Natural Bridge to Nashville

After leaving Ohio, we drove to Stanton, Kentucky. We’ve decided we really like that area. So beautiful and full of parks and places to hike.  We almost didn’t find a campsite in the area, but I’m so glad we did! I wanted to see the Natural Bridge. I thought that was the only “bridge” in the area, but there are several. These arches have formed naturally in the stone.

We took the original trail to the Natural bridge which is the easiest. Now don’t suppose that means it is easy! No, it was quite strenuous. I’m glad we didn’t take any of the other trails.

The beauty of the area was wonderful.

We did make it to the Natural Bridge. Fascinating!

Then we hiked to the top to walk over the bridge and view the scenery. Matt has a terrifying habit of getting close to the edge and leaning over to look down.

While in the area, we took several drives in Daniel Boone National Forest. What a beautiful place! The roads were very narrow and often dirt. It was a bit interesting driving on switchbacks in the mountains with a long bed dually truck. Thankfully, there wasn’t too much opposing traffic! We did go through a tunnel that was one lane and we barely had room for the fat back end of our truck. I think I held my breath all the way through.

We stopped at one point for Matt to climb a rock. I didn’t join him in this activity. 

One of the other arches we saw was the Rock Bridge Arch. Beautiful spot! This “bridge” is the only one with water running beneath it.

We almost hated to leave Kentucky, but knew there were more things to explore ahead of us. We decided to stop for a bit near Nashville, Tennessee. We ate at an Aquarium restaurant. I was pretty hungry.

They had some really big and interesting fish in that tank. The fish swam constantly, well, all but one that just sat on a rock the whole time. It was exhausting to watch them.

We aren’t much for cities, but I wanted to see what “Music City” was all about. A fellow RVer had told us of a good place to park where we would cross the Cumberland River over a pedestrian bridge to get into the town. We had a lovely view of the city as we crossed.

Then we walked around the streets in Nashville. We had heard that every night of the week you will hear music pouring out of restaurants and clubs. It is true! Even though it was chilly, the doors were wide open, and sometimes even the walls, with musicians right inside playing all types of music. It was a happening place.

I was really tempted to buy some boots for some strange reason.

And I had fun singing with Elvis. I had no idea he would be there!

The view was even better on the way back to the truck.

The Hermitage was something Matt was interested in seeing. It was the home of Andrew Jackson. We both realized that we didn’t know much about him. One interesting tidbit was that he fought a duel for the honor of his wife. The opponent got a shot off first and hit Jackson, but he reeled and got his shot off too, killing the other man. He lived with the bullet in him for the rest of his life. Or so the story goes…

When Matt tried using his credit card to pay to go into the Hermitage, he realized that he had left his credit card at the restaurant in downtown Nashville. So we hiked back across the bridge to get his card from the Brazilian steakhouse. He loved eating there at the churrascaria because it reminded him of mission trips to Brazil.

As we walked across the bridge this second evening to get to our truck, we passed a young man walking the other way. He looked worn out and sad but had a guitar on his back. I wondered if he had great dreams when he first came to Music City but that it wasn’t panning out for him. I couldn’t help but think he might want to spend a few days being rejuvenated by hiking in Daniel Boone National Forest. I know that’s what I prefer!

Can We Please See Minnesota?

Since we were this far away from home in Wisconsin, I thought why not head on over to Mt Rushmore? That’s a place I’ve always wanted to see! Our original plan was to see something of Wisconsin, drive up and around the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and then make our way back home. I couldn’t convince Matt of such a big change in plans, but then I started saying things like, “Well, we are so close to Minnesota, don’t you want a geocache from that state?” And then, “We could camp just over the line and then we could count Minnesota as a place we have camped in too.” It wasn’t much out of our way and compared to trekking over to Mt Rushmore, I guess it didn’t sound so far. Minnesota

Our first view of both Minnesota and Lake Superior was when we crossed the bridge and entered the harbor town, Duluth.Duluth

We stayed at a KOA near Duluth and then I looked for things to do in the area. I didn’t expect to fall in love with Minnesota. I hadn’t known anything about it! We were just a few miles away from Jay Cooke State Park, so we went to check it out after Matt finished his work day. First we crossed a swinging suspension bridge over the St Louis River.DSC_8254 2

