Adventure

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We can never go back

Saturday, June 11th, 2016

If you really want to torture yourself, keep your email address linked with the house you used to own in a city where real estate is on a rapid upward trajectory. Once a week or so, you’ll get an update that tells you how much the value of your former home has increased, i.e. how much money you didn’t make because you sold when you did. Bless.

Yesterday, I finally (mercifully) cut the Zillow cord with the Shotgun, my old, charming, 11-foot wide, 600 square foot house in Denver. I loved that nest, and it was the perfect place for me to live for the years I spent there — but that season is over. I made a choice, which led to a decision tree of other choices, all of which ultimately led my life 900 miles away to Minneapolis.

The cruelest question in the world is “what if.”

And yet, we ask it all the time, don’t we? What if I had stayed? What if I had gone? What if I had said yes? What if I had said no? What if I had met that person, or not met that person, or met that person at a different time? What if I had never left my house in Denver and now was sitting on an 11-foot wide MOUNTAIN OF GOLD.

Dumb, all of it.

Asking “what if” keeps us stuck, mentally revising the past toward a future that will never actually be. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of heart. Like Joy Williams sings, “We can never go back, we can only go on and on and on.”

Real estate profits are the least of it — because that stuff doesn’t matter, really. It’s about owning your life, owning your decisions, blessing the good, and wrestling the bad (which, by the way, would exist no matter which path you would have chosen). It’s about seeing your story for the adventure that it is, and realizing that certain things aren’t up to you, anyway. It’s about knowing that it’s a privilege to have a choice at all.

If you struggle with feeling alone, or anxious, or frantic because life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would — well, me too. Keep going, though, because we can never go back. We might as well move forward, because who knows what might be up there?

A week in Hong Kong

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

Back in January, I had to run through the Denver airport like the Home Alone family to catch a flight. I made it onto the plane in the nick of time, and as I settled into the middle seat, I realized that I was completely out of breath.

I’ve lost my Colorado lungs. I had already said goodbye to my Colorado house, Colorado friends, Colorado hikes, Colorado weather — but my Colorado lungs? That’s a low blow, Minnesota. Luckily you’re the state that brought us the Bundt pan, so we’re even.

I have not, however, lost my Colorado hiking haunches. Oh hell no. My general thigh-rump area is as sturdy (read: un-dainty) as ever, meaning that when I was in Hong Kong, I couldn’t wait to get out into the jungle coated mountains to explore the trails. I mean, these glutes have got to be good for something — and in a world built to favor girls with skinny thighs, I take a lot of solace in the fact that I can out-hike them. It’s my only power.

So imagine my surprise when, there on the trails of Hong Kong, I finally met my hiking match, and an unusual suspect at that. When it comes to hoofing it, I now know my primary competition to be… the old Chinese man.

There he was, in his seventies, slight of frame, wearing nylon khaki pants and a little daypack — hauling ass up those hills. “Surely I can keep up,” I thought, and made it my personal aim to stay in step with him for the 1,800’ elevation gain of The Peak and beyond. But just like the time I tried to race a Segway up a hill on my bike (you’ve now heard the entire story, and it was every bit as ridiculous as it sounds), I labored in vain. I couldn’t keep up. The old Chinese man is the most hale and hearty person in the world.

Some might think “old and fit” to be a contradiction — but my way-too-short week in Hong Kong exposed me to all sorts of contradictions. Hong Kong-tradictions? (I’ll stop.)

Truly, Hong Kong is a mix of east and west, rich and poor, city and jungle, poodles and porcupines, glitz and grit. It’s fake Louis Vuitton and real Louis Vuitton. It’s skyscrapers surrounded by bamboo scaffolding. It’s cosmopolitan and outdoorsy, Maseratis and taxis, people toasting champagne on rooftop decks and people living in rural fishing villages. I ate dim sum and curry and noodles, but also McDonalds and Starbucks. You can find Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. There are tensions that I don’t fully understand, political rumblings with the potential to be seismic shifts, and just like anywhere, situations that need prayer and action and attention.

I soaked every single bit of it in. I explored and adventured and rested and basked in the presence of my dear friends like it was the world’s greatest gift, because it was. And I can’t wait to go back.

