Walking

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Neighborhood pest

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

I’ve been walking Foxy after dark these days. I know, I know – but just because the sun is going down earlier doesn’t mean she needs any less exercise.

Last night, walking through crunchy leaves, I rounded the corner and noticed a man on the porch of the house I was passing. He was frantically trying to unlock his front door. When he noticed me, he turned around and breathed a huge sigh of relief.

“I heard you coming. I thought you were a raccoon.”

raccoon

Well boogedy boogedy.

September

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Well, hello September.

I’ve made nary a murmur in this place for over a month. You want to know why? It’s a little thing called a J-O-B. I went back to work on August 4, and that was that. Because listen, I don’t care how much you love your job – going back after 5 weeks off is rough. August was rough. August was hot. August was a slog, retraining my brain to think in terms of “way too many details” and “never-ending emails” and “calendar deadlines.”

But here we are, August behind us, and September ahead. It’s my sincere intention to write more in September – and I think that maybe that starts tomorrow. For today, let’s play catch up.

In the month of August, I walked hundreds of miles. There are times in my life where my workouts are more than mere walks, but for August, I stuck to hoofing it. As you can see, my “bike to work” days were few and far between – that’s another thing that’s going to change in September.

August

Something else that I’m committed to for September: sticking to using cash envelopes. I need financial accountability, and cold hard Benjamins (okay, Jacksons) seem the best method for right now.

Here’s something we need to talk about: awful TV shows. In August, I watched True Detective and House of Cards. And then I felt so hopeless about the human race that this weekend I binged on season 4 of Friday Night Lights just to renew my faith in humanity (or at least the television version thereof).

I’m realizing that I do not want to consume stories in which I hate every single character. I do not want the good guys to be bad guys. I do not want to immerse myself in narratives with no element of redemption. I don’t care if “the character development is amazing.” I don’t care if “the acting is incredible.” I really, really don’t care if “these shows are a more accurate representation of real life” – because I have to believe that real life includes a lot of good, even if it’s intermingled with the hard.

This month, I’ll be spending time in Boston, Minneapolis, and Seattle – some pretty great places.

Since I last wrote, I had a birthday and so did Foxy Brains! My tiny puppy has turned into a full grown 1-year old dog, and I couldn’t love her more.

FB

Summer is winding down, fall is on its way, and thank goodness – because sheesh, I am in need of some newness. I hope today somehow feels new for you.

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.

photo (12)

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.

ContinentalDivide

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 → !!!!!!!! ←]

COtrail

[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.

What I’m loving

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Everybody loves things. These are the things that I’m loving right now.

To kick us off to a boring start, I’ll tell you that I love a water bottle. But listen, this isn’t just ANY water bottle – it’s the Nathan Quickdraw Plus. It has a hand strap so I can take it on my 9-mile walks, and a pouch big enough for an iPhone and a set of keys. In short, it’s a life-saver – probably literally, since without water, I would surely die.

A few weeks ago, we cracked open a bottle of Isabela Malbec, and it ushered the kingdom of heaven right there into our living room. If you see this wine out in the wild, buy it. Spend the $12.99 and feel like a champion. I found it at Fairfax Wine & Spirits on Colfax (attached to Marczyk Fine Foods).

Last weekend, I bought the “Embroidered Eyelet Blouse” (its given, Christian name) at Anthropologie on sale for $39.99, and good grief, I love this shirt.

The Eli Young Band’s “Even If It Breaks Your Heart” is my current favorite song. The first time I heard it on the radio, I cranked it loud – because even if I had never heard it before, the song just feels so good. Then I listened to the words, and felt my heart grow three sizes bigger. The video is a little cheesy, but sorry, that’s country music for you. At least they have a scene where they’re rocking in an alley with sparks flying behind them – a personal dream of mine (can someone arrange this?).

And while we’re on the subject of country music, Jason Aldean‘s “Fly Over States” is killer. Never have I so badly wanted to be blue collar. We all know that in a parallel universe, I’m a truck driver.

And finally, anyone who makes me laugh – you are my favorite.

Seasons

Friday, May 25th, 2012

For me, the year is split up into four different “seasons.”

Fall is running.
Winter is gym.
Spring is walking.
Summer is hiking.

When it comes to exercise, these are my natural inclinations – during that particular season, the corresponding activity just feels RIGHT. They’re not mutually exclusive – I’ll still go on walks in the fall, or to the gym in the summer, or hike in the spring – but by and large, the weather and the air dictate my workout, and this spring, I’ve found myself a 9-mile walking loop.

I start at home, and head south through the Sunnyside and Highlands neighborhoods until I hit Lohi. Then, I cross the pedestrian bridge to downtown, and wind down Platte Street past REI. With the rollercoasters of Elitch Gardens off to my left, I walk underneath the Speer Bridge and past the Denver Aquarium, cross back over I-25, and through Jefferson Park. It’s a mile to Sloan’s Lake, which I circle, and then make the long trek north back to the house where I drink a gigantic glass of water.

Last night, my friend and former co-worker Anna joined me on this walk. If you know Anna, you know that she is something special: kind and generous and authentic, an insanely hard worker, and uniquely talented. Also, if you know Anna, you know that she will probably be embarrassed that I wrote those things.

Sorry, Anna. I would say you’re lame, but that would be a lie – and I’d rather go to heaven.

Anyway, Anna has been in Denver since last September, and has done such an amazing job of embracing this current season of life. She, like many of us, finds herself in some unexpected circumstances – but has marched forward and done the things that feel right – for right now. Her current season is helping to determine the direction that she goes, and she is rolling through with such grace and aplomb. For a girl like me – often hell-bent on bulldozing my own path, come hell or high water, with nothing but The Future in mind – it’s so inspiring to see Anna live in the moment, enjoy the simple things, and take each day as it comes.

