Adventure of the Week- Royal Gorge

adventure of the week, colorado, Travel

My Girl Scouts are growing up! This means my step-daughter is also growing up! Ahhhh!

She is 11 now, which, I know it’s cliche, sounds impossible.

Yet I am embracing this and making the most out of every adventure with my Lilybug.

Since miss Lilly starts middle school this coming school year, she is moving from Junior to Cadettes in Girl Scouts. To celebrate all transitions, the Girl Scouts of Colorado (GSCO) held a bridging ceremony and party.

The GSCO hosts he event at the largest bridge in Colorado and the highest bridge in North America (elevation), the Royal Gorge.

Starting in the late 1800s, visitors began coming to the gorge for sightseeing and picnics. This turned into a railway running along the bottom (and the railroad wars of Colorado). In the 1920s the park was turned into a proper tourist attraction. From there it has had rides and facelifts added, with 90% of the park being rebuilt in 2014 after a fire in 2013.

I had not personally visited the park in almost 20 years so it was almost like visiting with new eyes!

I loved her new buildings, new play park, and exciting new rides that they offered. My mother in law even did their zip lines across the gorge!

All around the kids enjoyed being a part of a big group outing to celebrate an achievement, as well as shenanigans on the play park, bridge, and gondola.

Enjoy this preview of the Gondola ride!


If you’re in Southern Colorado, it’s worth the stop!

Happy Travels!

DNA Travels – Part IV

History, musings, Travel

Part I, II, III

Here is my conclusion, and its not a concise one.

Let me start here: I have white privilege. White privilege in that the color of my skin, my ethnic background, does not cause me to deal with the prejudices and racism that plagues many people. My ancestors, the ones I know of, did not face the horrors of slavery and have not been considered and treated as lesser than because of their skin and ethnicity.

My family was maybe poor, half of them dealt with the oppression and patriarchy of being female. But we have a level of white privilege that many people never have. It’s not just in my day to day life, but when it comes to genealogy, there is a glaring problem.

While I can spit in a tube and end up with detailed results on where my family LIKELY came from, many people that are not entirely white get very different results. The reasons are just as much about continued oppression as they are about poverty and a lack of consideration. It is also a part of a story where many people of color have a lack of records and stories of their past. Because no one was keeping track, and because a lot of people were striped of their identity in the name of progress.

So, when a person of Asian or African ancestry spits in a tube, they will not get the wide range of information that I do. This is because there are holes in the record, Africa is at best lumped into regions. Asia looks much the same. So a region the same size of Europe has nothing but a large colored blob to represent its entire region and a massively diverse group of people.

The other issue is that this information is so new, and so ever-changing that it has a lot of holes in it. Holes that are slowly being filled with each new DNA test, each new set of samples, new surveys, and as the science improves.

In a recent Terry Gross Fresh Air interview with journalist Alex Wagner, I learned a lot about the problems of the tests for people looking beyond a Euro-centric story. As mentioned in the interview Alex Wagner talked to DNA scientists and many of them said these tests are like looking into a crystal ball. You just see yourself and the fantasy of smoke and mirrors. It’s maybe not that fantastical, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

So my conclusion is that my own experience, and the experience of others is that there are surprising chapters in one’s DNA story. Sometimes those chapters may need to be rewritten and edited when new evidence is found. This is the way science, history, journalism, and all other information-based research should be understood and shared. An asterisk with “to be amended” in the footnotes.

Therefore, I have landed as I think these tests are mostly good, reminders that we are all more interconnected than we imagine. We are all cousins of cousins of cousins. We have mysterious relatives with deep stories and backgrounds that are as significant from one to another. Maybe that is the true story.

It’s less of what percentage point and what country someone came from, and more of the individuals that happened to connect to create a person living in an age where we can find these pieces, easily, on an electronic box that is also connected to the world.

Happy Travels!


