Mom, wife, computer geek, web designer, musician, board member, ski bum, bicyclist, camper, glamper, fishing woman, treasure hunter, bookkeeper, office wizard, blogger, vlogger, and Pampered Chef Independent Consultant, trekking through life in Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Summers are all too short in Jackson Hole, we try to cram as many activities as possible on the weekends until the snow flies and ski season get into gear. Whether playing music, glamping, fishing, treasure hunting, or skiing, I’m out doing something almost every weekend, all while squeezing in a little quick and creative cooking.
Winter of 2018 I won an awesome GoPro Hero 6 and swag from the GoPro people at the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort so I thought I would give YouTube a try. Think of my channel as a grab bag of family adventures and Wyoming lifestyle.
When ever chatting with friends and family about outdoor activities, and the subject of spelunking and exploring caves came up, I always said that’s not for me. I’m not all that claustrophobic but the idea of squeezing my body through a tight space in a dark cave gives me the eebie-jeebies. What if I get stuck? And panic? And no one is there to get me out? Flash flood? Cave in? Aliens? Nope, not for me… Forget it!
In 2015 we took a family vacation to South Dakota. While there we visited the Jewel Cave. The cave had an elevator, walkways, railings, and LIGHTS. I was a little nervous but there were not any tight spaces and as long as we kept moving and the guide kept talking I was good. On the outside of the Visitors Center was a block to crawl through demonstrating how tight some of the “off trail” paths were. Nope, not for me.
This January my husband and I visited Belize for the first time. We were told that a “Must-See” was the Actun Tunichil Muknal “ATM” Cave. The ATM Cave is a Mayan archaeological site near San Ignacio, Cayo District, that includes skeletons, ceramics, and stoneware. It sounded cool, my husband did the research and we booked the tour when we arrived at the hotel.
On the morning of the ATM Cave tour I woke to this notice that it was a POW day back home.
We were instructed to wear cloths we can hike, climb, and swim in. Including water shoes and a pair of socks. I wore a one piece swim suit and a pair of light weight cotton shorts, (next time I will pack some river shorts). For my shoes I wore my Keens and a pare of smart wool toe sock booties. I wear prescription glasses, and so did most of the others in our group, we needed to wear retainers on them so we would not loose them or drop them on an artifact. We were allowed to bring a day pack with dry cloths, snacks, and a camera but we had to leave it in the van at the trail head. Cameras were not allowed in the cave, damage to the artifacts had happened when someone dropped a camera on a 2000 year old skull and broke it. After 3 separate incidents the government passed a rule forbidding cameras. I wasn’t even allowed to carry my eppi pen, I had to the guide to carry in his dry bag. At the trail head we were given a life jacket, climbing helmet, a head lamp, and a liter of water. It was a mile hike to the cave entrance and we were told to drink half the water before we get to the cave, the other half on the way back..
We hit the trail, the first thing we did was swim across a river that is several feet deep. There was a rope to hold onto to guide us to the trail on the other side. IOn the trail we crossed water 2 more times, and the trail itself had several muddy spots that squished around (and into) the shoes. When we got to the last several yards before the cave entrance we were told to find a place to set our water bottle. There were no facilities, the men were told to use the jungle on the left, women the jungle on the right.
Entrance to the ATM cave from the Belize.com website Click photo to read more about the cave.
It was a privilege to be able to visit the site, they only allow 200 people a day in the cave. All have to be with a guide. The guide instructed us on footing, how to step, and what to touch & not touch. Then back in the water we went and swam into the cave. What was I thinking when I said yes to this? I have NO IDEA what I was thinking! Maybe because the Jewel Cave was so commercialized I didn’t give much of a thought to what I was getting myself into. My darling husband, being the smart man that he is, didn’t tell me it was a non commercialized cave, we would be doing real caving. So, on I trekked, thinking “no prob, I can do this”.
The “Guillotine” – We could not have cameras, this is not my photo, it’s from a stranger’s blog blog. But, I did that!
The water in the cave was over our head at the entrance, throughout the cave the water was anywhere from ankle deep to several feet deep. A little way into the cave we met our first obstacle, a tight spot nick-named the “guillotine“. I was the second to last to go through, my husband was behind me. We had to position ourselves so that our head was above a rock sticking out, and the rest of our body below, so that our neck goes by the rock. Remember, up until this very moment doing exactly this was a “I will never do” activity, and definitely NOT on my bucket list! What was I thinking? HOLY CRAP! I was not going to turn around now, everyone would have to leave too, so OMG I’m going to do this! As the woman in front of me worked her way threw the opening I was having this quiet conversation with myself in my brain that started out “Oh sh–! Oh F—! Oh sh–! Oh F—! Oh sh–! Oh F—!….” Then I rationalized with myself that my husband is bigger than me and if he would not fit they would not let him go, therefor I will fit into that tiny little space and not get stuck. Once it was my turn, I made a couple tries then decided to take off my life jacket (not dangerous), I slipped right through, no freaking out, no panic, no alien abductions. YAY!! I could not believe I did it! I was so pleased with myself. The woman in from of me said she was having the same feeling about it too. After that anything else in our path would be a piece of cake.
