Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Diary of a Road Trip - Part III - How the West Won Us Over

A beautiful day in beautiful Colorado. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

(The following is the final segment of a three-part series detailing the unique perspective of a typical family vacation through the eyes of a somewhat demented, middle-aged father of three).


8-23-10 7:43 a.m. I woke up this morning to find the entire family smooshed in the corner of the tent like a sack of kittens. I guess gravity took over while we were sleeping and we all slid to the tent's low side in the middle of the night. I can see my two daughters, but my son is nowhere in sight – I’m guessing this lump under the air mattress is probably him. No one is complaining though. Being piled on top of each other probably kept us a lot warmer.

8-23-10  8:15 a.m.  My wife’s going to make a go at cooking breakfast over the campfire this morning. I still have half a bottle of the old, Nebraska farmer’s torch fuel, so it shouldn’t take long to scramble some eggs, but she wants the whole works – bacon, hash browns – heck, I’m surprised she’s not grinding her own coffee beans.

8-23-10  10:15 a.m.  The magic of a campfire is that it’s not really all that consistent when it comes to the heat it produces.  At first, it might shoot flames some 5-feet high, and then, seconds later, darn near go out completely if not for the jug of torch fuel by your side. So you can imagine the challenge it might present when trying to cook food evenly. Meat cooked over a campfire, for example, may look completely burnt and charcoal black on the outside, but still be relatively bloody, or even completely frozen, in the middle. Cooking bacon and hash browns could prove equally difficult.

The trick is to get the campfire so hot that you end up with a nice base of reddish-orange, glowing embers that make your face melt whenever you get closer than five feet from the fire pit. These embers are the key to both cooking ... and accidental forest fires! A true outdoorsman can achieve such a red-hot fire in about a half an hour. A novice, like myself, armed with a powerful jug of Nebraska-farmer accelerant - about 15 minutes.

The problem with a red-hot fire is twofold. The first problem is the snap, crackle, and pop of any fresh wood you add to the fire always sends up a spray of fine, gray, molten ash that inevitably winds up coating your food with an impossible-to-remove layer of carcinogenic carbon. The second, and more serious problem, is that it takes about a day and half to put out a fire of that intensity.

Right now I’m attempting such a feat as my wife and kids enjoy their breakfast.

Campfire breakfast. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-23-10  Noon  Well, that ought to do it. It only took six bottles of drinking water and ten pounds of sand (plus I think I pretty much ruined my shoes stomping on smoldering logs) but the fire is officially out. The eggs, bacon and hash browns are long gone. I guess I’ll eat a granola bar instead ... yumm!

8-23-10  1:30 p.m.  My sister is meeting us at the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park in about an hour. It’s the place where Stephen King was staying when he wrote “The Shining” – room 217 to be exact. Just to get the kids semi-acquainted with the place, I let them watch snippets of the movie before we left for our vacation (I knew we would be coming here). Nothing too awful, just scenes like Danny riding his Big Wheel through the hallway when he comes upon the little girls who were chopped to bits by their father, or the scene where Jack Nicholson chases Danny through the hedge maze in the snow with an axe.

Of course, their mother has no clue any of this happened, and I’m pretty sure if she finds out I might be the one chopped up and stacked in nice little pieces in room 217!

8-23-10 2:00 p.m. The kids dug the Overlook … errr … Stanley Hotel. My wife even thought It was pretty cool, even though she kept shooting me dirty looks because my kids were walking around the place with their index fingers sticking up in the air saying things like:

“Danny isn’t here Mrs. Torrance” and “Redrum … Redrum … REDRUM!!! … REDRUM!!!”

I just kept shrugging my shoulders as if I hadn’t a clue where they got any of it. I even thought I might get away with it until my son popped his head around a corner and screamed, “HEEERE’S JOHNNY!!!”

“Shhhhh, quiet you idiot, or your mother is going to brain me.” I whispered to him.

It was too late.

“Say Lon … dear … love-of-my-life … how do you suppose the kids know so much about ‘The Shining’?”

“Hmmm … yeah, that’s kind of weird - I’m not really sure. I guess they must have overheard me talking about it?”

She shot me a look that sent a cold breeze through the Stanley, like winter was coming.

“You know Julie, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I joked.

“Get in the car, jackass.”

