Archive for the 'Letterboxing' Category

New Signature Stamp 2015

New Carve Sig 2015

It was time.

Signature Stamps 2015

Mountain Goat in a Fancy Hat

Click photos to enlarge.

A week ago, we took some out-of-state friends to High Tea in Denver. We went to one of our favorite tea houses, which just happens to be close to one of our other favorite spots. Outside, is a wonderful rock for the mountain goats to climb.

Mountain goats.
Kids.
Toe-may-toe.
Toe-mah-toe.

This week, we went on a covert mission with some other friends and ended up at the same spot.

Funny how that happens…with or without the fancy hats.

Letterboxing Essentials

Letterboxing Essentials

For over two years now, we’ve been avid Letterboxers.

What is Letterboxing?  It’s a modern-day twist on treasure hunting.  The goal?  To solve puzzles and decipher codes in order to find hidden boxes (or pouches) containing a carved rubber stamp.  It’s a lot like geocaching, but you don’t need a GPS device to play this game, and you don’t “take something, leave something,” other than stamping the image of the carve in your journal and leaving an imprint of your stamp in the logbook.  All of this is done with the utmost in stealth and cunning.  😉

(You can read all about what these treasure hunts are by clicking here, and our adventures are tagged in the Letterboxing Category.)

Anyway…

It’s time to re-do a picture of what we take with us, and here it is!

All you really need to letterbox (besides a stealthy sense of adventure!) is a journal to record your finds, a pen, ink pads, and your personal stamps. I’ve found that a First Aid Kit is always handy when hiking in the wilds of the outdoors, regardless of how urban or remote, and the garden gloves in the above photo have been crucial at times!

Happy Hunting!

Saying Goodbye to Summer Break, Estes Style

What did we do the weekend before school started? (And was this really just last weekend?)  We spent the day in Estes! Friends from out-of-state were visiting Colorado, and we decided to meet them in Estes Park.

We love Estes. One of my favorite attractions is The Stanley Hotel. It’s fun to have lunch there, and if you do, the $5 you pay for parking gets taken off your lunch tab! (If you spend at least $25, and you will.)

We’ve been to Estes many times over the years, but this time was a little different. Because we were going to be showing our friends the Letterboxing Ropes, I’d discovered some parts of Estes that we didn’t even know existed.

Did you know that you can hike the trails behind The Stanley?

…and climb a mountain? (The dads climbed the mountain by going around the long way. The teenager climbed pretty much straight up from here.  One of the dads is pictured at the top!)

After we hiked around out back and had lunch, we took pictures of the front.

…and in front of the front.

After a few hours, it was time to say goodbye to our friends. They ventured off on a ghost tour, and we ventured off to explore the Birch House Ruins of Estes Park before heading home. Ruins? What ruins?

It’s true. We’ve been to Estes I don’t know how many times, and we had no idea these ruins existed.

There is a tiny gravel turn-off just west of the The Stanley. If you park in the lot and hike up the hill, the view of The Stanley is amazing!!  (Click photos for more detail.)

It was fun hiking all over the trails and checking out the ruins.

The Birch House Ruins

Estes Ruin View. Estes View Not Ruined.

All in all, it was a fantastic Send Off for our Summer Break!

The Great Roadtrip of July 2012 – Exploring Coeur d’Alene

When we left off in our recapping of our Great Roadtrip of July 2012, we were camping in Coeur d’Alene!

We camped for two nights in Bell Bay, on the shores of Lake Coeur d’Alene. After enjoying our first night, we had the entire day to explore!

Three of us on the dock by our campsite

Yes, the lighting is all wrong in this photo, but I love it! Plus, it adheres to my husband’s Internet Photo Contract that he signed regarding the use of his image on my website. Heh.

Also?  Notice the pants?  Because I nearly froze to death in Seattle, I wore my pants.  Guess who nearly overheated in Coeur d’Alene because of her stupid pants and therefore may never wear stupid pants ever, ever again?  Seriously.

(No, you’re being overly dramatic.)

Paddle-boaters!

Anyway, on to the fun stuff!

