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Sled Dogs & Snow Ghosts – Whitefish, Montana in the Winter

Whitefish, Montana! A quirky, friendly little town with a great sense of humor, a fabulous microbrewery, and some of the most incredible scenery in the world!

Join us as we head into Glacier National Park in the snow and dog sled (!!!) through the breathtaking Stillwater State Forest with goofy grins pasted on our faces… CONTINUE READING >> 

The GypsyNesters go dog sledding in Whitefish, MontanaWhen Amtrak offered us a ride on the legendary Empire Builder we accepted without hesitation.

The only thing we had to think about was where we would like to get off and stay a few days before riding back the other way.

Whitefish Montana, gateway to Glacier National Park, quickly emerged as the clear choice.

Whitefish Montana

The town of Whitefish sprung up almost overnight as soon as the Great Northern Railway arrived in 1904.

Things were built so fast that the stumps from the trees used for lumber were everywhere, giving the new community its original name of Stumptown.

Fortunately for all future residents, the early leaders decided to go with Whitefish, after the nearby lake, when officially incorporating the city a year later.

Whitefish Montana

Logging operations soon dominated the area, so stumps remained an integral part of the landscape for years to come.

Now days tourists like us coming for the proximity to the national park, and skiers to The Whitefish Mountain Resort on nearby Big Mountain, are the main economic engine for the 6,400 citizens.

Glacier National Park

With only a couple days for our explorations, we took a pass on the skiing and opted for a visit to Glacier National Park.

The train travels along the southern edge of the park and is a great way to see it in the winter, but we wanted to venture in a little deeper.

So we rented a car and drove through Hungry Horse to the western entrance to the park and the famous Going To The Sun Road. During the summer months the road traverses the park, climbing over Logan Pass, but once the snow flies only the first eleven miles are open.

Glacier National Park

Click here for more photos of spectacular Glacier National Park in the winter

Glacier National Park

While this seriously limited the amount of the park we could see, the upside was that there were no crowds.

Other than a handful of hardy souls we saw strapping on cross country skis to head off into the back country, we were all alone.

We gingerly managed our way up the snowy road, skirting along Lake McDonald all the way to the iconic Lake McDonald Lodge. The hotel, designated as a National Historic Landmark, has been housing guests since 1914 when it was built as the Lewis Glacier Hotel.

However, it is only open in the summer, so we had the whole place to ourselves, at least the outside of it. We trudged through the snow examining the entire grounds and then down to the lakeshore, where we found a view that was well worth the trip… and slips, slides, and falls.

Glacier National Park

The panorama includes the whole lake and surrounding peaks, but our eyes, and cameras, were automatically drawn to the north end of the lake where Stanton Mountain, Mount Brown, and Gunsight Mountain loom over the water.

Glacier National Park

On the way out of the park we stopped at the Apgar Visitor Center and then got some great pictures from the boat ramp by the campground. Nearly ten miles of lake spread out before us from this vantage point.

Click here for more photos of spectacular Glacier National Park in the winter

The Great Northern Bar in Whitefish, Montana

Even without going all Grizzly Adams mountain man into the wilderness, slogging through knee deep snow can build up a powerful hunger.

Folks in Whitefish have been satisfying their hungers… and thirsts, at The Great Northern Bar for nearly one hundred years, and we certainly weren’t looking to break with tradition.

The Great Northern Bar has signs from businesses of old

Named for the railroad responsible for its existence, The Great Northern has taken on the task of keeping local history alive.

The walls are covered with signs obtained from dozens of nearby businesses that have gone by the wayside through the years, as well as relics from the old GN Railway.

After checking out the menu, for some reason buffalo seemed like the right thing to order.

Click here for more photos of Great Northern Bar

Kokanee Glacier Fresh Beer

Yup, we were going plum Western. When we washed it down with Great Northern’s famous fried green beans and a Kokanee “Glacier Fresh” Beer, a new discovery for us that hails from the nearby neighbors to the north, British Columbia, we had some right-rib-sticking vittles.

Dog Sled Adventures, Olney, Montana outside of Whitefish

As we began investigating Whitefish before our trip, we discovered a winter option that we knew we had to try… dog sledding!

Much less bone crunching than skiing, and possibly even more fun. Next stop Jeff Ulsamer’s Dog Sled Adventures just up the road a piece in Olney.

Poor little guy is pouting because he doesn't get to go this time
Poor little guy is pouting because he doesn’t get to go this time.

When we pulled up over one hundred dogs were barking their brains out. To be exact, one hundred and twenty-four according to Jeff.

He explained that the barking was because the teams were being set up with the sleds, and the dogs that were not chosen to pull were pretty upset.

They love their jobs!

So we showered some of the unchosen with affection – something you can do for your furry friends at drfoxmag.com – and readied ourselves for the run.

Getting ready to dog sled in Whitefish, Montana!
All warm and cozy and ready to dog sled!