Needless to say, she has no sense of humor.

Come play with us Danny ... forever ... and ever. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-23-10 2:45 p.m. We went back to camp to drop off my sister’s car, now we’re headed to Bear Lake for an afternoon hike. The last time I was at Bear Lake (April of 2008) there was 8-feet of snow on the ground and I found some woman’s wedding ring on a hiking trail in the snow. It was pretty nice – 18 carat gold with three fairly sizeable diamonds. I had visions of early retirement dancing in my head until my sister guilted me into turning the ring in to the Ranger Station after our hike.

I know it’s been over a year and a half, but I wonder if they still have it?

8-23-10 3:37 p.m. Well, we’re here – Bear Lake. I must say; it’s just as pretty without the snow. I asked the Ranger on duty about the ring. She did her best not to laugh at me and then uttered some gibberish about the ring becoming the property of the state after 90 days … blah, blah, blah … but I couldn’t help but notice she was wearing quite an interesting pair of earrings – looked to me to be 18 carat gold - with two diamonds in the left earring … but only one in the right!

To quote my ever-texting 13-year-old daughter  -- “WTF!”

8-23-10 4:00 p.m. I’m trying to forget about the ring and focus instead on the 4.4 mile hike ahead of us to Emerald Lake and back. We’ll be climbing nearly a 1,000 feet in elevation on our jaunt, and it’s already tough to breathe right here at 10,000 feet. Actually, it’s not that it’s hard to breathe - the thin air goes in and out of your mouth and nose quite nicely - kind of like breathing in fresh mint or something; the problem is exerting any effort beyond sitting down or standing up, can be quite taxing if you’re not acclimated to the altitude, even if you’re in shape.

After only a day at altitude, I hardly think any of us are even remotely acclimated at this point, so the plan is to move very slowly, take a lot of breaks, and bring a whole bunch of water and food with us as we head out.

Somehow, my camera bag was deemed the best place to store all this extra food and water, so now I’ve become the pack mule on this trip, lumbering behind everyone 100-feet or so with 80 extra pounds of gear hanging off my body.

8-23-10  4:17 p.m.  Cripe’s sake, we’re less than 20-minutes into the hike and the girls already polished off their bottles of water and now are asking for some of mine. Before we left I told them they needed to pace themselves because we had a long way to go. I don’t think a bottle of water every 100-yards is really pacing yourself.  On the bright side, my load has gotten lighter!

8-23-10  4:39 p.m.  Great! Now they both have to pee. I told them to walk off the trail and squat over a log somewhere, but they’re afraid of attracting bears with the smell of their urine. I don’t know what makes them think human pee is perfume for bears, but they’re not budging.

The kids at Emerald Lake. While your down there, empty your bladders and fill up that water bottle! (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-23-10  5:15 p.m.  It took us more than an hour (probably because the girls were walking pinch-legged the whole way) but we finally made it to Emerald Lake. We’re now at 10,000 feet and we’re all extremely tired. There was some amazing scenery along the way, but I have to admit, Emerald Lake isn’t the best part of it. The landscape here is very rocky and barren - sort of like a quarry on the moon. A glacier feeds the lake, but it might be getting a little help from a pair of young girls who look like they’re about to burst.

8-23-10  5:35 p.m.  My sister says we ought to start back about now. She lives here so she ought to know. Bears are of little concern to her, but she says mountain lions like to come out and hunt at dusk, which is fast approaching, and she does have a healthy respect for cougars.

8-23-10  5:50 p.m.  Both my daughters are 100-yards ahead of us, totally freaking out about the potential of being stalked, hunted, and killed by a mountain lion.  The moon is coming out over the mountaintops now, so I guess it’s officially dusk. But I’m not worried. I’m so fricking tired and my knees hurt so bad, the thought of having my throat ripped out by a cougar actually sounds kind of appealing.

What was that? ... A mountain lion? (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-23-10  6:03 p.m.  Well, we all made it back in one piece. No bears, no mountain lions, and the girls finally got a chance to empty their bladders in the park bathrooms (I chose the wild myself - on more than one occasion). We’re all dog-tired so we’re going to head back to Estes Park for dinner. We decided to forego cooking over the campfire tonight because none of us wants to wait three hours to eat.