One of the activities we did in Coeur d’Alene was paddle-boating! We rented a paddle-boat for half an hour and had a blast tooling around the lake.

Mush! ...or whatever the paddle-boat equivalent is.

I’ve been on a paddle-boat before and had a great time, but I’m not going to lie. This time, I got a bit nervous, but it all worked out okay.  (Click the following photos to see more detail.)

I mean, why would I worry? It's not like sea planes are landing and taking off from the lake...

The view really is gorgeous from the lake. The sailboat in the distance made this picture perfect.

All in all, we had a great time paddle-boating!  Claire was excited to check a new adventure off her list.

That afternoon, we wanted to go on a hike. You know what that means… Letterboxing!

Look at this trail! How could it not lead to adventure?

Here is JoAnn...hiking with all of her friends. Heh. (Inside joke.)

In the above photo, I’m hiking up to where Daddy and Claire are on the trail.  I’ve just stealthily re-hidden a treasure.  You know, a typical day for us.

We loved Coeur d’Alene.  It was’t too crowded, even during this “busy” time.  The views were incredible.  We’d love to explore some more if we ever get the chance.

Next update? We make the trek home!

Stay tuned!

If you’d like to catch up on all the recap posts, click here!

The Great Roadtrip of July 2012 – Destination: Seattle

I’m recapping our adventures from The Great Roadtrip of July 2012!

Let’s see…where were we in the saga about our 3,221 mile roadtrip? So far, we’ve told you about our adventures exploring in Utah, playing on a lava field in Idaho, laughing in the rain in Oregon, watching Momma be chased through the woods of Washington by a hoard of stinging nettles, all while dodging slugs the size of raccoons, and we didn’t dump Daddy’s body in a ditch while waiting for a ferry from Whidbey Island. I think that about sums it up! 😉

(If you’re joining the story midstream, be sure to check out all the recap posts by clicking here!)

The next day of our adventure was devoted to exploring Seattle!

Our first glimpse of the Seattle area when we rolled into town that Friday:

Cold. ...and funny that 60 seemed cold.

Before we left for our trip, my husband told me and told me and told me to pack warm clothes, specifically pants. I scoffed. I have a problem packing pants when it’s warm, let alone the thought of wearing them. Ick!  He muttered something about that time I froze to death in San Francisco, but I ignored him.  I looked at the weather information for Seattle and still didn’t want to pack pants. 60s? 60s isn’t cold enough to warrant pants! I compromised and packed one pair of camping pants.

So, how was Seattle?  Ah, Seattle: The place where JoAnn nearly froze to death.

At one point, I even swallowed my pride and told him he was right. He was right! I was wrong! I should have packed more pants. Sadly, he didn’t need my admission to keep himself warm; he was wearing pants.

Luckily, the day we explored Issaquah, we were greeted with “unseasonably warm temps,” which meant it was only a bit chilly at certain times for our blood, but certainly not cold enough for something as gross as pants. It was sunny! The weather was pleasant, and I was smug. Pants! Ha! See? I don’t need no stinkin’ pants.

The next day, my resolve started to waver. Whidbey Island was a bit nippy at times, but I was wearing my pants! A ferry ride can be chilly! See? I’m not totally uncivilized.

Surely the weather would be warm when we explored Seattle. I couldn’t wear the same pants two days in a row if there wasn’t camping involved, AND IT’S TOO BAD NO ONE TOLD ME TO BRING MORE THAN ONE PAIR OF PANTS. (ahem) So I wore one of my skirts. It was longish. (Okay, it wasn’t.  At all.) But, it was a hiking skirt, so it was lined. That would make it warmer, right? I thought I’d be fine. (I wasn’t.)

They buried my cold, lifeless body in Seattle.  My tombstone reads, “He told her to wear pants.”

Despite my lack of appropriate wardrobe, we set off to explore Seattle.

The outside of EMP. EMP = Experience Music Project

Online sources will tell you, “The EMP Museum is a museum dedicated to the history and exploration of popular music, science fiction and pop culture.” Its location near the base of The Space Needle made it the prefect place to start our day.

