Tag Archives: Bridger Wilderness

The old catch up routine … and turning a two cent opinion into a quarter’s worth


Last week’s letter played catch up on usual and sundry matters after a couple of writing-free weeks.

It’s the letter I’ll write in the next half hour that has me steeling myself.

Ellen and Reid are free to make up their own minds on issues of conscience but that doesn’t mean their old man can’t weigh in with his two cents worth. And this past weekend in Charlottesville – and the president’s lack of pointed condemnation of white supremacists – is a case in point. I’m boiling over it. 

It could be that the two cents will turn into a quarter’s worth.


August 7, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Really good to be home from the long jaunt to Wyoming. But as soon as I say that, sooner than later will come the itch to go back out the third full week in July ’18. Already planning on it. Tom was a good car guy; we split the driving and most of the expenses. He’s pretty low key on stuff like this but what I appreciated most was his attention to the planning details. He is just so organized whereas your old man is deficient in that category. The downer about this portion of the Bridger, the Elkhart Trailhead, was the volume of hikers. I’ve never seen so many people in the back country. People were everywhere, many of them armed, which left Tom, Vince and I to scratch our heads “Why?” At any rate, we didn’t do all the trails we planned on. One stream, Pole Creek, was really a wide, raging river and Tom was reluctant to navigate the 40 – 50 yard waist high ford since that kind of swift, icy cold water really isn’t for recovering heart patients. So we reverted to Plan B and hiked secondary trails which was fine enough. We saved about 20 miles in distance which was okay by me. The fishing was just awful. Not sure why (other than all the other anglers pressuring the fish); maybe it was high water and abundance of food. I suppose if we’d of gone higher/farther there might of been more fish.

But Tom and I got into some decent cutthroats on the Grey River which bisects the center of the Wyoming Range some 50 miles west of Pinedale along the Daniel-Alpine Cutoff which is really a long gravel road.

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Usually a Tenkara man, my friend Tom was uncanny with his casts on his first day with a real fly rod. He caught some nice fish in the Grey River, a largely unknown fishery in the Wyoming Range.

It is one hell of a lesser-known fishery, and Ellen, tell Tim it doesn’t see a ton of pressure and is every inch what the Hoback is. We pitched tents on a flat spot right next to the water and had a great time. But it is good to be home. (Reid, if you see Tom, ask about his run-in with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. It was a scream. I rode him hard about his ‘traffic violation.’)

Tom and Vince both schooled me on the Camino de Santiago and now the preparations for the walk are in full swing. In scarcely a month I’ll wing it to Barcelona, then catch a train to Pamplona where I’ll meet up with Jane and Dave. That will be so fun. A good way to get the thing started. Already, I’ve purchased new ultra-lightweight hiking shoes (as opposed to heavy boots), 50F sleeping bag, rain pants and rain jacket, a very lightweight umbrella, money belt, Osprey Stratos 36 pack, etc. Did a test pack last night and it looks like I’ll have plenty of room for everything. It should be about 12 – 14 lbs. when all is said and done. That’s really doable for 600 miles or whatever it is. I’ve made a pitch to some friends up in Berlin to crash for a few days but have yet to hear anything. I’ve made no plans for a return flight yet. I may bop up to France or dip down into Portugal. Not quite sure when I’ll return. I guess it depends on the Berlin response.

The PGA golf tournament is in Charlotte this week and I’ll have a houseful. My friends Christie and Doug will arrive tomorrow, and then a couple from Missouri will use me as an Airbnb for four nights beginning on Thursday. So I’ll make a few bucks in the deal. Actually, my last two Airbnb visitors have been great. But they comment about the lack of a TV so I suppose I’ll need to get AT&T Uverse cranked up (against my will). If there is a steady flow of guests, it will make it worthwhile. In some ways I feel like a cleaning service. I’ll be relegated to the couch while people are here. Plus, I’m smoking three pork shoulders for about 25-30 people on Friday night. It feels like I’m biting off more than I can chew but it occurred to me over the lonesome weekend that it feels better with people around than not.

I also got to watch over Marvel, a two year old Aussie, for my friends Andrea and Kurt. What a sweet dog.

