The Hen House

Foghorn Leghorn in the in the hen house.
Foghorn Leghorn in the in the hen house.

I ate a cinnamon roll yesterday. It was 450 calories and I counted it. In the end, I actually wound up having a perfect calorie counting day! Enough of that subject!  I would rather talk about this great holiday season.

Though I began this month feeling kind of like Scrooge, December has turned out to be a great month for getting things done. Some of my kids will be here for Christmas, so I want the place to sparkle! After all, why decorate the house if the house is a mess? It got a good cleaning. Yesterday and today we have been cleaning up outside. This evening we were ready to decorate the porch. It looks and sounds very festive 🙂 , with pretty lights and country Christmas tunes piped through the outdoor speakers. I’m sporting a spiffy new hair-do, which I love, thanks to my very talented niece. But my favorite project so far this season, has been the quail room, which our plumber dubbed, “the hen house”.

More of Foghorn.
More of Foghorn.

It was quite the mess, and took about a week to get into shape, but it has really turned out nice. About a year ago, Glenn hung 5 big Boston ferns from the 11 foot ceiling, along the 20 foot expanse of south exposure windows. They let in a lot of light.  So the ferns have done well, as have all the other plants. The roses, hibiscus, and lantana are blooming.  Our new little hens have been moved from brooder to cages and are just starting to lay their first eggs. All but a couple of roosters are in a separate pen.

The tornado from this past spring left some damage, and now, all the broken windows have been replaced.  New plumbing pipes were run to the room so it is super easy to water the plants as well as fill the buckets for the brand new watering system. Now the new little hens and roosters drink from a small, no mess cup, rather than the filthy jars they once used. A rat got in earlier this year, tore open some bags of mushroom compost and left some droppings. That’s all cleaned up now.  As for the potting station, the soil amendments (including our first load of compost made with our new compost tumbler) are in nice, galvanized cans. And I’ve implemented a new system for cleaning cages that cuts way down on the mess and keeps life simple.

The retirees have a special deal. After my quail are one year old, I start a new hatch, and the old ones become members of the elite group who are allowed to live out the rest of their days cage-free, out in the room. I spread Aspen shred everywhere, and brought in piles of fresh cut winter grass for nesting. There is a plastic swimming pool full of sand and logs, for them to clean themselves. They have the water run-off in the plant saucers to drink. They eat very little feed in an arrangement like this, so they are not a drain, economically. The life expectancy of a quail is about 2 years and their egg production drops off drastically after about a year. The meat of an older bird is a bit tough, so I can’t see the point of butchering them. And since I have the luxury of this room, it just makes sense to do it this way.

Foghorn Leghorn.
Foghorn Leghorn.

It’s really a  pleasure to spend time here now. There are still more improvements to come but we got a lot of really good stuff done for the quail, this year. Now that we are at a stopping place, we can move onto the next project.  And we will be busy right up until everyone gets here. The honey room needs cleaning. There are tons of boxes to break down and shred in the hallway. Once that’s done we can start a new load in the compost tumbler. I’m making the dressing, gravy, and carrots for the big family gathering.  And if there is any time left, I want to stock up my cottage kitchen.

Now that the kids are grown and gone, with full lives of their own, Christmas is quite different than it used to be; different, but still really, really good! It’s been a joy getting things looking good and functioning around here, in preparation for our anxiously awaited guests. One last chance to make the most of a good year; the best holiday season I can recall in a long time.


Choosing a Healthy Diet
Choosing a Healthy Diet

I rarely get hungry while counting calories.  One reason is, I don’t just count calories.  I also keep up with various nutrition counts.  This is important to my overall health during this time of weight-loss transition. Staying nutritionally balanced each day probably keeps my body satisfied, too.  There are several nutrients that I monitor:

  • Fiber – I get 25 grams of fiber each day, without  fail.  It promotes a healthy heart and is healthy for the colon. Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are good sources.
  • Protein – It’s not hard for me to get in my daily allowance of protein. I usually go over.  It is important for healing and I need 46 grams per day to maintain normal body function.  It is found in meats, fish, beans, eggs, dairy, as well as most vegetables. I use protein to combat the occasional hunger pang, too!
  • Fat – I have a current health issue which requires me to pay attention to my fat intake. I eat no more than 45 grams of fat per day, as suggested by my doctor. I eat as little saturated fat as possible. I switched to 1% milk. Most of the fat I get comes from that which occurs in the foods I am already eating.  For example, I choose the fat content present in a serving of my favorite whole grain crackers over adding butter and sour cream to my potato, most of the time.
  • Calcium – I take a multi-vitamin in the morning, which has 50% of my daily requirement.  But I get the rest of my calcium from the foods I eat. I do keep a bottle of low dose calcium supplements on hand and if I fall short at the end of the day, I take one before bed. This rarely happens though.  When I was drinking whole milk, I wasn’t allowing myself to have that very often.  But a cup of 1% milk has only 110 calories and 30% of my daily requirement. Calcium is also found in vegetables and breads, etc.

At my age, I consider myself to be kind of fragile, especially in my current condition of unfitness.  The fifties seems to be when people start having more health problems.  I do want to lose weight, but I want to be very careful and prevent dangerous imbalances which might occur.  I don’t believe I have the luxury to just jump into the latest fad diet.  I want to be very, very careful!  So I try to cover the nutritional bases as much as I can.

Be Flexible

Flexibilty is a hallmark of calorie counting.
Flexibilty is a hallmark of calorie counting.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I lost focus. The whole process of getting back to calorie counting has proved harder than I anticipated. I began in serious earnest the day after Thanksgiving. Writing this over the last few days held my attention until I felt relatively certain that I was out of the woods.

Last week’s newsletter focused on my recent difficulties. I posted it on Facebook, and received a lot of wonderful support, which motivated me for the morning.  I wanted to start off on a positive note. So I got all clean and sparkly and made out a plan for my day, not something I always do!  I didn’t want to be crazy busy, I just wanted the day to flow nicely.  And it did go well, but the following day was a struggle.

Lately I have been bouncing between extremes. At times I am on task and fully committed.  At other times, I am hopelessly bankrupt of focus. I asked my Dad, “How do you retrain a mind”?   I thought his overall wisdom, as well as his military experience might lend some light to my situation.  He said, “You need to reward good behavior, punish bad behavior, and then, you need repetition”. So I began mulling that whole idea over, along with some ideas for a working strategy:

  • I have been pretty negligent when it comes to taking care of my personal needs.  I put off going to the doctor, stay up half the night, skip baths, etc; a bad behavior which supplies it’s own built in punishment.  I am resolving to improve this area of my life. Regularly attending to my daily needs, whatever they may be, will reinforce my ability to keep counting calories.  The two ideas have a synergetic relationship, so this needs to be a high priority of each day.  It may be obvious to most, but often escapes me; the final vestiges of my old depression years.  The desire to live at a normal weight, is nothing more than a desire to take better care of oneself. It stands to reason that expanding on the idea will support the mission.
  • Flexibility is a hallmark of calorie counting and that energy should be tapped as needed.  My narrow-minded attitude is not working lately.  I am adding a range to my daily calorie allowance. Instead of a rigid 1500 calories per day; my requirement to maintain a weight of 120, which has worked well for losing weight up to now, I will allow myself to increase my intake up to a maintenance level as needed. The holidays are here, I have many, many irons in the fire, and I just can’t hold onto that narrow focus. My goal is to avoid gaining weight throughout the holidays, and this may allow me to lose some too. I figured out the amount of calories I can increase to, by tinkering around with this healthy weight calculator . This plan will allow another 700 calories per day; the most flexibility I can afford.  I may not need them everyday, but they will be available. Which will make all the difference!

I’m unwilling to miss the holidays in order to lose a few more pounds this season. My passion is in living a rich, full life, and delicious holiday food is part of that. This is a lifestyle change, and I will always need to do what is necessary to succeed through the holidays, or any situation.  Which will call for some flexibility.  Yes, there is some re-training required on my part, but not to the point of being unrealistic. Learning how to maintain during the holidays will be a very valuable skill to acquire.  And when life returns to normal, so will my ability to focus on losing weight. This is something I can live with.


The reason for the season.
The reason for the season.

My young cousin was just saying on Facebook that their home is now, officially decorated for Christmas.  And she added how much she loves to decorate for Christmas, it being her favorite time of year. Immediately, I thought to myself, “Oh yeah, I have to do that too”! Honestly, this was the first time I had even thought about it.  That’s really weird, because I used to be just like my young cousin when it comes to Christmas decorating.  This year it has lost it’s place in my priorities.

