorgeous area.  If I ever leave Alabama, you can forward my mail to the Ozarks in Northwestern Arkansas.  Farmland interspersed with mountains, I love it.  Sparsely populated too!  If it weren't for my livestock, I may be harder to find:  Northern Maine or Minnesota is where I may decide to set up a permanent camp.

Unfashionably late, I rolled into Lindale, Texas around 10 PM, having driven through the first and only storms of my entire trip.  Once again, Gayla rolled out the red carpet for me and the Colemeister.  I had hoped to take everyone out for supper to celebrate the last day of school.  Instead, she had a feast waiting for me!
A late evening and part of the next morning is hardly enough time to catch up with one's best friend.

Next time, I'll plan my stops at friends' houses on the beginning leg of the journey, not the end when time is fleeting.  In my defense, if I had done just that on this trip, I would have been in KS and TX during the tornadoes, in MN and Dakotas during their deluge of rain  and my passage through WI may have been blocked by the big forest fire that I avoided by one day.

More motivation to move the Arkansas.  I'd be closer to the Mitchell's, Gayla and my crazy twin in OK, Gina.

A good boy scout helping an old lady out to her car.
 It was hard to leave.  Not having enough time with folks you love makes you miss them all the more!
The young man in the picture is The-Kid-Formerly-Known-As-My-Stepson, a.k.a.  my nephew, a.k.a. my best friend's son.  Albeit out of character for me, for simplicity's sake, I shall from now on refer to him by his name, Sebastian.

Gayla being pursued by Sebastian.  Notice how smart Russ is to stay out of the melee!

Sebastian has caught his next victim.
 From Texas I headed towards my friends' farm in Poplarville, Mississippi.  Smack in the center of Louisiana, I had a stop lined up in the Kisatchie National Forest.  The Gum Springs campground and trails cater to horses.  Nice open and clearly marked trails (take note Arkansas rangers). 

A campground full of friendly people.  One even brought her laying hen (the crate is barely visible in the lower left corner).  Obviously not as lucky as me. I have my neighbors pet sitting my flock!

Fun to find horses everywhere in the woods!

Wide enough for wagons.

Garmin conked out again.  Total was 5.5 to 6 miles.

Cole was struggling with the heat and humidity.  He had me a little worried for a while.  I used all my water to try to cool him down. 

When we stopped in the historic town of Natchez, MS, I opted to walk rather than run.

Overlooking the river.

Natchez house.

I love the variety of architecture styles all in one area!  Empire, French Revival, you name it.

Trying to keep monsieur from diving in after the koi.
 True to form, I pulled in at the Russell Workhorse Farm around, oooh, 10:30 PM Saturday night.   Visited for a couple of hours and plopped my tent by their garage.

Monday, May 27, 2013


Kansas is a hard state to cross, she is wide!

Since Nebraska, the tingling in my right leg has worsened to a constant sharp pain. It's made driving a painful ordeal.  I have a theory that it's related to my progressive leg swelling problem.  In my regular life, I'm on my feet running around all day.  Stick me in a car for two weeks and cool scientific experiment unfolds.  In Minnesota, my toes' swelling became a 24 hr phenomenon.  Then my Vienna sausage toes lead to swollen ankles.  By Kansas, my knees had joined the mutiny.  Hopefully, these unpleasant side effects to travel will be reversible!  Cankles and line backer knees are a small price to pay for the chance to savor so much of this wonderful country.

For example,  driving through Kansas, I crossed a town with appealing modern buildings.  Hmmm, why is the whole town now sporting a chic green architecture?

Municipal bldg, check out the dead tree devoid of its bark., 200 mph winds can do that

The buildings are all new because a tornado smoked 95% of the town back in '07.  Kudos to city planners for going green during the restoration!

They even had, be still my beating heart, a round building.

The Big Well
 As the name implies, it's the largest hand dug well in the world.  Built in 1887, the workers were paid 50 cents a day for labor.  Double what the laborers in Colorado received 30 years later for their toil on the Sterling Dam! 

Modern stairs allow you to walk down part of the way. 
 100 feet deep by 30 feet wide.  I had flashbacks to my childhood, it smelled exactly like my Uncle Bob's old cellar!  The rectangular form in the bottom of the well is a platform to catch most of what people drop into the well. Still, many things end up in the water. I asked the curator how many car keys fall into the well.  Surprisingly, not many, but divers did pull a set of dentures from the bottom of the well a few years ago.

