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Shorty Peak Lookout: Cabin in the Clouds

What a weekend we had at Shorty Peak Lookout! Standing in solitude atop Shorty Peak in the Cabinet mountains of far northern Idaho, this primitive cabin is a special treat for those who have the gumption to reach it.img_20180925_140722

To begin, I’d like to stress that fire lookouts are a wonderful getaway, but are EXTREMELY hard to book. Six weeks after the booking window opened I was only able to reserve a mid-week stay at the tail end of the season – in fact, we were the last reservation of the year and were on our way out of the lookout when the Forest Service lockup crew arrived. So if you are planning on booking a lookout in 2019, be sure to be online at midnight on January 1st to get the days you want at the location you want!

That being said, it was an adventure as unforgettable as they come.

20180924_215700Day 1 – It began to rain as we suited up to hit the trail. Before we hit the quarter mile mark we had to stop three times and take refuge beneath the massive pines that stand tall and proud alongside the trail. They made for dry shelter while we waited for the worst of the storm to pass. After that it continued to sprinkle all the way to the lookout – and when I say ALL the way, I mean it in the nicest way possible. While the trek is relatively short at only 2.5 miles, it is a moderate one, and a long-winded journey with fully-loaded packs. Our stay would cover the better part of four days, so me with my 35lb pack and my husband with his 37lb pack, took almost 2 hours to reach the top. Although I do have asthma and require frequent stops to recover my breathing rate I still feel like we pushed through at a pretty good pace. Even hiking unburdened it takes over an hour to reach the top – but more on that later.

DSC00305-01We reached the antique cabin by about 4pm, and while we brought two half-full bladders of water for the hike it wasn’t nearly enough to get us through the night, so we dumped our packs and headed back down the hill to the “spring” to pump water. I use that term loosely because while there was relatively fresh water to be had – barely more than a puddle – we were lucky it was there at all. Another hiker told us that some years it is completely dry, and while the USFS web page does mention either to A.) pack in your water or B.) bring equipment to purify, it does NOT in any way state that there’s a possibility of no water supply. That being said, I strongly suggest you make this determination prior to departure to avoid a hike back to the trail head to find another water source and haul 4 gallons of water back up to the peak.

By the time that was all said and done we were swiftly approaching the first sunset of our trip, shrouded unfortunately by thick, ominous-looking clouds rolling in from the west. We quickly changed out of our sopping wet clothes before retiring for what would be a minimally restful night.

On a side note, when Aaron attempted to hang a clothesline for our damp clothes he learned the hard way that there was a map hanging from the ceiling on a piece of painted particle board. Upon stretching the line tight it unlatched the map which swing down with incredible force and struck him straight between the eyes. He wrote a warning on the map but he suggested I mention it here just in case – it did leave a nice shiner and a pretty good ache on his forehead.IMG_20180924_113238

I snapped some pictures of the storm breaking just before dusk which was a surreal thing to watch. You could see the rain coming down in sheets starting half a mile a way, then creeping steadily toward the cabin with what seemed like alarming speed for weather. I’m sure the improved visibility made this seem more abrupt than it really was.

20180924_215449Luckily there wasn’t any thunder or lightning, so we didn’t have to get out of bed in the middle of the freezing night to stand on the glass-bottomed chairs that inhabit the cabin in case of a storm. It was a cold and windy night but we stayed relatively warm bundled up together in a double sleeping bag, and Cookie settled into her kids’ mummy bag nicely.

Day 2 – We awoke to the wonderful warmth of sunshine on our faces on the morning of the second day, and we probably would have done some exploring had our shoes dried out at all. After the rainy hike in our feet were swimming in their socks, and although we laid them out to dry overnight, none of the moisture had left them in the freezing temperatures. Aaron built a fire in one of the pits below the cabin in an effort to dry them out, and after a day of hard work, we came away with dry shoes and some toasted socks! Luckily he had a few pairs to spare.IMG_20180924_163354

Spending the day tied to the cabin (there was no way I was going hiking around in socks or bare feet in that weather – can you say frostbite?) gave me a great opportunity to photograph the interior of the lookout and get some fantastic photos of the panoramic views we came for. I had made the decision to leave my Canon at home this trip because with a four-day pack, our longest backpacking trip to date, I knew I’d need to cut ounces wherever I could, and given the quality of my cell phone camera and my Sony ActionCam, I decided the weight wasn’t worth the reward. Regardless I managed to capture some breathtaking shots with my Google Pixel phone camera and my ActionCam, a Sony product similar to a GoPro, although a much better product in my humble opinion.

