Saturday, June 29, 2013

Blog Tour a Success! Thanks!

Thanks to everyone who shared in my very first blog tour!  And massive thanks to Elana Johnson, the magnificent, who organized it all!  167 entries!  Woohoo!

The winners have all been notified of their prizes. They all seem thrilled (blushing--with gratitude).

And I have one more review to share...

It's by D.Ann from

Here's a snippet...go check it out for yourself!

I haven’t had so much fun while reading a book in a long while. My Life As A Lumberjack was hilarious from the very beginning. I really couldn’t picture Benz surviving in the wild, and believe me, there are times when it’s a close call, but Olds really draws you into her world. I loved how the Marmots were the most cohesive group, and Benz’s hilarious interactions with the Forest Service staff were the icing on the cake.... 

... From almost falling of a cliff to causing a riot with many, many more antics along the way, My Life as a Lumberjack is a lighthearted, hilarious read. Pick it up at your own peril; it will slowly sinks its hooks in and won’t let you go until the last page! If you are looking for a fun, lighthearted read this is the book for you.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Tetons - Colter Bay - The Way to Stay

Let’s face it. A 10 night. 3100 mile road trip. The price of gas alone put these now weary travelers on a budget.

We looked for the cheapest way (other than tenting) to stay in the Tetons. We discovered something COOL!!!!
In Colter Bay Village (I’ll explain who he was in a minute) they have a thing call Tent-Cabins. And they’re fun! Two solid sides with canvas around and overhead. Four bunks, a wood-burning stove to stave off the chill, a picnic table, a fire ring and…wait for it…a bear box! Yep, we’re in bear country!
Colter Bay named after John Colter part of the…come on, join in…the Corps of Discovery or Lewis and Clark group if you’re more comfortable remembering that, is part of Jackson Lake.
History moment: John Colter was the fastest runner in the Corps of Discovery (they used to have footraces as entertainment—ooh! That sounds so entertaining! Personally, I love my computer and mini dvd player.) He went along as a hunter and on the return trip, when Lewis split his Corps into three groups, John Colter was captured by some Blackfeet Indians. They stripped him and for fun before killing him, said if he could outrun them, he could live. They were in a field of prickly pear cactuses (or is it cacti?). Barefoot and buck naked, he took off. Lucky he’d had plenty of practice racing. It took three days but he did it, he outran them. That bit of thrill became known as Colter’s Run.
Well, after the Corps made it near home, John Colter left the group to return to the West and the rest…is mostly forgotten history. But not by this historian!
He became a well-known mountain man and trapper and having lived and “discovered” Jackson Lake area, Colter Bay is named for him.
Colter Bay has a boat dock, swimming, hiking, restaurants, clean flush restrooms, easy access to Yellowstone, a nice gift shop, cabins, tent cabins and horseback riding. It’s a wonderful “resort” in miniature with the rustic-ness of a wilderness National Park.
We loved it!

National Parks & the Animals -- In the Tetons

Mt. Moran - Tetons National Park
You know traveling through and to these National Parks, there’s a piece of me that keeps making me think of Jurassic Park.  Everywhere there’s an anticipation and pressure to see “them”. The animals.

Everywhere we went people would compare “sightings”. A grizzly! Black Bear (not necessarily black btw). Bison. Moose. Elk. Deer. Marmot. A herd of (fill in the blank). We saw a mated pair of bald eagles (actually the second time in my life I’ve had the chance for that—the other? You guessed it—my Lewis and Clark experience canoeing on the Missouri—see why Driven2Teach is so life changing?) and their nest and something poking its head out. I’m going to guess it was an eaglet. J These guys were on the shores of Jackson Lake and only accessible by boat.
It was great. But let’s hope that these animals can continue to survive. We were told about the Elk Refuge outside of Jackson Hole. It was created because the elk were starving one winter. Within a nose’s sniff of hay and no one helped. “It was a national disgrace,” said our boat guide.
But now there is this National Elk Refuge which even has webcams and according to him, during the winter, now that the elk know of this place and gather there, it’s a sight to behold. And you don’t even have to leave your home to see them. Here’s the link:
But take my advice. Go. Go, go, go! Go and visit our national treasures.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Great Falls - Worth the trip

Great Falls 2010 June
You really need to see the Great Falls.