Of course, Matt had to make it sway! But it was sturdy and didn’t move much under his weight. This park was beautiful and we enjoyed a couple hours before the sun set hiking the trails and skipping stones.DSC_8294 2

Then it was Saturday and we had a whole day to explore Minnesota. After a bit of research, I realized that there was a lighthouse nearby on Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse.DSC_8509 2

This lovely lighthouse is built high on a cliff that is made of anorthosite which is extremely hard and erosion resistant. We got to the park in time to watch a well done video about the lighthouse and then take a tour. The light station was built in 1910 in response to three terrible Great Lake storms in 1905 that resulted in 116 deaths. It was explained that Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake in the world and it’s water temperature stays around 39ºF. As I heard several times while near Lake Superior, “The Lake never gives up its dead.” Violent storms, cold temperatures and a booming shipping industry were a combination for disaster. Lighthouses were needed to save lives. DSC_8375 2

We climbed the stairs and enjoyed the view from the top of the lighthouse. Here was the view out of a window part way up.DSC_8377 2

The fresnel lens is no longer lit up, but it still turns.DSC_8379 2

And makes rainbows on the wall.DSC_8389 2

Here we are at the base of the lighthouse. A great view even without climbing the stairs.At the top of Split Rock Lighthouse

After the tour, we climbed down to the shore to take photos. Such a picturesque lighthouse!Split Rock Lighthouse, MN

But I wanted to also capture the lighthouse in evening light. We had hours to kill, so we hiked trails in the park to complete a multi-cache. We stopped every once in awhile to take pics.Canoe in Lake SuperiorTaking a break by Lake Superior

After hiking 6 miles and completing the geocache, our feet were hot and tired. Matt decided to stick his feet into Lake Superior. He didn’t keep them in that cold water very long!Matt didn't keep his feet in Lake Superior very long!

Finally, the sun was low on the horizon and I was able to capture the lighthouse in the evening light. Such a beautiful site, especially since it helped save lives!Split Rock Lighthouse, MN in the evening light.

Even though I only had a couple days in Minnesota, I loved the scenery and the friendly people. I’m so glad I convinced Matt to go! Guess we’ll have to catch Mt Rushmore another time.

Finding the Moors: England 5

Our time in the “chocolate box” Cotswolds was done, but I was eager to keep exploring the English landscape. I hadn’t yet seen the moors that I had often read about and I hoped at our next stop that I would. We headed northbound to Matt’s last work place, Pateley Bridge. After that, we would have a week of vacation time just to explore in England! First, we headed to Harefield Hall.Harefield Hall

I had found this mysteriously beautiful gem on TripAdvisor and was intrigued. This 15th century manor house had quite a history and was currently a B&B. I didn’t know until we arrived that it also had a reputation for ghostly activity. After checking in, we found out that we would be the only guests staying that night. It was such a large, fascinating building that I wondered if we would indeed hear any suspicious sounds! We had a lovely dinner served to us by our host, Elaine. Then she gave us a tour of some of the rooms. They were gorgeous! Here is the view from our room.DSC_5258 2

We settled in for the night and enjoyed a good night’s sleep. I didn’t hear any  strange sounds. Of course, I was wearing earplugs so that might be explain it. The next day, Matt left to work and I wrote a blog entry. Even though I enjoyed editing photos and writing the blog, I was tired. Travel weary. Living 5 and a half weeks out of a suitcase made me feel a bit homeless. We washed clothing in the sink. I always wondered where our next meal would come from and if it would be safe for my diet. I spent lots of time sitting on a bed while writing. And I was beginning to feel slightly useless. Believe me, I’m NOT complaining! It was an amazing adventure and I was so glad to be part of it. But I was beginning to miss home. And work. I mean just plain old housework. I never thought I would say that. After being served my meals, being driven all over creation and not having to clean, I realized that I would never have been able to be royalty. I need work to do! It was truly an eye opener. And a thought that I try to remember every time I have too much to do. Work is a blessing! Finally, Matt was back from his day at work and I could stop reflecting and do more exploring.