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Marvel is on high alert for rogue squirrels in the greenbelt. He’s giving Marge a run for her money as the most obedient dog – ever.

There cannot be a more obedient dog in Charlotte. You say a command and he listens. Maybe better than you two did at a young age.

Love, Dad

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A slim month for letters … and severed bear heads


July was an odd month, letter-wise.

Only two single-pagers were mailed, owing to my trip to St. Paul to visit Ellen, Tim, Emma and Georgia followed by the annual trek to the Bridger Wilderness in Wyoming. When I get a chance to see Ellen and/or Reid, there isn’t always a letter mailed that particular week. (Note to potential hikers: another six night/seven day backpacking and fly fishing excursion to the Wind Rivers is slated for July 13 – 21, 2018 so set that in stone on your calendar. Feel free to send me a note with any questions.).

But today marks a return to the weekly letter routine. The writing process really isn’t a grind; it’s cathartic and is a joy. A lot of ground will be covered in one page: a recap of the Wyoming adventure, a glut of Airbnb guests (no more trysts that I’m aware of), preparations for the Camino de Santiago in scarcely (yikes!) a month, watching over Marvel the Super Dog, et al.

So there’s no letter to reprint this morning. But one will be written and mailed momentarily. Watch for it next week.

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My hiking buddy Tom Bohr and I enjoyed a cold PBR at our traditional stopover en route from Jackson to Pinedale: the venerable cowboy bar The Elkhorn in Bondurant, WY. It’s the same joint where untold hundreds of visitors have written snarky notes on $1 bills that they pin to the pine walls and boxcar ceiling. It’s also where, if you shoot a bear in season, you plop the severed head on the bar – and earn yourself a free hat.

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The sister act in St. Paul … now, it’s on to see Reid


I love my two little granddaughters, but holy cow, their energy level is off the charts. That’s as it should be. 

This week it’s on to another sort of trip. Part of the journey involves a chance to see Reid; the other part will be pure effort. If only I could tap into the girl’s energy reserves.


July 10, 2017

Ellen/Reid: The Uber driver just dropped me off at the door, and it is good to be home. Man, Ellen, I just don’t see how you and Tim do it. Those girls don’t slow down, even for a second. Let’s just say that Emma is on top of her game. Smart, active – and demanding. And Georgia is so sweet but she’s got her petulant little ‘I hear you but I’m not listening’ swagger going, too. But that’s probably how you want them to be rather than bending to your will every second. It means they’ve got little minds of their own and that’s a very good thing. That I usurped Emma’s room put another layer of hardship on your bedtime efforts to get those two down. They just play off each other before they finally get to sleep.

Tim is just a workaholic on that deck. It is going to be a work of art and it will be as solid as a rock. He’s saving you guys a ton of dough. There’s no question it will add a lot of value to the house. It will be like a two season room. When the weather is decent you will be living out there. I’m just sorry I wasn’t of more help on the thing but he just had that circular saw and the hand drill moving, moving, moving all the time. Maybe I’ll be able to see the finished product before long. No doubt you’ll post photos sooner than later.

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My son-in-law Tim was getting after it on building a new deck. He was a pure workhorse all weekend up in St. Paul.

It was sure hot when I stepped out of the airport. Just very humid and not at all Minnesota like. The temps were so pleasant and the humidity so low, relatively speaking, of course. Uber is the way to do things. Not sure why I was the last adult over age 30 to use Uber but now I’m hooked.

Adrienne’s wedding was just the icing on cake for the weekend. It was an unusual ceremony but so tasteful and just so much fun all the way around. It wasn’t’ stuffy or pretentious. Wonderful to see old friends from Des Moines. Everyone seems to be getting older and you can lump me in with that crowd. Yikes. It does put aging into a perspective. That location was perfect, although you can burn that video of us dancing, Ellen. Make sure it surfaces no where else.

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The Minnesota wedding of a daughter of a good friend let me catch up with good friends from Des Moines, such as the Dahlquists and Hemmingers.