A video of people passing through the guillotine.
On the hike to the artifact room the guide made many stops to tell us about the cave, the Mayans, the culture, stalactites, stalagmites, the sink hole, and answer questions. When we got about a mile into the cave we had to climb a bolder and up on a (wide) ledge to get to the artifact room. The guide instructed us on climbing the boulder. It had divots where to put your feet, I would compare it to hoisting myself into a saddle on an 18 hand horse without standing on a log, the first step was a doozie! I had my husband push my bum up that rock. Once we climbed onto the ledge we took off our life jackets and shoes. This is where the socks come in, no shoes were allowed into the artifact room, minimizing damage to the cave. The wool toe booties worked great! They were not saturated with water, the grip was good, and my feet were protected. As I was walking into the artifact room in my socks I thought to myself “this is sooo worth missing a pow day for!’.
In the artifact room was pottery and human sacrificial remains 1500 – 2000 years old, some just inches from the marked trail. For example, an artifact named the “Monkey Pot” was right there, next to our feet, easy to get a good look at in detail. It was SO COOL! In the very back of the cave was a calcified full skeleton nicknamed ‘The Crystal Maiden’, our guide said that was just a name dubbed by a reporter and there is not enough evidence to determine if it is a male for a female. The archaeologists believe she (or he) was sacrificed during a period of drought, to appease the god of rain. The Mayans believing the cave was where all water originated.
Did you read this and say ‘Hell no! Not me!”? I want to stress… don’t let your fear get in the way of this awesome opportunity. If I can overcome my fear and do this, so can you.
On the way out we stopped and the guide had us all turn off our headlamps. Then he had us close our eyes. When we opened our eyes they did not adjust, it was completely black. Up until this moment I had not even given the darkness a second thought. Imagine the Mayans trekking to the back of this cave with only torches.
The next day it started raining and all the caves closed, and it didn’t stop the rest of the week. We chose our day well. Would I do it again? YES! However there are so many other cool things we didn’t get to see in Belize I probably would not do it on our next trip unless we were with someone who had not done it before.
A year and a half of fundraising, 110 students, 15 chaperones, 2 staff members, 5 days, 21 hours sleep, 5 blisters on my feet, and the opportunity of a lifetime! Each chaperone was in charge of 7 or 8 kids and their money. Thank God for cell phones, I don’t know how group trips like this worked without them. We had a great time and brought home lots of good memories. I would highly recommend that any parent given an opportunity like this take it in a heartbeat!
Mr Dunham Day 1
The Hotel, we had floor 3
Marquee @ Epcot
Kids watching fire work show @ Epcot
Kyle and I before performance
Quote of the week… Day 4, the last night we were there, most of the kids arrived at the hotel in time to swim. Cerfew was midnight and all the kids were wound from the weeks events. We received a couple of complaints about the noise by the floor below us and security was sent to ask us to keep it down. One of my boys was walking to his room saying “I just got chewed out by a security guard that got winded walking up two flights of stairs.”
Mr Dunham did a great job with all the kids, They sounded awesome! The dynamics were there, no obvious errors, all the flutes were in tune, and no squeaks from the clarinets. I was very proud to be a part of this group.
My roommate and I each had one room of boys and one room of girls, all were Juniors and Seniors except but one of the girls. I was under the delusion that they would be easier than Freshman and Sophomores because they are almost adults. Telling 18 year old young men it is time for bed was “futile” (according to one of the boys) but we managed to get it done. Maria and I both had the 2 rowdiest rooms of boys in the entire band. Oh boy! At first it was a little overwhelming but looking back I would not change the groups I had. They were quite entertaining and were obviously having a good time and not afraid to show it. I was I was roomed for the 5 days with Maria, a parent I did not know prior to this trip, we were a good match (at least I don’t think I drove her crazy) I gained a new friend.
Roommates Maria and Julie day 1
3 of Julie’ boys (whites shirts)
Julie’s other boy (middle black shirt)
The chaperone rules were that each chaperone group would travel to and from the parks together, meet all the kids for breakfast lunch and dinner, and give each kid his or her breakfast and lunch money in the morning and their dinner money at dinner. If any of the kids did not make a meal meeting place we would all eat then we could not go our separate ways until we found the missing kids as a group. Then those kids that we had to look for would have to stay with the chaperone for 1/2 a day. All the kids read the rules and signed them prior to the trip. My roommate and I had a total of 15 kids, 8 boys and 7 girls to coordinate.On day 2, the first day in the parks, breakfast was rough. All the girls were up and ready to go at the designated time and all the boys wanted to sleep in so they did not get up. Once we got them all to the bus stop we decided on a meeting place for lunch and reminded all the kids they signed a paper they would meet us prior to the trip. We were there early enough that we were getting on all the good rides with less than 20 minute waits. We went to Splash Mountain, it said it was a 40 minute wait on the sign. We had an hour and a half until me had to meet our kids for lunch so we got in line. OMG, the line was way more than 40 minutes but by the time we were in the line that long we did not want to get out. One hour and 20 minutes into the line we were 10 minutes from getting on the ride and 10 minutes from our designated lunch meeting time! It was a 15 minute ride, now way were we getting out of line now! We called all our kids and told them lunch is off, we were stuck in a ride and would not make it. ALL of the kids were at the meeting place or almost there, the CHAPERONES WERE LATE! After we got off the ride we found our boys first, the were eating near a couple of the other chaperones. Apparently that morning Dr. Elliot gave his kids all the money for the day and said “have a good time.” SO! I gave all the boys their dinner money and said “have a good time, see you at the gate when the park closes.” I found my girls and told them what happened gave them their money and told them to have a good time.
