We left our home on August 3oth and have now travelled from Fort Collins to Florida.  The car is loaded to the hilt with 2 surfboards, 2 Stand up paddleboards (SUP’s), a packraft, 10’ slide, 4 PFD’s, 14 paddles, riverboard, 2 child carrier backpacks, a giant sunshade, piano, and a bag full of bugs.  That’s what is on the roof – the inside has more than you can imagine.  We bring smiles wherever we go with the car becoming its’ own attraction at scenic overlooks.

Road trip kids

The kids are great road trippers.  We have them set up with a closet shoe holder attached to the seat in front of them so the can get to toys, food, drinks etc. from the comfort of their capsule.  The library full of books in-between the two was a great hit.  The iPad has paid for itself already in the entertainment value, Ella has a Nintendo DS that can seemingly do anything.  After 2 weeks on the road, this is our 4th longest road trip together as a family.   Ella visited her 41st US state along the way and Chase his 37th.

Our first night out we made it to Lindsey’s mothers’ house, Kay Reynolds.  She lives 2 miles away.  Moving out of our house, renting the house, leaving Mountain Whitewater Descents (even though we closed on Sept. 5th), solidifying things with our accountant, bookkeeper, USFS, Ben the Director of Fun, bankers and technological wizards occupied our time.  It made throwing Ella a 6th birthday party and an end of the season party for our 50 employees a bit of a difficulty.   That first night we went out with friends for a sampling of Fort Collins great beers.  Crazy saying goodbye to them that night.

Waking up early, we drove to Hays, Kansas where we found a hotel that had an indoor pool and water slide.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to fair with my planned slide into the water from the boat (which is why we have it atop our car) so I thought this would give us some insight.  Chase, having never been on a water slide showed us the way.  He walked up the stairs quickly by himself, jumped onto the slide with water gushing just below him, flung himself down – then slid  round and round.  I played catcher.  It felt like I was catching a newborn baby.  Slippery. Scared. Excited.  And I really didn’t want to miss him.  He would pop up and swim crazily for more.  Then he started following the adults going backwards and every which way.  Ella was just as crazy.

Cannonball!!!

In Kansas City, KS to visit with Steve and Kendra Menke and their daughter Kennedy.  The only time we saw the kids was to catch them in the pool after a belly flop.  Went to a Kansas State football game where we saw a good game and thousands of people doing their impression of waves of grain slowly waving their arms above them.  Cool sight.

Driving through Joplin, MO where a F5 tornado hit a few months ago.  The line between minor damage and complete annihilation is so distinct it looks like a bulldozer came through.  We then visited Scott and Rachel Sargent and their kids Cade and Noah in Little Rock, AR.  They have a great house in the country with a giant tree swing for the kids.  It was fun to catch up with my cousin and his family.

We then hit up Memphis, TN where we visited Mud Islands’ relief map of the Mississippi River basin.  It’s hard for me to believe what Kent and I did 19 years ago canoeing this river at flood stage.   It’s one of those events in your life that forever changes you.  For $250 I was able to self propel myself from Fort Collins to New Orleans 2400 miles later.  More

importantly, I was able to follow a dream.

We had dinner listening to blues on Beale street and then went to the Peabody Hotel the next morning to watch their most famous guests arrive down the elevator.  A family of ducks sprung out of the elevator doors, down the red carpet and into the fountain for the day.  The kids loved the idea of ducks in elevators.

Driving north to Fayetteville, WV Lindsey’s college roommate Jenny Becksted housed us on her farm in the country.  Jenny and her fiance Brian, showed us their giant garden with every type of produce you could want.  Ella and I had a problem leaving the tomatoes.  She easily ate her weight in tomatoes in the days we visited.

Ella catches a raindrop above the New River Gorge, West Virginia

A couple hikes to the New River Gorge, Gauley River and to Jenny’s house after running out of gas endeared us to this beautiful country.  An angry bees nest gave Ella two stings that hurt for days.  Jenny hung back to tell Lindsey and Chase not to come down.  They escaped.  Jenny was stung

Ella and Chase prove they are ready for all conditions

about 30 times for her thoughtfulness.  I ran down the hill with Ella screaming and only got stung once.   The hike back from the river bottom is straight up.  Ella understandably wanted nothing to do with the bees.  We wrapped Ella completely with Chase’s coat, Jenny’s coat and my shirt, then put her in the backpack carrier.  I hiked straight up that hill following the trail but then wide around the bees.  It was the hardest hiking that I have done in a long time.  At times I had to crawl on all fours for twenty feet trying to get under all the growth.  Ella couldn’t see a thing and was content knowing that her dad was protecting her.  My legs were sore for days afterward.

The first national forest tract dedicated to Chase P. Ambler

Ashville, NC was our next stop.  This is where my Grandfather grew up.  His father Dr. Chase P. Ambler was a prominent figure here.   Visiting the monument dedicated to him for his forest conservation efforts was a thrill.  The first National Forest tract was purchased 100 years ago is here and dedicated to him.  Wow is that cool.  The fact that we have a Special Use Permit to run rafting trips in the Arapaho – Roosevelt National Forest brings me that much closer to my relatives.

Rattlesnake Lodge was a retreat for Dr. Ambler and family.  We all did the three-mile hike together through lush forest to the site.  Cooling off in the same spring that they used years ago brings me closer to my ancestry.  The men in my family have made this moment possible.  Great grandfather, Dr. Chase P. Ambler was devoted to wilderness and helped start the National Forest system; grandfather Dr. John Ambler showed me his love of mountains and skiing; father Larry Modesitt took me camping and boating when I was young and helped me start Mountain Whitewater Descents, brother Kent not only canoed with me down the Mississippi, but saved MWD in a time of need with his lawyerly world; Chase P. Modesitt has brought me here in my desire to show him the world.  Thank you all.

While we were at the lodge site an old timer came by and started explaining how cool the area was and what Dr. Ambler had done there.  When I told him that Dr. Ambler was my Great Grandfather, he became reverent, almost bowed but settled with a handshake.  When I said that my son was named Chase P. I thought he might fall over.  He has been a caretaker of the trail for 16 years and was a pleasure to talk to.  He couldn’t convey deeply enough what Dr. Ambler did for the people of Ashville and the country.  I had nothing to do with anything, yet my pride spilled forth.

Mount Ambler is in the Great Smokey Mountain National Park along the Appalachian Trail, which made our next stop.  The kids each made the 1200’ vertical climb and 1.7 mile hike to the top.  We passed many adults who couldn’t make the climb and were turning around.  At the top we were chilled in the cold mountain air and unprepared.  A 6100’ mountain is nothing compared to a 14er in Colorado – right?  Mountains are mountains and we should have been better prepared.  Chase learned a cardinal rule in climbing.  The top is only halfway.   He explained that he was only three and was tired.  After seeing 30-year-olds fail on the trail, I had to agree and gave him a ride in the backpack.  Ella had about a 4 mile hike for her first ever successful mountain climb.

Okeefeenokee Swamp was our next stop on the Georgia/Florida border.  Fires have been ravaging the area all summer and over half the area has burned.  Renting a canoe brought us up close to the alligators all around.  The kids nervousness (Lindsey too – nobody wanted to be eaten) gave way to excitement as more and more gators were found.  Chase liked the baby ones.  A four-mile canoe ride and we were all burning hot.  With ice cold drinks all around, a Jacksonville news station interviewed us on why anyone would visit a swamp that is burning.  What can I say?

We are Modesitt’s and we want to see the world.

Hanging out in a crooked tree at Rattlesnake Lodge

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