It really is a cool experience. A few pictures cannot do our visit justice!  (As with most of the photos on this site, click to enlarge.)

These Pandoran Wood Sprites gather around shadows & are easily startled. They REALLY liked my phone.

One of our favorite exhibits was the Avatar section. The technology employed in the exhibits was amazing, and engaging for all ages. This being said, I’m not sure Claire would have appreciated this place if she was younger.  As it was, she was at just the right age to explore, but got a bit weary after a couple hours.  (Honestly, so did I.)

After spending the morning there, we checked out The Space Needle!

This was one Stereotypical Seattle Thing I REALLY wanted to see. I’d “seen” it from the airplane when we flew in and out of Seattle on the way to Hawaii a couple years ago, but I really wanted to check it out in person. My hubby feared it would be too “touristy,” but he relented. Luckily, a great time was had by all!

We opted to visit on a weekday so that the wait wouldn’t be insane, and it was the perfect plan. We only had to wait a short while for the elevators. (And we all know how much Daddy likes waiting in line…)

Hello, Seattle!

The great part about this portion of our visit was that our friend was able to act as our Tour Guide. It was nice having a local pointing out things from the top.

From here, we split up with our guide and decided to tour parts of Seattle on our own.

On Daddy’s Must See List were the grave-sites of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon. In this same cemetery, as luck would have it, was a letterbox I thought would be fun to try. After navigating through traffic that was ridiculously slow, yet full of ridiculously polite drivers, we found the cemetery.

But, because it had been a deceptively long journey, a bathroom break was needed. Right next door to this cemetery was a park, and in searching for the restrooms, we found this:

This mysterious tower was a water-tower with an interesting view!

My husband couldn’t not explore this, and what he found was amazing. We all hiked up the stairs to see what we could see.

Amazing view!

I spy with my little eye a needle reaching for the sky.

Steps, steps, steps. Up, down. Around and around we go.

After exploring our Ridiculously Awesome Yet Random Find, we headed to the cemetery and were successful there, too!

Cemetery Raven said, "Mr. Lee's grave is over that way, but you're on your own when it comes to that hidden Letterbox."

Interesting trees graced the landscape.

We then headed back down to the wharf for the best seafood we’ve had in a while…if ever.

Claire decided to take up diving.

We then explored as much of the waterfront as we could, before Daddy was forced to carry Momma’s cold, frozen body back to the car.

Yes, I was tempted to turn that one gull around so that it was facing the right way, but I’d nearly frozen to death while taking this shot as it was.  Priorities.

All in all, our time spent in Seattle and surrounding areas was fantastic.  We saw a ton of stuff and have such great memories.  There were a lot of things we didn’t get to see, but as with any trip, that was to be expected.  The next time we visit, we’ll tick some more things off the list, and I’ll be sure to bring pants.

Maybe.

Next stop? Coeur d’Alene! …look!  I can spell Coeur d’Alene!

Stay tuned!

The Great Roadtrip of July 2012 – Destination: Issaquah

I’m recapping our adventures from The Great Roadtrip of July 2012! If you’re joining the story midstream, be sure to check out all the recap posts by clicking here!

From Oregon, we headed to Seattle!

We have friends who live in the Seattle area, and just like with our friends in Utah, we’ve been promising to come visit them. (It’s a good thing they’re patient.)

Technically, they do not live in Seattle specifically. They live just east of Seattle in a place called Issaquah. Interestingly enough, I’ve been saying this name incorrectly for years. Having only ever just seen it written, I assumed it was pronounced, “Iss-SAH-quah.” It’s not. As with nearly every proper name in the Seattle area, the em-PHA-sis is on a different syl-LAB-le. Apparently, the locals call it “ISSA-quah.” Who knew?

When researching where to stay, we opted to get a hotel relatively close to our friends, so that we could use that as a home-base for seeing them and venturing into the rest of the Seattle area on the days we wanted to explore. This worked perfectly.