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My first trip to a casino

Monday, September 28th, 2015

When I moved to Minneapolis on July 3rd, if you would have told me that I wouldn’t leave again for 84 days, I would have keeled over dead.

In the last five years, I’ve gotten used to the pattern of skipping town roughly every other week: some business, some weddings, a lot of adventures. My suitcase was always packed, I had a separate set of travel toiletries, and both airline and hotel status. So it simply didn’t strike me as a possibility that the journey from Colorado to Minnesota would be my LAST TRIP EVER.

At least, that’s how it’s felt. After nearly three months of remaining within an hour radius of the city, I was going stir-crazy. It’s a cool place and all, but sometimes a girl just needs to get out.

Even if it’s to a casino.

My good friend Joey drums for Scotty McCreery (you know him, you love him), and a few weeks ago he let me know that they were playing a show in Minnesota at the end of the month. “Too bad it’s four hours from Minneapolis,” he said.

My escape had arrived. “I AM COMING.”

Which is how on Friday afternoon I found myself driving north on little back highways en route to the Shooting Star Casino. Have you heard of Mahnomen, Minnesota? Me neither – but I’m here to tell you that it exists, and I’ve been there.

This was my first real experience of a casino, and it was everything I feared it would be, everything I hoped it would be, everything I dreamed it would be. Smoking is allowed (it seems like everyone knew this to be true: casinos allow smoking. But I DIDN’T KNOW! Life is full of wonders). The food was wretched – avoid the Whispering Winds restaurant – and the people-watching superb. The drinks were weak, but hey, they were $4.

When I looked at Mahnomen on a map, I couldn’t understand how this show would draw very many people; there just isn’t much up in that area of the state. But I sorely underestimated the devotion of Scotty’s fans: the place was packed.

Women young and old go crazy for Scotty because 1) he’s talented, and 2) he’s darling. Throughout the show, he would occasionally fling a guitar pick out into the audience, at which point there would be a mass stampede of estrogen toward a tiny sliver of plastic. At one point he threw a pick in my general direction, and I got body-slammed by the woman next to me, her head straight to my clavicle. She never did find it, and after the show when the lights came on, every woman around me dropped to their knees to crawl all over the carpet looking for the missing pick.

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After the show (which was FUN – these guys are so good at what they do), I got a front row seat to the drunken-fan malarkey that reaches beyond Scotty (tucked away on the bus) to his backing band (out amongst the casino commoners). From the relatively harmless girls wanting to take selfies with each band member to the older woman in a Shania t-shirt making gauche jokes about the name of her town (Climax, Minnesota) to the sad man who bumped into my barstool moaning, “I’m fat, I’m lazy, and I just lost it all,” Mahnomen was impressively inebriated.

But the thing I will always remember about this night is how much I laughed. There was so much to laugh about – and it made me realize how little I’ve been laughing lately. Between the combination of my quick-witted company and our comical surroundings, I just got to sit there dissolved by the funny, like Alka-Seltzer in a glass, bubbling until there was nothing left except feeling better.

The guys left on the bus at midnight, and I stayed in a questionable but free-of-charge room at the attached hotel. I awoke to the faint smell of urine (not mine) – a most appropriate ending to the most bizarre adventure – and drove home with a smile on my face.

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We all juggle a lot of things – our jobs and our homes and our families and our health. We watch our weight and our bank accounts and our mouths in certain settings. We work like crazy with the promise of vacation only to have a hard time powering down our minds and our screens, leading us to wonder if time is the new money. Life can feel like our own personal snow globe, turning and shaking and making it tough to remember which end is up.

But then we kick off early on a Friday afternoon, and drive like mad to the middle of nowhere just to see some familiar faces – because our people are what matter. And to me, that’s what friendship is: taking the time, buying the gas, and heading to Who-Cares-Where just to see your friends, just to laugh really hard for just one night. Just to be reminded who you are.

And if it can happen at a northern prairie casino with bad drinks and horrid lighting, it can happen anywhere.

