Birkie Hike: We Finish!

Just to clarify – I have two Gwens in my life. One is my mother and the other is the friend who has been hiking the Birkie with me. Some who know us have been asking…

November 3, 2021. North End TH to Timber TH, loop. 6.5 miles, 14,828 steps

I asked, “Do you think we really need to go down this hill and touch that road?”

“Yes, of course we do,” Gwen told me. And so we walked down that last hill which marked the completion of our 34 miles of Birkie trail, stuck our poles in the sand, took a picture and started back up the hill. We had walked on the skate side of the Birkie and were looping back to the car on the classic side.

Today was cloudy and cold enough for gloves and hats, but we did end up shedding our outer layer of jackets. At one point near the end, we saw several large white snowflakes falling in the forest so we knew it was in the low 30’s for temperature.

I had spent time studying the map of our remaining section and had printed it out. That meant we only had to question ourselves at a couple intersections where fresh logging roads had added to the confusion.

Rocks and trees are the main features of this forest trail and the subjects of most of my photos. I’ve also started a collection of “meaningful” rocks to mark different hikes I’ve done, so I was on the lookout for a rock. The one that caught my attention was a bit bigger than the pebbles I usually pick up, but it had a pattern to it, and I liked it. Gwen doesn’t stop me from doing stupid stuff, she even carried the rock for me when I needed a rest. We had guesses as to how much it weighed. She won. Thirty-five pounds.

Good job Gwen. This rock will show its pattern more after I wash it up a bit.

Our last stop before leaving Cable, Wisconsin and the Birkie Trail was the Brick House Cafe. It wasn’t that we were hungry, or needed the calories but more that I needed to see if the Chocolate Tower cake was as good as Gwen said it was. I figured we should mark our accomplishment with some kind of splurge, even if we ended up taking it home to put in the freezer (which, by the way, didn’t happen). This cafe is known for its lunches and desserts as attested to by the dozen hunters, and huntresses who trooped in shortly after we were seated.

What I really feel good about, in addition to feeling very exercised, is that I got to be a tourist in my own backyard. I would feel sad not to know what this internationally famous trail was like. Now I know where the trailheads are, how difficult and hilly the terrain can be, and how many more paths are there yet to be explored. I have that sense of ownership that comes with familiarity, and that feels good. The chances of me ever skiing this trail are almost nonexistent, well, they are nonexistent. Really nonexistent. But I have walked it. That’s good enough for me.

Hiking the Birkebeiner: Part 2

Most of the leaves are on the ground now and walking in them is fun and “autumn-ish”.

Tomorrow Gwen and I will finish the last section of the Birkie Trail, and it’s good timing because we are starting to get snow flurries and temps in the teens. Hiking this northern section of the trail has been quite different because we have used the actual Birkie trail rather than the single track bike trails. Another difference is that it’s about the busiest place “out in the woods” that I’ve ever seen. We are always crossing ATV trails, bike trails, logging trails and fire lanes and more than once we have been confused. Often we are telling ourselves to just enjoy the walk in the woods and see where we end up, because we have no clue where we are. Backing up, here are the finished sections.

September 12, 2021 Hatchery TH to Hwy 77 Bridge

I explored this short section myself one afternoon because I’ve been curious about the bridge ever since it went up. For years the Birkie ski race used to cross Hwy 77 near this spot and the road actually had to be covered with snow and closed while thousands of skiers crossed it. There was even talk of tunneling under the road, but the eventual decision was to put a bridge over it, making it much more convenient and safe. I’ve gone under this bridge countless times, and now I’ve also gone over it.

September 17, 2021. OO TH to Firetower TH. 5.53 miles, 12,410 steps

We had some logistical help when we hiked the section of OO to the Fire Tower trailhead. My brother dropped us off at the Fire Tower warming cabin and picked us up a couple hours later at the Johnson Center on OO. He rode mountain bike trails in the area while we hiked. In fact, there were quite a few bikers riding the trails that day. I guess some of them got hot and sweaty and had to change clothes, at least that’s the story we told ourselves as we passed the warming cabin at Boedecker Road where a guy was standing naked by his car. The things you see in the woods… I did not take a picture. It was a beautiful fall day in all respects!

