My freshman year of college I scored a basement room in the freshman dorm. The rooms in the basement of the dorm were the biggest and pretty desirable, even with their tiny windows. Sometime early on that first semester a cute little Wyoming girl ventured down to the basement and shortly after a friendship was sparked. We were alike in a ton of ways and total opposites in just as many ways. Eventually she would become our class President and Chris was the Social President (not really a thing, but if it had been he would have been it). Then there was me. One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t fit in. I was that thing. I joke that Mandy and Chris knew every person on campus while I hid out in the art room. Honestly, they really did. Super social, friendly, warm and welcoming. Everyone loved them both and somehow I got to marry one and have the other stand at my side on that wedding day.

Quite frequently people will come up to Chris and I and start talking about going to college with Chris. They will laugh about college days and then inevitably ask where I went to school. Ummm…same small college as you two. I was just anti-social. Awkward silence and then I mention that I was the girl that could sometimes be spotted near the class president too. And still, awkward silence.

I spent many fall and spring breaks going back to Mandy’s home in Wyoming. To this day, it is still one of my favorite places. College wasn’t my favorite, but long weekends in the mountains during those days – those are the memories of college that marked me. Mandy’s family has a perfect A-frame cabin up in the woods. I creamed her brother Joe at a Monopoly game in that cabin once. He’s never been brave enough to play me again.  Game on, Joe.

We also spent many days climbing “Ant Hill”. We’d sit up there and talk about all kinds of stuff. I would sit up there and wonder about Chris and the future.

Last week we ventured back to that cabin as a family with Mandy’s family. Going back to places from the past with my family is so treasured to me. Amazing how perspectives can be so different in the exact same place just a few short years apart.

This year I followed my boys up ant hill and watched them experience it for the first time.
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Little One on the top of Ant Hill.7.14bighorn-4

Between my 5 and Mandy’s 3, it looked like we were running a nature school in the Big Horns.7.14bighorn-3

Every hike requires a snack break.7.14bighorn-57.14bighorn-6

Our oldest girls became fast friends! I loved watching them together. Another generation of Okie/Wyoming girl friends.7.14bighorn-7

FireCracker found her favorite bathtub at the cabin too.7.14bighorn-87.14bighorn-107.14bighorn-11

On our way down from the cabin we had a trailer part break. Mandy’s parents dropped everything they were doing to help us. I’m pretty sure they would have just let us move in for a week if we needed it. I’m so thankful for old friendships. When that cute Wyoming girl bounced into my life (I’m quite confident she had to be bouncing), I had no idea the treasure I was being given. Spending time together with our families is a gift I don’t take for granted and I look forward to when we get time together again. Being friends with the President is pretty great.

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  • Mary - I am often amazed at the way God works at putting the pieces of our lives in place! Most of the time we don’t recognize the beauty till we are looking back! Thanks for sharing your photos, your family and the beauty of your life! Ain’t God Good!! Also thanks for reminding me of our childhood ‘summer tub’. We would sometimes fill the washtub with cold water in the morning and wait for the sun to warm for an afternoon ‘dip’. Fun times – precious memories!!

  • Mek - Such lovely and amazing pictures, and Little One eating is the cutest! And Firecracker is one beautiful little lady :) Love her smiles

  • Erin H - If my husband and I would have been in college together it would have been the same way. He is totally outgoing and I am very quiet and reserved. He gets all the attention he wants and takes it all off of me and I am 100% good with that! It works for both of us :)

  • Kimberly Oyler - I love this.

  • rachelzana - I love this post. I can really relate to being introverted, quiet and not someone who a lot of people remember. The past few weeks I have been treasuring some of the amazing friendships in my life too, all so different and all so special.

  • Cassidy - All of your pictures are beautiful, of course, and I’ve loved reading all about your adventures but LITTLE ONE IS EATING WITH A SPOON (or something. not a smoothie. let’s go with that.) AND IT’S JUST LIKE A NORMAL THING. No hype. No cheering (pictured, at least). I’m so dang proud of that little girl. I saw the post about the cupcake and was super excited for her (and you), but this just seems like such a spur-of-the-moment thing… snack time and a utensil. Wow. Awesome. Just had to share (:

  • MrsFun - So glad it warmed up for you guys. And It tickles me to see little one eating apple sauce with a spoon.
    Between my 2 best friends and I we have 16 kids, we often get asked if we are running a camp when we get them all out together.

  • Kristin S - Such a well-told story, Ashley. I felt like I was there! Kinda sad you didn’t love college, though.

    And… Little One with a spoon and applesauce!!