This particular area located near a area/park spelled Sammamish, which is pronounced, “Samma-hamma-hamma-hamma-nitch.” At least, that’s what my husband and I referred to it as the entire time, and everyone seemed to know what we were talking about. 😉

On this leg of the trip, we stayed in “the Seattle area” for four days. (See? That generalization is much easier to pronounce!) We arrived on Friday and opted to check out the ‘burbs with our friends before exploring Seattle proper on Monday and checking out of the hotel on Tuesday. This was the perfect way to do things so that we weren’t bothered by all those pesky tourists (ahem) on the weekend.

Because our days of exploration in the Seattle area were so different, I’m going to break down the different days in these recap posts.

Today’s post? “Our Washington Letterboxing Adventure” also known “If this is Green, what are those 45 other colors,” and “the day JoAnn nearly lost her street cred as an Iowa Farm Girl.”

According to my Letterboxing sources, there was an interesting series of boxes to be found at a park super-close to our friends’ house, so we opted to hike, explore, and find our very first Washington Letterboxes at the same time.

What awaits? We can't wait to find out!

We had no idea what type of trail would await us. We arrived at our destination before our friends, and we decided to check it out. The trail that awaited us was tucked off the trail in the above photo and completely magical and completely unexpected. The clues proved to be more involved than we thought, so we ended up going back to the car to change our footwear into something more appropriate than flip-flops and wait for our friends so they could join us.

Green

More green

Okay, we really need another word for "green."

Our home state isn’t called Colorful Colorado for nuthin’, but Seattle has cornered the market on Green!  It was so magical.

Trail Hikers

Claire was absolutely enthralled with the HUGE snails and slugs we found. It was interesting trying to avoid the slugs or dealing with their goobers on our shoes and on the stroller wheels. This was a completely foreign concept to me, but our friends took it all in stride. Apparently, this is an everyday occurrence on a trail like this, and it was another reminder how glad I am that we’re out of the stroller stage.

Claire's hand for perspective

Claire's shoe for perspective

This slug ate the house cat we put next to it for perspective. Just kidding. No cats were harmed in the filming of this documentary. (I wish I could say the same for the slugs, but one look at the stroller wheels would lead us to believe otherwise...)

We aren’t, however, out of the “No, sweetie, you can’t have a slug as a pet” stage. Sadly, Claire had to leave all her new friends behind.

Letterboxing here was absolutely amazing! ...and tricky.

We all had a great time trying to find the letterboxes.  We’re always up for a challenge, and this particular planter (person who plants a Letterbox) was tricky!  There were also some environmental hazards thrown into the mix.  At one point, the clues warn about “nettles” near one of the letterboxes. Easy peasy! I have distinct memories of the stinging nettles by my grandma’s chicken coop, and I know to avoid them. In fact, I’ve spent the better half of the last 30+ years doing just that.

We decipher the codes and found the box! I saw the nettles, but was sure to steer clear. Or, so I thought. As I was putting the letterbox back, I felt a searing pain on my arm! And my knee!

“Stinging Nettles!” is what I said out loud, but in my head, it sounded more like, “$%^&#ing $%^&#ers!”

Because of the bee incident, I carry B.enadryl in my Letterboxing Bag, so I got that out and used it on my arm and knee. They reacted immediately and puffed up, which was an interesting response. It didn’t do much to curb the pain, but I pretended it had the desired effect and that everything would be okay. I tried not to visibly pout and kept the wincing to a minimum.

Later that day, my arm and knee still stinging, I texted my sister about my run-in with the nettles. I was seeking support and condolences. Instead, I got the following:

“Oh no! Why’d you go walking in the woods with your eyes shut?”

Ha! So true. It’s my own fault. If anyone should know what nettles are and how to avoid them, it’s me! Talk about added insult to injury…literally! My street cred as an Iowa Farm Girl was hanging in the balance and very nearly suffered irreparable damage. But, because the letterboxing clues were so complicated, and we found 5 out of 7 in the series, I think I redeemed myself…somewhat.  I must have been distracted by all those shades of green.

Next stop? An Island! …but not the kind we’re used to.

Stay tuned!