DNA Travels – Part III

History, musings, Travel

Part I and Part II

23andMe is distinct in that it goes beyond looking at DNA markers for ancestry, but it also finds information on genetic aspects such as risk for disease.

23andMe also works to look at DNA markers from historical DNA data as well as current aspects. However, this doesn’t mean that it doesn’t lack for problems in its own collection of information. 23andMe still relies on information that it has, and the growing collection of it. However, as it still lacks for information on many parts of the world, there are gaps in the story.

It also means I got additional and surprising results from this test.

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Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 9.06.30 AMFor me this test’s surprise is the drop of West African and Sub-Saharan African, and the higher amount of Native American. While in part II we learned about my native relative, this new data is surprising, but I have a theory….well two.

My first theory is that we had a relative in the 1700 to 1800s that was from somewhere like Spain or Portugal, which means that they were close to Moorish rule of the area. Meaning they were also part middle eastern and African.

My other theory is that someone was a slave, and forced into a relationship with someone in my family. This part is a horrific reality of colonialism, the slave trade, and other facts of  the white American past. I am proud of having a part of this in my existence, I am appalled at the potential reasons that lead to this.

I hope to have more insight on this when I get my parents to take the DNA tests, to see which branch this has more of a match to. My suspicion is my father’s side as they have a little more getting around, and a longer time in the United States over my mother’s side. Yet, I may be surprised even further. Stay tuned!

For a historical understanding of this 23andMe offers a timeline understanding of where what relative came into the picture. Which also adds some scientific backup to my paper trail.

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However, and here is the caveat, the information and details have different levels of certainty available for the test. When I adjust from 50% certainty to 90% certainty then I see where there are holes in the research. The reasons of which are that these details are ever changing and more and more data will increase our understanding of these elements.

More on this in Part IV


DNA Travels – Part II

family, geek, History, musings, Travel

Part I

For my own tests I started in 2016.

First off was Ancestry. As I had done my genealogy research on there I figured it would be beneficial to have DNA data to match with the paper trail available in Ancestry.

Ancestry pulls much of its data in comparison to the gene pool of today. Meaning it takes DNA samples from around the world and matches it based on location, genetic markers, etc. giving the user a general idea of where their DNA matches in the world.

This is a little murky in that DNA changed in parts of the works due to the mixing of cultures and people resulting in more diverse peoples. So DNA markers change from year to year, decade to decade etc. You get the idea.

However, in Ancestries defense they are always updating their methods and means in which they track DNA and how it connect to the larger world. So this will continue to reveal more information for users new and old.

Here are the results:

As expected I’m mostly European.

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The surprise was this Iberian peninsula, Eastern Europe, and Middle East. All of which I had no information on in the paper trail.

The other surprise was this little less than 1% Native American. Being that family had pushed the Native Princess narrative for so long I was surprised that it wasn’t more.

Then I dug deeper into the family tree and found a relative in the 1700s that was Ita Ha Ha (Barton Married Name) she married one of my white relatives Joab Barton, common for the time, but an exciting find none the less. She was Shawnee, born and living in Missouri in the 1700s. For that time, Missouri and the surrounding areas she lived such as Maryland, West Virginia etc. would have been something of a wild frontier, a borderland to much less familiar Western United States. This was a time before Lewis and Clarke, and the Louisiana Purchase. She passed away in Virginia in 1807, around 40 years of age.

Some records (maybe myths) indicate her marriage to a white man, Joab, was intwined with him being adopted into the Shawnee tribe after a conflict with his parents. I am not convinced that find is the best information for this type of thing. However, these incidents were common. Conflicts between settlers and native populations were not uncommon, and not unjustified. I might be pretty pissed if someone just waltzed in laying claim to my life too. However, a lot of people also died from diseases, injuries, and plain human violence among each other. Therefore, it’s not uncommon for native peoples to adopt orphan children, raising them, caring for them, nurturing them; the same that any of us would do.

