Tuesday, January 24, 2017


I have had the joyful experience of hiking with a group of folks, who are linked together through their family ties---not only their biological family ties, but also their church family ties.  

The section of the trail that we were exploring, is just one of many fantastic hiking areas, in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest ( www.fs.fed.us ).  It is called "Gunner Pool Recreation Area", and is a part of the larger "Blanchard Springs Recreation Area". 

Even though Sylamore Creek is not as famous as the Buffalo River National Park, it has some awe-inspiring bluffs, that are reminiscent of those along the Buffalo.

Looking for "friendship rocks", is a fun activity when exploring a creek bank.  A friendship rock, is a rock with a hole all the way through it. 

The bluff line shown in this photo is actually a short distance from the hiking trail, but it is easily accessible via a gentle slope.

Billie Kay and Delta were making notes of  our hiking mileage, as well as our vehicle driving mileage, so they could share that information, when they take a different hiking group out on this trail. 

Hiking sticks are very helpful when negotiating the uneven terrain of parts of this trail. 

Waiting in line, to carefully maneuver the section of the trail that goes THROUGH the bluff, not just beside it!

"Sister Act":  Exploring the caves, cracks, and crevices of these Ozark Mountains, is nothing new to these sisters, who grew up in this area.

These two sisters told me that when they were growing up in nearby Izard County, Arkansas, they spent most of their youth playing together in the outdoors.  They said each of their siblings had their own little "playhouse" in the woods.

This bridge was precarious, as it had been slightly knocked off its foundation.  For that reason, we crossed it one person at a time. 

Sylamore Creek is much easier to see when the leaves are off the trees.

The most uplifting aspect of this hike, was that after we all found a spot to sit along the creek, to have our sack lunch, Billie Kay led us in a prayer of thanksgiving for our food, the beauty of God's creation that surrounded us, and for the opportunity to enjoy these blessings by hiking outdoors with friends. 

This smile on Delta's face is a reminder to me, that our faith in Jesus Christ, not only gives us salvation into eternal life, but also ABUNDANT life, while we are still on this earth!  The Bible verse referencing this promise is in John 10:10, and says, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly."  That is why I called this blog post, "Abundant Life Expedition!"

The tiny orange spot you see about midway up this bluff is a person, and I included it for scale, to give you an idea how tall this bluff is. 

One fun part of this trail is getting through this opening in the rocky bluff side, to access the remainder of the trail.  This photo was taken on our "return trip" from the hike, so it shows a different version of the opening, than the previous photograph. 

The bridge leading to the trail was built during The Great Depression.  A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) group was assigned to this area, and there is a stone memorial to them in the campground.  The group was called "Camp Hedges", and was active here from 1933-1942.

The namesake of this area is called "Gunner Pool Recreation Area."  The "pool" was created by a dam of the stream that flows into Sylamore Creek.  You can see the top of the dam, behind me, in this photo. 

This day of hiking in our wonderful Ozark Mountains, with a wonderful group of folks, gave me wonderful "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia

Friday, January 6, 2017


Since I grew up in northern Arkansas before the "technological revolution", the only "Huntsville" I knew about, was the town one hour west of where I lived, that was famous for being the home town of the current governor of Arkansas.  It was not until I was working at the hospital in Mountain Home, Arkansas, when a co-worker said she was going to be a chaperone for a group of school kids going to "Space Camp", that the town of Huntsville, Alabama came across my "radar screen".  When my co-worker returned, she had great things to say about the Space Camp experience, so I have been wanting to visit this place from that moment forward!  This photo shows the entrance to Space Camp ( www.spacecamp.com ) , in Huntsville, Alabama. 

The lodging accommodations at Space Camp are called "Habitats", and there are three of these Habitats on the campus.  The original format as a place for youngsters only, has been modified and adapted, to include programs for adults and families.  Also, in addition to the week-long programs, visits are available for a one night/two day stay, as well as a two night/three day program.  You can see the interiors of the Habitats by visiting their websites.