Now-a-days, I stay on guard over stress issues, trying not to over-extend as much as possible.  The kids are grown, the grand-kids aren’t coming this year, and there are several things on my agenda that take priority over Christmas decorating; things I am not willing to sacrifice. I’m not going to rule out the possibility, but it may turn out that I do not get it done this year. It’s been a tradition, so I’m not sure how I feel about that.

Several things would have to come to pass before I would even be ready to decorate. I would have to get the house clean, and I am behind on that. As I recall, the lights on the tree need some repair. I have outdoor decorations too, so I would need to clean up the yard and the porch, and I would have to work around the weather. I was really kind of focused on other projects! We are getting ready to move my new quail from the brooder to the cages and we are setting up a new automatic watering system.  They have grown up and are cramped in the brooder.  That whole project absolutely must take priority, but we can’t do it until our supplies arrive in the mail on Monday.

To be honest, the whole task of Christmas decorating would probably only take about 7 hours of my time.  Taking it all down might require another 3.  Then we could enjoy the nice ambiance for the  duration of the season.  And when my daughter comes to visit this year, she will truly enjoy it.

I remember Christmastime when she and her brother were little. Great times!! We would decorate the tree together, each of us taking care of the portions we could reach, while their dad climbed on the roof with staple gun in hand, to hang lights off the eaves. We had a huge calico cat named Patches, and after the tree was decorated, but before we put any presents under it, she would spend time lying on her back on top of the tree skirt and stare up through the middle, seemingly mesmerized by the affect of the lights. The kids would make  cute little handmade decorations in school, and bring them home to brighten up the house. And I always found them the cutest little Christmas pjs that they wore during the season.  We read books at bedtime, with great expression.  A favorite was “T’was the night before Christmas”.  Another was “The Velveteen Rabbit”.  I remember staying up all night on Christmas Eve with their dad and putting toys together. And seeing their bright eyes and happy faces at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning,… mountains of used wrapping paper all over the den, after they opened their presents. Times like these pass too quickly.

Charlotte and Dusty in their   Christmas PJs.
Charlotte and Dusty in their
Christmas PJs.

Christmas is a special time of year, and Christmas decorating is a kind of magical, creative endeavor.  It is not an absolute necessity, but for those who love a warm and comfortable home, a few hours of effort will brighten the spirit of the holiday for everyone it reaches, transforming everyday surroundings into a place of loving warmth and beauty. It will touch the child within us and remind us of days gone by. It is one way some of us give of ourselves throughout the holiday; an expression of our love for Christ.

I suppose I can re-arrange my schedule  🙂

Losing Momentum

They are ok in moderation, but you gotta count ’em!!

Managing the tasks of life is sometimes a very difficult thing for me to do.

I am just coming off of a 10 day break in my calorie counting program. I didn’t plan to take a break.  It just happened.  It all began when things got really hectic and my workload kind of doubled on me.  It was all positive.  These changes are about things that I want to do. Still, I have not fully adapted to the new schedule. As a matter of fact, I haven’t put a lot of thought into scheduling, period.  Upon analyzing the situation, I find this fact to be at the root of my difficulties.

I was pulling all-nighters and being led by my emotions and ambitions during all this time. In other words, just kind of doing whatever I felt like doing at any given moment, with no real self-control.   I started estimating instead of counting at about that time. A time-saver, I thought.  I was probably eating less calories than allowed, and I figured I would only do it for a few days.  So was not really worried about it.  When weigh-in day came around, the scale actually showed a loss of 3#. That just served to provide me with a false sense of security.

Gradually, I began eating more calories, but still not too many, I don’t think.  My stress level was pretty high, and the last 3 nights, I did really bad, getting into sugary sodas, big cinnamon rolls, ice cream, candy, summer sausage,…  All without counting. I made a note, 3 days ago, that it was time to sit down and think about what I am doing here.  It still took these three days to get completely off my high horse and face the facts.  I tried to get things under control yesterday. I did count calories, but I still went over by about 500.  Progress… Tonight, it looks like I am going to make it. But, I’m still on unsteady ground.

Tomorrow is weigh-in day and I expect it to be pretty bad (5 3/4# gain).  But I know it won’t take that long to make a full rebound.  I actually like calorie counting.  It is comforting and makes me feel good about how I am eating and taking care of myself.  So, I don’t think it will be too hard to get back in the swing of things.