September 30, 2021 Firetower TH to Timber Trail TH 6.9 miles, 15,484 steps

A couple weeks later we did the next section ourselves, doing a loop from the Fire Tower TH to Timber Trail warming cabin on the classic trail and back on the skate trail. It was another beautiful afternoon, but we had a later start. We didn’t make it back to the car until 6 pm and the sun was nearly down. Our days are getting noticeably shorter. This one got us a little tired. We did extra steps looking for trail signs and my real step count for that day was 19,172.

This map does not include logging roads and single track bike trails. We were often surprised to find out where we were. Thankful for the red arrows.

October 26, 2021. American Birkebeiner TH to North End TH. No idea

I could hardly believe we had taken almost a month off. It didn’t seem like that long a time because both Gwen and I started going to Ski and Tea. It’s a ladies ski group coached by some amazing, experienced cross country skiers. We’ve been getting together nearly every week for training on the Birkie. Since there’s no snow, we practice various ski techniques while hiking – it works. On the afternoon of the 26th we drove to the far end of the trail, the Birkebeiner TH in Cable and walked in some kind of a weird circle until we got back to the car a couple of hours later. Too many intersections, too many maps, too many trails. I think we set foot on enough of the Birkie to say we did a good section. My total step count for the day was 15,464, about 7 miles. Have I mentioned that there are lots of hills? There are LOTS OF HILLS.

No, not confusing at all…

And as I wrote, tomorrow we will hike our last section, Lord willing. I hope to post about our triumphant finish. Excited! Check in to see if we made it (and find out about our planned reward).

Fall Fun

I’ve just spent a considerable amount of time changing the header that you see on my blog from leafless, bare trees to beautiful fall colored leaves. I’m keeping this one up until the first snow because I want to remind myself of all the FUN I’ve had walking in the woods, taking drives, and photographing our beautiful autumn 2021.

Although I don’t have to go out any further than our parking lot to see some color, I do go out, taking Mom on drives in the car and hiking and biking on the trails. Things change daily. We’ve gone from mostly green with a few brilliant splashes to mostly bare with a few brilliant splashes. Even though the leaves are getting mostly on the ground now, they are just as beautiful. It’s like finding little gems all over the paths and lawns.

We’ve had an unseasonably long period of warm weather this October. Instead of being shocked by early snows, I’m still picking raspberries and working in the garden (in shorts and T-shirts). I know that will change and I can’t help it, I’m sad. Summer is too short, autumn is beautiful and winter is… long. Really long.

So here is a sampling of what I see and enjoy on a daily basis. It’s only a small percentage of the number of pictures I have on my phone and in the cloud. Finding things to photograph is definitely one of my “fall funs”.

Town of Hayward Recreational Forest
Out on the Birkie trail
A walk along the river
Driving the fire lanes with Mom
Even in the parking lot

Your Fun, My Fun

I think fun is necessary to life, so I chase it. There is some to be caught almost everywhere.

Fun is such an individual thing. Maybe your fun and my fun might be the same, but most likely not. For instance, I know a lot of people who don’t like shopping, but I do. I’m not meaning the mall, or downtown Chicago for a weekend – I’m talking Walmart.

They always have interesting, beautiful things outside the door. The fun starts before I even get inside.

There has been over a year of mostly staying at home during the pandemic, but I could never bring myself to give up that occasional trip to get groceries. It was reassurance that the world of real people was still out there. It was different wearing masks and following (sort of) the one way arrows down the aisles, but it was still fun. Rules are a little less restrictive now, and I can actually recognize some people. I always see someone I know at the store, and I always see someone entertaining even if I don’t know them.