We wedged our way into a comfy, warm sled and, without a word from our driver, we were on our way. Instantly all of the racket stopped. We slid through the forest with surprising speed, and an even more surprising lack of sound.

Turns out that the cracking whips, yelling of “mush,” and constant barking of the teams are just movie make-believe. In fact, we’ve never seen so much tail wagging in our lives!

Dog sledding through Stillwater State Forest in Montana

In real life the dogs respond to subtle signals from the driver. Most of these are made by shifting the sled, but a few are audible, including periodic “good dogs.”

The team also works on feel, knowing when the sled picks up speed down a hill, or to pull harder on the way up one.

Click here for more exciting dog sledding pics in beautiful Stillwater State Forest

Dog Sled Adventures in Montana

For over an hour we glided through Stillwater State Forest with goofy grins pasted on our faces. It was impossible not to smile watching those eight huskies pull us along.

Actually, we asked about the dogs and they are not necessarily pure bred huskies. They are mixed husky, German shepherd, greyhound, and other breeds that mostly come from a line of rescue dogs that Jeff has been refining since 1979.

Through the years more dogs have been rescued, and the ones that have the right mix of temperament and desire to pull are added into the bloodline.

Some might not have any husky in them at all. In fact, perhaps Jeff’s most famous dog, Bowser (star of local parades, festivals, and fundraisers), is a Blue Tick Hound. Don’t tell him though, he thinks he’s just one of the guys and loves to pull a sled.

Dog sledding through Stillwater State Forest

After the ride we warmed up by the fire with hot chocolate, fresh cookies, and some conversation with Jeff and the folks from the other sleds. Then it was time to say goodbye to the dogs and make way for the arriving next batch of riders.

As we pulled away, the barking told us that the team selection was underway, and rumor had it that Bowser was going to get to pull this time.

Click here for more exciting dog sledding pics in beautiful Stillwater State Forest

The Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish

In asking around as to what we shouldn’t miss in Whitefish one more place kept coming up, The Black Star Draught House at The Great Northern Brewing Company.

Long name, good beer made right on the premises, and the tallest building in town. How could we pass it up?

Sampler beer tray at the Black Star Draught House in Whitefish

Not being craft beer experts, we ordered a sampler tray and let our bartender pick a selection of malt beverage offerings for our consideration.

She returned with six small brandy snifter style glasses filled with Wild Huckleberry Wheat, Going to the Sun IPA, Frog Hop Fresh Hopped Pale Ale, Big Fog ESB, Glacier Chaser Marzen Lager, and Snow Ghost Winter Lager.

The Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish

Most of the names had something familiar about them, glaciers, the famous Going To The Sun Road, or huckleberries (which are everywhere ’round these parts), but Snow Ghost was a new one on us. We asked the barkeep and she explained how snow ghosts are a phenomenon unique to the ski area up on Big Mountain.

Fog and freezing temperatures are common and often leave trees encased in ice that can take on human-like forms. Tales of the eerie creatures were making us wish that we had taken a day for skiing after all, just to see them, but we were in luck.

Snow ghosts on Big Mountain in Whitefish Montana!

The next morning, just after boarding the eastbound Empire Builder for another pass through Glacier National Park — this time from the warmth of the dome car, we met a family of skiers who were more than happy to share some photos with us. (Big photo thanks to Jeff and his amazing son – we always meet the coolest people on the train!).

And unlike most ghosts, these guys showed up on film just fine.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

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Marfa My Dear

We found ourselves in the middle-of-nowhere West Texas and discovered some WEIRD stuff!

The mysterious Marfa Ghost Lights (fact or fiction?), strange pig like creatures (with a little nursing baby!) and a really, REALLY strange work of art.

Join us on the journey into weird and wonderful West Texas…CONTINUE READING  >>

The Marfa Lights Field at sunset

We ventured deep in the heart of Texas with an eye on viewing the legendary Marfa Lights, hoping to see the mysterious ghost lights from the official viewing area built by the nearby city of Marfa.

As a bonus, the area allows overnight parking for hardy paranormal activity seekers’ RVs.

We pulled in at sundown and found a spot overlooking the famous field where the illuminations are said to appear. After looking around, checking the horizon for possible sources of light and reading the markers explaining the phenomenon, we put some dinner on the stove, cracked open some vino and waited.

The first public account of the spook lights was in the July 1957 issue of Coronet Magazine, but the article claimed that they had been reported as far back as the 1800s.

People have described them as glowing spheres floating above the ground or high in the air. They can vary in color from white to yellow, orange or red and zip around in a strange manner, sometimes merging into each other or splitting apart to form new balls.

Marfa Lights Viewing PlatformThey are known to hover, or shoot around at high speed and disappear and reappear. We were very excited, but knew our chances might be limited since reports say that they only materialize about twenty times a year and seem to be completely unpredictable.