I need to put some thought into how to go about blending my new responsibilities with the old ones.  Once I have that figured out, then I will have some boundaries to enforce.  This is just a part of being my own good parent.  When I let the child have her way, she always gets me in trouble.  But when I apply some self-discipline, this is an act of kindness that I do unto myself.  And it leaves me feeling safe and capable.

Once I have that feeling, then I can settle down and live my life confidently.  I guess I will never ever stop having to do this. But the point is, there are places I want to go.  And it is the adult in me that knows how to get there.

Analyze It

Allow time to analyze your situation.
Allow time to analyze your situation.

Last week there were 2 evenings that I went over my limit by about 500 calories or so.  It happened 2 nights in a row and after the second time I began to realize that I was not going to be losing weight anymore if I continued to do this.

It was late, and I was tired.  So, on my  to do list for the next day, I wrote down “spend some time thinking about these last two evenings”.  I wrote it down, I would not forget.  This is a really good practice to follow.   And it helped me sleep better that night.

The next day I set aside a good amount of time to just think the whole thing over.  I have come to understand that there is an analytical element to calorie counting.  So I began; Why was I doing this?  Was I bored, no.  Was I anxious or angry, no.  Was I stressed, not really. Was I hungry, yes.  Why was I hungry? Because I was staying up really late, both nights, and I had simply run out of fuel. So how can I prevent this from happening again?  Go to bed earlier. Or save some calories for late in the night.  Either would work!

It’s really good to think things through.  Be the boss over your unruly child. Take charge of your calorie counting situation, with confidence and determination. That little exercise pretty much nipped the whole problem in the bud.  And to my delight, this morning for my weekly weigh-in, I had lost 1 – 1/4#.  This is the stuff that makes calorie counting doable for a lifetime.

I have chosen calorie counting, as my way of controlling how much I eat.  If I’m not eating with some kind of control, then I am eating out of control.  And I really don’t want to do that anymore.

Rib Eye Steaks

A simple, delicious steak.
A simple, delicious steak.

On almost any diet I have ever done, I found it pretty hard to have a nice big steak. So many calories, I thought.  Since calorie counting is my lifetime plan, I approach things like steaks, quite differently now. After all, I want to have steak in my life.  So I better learn how to make it work with calorie counting.

Tonight, we grilled some mouth-watering rib eyes!  They were quite large, we got them from Sam’s Club.  About an inch thick. At first I thought, I would just have steak and nothing else.  Then I thought, we won’t do this too often. So I just won’t bother with calorie counting tonight.  Finally I realized that I have a great little electronic digital scale.  And I could weigh out my meal in nothing flat.

I had saved up my calories almost all day in anticipation of our meal. I decided that I would eat my whole steak, not just half.  And I would have all the trimmings.  So my plan was to weigh my meal and enjoy it.  I would look up my totals afterward. I was not sure exactly what I was getting myself into, and I decided that if I went over, I would deal with it.

So I got the potatoes ready and Glenn brought in the steaks.  Here is how I weighed out my meal:

  1. I got out a clean plate, set it on my scale and turned it on.  The scale set to 0, and I set it to measure in grams.
  2. I cut the end off of my steak, to give to Valentine, my dog.
  3. I lay my portion on the clean plate and with pen and paper handy, I quickly jotted down the number on the scale.  Then I tared the scale, which set it back to 0.
  4. I left my steak on the plate and added my potato, wrote down the number, and tared the scale again.
  5. I dipped up an enjoyable amount of butter, wrote down the number, and tared the scale.
  6. I added a nice dollop of sour cream, wrote down the number.
  7. Then I put my dog’s piece on my plate.

It probably took a total of about 1 minute to do all that.  And now I had the valuable information I needed to see what it all came up to.

I sat the numbers aside and enjoyed my nice, warm meal.  It was delicious, and so satisfying!  I cut my dog a portion into very small pieces, so that I would not get it mixed up with mine.  And I just dropped her a little piece on the floor every so often.  We all ate together 🙂 Afterwards, I did my calculations.

I went to Google and typed in “beef”.  They have fabulous nutrition information, right there on the search page.  They had a way to count rib eye and I was able to get a very close idea of the calories in my steak.  I followed by typing “potato”, “butter”, and “sour cream” into Google.  I had numbers listed by grams for everything I ate and I was able to know exactly how many calories I had consumed.