    I’m driving a few hours later this week to see my college bestie. She has five boys ages 10 to 17. As they’ve gotten older, it’s a lot harder to get together – sports get in the way! Anyway, there’s just nothing like it. I went home with her a lot and have great memories from her parents’ home. Now you’ve made me even more excited for my little trip on Thursday.

  • Eva - My hubby and I are the same way (and he was president of his high school). It’s so great that you and Mandy have remained friends over the years. What a treat for your families to share some memory making together. Beautiful shots as always.

  • Lisa - College friendships – nothing like them! My favorite photo is the one of Little One eating applesauce. I’m sure you’ll never take that for granted either. Such a strong girl!

  • Amanda - So, I would love to know how the camper is doing for you guys! My hubby and I are actually considering going to look at a 30 foot 1968 Avion that looks very similar to yours! (I threw it out there kinda lightly, but the truth is I’m more than slightly obsessed with this thing!)

  • AshleyAnn - Cassidy – I know! It is so ‘normal’ now for her to eat with a spoon. Sometimes I sit back and watch her and marvel at how we are finally at this point. So thankful!

  • Mandy - Ah friend, the time went by too quickly and we would have loved to have you guys stay for a month! I am so very thankful for you and your precious family and love that our kiddos had so much fun together and got to build start building memories with one another.
    I’m so glad that Joe embraces his defeat…. finally, after all these years! :)
    Love you girl and truly, you are a gift from the Lord!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - I just love these stories. Just awesome! What a treasure!

  • Emma Rose - As a shy college student, it is so encouraging to hear this part of your story–how God has used you with your different gifts and is carrying out his plan for your life. It gives me such hope!

  • rose - Yup, that picture of Little One eating just did me in. Am I late to the party? When did she start that? I am so happy!

  • Amy D - I just simply LOVE that Little One is eating that applesauce {?) with a spoon like a boss! So happy for her triumph!

  • AshleyAnn - Rose – she started eating pureed foods from a spoon earlier this year!

  • susie - It’s been fun following your trip… and now you made it to our stomping grounds! We live in Gillette and head to the Bighorns any chance we get too! Too bad winter lasts so long and summers are short. Fun photos! By the way we just got back from Colter bay and it was swimming weather the whole time we were there! Next time you will have to go in July!

We spent a couple days exploring Bozeman, MT. The original plan was to meet up with some friends, but sickness cut their trip short. So, we made the most of our time and soaked up the fun that is Bozeman. Leslie Padgett acted as our virtual tour guide and provided us with a list of fun things to try…along with a few other suggestions from some of you. We visited the Museum of the Rockies, Granny’s Gourmet Donuts and got some tea/lemonade from Sola Cafe…I would recommend all of those if you are in the Bozeman area.

The highlight of our time was a hike to Palisade Falls. It was an easy hike and the kids loved getting a little wet in the stream below the falls. It was also a great chance to talk about the differences in waterfalls, the dangers of falling rocks, the majesty of creation, etc.

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This trip has been a dream come true for my oldest. He is so much of a young man these days…and he is at home in the wild with adventure and danger at every turn.7.14palisadefalls-67.14palisadefalls-7

Camera timer shot…two of the boys stuck their heads in the stream because it sounded like fun. Then they had really cold heads!7.14palisadefalls-9

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  • danielle - Beautiful shots.

  • Debbie C - Ashley, this trip has been so wonderful and I love that you are sharing your locations with us! Will you be putting these posts in a separate category at the top of the blog? I def want to reference this info one day when we drive to Yellowstone.

  • Janice - Can’t think of Bozeman without thinking of Sheldon Cooper moving there after his apartment was broken into.

    I am loving taking this journey with you and your family.

  • Eva - Oh, how I would love to go adventuring in the PNW. Unfortunately, we live as far as possible from that part of the country. It stinks. I am living vicariously through you, though. Maybe in a few years we will be able to swing it. But for now, your photos will have to do. That last photo of all of you is my fave. I really need to use my timer more often.

  • DebZorn - I’ve really enjoyed your photos as you have been traveling. (I really enjoy ALL your photos!) Your family picture and the one of you and the kids on the rocks are fantastic. What wonderful memories you are making. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • emily - Bozeman is gorgeous! Wish you guys could have met up with your friends! I have a feeling some epic photography would have come from that plan! :) Having fun seeing your trip!! If you need a place to park the trailer in Spokane, we have space ;)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Thank you for taking us on your trip with you ;) i’m loving every picture!

  • Chris - Absolutely love all your trip pics. Thanks so much for sharing. Makes me want to scoop up my family and head out west!