The princess narrative came in as a way to inflate egos and ideas around white identity and intermarrying with native peoples. I’ll address this in a different blog.

When I took the 23andMe test around a year later the results were slightly different.

Part III


DNA Travels – Part I

History, musings, Travel

I love this commercial from 23 and Me. The one where this gorgeous young woman traverses the world to find her roots, all found in a 23 and Me kit. She’s freckled, all smiles, grooves and moves. She has a new identity from the test, and it’s something profound and beautiful.

From the dozens of people I know that have taken the 23 test or similar most of them have this idealized reaction. Okay maybe there is less dancing in the streets and swimming in Fjords, but they are happy. They’re happy because they find out pieces of themselves that were lost and now found, thread to the tapestry of them.

My own thread had unexpected backgrounds. I went into both my Ancestry and 23andMe tests pretty aware of what the results would be. Mostly British Isles and sprinklings of Northern Europe. I had a paper trail to Scotland and England by some 17th century puritans and 16th century Stuarts (yes those famous ones). I had paper trails to German peasants and Swedish great-great grandmothers.

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I’ve always loved going to places my family supposedly came from.

Then there were gaps in the story. Gaps that had no paper trail. Gaps that were legends with no proof. More than a few family members told me we were part Native American (Cherokee Princess type of story(more on this another time)), and others touted we were CLOSELY related to the Royal Family of England (also questionable). Yet when I began digging the records showed some falsities, the DNA had no reason to lie (but more on this later).

The problem with records and paper trails is that they are not sure 100% truth. The problem is that means we don’t have solid evidence of familial bonds, and paper trails are the best we’re blessed with. They’re the best historical evidence we have, and even DNA is only solid for about 500 years.

Why are records not 100% ? Well people are people and sometimes lies are told. Sometimes women slept with other people than their husbands, sometimes children were adopted and it was never recorded. Sometimes kids die and then another child shares the same name, but sometimes these dates get jumbled. Sometimes records are digitized incorrectly. Sometimes the records are illegible. Sometimes records are totally falsified. Then many times records are totally destroyed, we’re never created, or have gross mistakes.

For instance, if you look at even one family’s census records over 50 years (taken every ten years) you will see changes in the information. In 1860 someone’s age may be 25, but in 1870 it may be 32. Or a birth place may change from Germany to Alabama. These are examples of sometimes lies that were told to protect the person being interviewed, because of social stigmas, or sometimes people forgot information. The older I get the harder it is to remember my age and those around me, if it weren’t for Facebook I think I would be in big trouble.

So when I went into my DNA tests I assumed I would get some surprises and even inconsistencies between the two.

More in Part II


Adventure of the Week- Hometown Exploration

adventure of the week, colorado, Travel, United States

I recently went home to my “hometown” which is a bit of a complicated explanation, because only one town is not what I consider my hometown.

Let me explain…

I grew up here, which is just about the furthest away from somewhere as nowhere can get in Colorado.

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and I went to high school here

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But technically we lived in the almost invisible town of Florissant, which has the population of about 110 people and half the distance away. click here

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Yet if we wanted to go do anything past 7:00 p.m. we had to go here.


So when I say hometown, I mean everything from Manitou Springs to my home and some places beyond.

My first job out of high school was in Manitou Springs. I met my future husband in Woodland Park. I lived my first 19 years of life in Florissant. There are a lot of memories, there are shenanigans, there are stories, all of it is good and bad and somewhere in between.

I have hard memories of friends that have passed away. I have happy memories of first kisses and falling in love. There are mixed bags of fights and friendships. Missed chances and messy feelings. All around, visiting is a weird experience.

Teller county is a gorgeous part of the world and if you plan a trip to the area, I highly recommend taking some time to take in the local beauty.

Pikes Peak is just a hop skip and jump off the main road shown in the maps. It is a large, dominating power at 14,115 feet, and one can drive all the way to the top, which feels like looking out on the world.

