Hug somebody

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My favorite future Trail Talkers reminding all of us of the lightness of life {and inflatability of their stomachs}

Hi friends, it’s been a while, and I’m sorry for that. I promised myself that when I returned to corporate life, I would make a dedicated effort to keep this blog, something that makes me so happy, up and running.

I’m eager to share with you all the update on Havasupi Falls! I started on the wrap-up over two weeks ago, but I’ve also learned a few things since being back in the corporate world:

  1. it’s harder than I estimated to carve out time
  2. it’s more important than I imagined to carve out time to fulfill my non-work interests

Despite getting my ass kicked at work, I’d kept my personal promise and found those extra minutes a day to write. My second day back on the job, I sat on a sad, chain restaurant bar stool in suburban Illinois and over a solo dinner of blah, I wrote to you all. And you know what? I loved it. It made my day better. I was on track to keep my commitment until something I didn’t anticipate happened – Tuesday, November 8th. Like many of you, my world stopped. I’ll save you all the rehashing, but it’s been a week and now going on two. I’ve stopped writing. I’ve stopped calling friends. I’ve stopped un-forced smiling.

I’ve read countless opinion pieces on how this happened, an inbox full of despondent/disbelieving/analyzing/pseudo-encouraging/attempted uplifting emails from friends, and every post in the pantsuit nation.

My heart aches deeply. I don’t know what to say. I came across an Instagram photo from one of my favorite humans, Michael Franti, today. His words resonated with me in a way no words have been able to lately.

“Everybody oughta hug somebody, at least once a day”

And for the first time in days, I smiled. Yes, we all need a hug. A big one. And for the next four years, I might need two a day, but we can overcome this.

The backpackers guide to sexting

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I got you reading with the title, right? Megan wins for best presentation.

I am too prude, safe, and boring to understand the more popular form of racy photo exchanges, but I can tell you that nothing gets my heart fluttering faster than the pictures swapped between my girlfriends this week.

After nearly nine months of planning, we set off on our Havasu Canyon Girls Weekend Adventure this Friday – eight girls, two nights, endless waterfalls!

Over the last 48 hours, the girls and I traded “gear shots” in anticipation. I hope you find them as tantalizing as I do!

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Not my best organization, but this gear makes me so happy.

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Kendra was chastised for the Birkenstocks – they were replaced with proper river shoes.

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Steph is famous for once asking if she should bring a queen size air mattress on a hut trip. Steph wins most improved packer.

Anticipated Trail Talk topics: my first week back in corporate america, Megan’s pending move across the pond, men, our next backpacking adventure, attire for the big night out in Vegas upon our return, Jana’s adventures in labor and delivery, skin care tips, men…

Stay tuned for the fully monty report!

The Weminuche Wilderness, 2014

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The Continental Divide from the Colorado Trail

As I finally laid my head back on my puffy coat-turned makeshift pillow, the adrenaline pumping through my body eased and was replaced by a dull fear. I said goodnight and nothing more to my tent mate knowing the fewer words I spoke, the better chance I had of hiding my unease. I got us into this. Outside the rain poured down and thunder clapped loudly in the sky leading a pack of something to begin howling and barking. There couldn’t be wolves out here, right? I’m fairly certain it wasn’t my imagination running wild. I thought about the bear bag we’d recently hastily tied to a low hanging tree. If we weren’t eaten by wolves in the night, would my organic chocolate be left unmolested by wild animals? Assuming a lack of wolves and bears, would it ever stop raining?

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Columbine Lake

The “Women in the Weminuche” trip idea was hatched earlier that summer. I met Perrin my very first day of college under an elm tree waiting to embark on a five-day guided backpacking trip known as FOOT (Freshmen Outdoor Orientation Trip). I was immediately drawn to Perrin because she looked as confused as I did that day. Our friendship blossomed over a mutual love of Dawson’s Creek, dance parties, and obscure history. Fast forward 13 years, we were both suffering broken hearts and needed an escape. Perrin, who lives in DC, gave me the reins to plan. “Pick somewhere. I’ll be there.”

After soliciting advice from outdoorsy friends, I decided on a train supported excursion in an area of the San Juan Mountains known as the Weminuche Wilderness.