The Great Roadtrip of July 2012 – Third Stop: Oregon

I’m recapping our adventures from The Great Roadtrip of July 2012! If you’re joining the story midstream, be sure to check out all the recap posts by clicking here!

From Craters of the Moon, Idaho, we headed to Oregon!

Prior to this trip, I’d never been to Oregon. In fact, the only two states on the west coast that I’d yet to add to my collection before this trip were Oregon and Washington, unless you count flying through the Seattle airport…which I don’t, really. I couldn’t wait to see the state from the ground in person!  (And, yes, we got a couple letterboxes in Oregon! Woo hoo!)

When looking at the map, I realized how geographically diverse the state of Oregon is. One day, we’ll head to the coastal regions, but for the purposes of this trip, the thick forested and rainy section of Oregon served as our route from Idaho to Washington.

Oh, Oregon! Your trees really are tall!

Also, if you must know, my husband and I made so many jokes about the Oregon Trail (and the computer game we both played in our respective elementary schools, back in the 80s). I’m happy to announce that we made it without contracting dysentery, needing to circle the wagons, or running out of provisions. (The latter almost happened while on the road in Washington, which is a story for another day. Ha.)

On this leg of our journey, we’d reserved a campsite at the Emigrant Springs State Park. It was a really nice campsite, and there was no sign of rain at all! BONUS!

Again, the camp chef is hard at work. He's in his element!

We set up camp, had dinner, and we all took showers! At this campsite the showers were included in the cost of the campsite. DOUBLE BONUS!

I love that feeling of finally being able to take a shower.  The added bonus of not having to feed quarters into the slot while not getting shampoo in your eyes made that feeling even better.

At this particular campsite, we opted to put on the rainfly. In Craters of the Moon, we didn’t need it, but this was Oregon. Surely it would rain? There was no sign of it in the sky, but we opted to err on the side of caution.  Everything doesn’t get this green and lush without a little rain.  Right, Oregon?

That night, as we were snoozing, we heard the thunder, and the rain softly fell on the tent. Oh, Oregon.

We stayed dry. Have I mentioned how much I love our tent? We didn’t panic. It’s a good tent. The rainfly will keep it all dry.

That morning, we awoke to a dry tent, dry belongings, blue skies, and raindrops on the rainfly.

Click to see the beautiful raindrops. So pretty. Oh, Oregon!

We were only spending one night in this campground, so after breakfast, we were going to leisurely break camp, pack up and head to Seattle, our next destination on the agenda.

Daddy and I painstakingly dry off the rainfly with the camp-towels we brought with us. (Aren’t we smart??) We lay the rainfly out on the dry ground to finish drying before rolling it up to put in the tent bag. (Isn’t this the best idea ever??) He heads off to the showers. Claire is finishing up her breakfast.  I’m pondering the beauty of the location and how only the tops of the trees fit into an Instagram photo.

Isn’t Oregon beautiful? Oh, Oregon…

That’s when I hear the pitter patter of raindrops hitting the rainfly. The one that isn’t on the tent. The one that is lying on the ground drying. My first thought is to bundle it up and shove it in the car! It can’t get wet! We just dried it! With every splatter, my plans are foiled.

Then, I realize that the rain is falling right through the mesh of our tent! Nothing is packed into the car yet, because I thought we had time!

There is no time!

Everything is getting wet! Oh, Oregon!

Have you ever tried to put a massive rainfly on a huge tent all by yourself? It can be done. It’s not pretty, but it can be done.

By the time Daddy gets back to camp, everything is in shambles. Both sides of the rainfly are wet. Both the inside and the outside of the tent are wet. Some of our things in the tent are wet.  Some of the things outside the tent are wet. I feel like a bedraggled mess.  How could I let this happen!?  (As if I control the rain, right, Oregon?)

Then, the rain stops. The sun winks at us, and we contemplate our next move. It doesn’t look stormy. Then again, it hadn’t looked stormy while it was raining. Oh, Oregon?

Once again, I start to dry off the rainfly and evaluate the situation inside the tent. It’s not as wet as I’d thought. It’s not a disaster. Just a couple drops here and there, and they’re already drying!