Since Walmart is on the other side of my backyard fence, I often go there just to spend time, wind down, see what’s new or what the latest shortage is. Sometimes I check out all my favorite corners like the seed and garden section, or the camping and sports section. I don’t have to buy any of it, just looking is fun. It’s a way to get out of the house when it’s been too long…

You see, I’ve been shopping in a few other countries where it is a lot different. Shopping in the U.S., I am always amazed at how much is available, that there are so many choices, that there is an acceptable degree of cleanliness and safety. Perhaps people who have always lived here think it’s this way everywhere. It isn’t. We are blessed. Even with predicted shortages, we are blessed.

Yesterday I had fun at Walmart, just because I could. It was great.

Can you believe I got these cool pants in the clearance section for almost nothing! Perfect for the next time I go shopping at Walmart.

Caught!

I think I have mentioned before that I’ve been online with Noom, learning about the psychology of eating, weight loss, and healthy lifestyle. Yesterday evening as I was finishing the day’s lesson, this came up and I knew immediately what it meant for me. I was caught.

Yeah, how did they know?

I have wondered quite a bit in the last three months “Why isn’t Shirley writing and staying in touch with the world of readers?” I guess she just didn’t feel like it. She is retired now and doesn’t do things she doesn’t feel like doing.

No, wait. That is so “not true”, on several levels. Does anyone ever get to stop doing anything they don’t feel like doing? I’m still doing some of those things, and I realize there are benefits involved. And it isn’t really that I don’t feel like writing – it’s more that it takes time to write well and to say something worth putting down. And strangely, for me, there is something sad and serious about introspective writing. I just haven’t wanted to add “sad and serious” to my life. I’m ignoring that. It’s difficult and challenging to write consistently.

But I am a writer, and writers need to make writing a habit. Noom has caught me and made me commit to a blog post this morning, knowing that I would feel better in the long run if I faced the challenge. There is science behind that, and more. Facing challenges is a matter of the spirit. Realizing that something is difficult, and then doing it anyway makes me more able to do it again in the future. Another good thing about Noom is that it asks me to find some affirmations and repeat them to myself regularly. Here are mine:

I will be blogging in August about a lot of random things, about Noom, about the end of summer, and about facing challenges. Would love to hear your comments.

A to Z Challenge: Zeal of the Pioneers

Zeal, “great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or objective”.

Alzina, or Alzie as we have come to know her, was passionate about her faith and her family. But she had zeal toward another objective as well, one that took up a great deal of time later in her life after she retired from teaching. The cause was prohibition of alcohol. She learned from a young age to work for the cause and although “Prohibition” never became a federal law, it was adopted in some states, Kansas being one of them. It happened largely through the efforts of hard working pioneer women. Here is how it went for Alzie.

The Peach Crop Story

By Emma Pomeroy Brandt, Alzie’s younger sister.

A few years after the Civil War, in 1867, my father took a homestead in Kansas. On it he planted both shade and fruit trees, including a peach orchard. He could not go to a store and buy everything as we do now. Indeed he and Mother saw very hard times trying to get a home started and raise food for a growing family. They had gotten deeply in debt and placed a mortgage on the homestead.

One year when most crops were burning up, they had a bountiful crop of peaches, but no market to sell them. One day two well-dressed men came driving in behind a fine team of livery horses and offered Father one dollar a bushel for the whole crop.

That seemed a wonderful offer and Father started to tell them he would bring the first load the next day. He said he would pick them carefully so as not to bruise them. “Oh”, they said, “you need not be too careful. Just shake them off and scrape them up. If you get a few rotten ones, it won’t make any difference.” Then Father asked, “What are you going to do with them, that you will take rotten ones?” They answered, “We are going to make peach brandy.”

That was a big shock to Father. He thought of his debt and his family needs, and then “me, a Christian man, sell my peaches to make brandy???” They told him he would be a fool to turn down their offer when he could not sell them elsewhere. But he said, “I am raising children. They shall never be tempted to drink brandy made from MY peaches.”

So the deal was called off. He struggled on for years, and had to sell his farm to pay the mortgage, but he kept a clear conscience. He moved his family across the road onto the “timber claim” and made there the home where we five younger children were born, and which was named “Prairie Home”. I can’t remember that we ever had to go hungry for lack of food.