Not this year, there isn’t much water.

To get there, you have to find the directions for Ryan Dam. (I didn’t know this so our search was a bit crazy).

Great Falls 2013 June
The falls that Lewis and Clark saw were around 90 feet and Lewis with his basic math was able to triangulate the height within 1 ¾ feet correctly.

Mathematicians of the world rejoice.

Historians and storytellers stand in awe.

Finding the Great Falls proved to the Corps of Discovery they were on the right river (see the Decision Point blog post to understand).

Then those poor tired men had to portage a couple of tons of equipment 20 miles around the falls. It took them 20 days!


My favorite part of that story is that Clark made them dance at night to keep their spirits up.

Imagine how popular he was with that order.
If you want to know what Lewis was off doing while the others were hefting all that equipment through the tall-grassed, rolling-hilled, rattlesnake-loving prairie--email me and I'll tell you.

But…going out to the tiny island to look at the falls (and the dam) is worth the trip.

The bridge wobbles. Can only have six people on it. And the warning??? 

You decide.

Decision Point. The Marias River, a moment that Changed History

One thing that’s cool about teaching History is that I get to talk about BIG stuff. Things that change the world. Columbus. The election of Lincoln. Moon Landing.  Stuff like that.

But…there are things that changed the world, that many people don’t know about.

Lewis and Clark’s decision at the Marias River is one of those moments.

The Corps of Discovery—all thirty something of them—never think it was two dudes and a chick (as I tell my students—which is what I thought most of my life because no one ever taught me differently)—had struggled their way Upstream (that’s a discussion for another day) toward the Great Falls.

Now they had maps. Sort of. Made by the natives. Stories told by the natives. Information about possible friendly tribes ahead.

Why was that important?

They needed help. Horses if possible and certainly food and supplies to trade for. (That too is a comment for another day).

So they were looking for the Great Falls on the river knowing that not too far beyond were peoples who might help them.

Then…shriek of horror. The river split!

They’d had no warning. All the other rivers they’d known a bit about. But this was not mentioned in any story, map or anything.

What were they to do?

If they went the wrong way, they might not reach those tribes before winter. They might not find the waterway across the mountains to the sea. (Well, THAT didn’t exist so oh well…of course they don’t know that yet.)

They scouted the area for 10 days going up and down both rivers hoping to figure out which way was correct.

Interestingly, everyone said go right. Lewis alone, said left. And as proof of his leadership, despite everyone’s feeling they should go right, they went left.

He was correct in his choice.

Here’s the significance:

IF Lewis and Clark had gone up the Marias instead of following the Missouri…it is most likely they would have died. Violent tribes lived that direction and would not have helped them and lost, they might have starved.

Significance: BECAUSE the Corps survived and brought back grand tales of open, fertile land, beaver friendly natives, navigable rivers—they opened the West decades sooner. And with the expansion of the new United States, many people and their ideals of freedom would spread. Bringing with it the conflict of slavery. Destroying the native lifestyles—eventually. Calling for the land hungry and oppressed of the world (think Europe) to come and find a new life.

All at that moment. All on that ground. All for the world to see and only a few to visit.

My Life As a Lumberjack Contest Almost Over...but I'm sooo excited!

I'm thrilled with the response my very first blog tour has had! 

To celebrate and push just a little harder, I'm sweetening the prize pot!

If we reach 150 entries in the remaining two days. I will award one lucky reader their choice of one my critique partner's books. They may choose one of Elana Johnson's Possession Series OR one of Ali Cross's Desolation Series!

AND...for every 50 entries up to 250 I will throw in another book (reader's choice!) Yep, really.  I wouldn't have come this far without the help of the these wonderful ladies and what the heck...let's PARTY!!!!