Geez. As you said, Reid, ‘breaking it down’ was really more like ‘broken down.’ No way your old man has dance moves. No wonder the more senior crowd got off the dance floor and left it to the young set. That’s how it should be. It was great to see Afton there, too, and you guys were a good addition to the final attendance. I should send Bob a small check to offset the damages in additional wine consumption. What is known is a few of us really went after the G&Ts. I sure felt groggy Sunday morning. The lesson is you can’t mix wine, beer and gin.

The intern from Caldwell Presbyterian arrives here next Friday and will stay for a few days, even while I’m gone to the Bridger. That will give her some privacy and she can come and go as she pleases. I hope to get John and his wife over for a dinner sometime while she’s here. It may be that it will be delayed until August when I’m back from the mountains. We’ll see. As for the Airbnb part of things, the first caller went elsewhere, and I had to turn another inquiry away just today since the intern will already have the spare room. That’s too bad. At least there are some inquiries being made. It must mean the room is priced appropriately even if I think it’s a bit on the low side.

There were plans for a big BBQ party here next Sunday but I’m put those on hold until August while I zoom around trying to get ready for the big trip West. Reid, I hope to leave super early Monday morning and zip into Chicago in the late afternoon per usual. It appears I’ll stay with Tom for the night since we plan to get on the road very, very early and drive as far west as we can, maybe even to Laramie although thats a far poke. That would make for a short second day into Jackson. We need to pick up Vince in the early afternoon. Can’t wait to hit the road for the whole shebang. It’s what living is for.

Love, Dad

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Events gone by … and a record for 728 words


One of the drawbacks to posting letters after the kids receive them (rest assured that receiving a letter is not the same as reading it in a timely fashion) is that certain events will have already fallen by the wayside. This letter is chock full of several such examples. But that’s the price to be paid for giving Ellen and Reid first dibs on the letters.

If you notice more typos than usual, that can be pegged to the headlong rush to write and get last week’s letter in the mail before a dead sprint to the airport. And a record it was: 728 words in seven minutes, start to finish. So much for proofing and editing for errors.


July 5, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Reid, since it’s your birthday we won’t get in to how your mom and I gave you the nickname ‘Razzmatazz’ but trust me, you earned it. It really just seems like yesterday that you guys were running around 104th street and wolfing down the raspberries in the garden. It really does. But since this will find you a few days after the fact, I hope you had a good one, kid. And I’ll see you the week after next. You didn’t tell me what you wanted for your b-day so perhaps we can change something down in Chicago.

Ellen, I’m plopped on the couch waiting for a ride to the airport from my friends Andrea and Kurt. I’d really like both of you to meet them at some point since they are truly great people. Plus, they have fun attitudes and good kids. This letter has to be written faster than usual since they will be at the doorstep in short order. They had me over for a family dinner last night with Andrea’s sister and her family, and her parents. It was an honor to be there. But what a hoot that family is. Oh man, they know how to have fun – and how to poke each other in the ribs.

Got the ticket to Barcelona, one way, for $624. I paid an extra $40 for trip insurance, although I don’t know why there would be a reason to scrub the trip other than for something catastrophic. To be honest about it, I approach Spain with some trepidation, in part because I’ll be by myself and it’s wholly new ground to me to make such an adventure. But the guidebook guy strongly recommends that people make the trip solo although he approaches it from a more spiritualistic bend than the reasons I’m making the trip. But that could be a majority of the fun; finding out what you’re made of and if you have the gumption to see the mysterious and unknown through to the very end. It’s a great thing that Jane and Dave will join me on the first three critical days from St. Jean to Pamplona. That will get me off and running. Or at least off and walking. I’m not sure how the end of the trip will unfold so there is no return flight booked as of yet from Portugal. It may be that by that point I’ll be emboldened enough to head north into France or even up to England for a continued adventure. We’ll see. Since I pick up Tom in Chicago, Reid, for our trip to the Bridger, it will give me time to talk through the entire Camino scenario.

Spent a couple of fun days in the mountains with my friend Lynn and a new buddy, Bruce. Both are very good golfers and Bruce and I spared no expense in giving Lynn the needle, although our attempts at humor wore off toward the last day.

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Golf in the North Carolina mountains means lush courses – and temperatures 10 – 15 degrees cooler than hot, steamy Charlotte.

