Tuesday, May 9, 2017

ISLAND CAMPING/KAYAKING EXPEDITION!

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Lake Ouachita State Park offers an overnight kayaking and camping experience several times a year.  This photo shows the staff of the park giving us a safety briefing before we started.

 The participant who had recently moved from the Houston area, where he did kayaking in the Gulf of Mexico, had a much longer kayak, and used a "Greenland-style" paddle.  Another feature of his ocean-style kayak was that it was equipped with an "apron" that attached to the cockpit of the kayak, and then around the occupants waist, with the goal being to stay dry when waves are washing over the kayak sides. 
Another one of the participants was using the yellow, inflatable kayak shown in photo below.  It suited her "nomadic" lifestyle, as she is currently a full-time RV-er.  You can follow her travels around the country on her website, www.jillsessa.com .

The tip of the kayak I had rented from the park is shown in this photo.  I was trying to get a photo to put on a favorite Facebook page I follow, called "Look at the Front of My Kayak".  The site lets people post photos of what the view is from the tip of their kayak and beyond---no "selfies" allowed on this page!  It is fascinating to see the scenery kayakers enjoy, on their paddling excursions around the world!

Before we started, our leaders had told us that we would stop occasionally, and "raft up", to hear the leader share some interesting comments about what we were observing.  To "raft up", each kayaker just holds on to the boat beside them. 

Along our paddling route, we passed some "GEO FLOATS", like the one in this photo.  They are numbered, and there is a directory at the Visitor Center that gives an explanation of the significant geological formation that each float designates.

The little orange box attached to this kayak is a "GO PRO" , waterproof video camera that can be used to record action sports, without interfering with the user's hands.  The video camera had a remote control device that the kayaker attached to his belt, so it could easily be turned on and off, without touching the camera. 

Since  Lake Ouachita is the largest man made lake within Arkansas borders, it is not surprising to see sail boats out in the main channels.  The lake covers 40,000 acres and has 975 miles of shoreline.  It has been named one of the cleanest lakes in America!

Our group stopped on an island to have lunch, after a couple of hours of paddling.  The blue line shown on the right of this photo is connected to the pontoon boat that accompanied us, carrying our camping gear, cookware, and food supplies.

As we "broke bread together", I was DELIGHTED that the sandwich bar choices included my personal favorite----Nature's Own bread, with just 40 calories per slice!  YEA!  Other items available included a variety of deli sandwich meats, condiments, lettuce, tomatoes, chips, cookies, and beverages.  Plus, a great advantage of this particular event the park sponsors, is that the big boat that accompanies us is equipped with a "Port-A-Potty"!
The young girl in the photo below went wading when we stopped, and found a beautiful, large specimen of a pure quartz crystal.  This area is known for its numerous quartz mines. 
Once we arrived at the island, we chose any location on the island we wanted, to set up our tent. The size and type of tents that participants set up varied widely: I used a "Junior Style", shown in photo below:
All the equipment shown in the photo below, this couple is able to fit in the backpack each of them brought.  The inside of their tent included (almost!) all the comforts of home!
This campsite was "color-coordinated", with matching chairs and tent!
This tent had the tallest center section, because the park staff member who was using it, told us she was the tallest one in the group!

Since the weather we had was absolutely fantastic, no rain covering was needed, so this person's tent was taking advantage of the pleasant breeze, while at the same time keeping out insects. 

One lady in the group did not want to sleep directly on the ground, so she chose a tent style that would fit on top of her very wide cot.  She said she had a very comfortable night, and never rolled off the edge of the cot!

I liked the twinkly lights inside this tent.  There was no electricity on the island, so all our lights were battery operated. (  For those people who do not have a tent, you can rent them from the state park. )

Our leader, Kayla---accompanied by Jill in her yellow inflatable kayak---took an exploratory paddle trip after supper, to an adjoining island. 

The rest of us relaxed around our camp circle, satisfied by the delicious catered BBQ meal that Kayla's husband had delivered to us, via power boat.  The food was from Stubby's, a well-known and popular Hot Springs restaurant. 