It turned out to be about 840.  Not bad at all!  I actually have calories left over tonight. I’ll eat some veges and fruit, as to get my requirement of fiber.  I’ll have to take a small calcium pill, in order to get enough for the day. Of course, I have plenty of protein.  I will still have almost 400 calories left, and I think I will have a Snickers and Dr. Pepper.

I love calorie counting!  It is a wonderful way to undo that old diet mentality, and learn how to eat again!  If you are in the market for an electronic, digital food scale, I can get you one of premium quality, at a fair price.  Just comment on this story and let me know.

Keeping Track

When I first started counting calories, I had an aversion to the idea of weighing and measuring my food.  And I didn’t want to write anything down, either!  It all just seemed like too much bother.  I strung a few days together by just estimating. Then it occurred to me, I was doing all this hard work and I didn’t even know if I was eating the right amounts that would cause me to have a good weight loss! At that point, I knew I was going to have to do better, but I still wanted to keep things simple.

I needed to keep a temporary record of my calorie consumption each day, and I chose to use a 4×6 index card to do this.  I like the index card because it is small and has body.  So it holds up well throughout the day, and there is plenty of room to write everything on there that I need to put down.

I always begin my day by writing down the day of the week on the upper, left corner of the front side of my card.  Then, in the remainder of the space, i just jot down numbers, no words.  I use 2/3 of the card to write down calories and subtotals.  When I have a subtotal, I draw a square around that number.  And I use the remaining 1/3 of the card to total everything up.

index card - front view
index card – front view

Not long after I began counting calories, I became interested in eating a balanced diet each day, as well.  On the back side of my card, going the long way, I make 3 columns, and I just jot down the number of grams of fiber and protein and the percentage of calcium that I find on the nutrition label for my serving, of the things that I eat throughout the day.  This helps me decide what to eat as the day goes by.

index card - back view
index card – back view

By the end of the day, the card is used up and I have usually come within very close range of my daily allowances for calories, fiber, protein, and calcium.  Now I can throw it away, knowing that I really have done well that day, or how far I went over, if I did.  I don’t like to write down words, because that can get tedious.  This needs to be a quick thing that just helps me keep track of the numbers.  And it really works well.

Weighing my foods and writing things down is important.  If I do not keep up with what I am eating, I doubt I would be having much success.  It insures that I am getting the right amount of calories, fiber, protein, and calcium.  And it is also teaching me what a normal portion looks like.  So if I get in a situation where I cannot count my nutrition, I will at least be able to make a good estimate.


Thinking it Through

Be Your Own Good Parent
Be Your Own Good Parent

Last night I had a hard time sleeping and stayed up very late.  After awhile I got physically hungry, but I had no calories left, and I found myself craving all kinds of rich foods.  

I did ok by just ignoring the cravings for awhile.  And to help with the hunger, I ate a can of sliced beets. I really like beets.  The pickled variety contains a lot of sugar, but these were just plain sliced beets. They are a relatively low calorie vegetable, loaded with good nutrition.  For that reason, I did not worry about the few calories that they do contain.  Eating them helped my hunger pangs.  But I was working on technical stuff, and some things were not going my way. That added a little stress to the equation, so the cravings returned with a vengeance.

I started zeroing in on all the good things we have to eat in the house and my focus settled on the Fritoes Scoops and a small amount of Hot Bean Dip that was left in the fridge.  Again, I had no calories left for that at all and after the beets, I can’t say that I was really, physically hungry anymore.  Still, they were calling my name.  I almost got them out and ate them, but mentally, I was trying to talk myself out of it.

Finally, I like to think I took the leadership role with my inner child. First I said, “Ok, just go stretch out on the couch and think about this for a few minutes”.  That was a really helpful tactic.  Because while I was lying there, I thought of things like, what all I had eaten that day, and how I have already lost 11 – 1/4#, and how I wanted to see a loss on the scale tomorrow morning,…  So it refreshed me a little and kind of balanced my mood.  Then I said, “Ok, you can have the fritoes and bean dip in the morning.  Right now, have a glass of tea, and in the morning, have the fritoes and bean dip for breakfast”.

Interestingly, this few minutes of rest allowed me some time to settle down, so pretty soon after that, I just got up and quickly cleaned the kitchen.  Then I went to bed.