As dusk fell, we stood at the viewing platform scanning the horizon but spotted nothing unusual.

There were some lights that seemed to float off in the distance, but these were headlights of vehicles coming down a hill on U.S. Highway 67, which many skeptics say are the source of most of the claimed sightings. We weren’t falling for those, we wanted basketball-sized dancing orbs to show themselves.

After half an hour or so of wary watching, we began to get a bit chilly and decided to continue our observations from the comfort of BAMF. Through the window behind the couch, we kept an eye out for floating, glowing blobs but saw nothing but darkness.

As our interest faded, I decided that a cheesy horror movie might help the mood. Lucky for us I had found “Attack Of The Monsters” in the dollar bin at a Wal-Mart a few days earlier. Perfect.

Attack of the Monsters!

“Attack” is a classic film from the Japanese Kaiju genre where Gamera, the jet powered flying turtle protector of all children, must save a couple kids from both brain-eating alien babes and Guiron, a knife headed dino-monster.

It turned out to be a strong contender for the worst movie ever made. I highly recommend it. Really, with great dialogue like “You’re right, we’ll eat their brains after we’ve fixed the ship,” it is so bad its good.

Veronica couldn’t take it and crawled up into the loft to catch some z’s, she’s simply not the connoisseur of bad cinema that I am. I was determined to see this stinker through, but at some point, while men in rubber monster suits did ferocious battle, I nodded off. When I came to, I saw a light outside the window.

Was I dreaming? Have I talked myself into seeing things? I watched for awhile. It wasn’t moving, but it seemed awfully close and I was positive it wasn’t there earlier. I woke up Veronica with a friendly little Poltergeist-esque “They’re here.”

She was half asleep and fully scared out of her mind, but agreed that the light hadn’t been there before so… that was it for sleep that night.

In the light of day we discussed our encounter and decided to rate it a ” definite maybe.” Our attempted photos just looked like darkness but we were sure we had seen something.

We needed to return for more research, but in the meantime, wanted to check out a couple other nearby attractions, The Davis Mountains and The McDonald Observatory. Base camp for these would be Davis Mountain State Park, just a few miles up from the town of Marfa.

The state park sports some serious mountain bike trails, wonderful views of the high desert and most importantly, lots of Javelinas. After an aborted attempt at riding a rock-strewn trail on our trusty two wheelers, we decided to explore the park via paved roads.

Along the way we spotted a pig-like animal in the brush. We didn’t get a good look, but it was definitely the fabled Javelina. A New World Pig sometimes known as a Musk Hog, which is really not a pig at all, but a Collared Peccary.Don't Call Me a Pig!

This was even more exciting than a maybe vision of a paranormal light, but it was going to get better. At dusk, as we headed up the mountain to the observatory, we encountered a whole herd of the buggers. Javelina are social animals that like to hang out in groups of a dozen or more.

Javelinas! Musk Hog! Skunk Pig!We jumped out of BAMF for a closer look as the peccaries groveled around for some grub. Later we were informed that Javelinas, when in a group, have been known to turn nasty on humans. Luckily for us, ours were friendly skunk pigs.

The McDonald Observatory has telescopes perched high and dry atop 6,791 foot Mount Fowlkes and 6,659 foot Mount Locke. The location makes for some dark, clear night skies, excellent for astronomical observations.

We crashed, after calling ahead for reservations, one of their triweekly star parties, where in addition to an introduction to the observatory, we were treated to views through several telescopes. Awesome images of the Moon, Jupiter and, coolest of all, the Orion Nebula where new stars are constantly forming.

All of these celestial sights got us thinking about the Marfa lights again. We wanted more, needed to know for sure we had seen something. The following evening we returned to our spot and waited anxiously.

This time, being the weekend, there were more people around, so we chatted with a few of the other curiosity seekers. We conversed and waited with several first time visitors, then a couple of old hands stopped by.

These two explained how they stopped here every time they were headed to a bar up the road in Alpine. They had clearly partaken of some mind altering substances.

“Dude, look at that!” And there they were. The Marfa Lights.

The stoners took it upon themselves to convince us that the lights could not be headlights or folks a hoaxin’. We have to admit the whole show was pretty eerie.

Some skeptics theorize that the source of the lights is a mirage caused by sharp temperature gradients between the cold and warm layers of air, citing that Marfa is at an altitude of 4,688 feet and temperatures easily vary 50-60 degrees from high and low. Others point to cars, campfires or ranches as possibilities.

A four-night study by UT Dallas students focused on headlights and reached the conclusion that vehicle lights do look mysterious to many visitors, especially with the help of some wacky weed. Sorry, we just threw in that last part, but it would seem that many Marfa Lights observations can be dismissed as auto headlights.

Another study conducted in May of 2008, lasted twenty nights. Scientists from Texas State University found that a number of the mysterious lights “could have been mistaken for lights of unknown origin,” but in each case the data from their equipment showed the movements of the lights could be easily explained as automobile headlights, or small fires.

