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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.


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.)


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.

Up to my crotch

Monday, April 12th, 2010

“At least it will make a good blog,” I laughed.

“What will you title it?” he asked.

I thought for a second, but really, there was only one choice: “‘Up to my crotch,’ of course.”

- – - – - – - -

See, what happened is… I have a friend named Bennett.  He and I knew each other when we lived in Seattle, but in the last few years, had totally fallen out of touch – until I ran into him at a church here in Denver last month.  I didn’t know he lived here, he didn’t know I lived here – there was hugging and exclaiming.

Yesterday, Bennett and I went hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park.  He is rugged and outdoorsy and works at REI, so he is a good person to follow into the wilderness.  The first two miles of the trail were snowy, but we only sunk in to our ankles or so.  It was promising to be a doable 8 miler.

But then.

“Look at that mountain,” Bennett said.  “We could climb it.”

I followed his stare to a 12,000 foot peak.  “THAT?” I asked.  “THAT is not on the path.”  A planner to the extreme, I have a hard time deviating from any original goal.  THAT mountain was not a part of my Sunday ambition.

“It wouldn’t take that long.  We could be at the top in an hour,” he said.  Bennett knows these things.  He cuts his own trails all the time.  He drives a 4-Runner and has a dog.  He owns, like, FIVE backpacks.  Plus, he is very tall.

And I, thirsty for adventure and a well-deserved beer at the end of the day, found myself saying, “Okay!”

We left the path, and began to cut our own across a snowy field.  Bennett went first, and I followed literally in his footsteps, stretching to place my foot where his had been by matching his very long stride.  “How tall are you?” I asked.  “6’3″,” he answered.  I grunted.

The snow got deeper and deeper, and suddenly, with one step, Bennett’s foot sunk and his entire leg was submerged.  The snow had to be at least 4 feet deep, and the sun had softened it just enough that it would no longer hold our weight.

Disaster?  Turn back now?  Not when you have a MOUNTAIN TO CLIMB.

I followed Bennett for two hours, one step at a time, across the snowy terrain and precisely in his footsteps – meaning that I was bending my knees up to hip-level, only to plunge my feet down into holes made by Bennett’s very long legs.  Sometimes, the holes were so deep that my foot would not reach the bottom, and I would be stuck, UP TO MY CROTCH, in snow.  And then, with both legs floating in holes so deep that I had no solid ground beneath my feet, immobile and helpless, I would call for Bennett – and he would come back and pluck me out of the ground.

Like a carrot.

We did not make it to the top of the mountain.  But our 4-hour adventure did result in me writing a blog featuring the ugliest word in the world – twice.


Little Miss Redcloud & Sunshine

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

I figured that since I had already climbed one 14er this week, I might as well do two more. In one day.

Yesterday, I summited both Redcloud Peak (14,034′) and Sunshine Peak (14,001′ – hey, when it counts, it counts – just don’t knock any rocks off the top). My dad and I met up with my mom – and 25 awesome women from Kansas City – for yet another mountain excursion. The goal was to make it to the top of Redcloud – and most of the women did! I was so impressed with these women and their serious effort. A variety of ages and fitness levels, every single one of them pushed themselves as far as they could go. It was absolutely heroic.

After reaching the top of Redcloud, I was feeling good. I had gained 4 miles and 4,000 feet of elevation in just 3:15 – not bad. I shared my peanut butter sandwich with Rowdy, and enjoyed the spectacular sunny sky and panoramic view, and cheered as more and more women arrived at the summit.

Since we had made such good time, we had the option to continue on to Sunshine Peak, a mile and a half a way. When asked if I wanted to proceed further, I thought, “What would make better fodder for the blog?” You already know the answer. Four of us decided to continue to the top of Sunshine. In order to do this, we had to drop down off of Redcloud to the saddle below, walk along a ridge, and then ascend again to Sunshine. No biggie – whatever. What’s another mile and a half?

Oh. Only trudging through 8″ of snow, with severe winds almost blowing us off the cliff, down precarious slopes and then straight up an icy escarpment to Summit #2.

Karla, Melissa, Melinda, and I plodded carefully, hats and gloves on, uttering no words. The wind howling around my Gore-Tex hood was as loud as thunder, as soft as drowning; I was lost in my own head, but formed no real thoughts. Just step, step, step. And in a mere 50 minutes, we arrived at our second summit of the day.

Me with Karla:

But the victory of a second summit was soon squelched by the heavy realization that WE ARE ONLY HALFWAY. What goes up must come down; we had to then turn around, and do it all over again. But you know, these women are hosses. And we had great conversations, and saw breathtaking views, and knew that that night we could eat WHATEVER WE WANTED.

So far, I’m impressed at the events of the first 9 days of The Big Trip. Big things have happened. And it’s only the beginning…

Bloody knuckles and rock stars

Sunday, September 16th, 2007

Some days are very normal, basic, routine. Today was not one of those days. And actually, it deserves a long, thorough blog. We’re pretty good friends by now – I hope you’ll read until the end.