In the middle of drying off the rainfly, it starts to rain again. Oh, Oregon!  Again we scramble. Approximately every 7 to 9 minutes it plays this game with us.

If we’ve learned anything from the many trips we’ve taken it’s this: Your joy is directly correlated to your standards and expectations.

You don’t think it will rain? It rains? Boo hoo. Adapt. You think it’s done raining, but you’re proven wrong? Oh well. Things are going to need to be aired out at the next place? Guess what. They’ll need to be aired out at the next stop.

Is this what it takes to ruin your day?  Really?

Granted, in the heat of the moment we all became storm clouds and zapped some lightning bolts at each other.  At one point, tiny fists were shaken at the skies. But, soon, we all started laughing out loud. “Oh, Oregon!” we’d say as raindrops fell on our heads.

We found joy in the little things.

For example, Claire saw this on the side of the building and asked us what it was. She had no idea.

So, I had her stand by it while I took her picture…with my phone.

After getting everything (relatively) dry (again) and loaded into the car, we were on our way to the next destination. As we’re zipping down the highway, this song comes on our random roadtrip playlist:

Our very own Oregon Camping Theme Song

…and we all started laughing again.

Oh, Oregon!

Next stop? Seattle!  Stay tuned!

The Great Roadtrip of July 2012 – Second Stop: Craters of the Moon

I’m recapping our adventures from The Great Roadtrip of July 2012! Be sure to check out all the recap posts by clicking here!

From Utah, we headed to Idaho!

The Obligatory Sideview Mirror Shot

In talking with our friends in Utah, we discovered that we’d be going right by the First Nuclear Power Plant in the world. It’s decommissioned now (or so they say) 😉 …so we were able to check it out on a self-guided tour. It was really cool!!

A doorway that is just her size, with a MASSIVELY THICK door to go with it. See it to the left?

I have no idea what these are, but they sure were cool. (Click to see more detail.)

My husband could tell you all about the above contraptions, and he was so excited to see these things up-close and personal.  If this were his blog, he’d tell you all kinds of things about them, but it’s not.  So there.  Despite my ignorance, they are intriguing.  They were massive, and this photo does not do them justice.  Honestly, I thought they’d make the perfect location to hide a magnetic letterbox, but I’m pretty sure the entire place is being surveilled, and that type of shenanigans is frowned upon.  Party poopers.

Oddly enough, though, the stop here also led us right by a tiny little town that was home to our very first letterbox find in Idaho! Even better!

Our main destination on this leg of the trip, though, was to check out Craters of the Moon. This is an incredible park in Idaho boasting lava fields and an inactive volcano. Who knew? Honestly, I had no idea this place existed, and now it’s one of the best parks we’ve ever explored!  Kudos to Daddy for stumbling upon this find in all his research.

I highly recommend Craters of the Moon!

It reminded me of Hawaii! Granted, it was sadly devoid of beaches, but seeing the pahoehoe and aa again warmed my soul.

This explains the difference between Pahoehoe and Aa. (Click to enlarge.)

This campsite was one of the first come, first serve sites on our agenda. (We reserved spots in other destinations.)  We weren’t too worried about finding a spot midweek, and to our utter delight, we found the best spot in the whole area.

Sue loved it.

Claire loved it. (This is one of my favorite photos from the trip!)

The camp chef loved it.

My shadow loved it enough to photo-bomb this shot! (See me in the bottom left-hand corner?)

We set up camp and then explored one of the lava fields at dusk. This was the perfect plan, because 1) it wasn’t too hot, and 2) most all of the people had left for the day. Perfect!

The next day, we spent exploring the grounds. Anything less than two nights at this park would do a disservice to your adventure, so plan accordingly.

We drove the 7-mile loop and hiked different paths along the way. One stop was the chance to climb to the top of a volcano!

It's steep. (No, I have no idea who these other people are. Hello, random volcano visitors! Good luck making it to the top!) Speaking of the top, see the tiny people up there? (Click to enlarge.)