The researchers did stress their study did not disprove the existence of the Marfa Lights, only that the lights that appeared during those twenty nights could be fully explained.

We left feeling basically the same way. It’s hard to wrap a brain around a strange light in the pitch darkness, it’s just too creepy and weird.

The West Texas weirdness wasn’t through with us yet – the tests of our senses of reality didn’t end as we drove off into the desert.

Prada MarfaWas that actually a Prada store out in the very center of nowhere? We wheeled around to have better look. It WAS a Prada and it IS truly in the middle of nowhere.

Turns out “Prada Marfa” is the work of artists Elmgreen and Dragset. A “pop architectural land art project,” as it were.

There really is no telling what we’ll see next out here.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Fear Conquering & Snow Skiing


Learning to ski at my age had me worrying about things that a younger person might not have.

What if I plummet over a cliff, break my hip, and die from complications a week later? What if I take a blow to the back of my head from one of those chair ride thingies and end up like an amnesia-riddled soap opera character?  What if? But as a committed GypsyNester, it is my duty to step out of my comfort zone and… CONTINUE READING >>

Fear Conquering

Learning to ski at my age had me worrying about things that a younger person might not have.

What if I plummet over a cliff, break my hip, and die from complications a week later?

What if I take a blow to the back of my head from one of those chair ride thingies and end up like an amnesia-riddled soap opera character?

What if I end up like Sonny Bono and that horrible tree?

What if?

But as a committed GypsyNester, it is my duty to step out of my comfort zone and go for the glory with guts AND gusto.

I continually needed to remind myself when I started “what if-ing” that the huge majority of “ifs” turn out just fine, sometimes even excellently. Besides, my affairs are in order, my kids are grown and have burden-proofed my life.

Should I take the big spill, the world would go on without me. So, by golly, I’m going for it.

I wasn’t subjected to snow while growing up in the desert so I’m ignorant in its ways. Exotic words like “packed” and “powder” were being flung about by the giddy skiers surrounding me and I found it very infectious.

So with a smile on my face, on a beautiful sunny day, I was ready to charge the mountain.

At the lodge’s rental counter, David helped me into the daunting ski equipment as if he were dressing a two-year-old, complete with runny nose.

I was horrifyingly inept.

The boots alone were very complicated buggers. They were foot prisons made of a brutal, inflexible, space-aged polymer that doesn’t exist anywhere in nature. For maximum support, the footwear apparently must be clamped down tight enough to cut off all blood flow below the knees.

My legs were getting all tingly and I couldn’t feel my feet at all.

Since that seemed to mean that I was properly booted up, David lead the way toward the slopes with our skis and poles. I basically had to relearn the art of walking in order to follow him.

Add in two pairs of pants, four layers on top, scarf, hat and gloves and my limbs stuck out like a freakin’ starfish, only less mobile. But I managed to shuffle my way across the room toward the exit and still keep my good humor intact. I was even starting to find it quite comical.

Until I got to the stairs. My feet might as well have been nailed to the floor. The boots prohibited me from mounting a single step.

I tried pulling one leg up the first step with my sweating, mittened hands. Squatting a tad, I grabbed my thigh above a bent knee and yanked. My shoulder almost sprung from its socket, but the boot remained firmly planted on the floor.

Attempting to execute a crablike maneuver, I shuffled sideways whilst doubling myself over the handrail. Great energy expense with no ascension. But, if I am one thing, that thing is resourceful. I found my method.

For the remainder of our stay, I ascended the stairs back-end first. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Snowy tree

My intention was to first take a lesson, thus enabling the Colorado-raised David to get his gazelle-like self straight to the slopes without having The Old Ball and Chain literally be an old ball and chain.

Unfortunately an instructor wasn’t immediately available, so David escorted me to the Bunny Slope.

He listened to my lame jokes disguised as self-deprecation while he bestowed beginner slope gearing-up tactics upon me.

“Keep your skis sideways to the slope.”

“Keep your weight on the uphill ski.”

“Pop your boot into the binding.”

He might as well have been blithering Swiss Alpine gibberish. Time and time again I misdirected my feet and sent my skis flying. Time and time again David retrieved them. The man was a saint.

I tried to keep his pending canonization in mind as he pointed me toward a clanking contraption of spinning frozen rope dragging Gore-Tex coated three-year-olds with boards strapped to their feet up a gentle rise.

“What the hell is THAT?” He had to be kidding if he thought I was going to attach myself to that thing.

“The rope tow.” More Alpine gibberish. He looks at me as if I were one of the three-year-olds. “That’s how we go up the hill.”

Good thing I was very determined to master skiing, because the rope tow was almost as determined to kill me. These gizmos are not made for anybody with a center of gravity higher than Minnie Mouse.

It was a thing of beauty – my stiff starfish self being dragged up a slippery surface while flailing forward and back. I looked like one of those dancing inflatable men at a car dealership.