This Space Shuttle
 exhibit is adjacent to the Space Camp habitat, and it is HUGE!  Tour guides will explain how this new space shuttle design differs from the propulsion system of the Saturn V, that was used for the manned lunar missions. 

One can arrange an optional bus tour to go visit the Marshall Space Flight Center.  The tour includes stops at historic test stand sites, and the Payload Operations Center.  The Payload Operations Center is the science command post for the International Space Station (ISS).  The tour bus riders also see the central research hub for propulsion systems and technologies---called the Propulsion Research and Development Laboratory.

I included this drone photo as a reminder to mention that a new feature added to the educational offerings at the Space and Rocket Center, is a Robotics Camp.  It is specifically designed to teach interested young people about the engineering and design of robotics on land, in the air, and underwater.  Now that drone technology has trickled down to a gift a youngster finds under their Christmas tree, I predict more and more kids will be wanting to attend Robotics Camp!

A bus tour also includes visits to the Redstone Arsenal, headquarters to the Army Material Command.  Visitors can see the National Historic Landmark Redstone Test Stand, and the Dynamic Test Stand, used to test the Saturn 5 Rocket. 

At the entrance to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, you will see this group of signs, that tells some of its history.  Since its opening in 1970, it has helped educate the public about these significant events about Huntsville, Alabama:  It is where rockets were developed that put the first U.S. satellite into orbit and sent men to the moon.  It is where the propulsion of the space shuttle was developed.  It is where modules for the International Space Station were designed and built.  It is where America's next great ship---The Space Launch System---is being designed (the first flight of the Space Launch System is planned for 2018). And finally, it is where the International Space Station is monitored 24/7.

There are free exhibits that you can see, even before entering the building.  This photo shows the Lockheed SR-7, and is a reminder that yet another educational "camp" experience that has been added is the "Aviation Challenge", where one can get the experience of being a fighter pilot.  In addition to the permanent exhibits, there are also temporary traveling exhibits that you can investigate.  To see what is currently available, visit their website at www.rocketcenter.com

This sculpture sits at the entrance to the museum, and reminds me of the quote I read about visiting this place:  "Here, everyone can be an astronaut for a day."  

As you would expect, they have a very popular gift shop, where just about anything related to space and rockets is available for purchase.  In addition, many of these items can be purchased on-line, using the link available on their website.

For those of you who enjoy designing with Leggos, take a look at this model of the Space Shuttle, that was on display in the lobby!

One can also purchase
traditional, "old - fashioned" model kits of space ships.  Seeing these models on display reminded me of a time I took my son to Wisconsin's Oshkosh Fly-In .  He picked out a model airplane kit he wanted, and was able to get it assembled, as he sat in the passenger seat of the car, for our 10-hour drive home.  As you might expect, those were the days before hand-held video games, so I doubt that such an activity would satisfy an adolescent boy these days!

There is a plaza adjacent to the museum that is open to the public, and also available for rental for special events.

I happened to be there for a trade show, but the general public can enjoy the Apollo Terrace and Apollo Courtyard on most Thursday nights throughout the year.  That is when ( in a "nod" to Wernher von Braun, and the other German immigrants who were some of the pioneers of America's space program), there is a German Biergarten featuring authentic German beverages and cuisine.  It is family friendly, and leashed dogs are welcome on the Apollo Terrace.  There is no admission fee, but one pays for whatever food/beverage they choose.

The replica Saturn V rocket system,  marking the location of the Space Center is so tall, that you will not be able to miss it, as you drive on the Interstate Highway going in front of it.  In fact, it is a landmark that can be seen from many miles away.  The vertical replica in this photo was constructed in 1999.   I had to tilt my camera to get the whole thing in the viewfinder!  There is an actual "working" Saturn V on horizontal display in the Davidson Center for Space Exploration.  The one on horizontal display was used for actual test missions of the Saturn V.  From 1969 - 2007, it was on display outdoors, but has been moved indoors since the special building was constructed to house it. 

One of the added features of the park is the option to take a "Moon Buggy" ride around the property.  However, it was not in operation on the day I visited, which is just as well, since I was needing the exercise of walking the several acres that make up the visitor's experience.