Later, around 1907, Alzie’s mother Philena wrote to Alzie describing her “mother’s club” which she had started for local women. These women were wives of men who were working on the railroad. The husband’s wages were often spent in the bars, leaving the women to find a way to support the family. Seeing situations like this as she was growing up, and attending local Temperance Meetings with her family, made Alzie a staunch supporter of the temperance movement. Partially retired from teaching she took work as a field secretary for the National Prohibition Party. She traveled around the United States securing pledges and support for her Party’s candidates for general elections. There were many disappointments in her work, but her zeal was undaunted, as this paragraph in a letter explains.

“I gave much time in 1941 and 1942 to work for an initiative amendment, but failed to get enough signatures in time. But I learned many lessons, and more than ever came to the feeling that the Prohibition Party is the only force that God can use to overthrow the liquor traffic. It is the “Joshua and Caleb” of the dry movement. But, as the majority kept the people of Israel out of the Promised Land forty years, so the “old party drys” may keep from having prohibition that long, too. But the Prohibition Party will be victorious in the end as Joshua and Caleb were.”

There was no lasting success, although Kansas was a state that wrote a prohibition amendment in its constitution, and upheld it longer than any other state. Follow this link to read about some amazing women activists of the Temperance movement. Kansas and Prohibition

My grandfather John, sister Esther (seated), mother Alzina and sister Ethel. There were many more stories of their pioneer life but there are only 30 days in April. #April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Thank you for reading.

A to Z Challenge: Yearnings

Alzina Boone, widowed at a young age and with a family of four children to support, finds herself struggling to be a teacher at school, and a mother at home. In the early days of Kansas settlement, life was not easy for anyone, much less a single parent. Her faith in a caring God, and sheer necessity kept her going when others might have given up. She was my great grandmother and these are her true stories.

“Life was full of interest to all of us, and when I heard the words in song, “earth has no charms for me” I realized that I might easily forget eternal things, if I didn’t earnestly purpose in my heart to “set my affections on things above”. The song “Nearer, My God to Thee” which has words “even though it be a cross that raises me” became my earnest prayer, as I thought of how fleeting are earth’s joys and how liable to change. A sense of impending danger and sorrow haunted me for some weeks after school closed. But my spirit rose above all dread and fear when I read the words in Psalm 145:18,19 one morning, about June 15th, in morning worship. “The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him.” This assured me that God was nearer to me than any danger, and I felt safe and light heartedly happy in His keeping. This presence bore me up even when the blow fell.

On June 28 Stanley was drowned while swimming in a creek a mile from home after 6 o’clock.

He had told us at noon that he wanted to go swimming after office hours and would be home an hour late. He was always careful to tell me where and when he was going and to return on time to give me no anxiety. So when he didn’t return before sundown, I knew something detained him. I got neighbors to go with John to find him. They brought his lifeless body home about 9 o’clock that night. While they were searching, some Christian women workers from the Faith Home came to comfort and help me and the girls. I went to my room to pray alone. I found myself praying more for Stanley’s spiritual safety than for physical safety and the words of scripture “It is well with the child.” came to me forcibly from the presence that seemed so near me. I was sustained and comforted even in the loss and grief I felt when they came with his body and called me to the door, saying “We found him. He is dead.”

A doctor had been called to join the search. He said the water was too cold and had given cramps to Stanley, making him helpless in the water. Had anyone been with him, they would probably have drowned with him. But how I wished I had not consented to him going swimming that night. But as I prayed, many comforting memories and messages were given me. Stanley had assured me that he wasn’t afraid of lightening as we watached a storm approaching on Wednesday night on our way home from prayer meeting. He said, “I know I’m ready now.” How it comforts the Christian loved ones when the departed dear ones leave the testimony that they are “ready”.