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The last days

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

When I think of my last days in Colorado, I will think of the temperature – days in the high 90s, the brutal sun beating down on the Mile High City, and me, applying SPF 100 like my life depended on it (which it kind of did). The air conditioner in my Subaru struggled, no longer strong enough to stand up to the heat. On the lucky days in which I made it to the mountains, I experienced Colorado’s iconic summer smell: pine needles in dry dirt.

And then I will think of the rain – the afternoon thunderstorms that you can set the clock by, raging storms that swelled the rivers and flooded my normal walking paths. Of course, this didn’t stop me from walking, although June was a Fitbit feast or famine (35K steps at the highest, 3K at the lowest – a day in which I brought shame to my family).

I will remember moving out of my house, everything in cardboard boxes and plastic bins, stuffed into the largest truck I’ve ever driven – and then the solo cross-country trip in which I got 6 miles to the gallon and took 16 hours to make it 900 miles. I unloaded everything into a storage unit, and flew back to Denver – because I wasn’t finished with Colorado yet.

I will think of Starbucks breakfasts and Chipotle lunches, just because I didn’t have a kitchen anymore.

I will remember my nephew’s faces when we all stayed up way too late playing games that made them laugh uncontrollably. And I will remember rubbing lotion into the 4-year old’s skinny, espresso-colored calves, and him telling me for the tenth time, “I saw a antelope! Outside! I saw it!”

I will think of my final appointment with my beloved and trusted counselor who, when discussing all of the changes I’m going through, reminded me, “Don’t put too much stock in anything you’re thinking or feeling right now,” which made me laugh, because doesn’t she know who I am?! But it secretly felt like permission granted. And when I said, “When I move to Minnesota, no matter what, I just can’t stop hoping,” she shook her finger at me and said in a hushed, urgent voice, “Don’t you dare.”

I will remember the entire year before these last days, a year in which life felt like it was closing in, like I was trapped and constrained, like toothpaste in a tube. And the day I decided to say yes to this opportunity placed in front of me, the day I decided to move to Minnesota, it was like the cap fell off and life squeezed loose.

Today I drive to Minneapolis, for real and for good this time. I’ve sold my house in Denver, and am in the process of buying a new one – but until everything is final, Foxy is staying with my dad in Colorado. Even though it’s temporary, leaving my dog is the hardest thing for me. I anticipate crying all the way to Nebraska.

The days to come are sure to be filled with newness, novelty, and fresh perspective. I am excited, and ready for the change. But as exciting as the first days are, I never want to forget the last days either. Because they’ve been pretty damn rich.

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The inevitable emotional emergency

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Well, it finally happened. I freaked out and lost my mind.

Back in January, I applied for a job that I was eventually offered in May. This means that for the past six months, I have lived with the possibility (and now plan) of leaving Colorado – and even after making the decision, it’s felt like a whim. Oh sure, I’m moving across the country, I’ve thought. Everything will come together. I’ve had the poise of Kate Middleton, if not bigger thighs, and moved through my days with a serenity that, as it turns out, I am not qualified for.

I’ve been sailing off into the sunset, only to wake up this morning and panic that THE EARTH IS NOT ROUND I WILL FALL OFF THE EDGE.

I am still three weeks away from starting my new job, but I will only sleep at my house for four more nights. On Friday, I’m picking up a moving truck and loading all of my worldly possessions into it, then driving to Minneapolis alone. I’ve hired men to help me unload my stuff into a storage unit, where it will stay for over a month while I fly back to Colorado, go to a wedding, celebrate my mom’s birthday in the mountains, leave my dog with my dad, drive all the way back to Minnesota, temporarily move in with friends, start my new job, and eventually, hopefully, close on a new house – which will result in a reunion with my dog and a second moving of all of my stuff at the end of July.

In the meantime, I am hemorrhaging money, picking at a rotisserie chicken carcass for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in an empty kitchen, and wishing for everything to be different. Easier. Safe.

But like Mary Engelbreight reminds us:

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(I promise never to do that to you again.)

In all seriousness, risk is risky. Adventure and discomfort go hand-in-hand. But aren’t you curious? Don’t you want to know what might happen if you just step out into the unknown? For all of the mystery, I would rather walk forward into the unmapped and uncharted than know exactly what tomorrow will bring. (Because after all, it’s probably rotisserie chicken off the carcass.)

