good day!

sometimes i blog late at night. i will turn on my laptop with good intentions, upload pictures, type a few words and then it's midnight. which results in a 'draft' box full of older pictures and partially written posts.

this week we received some very good news. bennett applied to work at the clemson fire department a year ago. the university's minimum age is "a sophomore" so he anxiously had to wait one year. in the meantime he took several classes for qualification and helped with their volunteer team. the list of applicants was long and the spaces very few (as in one or two.) over the year we reminded him "not to get his hopes up." part of me was sad that if he got this job, there would be very little time to come home on the weekends. but if you are a parent of a teenager,  you know that when they can earn their own spending money, "it's a good day!"

tuesday we received the news that got the job! the fire department will work around his school schedule and the university holidays. 


this set of pictures is from last year. almost every weekend during hunting season bennett was home with friends. i love a house full of people!  some weekends we would have 6-7 young men spending the night in our upstairs playroom hunting lodge. fun times!








the loop

while in the mountains, we made another trip to cades cove to "ride the loop." it is an 11 mile bicycle ride through on of the most beautiful state parks.


the loop is closed to traffic on wednesday and saturday mornings until 10am.  i am a morning person so the 6am drive through the mountains to get there is glorious as well. i played this song on the radio several times on the way, with hopes of planting an ear worm.  it worked! i overheard mary claire several times singing and peddling.

 

this song was perfect for our day!
because "everything You have made is beautiful!"
the park had recently changed bicycle companies. the new mountain bikes made the ride a million times easier.  last year we battled rusty rental bikes with loose chains and non working gears. i had to fix a couple chains during the ride but only because the girls were gear changing mad men at times.
we enjoy stoping along the way to take in the sights.

this little firecracker has an endless barrel of energy! her feet barely reached the pedals and she still stayed ahead of us all.











thank you chase for being quick on the shutter. 
i love the photobomber!







after our ride we met up with crystal and her litttle littles. we enjoyed a picnic, splashing in the river, a walk and of course, "you too can be a junior ranger!" as wed rove back to the cabin for the day, we wished we could enjoy this park more than one time a year!


tour day / lesson in pride

all mission trips at our church set aside one day for a tour day. this summer  our group decided to visit a volcano called quilotoa.  if one can imagine what a perfect volcano caldera looks like, this is it. 
fascinating beauty!

quilotoa was approximately two hours from machachi. the morning we set out, i made sure i packed enough dramamine to go around. when ecuadorians warn that the road is winding, anticipate a wild ride. several of of our group had a light breakfast and some of us skipped it all together. which turned out to be a dreadful mistake.
as expected the drive was winding, but we were all flying  high on Jesus, dramamine, sugar and caffeine. the villages and scenery were  so quaint and storybook like. fields and fields of quinoa. women walking their sheep, children tending to one or two cows, small houses with colorful clothes lines, patchwork farms almost vertical on the side of a mountain... i was imagining the millions of pictures i would take if i wasn't hanging onto the door handles around the curves.


the plan was to hike to the bottom and ride a donkey to the top. the "donkey rental" was as you entered the park. reserve your donkey now for the ride up. the workers would walk your donkey down and meet you at the lake. (it was too steep to ride down.) 

the arrows pointing to the donkey shed and snack house show how far we had to go.


so we walked a little ways. then tripped, fell and slid our way down. man was it steep. the dust was so fine and i hadn't forgotten i was deathly afraid of heights. but the stunning view was worth it.









when we made it to the bottom, we sat and soaked in the beauty.  (i realize i am using the word beauty a lot)  it was just SO BEAUTIFUL!
did i mention i chose not to rent a donkey? bennett, patrick, jose and myself felt pridefully "fit" enough to hike our way back up.  i mean, we were wearing fancy backpacks and mountain jackets! which automatically qualifies one as a hiker, right?  "come on boys, let's beat these donkeys to the top."

we later learned we were embarking on a 380ft vertical ascent. it was past lunchtime, our stomachs were empty, we didn't pack water and the dozens of protein bars we packed were at the hostal. we had also forgotten the effects of the high altitude and a dust mask would have been a great idea. 

God decided it was time for a lesson in pride. 

 friends. this was physically the hardest thing i have ever done. 
fifteen minutes in and we all stopped. "what were we thinking not renting a $10 donkey?! did we not notice that almost everyone rents a donkeys! why didn't we look to see how many others hiked up. why had i skipped breakfast!!!???"
we required a lot breaks.

not even halfway up, we were panting, coughing, carrying on ...  thankfully the devil didn't disquise himself as a rental donkey and attempt to barter for our souls ;) 

my fear of heights dissipated! no longer did i care so much about falling to my death (or breaking a leg) walking on the walls was easier than battling the fine sand.
notice the guy's face. 
i wanted to shout, " save yourself and rent a donkey!"
i think this is where i promised God my first born. if we all make it to the top, he's all yours God! (which thankfully he really is)

 


it wasn't as hard on our ecuadorian interpreter. thankfully we all share the same sense of humor.  "jose, if you do not get your prideful, flexible self off that wall, God is going to use my foot to kick you off!" 




the donkeys had long passed us.
i couldn't help but to think about the people who earn a living hiking up and down this mountain several times a day. with a heavier pack and stiffer shoes. 


it was 3pm when (praise God) we finally reached the top! prideful lesson learned! we were covered in dust to the point our hair was standing up like bristles on a wire brush. we were sneezing and coughing and carrying on.  these four americans were dirty,  mean, thirsty, and starving! 

 the only place to eat for miles and miles was a pizza place. i didn't care to ask if there was a gluten free option ;) i figured today i didn't die on the way up, so i will take my chances with gluten. the restaurant had one oven, so they cooked the pizzas one at a time. we ate one large pizza each! it may have been the best pizza on the planet at that very moment!

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