But Lynn has an incredible mountain house with a natural stream running alongside – and beneath portions – of the A-frame. It was just so cool to stay in his place. It reminded me that I have totally, completely squandered the North Carolina mountains. It’s been a lost opportunity.

I played golf for eight straight days and that was enough to cure me for a good long while. It’s just mentally exhausting to keep your head on straight on the course. Minnesota, and Wyoming, will be good for me in that regard. In fact, I can’t wait.

Reid, Jody bought an Orvis fly rod package and man, has he got the bug. He really does. He is chomping at the bit to give fly casting a chance, and we went over to a small lagoon where we caught some equally small brim on tiny flies. It was good for him to get that experience of real fish under his belt. He has a cabin in Canada on a river ( I would botch the name if I tried to spell it) where they have big Atlantic salmon. Now that would be a fish to catch (and release).

Okay. This is a record for a letter. Seven minutes from start to finish. Off to the printer, and then it goes into the mail. See you both very, very, very soon.

Love, Dad

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A travelogue from the couch …


I guess this is what retirees do. Hit the road. 

This must be – has to be – the first letter Ellen and Reid have ever received that deals exclusively with their old man’s travel. Maybe not the travel itself, but the looking forward to it. Now if only I was better at the planning …


June 12, 2017

Ellen/Reid: Tomorrow marks a drastic change for me in terms of fishing with Miss Emma in Charleston; I’ll finally overnight there to milk a second day out of the excursion. I booked a fleabag on the west end of Rte. 17 north of Bowens Island. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out since the down-and-back in one day routine just flat wore me out. Don’t ask why this tact has not been taken before. Beats the hell out of me. I’m cheap, I guess.

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Bowens Island is my escape route. Escape to the water. Miss Emma got a full taste of the brackish salt creeks last week, and she’ll get more of same this week, too.

There’s an added factor in that my friends Jill and Troy want some of my fish as an glitzy appetizer for a big, formal sit-down meal they plan to serve to 20 – 25 guests. They are both chefs as opposed to cooks so they’ll doll up whatever is caught and really make it delicious. So for once we will be a production fishing operation. It means we can spend way more time on the water on Day One rather than scoot out of town at 2 p.m. or so to beat the horrid Charleston traffic. So it’s exciting in a way.

Wyoming is really creeping up soon. This time next month everything might be in the pack. Got to get some new tires for the Camry for the Westward trip since there are nearly 48,000 miles on the car in barely 19 months. My trail meals have already been purchased from an outfit called Packitgourmet.com. The food is all dehydrated rather than freeze dried which takes, in my opinion, too much time to rehydrate. What I’ve seen from Packitgourmet.com is some really good stuff. Almost cuisine. Lunches will be the standard peanut butter and flour tortillas along with tuna in foil packs. Tom buys dried fruit at Trader Joe’s which is really good. Breakfasts will be equally standard; oatmeal with raisins and Starbucks instant coffee. The Tyvek hustled from a construction site has been trimmed to fit the one man tent (and the two person tent, too, Reid). That saves some weight and it compresses better than the plastic sheets. We’ll stay at the super-duper Four Winds in Jackson on the eve of the hike. Reid, Pinedale was nearly full. I had to scrounge for a motel. Must be a lot of roughnecks staying overnight. No way I want to spend another night in the car under a full moon like we did 11 or so years ago. What a memory that is.

Been paging through the Camino de Santiago guide, trying to wrap my arms around the whole idea of an enormous trip. It’s interesting that the author of the guide asks readers early in the book to consider why they would make the trip at all. Really a good question. He assumes, and treats readers thusly, that most make a pilgrimage rather than treat it like a hike or sporting event (my friends Tom and Vince and Richard who’ve all made the trip think it’s more of a walk than a hike). Certainly it’s not race walking or push every day for miles, miles, miles. As I look at the map of Spain – my sense of geography is just awful – my anticipated side trips to Madrid and Barcelona won’t happen. Both are just too far off the trail. In fact, I might book my initial flight in to Barcelona rather than an airport to St. Jean Pied de Port, France, the traditional starting point for the Camino. That way I can spend a day or two traipsing around Barcelona and then hop a bus toward Pamplona which is three days walk from St. Jean. Tom sent me his exacting and incredibly detailed (go figure, huh, Reid?) gear list and that is an enormous help. I’ve been bending Vince’s ear, too.

