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Shavano & Tabeguache

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012

As some of you may know, I’ve spent the past few summers climbing as many 14ers (mountains over 14,000’ high) as I can.  There are 54 in Colorado, and while I’m not sure that I have a goal of climbing every single one of them, I love the challenge and adventure that each one brings.

As of Friday night, I had climbed 26 14ers – just one away from having bagged half of the total 54.  I really wanted to make it past the halfway point, so I planned to climb two mountains on Saturday, Shavano and Tabeguache.  These mountains are just outside of Salida, which is a good distance from Denver, so I was driving by 4:30am in order to hit the trailhead by 7:30 or so – which already felt like a late start, but the best that I could do.

The 3-hour drive was uneventful, and I psyched myself up for a long day of hiking.  But when I finally pulled up at the trailhead, I was met with a gigantic sign: “NO TRESPASSING. VIOLATORS WILL BE PROSECUTED.”

I was crushed.  Ever a rule-follower, I didn’t dare take that trail – because it would be just my luck to be met by a man with a shotgun, or worse, a man with a banjo.

Defeated, I thought, “I should just drive back to Denver.”

But then I thought of how much money I had spent on gas, and how I’d eaten a gigantic piece of banana bread and needed to burn it off, and how much I wanted to check another mountain off of my list – and I decided not to give up just yet.  I pulled out my 14ers book and searched for another path up the peaks, and when I found one that looked promising, I drove 30 minutes around the mountain to a different trailhead.

By this time, it was after 8am, and the sun was high and bright.  As one with a healthy fear of afternoon storms above tree-line, I had some reservations about starting so late.  “What if I get struck by lightning?” I thought.  “Who would take care of Toad?  Who would water my basil?  I should just go home.”

But again, that slice of banana bread taunted me.  As is the case with so many of my decisions, if nothing else, I needed to burn some calories.  So I decided to start hiking and just see how far I could go before it got too late in the day.  Maybe I would make it to the top of the first peak – maybe – but I tossed aside any illusions of being able to climb both.

I wound up making great time (fine: I tore up the trail, passing every grown man in my path, and felt a little bit smug about it), and was at the top of Shavano in less than 3 hours.  That alone felt like a victory – I had climbed my 27th 14er, and was halfway to 54.  I could go back to the car and feel decent about my efforts.  I texted my dad and told him that I was at the top of Shavano, and was done for the day.  I strapped on my pack, and turned back the way that I came.

But then I looked over at Tabeguache.

It was so close – only a mile away – and yet so, so far.  To reach the summit, I would have to climb all the way down Shavano, and then all the way up Tabeguache – and then I would have to turn around and re-climb Shavano in order to get back to the car.  That would make for three summits in a day.  I didn’t know if I had it in me, but…

“I could do it,” I thought.  “I could do it.”

And you know what?  I did it.  Before I could talk myself out of it, I booked it off of Shavano, scrambling over boulders and scampering down the trail like a – I was going to say a “mountain goat,” but probably a more accurate description would be a “really gigantic, loping mountain troll” – only to reach the base of Tabeguache and have to go straight back up, only to reach the top of Tabeguache and go straight back down, only to reach the base of Shavano and go straight back up, only to reach the top of Shavano and go straight back down.  The thunder and lightning started as soon as I reached tree-line, and it poured for the last hour of my hike.  By the time I arrived back at my Subaru, I was sopping wet and shivering – but so happy.  I was happy to be finished and happy to be alive and happy to have climbed 27 AND 28 – meaning that I’m over halfway to 54.

Even when you’re positive you know how something is going to turn out, maybe you should try it anyway.  Maybe instead of turning around, you should keep going.  Maybe you should risk a little rain just to see how far you can make it, just to see if you can outrun the lightning, just to see what it feels like to surprise yourself.

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

“The Undoing”

Monday, May 9th, 2011

It feels strange to not be writing here.

When I don’t write, I’m reminded that this blog was born out of a need in me, for myself, and not really for anyone else.  I can’t not write.  I think I have to, as a part of being the truest version of myself.

But I haven’t been writing here. And I’ll admit, I’m not feeling much like myself these days.

But here’s a new song, recorded yesterday with a stuffy nose, super lo-fi style in the living room.  It gives a glimpse into these days, the days when it’s difficult to write anything else.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

[Song has been taken down – maybe you’ll hear it some other time.]