When it comes down to it, come August, I’m going to be unpacking my clothes into a closet with Foxy at my feet, and readying a guest room for you to come visit. And if you need further persuasion as to why Minneapolis is worth a look-see, help yourself to these articles:

“The Miracle of Minneapolis” – The Atlantic
“Minnesota’s New Cool Image as ‘The North'” – The Wall Street Journal

It’s going to be great (she says, after a good cry, some frozen pizza, and 20K+ steps on her Fitbit).

The time I walked to Twin Lakes Village – and then got in a car and drove home

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

On Monday night I rolled my ankle, and that was that. Yesterday morning, I limped 11 miles out to Twin Lakes Village where Kristen and Lacey were waiting to resupply me, and after a few hours in Leadville in which I wrestled it over, I asked them to take me home.

Of course, the decision wasn’t that easy – and even the day after, my emotions are still as raw as my heels.

First, let’s back up. Since we last spoke, I’d been hauling ass across the state of Colorado. In the 4 days since Breckenridge, I hiked 73 miles; by the time I reached Twin Lakes Village, my grand total was 177.2. And despite dumping more than 8 lbs of my original weight, my pack was still hefty, and it was taking a toll on my shoulders, neck, and feet. I kept waiting for the moment when everything would click and I would start feeling good – but it just wasn’t happening.

In fact, my body seemed to revolt against me more and more.

While the original blisters started to heal up, new ones began to form. My shoulder sores grew more deeply bruised. My hands started to crack open – deep wounds that were more like cuts than cracks. I developed a wicked heat rash on my face and ears. My back started to feel strangely reminiscent of the days before I threw it out last year. I couldn’t sleep. And when my appetite all but disappeared, I knew that things were serious – because since when has Annie Parsons skipped a meal, especially after hiking 20 miles in a day?

So when my ankle rolled, I decided to call it – not quits, but good. I called it good. 11 days on the Colorado Trail had been good enough.

I could have slowed down. I could have taken a rest day in Leadville and hoped for my ankle to heal up. I could have dug deep and rallied and soldiered on a day or two later – but you know what? I didn’t want to. I’d had 11 days of adventure that had stretched me and challenged me and given me the confidence to call myself a Tough Ass Bitch. And now I wanted to go home.

It’s a humbling thing to realize that your dream wasn’t what you thought it would be. I had put so much into this experience – time and money and effort and planning – and my family had bent over backwards to help accommodate my plans. So many friends were invested in this trip. And if anything was going to get me back out on that trail, it was the knowledge that the people who love me were rooting for me, cheering me on, and pulling for me to reach Durango; honestly, it brings tears to my eyes to think about how supported I’ve felt through this whole thing.

But it’s especially humbling to realize that I wanted the end result – to say that I had hiked the Colorado Trail – more than I wanted to actually DO it.

I’m just sitting here staring at those words, and wondering when the last time was that I was able to be so honest. Like I said – humbling.

Somewhere deep inside, I think I believed that doing something like hiking the Colorado Trail would make me strong. It would justify me as a badass, and confirm me as a force to be reckoned with.

But here’s the truth about what 11 days solo in the backcountry did to me: it stripped me small. I woke up each morning alone in a tent, no shower, no real conveniences of any kind, and then strapped on a burdensome pack and walked for the next 11 hours. I applied bug spray like perfume, and SPF 100 like my life depended on it (which it kind of did). When I would walk around a tree to drop trou (because the world is now my bathroom), I would bring DEET to immediately spray on my haunches to avoid being eaten alive in the nether regions.

(The mosquitos were truly insulting. I was Thomas J. – they were the bees.)

But here’s the amazing thing: when you’re stripped of all comforts, all eyes, all mirrors, all bravado… you still exist. You still are, regardless of what you have or don’t have or can do or can’t do. I might have been waking up in a tent alone and uncomfortable and grosser than I’d ever been before – but I was still Annie, by nature of nothing except God having spoken me into being and continuing to hold me together.