And then the realization struck me – I’d never planned a backpacking trip. I didn’t have all the gear. I felt woefully unqualified to lead this expedition. Yes, I’d been on plenty of trips but always as the sous chef of sorts. I’d relied on boyfriends, and before that, brothers to take charge. I’d show up and just start walking/skiing/biking as I was instructed. I think I knew how to set up a tent and start a fire, but I’d never been asked to do so.

My inner “rah, rah women” voice egged me on. “You can do this. Of course you can! Embrace singledom. You don’t need a guy to set up a tent.”

I spent the next few weeks pestering the old man who works the map counter at REI. I checked every backpacker.com/.net/.org gear checklist I could find and overbought on everything.

In August, Perrin arrived in Denver, and we hit the road for the seven-hour drive to Durango. As we summited Wolf Creek Pass, the raindrops began to fall. Casually via the radio, the next few days’ weather forecast became known to us: “Severe rain and thunderstorms. High chance of flash floods. Retreat to high grounds as necessary.” Hmmm. We stopped in Poncho Springs for extra tarps and ill-fitting rain pants.

I planned a route that seemed reasonable for three nights. Using my finger distance estimation on a map, it looked like roughly 40 miles. We boarded the Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad from Durango for the second stop at Elk Park. The rain that morning was a light drizzle. I wasn’t optimistic, but we were determined to give this trip a go.

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The Amimas River

Being two young women with massive packs on a train full of old Texan tourists got us a few sideways stares and concerned looks. In my mind, I responded to their gazes. “I know. I’m not sure what the hell we’re doing either.”

We departed the train and spent nearly an hour trying to find the trailhead. Once found, we hiked along the Colorado Trail until late afternoon when black clouds crept across the sky warning us to find a campsite soon.

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The clouds lingered after the rain passed

Despite the rain, thunder, and howling animals, we survived that first night. The next morning, the rain tapered off as we made coffee under our tarp. I untied the bear bag to find all our food untouched. Our spirits rose with the sun, and we set off ready to continue the adventure with gusto.

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Lot of rain means lots of mushrooms

Our four days of trail talks centered around the challenges of dating in the modern world. Perrin had recently broken up with her boyfriend of seven years when he started his first year of med school and decided he needed to embark on the adventure alone. Prior to their breakup, Perrin had moved across the country to support his doctor/educational aspirations. I’d just wrapped up two unsuccessful years of trying to convince my man that there was more to life than investment banking in New York and making a life with a great lady (me) in a smaller city was a good life choice.

As the miles ticked on, Perrin and I transitioned from reminiscing about the wonderful times in our previous love lives to how we would have done it differently. Dating is hard. I often wonder if dating was easier back in my parents’ generation and earlier when you married your high school/college sweetheart and started planning a life together much earlier. Honestly, it’s a very short wonder because, honestly, I wouldn’t trade my twenties for anything. I’m thankful I had time to grow into me, kiss lots of handsome frogs, travel the world, and establish a career.

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Just a few of the wildflowers – picture never capture them quite right

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Looking down into Chicago Basin

The Weminuche did not disappoint with its beauty. Fortunately for us, it didn’t rain the entire time – maybe only 40% of the time. Thanks to the rain, even in August, the area is so green it almost doesn’t feel like Colorado. We crested numerous passes and descended into stunning valleys and basins. One morning, I woke up to a moose rummaging near our tent. The next morning, the all night rainstorm turned to a blanket of fresh snow (yes, it was August).

Hours on the trail with Perrin lightened my soul. We laughed as only best friends can. She told me about a girlfriend who keeps a detailed Excel spreadsheet of her online dates. While we vowed not to take our romantic lives to that extreme, business-like precision, we both promised to get out there more. I left my sadness in the Weminuche and took with me sore abs from laughing and a newfound optimism.

Four days full of trail talks later, we boarded the train at Needle Creek to head back to Durango. We were elated to learn that the train served hot toddies. I’m not sure powdered cocoa mix with a small splash of booze has ever tasted so good.

A few weeks after getting home, I ran into the friend who recommended the Weminuche trip. He’s a big outdoorsman with quite the resume of Colorado summits.

“Thanks for the suggestion on the trip. Despite some rain, I’m glad we went. The Weminuche is one of the most beautiful places in Colorado,” I said.

He laughed, “Oh, I think I left out the part where we only camped one night and hiked out to the road and hitchhiked home. It never stopped raining. It was miserable.”

I smiled. I felt victorious.

