Category Archives: Exploring

Jeep Run In High Desert

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I thought it would be fun to share what my parent’s do for a hobby. If you’re unfamiliar with the term “Jeep Run”, in CA they have many areas that Jeep owners gather for to off-road. My girls were fortunate to come visit this week during an organized run in the high desert.  It was a thrill for them to spend the day slowly climbing, dipping and balancing. Someone rolled their jeep off the trail, down it went until it hit a tree. The community spirit is part of the draw. It is typical for fellow Jeepers to stop, figure out some way to right the Jeep, and get it moving (whether that means continuing the run or getting back to camp). There is often someone whose Jeep is damaged. Part of the risk, part of the sport, and avoiding it is part of the skill. It takes practice, talent, and a friendly support to guide drivers over precarious areas. The days can be hot and dusty, and in the desert the night can cool off dramatically. It has been many years since I was able to go along, but the night sky left a lifelong impression. Truly, the experience is amazing.

 

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Levi Coffin House and The Underground Railroad

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Julie Campbell from http://juliecampbell1.blogspot.com/ is my special guest writer today. You’ll enjoy her post about the Levi Coffin House in central Indiana, and the connection to the Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad Adventure

A few days ago, I walked in the long-forgotten footsteps of runaway slaves.
My feet touched the same smooth ash floorboards as theirs did over 170 years ago when they were rushed through a side door and silently led upstairs to a cramped hiding place.
My hands touched the same walls that symbolized refuge and safety to these refugees seeking a better life.

My children sat in the same wagon that had smuggled these brave souls past slave hunters to a red brick house on the Underground Railroad. On one occasion 17 slaves hid in this small wagon…

And I thanked God for freedom.
I wondered what would motivate men like Levi Coffin risk their lives for people they didn’t even know.
Was it love for their fellow man? The ability to look beyond color and see slaves as who they really were – people just like themselves? Conviction? Faith? Bravery? Maybe all of the above.

Whatever the reason, Coffin’s house still stands brave and strong in Fountain City, Indiana, a monument to the man who helped more than 2,000 escaped slaves taste freedom.

My children and I have been fascinated with the Underground Railroad ever since we read Freedom Train, a biography of Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who led thousands of her people to freedom. Coffin and Tubman met somewhere on the Underground Railroad route, although the exact location is not known. I’m sure they hit it off instantly.
During the two-hour tour of this “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad, we marveled at the facts and stories told to us by two very knowledgeable guides.
Here is just a sampling of what we saw and heard:
*Levi and Catharine Coffin were Quakers who moved to Indiana from North Carolina in 1826 because they opposed slavery.
*In the 1840s, strong, healthy adult slaves were worth $1,000 each – that’s around $26,000 in today’s money. On nee occasion, a      wagon concealing 17 – yes, that’s right, SEVENTEEN – slaves arrived at Coffin’s side door.
*A rare indoor well helped conceal the fact that there were more people living in the house than usual. If the Coffin children would have been seen going to an outdoor well for water 10 or more times a day, people may have become suspicious.

*Once, Coffin helped rescue two little girls from slave hunters by smuggling them out of a nearby house dressed as boys and hiding them INSIDE beds in one of his upstairs bedrooms. The girls were talking and giggling so much he had to put them in two separate beds!

*The most well-used hiding spot in the house was in the garret/attic in the upstairs bedroom. This was a tiny space under the sloping roof of the house, with a three-foot tall door leading to it. The door could be concealed by moving the bed in front of it.
Can you imagine hiding in this cramped space on a 90 degree day for more than 12 hours? Slaves were not allowed to move around at all during the day, but they were able come out of the garret in the evening. As I peeked inside the tiny hiding spot during our tour, I could almost hear their whispered conversations about freedom and their shared hopes and dreams of life as free men and women.
If you live remotely close to east central Indiana, I highly recommend a trip to the Levi Coffin house. History will come alive for students and adults alike who have studied the Underground Railroad.
The house is located at 113 N. US Highway 27 in Fountain City, Indiana (close to Richmond). Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children (ages 6-18). For more information, call the museum’s information line at (765) 847-2432.
( Ugh.Forgive any formatting errors, they reflect my own skill set today not the original writer’s! )

The Royal Gorge-ous

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Getting to visit Colorado’s “Natural Wonder” was an amazing experience. The Royal Gorge showcases the Arkansas river, and reminds me of a mini Grand Canyon. The weather was the perfect complement to the reddish-brown ridges, a brilliant blue backdrop.