Add waving ski poles to the mix and it was gorgeous, a sight to behold.

Standing atop the mountain erroneously called a Bunny Slope, David coached me in the art of snowplowing and edge-digging before pointing me downhill.

The boots’ tightness, binding and bulkiness disappeared when put to proper use. I miraculously skied that horrifically steep and challenging Slope of the Small Hare, without wiping out.

The dreaded chair lift

After I’d done the same thing two whole times, Jules, my ski instructor, met us at the foot of the hill.

Ready to show off my new moves, I waddled across the flat expanse between us and promptly fell flat at her feet.

This did not bode well for my first lesson, the chair lift.

David and Jules discussed my abilities and potential while I flailed deliriously, trying to get back up on my skis. Had they not noticed me down here?

After what seemed like ten mortifying minutes, I was ultimately hoisted upright with assistance from both David and Jules, and I then began my slide toward the chair lift.

“Keep your knees bent. Stick out your butt. Skis must be pointed forward. Hold your poles in your outside hand.”

I opened my mouth to ask Jules what the poles were for, but after visualizing myself slipping in front of the speeding chair, knocked comatose, lifted up by the scruff of my jacket, carried fifty feet up, and then dropped to my death, I decided instead to concentrate on the task at hand.

I followed Jules’ instruction to the letter. With eyes squeezed tight, I felt a slight bang on the back of my legs, and I was up! Must be how a toddler feels when an adult comes from behind and sweeps him off his feet with no warning – both vomit-inducing and exciting.

Next thing I knew, we were at end of the line. Holding my ski poles in one hand as Jules instructed, I tipped my skis up and felt the ground come under them.

Emitting a strange squeak, I left the chair and made it down the slight incline in one piece. I came to a stop and turned to flash a triumphant grin at Jules. And fell on my butt. Jeez.

Grinning wipeouts aside, Jules decided I was ready for Jelly Bean Hill and Candy Cane Lane. Daunting stuff, those. I breezed through like a pro. I’d become Suzy Chapstick with the wind blowing through my honey blond hair – mall bangs and all.

No longer was I afraid of the Dr. Seuss-type-characters on snowboards zooming by from above. I was on fire. Jelly Bean Hill – I own you!

Having done her job, Jules handed me back into the capable hands of David. This time I was unquestionably vertical.

David, who had been skiing trails with names like Big Cajones and Black Diamond Death Bowl in my absence, urged me to try some harder slopes. The really tough ones, like the semi-dreaded Licorice Gum Drop Mountain.

I relented and, after showing off my new chair lift prowess, went to peer over the edge of the slope. Thank God my boots were so tight that my knees couldn’t buckle at the sight of the drop-off – that was one mother of a Gum Drop. I refused to budge.

David slyly changed his tactics from coddling to out-and-out mocking – until I bit my lip, closed my eyes and dug in, hoping to snowplow my way down the mountain.

Nope, too steep. Instead I turned and careened straight sideways across the slope. Not having covered this special kind of stupidity in my lessons, I did what came naturally. I freaked out.

Ridding myself of the poles, which seemed logical since I still had no clue why I’d been carrying them around all day, I laid out flailing in the snow hoping to stem the velocity of my slide.

It did, but not all that well. My full-body sprawl finally skidded me to a stop about twenty feet below my initial impact crater – and my poles.

“You lost your poles, dumbass,” was the first thing I heard. “Now I have to climb up there and get them.”

“Don’t call me dumbass, I’m trying as hard as I can,” I pouted.

Ahhhh. The Lodge.

David insisted that “dumbass” wasn’t actually included in the statement. I’m inclined to believe him.

We’ll just call it dumbass implied and leave it there.

Regardless, I was not about to let David come riding to the rescue, I was going to retrieve the poles myself.

Incidentally, it is much less problematic to return to the upright and locked position when collapsed on a steep hill, so I had that going for me.

Using my ski’s edges, my left hip and my shredded dignity, I managed to worm my way up to the orphaned poles.

I soldiered on to conquer the dastardly Gum Drop. Multiple times.

Now that I’d mastered the kiddie slopes, I felt there might be hope for me on skis. It really IS fun to zoom around on the white stuff.

That is why people do it, right? I don’t have to be fabulous to have a great time.

Maybe I’ll even stick around long enough next time to find out what the poles are for.

Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See Veronica’s full Fear Conquering Series!

YOUR TURN: So… how’d I do?

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See You in the Funny Pages!

Our favorite “Saturday Funnies!” Get a laugh!

Funny stuff for parents, boomers, and the young at heart!

 See them all! >> 

Our favorite Funnies! Have a laugh!

Funny stuff for parents, boomers, and the young at heart! Share, tweet or pin them to your friends!

Let’s begin with one of our all-time favorites:

LOVE this!

Wow! Tough call!
Wow! Tough call!