We made it! The view was absolutely incredible.

I was struck again by the fact that I had no idea there were lava fields in the middle of Idaho.  All of the memories I have from the lava fields in Hawaii came tumbling back into my mind, and it enhanced my experience here.  Seeing Claire experience the lava fields for the first time was amazing, too.

...and we made it back down, too. (You can't even see the top from here!)

After exploring the volcano, we went on some other hiking trails.

Claire likes to lead.

She and I took a break in the shade of a tree. (She's taking a swig from her camelback.)

Daddy and Claire forge ahead.

Our little Junior Ranger in the making is using Daddy's binoculars and scoping out the people wayyyy out on the lava fields. They were tiny specks from this vantage point.

You know we love our Shadow Portraits

Some of the lava here looks like it's scales from a blue dragon, hence the reason it's called Blue Dragon.

The lava creates caves all over the area. Some of them we could explore!

Because of the problems they’re having with the health of their little brown bats, we had to be granted a permit to explore the caves.  The photos from the caves were taken with Eva, my phone.  We’d used our camera in the lava tubes (caves) in Hawaii, so it wasn’t allowed in these caves, which wasn’t a problem.  Oddly enough, none of the other gear we had with us (bags, shoes) were ones we used in Hawaii!  Whew…

Above the surface, it was hot, hot, hot. In the cave, it was barely 50 degrees, and in some places, there was ice! Amazing.

Claire's very first lava tube.

Claire's best memory of this part of the trip? She completed her training and became an Official Junior Ranger! (Spying on unsuspecting visitors wasn't even part of the criteria!)

Needless to say, she’s planning on putting this on her résumé.

On this particular roadtrip, we went through Idaho twice.  On the way out, we explored the southern part.  On the way back, we explored the northern part.  We’ll talk about that part of the trip later, because I totally dig chronological order, AND because these different parts of Idaho are so vastly different from each other.

Next stop?  Oregon!  …and a shower! …the welcomed AND unwelcomed kind.

Stay tuned!

The Great Roadtrip of July 2012 – First Stop: Utah

3,221 miles & 2-weeks on the road is quite a haul, and we had such a fantastic time on our roadtrip! Here is the basic journey, as we had it mapped out during the planning stages:

This basically shows the loop starting & ending in Cheyenne (bottom right-hand corner), heading out to Seattle (top left-hand corner) and back. Everyone in Denver knows how to get to Cheyenne.

It’s a great mix of staying with friends, camping, and checking out a few different hotels.

First stop? Utah.

We have friends who have lived in Utah for years, and we’ve been wanting to get out to see them. We finally succeeded! It’s approximately 8 hours to where our friends live in Utah, and we thought starting off the roadtrip with the longest leg was the way to go.

Almost there...

The scenery was incredible, and I just couldn’t believe the views!!

A view fit for an Empress. 😉

One of the goals we had for this mondo roadtrip was to get at least one letterbox in every state of our journey. (Prior to arriving in Utah, we made our way through Wyoming, and we got a letterbox at a pit stop along the highway there, too!)

Imagine our delight to discover that there were oodles of letterboxes just minutes from their house!

Here they are experiencing their very first find! We showed them the ropes.

*Everybody* loves letterboxing! ...or playing in the creek. Okay...both.

And, guess who found the very next box, all by herself?  Our hostess!  Needless to say, I think she is hooked on this little hobby.

We stayed for two nights at our friends’ beautiful home. We just could not get enough of the views and the relaxed atmosphere.

Claire and Mick became fast friends. Claire was sad to leave him behind, but I'm pretty sure he was ready for a nap.

The time we spent in Utah with our friends was the best start we could have had to our trip. It was great to reconnect in person.  Stories of the past mixed with tales of the present had us laughing until our sides hurt.  The memories of our stay will last for years.  It was great to escape to cooler climes, and to have a backdrop of such breathtaking views?  Perfection.

And so began The Great Roadtrip of July 2012.

Next stop? Idaho.  There’s a lava field AND a volcano there.  For real!  Who knew?  Stay tuned!