Bloom

Monday, December 6th, 2010

Hope isn’t always an easy thing, and it doesn’t always feel very natural.  But I’m learning that hope is more than a feeling (more than a feeeeeelingg…) – it’s a choice, a deliberate commitment, like exercise, or saving your money instead of spending it.  It’s the wiser, healthier decision – the one that will bring the biggest payoff, even when it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Recently, I’ve experienced discouragement and disappointment and hurt – to the point that I’ve stopped hoping for anything, because hoping hasn’t felt easy.  I’ve snuggled up with loneliness, curled my back to hopelessness, and taken comfort in the company of emptiness because it’s what has felt most real.  Hope hasn’t felt real – it’s felt imaginary, like playing pretend, like inventing some mythical creature and expecting it to materialize in front of me.

But the rejection of hope is actually to my detriment.  It makes me an ugly person, a bitter person, one with walls and suspicions and frown lines.  And moreover, as a Christian, I am called to hope, commanded to hope, even when it feels dangerous because of the possibility of pain and disappointment.

It might get cold, and all of our leaves may fall off, and our branches may crack – but hope is trusting that our roots will hold, and spring is going to come, and something is going to bloom again.

It’s just that what blooms might not be what we’re expecting.

Wake up

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

Something filled up my heart with nothing,
Someone told me not to cry.
But now that I’m older, my heart’s colder,
And I can see that it’s a lie.
-Arcade Fire

I would rather be ashes than dust!  I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.  I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.  The function of man is to live, not to exist.  I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.  I shall use my time.
-Jack London

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
-Jesus

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.)

Welcome mat

Friday, June 4th, 2010

I’ve heard it said that to start anything requires a certain willing suspension of disbelief.  You have to allow yourself, on some level, to dare to hope – even in the face of potential disappointment or failure or heartbreak.

What a scary place to live.  There is no guaranteed win.  But thankfully, as a sweet friend recently reminded me, “winning” is not the point.

We might not be fearless, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t be brave.

I want a heart that’s rolled open like a welcome mat.  I’m working on it.

In response

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Hearken back to Monday’s post.  What was meant to be a shoulder shrug, a lark, a lighthearted jab at my pal Andy, actually sparked quite the response.  While I got a lot of “You go, girl!” comments from women, I have been much more impacted by what I have heard from the men – whether in comment, email, or response via their own blog post.  And while there is no way that I will be able to say everything that there is to say today (yeah, or ever), here is what has been rattling around in my brain this week.

If there is anything that I want to be, it is humble – humble, and teachable.  So THANK YOU to the brave dudes (especially Joey – the catalyst for many of these thoughts today) who had the guts – spine – balls – to challenge my thinking.

Which brings me to my first point: it was wrong of me to emasculate men – denying them of the very thing that makes them male (um… balls… sheesh, I can’t wait to see what keywords bring people to this post) – for not being able to communicate in the way that most women would like them to.  I am not a man-hater – I LOVE men! – and in no way desire to make eunuchs out of a bunch of surely well-meaning guys.  I’m sorry for sounding – snip, snip – harsh and judgmental.

Here’s the deal: in an ideal world, men would communicate clearly.  In an ideal world, women would communicate clearly.  In an ideal world, both sexes would have eyes to see and ears to hear the other person loud and clear.

That is obviously not the world that we live in – due to culture and socialization and upbringing and experiences.  So things get a little bit muddy, a little bit complicated, and sometimes, a little bit… hostile.  Men aren’t up front with their feelings.  Women send mixed signals – a “come hither” straight into a stiff arm.  One person doesn’t know who he is, the other doesn’t know what she wants – or vice versa.  Television only adds to the confusion, portraying men as bumbling idiots, and women as capable-yet-snarky ice queens (think “Everybody Loves Raymond,” or “Home Improvement”).

Who are we?  Who should we be?  Men and women alike are confuzzled.

I so wish that was a real word.

When it comes to love, we’ve all been hurt.  We’ve all been disappointed.  We’ve all got skeletons in the closet, and wounds that haven’t quite healed.  And for as much as we want them, it’s easy to make the opposite sex into the “enemy.”  I have my own stories – things that have happened that have made me a bit gun-shy when it comes to putting myself out there – and when I think of these disgraces, even years later, I still want to bury my head in the sand.

I think it’s safe to say that on a very fundamental level, women want to feel “worth it” to a guy – worth the risk, worth whatever it takes.  But hello – this is 2009.  A man can’t exactly prove his devotion by riding into battle with her hanky in his pocket.  So some of us feel like the least he could do is say, “Hey, you seem great.  I’d love to take you out sometime?”

