Between June 20 and July 20 I will have spent a total of five nights in my house in Shenandoah. Every other night I have found myself sleeping somewhere else in locations ranging from Washington, DC to Broomfield, CO. These last few weeks have been rather full to say the least!
Nearly a month ago theaters around the country began a three week special engagement in which they showed the extended editions of the Lord of the Rings on three consecutive Tuesday nights. Sadly Alison and I were unable to make it to either the second or the third films, but we did attend the first, watching all 3.5 hours of the extended edition of Lord of the Rings:The Fellowship of the Ring the only time it has every been shown on the big screen. It was pretty exciting, especially since I thought I would never get to watch Lord of the Rings in such a fashion again!
The night after the film we attended a Washington Nationals baseball game, bearing witness to them creaming the Cardinals 10-0. Although this is this is the only game I have been able to attend this season Alison has made it to four more since then!
The following Monday my Mom and Callie arrived in Shenandoah with Alison, joined by Kristen and Corey the following day, allowing us a couple of days of fun and exploration together in the park. The visit culminated with the official 75th Anniversary celebration of Shenandoah National Park on Saturday, June 25. Definitely a week filled with special moments, lots of hiking, and a plethora of blackberry deserts (Shakes, Ice Cream, Sunday, Cobbler, Ice Cream Pie, and Jam that was so good it was like desert)!
I flew out to Colorado the morning following the anniversary so that I could attend the wedding of one of Alison's childhood friends. The next morning Alison and I began driving her car east toward Washington, DC, beginning a three day adventure that resulted in her car finally being with her out on the East Coast (her parents had driven it from California to Colorado).
We couldn't simply drive across the country on the most direct path, but rather had to make a few diversions along the way. These diversions took us to quite a few exciting gems and resulted in us traveling through eleven states including two new ones for each of us. That brings our count for states visited together since Dec. 13 of 2010 to 28 (not bad for seven months!) and my personal count to 42 states in the last two years and 44 states total. We are getting fairly close to all 50!
Highlights along our journey included a brief stop for lunch and pictures in Ogalalla, Nebraska, a visit to a genuine Pony Express Station, a stop off at the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in West Branch, Iowa, participation in the Taste of Chicago street festival, sticking our feet in the waters of Lake Michigan in Benton Harbor, MI, and a jaunt through Cuyahoga Valley National Park in Ohio. I would certainly have enjoyed more time in each location, but we did have to make it back to Shenandoah by Wednesday night so I could go to work the next morning!
The story continued a few days later when Alison and I successfully found a spot on the grass in front of the Washington Monument for a lovely view of the Independence Day Celebration on the National Mall.
We headed back out toward Shenandoah the following day because I had to be back to take care of cats and water plants. I have been house sitting for the acting Chief of Interpretation of Shenandoah since July 1 which means I have actually had to commute into work each day and also that I have had the opportunity to appreciate and experience the Shenandoah Valley a great deal more than I have before.
When I was picking up one of the items of furniture I attained for free when I first came to DC I also ended up with a raft, which I had never taken out of the box. We figured me living in the Shenandoah Valley was a great opportunity to give it a test, so Alison and I took it out on the Shenandoah River last Wednesday. It performed quite well and we enjoyed a splendid afternoon on the water.
It has been an adventurous and exciting last several weeks and it looks like the next few will continue in the same vein, at work as well as outside of it. I hiked a little over 10 miles in the park today, completing a circuit I had not succeeded in hiking thus far and moving further toward my goal of eventually hiking all 516 miles of trails in the park. I have written several times about my program on the Appalachian Trail which I have been able to actually give a few times in these last weeks, but this past Friday I decided to try something different just for fun and successfully gave my first bear talk at Shenandoah. It was great fun. Everybody loves to learn about bears!
Life is ever an adventure!