Ohhhhh...so THAT's what happened!
Ohhhhh…so THAT’s what happened!

Hahaha!

Yup! Love it!

LOVE it!

Finally! A video game we could probably be good at!
Finally! A video game we could probably be good at!

Hahaha!

To err is human, but to really foul things up you need a computer. - Paul Ehrlich

Hahaha! Yes!
Hahaha! Yes!

 BUSTED! Hahaha!
BUSTED! Hahaha!

Hahaha! And you thought YOUR job was bad!
Hahaha! And you thought YOUR job was bad!

Some people should use a glue stick instead of Chapstick

Ooooopppps!

Yup!


Yup! Done it!

Makes sense to us!

Yeah baby!
Yeah baby!

Yeah!

Yes!

LOVE it!

Saturday Funnies! Super Bowl Edition! What if...

Hahaha!

Saturday Funnies! Hear ya, Mr. Jagger, Hear ya.
Hear ya, Mr. Jagger, hear ya.

Hahaha! Yup!

Hahaha! MORE proof that I'm a great mom! I always turned off the beaters! -Veronica

Yep!

Hahaha!

Hahaha!

Hahaha!

We agree George!
We agree George!

Yup!

The Doctor is in!

Hahaha!

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month - get your mammograms ladies! Here's a bit of humor to make it easier for you to get through it!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month – get your mammograms ladies! Here’s a bit of humor to make it easier for you to get through it!

Funny 'cause it's true!

Apparently, I'm a rat!

For all of our writer friends!

Yup, it's us! See the whole story here: https://www.gypsynester.com/fp.htm
Yup, it’s us! See the whole story here: https://www.gypsynester.com/fp.htm

The Holidays!

Happy Mother's Day! Hahaha!

Poor guy.
Poor guy.

LOVE this!
LOVE this!

Hahaha!

The perfect Thanksgiving? You betcha!

Saturday Funnies! Ain't THIS the truth! Happy Thanksgiving!

I KNEW it! I KNEW scales did this after Thanksgiving Dinner!
I KNEW it! I KNEW scales did this after Thanksgiving Dinner!

Hahaha! Cackle!
Even pumpkins can be catty!
Even pumpkins can be catty!

Happy first day of fall! This'll work - right?

Hahaha!

Hahaha!
Oooopppps!

What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a new job the next day. -Phyllis Diller

I've done this!

Yup!

Seasonal Funnies!

Hahaha!

Hahaha! Need. Warm. Now.

Doing taxes today. UH. Anyone need the room after us?

Nope, it's real!

Seriously? We can DO THIS?
Seriously? We can DO THIS?

Absolutely!

Love this movie!
LOVE this movie!

Right?

Saying this quite a lot this Holiday Season! UGH.
Saying this quite a lot this Holiday Season! UGH.

Is it cold where you are?

Enjoy!

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Mush Myth Busting: Dog Sledding in Montana

Oh what fun it is to ride in an eight dog open sled.

We wedged our way under a comfy, warm blanket and proceeded to have most of our preconceived notions about mushing destroyed… CONTINUE READING >> 

Dog Sled Adventures, Olney, Montana outside of Whitefish

Winter getaways don’t always need to be escapes to warm and sunny tropical locales, sometimes embracing the bracing weather can lead to an incredibly exhilarating adventure.

At Jeff Ulsamer’s Dog Sled Adventures in Olney, Montana we discovered a winter option that we knew we had to try… dog sledding. Oh what fun it is to ride in an eight dog open sled.

Poor little guy is pouting because he doesn't get to go this time
Poor little guy is pouting because he doesn’t get to go this time.

As we walked up to the lodge, over one hundred dogs were barking their brains out. To be exact, one hundred and twenty-four according to Jeff.

He explained that the barking was because the teams were being set up with the sleds, and the dogs that were not chosen to pull were pretty upset. They love their jobs! So we showered some of the unchosen with affection – they are incredibly friendly dogs – and readied ourselves for the run.

Getting ready to dog sled in Whitefish, Montana!
All warm and cozy and ready to dog sled!

We wedged our way into a comfy, warm sled and proceeded to have most of our preconceived notions about mushing destroyed. Without a word from our driver we were on our way and instantly all of the racket stopped.

We slid through the forest with surprising speed, and an even more surprising lack of sound. Turns out that the cracking whips, yelling of “mush,” and constant barking of the teams are just movie make-believe. In fact, we’ve never seen so much tail wagging in our lives!

Dog sledding through Stillwater State Forest in Montana

In real life, the dogs respond to subtle signals from the driver. Most of these are made by shifting the sled, but a few are audible, including periodic “good dogs.”

The team also works on feel, knowing when the sled picks up speed down a hill, or to pull harder on the way up one.

Dog Sled Adventures in Montana

For over an hour we glided through Stillwater State Forest with goofy grins pasted on our faces. It was impossible not to smile watching those eight huskies pull us along.