This picture is from over 1,000 feet up. We couldn’t get a shot that even came close to capturing the actual depth. Now, I have a thing about heights and confined spaces. On my “not” to do list in life was to ride an aerial tram. However, since it was included in the park price ($$$) and I want to set an example of courage to my kids, it was our first stop. To say I was scared out of my mind was an understatement. The Royal Gorge Aerial Tram is the world’s longest single span tram. 2,200 feet of joyful riding dangling 1,178 feet about the beautiful Arkansas river. Peaceful rocking of the tram in the wind. Wait, that peaceful part was a joke! My family thought it was awesome, and on the upside… any other aerial tram I ride will be smaller than my first!

Once we reached the other side? Incredible! An excellent perk of coming off-season is having the place practically to yourself. No sounds but the wind and water far below. After the tram, we enjoyed the wildlife. It was surprising how close the deer let us get, unphased by us trying to “quietly” cross the icy snow patches to get a picture. There is also a wildlife park which housed American Bison. I love bison and was delighted at this surprise…there was even a white one!

The Royal Gorge bridge is 1,053 feet high and is the world’s highest suspension bridge. After the tram, the heights weren’t a big deal! You could feel the wind shifting it slightly as we gingerly stepped onto the wooden planks.


To be able to look around us in any direction and just see natural beauty was a treat to our senses.

Finally, the best part…the Incline Railyway…the world’s steepest incline railway. Notice a “world’s” theme here? No joke, this is 100% grade at a 45 degree angle. 1,550 feet down into the gorge. The temperature dropped drastically at the bottom, but the ride was worth it. If you ever get a chance to do this with your kids, jump at it. So cool.

People often think of Colorado as forested mountains, and that is a big portion of the rest of the state. Here in the lower Eastern part it is sparse and there lies a particular desolate beauty. The lack of becomes the focus of. Seeming simplicity, but every corner an intricate detail waiting to be noticed. The slogan here is “Goodbye Earth. Hello Sky.”  Appropriate, don’t you agree?

What Do You See?

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” PLEASE PULL OVER!” I excitedly asked the driver, my confused friend, when I saw these structures. Some people see broken down, decrepit buildings. Condemned. A future contribution to the rubbish heaps nearby, while big equipment sat quietly for the afternoon. Oh, but look closer. My heart delights to see the other view. I am no Pollyanna, but I have developed a certain perspective in life. Look closer, there is always more to see.

Poet Wislawa Szymborska is quoted as saying “The window had other views.”

People worked here, spent irreplaceable hours of their lives inside these walls. Who were they? What went on in their lives as they stared out these windows?  What unfolded in their world, perhaps unnoticed by peers, as they climbed these stairs. Were they leaving something behind? Entering into a new beginning?

Once sturdy and efficient, now hollow and empty. Physically empty perhaps but listen to the story whistle through the corridors. Imagine the view from these windows, or the view looking inside. There is always more than we initially notice. Reminds me of people. We can hurry past seeing only the broken, the condemned. If we look closer, their eyes reveal so much more.

I found it fascinating to look through a window to see the sky, while the entire horizon peeks over back at me. The view seems pretty good from here…

Covered Bridges, History Preserved

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What a treat we were invited to last week with friends! We spent a wonderful day  exploring the back roads of Indiana while we enjoyed the Covered Bridge Festival. People come from all over the country, and I hear the world, to gaze upon these buildings. “Why?” I wondered.   They are beautiful, but there is more. When you come out of a long gravel road in the woods and are impressed with the solitary structure, time stops. The water still runs underneath them. Each bridge similar, but with a different vibe.

The world is quiet, except for the sounds of nature. It is easy to imagine the men working to build these solid and useful bridges. They were integral to their lives. History happened here. Included in the everyday lives of those who were forced to leave. Those who determined to stay. Those who fled the brutal masters of the South. You can lose yourself imagining those happenings around each curve.

The wood that supports each car or footstep is worn and still bears strength. How much work has been invested to maintain these living history monuments? It is worth the effort. For more information about visiting Parke County visit  http://www.coveredbridges.com/