And for those already entered? I've added an option to earn more entries!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Moose, Two Boats and an EASY Hike

From the Many Glaciers Hotel—a Swiss Chalet from the pages of history, you can take a brief and I mean brief, Swiftcurrent Lake is not very big, boat ride across the lake…take a peek at the beaver lodge and then stop at the other side. There you hop off the boat. Hike over the hill to Josephine Lake. Take another boat miraculously kept there and go across it. On the other side, you can hike contentedly if you’d like back to the hotel about 3 miles or up into the mountains, or wait a few minutes and sail back the way you came.

Our highlight? A young male moose. Munching his way along the edge of Josephine Lake. We watched him eat. Swim and then climb out.

It must be exhausting to be a moose and drag that massive body back on land.

The employees of this park are warm, friendly, clean cut, personable, knowledgeable and what a great summer job.

Pompey's Pillar

Pompey’s Pillar

In 2010 I was given a life changing opportunity. A special group—Driven2Teach, begun by Larry H. Miller, who has since passed away, created a program to get history teachers out of the classroom and into the history they teach.

Williamsburg in 2012 (for those who follow my blog) was one experience I had.

In 2010, I studied the Corps of Discovery—Lewis and Clark for those who don’t recognize it. Since then I have found my life intertwined with their experiences. I have visited many places they went, played their music, read, thought, and talked about them.

This trip took me to Pompey’s Pillar (or Pompey’s Tower). How could I resist seeing it?

Pomp was Sacagawea’s son born on the journey (Jean Baptiste Charboneau is his real name). Clark adored the baby and on the return trip stopping outside of Great Falls found a tall sandstone pillar. Climbed it. Carved his name in it. And named it for the now two year old.

I tell my students they should never deface anything—unless they are doing something soooo amazing that it will change the world. And that’s what William Clark and his group of men were doing. Changing everything.

His signature is still there. Still visible. (Under glass). And is one of the only physical pieces of evidence of the Corps of Discovery’s journey.

Yep. It was cool.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rain, Going to the Sun and... a Marmot -- Glacier National Park

How can the glaciers of Glacier National Park be disappearing? What will they call it when the glaciers are gone? The “Former” Glaciers?
But that’ what they say. The glaciers will gone in 17 years. 17! That’s like tomorrow! Certainly in planet years that’s like a blink and drip! They’re gone. Weird!
I had heard that Going to the Sun Road was one of the most beautiful places on earth. Well, with or without those melting glaciers, it certainly is. Only we saw it with no sun—which I think made it even more beautiful.
It rained all our stay in GNP (Glacier National Park not Gross National Product). And the drive on Going to the Sun took us into avalanche danger, unstable snow mass areas, through raging waterfalls (it got some of the bugs off) and above and through the clouds. INCREDIBLE!
Jagged peaks. Winding roads. Roaring waterfalls. Wind carved snow still waiting to melt.

Ever dreamed of walking into a fairy realm and reaching from our world to it? That was our day.
The highlight however was a momentary (at least it was supposed to be momentary) stop at an overlook to St. Mary’s lake. When a marmot. Yes, really, Benz fans…(if you don’t know understand read “My Life As a Lumberjack or How I Fell for the Wrong Guy(s) and you will)… a marmot. Decided to crawl under our van. He sat for quite some time. Thank heavens the rain had stopped for the moment and started licking the bugs – at least that what it looked like, may he was eating the brake tubing – from the car.

We became celebrities as people stopped to gape and take a thousand pictures.
“Start your car!”
“Honk your horn!”

“Toss a rock!”

Were the suggestions. People kissed, clucked, called and chirped at the creature. Like he cared? Not.

We weren’t in a hurry so we just laughed at the stupid tourists and worked on trying to get a great shot of him. And when he was done. We hopped in the car and went on our way. Marmotted and happy.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Glacier National Park -- The Cabins

We have discovered a bit of heaven.
The cabins that are part of the Swiftcurrent Inn should be classified as a national treasure. Built in the 1950’s the two room cabins are quaint and comfortable. Our had a double bed (in the very small other room) and a LARGE room with a table and benches, a chair, heater, sink big enough to wash dishes, plenty of hooks, electricity, parking within feet of the door and showers (that take tokens—looking forward to that) and clean flush restrooms not far away.
Best of all? We’re in Glacier National Forest. All around are birds singing, the smell of nature, pine, aspen and majestic cliffs stretching skyward.
We should have stayed here a week.