They call this their "Rocket Garden", but they also have a "space garden", where they teach the Space Camp participants what they will need to know to grow their own food in space. 

Seeing the sun God created, as it illuminated all these man-made rockets, reminded me of one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses, that says, "My kingdom is not of this world."  (John 18:36a).   I am very thankful to be a part of God's Kingdom, and also thankful for all those who are are working to explore this world, and the outer space atmosphere around it!   Both these facts give me "MILES OF SMILES"!   Tricia

Monday, January 2, 2017


I have to admit, I never gave a second thought to the life of an astronaut until last year, when my adult son totally amazed me with the news, he had completed the application process to become a NASA astronaut!  Although he is an adventurous physician who works as an Emergency Room Doctor, and has a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering, and has a long history of rock-climbing (including publishing a book on the topic), I had never known of him expressing an interest in space travel. 

The knowledge that my son had gone to the trouble to complete the application process, sparked my interest in visiting the NASA Space and Rocket Center, in Huntsville, Alabama ( www.rocketcenter.com ).  That is where I photographed this exhibit showing the layering of the astronaut's space suit.  I had a tiny inkling of how uncomfortable this attire would be, as a result of taking the underwater scuba training course to be a certified "Dry Suit Diver".  One needs to be measured and custom fit for such a suit---whether you will be wearing it underwater or in outer space! After you have ON a cumbersome suit like a space suit or dry suit, then you need hours and hours of training, just to learn how to go about your normal activities,  wearing such a "garment"!

In a popular television sitcom, there is an engineer who has the distinction of being the "problem-solver" who designs a properly-working space toilet for the International Space Station.  And as it turns out, there really is an "Orbital Outhouse Team", and this logo is painted above the space toilet they developed. 

This replica space toilet is on display at one of the exhibits in Huntsville  It does not use water, so the astronaut must first fasten them self to the toilet seat, which has spring loaded restraining bars, to get a good seal.  After "the business" is done, a lever is pushed that activates a powerful fan and a suction hole opens up, causing the airstream to carry the waste away.  Although urine is recycled on the space station, human waste is not.  It is compressed and stored for disposal.  (I figured my son would at least be familiar with this aspect of bodily functions, as he told me as a rock-climber spending several days on an ascent of El Cap in Yosemite National Park, he had to save his excrement for the duration of the climb, and descent.  Yuk!)

In addition to a model of the International Space Station that visitors can walk through, they can also view the Apollo capsule, as well as the recovery parachute that hangs above it.  Imagine if it were your son that you were eagerly awaiting to emerge from that strange-looking contraption, as he returned from orbiting the earth!

This "photo prop" allows guests to get behind the clear glass domes, and have a picture to commemorate their visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.  If you, or someone you know, is actually interested in becoming a NASA astronaut, they need to go to the website, www.nasa.gov , to read about the application process.  That is what I did after I found out my son had applied, because I wanted to educate myself on the whole process.  To my astonishment, I read that THERE WAS NO AGE LIMIT for applicants!  Even an old lady like me could apply!  I briefly scanned the application process, considering applying, just to try to "keep  up" with my son.  However, as soon as I saw what a daunting task it was to get all the records, resumes, and transcripts submitted, I quickly abandoned those ideas!

However, even if you have no interest in actually becoming an astronaut, I would high recommend a visit to the Davidson Center for Space Exploration, which is a part of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, in Huntsville, Alabama.  During the 1960's, Wernher von Braun  was instrumental in the development of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, and was the first director of the Marshall Space Flight Center.  Over the course of his leadership, the Saturn V rockets he developed enabled six teams of astronauts to reach the moon.

The Davidson Center allows ordinary "earth tourists" to feel what it would be like to be a "space tourist"!

This astronaut trainer simulator will literally "rock you" in every direction possible!  Since I get motion sickness from a porch swing, this is one opportunity I did not take advantage of!

