Mountains

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Real life lessons I’ve learned in the mountains

Monday, September 12th, 2011

On Saturday, I climbed Mt. Massive, which was my 24th 14er, and my 10th of the summer (which checks #4 off my list of goals for 2011).  Saturday also marked the 4-year anniversary of my move from Seattle – which, in some ways, was the initial leap into really big adventure that’s still unfolding.  Needless to say, the two things danced around in my head all day – life in the mountains, and life in general.

There are a lot of ways in which mountain climbing can be compared to life – but how to convey this without sounding cheesy like a Miley Cyrus song?  (Although… sigh.  You know I love that Miley Cyrus song.)

Well, here.  Let’s try it this way.

– – – – – – – –

On the trail on Saturday, I passed a man who, impressed by my speed, told me I had “an engine” in me.  I grinned so big.  For a girl who has never been good at sports, who could never serve the volleyball over the net, who never scored a goal, can I just tell you how good it is to have found an activity that my body takes to naturally?  Hiking just fits – I’m really fast (faster than a lot of MEN), my body cooperates, and it brings me a lot of joy.

Real life lesson:
Find the things that come naturally, and that bring you a lot of joy, and do those.  This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try new things, or work hard at something that might be a stretch (or even a strain) – but pay attention to what it is that works for you.  Sometimes, it’s something that was obvious from a very early age.  Other times, you stumble upon it accidentally.  Whatever it is – music, running, writing, painting, cooking, traveling – foster it, protect it, make time for it, and then allow yourself to experience the joy.

– – – – – – – –

People die on 14ers every year, often when struck by lightning.  When climbing Mt. Yale a few weeks ago, the seemingly benign clouds above broke into a lightning storm right overhead – bolts of lightning overlapped by cracks of thunder that reverberated across the entire sky.  I’ve never prayed so urgently or run so frantically as in that moment – I bombed down the ridge toward treeline as fast as I could, projecting ahead to my own funeral and wondering how my family would find the password to my blog in order to post the bad news for you all to read.

After that, I was afraid to climb again.  That lightning had scared me on such a primal level, and when my alarm went off on Saturday morning, I was tempted to turn it off and stay safe and comfortable in my bed.

Several hours later, I was once again above treeline, watching the sky with such trepidation, thinking that the puffy clouds might unify and create the lightning that would be the death of me.  But they never did.  I made it to the summit, and then all the way back down to my car, and the entire day had been beautiful.

Real life lesson:
Learn the difference between the threats in your life.  Know when a situation is dangerous, when you should run for dear life.  Then again, know when it’s not worth your fear, because before you know it, the danger could simply burn off into blue sky, and you might as well enjoy your day.

– – – – – – – –

This summer, I had a hard time finding people to come climbing with me.  For some reason, no one wants to wake up at 4am on a Saturday only to drive 3 hours, hike 14 miles, gain and then lose 4,000 feet of elevation, stumble back to the Subaru, and then drive back to Denver in a silent daze.  I can’t imagine why.

As a result, 7 of my 10 14ers this summer were climbed by myself.

I’m not stupid about it – the peaks I’ve been climbing haven’t been super technical, and I plan my climbs to fall on days when there are sure to be others on the mountain.  I tell people where I’m going, and when I should be back – lest I wind up needing to cut off my own arm with a dull blade.  And sometimes, I make friends on the trail – kindred souls who also find the sacrifices worth it.

Real life lesson:
We live in a culture of safety and comfort.  The trail toward beauty and adventure and risk isn’t terribly popular, and thus, traveling companions may be scarce.  This is okay.  Certain paths can be walked alone.

But even in the midst of solitude, don’t disconnect from the people who love you most.  And don’t close yourself off to the unexpected friends you might meet along the way.

– – – – – – – –

You can hold it.  There is no reason to pee in the woods.
The sun burns.  Wear sunscreen.
Keep going.  Those miles aren’t going to walk themselves.

Real life lesson:
Those just kind of translate over.

– – – – – – – –

It’s been a great summer in the mountains.

And it’s been a great adventure I’ve been living.

Take a chance.  Wake up early.  Drive an unmarked road.  Work hard, and don’t quit.  You just might find yourself in the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen.

American Basin - Lake City, CO

Jane Austen makes me LOL

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

“Adieu to disappointment and spleen. What are men to rocks and mountains.”
-Elizabeth Bennet, “Pride and Prejudice”

Today

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I am climbing Mt. Princeton.

And baby Zion is breathing on his own.

That’s basically all I could ask for on my 29th birthday.