Then again, the feminist movement sort of threw a wrench in that plan.  We women-folk sure asserted our independence, didn’t we?  Dang it.  We’ve stabbed ourselves in the back.  But that’s another post entirely…

Bottom line: I am backing off from the stance I took on Monday, however playfully I meant it when I first wrote it.  I don’t expect for a guy to take the reins, run the show, ask me out, sweep me off my feet, order me the lamb chop at some swanky restaurant while I sit mute and adoring.  Can you imagine?  Me?  Being conquered?  I do hope for a partnership, with honest and frank communication, equal parts respect and affection – and prior to a relationship, I think that means that both parties are going to need to communicate our interest in whatever way makes sense.

Sigh.  This just zapped every ounce of brain power I possess.

We all just want to matter to someone.

I wish it was easy.  And I hope that one day, it will be.

One year

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

It’s hard to believe – impossible to believe – but one year ago today I moved away from Seattle. I just went back and re-read the entry I wrote that day, and it remains one of the most honest things I have ever written; it hits at a deep place, even 365 days later… excuse me – 366. It was a Leap Year.

When I left, I didn’t have a real sense of how long I would be gone, but at my core, I hoped that it would be less than a year. You know: go find myself, get it over with already, and then quickly head home – preferably to get married and buy a house and have babies. The past year has exposed the extent to which I have desired the American Dream – I didn’t realize how much I wanted it until I willingly chose such a solo and unstable lifestyle. In my discomfort, I have longed for comfort. In my confusion, I have longed for clarity. In my chaos, I have longed for calm.

In my anonymity, I have longed to be known.

Moving is, if nothing else, very lonely.

But the past year has also taught me that life is not a checklist; it cannot be a checklist. I cannot look at my circumstances and think, “Once I get this-and-that,” or “When I achieve such-and-so,” I will be one step closer to success, wholeness, and legitimacy. I cannot expect that the American Dream is going to make me happy, because honestly, I am watching it fall flat for people all around me. A home does not equal stability. Money does not equal contentment. And most tragically, love does not necessarily equal forever.

I still hope for these things. In my most honest moments, I have a deep desire for a good and honorable man to share my life with – one whom I will love wholeheartedly and unequivocally. I want babies of my own. I want family vacations and birthday parties and a Bernese Mountain Dog and all of the wonderful goods damnably reserved for wedding registrations. I want a car with keyless entry and a house with a walk-in closet.

Maybe these things are in the cards for me. Maybe not.

But more than anything, I want to walk the road intended for me. And right now, that road continues here in Nashville. It’s all that I have, and it’s all that I am, and despite all feelings to the contrary, I am never alone.

Leaning into the unknown

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

I think that God gives us a lot of freedom to choose our own path in life. When it comes to the everyday decisions, I don’t believe that there are too many hard-and-fast absolute “rights” and “wrongs.” Should I ask that person out? Which car should I buy? Paper or plastic? God is big enough to handle whatever it is that we may decide, and use it for his good. After all, we have a God who is in the business of bringing life out of death.

However, I do believe that there are certain times where we are given a choice, and the outcome is of serious importance. There’s a fork in the road, and which path one chooses will direly affect that which is important in one’s life.

Today, I faced that decision.

I got hired. I worked 4 days. And today, for some serious reasons, I quit.

Then, I signed the lease on an apartment.

Backwards, huh? AM I INSANE? Cutting off my already-meager source of income, and then throwing every penny that I have at an apartment, simply because I feel deep down in my spirit that this is somehow going to work out? That this is the right path? That this is good?

I have always been one who makes decisions intuitively. Last night was spent in a relative panic about my situation: knowing that this job was not the job that I needed to be in, knowing that this apartment was where I wanted to live, knowing that Nashville is a place that I makes me come alive, despite the brick walls I have faced at every turn. It was a real soul-searching time of asking the question, “Should I even be here? Should I move back in with my parents in Kansas City? Am I crazy to have given up my amazing life in Seattle?” I prayed that God would give me the right answer, that he would appear in a pillar of fire or a cloud in the sky. I prayed. I asked. I waited.

No answer.

I cried myself to sleep, feeling alone and afraid.

And when I woke up this morning, before I could rationalize or be tugged back and forth by my emotions, I had the strong assurance of what I needed to do. “Quit your job. Sign the lease.” So I did. With great terror, but strong conviction, I did.

I am holding fast to the assurance that I will always have what I need when I need it. I am actively searching for employment. I am watching for the ways that God will provide, and listening for his whisper. And I am praising God that after 6 months in boxes, I AM NO LONGER HOMELESS!!!!!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!

People! I am now accepting visitors!