Nearby, and at the house I grew up in, there are boulders, smaller mountains, massive hills and hiking trails and other endless natural wonders. Here are a few shots of my journey.

Wedding photographs coming next week!

Happy Travels!

Thrifting For the Traveler

musings, Travel

I love thrift store shopping. I love the fact that you can save money. I love the fact that it reduces waste. I love the fact that I can give money to a charity I care about. I love the fact that when I can’t use something, I can pass it onto something else.

When it comes to travel gear, there is no exception in that one can find great deals for great prices. Some of my favorite pieces have come from a second hand store, and they soon become favorite travel companions as I journey through the world.

My go-to travel and overnight bag is a leather duffel bag that I bought for about $10. Today’s score was a brand-new, tags attached, strap still wrapped up, American Tourister duffle bag for $4.50. I am always on the search for the next great jacket, or pair of pants, or a variety of other items that make journeys on the roll easier.

Here are my tips for scoring great finds at a great price.

Hint: this works for garage sales, eBay searches, rummage sales, and other hunts.

  1. Check the price
    • See if you are okay with the price, there is no point to continue if you don’t see the price as acceptable.
    • At many thrift stores, Saturday is the best day as extra tags are half-priced (double score).
  2. Check the brand
    • Like many things, certain brands can say a lot about the product. If it’s a branded product, I try to stick to reliable favorites and companies that have a long reputation. Brands that are common for places like Target and Walmart may be okay, but it’s unlikely that you will get the years of wear and love out of products from there.
  3. Check the value
    • If it’s a newer item, or an older version of a newer item, check on Amazon or another retailer to see the value. This may determine if the price is accurate or not.
  4. Check for tears, stains, and other blemishes.
    • Some of these are easily fixed, but some tears and issues can be a death sentence to a bag. I bought a beautiful Very Bradley duffle bag and when I got it home I noticed the handle had a terrible tear. While I fixed it, and it’s a great bag for light weight items, it is probably something I would not buy again. Some stains will come out in a wash, while others will be a permanent problem. Just decide if it’s worth it or not.
  5. Check the lining
    • sometimes linings can be completely damaged or destroyed, which may be why it was donated in the first place. Just do a thorough check in the pockets and corners for death-sentence problems.
  6. Zip the zips
    • Zippers are often one of the first things to break or wear out, so often when a zip goes, someone gets rid of the bag or jackets. Make sure everything is in working order before you purchase. If something is not too bad, and you have some sewing skills, then try replacing the zip with a new one.
  7. Measure wants and needs
    • While extra and new and shiny bags seem very exciting, it’s important to remember that one probably doesn’t need 10 duffel bags. I like to shop, but I also try to limit everything I buy because it gets too much. Thus, I sometimes shop for friends and family that I know could use something. Sometimes I just turn down the cute LeSportSac and move on.
  8. Make it fun
    • If you find thrifting to be a chore, or shopping in general, then don’t try it. You’ll end up frustrated and worn out. Check out Amazon deals and keep an eye on sales instead
    • If you like shopping, then it’s fun to go every couple of weeks and goof around.

Happy Travels!

BONUS TIP: some stores in the world offer some amazing second hand options. More on that for another day, but definitely check out local thrift stores when you are on the road!


A Shoutout to “Moms”

family, musings

I imagine at least a few of you are “moms” that read this blog. By “moms” in parenthesis I mean several things. I mean those that have physically given birth, I mean those that raised or helped raise a child, I mean those that take in animals needing a home, I mean those that are role models and loving and supportive members of their community and the children that live there.

This extends to family friends that gave me guidance. This extends to aunts that shared presents and hugs. This extends to cousins that opened their homes and shared wisdom. Being a “mom” is much more than the equipment and the birthing. It is the love, compassion, patience, knowledge, and joy shared with children.