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“All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect.” –Richard Rohr

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It didn’t matter if I got up and hiked or stayed right there in my sleeping bag. It didn’t matter if I had a house in Denver or a job at a big company or was in a relationship or not in a relationship or was good at things or not good at things – I am just Annie, small and simple as I might be. How freeing – because when you no longer have to live up to the person you hope you might be, you get to be the person that you are.

And the person that I am is now off the trail, a size smaller, reunited with my bestie, and grateful to have 3 ½ weeks of unexpected vacation ahead of me. Thank you so much for your amazing encouragement and enthusiasm for this adventure – the stories I lived will forever be a part of who I am.

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The time I walked to Breckenridge

Friday, July 4th, 2014

The night before I left, my mom said to me, “I just never want you to be scared, or anything to be hard.”

I laughed, because didn’t she know what I’d signed up for?

Like it or not, I was right: the first week on the Colorado Trail has been scary and hard – mostly hard. And despite the temptation to sugarcoat the details for my lovingly protective mother, I’m just going to give it to you straight.

I was prepared for a challenge. I was prepared for physical discomfort. But I was not prepared for the pain. On the first day, my pack weighed 45 lbs – the equivalent of a 5-year old child. My friend Sarah hiked the first two days with me, and when we would stop for breaks, we would unbuckle our packs to have them drop to the ground like boulders, like that ride at amusement parks that pulls you up, up, up, just to release and send you plummeting to the ground. Granted, Sarah’s pack was mostly a Bota Box of wine (of which we barely had any – sorry, Sarah).

Mine was just heavy.

I quickly developed sores on each of my shoulders, spots where my straps rubbed me raw. I hope you’re not offended by a bare collarbone, because here it is.

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Then came the blisters. First my left heel, then my right pinky toe and the one next to it, then the ball of my left foot, then the left pinky. I doctored them as best as I could, but there was no way around the first few days of excruciating pain. Every step was like walking on knives.

The heat wasn’t helpful, either. Saturday and Sunday, Sarah I went whole hog, hiking 21 miles the first day and 20 the second. The days were so hot, we’d arrive at our campsite ready to vomit (hence the minimal wine consumption).

Before Sarah left on Sunday night, she looked at me and said, “You’re really brave.” But is it really bravery if I didn’t feel afraid? I was too shell-shocked to feel fear.

“But what if I’m not tough?” I said, blinking back the tears.

“You can do this,” she said. “You can do this.” And then she drove back to Denver with her husband Tom, and I spent my first night alone in the woods.

I thought that the decision was made when I put in for my leave of absence last fall, or maybe when I gathered each piece of gear, or definitely when I stepped out on the trail on June 28. But I’m learning that the decision to hike this trail is made every single time I pull my pack back on, groaning under the weight, and then straightening my shoulders and moving forward. It’s a constant re-deciding to keep going.

I could tell you a lot of stories from this week – about how in a moment of desperation I lay on my back in the middle of the trail in Happy Baby pose (feeling anything but happy), or how I leapt an uncomfortably wide irrigation ditch with my full pack on (like a heavy-laden, off-balance superhero), or how I came across a felled tree blocking the path and it was too high to climb over so I opted to crawl under (and wound up stuck, belly to the ground), or how I feel a new kinship with Lance Armstrong (because if someone were to offer me performance enhancing drugs, I would take them), or how I came across car campers who said the 5 magic words (“Do you want a beer?”), or how I awoke on the fifth day with a fire in my bones and tore over the Continental Divide (like She-Ra, Princess of Power). I could tell you how amazing my shower in Breckenridge felt (a holy experience), how delicious my burger tasted (try the curry ketchup at Empire Burger), or how I cried this morning when my dad brought me a resupply of food (and a visit from Foxy).

But it’s time for me to close the computer and head back to the trail – I’m about to be dropped off at the trailhead to hike into tonight’s campsite, tears still in my eyes. I’m going to keep going. And that’s what the past week has really been about – deciding and re-deciding and walking even when I didn’t think I could walk any further, through the tears and discouragement and the most beautiful terrain.

I’m 104 miles in. Here’s to 104 more.

