The Next Chapter: An Epic Upland Adventure

A map of the United States. Where will our Upland Adventure take us?
Where will this Upland Adventure take us?
Totem Shire O’Llew – My just 1-year-old Llew pup.

As I started to write this, I almost said, “Hello? Is there anybody out there?” There may not be many inclined to follow the blog anymore–there hasn’t been much here to follow after all. But a few might be interested in following the next chapter. It is a journey toward healing. I think it starts with returning to the Northwoods, the Ruffed Grouse woods, and with a Llew, of course. A treasured gift. A new beginning.

Totem, a Llewellin Setter in the flower garden.

Time to get her out of the flower beds and into bird cover.

I’ve had several years of pure hell and catastrophic losses of homes, businesses, my beloved dogs, my marriage–and just in the past six months–my youngest son, and most recently, my mum. Where do I go from here? How do I move on and start over? Maybe by getting back to a few things I loved? That was the love of upland hunting with my Llewellin Setters, photography, and videography. I’ve also always wanted to travel. And I’d love to be healthy again. And that means getting north again.

So, here I stand. No immediate family obligations until mid-November and then, mid-December with the expectant arrival of my 4th grandchild. 🙂 My work is online based and perhaps, this journey will provide new career opportunities.

My beautiful youngest son, Hunter, in the U.P. at Lake of the Clouds
06/17/93 – 02/17/22

Before the passing of my youngest son, Hunter, in February, we had talked about a return trip to the U.P. He was excited and chomping at the bit to return to see friends and he loved living there almost as much as I. He would be getting his vacation time from work. We were talking about getting a van or a small bus to convert and travel in. And since his passing, I’ve just felt a strong calling to go. To reconnect with him in another way, to also visit the shattered pieces of my heart that were so abruptly abandoned there, while I was taking care of my daughter and grand grandbabies. There are friends I would love to visit, and places to see. Maybe it will be more than I can take, it was never my choice to leave. Maybe it is exactly what I need to finally move on. A job opportunity that seems perfect for me is also on the radar and in the geographical area. And, I have this Llewellin Setter pup that must hunt this fall, which most certainly cannot happen here in PA. And, selfishly, I’d also love a few days or weeks of good health, again.

So, I started looking into the minibus idea again or something to make it possible and comfortable for my mom to travel, too. I settled on looking for an ambulance for safety, etc. I found one in early June. She’s a ’96 E350 Superduty with a 7.3 Powerstroke. Barely broke in in mileage and not a speck of rust. No 4-wheel drive, though. 😐 That part is a bit scary.

My mother passed away on June 27th, 2022.

My beautiful mum.
09/16/1945 – 06/27/2022

But, sadly, my beautiful mum passed away while talking to me sitting up on the side of her bed on June 27th. She joined her beloved Hunter, whom she missed beyond words. She adored him and he loved helping take care of her. He made her laugh and laugh. They had become quite the duo with their ornery schemes and shenanigans. She was devastated by his death. She also joined my dad and brother.

She’s already made the “Llewelligance” hers. She hunts birds out of the front, side, and back windows. 🙂 Maybe she’ll help drive? And, no, I won’t be taking a television. I was just trying out some setups for mum and the grandkids while cleaning it.

And here we are. This bird-crazy, headstrong pup and me. And this ambulance sitting in the driveway along with all my belongings that were dumped there a year ago (thanks so much, honey). There was a delay in receiving the title (the seller had to order and wait for a duplicate) and I finally received it in late July. I was a bit unmotivated though. It was to include my mum. Do I still plan a trip? Well, after I finally got the title, and got the registration, had it inspected, had her completely gone over, got her some new back shoes, etc., and after receiving an excellent bill of health from the mechanic, I decided I am, indeed, going to head out on this trip, and try out for that job. So, I am now frantically trying to get it set up for Totes and me to live, travel, hunt, film, cook, eat, shower, and work out of. Who knew this truck would become our new home? God did. She might be tiny. She might not have 4-wheel drive. But our home can be anywhere we park it or get it stuck. I might be walking a lot. Though, I have been eyeing up a fat-tire e-bike specifically built for hunting with a cart to haul Totem and photography gear.