It rained last night, quite heavily and I’m thrilled we were indoors.

Glacier National Park - WOW!!!!

We saw a grizzly!  A real live—I don’t think very old because it didn’t have the distinctive hump—grizzly!  Okay, I can go home now.
Getting to Glacier National Park’s Many Glaciers entrance isn’t easy. It’s almost as if they want it to be difficult so too many people don’t come. However—go! Go and emote. Go and see this incredible world created so carefully.
Go and cross your fingers that you get to see a grizzly. King of the forest.
Can I be a park ranger when I grow up?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Mt. Rushmore—not disappointed—and Washington’s Tears

I was warned before going to Mt. Rushmore not to be disappointed.
They’re not all that big…I was told.

You drive and drive and then…that’s it?

Who are they kidding?

Getting there was worth the trip. The crazy winding road was like riding on a roller coaster with its steep TIGHT turns. The highway would split through the trees, like an asphalt track. The single width car tunnels where you had to take turns with people coming the other direction where pulse jumping. And…besides, where else can you pull through a tunnel just to find four great men’s faces hanging on a mountain before you?
Yep. It was cool!
The mountain was bigger than I thought. Maybe because I’d been warned. Tall, majestic, impressive and still puzzling even after hearing the story.

I think Rushmore is more about a belief in the greatest of America than anything.
The reason I say that is because many people are offended by it. They superimpose photos of Native leaders…like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse above or below the faces of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. As if to say that those native men were greater than the “European-based” white leaders.

I won’t argue about the unkindness of the white development of this nation. I teach it every day—I know the details. But I believe that the leaders dreamed of a place where people could live in peace. Where families could grow and believe in whatever they wanted. Where prosperity could be had for those who would work hard. And that is what Mt. Rushmore symbolizes.
Our experience was amazing. A terrible storm came in while we were there. The weather service warned that softball size hail was imminent. So, the Rangers kept us indoors for quite a while. The hail did not come there but to a small town not far away.
Clouds came down over the faces and when they lifted—it looked as though Washington was crying.
So, for the future that Washington did not manage to find, for all the heartache that came…he knows the truth and there is the regret. Washington’s tears.

Wise People and Land Preservation

How lucky we are that wise people decided to set aside areas to remain as safe, mostly undeveloped places for future generations. We drove up a hill in Custer State Park in South Dakota on to a wide open plain and found a herd of wild burros. We’d been told the burros had been tamed and most definitely they had. People were out petting them and feeding them. The herd patiently allowed pictures, pushed their noses into hands, pockets, car windows seeking more goodies.

One baby lay on the ground and didn’t move as people swarmed it. My hope is that it was okay.

And thanks to overhearing someone talking about the Buffaloes “being out,” we leaped into our car and sped away—without a map (never a very smart idea) on the search for the herd.

Little could we know when we found three mothers and their adorable babies (no, we weren’t stupid enough to get out and pet them) that as they worked their way up the road and over the hill, on the other side of that same hill…was the herd.

Millions of bison—same thing as buffaloes—used to roam the prairie. These giant beasts were nearly hunted to extinction by fools with too fancy a technology—the latest rifles and a desire for their bones to be ground up into china. Yep…bone china.

I was told by people wise enough that I absolutely believe them, that the bison got down to two small herds of less than 20 animals a piece. Millions to less than 40. Thankfully, some wise people, just like those who created State and National parks/preserves, through careful breeding there are now wild herds like those in Yellowstone and Custer who are travelling the prairie once more. And that all the bison in America today could have their DNA traced back to those very two remaining herds.

Watching them move—the massive oldest male, standing back ready to protect the mamas and their babies—the young males who hung back until the last minute (those errant teenagers testing their boundaries)—and the pairs of females and babies moving their way across the grassy valley toward the trees, was magical.