Before it got totally dark, a campfire was started---without matches---just to demonstrate that it WAS possible!  Several of us offered up matches we had brought with us, but the staff was determined to do it "cave-man" style!

And the "Icing on the Cake", was the campfire standby of  the class " S-'mores ", as in "I want some more!"  Who can turn down the opportunity to toast marshmallows!

This photo shows Kayla's husband, who brought his guitar, so we could sing a few campfire tunes.  He had a large repertoire of songs, and allowed us to make requests of whatever we wanted to hear.  Even though I sound like a crow when I sing, it was fun belting out the lyrics to some old familiar choruses from the past!

 I took a photo of the glistening dew on the kayak as the sun rose over the Eastern horizon.  My tent was on the east side of the island, so I had a prime location for watching the sun come up!

The lake level was a bit higher than normal, which accounts for the grasses along the shoreline being partially covered.   This life-saver ring with the park name on it, is a reminder for me to mention that their website is www.arkansasstateparks.com and their phone number is 501-767-9366.

This photo shows one of our kayak participants, who is a seasoned camper, and likes to help others also enjoy time in the outdoors.  He  has tutorials on outdoor equipment, as well as records of his explorations, on his website at www.camperjohn.com .

It was fun seeing people on this trip, that I had met on previous trips a few years ago.  Deanna and some of her family/friends from the Dallas area, have been coming up to Lake Ouachita State Park for several years, to participate in the kayak camp out. 


The very first overnight kayaking/campout event the park sponsored over a decade ago, was led by a staff member who was not a coffee drinker, and was unaware how important morning coffee is to those who are used to it.  He told the story of how that first trip, when his campers woke up and discovered there was no coffee,  got in their kayaks and paddled immediately to the closest marina, abandoning him on the island to contemplate his "oversight"!  The situation has been fully remedied since then, with a WONDERFUL setup for fresh brewed coffee, as well as steaming hot water for tea or instant oatmeal.  KUDOS TO THE "KOFFEE KREW"!

Other items on the breakfast table included orange juice, assorted fresh fruit, packaged granola bars, instant cereals, and peanut butter.

In addition, in what might be called a "Dutch-oven Cooking Demonstration", Kayla cooked sausage, and Tim cooked scrambled eggs.  We then put these on flour tortillas, to make breakfast burritos.  They were delicious!

We once again enjoyed relaxing around the campfire, as we swapped stories about our outdoor life experiences.  Later, we all packed up our tents, loaded the pontoon boat, and got back in our kayaks, to start the six-mile paddle back to our starting point.  If a reader thinks they could not paddle six miles, do not be concerned.  Anyone who wants to, can load their kayak into the pontoon boat, and ride it back to the marina, instead of paddling the entire distance.   Likewise, in the past when the weather or wind was threatening, the staff loaded all the kayaks into the pontoon boat to return them safely to shore.  If you have ever been paddling on "unfriendly" water during a weather event, you can appreciate this "power boat" option!


This photo of the back of Jill's boat, shows the wheels of the cart she uses to haul it in and out of the water wherever she goes.  She travels alone (except for the little doggie, Logan, you can see), so she said she needs the wheels to assist in those maneuvers.

The
mother-daughter shown in this photo, had rented a tandem kayak, which is another option available, besides the single person kayak like I rented. 

A nice feature of this event is that the staff has "walkie-talkie" devices that allow them to communicate with the driver of the pontoon boat, as well as the staff member at the front of the kayak paddling caravan communicating with the staff member at the back of the kayak paddling caravan.


The
park staff said that the pontoon boat we were using had originally been a ferry boat that could hold a car.  Although it no longer hauls cars, it is a very spacious and useful vessel for events such as this. 

The island where we stopped on the way back was famous because it is literally covered in quartz crystal rocks!  It was fun to roam the narrow island, looking for a pure crystal specimen!

I want to say a big THANK YOU to the park staff that made our event so enjoyable!  I can highly recommend this outing to both beginners and advanced kayakers/campers, as all skill levels can be accommodated.