8-23-10  7:14 p.m. We’re back in Estes Park looking for a place to eat. We’re also looking for license plates to add to our list. We’re approaching 40 states now, and Estes Park is loaded with cars from a lot of states other than Colorado. We just added both the Carolinas, both the Dakotas, and even Alabama. I thought for sure we’d see Montana and Idaho out here, but so far no good. All of our picks have remained safe, so the $20 is still up for grabs.

8-23-10  7:20 p.m.  Stopped in a book store so the girls could use the bathroom again (next hike they’ll be carrying their own water bottles and wearing Depends). I picked up a book about wild animals in the Rocky Mountains while I waited for them. Turns out there only have been a dozen fatal mountain lion attacks in the last 100-years … WTF! We were worried for nothing.

8-23-10  7:38  We settled on a place called the Big Horn restaurant. I wanted to order something really cool and local to make a lasting memory. The “Elk Burger” seemed to fit the bill until my sister told me about some disease you can get by eating elk meat.

I ordered a salad instead.

8-23-10 9:40 p.m.  For the second straight night, the family went straight to the tent as soon as we got to our campsite. I hope they bundle up tonight because when that sun goes down, it turns cold in a hurry up here in the mountains. I’m sure it’s in the 40’s again. And to think it was in the mid-90’s and humid as hell when we left Michigan. No matter, I gotta take a shower tonight. It’s been three days since my armpits saw fresh water and I’m getting pretty rank about now.

My nephew Pete went to Colorado Mountain College in Leadville a few years back, and he never showered or wore deodorant when he was out here because he said he didn’t sweat that much, or even stink, because the air was so dry.

Dry air or not, I need a shower.

8-23-10 10:20 p.m.  Holy crap that was cold! I had the shower cranked as hot as it could get, but the cold air instantly neutralized the water’s heat. It felt nice and toasty on top of my head, but by the time the water rolled down to my chest it was barely luke warm, and once it reached my waistline it was as cold as a mountain stream. Good thing I’m done having kids because I think my testicles have retreated up inside my body and won’t be coming down anytime soon.

I’ve never been so cold in the month of August in my entire life. In hindsight, I should have left the layer of funk on my body – at least it was warm.




8-24-10  7:43 a.m.  Well, somehow I survived my bout with hypothermia and now I’m ready to tackle the day. I’m feeling a little depressed because it’s our last full day in Colorado, and despite all the interesting twists and turns on our journey, I’ve had an absolute blast.

We don’t really have anything planned for the day, but the two main choices being tossed around are white water rafting, or driving Trail Ridge Road (the highest road in North America). The kids and I were leaning toward white water rafting, but after my shower last night, I think I’ve had enough of cold water and I’m going to try and convince them otherwise. But before we do anything, my son wants to tackle the mountain right next to our camp. It looks fairly climbable, so after breakfast, that’s where we’re heading.

8-24-10  8:15 a.m.  With some help from my sister, we talked the kids out of white water rafting. She told them it was three hours of freezing your ass off, followed by another hour in the car wearing soaking-wet clothes. That pretty much did the trick, so after our morning mountain climbing expedition; we’ll be driving Trail Ridge Road.

We finished breakfast a lot quicker today than yesterday - mainly because we all ate cereal. Now we’re off to tackle that mountain.

8-24-10  9:02 a.m.  Even though I’ve forgotten about the gold ring I found in the mountains in April of 2008, my son seems to think that there is indeed “gold in them that thar hills!” He keeps stopping every 20-feet to show me the latest rock he found to ask me if it’s gold.

“Dad, look at this one – is it gold?

“No Eamon, that’s quartz.”

“Dad, is this one gold?”

“No Eamon, that’s mica.”

“How bout this one?”


“How bout this one?”

“Eamon, that’s just a driveway stone!”

“Well, it could be gold.”

“Look, unless it’s in the shape of a brick and has Fort Knox stamped on it, I don’t want to see any more rocks, okay?”

“Sorry dad … hey, what about this one?”


Eamon checking every rock in Colorado to see if it's a gold nugget. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-24-10  9:50 a.m.  Fifty minutes and 400 potential gold nuggets later, we’re still only half way up what looked like a relatively easy climb. After three days in the mountains, you’d think I would have figured out that nothing is easy out here. My daughter Ella and my sister have bagged the climb and are staying on the trail. But my daughter Olivia, my wife, my son and I, are continuing on to the summit of what I now have facetiously named “Pyrite Mountain” - as in, fool’s gold!