I longed for a visit from Stanley as I had been given in dreams of Milford Sylvester, but I did not pray for such a blessing, for so much had already been given me in proof of God’s care for Stanley. But God did give me such a dream, even if I didn’t ask for it. I dreamed I was late to prayer meeting and all were kneeling in prayer, many near the door. When we rose from prayer, a song was started and I sang too. I noticed a surprised look from the leaders toward my part of the room. So I looked around to see what was surprising and there stood Stanley, book in hand, singing too. When the meeting was dismissed, Stanley passed out with the crowd. I remembered I wanted to hear Stanley talk, so I hurried out and overtook him. I asked, “How do you like your new home, Stanley?”

He replied in his own dear voice, “Well Mamma, you know I never liked to move to a new place, but always after I got moved I liked the new place and wanted to fence it off and stay there forever. Well, it is just the same now in heaven, only always before there was something I lacked and longed for. Now that something I always lacked and longed for is in me and all around me.” And as he said this, I felt that he was filled with a bliss that I could not express. I believe God gave me the dream. “

A to Z Challenge: Xanguish

A family with 9 children survives life on the Kansas prairie in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The experiences they have illustrate the joys, sorrows, hardships and everyday life of the Midwest pioneers. This faith filled series of stories is true. The eldest child was my great grandmother Alzina Pomeroy Boone.

There are not enough words beginning with x, so I will take the liberty of making one up. The word is “xanguish”. It stands for extreme anguish, and I have to say that this story broke my motherly heart.

Stanley, in the back row, second from the right. Probably a graduation picture from 8th grade.

This said it all. I can only imagine the grief.

A to Z Challenge: Wildwood School

Alzina Boone, widowed at a young age and with a family of four children to support, finds herself struggling to be a teacher at school, and a mother at home. In the early days of Kansas settlement, life was not easy for anyone, much less a single parent. Her faith in a caring God, and sheer necessity kept her going when others might have given up. She was my great grandmother and these are her true stories.

1906

Another move. Alzie, still searching for a school for that term, was convinced to uproot the household and go to Iowa. The promised job there in Trenton, was not at all to her liking and they agreed to pay her way to Tabor, a nearby town, where she had friends. Stanley stayed in Eskridge, supporting the family with his newspaper job until he was sent for.

“We went, “not knowing whither we went” or what welcome awaited us. Another adventure of faith. But I was borne above any fear by a supernatural assurance that God had a place for us there, and I reasoned that each of us could earn at least our board somewhere.

We arrived at Tabor on a cold, snowy day when snow was about two feet deep. We found paths made to the Faith Home and were given a Christian welcome there. Friends we had known in Eskridge who now lived across a ten acre pasture from the Faith Home offered to rent to us two rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs.

Folks told me that the Wildwood School, three miles west of the Faith Home wanted a teacher, and Elder Weaver recommended me to them. They came into town to meet me and gave me their contract for the school, which was to begin the next Monday, at $35 a month for three months. A horse and buggy was loaned to me by a friend of the Faith Home. The Training Home offered to give Stanley a job in the printing office, no salary, but board and lodging, so I sent word for him to come, using his money for fare. I promised to give him money later to buy a camera which he had long wanted. Both of my boys disliked to leave one place for another.

That three month term of school was pleasant and I was engaged for the next year, eight months at the same salary. During the summer vacation I found work easily in the homes of Tabor and so did the girls. John got steady work on farms near town, and Stanley got work in the Tabor Beacon newspaper office at $5 per week. My mother wrote to me “you are eating your white bread now”. It was marvelous to all of us the way God had opened for us and prospered us. “They that trust in the Lord shall not be confounded.”

Along in July 1906 we rented a seven room house from the same man who loaned us the horse and buggy. That was a happy year. Fruit was plentiful and we secured enough to can more than 100 quarts, beside a lot of glasses of jelly, We gathered apples on shares, and had ten or twelve bushels of apples stored in the cellar – Jonathan, Winesap, and Grimes Golden. We had potatoes and pumpkin and vegetables also stored, enough for more than a year.