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And I would walk 500 miles…

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

I’ve only used one vacation day in 2014. I have a couple on the horizon – but mostly, I’m saving them for July when I’ll combine the majority with a chunk of unpaid leave, close my computer, and walk away into the mountains. I finally have a chance to fulfill a dream that’s been years in the making: I’m going to thru-hike the Colorado Trail.

[Insert explosion of exclamation points here → !!!!!!!! ←]

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[See all that green? That means MOUNTAINS.]

Starting just outside of Denver, I’ll backpack nearly 500 miles to Durango carrying only the essentials on my back. I’m going by myself. In a perfect world I’d bring Foxy, but the days are going to be long; most days I hope to hike close to 20 miles. Between the distance, the fact that her enthusiasm over squirrels and geese could only translate to skunks and porcupines, and her propensity to respond to “Come!” with the equivalent of a bold middle finger, it’s probably not the wisest choice.

I’ve spent the last year or so gathering my gear – pack, sleeping bag, stove, tent – and recently have started carrying it on my walks around town. I look like a homeless person. A homeless person with a Patagonia pro deal. But the hope is that come July, the weight won’t faze me in the slightest.

When I tell people that I’m doing this, and that I’m going alone, I’m usually met with one of two reactions:
1) That is awesome.
2) That is the worst, stupidest, most dangerous idea ever.

You are welcome to either of those opinions; either way, I’m doing it. Also, reaction 2 is wrong.

Here are some questions I’ve been asked – if you have more, feel free to shout them out.

Are you bringing a gun?
No. Why is this the question I’ve been asked most frequently? Annie with a gun would be way more dangerous than Annie without a gun, despite the musical. However, I will have bear spray, and that sucker sprays for 7 whole seconds. (Again, you are welcome to your opinion on this matter. Please trust that I’ve thought this through, that I’m not taking my safety lightly, and that I, more than anyone, want to come out on the other side of this in one piece.)

What will you eat?
Oatmeal for breakfast, homemade dehydrated meals for dinner. In between? The usual hiking foods: trail mix, jerky, heavy-duty crackers with peanut butter, and obviously, so many LÄRABARs.

Speaking of LÄRABAR, how did you get 5 weeks off of work?
Believe it or not, I asked for it and they gave it to me. I am so grateful to work for a company that practices what it preaches when it comes to work/life balance, and for managers who have been supportive of this idea from the beginning. In the meantime, I am working like a crazy person to get all of my July work done in advance (and there’s a lot).

How will you charge your cell phone?
Well first of all, I don’t plan on using it all that much. Part of the appeal of this trip is to disconnect from the technology that I’m so married to. But to make sure I’m not left in the lurch, I will be harnessing the abundant sunshine and using this.

Have you read Wild?
Yes. Such a fantastic book – if you haven’t read it, do. But I’ve wanted to backpack the Colorado Trail since long before I read Wild.

Who will take care of Foxy?
My dad, and then my mom. I can’t stand the thought of saying goodbye to her, so I’m putting it out of my head for as long as I can.

How long is this going to take you?
Most people complete the trail in 4-6 weeks. I have a total of 38 days, and plan on finishing in plenty of time – because when it comes to hiking, I’ve got an engine in me.

Are you afraid?
Of hiking that far? No. Of being alone during the day? No. Of being alone at night? A tiny bit. Of wild animals? Yes. Of lightning? Yes. Of having my period in the woods? More than anything.

Sometimes I can’t believe that I’m actually going to do this. Mostly, I just can’t wait to go. If you have backpacking experience and any advice – what to bring, what not to bring, how to not be afraid of the dark – I’d love to hear it.

Adventure

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about adventure. So many of us crave it – but what is it, actually?

Is it doing something crazy – quitting your job and selling everything you own and taking off for parts unknown? Is it doing something risky – hanging from cliffs and diving out of planes and willingly allowing your life to hang in the balance? Is it doing something gigantic – traveling around the world and living large and turning heads?

All of those things certainly count as adventure – and my life has included some of those moments. But could it be that the experience doesn’t have to be berserk in order for it to make you feel alive?

Because I think that that’s what adventure really is: an experience that makes you feel alive. Something that snaps you into the present, a place most of us are more comfortable avoiding. Often, all that takes is doing something out of the ordinary, something different than usual, something that you’re not exactly sure will work out.