I do plan on a complete tear out and rebuild with proper insulation, etc., but that will be in late winter/early spring when it is cold and fewer allergens. Right now, I will do the minimum needed to get on the road. Time has run out. And I think I bit off more than I can chew. I’m slightly overwhelmed with all there is to do to it as well as everything with my mum’s house, finding a home for all of my belongings, etc. And, truly, I’m not okay. I’m trying to be, and the hope and promise of this trip and getting well, running a Llew in the Northwoods, etc., is a welcome distraction, but I feel like I’ve lost part of my mind. I’ll never be who I was. The loss of everything, my dreams, my dogs, business, home, goats, husband, a life I loved, my darling, sweet, caring, giving son, and my momma. Darn. I’m not walking in my own strength because I honestly have none.

My inspiration build

Many people have lost more than I have and there are even more people that have to deal with much worse than losses. I’m just saying, some days I’m really not okay. Some days I can’t stop the tears and shaking. I still can barely look at photos of my dogs without completely losing it, let alone see something of my son’s or my mum’s. Some days I walk in circles having no idea what I’m doing. Or an entire day passes and I sit down at night to write in my journal and have no remembrance of what I did. Some days I don’t want to get up, but I have to. I have to work, work, work. I have to survive. Pull through. Keep going. Go, go, go. And I have this bird-crazy, stubborn, beautiful, blessed pup to take care of. I’m all she has for entertainment, routine, and direction. She’s suffered a lot of loss, too. She loved Hunter. They were best buds. She loved my momma and they had a special bond. She still looks for them.

So, God-willing, the rig ready or not, we are heading out of here to get north to, hopefully, cooler weather and fewer environmental irritants to start to get my health back after years of living where heat-induced health problems plague and cripple me and start the journey to healing and working and training and getting into shape in the Northwoods to be some kind of ready for the Ruffed Grouse season. I’d also love to spend some time photographing all the beautiful places I’ve always wanted to see. I’ve always wanted to hunt northern Minnesota. I’d also love to head west for the prairie birds, though I’ve always believed in only hunting close cover and Woodcock and Ruffed Grouse for a pup’s first season. And I love, love, love to hunt quail.

So, I’m trying to figure out solar-powered electrical systems hooked up to ambulance electrical systems, diesel heat, propane for cooking and hot water, how to attach solar panels to the roof, find a roof rack, a swing away hitch mount spare tire/bike rack, a slide-out bird cleaning station, a grooming station and options for the safety and comfort of the pup. I’m attempting to find and repair the e-collars and tracking collars, bells, a shotgun, shells, first aid supplies, tie-outs, etc.

I would love to visit folks with LML dogs. I’d love to see them, photograph them, and hunt with them. I plan to start work on that short film and write that book I’ve wanted to tackle for years. Maybe now is the time. Nine years a dream.

The plan is to vlog at least several times a week on Youtube and post here quite often if I can find enough wifi. I still haven’t figured out an affordable option yet. I’ll be remodeling the Youtube channel, creating a new logo, header, intros, etc., if you’d like to subscribe now, that would be amazing and quite encouraging for me and Totes. Here is the link (note–it has OLD videos, I know. I’ll be adding new things ASAP. But might not get to do that until I get out of here and on the road and to northern latitudes so I can think, and breathe). In fact, just watching the old videos makes me bawl my head off. I can not stand what happened to us. But, I did all I could to save us. I did all I physically could to hang on. To our marriage, my dogs. To hope. To believe. To love. But, there are just some things that we can’t control and we certainly can’t control others. And we have to stop living in the past and step out and on and turn the page to the next chapter. Will you join me and this pup on our adventure into the uplands and a journey to healing? Follow and subscribe to the Youtube channel here.

I plan to do product reviews, travel tips, cover tips, training tips, and more. I have one pup that I can’t have injured and I’m ridiculously out of shape, to put it kindly, so we will be taking the training and hunting slow and in small bits at first with a morning and late afternoon session. It has been more than 20 years since I had just one Llew to train and hunt over. So, instead of working 6-10 dogs a day, I have one PUP every day, all day, all season. So we’ll be taking things slow and while she rests during the day, I’ll be working, editing and writing, researching, driving, and healing. And possibly, hopefully, visiting and hunting with some of the LML Llewellins all over the country.

Until next time, hug your Llewellin Setter.

-M.