Of course I thank my own mother, but in the sense of “it takes a village” I feel I have many “moms”. I have my grandma that lived in my own house and taught me many great things. I have aunts, great, great-great, and beyond that shared more wisdom than I can ever describe. Then there are adopted grandmas and aunts and other people I have brought into my family that have been like mothers, even if they are just a good shoulder to cry on.

Being a “mom” at any capacity is not easy, but please know that it’s appreciated.

Our culture puts a lot of emphasis on these “DAY” holidays, but I know it can be a painful reminder to those women, and men, that have lost or have not been able to achieve certain cultural norms. Please know that your value is so much more than the norm, and your participation has been a world of difference to others.

Some of you are teachers, ones that inspired learning and growth (not just in the school sense).

Some of you are comedians that have brought much needed laughter to those in need.

Some of you are makers that brought gifts and food when it was desperately needed.

All of you were kind, and all of you were powerful, all of you are wonderful!

So “Happy Mother’s Day” however you want to take it, just know that this woman appreciates all of you.


Wild Animal Sanctuary-Adventure of the week

adventure of the week, colorado, Colorado Events, Environment, Travel

Maybe you are seeing a theme, why yes I do love animals!

This particular week involves Lions and Tigers and Bears…. oh my!


And wolves and lynx and bobcat and…. you get the idea.


Last weekend I took my Girl Scout troop to the Wild Animal sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colorado.

Keenesburg is about an hour south of Fort Collins, and around 40 minutes North of Denver. Yet it’s a world away from the traffic, noise, and hustle and bustle that is living in town.


Keenesburg is really just a small prairie village that happens to have one of Colorado’s best kept secrets. The only reason it got its claim to fame is due to it being so rural and having extra land for sale and to spare.

Enter the wild animal sanctuary. The sanctuary started as a private project of love by Pat Craig who began rescuing animals that were up for euthanasia or that were being mistreated. Rescues came from around the country from zoos, owners that misjudged their ability to own a predator, and circuses. Before they knew it, they had a lot more critters and needed more resources.

When I was a kid no one could visit without getting special permission. Now the sanctuary welcomes around 200,000 visitors a year! Guests not only visit the animals, they also learn about the rehabilitation process for these often abused and neglected creatures.

The sanctuary specializes in carnivores and larger predators as they are often the hardest to care for. What makes their experience unique is solely the amount of space the animals have to live, yell, have friends, play, eat, and be happy in their captive lives.

In addition to giving the cats their space and a life of comfort, the sanctuary boasts the longest raised walkway in the world. Almost like a boardwalk, a raised platform goes on for over a mile giving guests the chance to view the animals without infringing on their daily lives.

As presented at the sanctuary, the critters don’t feel threatened when people are above them in such a matter. This also improves the visibility for visitors as it gives guests an intimate view without driving animals to discomfort or hiding.

Perhaps my personal favorite aspect was getting to hear the animals call and run like they would naturally. The lions growled and talked to each other. The wolves howled. The bobcats rolled in the grass. Every animal seemed contented and happy, even if his or her lives had not always been that way.

What was sad about the sanctuary is that it has to exist. It’s that more tigers are captive in Texas than in the wild. And that humans are the culprit. While I think baby tigers are adorable there is considerable ignorance. To think baby Baloo won’t turn into a giant bear in a few years. Animals also belong to their instincts. Look at even a house cat, less domesticated than dogs they can terrorize their homes and they’re between 8-20lbs imagine one at 300! Point being, animals deserve not to be mistreated over the selfish whims of people.


Some of the animals had visible scars, yes scars, from their years of mistreatment while other showed signs of neglect. One obese tiger that as going through rehabilitation had been over fed and under exercised that it was shocking to see them in extra weight. I had never thought an obese tiger was a reality, but lo and behold.


WAS3WAS1500Yet, trying to move past the sad, is the hope; that with patience, love, education, and action we can end these tragedies. The Wild Animal Sanctuary is changing minds and the world and I hope, if in the neighborhood, you will take the time to be humbled by animals being their natural, wonderful selves.

Happy Travels!