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Trip Tips:

  • Trip length: ~40 miles, 4 days and 3 nights. If I did it again, I might take another night to explore a bit more around Hunchback Pass. The area can be accessed without the train from Hwy 550 but doing so adds quite a bit of distance.
  • Route: From the Elk Creek Trailhead head west on the Colorado Trail toward the Continental Divide Trail. Head south on the Continental Divide Trail over Hunchback Pass to Vallecito Trail. Head south on Vallecito Trail to the junction with Johnson Creek Trail. Hike along Johnson Creek Trail into Vallecito Basin and finally, Chicago Basin. Follow the Need Creek Trail back to the Needed Creek Trail head.
  • While there are no designated campsites, it’s easy to identify where others previously established camps. Water is available along the entire route.
  • Don’t just go to this area for Chicago Basin! It’s like going to NYC and only seeing Times Square. It’s spectacular, but it’s crowded and there are cooler things out there.
  • In Chicago Basin, pee on the rocks and not in the foliage. Wild goats like the acid in urine and will try to lick your pee. The goats are more likely to leave you alone if it’s on rocks.
  • Turns out, I wasn’t crazy. While I’m not sure if there are wolves in the Weminuche, there are big sheep dogs that guard their flocks all night long.

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The unnecessary “Fear of Missing Out”

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The Tetons, photo credit to my labrador friend

I have a group of guy friends who are affectionately known as “the labradors.” I didn’t come up with the nickname; I believe they did, but it fits them to a tee – picture a lab smiling, slobbering, and bouncing around the trunk of an SUV. “Where are we going? What are we doing next? Where’s the fun? I’m ready NOW!” These are my friends. I love them for their enthusiasm. There are endless adventures to be had in the Rocky Mountains, and they are clipping them off at an unprecedented pace.

This past weekend, the labradors organized an epic trip to explore Jackson and the Tetons. Sounds amazing, right? Well, for a few reasons, I opted to go visit a new friend in rural Nebraska instead. It was a hard call to make – both in the decision but also to my labrador friend to explain why a 7 hour drive across the plains was my choice for the weekend.

I had a fabulous time in Nebraska, but it’s always tough looking at instagram/snaps/texts of jagged peaks and glacial lakes not to be a smidge envious. Did I make the right choice for the weekend? What fun did I miss out on? And then I let that feeling go. My friends and I are incredibly lucky to have the opportunities we do to explore and adventure and sometimes its okay to sit one out or better, sit one out from a cornfield.

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Happy 100th!

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Skinning across Lake Haiyaha, Rocky Mountain National Park

Raise your plastic, utilitarian glass of boxed wine and toast with me to a magnificent birthday! (Maybe you opt for champagne in the parks, but I stick to the more eco-friendly and easier to carry boxed option.) Happy 100th Birthday National Parks!

The history of the parks is incredible. We should thank our lucky stars ken burnsfor men like John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson for their support of our country’s biggest treasure. There are many more to thank, but as opposed to recreating the entire saga here, I’ll highly recommend Ken Burn’s documentary The National Parks, America’s Best Idea for the history lesson. Buy the entire set. Watch it start to finish on a gloomy weekend. Get inspired. Watch it over and over when you get sick. It’s also great background noise for napping after you’ve seen it a time or two.

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Colorado National Monument National Park at sunset

I love our parks. As a child, I wanted to be a park ranger when I grew up. I envisioned days of chatting with folks from all over about the wonders of nature. I also dreamed of long breaks where I could sit in the solitude of the phone booth-sized fee collection station and read novels; I was a nerdy kid. As an adult, I dream of being a park ranger when I grow up.

Quick shout out to an amazing friend who had the moxie to fulfill his childhood dream of visiting all 59 parks. Check it out, 59in59.

Iphone 730.JPGNot sure what my total park count is, but there are many, many more I’m dying to visit.

Next park to visit: Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Dream visit: Denali

Curiosity visit: Dry Tortugas

Hey friends, I started a blog

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My dearest friends, you make the best travel companions. I love you with all my heart. I also have lots of stories about you. Consider this your opportunity to request anonymity.

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Don’t worry my pets, we won’t get too racy and these will be the last semi-nudes (#nakedinnature). I have a 2030+ Denver mayoral run to keep in mind.

Why Trail Talks?