Ethel had become quite proficient in cooking and ventured on many a new recipe to our great delight in eating. Both girls were neat housekeepers and very careful with their clothes. They earned most of the money they used for clothes. Esther’s joy was almost unbounded when she could dress with “everything new that she wore” one Sunday. They did much of their own sewing too.

John kept the yard and garden clean and neat, and took care of the horse and chickens. He also kept the wood box filled. All this besides working by the day for neighbors on vacation, or in occasional jobs.

Stanley used his out-of-office hours either in camera work, or studying telegraphy or engineering, or in some kind of athletics. He was growing so tall and yet was so thin that he was ashamed of it, and exercised a great deal to develop more muscle. He had established a five mile run that he made two or three times a week in good weather. He was ambitious to become able to support the family without my having to teach school or work out so much. He liked telegraphy and corresponded with some schools about taking a course. “

A to Z Challenge: Very Tough Times

Alzina Boone, widowed at a young age and with a family of four children to support, finds herself struggling to be a teacher at school, and a mother at home. In the early days of Kansas settlement, life was not easy for anyone, much less a single parent. Her faith in a caring God, and sheer necessity kept her going when others might have given up. She was my great grandmother and these are her true stories.

1904 – 1905

Alzina moved the family 45 miles away to Eskridge for this fall term. Her brother-in-law, Ora, was trustee on the board of Eskridge Bible School and she contracted to teach there in return for $15 a month and room and board for herself and the four children. She was not always paid when it was due and things got tough.

“The trustees failed to pay me the $15 agreed upon, and the matron of Faith Home objected to my discipline of her twelve year old daughter and tried to get the trustees to dismiss me. Two trustees stood for me, so the matron and her daughter left about the middle of the year. I had become inspired with the vision that more than half of the supporters of the Eskridge Bible School had for the future of the school, and I decided I would stay with the work as long as I had evidence of God’s approval and of these good people. I had the work of the Faith Home to take care of after the matron left. There were four children beside my four, all near the same age as mine. In addition to this was my work as teacher of four grades.

Alzina (far right) and a group of her students.

There were times when we didn’t know where we would get anything for the next meal. It was truly an adventure of faith for me, but I had felt that God wanted me there, and would see me through. So I didn’t complain to my parents, or to Ora, my brother-in-law, though he was a trustee, but was having his own tests and persecutions and adventures of faith, of which we may write later.

The trustees sent a basket of bread to us each Tuesday, and my cow gave two gallons or more of milk each day, and pasture was provided by friends. The closest test was one day when, at noon, we had eaten the last boat of bread or any kind of food in the house. I told the children about it and said that we would meet in the dining room right after school to pray as did the orphans in the London Orphan’s Home, of which much had been read and told in the Faith Home Circle.

At 4 o’ clock, after all pupils had gone home, I put away my papers and closed my desk to go home. As I passed through the door from my room to the hallway, Mrs. Cody, who had seemed to join in opposing me, was coming down the steps, and she handed me a 25 cent piece, saying “The Lord told me to give this to you.” So I was happy to tell the children to thank the Lord for answering before we even called.

I bought a sack of cornmeal and we had mush and milk for the evening and the morning meal. And the basket of bread came before noon next day. I cannot say that God would have one teacher bear such a load of responsibility and faith with so little cooperation, but I am glad for this experience which proved that God honors those who dare to sacrifice for his cause, and trust his promises.

In the spring when school was out, we rented a four room cottage in the northeast part of Eskridge at four dollars a month, where we lived six months or more.

As Stanley had learned to set type in the office of “The Old Paths”, founded by Ora as organ of the Eskridge Bible School, he applied and secured a job at the Eskridge newspaper office at $5 a week, ten hours a day for six days a week. While Stanley had a job, it seemed best that we should stay at this place until something else opened. Thus the three other children could be kept in the Bible School. I was not invited to teach there.

John raised some garden and chickens, and took good care of the cow, and by little jobs here and there, he usually had some money in his pockets. It seemed almost magical and we laughed gaily about his always finding money to his surprise in his pockets.”