This morning at 5am, my dad, our dear friend Dan Clader, and I left for Mt. Sneffels (elevation 14,150 feet) in the San Juan mountain range of Colorado. Our mission? To walk/climb/scramble our way to the very top.

Now, I consider myself as being in good shape. I exercise daily, eat the right sorts of things, and when it comes to cardio activity, can keep up with most anyone. However, Dan and Dad are not just “anyone.” These men are mountaineers, highly experienced climbers, who have climbed every one of the 54 peaks over 14,000′ in Colorado. Still, they were excited to have me along as such an eager participant – especially since I spent the majority of my childhood as lazy,

Still, Colorado mountain climbing is a whole different animal than hiking the smooth trail on Mt. Si in the Washington Cascades. The Rockies are rough, rugged, and demanding. I have spent the past 7 years at glorious sea level, breathing loads of delicious oxygen. Could I really keep up on an expedition beginning above tree line?

I’m so glad that you asked. My friends, do read on.

For the first 2 hours, I proved myself to be a worthy climber. Quick and strong, with plenty of endurance, I raced up switchbacks, scrambled through rock fields, and maneuvered up and over huge boulders. I continually scraped my hands on sharp rocks, and the blood soon crusted into my the creases of my knuckles. The terrain was complicated, and our big dog Rowdy was having a rough go at times; Dan and Dad fashioned a harness for him, and together they lifted/pulled/heaved his poor, terrified bulk through the cliffs and crags. Nevertheless, all in all, we were making good time.

But then, everything changed. Suddenly, the ground rose rapidly, and my feet were no longer a reliable source of balance; my body was forced to double over at the waist to grab hold of the rocks. The scramble turned into a full-on rock climb, sans ropes, ascending stone walls with open air all around us. Dan led the way, and coached me on where to put my right hand, right foot, left hand, left foot. This worked for awhile, but ultimately, his help and encouragement could not stop my inextinguishable fear of heights. “Uncomfortable” turned to “frustrated,” and then, without warning, “frustrated” turned to “terrified.”

And in an instant, I felt as though a huge piece of soggy bread was stuck in my throat. “I can’t breathe,” I gasped, and hugged the side of the cliff. In the same way that the wind was whipping over the mountain face, I sucked for breath, air over gravel. Dad and Dan spoke calming words, that I could do it, that I couldn’t stop here – but alas, the panic had set in, and refused to give up its foothold. The tears welled in my eyes, and when I squeezed them shut, huge droplets appeared on my cheeks. I clasped the precipice, face to the rock, and willed myself to flee the situation I was in.

- – – – – – – -

It is the summer before 4th grade, and I stand atop a bluff, my back to the drop-off. My camp counselor assures me that I am harnessed in, that I cannot fall, that I am safe. But it cannot be true – I cannot possibly stand with my heels hanging over the edge, trust the rope, and lean backwards. I cannot rappel to the flat ground below. Tears overflow, I cannot breathe. I will not make it off this cliff alive. But, wonder of wonders, I lean back, and find myself staring straight up at the blue sky, suspended with my feet against the rock wall by nothing but a rope and a belay. I rappel. And I survive.

I am 14, and clinging to the top of the “Power Pole,” part of the ropes’ course on a group retreat. Hand over hand, I have climbed the 23 feet to the top – now, all that I need to do is to place my feet on the tiny surface on top of the pillar, raise myself to an upright position, balance with nothing to hold onto, rotate 180 degrees, and then leap to a trapeze suspended 8 feet away. That’s all. Instead, I wrap my arms and legs around the pole and cry. I cannot breathe. I cannot possibly do what is required of me. But, wonder of wonders, I tentatively place one foot, then both feet, on top of the wooden post, swiftly push my body up, swivel to face the trapeze, and jump. And I live.

- – – – – – – -

I open my eyes. I have been clinging to the cliff face for 20 seconds. I blink rapidly – once, twice, three times – willing myself to see clearly again. I take a few deep, calming breaths, and remind myself that I have felt this way before, and I have lived to tell the tale. I envision myself gathering my courage, cupping my hands and drawing every ounce of available gallantry to myself. And wonder of wonders, I move my hand, move my foot. I continue with the climb.

We summitted at 10am, and each of us had tears – this time, from the sheer thrill of success, of victory, of the triumph over fear. We stayed on the freezing crown of Sneffels for about 12 minutes before the weather started to roll in, then it was time to scramble down the mountain. With lightning illuminating the sky all around us and corn snow pelting us in the faces, we ran for the last 1/2 mile to the car, and collapsed into the Durango exhausted and wet, weary and elated. We were victors, surviving grueling physical exertion, emotional trauma, and extreme weather.

Then I came home and ate a hamburger and watched “Blades of Glory.”