  • Kendra - How fun you were in my backyard! We live right on campus which neighbors up to the Museum. So glad you had an amazing time here :)

  • Seamingly Sarah - Have you ever read “Wild at Heart” by John Eldredge or any of his other books. He wrote that book for men, but as a woman it was good to read too. He writes so well about the wildness God has placed in men’s hearts. It would be a good read for you and your husband and maybe someday your oldest son too. My husband and I have almost every book he’s written. Just a thought.

  • Lucrecer - I used to live in Great Falls, MT. Looking at your pictures reminded me why I loved our family road trips. It is beautiful country.

  • RaD - Did you find fossils around Bozeman? That was one of the most memorable parts of visiting that area…

About a year and a half ago my extended family began planning a family reunion at my uncle and aunt’s home in Montana. The reunion is what sparked us taking this month long trip. Since we were headed to Montana anyway, we decided what better time to explore the Rockies!

My uncle and aunt have an incredible piece of property in the mountains of Montana. Stunning. My parents, sister & her family, and grandma drove up from Oklahoma. Three of my cousins were able to make the trip too. My kids spent 4 days exploring and getting all kinds of ‘Montana’ experiences. They did not want to leave. My aunt is an incredible cook and baker. I gained about 15 pounds in three days…just eating and talking all day long. And eating more. And then just a bit more until I couldn’t move. It was bad. We did not want to leave.

I’m not going to post many pics from the reunion because I forgot to ask how everyone felt about me sharing them online. My grandpa was not able to make it up, which made us all so sad. I did snap a couple pictures of my grandma with all her great-grandkids that were able to attend. She has a lot more that weren’t able to come.

How fun is my grandma?! I sure wouldn’t get that stinky flip flop that close to my face!

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Montana is her wildflower dancing dream.6.14crystalpark-3

We have a lot of cows in Oklahoma, but I’ve never driven through a cattle drive. It was really fun until we got out of the car and saw the ‘splatter gift’  all those cows gave our car and trailer! Now when we pull up some place not only do we look a little like the Griswolds…our trailer front is covered in…you know. Got to find a car wash today!6.14crystalpark-4

My aunt recommended Crystal Park as a fun road stop for the kids on our way to our next stop. My sister and her family joined us; it was so good to be around them again! Crystal Park is 7,800 feet in the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest that is open for visitors to dig quartz crystals. We did some crystal digging in Oklahoma before, so I had a bit of an idea of what to expect. Basically it is a mountain covered in holes from people digging. We did not come prepared with good tools, but we made do with what I could wrangle up from the trailer. Forks. Wooden spoons. A hatchet. A crowbar. Hammers. The kids loved it.6.14crystalpark-56.14crystalpark-66.14crystalpark-7

This is right before Little One nailed her Aunt Lesley in the head with a hammer. Not really!6.14crystalpark-8

The angle on a few of these shots looks like the boys were under dirt, they were not…no risk of anyone getting buried.6.14crystalpark-96.14crystalpark-116.14crystalpark-12

It is a great park to stop at if you are in the area. I would bring a shovel and some kind of screen to sift with next time. There are also several beautiful campgrounds in the forest. Most look like they don’t have any type of hook-ups, but the beautiful is spectacular.

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  • Eva - What a beautiful place to live and gather together for a family reunion. It’s like a no-brainer! It looks like everyone enjoyed their time in Montana. You are so blessed!

  • Malia - oh my goodness ashley! your kids have grown up so much! i took the snapshop course from you a couple of years ago but since have been living off the grid with no wifi so haven’t been on blogs. now that we moved (for a time) and i have wifi i just clicked on your blog to see how you’re doing. what a beautiful family. your grandmas is the best! looks like you guys are having a great time. i am gonna have to wander over and look you up on instagram now as well. have a happy summer! hope to check back in soon! aloha, malia

  • Karen - how wonderful that your family had that reunion. I hope to be of fun grandma and great grandma someday. reunions with my family in Minnesota and camping with my family are among my favorite childhood memories.It
    what is your source for the vintage-looking fabrics on your blog?Specifically your slip covers and pillows.

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - Dear Ashley, the memories you are making are so special! The kids are going to have a fond smile tucked away for always.

  • RachelC - That flip flop picture! Love the spunk. P.S. When are you coming home? I miss you.

  • Taylor - Your Grandma seems awesome! haha. Also, that park looks incredible.

    xoxo
    Taylor

  • Kristin C. - Oh my gosh, I love the flip flop pic with your Grandma!!! Lol!

  • Anthea - The shot with grandma and the foot by her face is seriously hysterically cute!