The adult in me did prevail.  And the scale showed a 1/4# loss this morning, which I am very happy about!  For breakfast, I enjoyed Fritoes Scoops and Hot Bean Dip 🙂  I suppose I could have bribed my inner child if I had needed to.  “Put this off until morning and you can order a book from Amazon”. Something like that. Whatever works!!

Calorie counting requires a little bit of self-discipline from time to time. Sometimes you just have to gently put your foot down and be your own good parent.  I’m beginning to realize, it is important to love and care for yourself as you would, your own child.

Beware of Coyotes

Boquillas Canyon
Boquillas Canyon

Glenn and I used to travel a lot.  Our favorite thing to do was camping, because we could save money, enjoy the outdoors, and even bring Valentine, our sweet little chihuahua. She loved our travels too. One of our favorite places to go was Big Bend National Park, part of the ruggedly beautiful Rocky Mountains, and located on the Texas – Mexico border.

There are a lot of fun things to do and beautiful things to see at Big Bend.  The visitor center is very nice.  There are beautiful hiking trails, a great natural hot spring, and the Rio Grande River.  Now the ferry to Boquillas, Mexico has been opened, I hear.  And at Big Bend, they have a great respect for wildlife, so you see a lot of it.

The Mexican citizens that live around Big Bend, swim across the river and sneak up to the trails unnoticed, laying out their handmade trinkets.  You can leave your money in the jar.  Some of their stuff is really neat. They offer nice, painted walking sticks that they make out of the native plants called Agaves, a dessert succulent. The trail that goes to Boquillas Canyon is probably my favorite.  It’s not a long trail, maybe a mile. But it’s rocky, and goes up and down a lot.  The first time we walked it, Glenn bought me a stick, and one for himself. They really helped, and made great souvenirs, but we found out that we shouldn’t have bought them.

The walk there is not scenic as I recall, but once we arrived, we were awstruck by the beauty of Boquillas Canyon, with it’s tall cliffs rising over the river and beautiful horses grazing on green grasses.  The flat bank leading up to it is the perfect place to sit and rest for a while.   That same evening, we sat on the bank and ate our picnic. While across the river, a Mexican man sat on a hilltop and sang to us. It was so very romantic, a memory I treasure!

The park rangers run a tight ship, and they explain the importance of keeping your camp clean.  All food has to go in a vault, any left out will encourage the coyotes and hogs.  We had gone for a dip in the hot spring one morning and when we returned, a park ranger was waiting for us.  We had left a tube of lip balm on the picnic table.  He made a big point of telling us not do that again!  At night when you go to the bathroom, you’ll probably meet a coyote.  They really feel at home, at Big Bend.

Pets are supposed to be on a leash at all times.  And you hear stories about how the coyotes have come into camp and taken the pets.  So we were very cautious with Valentine.  Still, we were there for a week, and she had to get off that leash, some.  We just tried to watch her close when we let her off.

She had a little pink pig toy that she loved.  We accidentally left it outside one night,  And when we got up the next morning,  The tail had been carefully chewed off and left there, beside the toy.  That afternoon, we let her off her leash for a little while and she was sniffing around the camp.  Suddenly she started running away from camp!  Glenn yelled at her in a sharp voice, and she stopped.  On the edge of the thicket there was a coyote sitting there in broad daylight, acting playful and making eye contact with her.  It was seducing her.   She had seen it and started running toward it.  Glenn picked her up and brought her back to our camp, but not before scaring off the coyote.

It scared me to death!  She could have been a salty snack! We will never take her back to Big Bend!

When it was time to leave, we packed up and drove about 30 miles to the border patrol station.  They saw our walking sticks, and had a fit! Apparently it is illegal to buy those trinkets off the trails. They wanted to search our car, and even threatened to confiscate it.  That would have been terrible, we were a long way from home!  They finally relented, but they probably held us up for 30 minutes at least. It surprised me though, that they let us keep them!

A Big Bend adventure is like no other.  It’s a wild place that will touch just about every nerve you’ve got!  Seeing it through the eyes of a hiker, rather than from the car window, adds volumes to the experience.  It makes a wonderful vacation destination in winter, spring, and fall, but should be avoided in summer.  It is a place where memories are made.  But, bring your own walking stick, and beware of those coyotes!