We went for walks down wall lined roads.DSC_5293 2

Then we explored Fountains Abbey. Once a beautiful home and worship place for Cistercian monks beginning in 1132, this architectural masterpiece had been destroyed by King Henry VIII in 1539 when he ordered the dissolution of monasteries. We arrived just a couple hours before closing and wondered if we would be able to enjoy the abbey ruins and the garden before closing time. The woman behind the desk assured us that it was plenty of time, loaned us an umbrella and sent us into a downpour. The ruins were beautiful.DSC_5337 2DSC_5351 2DSC_5338 2DSC_5381 2

We then started the walk around the adjacent gardens. Soon, we found that the walk was going to be longer than anticipated. I worried about getting locked into the place. Would we be able to get our rental car out? Matt kept telling me not to worry. He didn’t remember there being a gate. And surely they wouldn’t lock us in. Even though it was cool and rainy, I broke a sweat as we walked fast to get back to the visitor center. And we didn’t make it in time. We were fifteen minutes late. Wouldn’t you know, there was a gate too! Matt had me stand by the unlocked gate as he returned the umbrella to the front door of the locked visitor center and retrieved our car. The only other being I saw was a pheasant who kept me company. As I stood by the gate waiting, I couldn’t help but smile at yet another silly situation we had gotten ourselves into. Maybe they didn’t lock that outer gate? But when we got back to Harefield Hall and told of our mishap, we were assured that we certainly could have been locked in. Whew!

Since first arriving in our room, we had noticed two pillars standing on the mountain across the valley. It looked like more ruins and something for us to explore. I searched on the internet and we hiked to Yorke’s Folly, one of the popular hikes in the Nidderdale area. These pillars were originally built in the 1800’s to look like ruins. Legend has it that Mr. Yorke provided this building project in a time when jobs were scarce and people needed work. Even though three pillars were built, only two remain as one was toppled by wind. DSC_5451 2

As we hiked up to the folly, I could believe that one had succumbed to the gusts. It was getting stormy. Finally, the rain came with strong winds and we were becoming soaked. We took shelter next to the folly and it helped!DSC_5413 2

Just as sudden as the storm had come, it passed. I was able to look over the valley and see Harefield Hall. That’s how I had come to take the photo at the top of this blog. Here it is in the distance.DSC_5424 2

I had finally found the moors. As I stood in the wind, looking over the landscape of spongy growth, I felt like Jane Eyre or one of the many heroines from George MacDonald novels. So many of them had roamed the lonely moors and I had always wondered what exactly that was, but now I knew. DSC_5457 3

Refreshed from the hike and the rain, we made our way back to Harefield Hall for a lovely meal by the fire. Our hosts, Mike and Elaine were thrilled to hear that we were now “On Holiday” and would be heading to the Lake District. Mike waxed eloquently about the Lake District and pointed out highlights of the area on a map.DSC_5554 2

As he brought out rice pudding that he had made special to fit my diet, he said, “As you cross the ferry in the Lake District, yell ‘Hello from Mike.'” And we were eager to do just that!

Check out the previous posts about England. England 1, 2, 3, 4

Or you may want to start at the beginning of our adventure – in Italy! Italy 1

The Call of the Mountains: Italy 7

If anyone was to ask my favorite thing about Italy, I think it would be a toss-up between its people and the mountains. But I guess I like the people in small doses.  Venice was beautiful and intriguing but too crowded. And it was time to move on.

Before we left the states while I was looking for lodging, I found one that I insisted upon. There weren’t that many reviews on the agriturismo site, but the photos were stunning. They showed a small stone house dwarfed by snow-capped mountains. Up to this point, I had only reserved rooms at establishments that had many positive reviews, but the photos made me want to give this place, Pian dei Tass, a chance.

As we drove from the Venice area towards this new place, I expected the flatlands to gradually become rolling hills and then develop into mountains. This was not so. It continued flat, and then flat and, well, flat. I wondered if maybe these Dolomite Mountains weren’t going to be all that I dreamed. We were both a bit weary by this point. I almost wished that we could just be done with this whole trip and go back home. We had traveled so many miles, walked many cobbled streets and slept in 5 different beds. This map shows our travels in Italy.