 

The day indoors also allowed for me to lay out and photograph everything I like to take backpacking, which I will discuss in a later post. I am very particular about what I pack and I’d like to offer an in-depth explanation for other backpackers who have struggled with the ever-changing luxury-to-necessity ratio that plagued me as a novice packer.

20180924_214547The latter part of the day became overcast once more, and after some light showers we were able to enjoy not just one vibrant rainbow, but two! I managed to capture a panoramic shot of one before it faded into twilight and we retreated from the biting wind into the cabin for dinner and card games. That evening was slightly warmer on this night than the first, undoubtedly due to the sunshine that graced the tar roof of the lookout during the day. An overcast but colorful sunset closed out a relaxing day spent at the cabin in the clouds.PANO_20180925_185343

Day 3 – After breakfast and some knitting we set out for our only excursion away from the lookout – a hike back to the trailhead, over to Red Top Mountain Trail to find West Fork Cabin, a seasonal hunting cabin maintained by the Forest Service and open for public use.

The hike to the cabin was very relaxing compared to the hike up to the lookout, so it made for a nice, peaceful walk. We stopped to play in the creek before greeting the occupants of the cabin, a group of hunters, joined by a single traveler on vacation from city life on the East Coast.

I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the cabin so I’ve borrowed one from the Forest Service website.11_west_fork_cabin_1

The day was relatively uneventful until the hike back to the truck. On the return trip from West Fork we ran into a black bear! Luckily Cookie barking scared it off, but it was a close call nonetheless. We barely saw the tail end of it before it sprinted down the mountain, leaving us startled and wielding our bear spray. Surprisingly enough that was the only major wildlife we saw on the entire trip! It seemed like the entire area was devoid of any indigenous wildlife. I say that because there was a large number of cattle roaming the national Forest, but these obviously were working visitors.

After making it safely back to the truck we headed up Shorty Peak once more for our last night of relaxation at the lookout. This was the best sunset of the entire trip and it was absolutely breathtaking. It dawned upon me that I could take a video of the whole sunset, which was only about 30 minutes worth of film, and speed it up into a neat fast-motion video.

It also made for some fantastic pictures, the below one of my personal favorites.20180925_212020

It was this night that we decided to make a fire and try to roast marshmallows, but due to the high wind at that elevation the heat quickly blew off the fire and hardly made for a relaxing night. We were both bundled up next to the fire and were still cold!

Soon after our dessert the wind began to blow snow flurries at our faces, with no sign of letting up. We took the hint and headed inside.

IMG_20180924_122746Day 4 – Again we awoke to the sun shining but the last morning spent at the lookout was a somber one. I put our entry into the logbook, one of my favorite parts of staying at lookouts. I always love to read the stories of guests who come to the same place on vacation or as a tradition, returning year after year. We drug our feet at the prospect of leaving, stretching breakfast out as long as we could before packing up and tidying the cabin. One of the things I love most about my husband is that be likes to fix and improve things. He used a sharpie to label many of the more obscure items at the lookout, as well as tightening a screw or bolt here and there. I organized the pamphlets and games and swept before we locked her up, just in time for the Forest Service board-up crew to arrive for end-of-season closeout. We were the last guests to stay at Shorty Peak for the 2018 season!