8-24-10  10:29 a.m. Well, I’m on the top of the world looking down on creation and the only explanation I have found ... wait, those are sappy lyrics from a 70’s tune. Actually, we did make it, and mostly in one piece, save for the little bits of leg flesh now adorning the sharp branches of the many bramble bushes on the side of the mountain. I should have worn long pants. Oh well, maybe Eamon will get to see a bear after all since I left plenty of bait on the mountainside leading right to our location.

Reaching the summit of "Pyrite Mountain." (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-24-10  10:43 a.m.  The view is great and all, but no time to dawdle if we want to do Trail Ridge Road. Funny, you’d think coming down a mountain would be a lot easier than climbing up one, but I just realized that one little slip, combined with the forces of gravity, and we could end up an ink spot at the base of the mountain in the blink of an eye.

8-24-10  11:10 a.m.  We made it safely back to the trail. Man, that was no easy descent. My feet and my knees are killing me, and just to even things out, I made sure to leave just as many shredded bits-o-flesh on the mountainside coming down as I did going up. It's really just my way of giving back to Mother Nature.

8-24-10  Noon  We’re stopping at a Subway in Estes Park to fuel up our bodies before driving Trail Ridge Road … hey, don’t give me any flack – it ain’t easy driving in these mountains!

8-24-10  12:48 p.m.  This road is truly amazing. At its peak, it’s over 12,000 feet in altitude. Our minivan is doing great (I must admit, I had my worries). I’ve shifted into overdrive to handle the ascent, but honestly, it’s really quite gradual. There are several places to pull off and take pictures, and the traffic is fairly light (we heard rumors about a one-hour back up the day before).

The first place we pulled off was amazing. Not so much the scenery, but some old woman on an Amigo, wearing wrap-around cataract blinders, came blasting down the walkway of the lookout and nearly sent a dozen or so tourists, including ourselves, tumbling over the edge to certain death. It was one of the oddest, funniest things I think I’ve ever seen - right up there with the signs that read: This hiking trail is not handicap accessible, or having Braille on drive-up ATM machines. 

8-24-10  1:22 p.m.  As if the crazy, old, out-of-control bag on her scooter wasn’t weird enough, we just crested the highest point of the trail and I have to say, whoever was painting the road lines did a miserable job. My sister can’t stop laughing. The yellow, centerline is veering all over the place, and now it’s gone completely off the road. I wonder if the poor bastard painting the line had a heart attack or something.

I don’t see any smashed remnants of a fiery wreck at the bottom of the mountain, so I’m going to assume the crew just had technical problems with the painting mechanism.

Nice paint job Picasso! (Photo by Dina Horwedel)

8-24-10  2:15 p.m.  We’re at the end of the trail, or at least as far as we’re going to go. It’s a ranger station perched on top of the tundra at 11,000-plus feet. We were going to go hiking up here near some of the glaciers, but the trail is under construction. Good thing, because my bruised and bloody legs don’t seem to want to function anymore, at least not as it pertains to forward motion.

I guess “Pyrite Mountain” took more out of me than I expected.

8-24-10  2:41 p.m.  I managed to stumble my way over to the lookout by the Ranger Station. As if bears, mountain lions, altitude sickness, and the potential of falling to your death weren’t bad enough, there’s a sign here warning about the potential weather dangers – even on nice days!

BEWARE: Mountain weather can change in an instant because of the altitude and the thermal activity on mountaintops. Sunny days create thermal heat in the mountains, which doesn’t have far to travel into the clouds. The sudden changes in temperature can create rapid electrical storms producing dangerous lightning.

“Kids, get your asses inside the Ranger Station - it looks like a storm’s a brewing!”

“But dad, it’s a beautiful day.”


A beautiful day in the Rockies - get the hell inside! (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-24-10  3:30 p.m.  None of us were struck and killed by lighting, but we’ve had our fill of thin air for the day, and we’re heading back to the lower elevations of Estes Park.

8-24-10  4:14 p.m.  We stopped at an overlook that I found particularly stunning. My wife and Ella decided to stay in the van. Ella is really feeling the altitude today. Poor kid has a splitting headache and I don’t think the intense sun is helping much.