Map from Google maps

Map from Google maps

It was time for rest. But we couldn’t call it quits. Matt still had much more work to do including one more installation of equipment in Italy. Just when I was about to give up on the mountains, I saw them in the distance, shrouded in clouds. The landscape went from totally flat to humongous mountains! This sight did wonders for my disposition. There, indeed, was more Italy for me to discover!

First, I had to endure two more tunnels. The first one was curvy and over two miles long. Did I mention I hate tunnels? I gulped a large breath of air when we escaped that one. Then we rounded a curve and came upon the most astonishing water I have ever seen. It was Lake Barcis and filled with beautiful turquoise colored water.DSC_3095 6

I stared at the water as we kept going and we came to the dam that made the lake.DSC_3609

We crossed it and went into a one lane tunnel. It was very tight and hewn from the rock. I fussed a bit, but Matt kept on. Thankfully, it was a short tunnel and just a bit from our agriturismo.DSC_3622

What a lovely spot! I got out of the car and slowly spun around. We were completely encircled by the Friulian Dolomites. I could not get over their beauty and majesty!DSC_3219 2

DSC_3321 2As I listened, I heard a bird call. It sounded exactly like a cuckoo clock! I had heard this bird in the mountains when we stayed with Sergio. And here it was again to welcome us back. You can hear it here.

We met our new hosts, Mario and Olga. Once, Mario, the youngest of seven sons, had left this glorious haven to see the world and earn a living. He worked in Africa and Saudi Arabia for a construction company. While visiting at home, he saw a lovely young woman and asked her to dance. That started a lifelong romance with this shy Belgian girl, Olga.  He took her away with him on his travels.DSC_3662 3

But the call of the mountains beckoned him. Mario returned when his parents were elderly and took over the farm.  As he says, “People are more interesting in the country. Things are too easy for them in the city.” And here in the glorious mountains, he, Olga, their son, Marcus, and their granddaughter Marie, work hard to bring joy to their guests.DSC_3330 3

DSC_3664 2I guess when you come from such a long heritage; you just can’t resist coming home. Mario told us that his family migrated from Austria in the 1300s and has been there ever since. It hasn’t been an easy journey. When he was just one year old, Nazis marched up the hill straight to his parents’ farm. One of them picked him up on the way. The women from the town of Barcis were all taking refuge in their home, while the men hid in the mountains. The Nazis were looking for the man from the town that had blown up the tunnel to keep tanks from making their way to Barcis. When the Nazis couldn’t find the man, they took it out on the town and bombed it.DSC_3419 2

Maybe that is part of why Mario left the area for a while. Times were hard. But just as the cuckoo bird welcomed us back to the mountains, so did they to Mario and his family. And I’m glad to have met these wonderful people.

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We were tempted to buy this fixer upper!

We were tempted to buy this fixer upper!

A family we met at the agriturismo. Such lovely people!

A family we met at the agriturismo. Such lovely people!

The mountains are beautiful, but dangerous. A man lost his life here taking photographs.

The mountains are beautiful, but dangerous. A man lost his life here taking photographs.

I still can't get over the color of the water in Lake Barcis.

I still can’t get over the color of the water in Lake Barcis.

The apple trees were in bloom.

The apple trees were in bloom.

A photo of Mario as a young man.

A photo of Mario as a young man.

We did much hiking. Here, Matt, walked up a snow glacier to the waterfall. I had fun throwing snowballs at him while wearing short sleeves!

We did much hiking. Here, Matt, walked up a snow glacier to the waterfall. I had fun throwing snowballs at him while wearing short sleeves!

So many ruins all over Italy

So many ruins all over Italy

I just can't resist taking photos of the flowers. The mountain woods were full of tiny wildflower blooms.

I just can’t resist taking photos of the flowers. The mountain woods were full of tiny wildflower blooms.

I think I could have stayed here forever!

I think I could have stayed here forever!