The hike out was much less strenuous with most of our food and water used up, but was a good workout anyway. Hiking downhill with a pack is always hard on the thighs and calves! It was a beautiful day to hit the trail for the pack out, sunny and clear and with the wind at a comfortable bellow.DSC00295-01

I am torn on whether or not I would return to Shorty Peak. On one hand, the experience was unforgettable. We had a wonderful time and made some great memories this trip. But given the number of lookouts in Idaho, I think I’ll be trying a few others before I consider returning here. Here’s why:

The wind was so cold. I think even in summer it would make the nights too brisk for comfort. And I’m not sure I’d want to pack up there in summer because there aren’t any bodies of water close to this lookout for swimming. We always like to be able to swim if we backpack in the hotter months. Aside from the chill, it made it difficult to have a fire.

There wasn’t a ton of stuff to do. Once you reach the lookout, that’s pretty much it. There aren’t any major hikes to be taken from the lookout, which for the day-hike kinda people (like us), requires hiking back down to the truck to take a day trip, which makes it almost not worth it. If you plan on staying put for a few days to relax, this is a great trip for you. Those who have children or who are high activity/adventure-seekers, find a lookout that’s on a major trail system. This is not the place for you!

There was next to no wildlife. Aside from some chipmunks and a pair of grouse, there wasn’t as much as a songbird as far as the eye could see – and that’s for miles! We like to spot mammals and birds as well as fish when we can find them, so this was disappointing.

It was a tough trek. We don’t normally attempt difficult hikes with fully loaded packs, and this being our most extended trip to date, I think if I was to return here I would take a shorter trip to lessen the load on our backs. Even the trip down was a fair workout.

All in all, Shorty Peak was a rewarding experience like no other. I’m so glad to have taken my husband here for his first lookout experience. it definitely did not disappoint!42576528_2161021243943236_1965424768916127744_o

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Triangle Lake

Although crowded during the 4th of July weekend, Triangle Lake is a family favorite in my neck of the woods. An easy hike with lots of campsites makes a great weekend getaway for you, the kids and the dogs!

Located in the Caribou Wilderness within Lassen National Forest, Triangle Lake is just 2 hours east of Redding, CA. The trailhead is well-marked and the path is usually well-maintained, and being just shy of 3 miles long, makes it great for kids or first-time backpackers. As a teenager with severe asthma this trip was not only attainable as a novice packer but incredibly rewarding. Ten years later this was mine and my husband’s first backpacking trip together with family as well as Cookie’s first extended camping trip, and needless to say great fun was had by all!

While there are fish in this lake, they are shy and sly, so after spending the first day fishing with no reward he decided to spend a more productive day building a log raft (from downfall, of course) and a stone jetty at which to dock it. The maiden voyage was one of success and much joy. I wonder who has been able to enjoy it since we’ve left!

 

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Tangle Blue Lake

Possibly my favorite backpacking destination so far, Tangle Blue is a secret treasure hidden in the Trinity Alps Wilderness of Northern California. But this breathtaking mountain lake can’t be taken freely – it has to be earned with blood, sweat, and possibly tears.

First of all, I’d like to mention that the dirt road to the trailhead is BARELY MARKED! If we hadn’t had the exact GPS location of the road pinned on my phone, I doubt we would have found it given the lack of cell service in the area. The only indication that the service road leads to anything is a laminated 8.5×11″ piece of paper with the trail name faintly printed on it and stuck to a tree. It’s on the outside (left) side of a right-hand curve. I hope this helps anyone reading this prior to venturing to the lake!

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Anyhow – the “moderate” hike (as rated by AllTrails, my go-to trail app) is a strenuous one with a full pack on a hot summer day. It begins on a dry, rocky dirt road that crosses over a trestle bridge and continues for the first few miles before any good treecover or running water are reached (read: bring water, sunblock and a hat!). From there it’s beautiful forest and flowered pastures with excruciating steep trail legs in between. The latter come in short bursts but they are leg-killers!

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Once you finally reach Tangle Blue you have your pick of campsites around the shore. Our pick was a site on the far side from the trail, backing up to the east edge of the granite bowl that the lake is situated in. Once you have successfully refueled, tanked up on water, and set up camp (impromptu hammock nap optional) you’re ready for one of the most relaxing, tranquil stays of your backpacking career.