As I was preparing my gear for this event, I was also doing a First Place 4 Health Bible study ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) that had a lesson on Moses leading the Israelites on their famous "camping trip" in the wilderness.  I was reminded that the word "tabernacle" actually means "tent".  Exodus 33:7 says, "Moses took his tent and pitched it outside the camp, far from the camp, and called it the tabernacle of meeting."  (By the way, one of the ladies in or group actually had one of those tents, that literally, all you had to do was "pitch" or throw it into the air, and it snapped together automatically!)   And for any of you that are apprehensive about spending the night in a tent outside, here is a Bible verse for you:  "The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and rescues them."  Psalm 34:7       Knowing that the presence of the LORD is encamped around me gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!   Tricia

Thursday, April 6, 2017

PRESIDENT JAMES MONROE EXPEDITION!

The Road Scholar ( www.RoadScholar.org ) program I attended recently in Charlottesville, Virginia, included a tour of the home of the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, which President Monroe simply called "Highland" ( www.highland.org ).  As you can see on the sign, it is now a property operated by The College of William & Mary, which was the alma mater of James Monroe.  The photo below shows the mature ash trees that line the driveway leading up to the house, which is probably one reason that the estate is sometimes called Ash Lawn/Highland. 

Highland is considered a working farm, and as such, there is a flock of sheep in the pastures adjacent to the home.
A historical highway marker gives a brief history , indicating that in 1793, James and Elizabeth Kortright Monroe purchased 1,000 acres adjoining Jefferson's Monticello.  At its largest, Highland grew to 3,500 acres.  The home served as the principle residence for the Monroes from 1799-1823. 
Most American history students know that James Monroe was the last of America's Founding Fathers, when he served as our fifth president (1817-1825), but they may not know that he also served as Governor of Virginia, and rose to prominence as a diplomat in France, when he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.  (The Louisiana Purchases included my home state of Arkansas, so I am filled with joy that he did this!)  The statue of Madison that is in the boxwood gardens is by Attilio Piccirilli.  ( Piccirilli is also famous as being the sculptor for the Lincoln statue, for the Lincoln Memorial, in Washington, D.C.)
Since Ash Lawn/Highland is owned by the College of William and Mary, some buildings have been added that can accommodate groups for conferences, weddings, and other special events.  Behind the main house, there are cabins, a smoke house, an ice house, and other structures needed to keep the farm operational. 
Inside the cabin, there are displays of objects that would have been found in a household of that period. 
The property has a 300 year old oak tree on it, which could tell some fine stories if it could talk!  Our guide pointed out that the oak tree in this photo has a lightning rod on it, which was invented by another famous American, Benjamin Franklin. 
Our guide told us that the portrait of James Madison in this photo was painted by Samuel Morse.  This is the same Samuel Morse, that invented the famous dot and dash code, we now call "The Morse Code". 
I learned that the only foreign capitol named after a U.S. President is Monrovia, in Liberia, on the continent of Africa.  Although Monroe had 30-40 slaves under his ownership, he supported the founding of colonies in Africa for freed slaves, that would eventually become the nation of Liberia.  In 1823, he announced the U.S. opposition to any European intervention in the recently independent countries of the Americas, with the Monroe Doctrine, which became a landmark in American Foreign Policy.
Although her exact size is not known, one of the formal dresses saved from the wardrobe of Mrs. Monroe (Elizabeth Kortright Monroe) indicated she was a very petite woman.  Records also indicate that due to her fragile health, many of the duties of official hostess were assumed by their eldest daughter, Elza Monroe Hay. 
The expansive views around Highland showcase the rolling hills and mountain ranges,  visible on the horizon.  Perhaps President Monroe was admiring God's creation when he said, "If we persevere...we cannot fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence.  My fervent prayers to the Almighty that He will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which he has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor." 
In my mind, that is another way of saying Psalm 126:3, so I am using these images as my visual aid for learning my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse that says, "The LORD has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy."  I truly am filled with joy, as I learn about our country's early history, and God's blessing of allowing me to be born here.  This gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia