Adventures with Grandpa: River Ranch Retreat

One of our favorite places we’ve been on adventure with Grandpa is at the River Ranch Retreat just outside King Hill, Idaho. We stayed here on our way to Washington two years ago. It was such a wonderful, secluded place. We stayed in the guest house. It has a full kitchen, dining room, two bedrooms, one bath and a sun room with space for extra guests.

The kids had a wonderful time fishing on the dock and swinging in the tree-swing.

We also had a fantastic time making dinner at the fire pit and roasting marshmallows. It was such a fun place to stay! If you are interested you can book the River Ranch Retreat through Airbnb. It is very affordable and such a fun place to stay with your family!


A Father’s Day Tribute to the Three Men in my Life

My husband

My husband is a lot of things: intelligent, talented, and innovative, but my favorite thing about him is his kindness. My first experience with this was when we were dating. We were babysitting my brother’s children back in December 1999. At the time, my nephew was 3 ½ and my nieces were 22 months and 2 months old. I fed baby Jayne and was trying to get her to settle down, but she was fussing and upset. Ryan asked if he could take a turn. He took her and bounced her patiently for hours while I played with the other kids and then got them ready for bed.  I knew then that he would be an amazing father.

I was right. Our boys are better people because they have had him as their father. He highly involved with them and is constantly encouraging them to pursue what interests them. He is incredibly supportive and supports our boys even though he suffers from chronic pain. Just yesterday, he went kayaking even though he was hurting, because he knew it would mean the world to our youngest son. My boys have the most amazing example in their life of how to be a good man. I am so blessed to have such a man in my life.

My Father

My father is tender-hearted and fun. I loved the many times we spent laughing and talking in funny accents as a kid. I loved going with him on “dates” when I was young. We’d get ice cream and then he’d take me to the park. We’d talk and I felt like he had all the time in the world for me. He is a wonderful example of kindness to others and is a great man of faith. I especially loved the little songs he would sing. “I’m reviewing the situation and the situation’s mighty fine.”  “Delicious, rubba dubba dubba dum, nutrious, rubba dubba dubba dum, delicious.”  He also created my own theme song for me: “Karinsky La VoItsy La Gutke La Painter” that he would sing when I came into the room.

I still love to watch actions movies with him. He loves to comment on what he is seeing. “Ooh! Oh! That’s gotta hurt! Run guy! Get out of there!” I also loved how he would throw a random word or two as we were having family scripture study to see if anyone were listening. “Laman and Lemuel would not hearken unto the counsel of the Lord (because they were a bunch of turkeys).” He is an amazing father and grandfather and now great grandfather.

My Father-in-Law

I love my father in law. I may not have grown up in his house, but he has been my second father for half of my life. He is a hardworking man who accomplishes anything he puts his mind to. He cares deeply about my children and is constantly supporting them in their activities and encouraging them to pursue their interests. We tease him about his stubbornness and his lack of appetite (he has a handful of dates every 12 hours or so) but we couldn’t ask for a better father or grandfather. He is the king in our Thomas Jefferson’s Castle (St. James’ Palace), we eat lunch at Knuckleboard (Kneader’s), get treats from Angel’s Landing (The Sweet Tooth Fairy), and we love our adventures with him where we can see rocks shaped like Yuba (Jabba) the Hut.


Adventures with Grandpa: City of Rocks

“During the forenoon, we passed through a stone village composed of huge, isolated rocks of various and singular shapes, some resembling cottages, others steeples or domes.  It is called the City of Rocks, but I think the name Pyramid City more suitable.  It is a sublime, strange, and wonderful scene of nature’s most interesting works.” -Margaret Frink– July 15, 1859

On our latest adventure with Grandpa, we traveled to the Northwestern tip of Utah and into Southern Idaho. We left home on a Friday afternoon and headed north to Snowville, Utah. From Snowville, we turn west onto Highway 30 to Strevell. The closer we got to the Raft River Mountains the more ominous the clouds became. Lightning flashed and soon rain pounded our SUV. I was nervous because we’d packed our bedding in our SUV’s basket on top of the car and had not covered it and it was now getting soaked. 

We arrived at Clear Creek Campground around 5:30 and met our two younger boys who had stayed at Grandpa’s and then traveled with him earlier in the day. They had set up camp for us and were eating dinner in the tent. They ran to our car and we chatted while we waited for the rain to subside.  It poured for another ten minutes and then let up. Our priority was to check the bedding and get it laid out. I was afraid it would be incredibly soaked, but to my relief, our sleeping bags were only damp inside because of the protective covers. Once I realized we would sleep mostly dry tonight, I finally relaxed and took in the scene. The campground was lovely with aspens, pines, and a fast, flowing creek. There were meadows covered in silver lupine and the friendly yellow faces of yellow arrowroot. Our campsite was next to the creek the rushing stream lured me to sleep and I slept soundly even in a damp sleeping bad.

The next morning, we had Grandpa’s famous pancakes for breakfast, then broke camp. We drove on dirt roads to The City of Rocks.  We passed a small town of Standrod.  Half of the town was in Utah and the other half was in Idaho. After an hour of travel, we made it to the City of Rocks National Reserve.

California Trail Emigrants; Photo courtesy of City of Rocks National Reserve

California Trail emigrants described the area as “a city of tall spires, steeple rocks, and a silent city.” Over 240,000 people traveled the California trail between the years of 1843-1882.  The largest between (1849 and 1869). It was a welcomed landmark on the trail.  Many emigrants wrote their names on the rock in axel grease and some are still visible today. 

Sallie Hester traveled the trail in August of 1849. She wrote, “Took another cutoff this week called Sublets. Struck Raft River from thence to Swamp Creek. Passed some beautiful scenery, high cliffs of rocks resembling old ruins or dilapidated buildings.”

Another emigrant, Bernard J. Reid, thought the rocks were “grotesque.” There were “sphynxes, statues, . . . and so on throughout, a thousand varieties of fantastic shapes.”  You can read more accounts here. https://www.nps.gov/ciro/learn/historyculture/index.htm

We passed the ruins of an old home and I wondered who lived there. While the home is isolated, the valley is so beautiful. I wouldn’t mind waking up to the view every morning. The house is called The Circle Creek Rock house and was built in 1904-1905 by Aaron McBride, a rock mason, and William E. Tracy, a rock layer and house builder. The walls of the home are 18 inches thick allowing for natural insolation to keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  Tracy lived there with his family for 5 years.

We loved exploring the Emigrant Rock and seeing all the names of pioneers. It was sad that others have put graffiti on it over the years.  We then drove to our campsite. We stayed in campsite number 59. It was isolated and beautiful, but very inconvenient as we had to park in the parking lot and then haul our gear a half a mile down the site. There was a road to the campsite, but campers are no longer allowed to use it. (After my fourth trip to the site, I was about to violate that though.) It was a lot of work to get our camp set up, but worth it. We saw a red sap tree sucker in the trees near our camp. He kept chirping at us and coming out to eat more bark of a cedar tree.

After we set up camp, we tried to find an easy rock climb for the boys. City of Rocks attracts rock climbers from all over the world. We explored the Window Rock area, where there was supposedly an easier climb or two, but we could not locate them. We went up a gulley where the dogs couldn’t follow. Grandpa and I tried to find another way to the top with the dogs. I got myself onto some of the large granite rocks and was working my way to the top, but then I slipped and slid about ten feet toward a gulley. I did not know how far the drop off was into the gulley and I was heading straight for it. I clawed my fingers into the rock to find anything to stop my fall. I prayed, “Please Heavenly Father, help me stop. Please.” After my prayer, I did stop about five feet from the edge. I said a prayer of to express my gratitude. I could not get up for a while because I was so shaken up. Grandpa called to me asking me to follow his voice. It was easier when I listened and made my way back to him. I felt strengthened. The process sounded familiar to my spirit.

We eventually met up and tried the climbs at another location. Everyone climbed but me. I already had my adventure for the day. After we climbed for a while, we tried to find a place where Grandpa could use his trailer to cook us dinner. The parking lot next to our campsite was very windy and it was next to the group camp site, so it was not ideal. We went to Emery Pass picnic area. It was near a grove of quaking aspen trees with a small creek running through it. It was a lovely spot and we spotted a mountain blue jay on one of the branches. Grandpa grilled us some plump, juicy burgers and served it with refreshing watermelon. It was a delicious end to the day. After dinner, Grandpa said he needed to return home because he wasn’t feeling well. He may have been too long in the sun. We hated to see him go, but we also understand he isn’t as young as he once was. Time goes by to fast and we must enjoy each moment we have with him.

Aaron and I hiked back to our campsite from the picnic area and then we hiked around the rock at around our campsite and built a fire. We tried to play Phase 10, but we only had half the cards.  We decided to go to bed a bit early. As we were preparing for bed, we heard the hoot of a Great Horned Owl and went out of the tent in time to see it being driven away by smaller birds.

In the morning, we explored the many crevices and layers of Treasure Rock. We did not go to the top of the rock as it was covered in swallows’ nests and the parents weren’t too happy about us getting close to their babies.

View of the valley from Treasure Rock

We decided to travel home through Almo and Elba. Alba was established in 1881. People believed it was a part of Utah, but they were around a post office in 1881. By 1900, the town had a store, a post office, a school, a brass band, a theatrical group, three saloons, and a welfare society. Population reached a large 260 by 1920. We visited the City of Rocks National Reserve Visitor’s Center. A ranger was outside with gloves on and a mask. You could purchase some of the maps on the outside and the center was open but only a few people could go in at a time to follow social distancing.

The town had a beautiful inn and restaurant called Almo Inn that looked like an old west town. It would be fun to stay there some time. There was also a mercantile called the Tracy General Store but is wasn’t open. I will put it on the list for next time.

We then drove north to Elba. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were the first to settle here in the 1870’s.  In 1887, the women formed a relief society organization and a man named John Darrington donated land for them to build their own hall. They raised money and completed the hall in 1902. The building is now owned and used as a community center.

Elba Relief Society Building, now a community center

We loved exploring City of Rocks and will probably come again soon. There are hikes to go on and so many more rock climbing routes. It was another successful Adventure with Grandpa.


Adventures with Grandpa: Lost Creek Reservoir

Our latest adventure with Grandpa (and Grandma this time) took us to Morgan County, Utah. We headed east through Weber Canyon and then took the old highway through Mountain Green. I wanted to find a canyon named after my fourth great granduncle, Roswell Stevens, Jr. 

Roswell, Jr. was born on October 17, 1809, to Roswell and Sibbell Spencer Stevens. He heard Joseph Smith, Jr. and Sidney Rigdon preach at a meeting in Mount Pleasant, Ohio in 1831. He decided to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He followed the Saints from Ohio to Missouri, on to Nauvoo, Illinois, , then moved west with them in 1846 where he enlisted in the Mormon Battalion and served in Company E.

He marched with them until many became ill and were dispatched to Pueblo, Colorado to recover. Roswell was well over 6 feet tall and strong. He was a former member of the Nauvoo Legion and acted as the bodyguard to the captain who carried the Battalion’s money back to Brigham Young. He joined the vanguard company in 1847 and helped to build the trail to Salt Lake City. There is an interactive map of the Mormon Battalion’s journey found here.

Roswell Stevens lived in the Peterson area in the 1850s. He settled Weber City (now called Peterson) with Charles Shreeve Peterson. Roswell married Mary Ann Peterson in 1854 and built a sawmill at the end of a canyon. The canyon is still called Roswell’s canyon in his honor.

We found the right turn and wanted to explore up the canyon, but it was listed as private property and I did not feel like being prosecuted. I hope to research who owns it to ask for permission to take photos. We planned to drive to Upton, a small town in Summit County, another town where Roswell settled, but we decided to explore Lost Creek Reservoir instead.

Lost Creek’s earthen dam was constructed between 1963 and 1966 by the United States Bureau of Reclamation. It is 248 feet high and 1078 feet long. Lost Creek Reservoir sits at 6000 feet above sea level It has a wakeless-speed-only regulation and so kayakers and fishermen don’t have to compete with water skiers and jet skis when they explore the reservoir’s 360 surface acres. There is no day use fees but camping is not allowed.

We turned off a bit before the dam and found a nice wooded area with cottonwoods and willows.  We placed our camp chairs in a meadow and enjoyed a picnic in the shade. There were also beautiful lupines and arrowroots blooming. The weather was perfect, and the breeze felt exactly right. We wished we had a hammock to string up between the trees and to stay for a long while. The boys all found a willow to carve into a walking stick and Grandpa had some decorative rope to put on the end. Who doesn’t carry decorative rope in their car?

We explored the area west of the meadow and saw a bald eagle sitting on a telephone pole eating the fish it just caught. It was so beautiful to see. We heard a weird chirping. We looked around for a bird, but only found a prairie dog. She was standing on her haunches chirping a warning at us to stay away from her babies. We eventually explored the east side of the meadow and crossed Lost Creek and found an old ranch house there. It had an airplane engine suspended in the trees above the house. There were holes in the house and a large tree crushed the old carport. We looked briefly inside and found an old vacuum sitting in the front room. It looked like a scene out of a Stephen King novel. The vacuum has probably sucked up people’s souls! There was a fresh firepit and nice benches to the side of the house, so the property must still be used, but you couldn’t pay me enough to stay there.

We drove up to the dam to see the reservoir. The water was clear and beautiful. It was a popular place for fishing, kayaking, and paddleboards. Grandpa pointed out a cliff where he had once seen dozens of sparrow’s nests. We had a hard time seeing them even with binoculars and while my youngest was trying to look, Grandpa said, “Look next to that rock that look like that guy from Star Wars. You know,” he snapped his fingers, “that guy!”

As my son was trying to follow his vague directions, Grandpa shouted, “I got it! Its Yuba! Yuba the Hut!!”

I laughed so hard, no one could hear the directions and it was a bit frustrating, but I couldn’t help it. Now, rocks will forever look like Yuba the Hutt. Step aside Jabba, there is a new Hutt in the house.


Adventures with Grandpa: Indian Trail

On our latest adventure with grandpa, we hiked Indian Trail above the city of Ogden, Utah. The trail traces an old path believed to be used by Shoshoni Indians to travel through Ogden Canyon when the water was high.

Indian Trail is a moderate 8.2 mile hike out and back and gains 2,716 feet. We chose to go one way and parked one car at the Ogden Canyon trailhead, located near the Smokey Bear sign and Fairmount, about 1.5 miles from the mouth of the canyon. Then we drove a second car to 22 Street trail-head and parked there. Our one way hike was 4.1 miles and took us three hours. 

We started at 7:30 on a Saturday morning.  It was the perfect temperature. The first quarter of the hike, the trail wound us through a field of wildflowers. A beautiful yellow wildflower similar to a daisy, lined the path. I believe it was a yellow arrowhead balsamroot. There were also bluebells and light blue Rocky Mountain bee plants.

The trail climbs steadily, around the south end of Ogden Canyon and you can see Rainbow Gardens, El Monte Golf Course and Ogden Canyon Waterfall below.  I thought this cottonwood tree was beautiful in the light of the morning.

We climbed higher and could see the fault lines in the canyon. The trail winds in and out of Warm Water Canyon, climbs to “Nevada Viewpoint” on the ridge between Warm Water Canyon and Cold Water Canyon, and then descends into Cold Water Canyon. Tall pine trees line the trail for much of the way with an aspen forest at the end. 

At the top of the canyon there is a small log cabin with a dog bowl chained to it. We made the boys and Jasmine pause for a picture.

The other side turned more from tall pines to aspens and scrub oak. There are two campsites with fire pits and wiki ups ready for a small group. It was a beautiful hike on such a clear, pleasant day.

We enjoyed hearing stories from Grandpa along the hike. He shared his father’s business and property ventures and how he rode his bike twenty miles one time from Ogden to their farm in Syracuse. He also shared how he would hike with, Sandy, his Irish setter. If Sandy couldn’t go up, then he decided it probably wasn’t a good trail.

He also shared how he worked in a bakery as a teenager one summer and would cover any shift he could get. He would sometimes work 16 hour days. When a loaf wasn’t good enough to sell, he loved to take the fresh bread out of the middle and stuff it in his mouth. He remembered thinking a pastry was so good one time, because he had lived off of bread for a few weeks. I love that my kids get to hear these stories and spend time on these adventures with their grandfather. They will always remember these times and that is what is most important. 


Adventures with Grandpa: Lakeside, Utah

My father-in-law, Dan Painter, is one of a kind. My kids know when we go with Grandpa on an adventure, we won’t drive on regular roads and more than likely we will have a history lesson along the way. We couldn’t ask for a better Adventure Leader and the memories we are making will last forever.

Dan Painter with his faithful Golden-Doodle, Jasmine

Our Latest Adventure took us to Lakeside, Utah

Lakeside is on the west side of the Great Salt Lake, about a two and half hour drive from Ogden, Utah. While the town now only has a railroad storage shed, in 1901, it was bustling with activity. The town consisted of “homes” made of boxcars placed on temporary sidings and was home to over three thousand residents consisting of men, women and children. The majority of the townspeople were Southern Pacific Railroad workers faced with the tremendous task of building a railroad across the Great Salt Lake. The new track was called the Lucin cutoff.

The Lucin Cutoff was 102 miles of track from Lucin to Ogden. It saved forty-four miles in length, and hundreds of feet in grade. It included thirteen miles of fill and nearly twelve miles of trestle across the Great Salt Lake. It took one and half years to build and cost around 8 million dollars. The workers were paid $2.00 a week ($4.50 for specialists) and water had to be shipped in because no fresh sources were available. When they blasted in the nearby mine, the women and children had to climb under their box cars for safety. The trestles were used for over 50 years, but the timber was constantly needed to be replaced. By the 1950s, the railroad built a causeway with rock and earth and the original trestles were abandoned.

Where the Hell is Delle?

There has never been a better time for a Grandpa Adventure than during this COVID-19 pandemic. On Saturday, we drove to west on I-80 toward Wendover. We stopped for a quick pit stop in Delle where my nephew got a bumper sticker that read, “Where the hell is Delle?” It was quite appropriate as Delle has a tiny gas station, a beat up single-wide trailer, and a sad ruin of what once looked like a motel.  (Photo on left by Jacob Barlow).

We got back on the freeway and took next exit for Lakeside Road. We arrived at Lakeside at 10:30 a.m. and explored the tracks and took a few photos.

We wanted to get closer to the lake so we backtracked for a bit and found another road. As we drove up a hill, cow surrounded us and acted strangely. We didn’t understand until we smelled the hot branding iron as we drove passed a group of ranchers gathered at a corral. Young calves shook in line awaiting their fate. We followed the dirt road to the top of Scad Ridge and the view was breathtaking.

View of the Great Salt Lake and Lucin Cutoff Causeway

You could see the causeway down below expanding over the Great Salt Lake. It was a beautiful, clear day and you could see for miles. We could see Fremont Island and the snow capped Wasatch Mountains to the east. We could also see the Promontory Mountains to the northeast and Stansbury Island to the south.

We hiked up to the hills above us. They almost looked like a scene from “The Lord of the Rings” at Weathertop where Frodo is stabbed by the Nazgul (fantasy geek and proud). The grasses were long and blew lightly in the April breeze. White and pink flowers bloomed among the sagebrush. Ravens and turkey vultures soared above us and horned larks serenaded us below. I loved exploring the cavities that were created by erosion in the rocks.

Skipping Caked, Muddy Sand on the Great Salt Lake

We drove down to the shores of the Great Salt Lake. We skipping pieces of dry, salty sand into the lake. Our dogs enjoyed chasing birds up and down the beach, but they were very sad when they could not drink the water. It looked so inviting and they were so thirsty. 

Grandpa cooked us up some large round, juicy hamburgers on his portable grill and they were so yummy after hiking around for two hours. The lettuce was crisp and buns were soft. It was delicious!

Lakeside Cave and Fossil Hunting

We drove to another area and found a large cave. We explored it for a little bit and then searched around for fossils. There were so many in the rock just on the side of the hills.

We look a “Grandpa Road” home. A “Grandpa Road” in Painter Family Lingo, is an out of the way road that is likely to take a long time. The term was defined three years ago on a road trip to Oregon. We stayed the night in Nampa, Idaho and then followed the Oregon Trail into southeast Oregon. We drove for five hours and ended up back to a point on the map, where had we gone directly, from point A to B it would have taken twenty minutes.

For more on the Lucin Cutoff: check out:


Raven Rehabilitates Volunteer’s Self-Confidence

Four years ago, Jade Goodell found herself at a low point in her life. She was bankrupt in her mid-twenties and overwhelmed with life’s struggles.

“I went to college and did everything ‘right,’ but I was so inconsistent,” Jade says. “I spent many years making healthy choices and then in an instant, I made terrible ones. I had so much to lose, but I still made those mistakes. I realized I had to change.”

Jade wanted to get excited about life again. She tried crafting, woodworking, and other things but they didn’t stick. She distanced herself from others and spent most of her time alone.

“I started watching videos of eagles and owls sitting on their eggs. I would watch them for hours. I don’t know why, but it was fascinating to me. I devoured all the information I could about birds and decided I had to get close to them.”

Jade now only thinks of her life “Before Cronk” and “After Cronk”
Jade uses the command “Clean Up Your Mess and Go to Your Room”
to get Cronk return to his mew
Cronk’s favorite training treats are pinky mice and frozen corn.

Jade researched and found she could volunteer with the Ogden Nature Center, a 152-acre nature preserve and education center in the heart of Ogden, Utah. She came every Saturday to feed the birds, change their water, and clean up after them. 

Jade loved being close to the eagles, the owls, and other birds but enjoyed the black raven Cronk, who has lived at the Ogden Nature Center since 1998. It is generally believed Cronk was taken from the nest as a chick and raised as someone’s pet. He was eventually released into the wild where he sustained a foot injury, was rehabilitated, but could not be released.

As Jade has worked with Cronk, her confidence in herself has grown.  She even refers to her life now as “Before Cronk” and “After Cronk.” 

“He literally changed my life. People talk about how you need to learn to love yourself before you can worry about anything else. The past three years have been all about that: figuring out what makes me happy and then running with that.  I am happy with me now, and I don’t worry anymore about what other people think of me. It’s not common for someone to find a passion in their thirties, but I leap out of bed in the mornings to come here,” says Jade.

When Jade started, she knew nothing about training birds, especially ravens. She asked Bryce King (the former wildlife specialist at Ogden Nature Center) how she could get closer to Cronk. He told her the only way was to commit to coming every day.

“I don’t think he thought I would do it, but I didn’t miss a single day for over ten months. The only reason I missed was because I sick and couldn’t get out of bed,” Jade says.

Jade and Bryce learned quickly how different it was to train a raven versus a falcon. Bryce was a falconer and taught told her that if Cronk didn’t do what she wanted, then she should walk away and take the food with her because that is how you would teach a falcon to respond, with food orientation.

“I am pretty sure Cronk just laughed at us because he stashes his treats for later. He’s got enough treats in his mew to last him for at least three weeks,” Jade laughs. “He’s as smart as a four-year-old. He plans and anticipates what will happen.  It is very different from falconry, where the falcon relies on its owner for food.”

Jade says her relationships with the other volunteers and employees at the Ogden Nature Center have also helped to boost her confidence and to help her overcome her troubles. “It is really cool because I work with all these other women that do the things that I want to be able to do.”

Heidi Christensen, the current wildlife specialist, is one of Jade’s mentors. “Heidi is fantastic,” Jade says. “She is a single woman like me who has been volunteering here for the last twenty years. She does something that she loves to do and lives a life that makes her happy.  She handles eagles for hell’s sake! I would love to be able to do that, to have an eagle on my hand. It is exciting to see that. There is a lot to this place in general, not just Cronk.” 

But Jade connected with Cronk on a different level from the beginning.  

“Apparently that is not normal as he tends to not warm up to everyone, some even say he can be a jerk.  When I first started here, another volunteer told me to be careful because if I didn’t connect with him right away he would mark me—meaning he would remember if he got a reaction out of me,” she says.

Jade says Cronk remembers everything. A volunteer screamed once when she was with him and she never wanted to go back inside his enclosure.  After that, he would taunt her every time he saw her.

Disconnect. Decompress. I am no expert in telling people how to get through tough times, but I will say that the calmness I get from the silence right now is incredible! The news and constant rumors and worries is just too loud sometimes.”

-Jade Goodell


“He knew if he could get her to come close enough that he could get her to scream. He would squawk at her as if to say, “Hey, come over here! You know you want to,” laughs Jade.

Jade learned she could not react to anything Cronk did, especially if he bit her. He would do it over and over to get a reaction from her.   

“When he bites, it feels like you are getting cut with rusty scissors, but I had to hold completely still.  He would grab a piece of my skin and there would be bruises underneath it. There were many times I had bloody hands,” she says.

Jade knew she was connecting with Cronk when he started to pinch her instead of bite. “He lets me pet him for a little while and then give me a little pinch to let me know that’s enough.”

Jade’s strongest bond was forged with Cronk after she lost her twelve-year-old Miniature Schnauzer.  Her dog had had twelve seizures in a row and the vet thought he must have had a stroke because he was trying to eat his bowl and not his food. He also could not correct his paw when she turned it into the wrong position. Jade had to put him down. Jade let her beloved dog go on Saturday and then came in to spend time with Cronk the next morning. 

“It had been a week of torturous hell,” Jade recalls. “I wasn’t crying but my entire persona had changed. My heart was broken. I came in and usually Cronk darts out of his area like he is saying, “Let’s go! Let’s do this!” But I swear to you on that day he came out and he paused and maybe he felt my aura. He stopped, looked straight into my eyes, and he put his head down for a pet. It is not unusual, but normally it is food first, pet later. I pet him, and he stayed that way. I sat cross-legged on the ground and he got up into my lap and I cried my heart out. He had never done that before nor has he done it since, but it was like he just knew that I had lost something close. I don’t even know how to express it. It was so powerful in so many ways and I just sobbed. Then, he bit me and then walked off.”

Jade says the moment was probably only five or six seconds, but it was what she needed. 

When she first started working with Cronk she did not see much progress, but other volunteers commented how they could not let Cronk come out in the walkway in front of his mew, because they could not get him to go back in. When they weren’t looking, he would put a rock, a stick or a toy in the door so when they went to latch it, the door would bounce back. Cronk also has a tiny door above the main door that has a little latch on it, and he would unlatch it so it would bring the little door down and block the main door from shutting. 

Jade taught him the command, “Clean up your mess and go to your room!” She points to his mew and then tells him to go inside. She gives him a treat (usually frozen corn and pinky mice) inside his mew. 

“How did you get him to do that?” was the common response among the other volunteers.

Jade doesn’t really know why she and Cronk have connected, but she is grateful for it. During this time of uncertainty while dealing with a global virus, unprecedented unemployment, and overall stress, she is particularly grateful she has an outlet where she can experience peace. 

Jade says, “I actually got to a point last week of being incredibly stressed, more stressed than I’ve been in a very long time. I finally said I needed a day off to refresh my mind.  As cheesy as it sounds, I just had to hang out with Cronk, go back to my happy place. I spent three hours just sitting with him! Then I got myself some air and quiet, and that’s the best thing I can recommend to anyone right now is silence. Find a place you can get away from social media for a bit. Disconnect. Decompress. I am no expert in telling people how to get through tough times, but I will say that the calmness I get from the silence right now is incredible! The news and constant rumors and worries is just too loud sometimes.”

Jade hopes people will read her story and be inspired to make changes in their lives and forge connections that maybe they haven’t thought of before. “Not very many people pursue what they are really passionate about and they should! It’s huge!” she says. 

She also says if your passion aligns with the mission of the Ogden Nature Center, you might consider signing up as a volunteer when the ONC reopens to the public, or donate to the nonprofit organization through their website .http://www.ogdennaturecenter.org All donations help provide exceptional learning experiences and inspire lifelong environmental and community stewardship. 

Cronk loves to say “Hello” and “God Bless You, Man”
Jade spends an hour every morning working with Cronk.
“He’s everything to me,” she shares.
The connection between Jade and Cronk is undeniable.



Mother’s Day Tribute to My Mama

Beautiful, but humble.
Strong, but kind.
Fun, but spiritual.
Adventurous, but nurturing.
These are words that describe my mother.

Enjoy Time With Your Loved Ones While You Can

A few weeks ago, I held my mother’s her hand as we drove with my brother and sister-in-law to my hometown in Southeastern Utah for my uncle’s graveside service. While we talk a lot, I do not see her often. She lives a few hours away from me and COVID-19 cancelled any plans to visit soon. It was wonderful to be with her although the occasion was sad. We carpooled with my two beautiful nieces and my niece’s two adorable babies.

We played a game called “Flower Power” on the way. It is a Gutke family favorite we played on road trips. A person thinks of two rhyming words and then gives clues to for others to guess. If your rhyming words were “Silly Willie” then a clue could be a “Funny Bill” or if they were “Happy Pappy” then your clues could be a “Content Grandfather.” My clue was a “Forward Tent” and so my brother guessed “Flirty Yurty” and we all laughed. My answer was a “Creepy Teepee” but I liked my brother’s idea better. My mother gave a clue and I do not remember what it was, but I do remember she laughed so hard at my brother’s guess of “Dull Bull” that she had tears streaming down her face. She kept saying, “those words don’t rhyme.” It was fun to hear her laugh and laugh.

We stayed a cabin near the Abajo Mountain Range. The locals call it “Blue Mountain” and we burst into song as soon as you can see it on the road from Moab. I loved hearing the wind rustle the tall pines and the babble of the small creek down nearby.

"Blue Mountain, your azure deep.
Blue Mountain with sides so steep.
Blue Mountain with Horsehead on your side.
You have won our love to keep."

You Never Know When A Person’s Time Will Come

We attended the graveside service of my mother’s older brother, Jack Duane Palmer. You can read more about him here. My mother and her brother were close. He was a big tease, hardworking, and devoted to his family.

It was good to be with his widow, cousins, and extended family at the graveside service. His children and grandchildren shared stories and memories. My favorite story came from his granddaughter. She said he would enter her house without knocking, raid the pantry for a treat, and then leave without talking to anyone.

My uncle had stage-four pancreatic cancer, but he had a bad fall, and was gone within a matter of hours from complications. It taught me how precious life is and we should enjoy each moment as it comes and stop living in the past or worry too much about the future.