So thank you wise people for sharing the past with us—and those future, future generations. May wise people always exist to fight for such places.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Peace in the Ponderosas

Wind whispers through Ponderosa Pines sounding like a rivers rushing through a

canyon. With birds singing in the background, an infrequent neigh of a distant horse and few bugs to bother, I think I’ve found paradise. The Custer Area of South Dakota is frequently visited because of Mt. Rushmore. That’s why we came. What we’ve found in our little campground (Welikit—and we do) is a nice peaceful break from the hubbub of tourists.

We rode in the mountains this morning. Cool, beautiful and feeling quite remote despite the KOA from which we left which sounded like a theme park with all the happily screeching children. (A perfect place btw for those with many little people to entertain.) A whitetail doe watched us unconcerned. A mother cow bellowed her fears at us and sturdy horses carried back into the National Forest Land.

I was content.

Oh, and for "My Life As a Lumberjack" fans…note that we made Omelets…Benz style. In a Baggie. Small was quite fascinated with the process. So will you be, if you try it.

Recipe for Getting Lumberjacked!

Wondering what others are saying about "My Life As a Lumberjack Or How I Fell for the Wrong Guy(s)?

Check out what Shaunda Wenger, cookbook and YA author extraordinaire thinks.  AND...enjoy a special treat!

A recipe straight from the pages of the book!

Monday, June 17, 2013

The Corps of Discovery Lives Again Or Preparing for Vacations...How Did I Get Into This?

Funny how much work a vacation takes!

Brainstorming for ideas--where, when, how and that nasty four letter word: cost.

Reservations, maps (paper ones NOT strictly electronic--ask "Large" my oldest--about the necessity of not just relying on those), menus, packing, planning, re-planning,

But to have "Small" beg me to take her on a Mother/Daughter trip--like last year's three day trip to Yellowstone--was one of those things I couldn't turn down. Despite the fact that it has since turned into a ten day monster driving marathon.

And...the historian in me couldn't resist some historical stops on the way.

However, I'm looking forward to the moment we pull out and in our little "space capsule" the van, we will be gassed, watered, snacked, music-ed, movied and packed and from that point until we return we can do it all on our time.

Assuming, that is...I survive to that point.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Always YA at Heart: Blog Tour: My Life as Lumberjack by Sara Olds - G...

Many thanks to Always YA at Heart for giving me my very first guest author blog spot. 

Give it a looksee and learn a bit more about Benz and mountains of Utah!

Always YA at Heart: Blog Tour: My Life as Lumberjack by Sara Olds - G...: My Life as a Lumberjack by Sara V. Olds Published:   May 30, 2013 Publisher:  Astraea Press Me, Mercedes Bennion? Working for the US...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

My Life as a Lumberjack Contest!

I'm having a contest for FIVE lucky readers. Had an itch to read about Benz and her friends? Well, here's your chance to get an ebook copy for free!

I'm moving my blog from my site and as you can tell, I'm a bit short of followers.  So...why not give my world a whirl!

Like my page or Tweet your way into earning some entries. Tell your friends and start a trend.

A summer job with the US Forest Service never seemed that awesome until seventeen-year-old “Benz” gets a load of her hunky boss—and each ranger is more handsome than the last. Fresh mountain air and hard work are no match for “adventure”-prone Benz as she enjoys one summer crush after another—until she finds real love a lot closer to home than she expected.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Humbling Moments - VFW Utah Teacher of the Year

Today, I visited the Veterans of Foreign Wars state convention in Ogden, Utah.  (The VFW). These are men and women who sacrificed for our freedom and our country. They are a service organization who strive to increase patriotism and teach citizenship to our youth.

I went because they honored me as their middle school level Teacher of the Year.

First, I've got to say they take their awards seriously! A received a beautiful plaque and two certificates. One for me and one for my school.  The message on it touched my heart:

"Teachers change our society one day, one class lesson one student at a time. There's no more important job. And there's no one who does the role better...Thank you."

Second, as I stood in front of these hardworking, caring people, I felt humbled. Humbled that they would recognize me and my efforts. When what I wanted to do, was simply applaud them. They are the ones who deserve the recognition. They are the ones who have not given up the fight for freedom. They are the ones that know that the lessons of responsibility and courage and honor must be passed on to the next generations.

So, thank you and you.