All this has me thinking about other adventures of this sort that might be made since we shouldn’t be afraid to live. It would be so fun to launch Miss Emma offshore to paddle the length of the Carolinas. It’d take some planning but what fun that would be. There isn’t much other international travel that trips my trigger. Reid, remember that guy we saw up in the Bridger who walked the Continental Divide Trail? Now that would be an extraordinary feat. I’d do that, too, but again, I’d need Tom’s sense of planning since such minute details tend to escape me. No surprise there. Sigh.

Love, Dad

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Maizie the wonder dog and a week of minutiae …


Ellen used to ride me like a rented mule on a dog; ‘get one, get one, get one.’ But with my schedule, fairness to the animal is a consideration. No dog deserves to be alone for extended periods.

But young – and ultra shy – Maizie is giving me some second thoughts.

The bulk of the week, however, was a matter of routine.


June 5, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s a cool, rainy morning and it tabled morning golf with my friend Garry; but in a way that’s a good thing. Nothing wrong with vegging with a cup of coffee and the newspaper. I’ll head to the Y in a bit to put in some more work to shed a few stubborn pounds (ugh) and up the preparations for the Bridger. It’ll be here before you know it.

It was sort of a vegging weekend. I bailed on Saturday and Sunday golf to spend time with Maizie, Sondra and Jody’s adorable little Aussie. She’s just the sweetest dog ever but is the shyest animal I’ve ever been around.

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Maizie was just an adorable houseguest for the weekend. If there was to be a dog in my house, it might well be an even-tempered Aussie.

You go to pet her and she flinches or ducks away. But once she warms up to you she becomes your shadow. I couldn’t go anywhere without her tailing me, even to the shower. And she was in-out, in-out the entire weekend. She made fast friends with the other dogs in the neighborhood. But I’d watch her again in a heartbeat.

My other houseguest for the week, Eva LaValle of Des Moines, left on Saturday for home. She was just a dear, and so appreciative of the housing. She did earn her raft guide certification at the Whitewater Center and now she’s on the prowl for a rafting gig where she can put her new-found skills to work. She might even return to Charlotte later this summer for a short term stint at the Center. I told her she’s welcome to stay here until she finds something more permanent. She was incredibly low maintenance. As in no maintenance.

Did play golf for a day on Friday up in the mountains with friends Lynn, Ted and Alice at a course called Olde Beau. It was a one of the prettiest blue-sky days you can imagine in the Carolinas. Of course, my game stunk up the course but that wasn’t of much concern. We just had a good time. Not sure why my iron game is in the tank but it is.

Tim drove me crazy with the pics of his latest smoked pork shoulder triumph. That guy can really bring it. He’s kind of thrown out the challenge flag and now it’s up to me to respond. Sounds like this could be another weekend to toss on the pork. He’s more of a methodical smoked meat disciplinarian than me. I put it on for 14 hours and that’s about the extent of the labor.

It was great to hear you and Liz got to spend time with Sondra and Jody, Reid. They are just great, great people. I wasn’t aware his son lived in Chicago so Jody got to double dip in a way. Those two don’t miss out on much fun. U2 and the Cubs – in a single weekend? While I’m watching the dog? I was up in Davidson last night for a dinner and wasn’t here when they retrieved Maizie. So there was no chance to ask if they went to Gibson’s for steak. But I’m really glad you had a chance to be with them.

Ellen, I’ll make flight plans today to get to St. Paul on Wednesday, July 5 for the Furstenau wedding.  I’ll rent a car this time since I’ll be all over the place. (Tell Tim to fire up that smoker.) And you guys should have a great time in California while Tim chases tarpon in Florida.

Reid, I’ll be in Chicago late on Monday, July 17. As of this writing Tom and I hit the road early on the 18th since we have to pick up Vince in Jackson on the 20th and it’s a solid two day drive. My plan is to take us through the Nebraska Sand Hills since Tom has never seen those natural wonders. What a walk it would be through those grand hills. In the long ago I dreamt of running through that part of the country but we know how that worked out.