The lake itself is gorgeous, crystal clear, and delightfully refreshing. To my husband’s delight, it boasts its fair share of trout – perfect for roasting over the campfire when Mountain House starts to get old. We spent most of our trip swimming, sunning ourselves on the massive boulders littered along the shoreline, and reading from the comfort of our hammocks.

For those of you who want to venture away from the serenity of the lake there are multiple other day hikes to be taken in the surrounding area. Our jaunt of choice, although there was not a trail leading to our destination, was to the top of Scotty’s Peak on the very edge of the aforementioned granite bowl. The hike was essentially an extended scramble up the granite mountainside but the bird’s-eye view was absolutely worth the 3,000ft hand-over-foot elevation gain.

As far as wildlife goes we saw next to none. Aside from the fish my hubby caught we had a very large toad venture into our camp, and that was it! I think there’s enough foot traffic to keep large mammals away during the summer months. Although it was memorial day weekend we only saw two other groups of people, and they were pretty respectful of other campers.

So if you’re ever in the Trinity Lake neck of the woods and you’re looking for a healthy hike with great reward, Tangle Blue will always be my #1 recommendation!

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Politics in the Media

In today’s world, the terms liberal and entertainment should be considered synonymous.

Read the full article here:

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/04/09/hollywoods-blatant-discrimination-no-conservatives-nor-christians-need-apply.html

With the cancellation of popular shows like Last Man Standing conservative viewers are quickly becoming a large factor in recent cord-cutting statistics. I personally am acquainted with half a dozen families who have canceled their satellite service due to liberal media, exclusive advertising, and lack of Christian or conservative content. My recent exposure to this widespread issue sparked an interesting train of thought for me: what are the cold hard facts regarding politics in the media today?

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#adventuresinmarriage

If you follow me on Instagram, #adventuresinmarriage is a hashtag you’ll see me use often. Aaron and I are constantly going on adventures, trying new things, and navigating life in general not just as a couple, but as best friends and family members. I mention this because while we were plant shopping over the weekend at Lowe’s Home Improvement, I had an intriguing conversation with the young man who rang up our purchase. He had previously addressed me as “miss” when he found me loitering near the register and offered his assistance; and when I informed him that I was just waiting for my husband so we could check out, he seemed a bit surprised. I assumed he had misjudged my age (just trying to be polite) which is a fairly common occurrence. He himself looked in his late teens/early twenties. But while he was scanning our various flowering plants he asked me some questions that, upon reflection, are quite amusing to me.

“If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you?” He said this with particular inflection on the are.

“Twenty-six,” I replied.

“And you’re already married?” He had an astonished look on his face. “Shouldn’t you be out having fun and living your life?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. This isn’t the first time I’ve been subjected to this line of questioning and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I was barely 21 when I met my husband and was 23 when we were married.

“I’m having more fun with my husband than I ever did when I was young and single,” I explained. I eagerly tried to impress this upon him, despite his obvious skepticism. “We get to have fun and try new things and live happily ever after, like built-in BFF’s. What could be better than that?”

He immediately assumed that there had been some ulterior motive behind our partnership.

“Do you have a baby together?”

“We didn’t have to get married because I was pregnant, if that’s what you’re asking,” I said, a little more defensively than I had intended. The cashier started to backpedal in a confused panic.

“No, no, that’s not what I meant – I was just wondering if…” and I interrupted him before he felt any guiltier about what he’d implied.

“We’re planning on having kids, just not yet. We just moved here and we’re still settling in.” Then I tried to wrap up the topic on a positive note. “Getting married was the best decision of my life. I’m happier every day knowing that I have a partner now and for the rest of my days. Real, true love is liberating, not limiting.”

And with that, Aaron rejoined us and the conversation dropped off. But even after we left and were driving home I couldn’t shake my disappointment in the popular opinion that marriage or conventional family practices are something to be ashamed of. It’s a phenomenon I’ve encountered multiple times this year on social media and frankly, it’s pretty disheartening to think that the upcoming generation doesn’t think of traditional values as respectable or attainable.