8-24-10  4:23 p.m. The view was pretty amazing, but even more amazing was this moronic kid and his ignorant father who thought it was okay to let the little dumbass climb over the restraining fence and onto an outcropping of rocks with a 1,000-foot sheer drop. Luckily, the kid was wearing his best mountain climbing gear – a t-shirt, pair of shorts and flip flops – so when his dad uttered, “Don’t go no closer” to the idiot kid walking toward the edge of the rocks, I’m pretty sure he had nothing to worry about.

(Kid in the background) "Hey dad, look at me .... whoa ... whoa ... ahhhhhhhhh!!!!!!" (Photo by Lon Horwedel)

8-24-10 5:31 p.m.  We’re back to Estes Park. Now we’re heading to the grocery store to get some vittles. Tonight we attempt to cook burgers over the campfire grill!

8-24-10  6:15 p.m.  We got back to the campsite only to be greeted by a double-dose of bad news. 

1) The campsite is now full of campers - that sucks. 

2) We're completely out of Nebraska-farmer torch fuel - that really sucks!

I’d sort of gotten used to, and really liked the spontaneous combustion and accompanying mushroom cloud that came with every drop of torch fuel sloshed on a struggling flame. Now I’m really going to have to prove my outdoor worthiness by starting a fire from nothing more than … well, nothing! Apart from the firewood we bought at the camp store, and the Bic lighter in my pocket, there isn’t much to choose from around here as far as kindling goes.

8-24-10  6:32 p.m.  As luck would have it, the place where the campground stores their firewood, also happens to be the place where they cut the firewood, and there’s a huge pile of fresh sawdust all over the ground. If this stuff doesn’t ignite, nothing will.

8-24-10  6:43 p.m. Voila! This sawdust is like Mother Nature’s torch fuel. I got the fire burning hot and bright in a jiffy, and the best part is, our burgers won’t be coated in smelly, torch oil (a fire fed by torch fuel tends to leave the food coated with a nasty tasting residue).

Campfire tootin'. (Video by Eamon Horwedel) 

8-24-10  7:50 p.m.  I gotta say, Burger King never charbroiled burgers so well. Even the thought of the Greely feed lot wasn’t enough to dissuade me from having a couple, juicy cow patties. Now that we’re all good and full, I think we’ll hit the hay early tonight and get a good night’s sleep. I’ve got a 9-hour drive to Omaha staring me in the face in the morning and I want to be well rested.

8-24-10  9:23 p.m.  My exhausted kids are fast asleep. Good thing, because the college kids camping next to us are starting to get a little loud. Oh well, no biggie. They’re just kids having fun and it’s quiet time on the campground starting at 10 o’clock anyway, I’m sure they’ll pipe down soon.

8-24-10  10:17 p.m.  Well, it’s past quiet time and the college kids don’t seem to know, or care, that the rest of the campers are trying to get some sleep – especially those who have a 9-hour drive ahead of them!

8-24-10  10:37 p.m.  Okay, that’s enough. I’m going to go tell them to quiet it down.

“Hey … guys … I don’t care that you’re up and everything, but could you please keep it down a bit?  My family is trying to get some sleep because we have a long drive ahead of us tomorrow.

“Oh … yeah … sorry dude, we’ll try and keep it down.”

8-24-10  11:14 p.m.  Obviously, these college kids either don’t understand English, or they're just plain selfish idiots, because they’re only getting louder and drunker by the second. I’m starting to get a little pissed off, but my wife is afraid if I go out there and tell them to shut up again, they’ll want to fight or something.

“Julie, they’re so damn drunk I could blow on one of them and they’d fall over.”

“Well, what if one of them has a gun?”

“Good point.”

I’m going to stuff my ears with my wife's tampons to see if that helps.

“Lon, what the hell are you doing?”

“Plugging my ears, what does it look like?”

“You asshole, those things are expensive and I’m down to my last few.”

“Jeez … relax would ya?  We’ll get you more in the morning before we leave.”

8-25-10  1:30 a.m.  Well, I guess this officially is the start of Day 7, but I’m still waiting for Day 6 to end and these pricks aren’t letting that happen. Now they’re all laughing and smashing beer bottles in the fire pit.