Read the rest of our adventures in Italy: Italy 1, Italy 2, Italy 3, Italy 4, Italy 5, Italy 6

After this we go to England! England 1

Lake George and Our 500th Geocache

As I sit here watching the snow swirling, I’m reliving warmer days on our New England trip. We had one more stop on our way home, Lake George, NY. I had often heard of people talk about Lake George but hadn’t ever been there. So, I wanted to see what everyone was talking about.DSC_9275 3

We parked our camper at an RV park and began exploring. First of all, I must say that the actual town of Lake George was not my kind of place. We didn’t really stop, but it was full of signs. No charm. So, we started driving around the lake. I thought we’d be able to see the lake as we drove around, but I wasn’t seeing it at all. Finally, we rounded a turn and came to a nice view. It was a marina with a sign that said only members could park in the lot. We thought maybe we could just stop for a photo but as we drove into the lot a man immediately stormed out of the little building and charged at us. With veins bulging in his neck, he yelled and wondered about our literacy. We explained that we just wanted to take a photo of the beautiful lake, but he screamed at us to leave. I hope he wasn’t the salesman for new members! So far, my opinion of Lake George was not that good.

We gave up the idea of just driving around to see the sights and decided to look for geocaches. We found a trail that led around part of the lake and had geocaches along the way! Now this was more like it!! This is the view that I often have while geocaching.DSC_9209 3

I follow while Matt looks at his GPS to see which way we need to go. It took several years of geocaching to convince him that there is usually a path to the cache. He instead just wants to “bushwhack” and hike straight to the cache, no matter what we might have to cross. We have fought our way through many a bramble thicket and sloshed through bogs. Thankfully, after hiking through the woods a bit, we did come across the path. And soon we were in the area of our first geocache of the day. DSC_9211 2

What a clever one it was! This was hidden up in the crook of a tree! Do you see it up there?

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We only had one more cache to go to get our 500th one! We were excited to find it and I was pleased to see that this one had been placed by another creative person. What a lovely paint job!DSC_9234 2

And Matt was excited to reach 500! Can you tell?!DSC_9235 2

Isn’t that just the best geocaching photo ever?! We tried taking a shot of the two of us on this momentous occasion.DSC_9213

Finally, the path led us to some beautiful views. Lake George really IS a pretty place!DSC_9238 4

On the way back to the campsite, I saw this painted shed. Somehow it encapsulated how I feel about our travels. We want to take that dreamed of trek across our great country! DSC_9182 3

Soon it will be time for another trip! But I’ll never forget this one to New England.

Leaf Peeping in New Hampshire..And More

The beauty that surrounded me in New Hampshire brought to mind two lines from a song I love: “With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings.” The leaves were just a bit farther along than they had been while we were in Maine. I can’t imagine how spectacular it must be in the height of the Fall colors. But it didn’t matter. Everywhere I looked, I saw majesty. The White Mountains were a wonderful backdrop for the trees that turned early.

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Three days were not near enough to experience that wonder of the White Mountains. There are over 1200 miles of trails! But we still fit a lot into our days in New Hampshire including several waterfalls. Arethusa Falls was one that I was excited to visit since I had seen photos of it. We arrived at the parking lot and saw a sign warning that the 1.5 mile hike to the falls would take an hour and a half one way so it should not be started close to sunset.  We usually take our time on hikes stopping for geocaches and photos as well as just breaks for soaking in the surroundings. And I knew I wanted to take photos at the waterfall. But we figured out the time and when sunset would occur and decided to go for it. We passed several people coming back down and one woman even warned us that we wouldn’t make it. She hoped we had flashlights. Well, we didn’t. I had great motivation to keep going even though the path was quite strenuous, at least for me. Finally, we made it to the Arethusa Falls.

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It was pretty, but not what I was expecting. Not much water flowed over the tiered rocks. Someday, I’ll make that trek again, hopefully when there is more water. That night I slept really well and the next day we were off again, to Tuckerman Ravine.

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My new best friends were my Keen hiking boots and a walking stick! Even so, I needed to keep a constant watch where I was stepping or I would have tripped. The rocks were fascinating though. New Hampshire is known as the Granite State and while on the tour up Mt. Washington, our guide laughed when someone asked if the rocks they saw were granite. “You would think so,” she exclaimed, “but there are a lot more of these rocks than granite. They are called mica schist. But for some reason no one wanted to call it the Mica Schist State.” And mica schist sure was plentiful!