Asking about the dogs brought about another myth busting answer. They are not necessarily pure bred huskies.

They can be mixed husky, German shepherd, greyhound, and other breeds that mostly come from a line of rescue dogs that Jeff has been refining since 1979.

Through the years more dogs have been rescued, and the ones that have the right mix of temperament and desire to pull are added into the bloodline. Some might not have any husky in them at all.

In fact, perhaps Jeff’s most famous dog, Bowser (star of local parades, festivals, and fundraisers), is a Blue Tick Hound. Don’t tell him though, he thinks he’s just one of the guys and loves to pull a sled.

Dog sledding through Stillwater State Forest

After the ride we warmed up by the fire with hot chocolate, fresh cookies, and some conversation with Jeff and the folks from the other sleds. Then it was time to say goodbye to the dogs and make way for the arriving next batch of riders.

As we pulled away, the barking told us that the team selection was underway, and rumor had it that Bowser was going to get to pull this time.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

See all of our adventures in Montana!

Picture This: The Christmas Market of Budapest, Hungary

It seemed that this market was more of a gathering place for friends and family to grab a bite, hang out, socialize, and listen to music than… CONTINUE READING >> 

Budapest's Christmas Market

Budapest Christmas Market

On the Pest side of Budapest we checked out the the city’s main Christmas market, a large collection of stands and kiosks all decked out in holiday style.

We were surprised how many of these were selling food or drink as opposed to gifts.

Traditional Hungarian Christmas Bread in Budapest, Hungary

Chimney cakes at the Christmas Market in Budapest, Hungary

See our entire adventure in Budapest!

The Christmas Market in Budapest, Hungary

It seemed that this market was more of a gathering place for friends and family to grab a bite, hang out, socialize, and listen to music than a shopping venue.

Basically a street fair, so we loved it.

An entire roasted big at the Christmas Market in Budapest, Hungary

Veronica drinks a cup of steaming hot Glühwein to warm our body and soul

We started with a cup of forralt bor, meaning boiled wine, the Hungarian version of mulled wine, or glühwein.

With our cockles properly warmed we were ready to sample some of the local fare.

See our entire adventure in Budapest!

forralt bor, meaning boiled wine, the Hungarian version of mulled wine, or glühwein

Goulash in a bread bowl at the Christmas Market in Budapest, Hungary

Food at the Christmas Market in Budapest, Hungary

See our entire adventure in Budapest!

töltött káposzta, cabbage stuffed with meat and rice and served with a paprika sauce and sour cream. Exceedingly Hungarian! We also couldn't resist a huge smoked meat dumpling with sauerkraut.

Everything looked fantastic but we settled on töltött káposzta, cabbage stuffed with meat and rice and served with a paprika sauce and sour cream, then we added a huge smoked meat dumpling with sauerkraut to our meal.

Exceedingly Hungarian!

Christmas candy balls at Budapest Christmas Market

Handmade puppets at Budapest Christmas Market

See our entire adventure in Budapest!

Handmade puppets at Budapest Christmas Market

Folk musicians at Budapest's Christmas Fair

Best jet-lag cure, total immersion into the local food and customs.

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

Thanks to Viking River Cruises for inviting us along and providing this adventure! As always, all opinions are our own.

Delve deeper:
See our entire adventure in Budapest
Explore the St. Stephen’s Basilica

Discover more about Fisherman’s Bastion & Matthias Church
Continue along with us on our Christmas cruise along The Danube with stops in Budapest, Bratislavia, Vienna, Durnstein & Melk, Salzburg, and Passau.

See more about the history of Christmas markets and our explorations of these markets around the world!

A Catalina Christmas

For most of us, thinking about Christmas conjures up Currier & Ives scenes of snow covered cottages nestled among frosty flocked evergreens. It’s a lovely image, but overlooks the freezing reality of bone chilling blizzards, so we decided to celebrate the holiday with a quick jaunt across the Pacific to Santa Catalina… CONTINUE READING >> 

Just in time for Christmas here is a look back at our holiday visit to Catalina a few years ago. We are also thrilled to let you know about a special inflation busting offer. Now through March 17, 2023, Catalina Express and hotel partners are featuring combination boat and accommodations packages at more than 10 hotels in Avalon as part of its popular annual “Best of Winter” offering.

For most of us, thinking about Christmas conjures up Currier & Ives scenes of snow covered cottages nestled among frosty flocked evergreens.

It’s a lovely image, but overlooks the freezing reality of bone chilling blizzards and inevitable travel delays left in their wake.

With that in mind we decided to celebrate the holiday by leaving behind a much different wake. Cruising across the waves on the Catalina Express fast ferry may not be dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh, but we could learn to embrace it as a yuletide tradition.

And after our quick jaunt across the Pacific, we found Santa Catalina properly decked out for the season…  island style.

That laid back pace made for a perfect getaway.