At long last, I made it to the Mitchell Family Farm in Southeastern Kansas...only a day late.  Since my last visit 3 years ago, many critters had grown...

Porcine family has put on a few hundred pounds

...the hay derrick is finished and operational:

Grown children (4) at play!
Jena has been hard at work constructing an obstacle course that would make a Navy Seal weep for mercy!

Here she tries to coax me to leap onto the next tire...not.

Jena makes it look deceivingly easy!

I needed support staff!

More support staff and worried onlookers

I demand a rematch in October.  Either I will accept my age and limitations or, most likely, die trying to make it to the top of the snake ladder!

Homegrown vegetables, eggs from Deanna's flock and milk from her Jerseys made supper extra scrumptious. 

Pressed for time, I crammed my Clydesdale's old harness in the mini-truck (Hyundai toy) and attempted to get closer to my next stop in Texas.  Terrible to be behind schedule while on holiday!

Bye for now to my crazy Kansas family,  but I'll be back in a few months!

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Wow,  I had predicted that the open plains would bore me.  Au contraire, I love it out here!

On the road on the high plains of Colorado

Arid conditions dictate the type of vegetation:  yucca, sage and cactus.

Open country is punctuated every now and again by feedlot.  Hundreds to thousands of cattle crammed into the foulest smelling, unsheltered, muddy corral.

Just one of many corrals.

Drove 5 miles of dirt roads to find Monument Rocks in Kansas.  Magnificent monoliths created by chalk deposits 80 million years ago.  I saw cool fossils in the walls!

I love this kind of stuff!

I played tag with Cole for over an hour.
 It was hot! Cole and I ran 'round and 'round.  Very Saharan feeling...I imagined that at any moment a nomad would walk around a corner with his camel. Instead, a Mennonite couple materialized out of nowhere, causing me to greet them with a loud scream.  Poor people.  They had arrived and parked at the behind the furthest rocks and I had not known of their arrival. 

Swallow or flycatcher nests.

"Hey Ma, are we having fun yet?"

Sagebrush bird nest

Kansas wildflower

Another unidentified beauty...geranium family??? Argh, I need my book.

A friend had once promised to go on a camping trip with me, as long as miles of extension cords could be brought for his television.  Ludicrous and impossible...not impossible I have discovered.

Crazy:  miles of extension cords linking oil drilling equipment

A monument honoring a pioneer who didn't make it to Denver.

On this trip, I've covered so many miles and states.  That was the plan, but the unfortunate side effect is that all the drive time doesn't leave me with as much time to run as I had hoped.  But, the bright side is that I now have destinations in mind where I'd want to return, ditch the car and run my little heart out.  I'm calling this trip a recon mission.

top of Scott State Park, KS

I stopped at a state park in Western Kansas.  Hallelujah for the chance to run!!!

high plains trail

7.5 mile run

I stopped at a grocery store in Scott, KS,  a large Mennonite community.  Check out the jumbo cans compared to the regular 14 oz can I set on the 2nd shelf.  Large families need volumes of food...I believed that these cans were only available for the restaurant trade.  The cashier was a Mennonite woman from many friendly folks in the Midwest.
 I should have camped here in Scott SP.  Once again, I opted to go elsewhere.  The park was busy, so I decided to make the most of the evening and try to find another camping park.  Mistake.  At 9:30 PM, I turned off a paved road to find a campground indicated on my map.  No luck,  I followed the moon South, regrouped and headed for another marked park.  Hain's State Lakes had one sign off the paved road, then nothing.  The moon bailed me out again and I gave up on dirt road travel at 11 PM.  I could have plunked my tent down anywhere, I suppose, but I didn't know if trespassing on a wind farm would be considered a serious offense.  Anyway, the hundreds of Terminator eyes gave me the hibby jibbies.  This was my first time seeing the wind turbines at night.  They all have strobbing red lights on their heads...freaky looking.

I'm running behind.  I was to be at friends' farm in SE Kansas last night, but I'm weary of driving.  I've stopped at a cafe to pry my eyes open with massive doses of caffeine. 

Hi Ho Silver and away!