I woke up on Saturday morning, the only thought in my head, “I don’t want to stay home.” I love my little house, and am usually perfectly content to spend time within the four walls, but something about this weekend had me itching to get out. The weather was inopportune, as the snow had started overnight and was continuing to come down, blowing in blustery circles, slicking the roads and driving people inside.

But I needed an adventure.

So I grabbed my snowshoes, loaded up Foxy, and drove west.

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If you live in Colorado, you know that I-70 is the worst place to be on a weekend morning. The ski traffic is merciless, and when you add bad roads into the mix, it can be aggravatingly slow. And about 30 minutes into my drive, that’s exactly where I found myself: bumper to bumper, creeping along at less than 5 mph, wheels grasping for grip on the ice.

“This is stupid,” I thought. “I should turn around.”

But something in me said to stick it out. I wanted to find out what might happen if I just kept going for as long as I could.

After an hour and a half, I reached Idaho Springs (a mere 30 miles from Denver), and then turned south onto an unplowed mountain road. I drove for 14 dicey miles until I reached my intended destination. And Foxy and I headed out into the winter air, where we explored in complete stillness and peace.

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I thought back to the moment I had wanted to turn around, and realized that that’s when the adventure began. It’s the moment when you’re not sure if your plan is going to work, or if it will, how. The decision to keep going despite the unknowns, heading into something out of the ordinary, is unsettling and exciting (two things which often co-exist). And often, the “getting there” is just as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself.

So cook something new for dinner. Take a different road home. Sign up for the art class. Throw your name in the hat – for a job, an opportunity, a relationship. Loosen your grip on control so your hands are free to grab life and enjoy the shit out of it. Foxy will show you how.

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Intuition

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Three months ago, Colorado was in the midst of out-of-control wildfires. Everything was brittle and dead, and when the summer storms started, the lightning-induced fires were hard to contain.

And because this state is completely bi-polar, today is a very different story.

Unless you’ve been living under a (dry, well-insulated) rock, I’m sure you’ve heard that Colorado has been experiencing major flooding in the last week. The worst of it has been north of Denver in the Boulder/Longmont/Fort Collins area, and the images are heartbreaking. Some people have lost everything. Some have died. Hundreds are unaccounted for, and they expect the death toll to rise.

Still, I thought I’d wander alone into the wilderness on Saturday. DON’T WORRY – I headed south, away from the floods.

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“Have you ever been turned back by weather?” he asked.

I thought about it. There was that one time where we arrived at the trailhead and it was already snowing, so we knew we were doomed from the start – but aside from that, never. Each and every one of the 35 14ers I had attempted, I summited that same day.

“When it happens – and it will happen – it will be good for you,” he said. “It will make you a better climber.”

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On Saturday morning, I headed up Humboldt Peak with the hopes of it being my 36th 14er – but 4 miles in, I had to turn around at tree line. The top of the mountain was encased in a thick cloud, and even if I didn’t sense electricity above, I knew that if I lost the trail, I’d be done for.

I was disappointed. I had wanted to check another mountain off my list. But I listened to my gut, just like I did on the road to the trailhead when I came to a spot that I just didn’t think the Subaru could clear, and thus abandoned ship (have you ever reversed down a 4WD road? Lord, have mercy). And when you listen to your gut, when you act on conviction even when it goes against what you want – it builds confidence.

My friend was right: being turned back by weather was good for me. It confirmed that intuition is trustworthy – that instinct should be honored. I can only imagine the times in the future when this lesson is going to come in handy.

On the way back to Denver, I stopped in Westcliffe where I ordered coffee from a completely no-nonsense lady. Then I took a different route home from the road I’d driven to get there, soaking in the beauty of the state and feeling a million miles away from the flooding.

Despite the fact that I wanted to climb 7 14ers this summer and only got 4 (the last one being two months ago, for shame), I recognize that living life continually at full throttle sometimes just makes you want to throttle yourself. Maybe it’s better to enjoy the moment; after all, fires and floods remind us that nothing is guaranteed. And in the meantime, perhaps learning to trust your gut is as big an achievement as reaching your intended destination.