Less recently I took part in a conversation (read: roast) about a related subject on Instagram. A woman had posted a picture of herself putting up her ring finger like she was flipping the bird, and with it a long, venomous caption chastising a financial institution for printing her marital status on her debit card. What the six-inch-long caption boiled down to was that she was pissed that her bank had printed “Mrs.” before her name on her debit card. Granted, I’ve never seen this put into practice in the US (she was from Britain, I believe – there’s no way for me to confirm this because she has since blocked me on Instagram) but even if it had happened to me, i wouldn’t have given it a second thought. I am, in fact, the “Mrs.” to my “Mr.”, a fact that I am immensely proud of.

Apparently not all women wear their titles as a badge of honor, as I do.

Hundreds of estrogen-fueled rants about gender inequality and discriminatory labels flooded into the comments. Dozens of women raged that as wives, we shouldn’t have to sport a title so degrading as “Mrs.” as if we are “property of our husbands.” Statements such as “Marriage doesn’t define me, I’m still my own person” surfaced along with testimonials of women retaining their maiden names because “marriage doesn’t change who I am.” Although these are all opinions, and everyone is entitled to one, I couldn’t disagree with their statements more.

Marriage HAS changed me, but for the better; I am more complete and content than I ever was on my own. I AM defined by my spouse, as he is defined by me – we are partners in this life, and prefer to live it side by side, working as a team, instead of independently (and apparently disdainfully.) And I find it disappointing and distasteful for these women to whip themselves into a patriarchy-bashing riot which accomplished nothing but unreasonably encouraged animosity towards their spouses and the male gender as a whole. Being only one of a handful of people who were brave enough to disagree with the feminist harpies, and after being bullied, threatened, and ridiculed for my differing beliefs, I closed with this statement:

“I hope none of your husbands read this post. How awful would that be for them to see what you all have said about the ones you vowed to love and to cherish? Shame on you.”

Take it or leave it, girls, because when it comes right down to it, my hubby comes first – and so should yours.

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Almost Heaven

My husband and I have both been working full time (plus overtime) as well as traveling to central Idaho on the weekends to help my parents renovate their second home, so in lieu of a normal update I’d like to share a few photos of our adventures where the land meets the sky.

The house is situated on 10 oblong acres above the Clearwater river in an area that residents are proud to call “almost heaven,” and the expansive views, tranquil silence and 360-degree mile-long views are a testament to its title.

Aaron and I have really enjoyed spending our weekends here with my parents. One of the only downsides of our relocation to Idaho is that we’re further away from family than ever before, so the opportunity to work, share meals, and visit with them again has been more than welcome.

 

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Easter Bunnies and Bulldogs

Aaron and I spent Easter in Washington with his family and visiting his grandmother. It’s the first trip we’ve taken since moving to Idaho and boy, was it a long weekend. We left after work on Friday night, and we collapsed into bed when we finally arrived in White Salmon after the 6 & 1/2 hour trip. To top off a restless night I awoke Saturday morning to the dog whining at the back door. Cookie is not a very vocal animal, and she never makes any noise when she wants or needs to go outside (we had to purchase “doggie bells” to hang on the door for this reason) so my intrigue outweighed my annoyance at the early hour.

Another thing about Cookie that everyone knows is that she is a lover. She adores people, especially children, and absolutely loves other animals – dogs, cats, cows and horses alike. So when I found her sitting in front of the sliding glass door whining to be let out, I couldn’t help but smile at the reason. There on Grandma’s porch sat a statue of an English bulldog complete with collar, name tag, and classic canine scowl. Apparently Cookie had mistaken it for a real dog and was literally begging to go outside so she could play with it!

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After I let her out onto the porch she quickly realized that the statue wasn’t a real puppy, and with a look on her face that could have been disappointment (or just my own anthropomorphic interpretation) she wandered off to explore the rest of the yard. Oh, the life of a dog!