And the Camino de Santiago guide book is getting something of a workout. I need to make my flight plans this week (and my plans in general since I’m a laggard on that aspect) since that adventure is getting closer, too. There’s so much to do for it. Tom has been there and I suspect much of our road time will be spent picking his brain on what to do and how to do it.

Love, Dad

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If only … if only … if only … and the prescience of paragraph 4


For those of you enlisted to a frenetic ‘search committee,’ if only this letter had arrived a day earlier rather than be read at 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon. If only.

It’s all about six benign sentences in paragraph four.

Think of the angst and anxiety and hand-wringing a simple call or text might have saved everyone. But my armchair after-the-fact analysis/critique will be saved for this week’s letter to Ellen and Reid you’ll read next week. Really, it will be an open letter of appreciation to the rest of you.


May 15, 2017

Ellen/Reid: It’s kind of weird to walk into the garage and not see the Harley. I’ve taken a second look several times, and when I pull the car in the garage, the subconscious takes over the steering wheel to pull the Camry a tad to the left so as to give clearance for the bike. It’s only when the car goes into ‘park’ that the realization is made that there’s no longer any reason to give the Road King leeway since there is no Road King. But I don’t miss it at all. There are no second doubts, no ‘yeah buts …’ – none of that. It’s gone, someone else is the proud new owner and that’s perfectly okay. It really is.

Miss Emma is atop the car and that was the real acid test for the surgery. It was awkward to lift it into position but I really didn’t feel anything other that some anxiety. I thought there was a faux-pinch in there but it hasn’t hurt since then. It’s been a four and a half weeks and the literature and the surgeon said return to full activity after four weeks. But I reserve the right to ask some of the Charleston Outdoor Adventures staff for a bit of muscle power tomorrow when the time comes to hoist her back atop the car. There shouldn’t be much of an issue on paddling since my legs are bent and my feet get some leverage against what amount to foot pegs inside the boat. I’m excited about again going down – and back – again although the weather is warming up in a hurry and that doesn’t spell much in the way of good fishing. I’ll view it as a shake down cruise of sorts. There won’t be any oysters this time around; that season is over and I’ll miss the back-and-forth banter with the black oystermen. I don’t know what they do for off-season jobs. Maybe work the shrimpers?

Ellen, you looked great in your cap and gown. It’s okay you didn’t go to the actual ceremony. In a way that’s sad, however, since going through the ritual seems to be falling by the wayside. I would have gone to yours too, Reid, if you’d wanted to go through it. It’s a nice recognition for all the work that you guys have put it. I do still grin at the thought that your ‘ceremony’ was last weekend and not this one.

I’m going to go hiking and camping with some new friends Wednesday through mid-day on Friday. I’m kind of excited about it. The Osprey is all packed and ready to go.

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The dehydrated meals for the Wilson Creek trek served as a metaphor for added food-for-thought: as in telling someone – anyone – when I head out of town on an extended excursion.

We’ll head to Wilson Creek and my fly rod is making the trip with me. Don’t know what’s catchable but one of the guys is supposed to be real knowledgeable about the fishing thereabouts. And Reid, there won’t be any infernal bear barrels.

Got invited to Adrienne Furstenau’s wedding the weekend of July 8 in Minneapolis. It’s an honor to be asked. It has me rethinking the plane flight. Scarcely nine days later I’ll pull back through the Midwest to pick up Tom and head west to the Bridger. What if … I drove up for the wedding, spent a few days in MSP, drove down to DSM for a couple of days, then headed east to Chi-Town for a few days before journeying West? I guess that would remove me from Charlotte for virtually the entire month of July and a few days into August. Ellen, are you guys going up to the lake that weekend of July 8 since the 4th falls during the week? That may figure into my plans so let me know ASAP.

The Spain trek is coming together. Ordered the guide book today and a new Osprey Kestrel pack. It’s about one-third smaller than what I tote into the Bridger so it should be a good option to carry just about everything I’d need without being too big and bulky. I’ve yet to pour over Tom’s gear list for the Camino but will do that in earnest when the guide book comes in. Now, I’ve got to get some sort of camera. Reid, any ideas? Nikon? Canon? Other?

Love, Dad

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