There are seasons to life, and adaptation is key. Like my exercise-of-choice, different seasons call for different routines, different practices, different processes. Little by little, and with friends like Anna, I’m learning to embrace my current season, shelving my expectations for the future, and experiencing the Now.

Except I’m really excited that it’s almost hiking season. You understand.

[Quote by Gabrielle Blair. Who made it into art? I don’t know, because sometimes Pinterest fails us. If this is your picture, let me know so I can credit you (and tell you that you’re great).]

Cheer up and smile

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Yesterday, I was a total crankpot.  Everything was wrong.  Everything was complicated.  Everything was making me nervous and anxious and angry and tearful.

During my break, I took myself on a walk around the lake, feeling the clouds hang low to the earth.  I tried to breathe in the cool air – the first traces of fall – but with each breath I took in, the bad things built up more and more inside.

Just when my throat was getting tight and my eyes were getting full, a friend called.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“I’m out on a walk and trying… not… to… cry…” I sputtered.

He laughed, because he is a boy and that is what boys sometimes do, but when you’re a girl you don’t really mind – because you know that he’s a boy, and you know he isn’t being mean.

Then he asked me why I was almost crying, and I erupted with all of the reasons.

He laughed a little bit more, and then offered very logical advice (boys are good at that, even when it feels kind of annoying), and by the time my break was over, my tears had passed and I was ready to get back to work.

Today is a new day.  I’m going to treat it as such.

Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

What a place, huh?

Last night, I zig-zagged the downtown streets on foot, taking in the sights and sounds of Stumptown.  Seattle may be my first love – but I have a warm, fuzzy fondness for her hippie kid sister.

Eventually, I wandered into Powell’s Books (how could I not?), and spent way, way too much time browsing the endless aisles.  When I’m in a bookstore, I feel a mixture of buoyant possibility (all of these stories are just waiting to be read), and frantic panic (but there’s not enough tiiiiime!).  If I could, I would hold each story in my hands like a cloud, and wring it out like the rain.

When I returned to the hotel from my walk, the doorman greeted me, “Welcome back, Ms. Parsons.”  And when the elevator doors slid shut, enclosing me in privacy for my ride up to a room with floor-to-ceiling drapes and a king-sized bed, I grinned out loud.

Have I mentioned my state of physical woe?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

Last Thursday morning, I was in a car accident.  Don’t worry – the Honda’s fine – or, at least she will be after the other guy’s insurance pays for a new $750 bumper.  Do you know what this means?  I am losing my bumper stickers.  All of them.  No more “FRESH BEER.”  No more “VIVA NASHVEGAS: EAT MORE RHINESTONES.”

This is probably for the best.

While my car will be spiffed up in no time, I am suffering the effects of whiplash.  My lash was whipped.  I am stiff and sore, and can barely turn to the left to check my blind spot when I drive.  I don’t even want to think about what further calamity this could lead to for the Honda.

But you can’t keep a badass down, and on Sunday, I walked a grand total of 17 miles – a 9 mile hike south of the city, and then an 8 mile walk back in Denver.  When I finally got home, with the force attainable only by a girl who had just walked 17 miles, I stubbed my toe on the couch.  I stubbed it so hard, so mightily, that I thought I was going to pass out from the pain.

It didn’t take long to figure out that my toe – the same one that I broke back in January – is blasted to smithereens.  I won’t go into the dirty details, but let’s just say that it’s swollen beyond recognition (I’m sorry, are you a toe?), and black, and the bruising wraps around to the bottom of my foot, spidering its way up the ball.

Sorry.  Maybe those were the dirty details.

So that brings us up to the present moment: ice on my foot, heat on my neck, wishing for whiskey.

Good morning.

In other news, look what happened to my sister.  She’s always getting picked up by guys.

Walking, Work, Whoa Mama!

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Remember when I boldly proclaimed that I was going to walk 1,000 miles between Memorial Day and Labor Day?

Well, then I went to Nashville, where being outside in the summer is the equivalent of being in utero without an umbilical cord.  Is that gross of me to say?  I don’t know – do YOU remember your time in the womb?

Anyway, due to sheer self-preservation and the fact that I value my life, my walking fell behind.  And back in Denver, as of today, June 24, I am only at 119 miles.

Granted, 13 of those miles were yesterday.  THIRTEEN!  I will make up for lost time yet.  Because, as New Math puts it:

– – – – – – – –

I spent yesterday at an online marketing convention, manning a booth for work.  People were asking for my business card.  I’ve never had anyone ask for my business card before!  I was like, “Hello, I am An Expert.  Nice to meet you.”

My friend Scotty recently told me that she likes getting my emails so much that I should somehow find a way to get paid to correspond with people.  That was so nice of her – because after all, I do love to write emails.

But then I thought, hello.  That IS my job.

Hooray!

– – – – – – – –

A lot of you have asked how my mom is doing.  She had her final radiation treatment, and is completely finished with all scheduled cancer treatment.  She is currently in Washington state visiting family and friends, and will be active and walking and hiking the whole time – because she is Susan Freaking Parsons and she defies the odds.

I was on the phone with her the other night, and about to hang up.

“Wait!” she cried.  “I’ve been meaning to ask you something for weeks.”

I prepared myself for talk of money, or maybe why I’m single.

“Do you leave your curtains open?  Because I’ve been worried about sun damage to your couch.”

What would I do without this woman?