If you are a rock collector, how would you like to have an actual "moon rock" in your collection!  I often bring a small rock back from my travels, and write on it where I found it.  However, this PHOTO of the moon rock , which is on display in Huntsville, is the only "souvenir rock" I have from the space center 

Many of the tasks that need to be accomplished on board the ISS are repetitive, and have been assigned to an actual "robot helper" on board.  Who knew??!!  One activity the robot cannot assist with, however, is exercise.  Each astronaut MUST do their obligatory exercise on the ISS, perhaps on the treadmill or stationary bicycle.  This is because the human body loses muscle and bone in weightlessness.  Thanks to early medical evaluations done on the first mammals and humans put  into space, this information was the impetus for the medical profession realizing that exercise was a necessary component for the treatment of osteoporosis. 

In addition to the name "Wernher von Braun" being synonymous with the Rocket Center Museum, his name is also on the Huntsville, Alabama Convention Center.  This photo shows me and my "astronaut buddy", as I attended a travel conference at the convention center.   For information on event at the Von Braun Center, as well as general visitor information about the area, click on www.huntsville.org   .

It was Wernher von Braun who developed the idea of a "Space Camp" that would train youngsters in field of science and space technologies, as well as help their mental development, the same way sports camps aim at improving physical development.  These teenagers were observed in their dining room, as I toured the facilities. Fortunately, the food the astronauts are issued on board the ISS has progressed from the totally freeze-dried menus of the early days.  The food still has to be somehow confined, or else it would "wander off" and cause safety hazards of all sorts.  The NASA nutrition team has learned that prolonged microgravity dulls the taste buds, so spicy foods are a frequent menu item on board the ISS.

The book cover shown in this photo references Wernher von Braun, so as a reminder to those readers who were born after his death, he was an aerospace engineer and space architect, credited with inventing the V-2 rocket for Germany, and the Saturn V rocket for the USA.  After World War II, he was moved from Germany to the US, along with 1500 other scientists , engineers, and technicians, in "Operation Paperclip".  They developed rockets that launched the first US space satellite, Explorer 1, and the Apollo program manned lunar landing.  His group later became NASA (National Aeronautic and Space Administration). 

The actual desk that Wernher von Braun used, as well as a replica of his office, is on display at the museum in Huntsville.  I find it interesting to note that he converted to evangelical Christianity at Fort Bliss, Texas in 1946.  Afterwards, he spoke and wrote about the complementary aspects of science and religion, the afterlife of the soul, and his belief in God.  He is quoted as saying, "The farther we probe into space, the greater my faith."  In fact, he has the scripture reference on his gravestone of Psalm 19:1  .  That is the verse that says, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork."  (Knowing that such a famous scientist put a scripture reference on his memorial stone, made me feel better about the fact that I included a scripture reference on my memorial stone as well:  It says "a TURNER to Matthew 6:33"   My son told me he was amused that I included a pun on my permanent marker---but it is the story of my life!)

I referenced Matthew 6:33, because it is the foundational verse for a healthy living program I am involved in, called First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ).  One of the components of healthy living is keeping one's mind healthy, which we try to do by scripture memorization.  The verse I am currently working on memorizing is from Matthew 25:23  which reads,  His master replied, "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things.  Come and share your master's happiness."   I took this photo of a newspaper clipping at the museum that shows how Werhner von Braun praised all the workers involved in the space project.  Before I went to Huntsville,  one of my friends here at home, told me she used to live and work in Huntsville, Alabama, in the space/rocket industry during the tenure of Wernher von Braun.  She says she has a framed certificate, signed by him, in recognition of her work there.  Based on her comments about how much that certificate of recognition meant to her, and how this article illustrates that Dr. Werhner von Braun could see the value in praising a job well done, it makes me want to focus on the importance of hearing those words spoken  by our Heavenly Father, when our days on this earth have ended.  Now that is a greeting that will give me "MILES OF SMILES"!   Tricia

Author's Addendum:  A while after I published this article, my son sent me this "selfie" he took at a NASA facility in California.  Even though he was not chosen for the 2017 NASA Astronaut Team, he can have the satisfaction that he took the time to complete the application process!  YEA SON!!