Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Winter in Spring...Spring in Winter

contrasting landscape: spring at low elevation, winter at high elevation
Clouds Over Mt. San Jacinto State Park, Palm Springs, CA
now, from the top looking down
we just never stop exploring
until sundown....San Bernardino Mountains from Mt. San Jacinto

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Another Beautiful Day

My World
And I am loving It
Another beautiful day, here in my side of the world @ Torrey Pines, San Diego.

Hiking Angel's Landing, Zion National Park

Zion Canyon from Angel's Landing
Angel's Landing is one of the most famous, challenging (more on mental and emotional challenge than physical challenge) and thrilling hikes of the National Park System. The last half mile of the trail is not to be approached by anyone who has fear of heights. But this is also a pretty rewarding trail. For those with fear of heights can probably do the first 2 miles of the trail, there may be some drop-off in the first 2 miles, but the trail is more manageable than the last half mile.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Lesson From Our Trekking Poles

Photo of MJ and Rog admiring the rugged face of a cliff at Grandview State Park in West Virginia, circa 2007, courtesy of MJ

In the years before hubby Rog and I entered the exciting, crazy busy world of parenthood, we spent many a weekend hiking and exploring several state parks and popular hiking trails in West Virginia.

We were quite the impulsive, rather reckless adventurers back then. Anytime the urge to hit the rugged trail struck, we would lace up our hiking shoes, throw some snacks and a few bottles of water into back packs, jump in the car and zoom on down the road to the hiking destination. We didn't care about compasses, flashlights, GPS units or even trekking poles. All we cared about back then was that we got to the trail as fast as we could! Then we would walk briskly, single file down the rocky, sometimes dusty path, telling stories and laughing as we went, drinking in the beauty of nature like bumblebees savoring sweet nectar from flowers. Forget all the important hiking equipment! We were two young people simply thrilled to be hiking in the great outdoors! That's all that mattered to us back then.  
Photo of MJ and Rog at Sandstone Falls, courtesy of MJ
Well, one day, while hiking the Forks of Cranberry trail in Monongahela County, West Virginia, I lost my balance while Rog and I were speedily making our way through the first part of the trail - a very rocky section. Without a trekking pole or even a simple, makeshift hiking stick to help stabilize my footing, I fell to the ground like a sack of potatoes, twisting my left ankle in the process. Rog was by my side in a flash. As he helped me sit up, I remember a streak of pain shooting up my leg. I groaned as we inspected my injury. The ankle was starting to swell and turn colors. There was no way we could finish the hike, we decided with heavy hearts. Thankfully, we were just minutes away from the beginning of the trail, where we had parked. I was able to hobble back to the car with Rog's help.
Photo of rhododendrons, state flower of West Virginia, along Forks of Cranberry trail, courtesy of MJ 

That incident served as a wake up call for us. I realized, during the time it took my sprain to heal, that if I had been firmly holding a trekking pole in my hand the moment my foot rolled on that rock, I would at least have had some kind of support, something to hold on to. And even if I had fallen, I would most likely not have fallen as hard. Or I might not even have fallen at all. 

So off we marched to Wal-Mart to buy our first trekking poles. And let me tell you, they made all the difference the next time we took a hike! I noticed our trekking poles helped us establish a walking rhythm, they cut the amount of stress on our legs and joints, specially on downhill hikes, and they definitely gave us better balance and footing! Those trekking poles made crossing creeks and rivers so much easier and safer. We would use them to push back briers and clear overhanging vegetation from the trail. Once, Rog even used his trekking pole to poke a black snake laying in our path! It took off in a hurry, and we were able to resume our hike. Today, we couldn't imagine hitting the trail without our trekking poles!

Photo of 6-month pregnant MJ hiking at Brushfork Falls, courtesy of MJ

Sometimes I think buying a house is a lot like taking a hike in the great outdoors, in terms of the thrill. I'm talking about the excitement of having YOUR VERY OWN PLACE. The joy of turning the key in the lock, flinging the door open and saying to yourself, "Yes! This is MY home!"  

Many active duty soldiers and prior service veterans enjoy the benefit of living in their own homes through a VA loan. But the reality is, a lot of them have to deal with high interest rates and monthly payments, things that throw a damper on the thrill of being a homeowner - much like those rocks that littered our path at Forks of Cranberry, that caused my little injury and put an end to our hiking escapade that day. 

Now, the Streamline Refinance Program offers these veterans and active duty personnel fast, simple, hassle-free refinancing SUPPORT, which brings to mind the support trekking poles offer us during hikes. See, Streamline Refinance, a government-backed mortgage loan, assists countless people in saving thousands of dollars a year! Anyone who has an FHA loan or VA home loan is automatically approved! 

VA Streamline Refinance supports homeowners in  refinancing their current VA home loan, allowing them to take advantage of reduced interest rates. And who wouldn't want lower interest rates and monthly payments nowadays? 

I think active duty and prior service veterans who continue to make the same high monthly payments on their homes, with the  sky-high interest rates  (when there are other options), could be likened to hikers attempting to conquer a challenging trail unprepared, with no proper equipment ... with no trekking poles.

I wised up after my little mishap at Forks of Cranberry. We never leave home without our trekking poles now, even for the simplest of hikes. In the same way, I believe homeowners should wise up and check out the Streamline Refinance Program. It's the easiest way to save money on an existing loan! 
Photo of MJ by Little Beaver lake one fall, courtesy of MJ

Visit Streamline Refinance website  to find out how to get DD214 forms. Friendly representatives will provide you with a crystal clear and honest picture of how much you can save.

Swing by their web site and let the savings begin today! 

- by MJ