I am super grateful to have made it through the past 12 very difficult months, and summoning as much hope as I can for the year ahead.

West Nasty

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Nashville Miranda has been visiting this weekend, and on Saturday, we climbed Quandary Peak in our East Nasty shirts.  Miranda did awesome, because she is a hoss, and this brings my 14er total to 13.

Depending on weather, I might climb yet another this coming weekend.  It’s still in the 80s in Denver.  I’m still waiting for fall.

On Saturday night, we saw the movie “Catfish.”  Because the marketing scheme for the movie is “don’t tell anyone what it’s about,” far be it from me to spoil the plot.  But I will contribute to the frenzy and tell you that it’s worth seeing.  The internet is weird – so, so weird.

Mountains and music

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

It’s September 28, and on tap to be 92 degrees today.  While I am seriously perturbed at Denver’s unwillingness to budge into fall, the good news is that there is no snow in the mountains, and I was able to get several more 14ers under my belt this past Saturday.

I did the Decalibron – that is, I climbed Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross, all mountains over 14,000 feet high.  I don’t know that I have a goal of climbing all 54 of the Colorado 14ers, but with 12 down, I’m well on my way.

– – – – – – – –

On Sunday, I bought a piano.  I know I’m only 36 hours in, but I am absolutely giddy over this new acquisition.  For the last two nights, I’ve stayed up playing it for hours.  It’s a necessity for getting ready to record some demos when I’m in Nashville in December.

That’s right, folks: new songs are on their way.  I’m stoked (yes, I said it: STOKED) about sharing them – even if a few aren’t entirely finished yet.  Nothing like a deadline.

– – – – – – – –

I’m pretty sure that my life these days could be summed up this way:

“You climb a mountain because it’s there; you write a song because it’s not.”  -Jon Foreman

Summer of the Outdoors

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Early in the summer, I bought the Buff.  Little did I know that it would become my trademark piece of mountain garb.

This is what I look like every time I hike: high ponytail, crooked smile, and the Buff.

It’s ridiculous.  And I love it.  People ask about it on every hike I find myself on – which means that I am officially a backcountry trendsetter.

I got my fill of the outdoors this weekend.  I climbed a 14er one day (thus reaching my goal of 6 14ers this summer, hey-ooooo!), and a 13er the next.  Yesterday, August 29, I watched people in shorts and tank tops ski down a glacier.

Colorado is bizarre and beautiful.  I’m lucky to live here.  And I’m so thankful for all of the time I’ve been able to spend outside this summer.

The [weekend]

Monday, August 16th, 2010

What did I [climb]: Pike’s Peak – all by myself, and SO FAST.  Seriously, I hope this doesn’t come off as all braggy-face of me, but I scampered up the entire mountain, and barely broke a sweat.

Sir Edmund Hillary?  How about Sir ANNIE PARSONS.

What did I [burn]: the backs of my calves.  Why does this always happen?  Why doesn’t the sun wrap around to my shins, too, bathing all 360 degrees of my legs in that horrible blazing Vitamin D?  It’s a mystery, and that’s why so is mankind.  [If you get that joke, you win.]

What did I [buy]: two new pairs of Toms.  I couldn’t decide, so I bought both.  Let’s hear it for happy feet – and shoes for kids!



What did I [hear]:
the golden, dulcet voice of Jonatha Brooke – live.  Oh sweet Moses, y’all.  Do you know about this woman?  KNOW ABOUT HER.  Her “Ten Cent Wings” album is something special – trust me (and really, trust Duane, who originally spread the good news).

What did I [make]: jalapeño hummus.  My new food processor is changing my life.

What did I [feel]: so sad, and so happy.  These days, I’m feeling both, and more than ever – like the spectrum is growing, like my capacity for the extremes keeps increasing.  I wonder if this will continue as I get older – until one day, the sad and the happy will stretch out from my heart in opposite directions, hugging the globe and meeting in Madagascar.

I have a million little pieces glued together for my heart.

I don’t know that that’s a bad thing.

Boomeranging out of the weekend

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

Any weekend that includes both this and this –

– is a good one.

First of all, my blog friend Anastasia came to visit.  We had never met in real life before, but that didn’t stop her from driving 600 miles from Kansas City only to have me drag her out of bed at 4am on Saturday to go climb a 14er.

What. A. Sport.  I liked her SO much!  And look at her – a prairie girl on the summit of Mt. Democrat.  She kicked that mountain in the teeth.