While sometimes I bemoan about being single at 30-something, I can confidently say that during these 30-something years, I amassed the most wonderful collection of  friends. In a team friendship rumble, I’d pick my squad over Taylor’s any day. My friends are genuine, unique, funny, weird (in a good way), and unfortunately, live all over the country, UGH. Great for visits, but seriously unhelpful for Tuesday night bridge club dreams.

I’m not the best phone person. I do it out of necessity. Phone dates at most last an hour. I need more than an hour, my friends. I need Trail Talks, true conversation. I have more than once deferred a needed dish session with a friend knowing that we’d be together in the woods at some point soon. I’ve scheduled hikes for the primary purpose of getting an update on marriage/jobs/life/dating/anything. Wilderness, I’m sorry, sometimes you’re sloppy seconds.

The thing about trail talks is that often you need eight hours of trudging along in the woods to get to the meat of a subject. And I’ll say this, I’m a sharer. I have more confidants than most (the average American has two, sad). But sometimes there are those subjects that are too tough to talk about in a thirty minute phone chat. It takes hours of carrying a forty-pound pack to muster the courage to let true stories roam free. And once you let them out, you need many more miles to analyse, assess, and get your friends’ true guidance to properly corral them. I vividly remember the exact spot on the sage brush covered trail in Canyonlands National Park on day two of a four day trip where finally, feebly and embarrassed, uttered to my friends the secret I’d been holding back for weeks. “Uhhh, girls, don’t judge but I called (should remain EX-bf) again…” Sigh. And then we got to spend the next two days dissecting my decision and piecing it back together as a path forward.

Not all trail talks are pseudo group therapy. I’m always amazed by the funny, mundane and everything in between conversations that occur when one is unplugged from the world with an indulgent amount of free time. During my trail talks, I’ve learned which cast member of the West Wing my friends would like to marry, what Olympic sport is most desirable to compete in, and quick and easy meals I can manage to make on a Tuesday since I’m not hosting to bridge club for my friends. There are no rules to trail talks and that’s why they are the BEST.

Trail talks do not have to occur on an actual trail. This weekend’s version of a TT (trail talk) occurred with my big brother. Big brother is a great dad of two adorable kids and a doting husband to one of the most kick-ass ladies I know. I adore his family, and yet, I cherish the time I get with just him alone. Brother-sister bonding, YES PLEASE.

Big brother and I are training for a road cycling tour later in the summer, so today seemed like a reasonable day to get in our first outdoor ride. We road from Evergreen up Squaw Pass. It’s a logistically an easy day trip from Denver and allows for plenty of climbing. We parked at Bergen Park for the 34 mile out-and-back.

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The view north from Squaw Pass

Brother and I covered a lot of subjects on our upward [road] talk, some important, many not so. But, it’s a true treat to get two uninterrupted hours with just my brother. The cherry on top was getting to scream down the pass at 30+ miles-per-hour.

I promise not to make too many “you should” recommendations in this blog, but I strongly encourage you to make an effort to make trail talks (the action, not my blog…but I’d love it if it were my blog) a regular part of YOUR life.

And if you do ride Squaw Pass, make sure to stop at The Bagelry for an iced coffee on your way home.

Here goes

Thank you for reading. I’ve toyed with the idea of a blog for a long time. Many of my adventure companions are likely tired of hearing me talk about my ideas ad nauseam. So with a lot less (verbal) talk and a lot more (written) action, here goes…

I hesitated kicking this off for a two main reasons. First, and still very true, I was scared. What if you think I’m a terrible writer? What if you think my inner thoughts are trivial and mundane? I am uncomfortable being the center of attention. While, I have no resolution to these fears,  I’m simply telling them to go hide under a rock for a bit.

Secondly, I struggled with the question, “what the heck is the point of a blog?” I like timelines, checklists, progress updates, and the satisfaction of marking something complete. And yet here, I stare into space and cannot think of the outcome. I decided it’s okay to start simply with some mini-reasons (all of which I reserve the right to change or axe at any point). I hope to:

  • share with you my adventures and misadventures
  • answer questions I receive from friends: where should I hike this weekend? should I bring my air-mattress on the hut trip?
  • answer questions I have: what do I do if I get attacked by an angry moose?
  • justify the purchase of an expensive camera
  • find a creative outlet and have some fun
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(not an angry moose…but still a scary goat trying to ruin my afternoon nap)

I promise <1% of content devoted to baking. I don’t bake.

Thanks for coming along with me!