To begin with, we had the ultimate home base at The Avalon Hotel, one of the many fantastic Select Registry hotels.

Our spacious home for the holidays offered not one, but two balconies overlooking the harbor and the town. And what to our wondering eyes should appear, everything else we could want to see was awaiting from the rooftop patio’s full 360° panoramic view.

We also enjoyed all the comforts of home, such as a fridge, microwave, coffee maker, and then some, like a huge tub for lounging in an indulgent bubble bath.

Foamy fake Santa beard anyone?

After a long winter’s nap we were ready for some exploring.

In order to help preserve the natural beauty of the island, vehicles are extremely limited on Catalina.

It can take fifteen years or more to get to the top of the list for owning a car, probably even longer for flying reindeer, no matter how naughty or nice you’ve been.

This has led to a unique preferred method of transportation, golf carts. So, when in Rome and all that jazz, we rented a cart and set out to do some serious sightseeing.

It was not an epic trek, since there are only about twenty miles of roads available to roam by cart. The little mini mobiles are not allowed to wander into the interior of the island, which is a protected nature reserve and only accessible by permit.

Still, there was plenty to see in a compact area.

We began along the harbor where we found Old Ben sunning himself on a rock in Old Ben Park. The famous sea lion is now immortalized in bronze, but one hundred years ago he could almost always be found along the waterfront begging for fish.

Often he would even climb out of the water and follow fishermen until they would oblige him with a freshly caught snack.

Just a few blocks away we had to get a glimpse of another small park, just to make sure the name made any sense. Machine Gun Park, yup, that’s the name, actually does have a machine gun prominently displayed among the jungle gym and swing sets.

The weapon, captured from the Germans during World War I, was donated to the city of Avalon by the Catalina Island Post 137 of the American Legion in 1925.

Next we ascended Mount Ada for a closer look at the former home of William Wrigley Jr. and his wife Ada. The mansion overlooks the town and is now a bed and breakfast.

Wrigley almost single handedly developed the island as it is today. He had a vision of Catalina becoming a thriving tourist destination and made his dream come true.

Throughout the early nineteen hundreds the chewing gum magnate not only built almost all of the island’s attractions, he also owned the ships that ferried folks back and forth from the mainland.

In 1921, as a way to get publicity for the team and the island, he brought his beloved Chicago Cubs here for spring training, making Catalina the first Southern California home of major league baseball. The Cubbies stayed until 1951 before moving their training camp to Arizona.

After Wrigley passed away in 1932 a 130-foot high memorial was built in his honor, along with thirty-eight acres set aside as a botanical garden.

As we followed the road around the perimeter of Avalon we came to the Chimes Tower. For nearly one hundred years since Ada Wrigley brought these bells from Chicago, they have been ringing the hours. This time of year we also got a carol or two thrown in.

How’s that for Jingle Bells?

Completing our circumnavigation of the town, we stopped for a look at the Casino. This fantastic circular entertainment center has been the signature landmark of the island since it was erected in 1929. Wrigley, always with an eye on drawing attention to his undertakings, built the world’s largest dance floor.

Tours of the facility are available, but we were getting hungry and opted to come back later for a movie in the beautiful twelve hundred seat Avalon Theater.

So what does one eat for a holiday feast on an island? A seafood Christmas dinner of course.

That meant a trip to the lobster trap where we dined on fresh caught local lobster and pasta with clams. The California spiny lobsters pulled from these waters don’t have claws, but boy do they have flavor. We’d bet even Santa would prefer it… certainly over milk and cookies.

For art deco aficionados the theater, one of the first designed for talking movies, was everything we had hoped for. The murals by John Gabriel Beckman are still vibrant and stunning. Plus, we got a special seasons greetings in a performance on the original pipe organ built by the Page Organ Company.

The following morning, we had time to stop in for a quick history lesson at the Catalina Island Museum.

The beautiful new gallery has plenty about Wrigley, and the island’s long relationship with Hollywood. Three hundred movies used the island for locations and many stars chose to use it as a hideaway.

Most famously Charlie Chaplin and Johnny Weismuller spent tons of time here. There was also a young girl named Norma Jeane Mortenson, who lived in Avalon as a teen, that grew up to be perhaps the most famous starlet ever, Marilyn Monroe.

In addition to those displays, we were really thrilled to find an exhibit on José Guadalupe Posada.

His famous engraving, the Calavera de la Catrina, has become almost synonymous with Día de Muertos, the Day of the Dead celebrations November 1st. This tied in perfectly with the movie we had seen the night before, Coco.

Feeling the synergy, we were not too surprised to see a jolly bearded man getting off of the ferry as we waited to get on.

Could it be him?

Was St. Nick arriving on Catalina for a well-earned vacation?

David & Veronica, GypsyNester.com

A big thank you to the Avalon Hotel, Select Registry hotels, and Catalina Express for providing this adventure, as always, all opinions are our own.