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Valentine’s Day 2018

Being our first wedding anniversary that Aaron hasn’t been working out of town as well as our first holiday as residents of Idaho, I knew I wanted this Valentine’s Day to be special. While we visited Coeur d’Alene over the New Year we unfortunately missed the opportunity to take the famed Eagle Cruise, a birdwatching cruise hosted by CDA Resort during the winter migration of Bald Eagles through Northern Idaho. But the resort didn’t let me down this time!IMG_20180214_214144256.jpgIMG_20180214_214102491.jpgIMG_20180214_213954038.jpg

We boarded a double-decker ferry at the Resort docks, were seated at a table for two, clothed in white and set with champagne glasses, and patiently waited for our voyage to begin. The decor, the drinks, the food, and even the lighting was perfectly romantic! And running only $50 a person, a three-course dinner with complimentary toast aboard a ferry boat on the beautiful lake was an experience worth paying for. We enjoyed a good quality buffet-style meal and subsequently enjoyed our glasses of bubbly on deck, admiring the view from the top level and marveling at the engines through viewing windows on the bottom level. The staff was even kind enough to snap a photo of us on the bow of the “Kootenai” as she gracefully glided back to port.

Alas, I couldn’t let the night get away without a good story! As we took the photo together standing at the front of the boat, what you can’t see is the giant mountain of hard-packed snow that we’re standing on! We walk on snow all day long now that we live in Idaho, but what I didn’t think about while we were traipsing around the freezing deck was that my high heels had felt pads on the soles, which promptly froze solid after stepping off of Glacier Mountain to return to the heated dining room.

While I thought I’d wiped my shoes thoroughly on the door mat, we quickly discovered I was oh so very wrong. The second my feet hit the polished wood floor of the main hall I went into an instant (and incredibly unrefined) moonwalk across the entryway, As I slid from toe to toe for about ten feet I heard the whole room suck in their breath and wait for me to fall – but my loving and ever-attentive husband grasped my elbow and held me steady until we made it to our table, where I was able to pick the ice off the bottom of my shoes as I reveled in the safety and security of my bottom in my chair!

I also managed to make three dozen cake truffles and took them to work. Needless to say they were gone before the day was over!

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A very happy Valentine’s Day indeed.

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We Made It!

After many car troubles, potty breaks, and general FUBAR’s, we have finally made it to our new home! I start work Monday and Aaron is set to begin his new job at a moment’s notice. I’m sure the next few months will be nothing but hard work (unpacking, settling in, etc.) but I am so glad to be out of California it’s unreal! Idaho is affordable, quiet, friendly, and absolutely gorgeous. As I’m writing this I’m propped against the kitchen counter watching the midnight snow falling on the quiet neighborhood street. Over the top of our neighbors’ houses I can see what would appear to be a greenbelt but it in fact is national forest that stretches all the way to Montana. Such beauty and tranquility has me absolutely buzzing with excitement at what adventures our new home state will hold for us!

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Idaho: The Abridged Version

Aaron and I are relocating from northern California to the great state of Idaho. We’re not sure where exactly yet, but we know we no longer wish to reside in Redding, or anywhere else in California. After everything we’ve been subjected to in this state (skyrocketing crime, a broken penal system, financial hardship, among other things) we’ve decided there is no reason not to relocate now, when we don’t have anything preventing us from doing so. Because we are leaving my entire family behind, it was an incredibly hard decision to make, but we feel it’s what is best for us and our future as a couple and future family.

That being said, we could not have had more fun in the Gem State. Boise was quirky and hip; from there we traveled through forest after forest, only stopping for good food and the occasional excursion to stretch our legs. We left pins in Riggins, Lewiston, Lake Cascade, and St. Maries before finally driving up the east lide of Lake Coeur d’Alene, our predicted landing spot. We spend almost a week in the “City on the Lake,” met with a wonderfully warm community, boundless opportunities for recreation, a thriving job market, and affordable living costs. This is exactly why we came here, we decided. This is what we were looking for and it’s what we found easily throughout most of the state, although CDA was our definite favorite town, not in the least for its resemblance to Lake Tahoe, a magical and meaningful place for my husband and I.

So we’ve returned to Redding with a renewed thrill for what the future holds for us, and an overwhelming sense of wanderlust. We cannot wait to get out of Commie-fornia and begin this new chapter in our lives. The next step is to take another trip upstate to secure housing, and then it’s all moving from there!