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See the large, shiny flakes in the rock? That’s mica. As I walked along, carefully choosing my steps, the path glittered under my feet. It’s a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by bling!!

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Took a bit of time to enjoy the flowers and then it was off for some geocaches. There was one in Jackson which led us to this covered bridge.

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This photo would have been quite different if I had known the bridge’s nickname. You would have had to put up with a photo of Matt and I smooching in front of the bridge, also known as “Honeymoon Bridge.” Locals have a tradition of having their photo taken here on their wedding day. It wasn’t our wedding day, but we are still honeymooners! We enjoyed finding the geocache in the middle of the bridge but there were more just through it.

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Jackson Falls were spread out glory! We kept driving around and stopping for more geocaches.

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He found the cache! Isn’t he one good-looking geocacher?! That was the end of another day. But we still had one more day in NH to enjoy it’s beauty. We decided to drive the Kancamagus Highway, famous for spectacular views.

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Oh, what a joy!

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Can’t get much better than that! We continued driving, stopping, ooooing and awwwwing. But another geocache was up ahead. When we pulled over for this one, we found a young man stopped there. He asked if we would take his photo.

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Travis had been biking for quite some time since he had started in Seattle Washington! His goal was to cycle from the Pacific coast to the Atlantic. I have a feeling he made it! Travis watched in amusement as we entered the nearby woods and starting poking around. Finally, he couldn’t keep from asking, “Did you lose something?” Matt was more than willing to explain geocaching to him. It got the best of him and before we knew it, Travis was looking for the cache too. He was quite amused when he saw the small box containing trinkets and a log book. As we hopped back into Sherman, Travis called out, “It’ll be your fault if I never make it to the Atlantic because I’m looking for geocaches!” Nice to know we had such a good influence.DSC_8840 2

I have two more adventures from New Hampshire to tell you about. Next time!

A Perfect Saturday

As far as I was concerned, Saturday’s weather just couldn’t have been better! So, Matt and I were off for two of our favorite past times, hiking and geocaching. We didn’t have to go far from home to have a wonderful time. And I needed to clarify something with him. DSC_5874Not too long ago a friend and I were looking for a new place to eat lunch together. So, I suggested Gambrill State Park at the overlook. Afterwards, I told Matt about it and he said he had never been there! I thought for sure that we had been there and also gotten a geocache. On Saturday, we headed there first. As soon as he saw it, he remembered that he had been there, four years ago. Whew, I thought I was imagining things!

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Matt is holding the geocache. It was in a large bucket!

After the overlook, we had a geocache to find. For this one we had to drive on dirt roads all over the mountain. Then we parked and hiked for a mile to the cache. This one was at a rock that the cache owner called “Castle Rock.”

We climbed to the top of Castle Rock and there was a bit of a view through the trees. We had a “travel bug” with us and took photos of it visiting the cache site. A travel bug is something that you can hide in a geocache and then others can pick it up and move it to another cache. It will have a tag attached to it with a number. Then you can go online to geocaching.com and register where you left the travel bug. It can be any item that you are able to attach the tag onto. DSC_5892 3

This one just happened to be Tigger and we had great fun posing him for photos. Here is one of him mountain climbing! We didn’t leave him there in that cache. That particular cache doesn’t get found very often. I guess other people don’t want to go for a mile hike in the woods. But at least Tigger  got to visit the castle!DSC_5907

In my mind, that was the perfect way to spend our day. As I walked the rugged path, I noticed special things that God put there just for us, like the tiny toads that kept hoping away from our feet or the pretty pebbles in the water that gleamed like pennies, the sun shining through the trees illuminating bright green ferns and even the spider web that shimmered in the sun. All were amazing reminders that God pays attention to every detail, not only in the woods, but in my life too. He knows the rough paths that I will have to hike to get to the high points in life, but He also lovingly guides and places just what I need along the path to sustain me.

Here’s looking forward to the next gorgeous day!
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