I don’t know how long I will have my parents. They are some of my best friends. I love to be with my them and I want to make sure they know I love them before my time is gone with them. My mom is fun and always doing silly things. She dances when she walks and splashes her bare feet in cold mountain streams. She is fun to play games with and is very enthusiastic. She has always cared about my children and my husband and constantly asks after their welfare. She consistently sends birthday cards, anniversary cards, and is doing kind things for others. I hope I can be like her one day.

Celebrating my Great Grandmother’s Birthday

Today is my third great grandmother Lizzie’s birthday! She would have been 157 years old. I am sad when people say that their lives have no meaning and they don’t matter. It is only because they can’t see the big picture! Each of us does make an impact–especially with our children, grandchildren and future generations. I love this woman and feel connected to her even though she died 30 years before I was born. The more I have studied her life, the more I love and respect her. It is because of how she dealt with the problems that came her way, not because her life was perfect.

Happy Birthday Grandma Lizzie!

Elizabeth Kenney Stevens

Lizzie’s Early Years

Lizzie was the oldest child of six and she was cheerful and kind. She laughed and smiled as she helped her mother cook, tend her brothers and sisters, take care of the farm, and make clothes for her family. When she was young, the dam above her town broke and the flooded everything. Her family had nothing and had to move to another town and start over. The people in her new town helped them with food and clothing and temporary housing until they could get situated.

When Lizzie was ten or eleven, a silver mine was discovered in Pioche, Nevada and it quickly became a large town. Her father decided to fill their wagon full of produce and to drive it to Nevada to sell it to the miners. His wagon broke down along the way and he was stranded for a few years. 

While he was gone, Lizzie got a job at the local general store as a clerk to help support her mother. She made cheese and buttermilk and fresh bakery items and sold them to the traveler. Her boss had a son named Joshua Stevens who was six years older than Elizabeth. They had gone to school together in the same one room schoolhouse. He had been gone for a few years but was quickly smitten with Lizzie who had grown into a beautiful young lady with blonde hair and beautiful eyes. 

Marriage and Honeymoon

After a summer courtship, the married in the fall. Joshua told her he had been asked to go with a group of missionaries called to start a new settlement to be located in southeastern Utah.  Joshua’s brother David and an uncle of theirs would also be going with them. They were to meet up with the group outside of a town called Escalante and they would make their journey southeast toward Colorado across a short cut. It was only supposed to take six weeks.

When they arrived, they found the shortcut was impassable. With snow covering the mountains over the way they had come and many of the pioneers had already sold their property to make the move, they voted to continue on through the red rocks and twisting canyons of modern day Grand Escalante Staircase. They blasted an unconceivable road and it took them six months instead of six weeks.

Map of the road Joshua and Lizzie Stevens took
It is the only pioneer expedition that went East.

What impresses me about Lizzie is her ability to be happy despite her circumstances. She was a young girl of 16 years old. She had never been more than ten miles from her home. She learned quickly to cook over an open fire and sleep under the wagon on the hard ground. She probably got scared with the coyotes wailing at night.  As their food ran out, she had to eat beef every day and what little greenery she could find along the trail.

Gunfights in New Mexico

After they made it to the new settlement, Joshua and David decided to settle further upriver in New Mexico. She was the first white woman in the area and may have felt scared or out of place, but she rolled up her sleeves and helped to make a home for her family. The area quickly became overrun with outlaws as it was a few days ride from Durango Colorado and there were many marshalls in the area. One particular outlaw threatened Joshua and David and took over their home when they were gone. A gunfight followed leaving David badly wounded and Joshua with black hands and a scar across the forehead. I can’t imagine the worry she felt as this went on.

Moving to Northern Chihuahua

Eventually, Lizzie and Joshua moved to the Mormon Colonies in Mexico. Eventually she had fourteen children and raised thirteen to adulthood. She cooked, cleaned, gardened, canned, carted wool, spun wool, and made all the children’s clothing and household items. They built a nice life for themselves down there and then she lost her husband prematurely when he was murdered by strangers during the Mexican Revolution.  She had to leave her comfortable home and all they had worked for twenty years.  She moved back in to the States where she eventually died at the ageof 84. She was alone for thirty six years and did her best to be a good example to her large family. 

Why Her Story Speaks to Me

I admire her faith and obedience. I admire her kindness and good nature. I admire her willingness to work hard and to not complain. I want to be more like this woman and I celebrate her life.