When we got back to the car, we had the idea to put a copy of my CD on the windshield of every car in the parking lot.  Unsolicited?  Perhaps.  Presumptuous?  Y’all.  I just wanted to spread the love.  Don’t hate me.

On Saturday night, my friend Hillary was in town, and got the Parsons clan tickets to her show.

Oh yeah, that Hillary.  The one that wins Grammys and is currently on tour with Tim McGraw (she would never brag on herself, so I’ll do it for her) – and the one who also happens to be a sweet friend from my Nash-days, and absolutely wonderful.  It was so good to hug her neck.

Thanks for the amazing seats, Hill!  We loved it!

Then, last night, a few girlfriends took me out for an early celebration of my birthday.  They gave me presents and listened to me tell the story about the time I led a revolt in the high school band.  Everyone needs friends who will listen to them tell the story about the time they led a revolt in the high school band.  I feel so lucky to be meeting such nice people here.

Recently, someone I know said something disparaging about Denver, and I found myself getting defensive.  I think that’s a good sign.  I think this place may be growing on me.

Wetterhorn

Monday, July 12th, 2010

On Friday morning, my dad and I left at 4am and drove for over 2 hours to hike for 6 and see only one other person all day.  It’s a very, very thin slice of the world’s population who will ever stand where we were on Friday – between the remote location and the 4-wheel drive roads and the amount of physicality one has to employ to get there, you have to REALLY mean to go.

But we had an opportunity, and we grabbed it.  We really meant to go.

The hike was long and steep, but my daily walkoftriumphs have paid off, and we kept a good pace.  Nearing the top, the summit looked so close.

But when we actually got closer, I realized that we were going to have to scale this (see here for another perspective):

Now, listen.  I’m no rock climber.  I have no triceps, remember?  Plus, heights and me?  We don’t get along so well.  It’s not so much the heights that bother me – it’s more of the plunging to my death that really freaks me out.  I don’t even like to skin my knees, let alone break bones, lose limbs, chip teeth, etc.  And wouldn’t you know, the first really scary part, when my dad assured me that the rock was secure, and if I just put my hand *right there*, I could get a good grip – the rock BROKE OFF IN MY HAND.

But there was only one way to the top, and I wasn’t walking off that mountain without a summit.

Despite my fears, and freezing a couple of times, unable to move or breathe, starting the stressed-out-whistle-breath thing, after a long, slow climb, I made one last quick hand-over-foot movement and scrambled my way onto the top of Wetterhorn Peak.

Fears: faced, engaged, overcome.
Self-confidence: boosted.
First 14er of the season: conquered.

(Now go read my dad’s post about what HE did the next day.  AAAAGH.)

Vacation

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Monday was a paid holiday, and I am taking tomorrow and Friday off.  That makes this a 2 day work week, and today my Friday.  Amen.

I’m not very good at “vacation.”  I travel a lot, and use every minute of the (very generous) vacation time that I am given – but I never take the time to just relax.  Relaxing makes me feel lazy – I’m too task-oriented and high-strung to relax*.  If I take time off, it is usually because I am flying to a wedding, or hitting the proverbial road, or spending a busy long weekend with friends – or, in the case of this week, climbing mountains and screaming at total strangers.

Let’s start with the first thing: climbing mountains.  Over the weekend, I absolutely destroyed the knuckles on my left hand.  How do I always wind up with bloody knuckles?  I mean, honestly – am I a Neanderthal, dragging my hands on the gravel behind me?  I never remember scraping them – I just look down and realize, “Oh, there are my bones.”  “Oh, there is blood.”  And then I spend the next 10 days breaking open the scabs every time I bend my fingers.

Type type type.  This is a sacrifice.

We’ll see if the weather allows for me to climb two 14ers in the next couple of days.

As for the screaming at total strangers, well – when two pit bulls attacked my dear old dog Rowdy, snarling and growling and biting, and their owner made no move to stop them, it felt like a fair trade.  Your dog snaps, I snap.

Obscenities were screamed (yes, the worst of the bad words), as well as a threat to call the police.  It was out of control.  I was out of control.

Maybe I need a vacation after all.

*I need** an intervention.  Seriously.  I don’t think I will ever relax unless someone hog-ties me and forces me to.

**You know what ELSE I need?   Seven fillings.  I went to the dentist and they found SEVEN cavities.  I have excellent dental hygiene, and haven’t had a cavity in 10 years.  What is going ON?  It’s going to be a 4-hour torture session (not to mention a hefty wad of cash) to get these bad boys taken care of.

Gah, I say.  GAH.