8-25-10  2:17 a.m.  Okay, that’s it; I’ve had it. I don’t care if they want to fight. I don’t care if they have a gun. I’m going to let them have it.

“Hey … guys?  I asked you once already. We’re trying to sleep over here, could ya give it a freakin’ break already? As in ... SHUT THE  F- - -  UP!

8-25-10  2:43 a.m.  Well, all is finally quiet on the western front. Either they all passed out - or died from alcohol poisoning. I don’t really care which, but I’m hoping for the second.




8-25-10  6:30 a.m.  After a nice, cozy, three-hours of sleep, I’m ready to hit the road. But first there's something I need to do. It’s time to go wake up the college kids! Look at that mess over there. Christ, they left beer bottles everywhere; their shoes are thrown on the ground - what a bunch of selfish slobs.

“Lon, what are you doing?”

“I’m going to go give those a-holes a taste of their own medicine.”

“Just leave them alone.”

“Julie, they ruined out entire night.”

“Just forget about them and say goodbye to your sister.”

“Oh, alright … man, you take the fun out of everything.”

8-25-10  7:44 a.m.  We finished out breakfast and said goodbye to my sister who had to get an early start on her day as well. Now we’re packing up our gear and getting ready to say goodbye to Colorado. It was a great trip, barring the final night camping next to drunken co-eds, and I’d love to come back again and do it all over again some day.

8-25-10  8:02 a.m.  While Julie was in the camp office checking out, I snuck over to the college kids’ campsite, picked up their shoes, and flung them randomly into the woods.

“Good luck hiking today in your bare feet … SUCKAS!

Never have I felt as good in my life as I did the moment those shoes went sailing out of my hands and into the mountain thicket a good 50-feet away.

8-25-10  8:38 a.m.  We picked up some feminine hygiene products in Estes Park (just as I’d promised) and now we're beginning the long descent out of the mountains and back to reality. My eyes are burning from lack of sleep, but a 12-pack of Dr. Pepper ought to provide me enough caffeine to complete the journey safely.

8-25-10  10:14 a.m.  I just looked in the rear view mirror one last time. It’s hard to tell if that’s still the mountains I see, or just a figment of my imagination. The air is thicker down here, and even though I know it’s not actually true, it seems harder to breathe.

Goodbye Colorado.

Leaving Estes Park. (Photo by Lon Horwedel)





The rest of the vacation was just as you’d suspect. The drive home, although long in miles, seemed short in time. I was pretty beat, but I never fell asleep at the wheel, nor did I, or the family, sleep in a tent again the rest of the trip, opting for nights in a hotel instead.

We stopped in Omaha to see my nephew, and while we were there, some big dude on a motorcycle hit our van from behind while trying to make a U-turn (no one was hurt). My wife went antiquing in Walnut, Iowa, - which made her love me all over again and quickly forget that I had used her tampons as earplugs only a few nights earlier. And my kids got one more chance to go swimming in Lake Michigan, this time sans the E-Coli - so they were happy.

In total, we spent 46-hours in the van - I drove 44 of them. We finally spotted license plates for all but three states: Louisiana, Rhode Island, and, of course, Hawaii. The last state we spotted was Montana, but we didn’t see that one until we were in Illinois – go figure? The kids split the $20.

We got home to find my mother-in-law, and our cat Levi, very much alive and well. And even though there was plenty of petrified cat shit to be cleaned off the basement floor, it was nowhere near as bad as I would have thought.

I threw in a load of laundry and started to clean up the basement floor while my wife started doing what she does best whenever we get back from somewhere – yell at the kids. It was a familiar sound that made me glad to be home. I was tired, and I think pretty smelly, but my family was safe and sound, and I think very happy.  

We’d finally done it. We had taken that family vacation we’d always talked about for years.

It was a trip I’m certain I’ll never forget, but best of all, neither will my kids.

Greetings from the Stanley Hotel. (Photo by Dina Horwedel)


(Note: In case you were wondering, it’s purely coincidence that the area close to where we were staying was engulfed by a wildfire shortly after we left. I promise, I had nothing to do with it!)

1 comment:

  1. No, the wildfire was set by the college kids using a lighter to look for their shoes, Lon.
    Beautiful photos. Fun commentary. I'LL probably never forget your trip either! You'll have to give me some pointers when I get back to Ann Arbor from France, okay?