Self portraits days 2 – 4
No rest for the chaperones, day 2 was the longest with 20 hours on our feet. W were up early, the girls were ready but we had to wake the boys to go to the park. “you’re not going to let a couple of old ladies out do you are you?” is how I greeted my boys this AM (all the other mornings I greeted them with money, that worked much better.) According to the ‘Chaperone Rules’ that we were given prior to the trip we were not allowed to leave the park with all the kids there, if we wanted to take a nap we were to call another chaperone in the park and tell them then let all our kids know… what a PIA, plus we did not want to miss a thing, we stayed at the park until closing. This was the night of our 11:30 pm – 2:30 am security shift. When we got back to the hotel with all the kids it was almost midnight, the other chaperones had ALL returned to the hotel at some point during the day to nap. “You guys stayed all day???!” We just looked at each other. Oh well, we had fun, what would we have missed if we took a nap?
day 2 – hour 12
Tigger the Duck
Tigger the Duck – Just as I thought it was safe to sit and eat a snack without my cat Tigger begging for a bite, I turn around and there is a DUCK at my back begging for a bite! Story of my life. Good thing we were not at the wild animal park!
I took 265 photos on this trip, most of them are at Kodak Gallery. The links are below. The selected photos are 93 of the photos I pulled out of the kids & adults to share with the parents. You will have to sign up to see the photos but I have not had a problem with Kodak Gallery sending much junk mail.
UPDATE8/1/2014: Kodak Gallery is no more. I need to move these and repost corrent links
Maria and I did not know each other prior to this trip other than seeing each other at school events. When I packed for the trip I put my new sandals in the suit case for Magic Kingdom day. I thought they would be perfect for the fast and wet rides. When we got to the airport I noticed Maria had the exact same sandals! Was this a case of ‘Great Minds Think Alike’ or just two women with impeccable taste?
Day 3 – hour 12
Maria & I – Epcot
I wonder why my voice was hoarse on the last day. Could it be from all the screaming?
Maria & I front seat
Aerosmith Rock’n’ Roller Coaster
@MGM day 4
Kyle in back + 7 other JHHS kids
@ Magic Kingdom Day 2
Maria & I second seat
@ Magic Kingdom Day 2
By day 4 our bodies were complaining from all the junk we have been eating combined with the sleep depravation, about 1:00 we could not go anymore unless we sat and ate something healthy. All the restaurants with real food were busy. The first place we stopped had over an hour wait. The nice lady at the counter looked in her computer and got us a reservation at the “50’s Prime Time Cafe” with only a 20 minute wait. Just enough time to get there. The whole place was decked out like the 50’s with 50’s TV shows playing on the TV’s in each room. The waitress pulled up a chair and gave us the “rules” for eating there… “No elbows on the table, no whining, no tattling, eat all your vegetables, and set your own place.” She looked at me, motioned with her hand and said “elbows off the table!” Then she made us set out places before she took the order.
We gave the waitress our camera to take our picture and she said “me first” and took a picture of herself!
W e both had pot roast and root beer floats. This was the BEST pot roast I have ever had! The waitress said nothing about licking our fingers being against the rules.
When the waitress was clearing the table next to us for desert she said to the mom at that table “you didn’t finish your vegetables” loud enough that we could all hear. Then she scooped up a fork full of carrots and said “open wide… now everyone make the airplane noise.” As every one made the noise she put the carrots in the woman’s mouth. I’m sure glad I cleaned my plate!
Maria knew how to read a map, too bad Julie could not follow her directions.
MGM Tower of Terror
Dinner at Down Town Disney
The first day out was in Magic Kingdom. I informed my gang I was stalking Jack to get a photo of him for my buddy Deb back in Wyoming. I found Jack the pirate!!! He looked EXACTLY like he did on the big screen. There was a huge crowd around him, because of that the line for the ride dropped from over 40 minutes to less than 20. So I said “screw the photo! Let’s ride!” Sorry Deb, he would not have fit in my suitcase anyway.
Captain Jack Sparrow
There was plenty of Pirate
paraphernalia to be had.
He’s waiting for you…
Travel group 3 waiting for their flight home at the Orlando airport.