All posts by Cherry

To swim or not to swim and other weekend choices

In terrain so barren the ephedra is stunted, the crypto sparse, and even though it is the desert, the cactus few and far between; she took a hike. A rejuvenating and fulfilling hike. She found places of beauty and refreshment in The Coves. And when her hike was done, she shed her shoes and walked from the beach out into Lake Powell to take a swim. It was all completed by 9:00 am – orchestrated to avoid the heat of the day and thus make the refreshment and rejuvenating as effective as possible.

In the first place, she parked at the Wahweap swim beach and followed the paved path on the edge of the lake past boat ramps, boat rentals, and a state line sign. She was now in Utah. Judging by the iconic Lone Rock formation immediately ahead, she figured if she climbed the hill to the west she would be able to see her apartment – which was still in Arizona. She did. Her home looked to be only a mile away as the crow flies.

For a moment she contemplated running on home, enjoying a big breakfast, and then hiking back for her car and the swim. “Tomorrow,” she said. “I’ll start from home and hike this direction. I’ll bring my beach towel. I’ll hike back wet.”

Accordingly, her Sunday morning plan was to hike down an arroyo, swim in the northernmost vicinity of Wahweap Beach and then hike back for a weekend style breakfast. She found a place to crawl under the fence and made her way to the dry creek bed, not sure if the trail she followed – and those she saw on the opposing canyon wall – were coyote or human, but confident that the descending runoff she chose was the most direct route to the lake. “This is nearly a slot canyon in places,” she mused as the gray rock walls rose ever more steeply on either side. And then, abruptly, she was on the precipice of a 30-foot waterfall. Time to skirt.

Back up the creek bed and on the wildlife trails, next a mile or more atop a windswept sand dune replete with familiar tracks of small mammals and reptiles. At last she came to the lake, or a finger of it, expanded back up the canyon by the final July surge of Rocky Mountain snowmelt. No beach here. Not another soul in sight. Possibility of cliff-jumping without being caught; also without your paralyzed body ever being found. She followed the edge of the cliff until she came to another fence. The grass was not greener. Every imaginable brand of ATV track decorated the hillside. And what was that? The mouthwatering aroma of Sunday morning camp breakfast. “The beach,” she said, “Is right over that hill.”

From the rocky crest she looked down on the secluded, but crowded beach. Directly below her, about half the length of a football field, two portly men of approximately 60 went about their morning activities on a houseboat. An assortment of other watercraft parked side by side like pie wedges of the tiny bay. “Nah,” she said, “I’ll not crash the party and swim today. I think it’s time I went back home and cooked myself a good breakfast.”

If You Do Love Colorado

If you do love Colorado, but for some reason or another there is not a perfect place for you in Colorado at the moment;

If you do love Colorado but you are living further downstream in the desert – not quite the Mojave and not quite the Sonoran – but the desert nonetheless;

If there is a heat wave and the temperatures are quite high;

It is very beneficial to go take a dip or a swim in the lake – Lake Powell.

After you have cooled yourself off by wading chin high into the water several times and then swimming back to shore, you might contemplate the following facts while you lie beneath a very blue sky on a beach towel on the hot sand:

This is the Colorado River

165 miles of the Colorado River

Backed up

Dammed up

5,041,636,850,517 gallons of water stored to recreate, irrigate, and oh by the way, power seven states or more with electricity

Some of this is water you kayaked in on from Dominguez to Bridgeport

Some is leftover from your kayak trip from Palisade to Corn Lake

This is not your first swim in this water

Remember when you tipped the kayak and took on water somewhere between Dominguez and Bridgeport?

Some of this water melted from snow you hiked through in April of 2015 when you went through Lulu in your quest to reach the headwaters of the Colorado River, everything was frozen, the roads were closed. Still you hiked on

Some of this was snow you sank in up to your waist in Dillon that one winter

Some of this water came from your beloved Ouray, and from Telluride and Durango

Some of this water is snowmelt from 10,000 feet where your daughter works in the summertime – snowmelt that collected in Taylor Reservoir and then made its way gurgling and laughing right on down to Almont where it became the Gunnison River and cascaded noisily through the Black Canyon eventually joining with the Colorado

This water is dark and muddy like ditch water, ditch water you waded in as a single digit child; water diverted from the Colorado River somewhere in the neighborhood of the Roller Dam on the way to Debeque and channeled to the Highline Canal and then the concrete slip ditch that watered the 35 acres on which you cut your farming teeth. Do you think some of that very water is still present?

This is the water you wrote about in a college class on Colorado History; the water that evokes the cliché “Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over.”

This water is familiar; both a comfort and a lesson to you;

See? This is where you end up when you thaw out, melt, run merrily away from Colorado. Dammed or reclaimed? It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

 

Crème Brûlée and the Great Outdoors

It was a familiar, though unwelcome, feeling. There were things she couldn’t fix. Too many things. Challenges without recourse. Problems without solutions. Insidiously, the depression crept in. Numbing of emotion. Flat-lining of feeling. No dreams, no desire for anything.

Instinctively she retreated to the beauty of nature – a long hike in the wilderness. The remedy learned with the wisdom of years.

It was wiltingly hot when she locked the car and started out, but she was headed for a shady glen. A sandy trail led into a canyon, crisscrossed a gurgling stream. Moss-covered rocks lay calm and green in the water. Up ahead sandstone mountains sported a variety of coniferous vegetation and a burst of blue sky.

Each step was refreshment. Return of vigor of thought. Hope for the future.

Typically she could judge distance by the state of her emotions. It usually took about a mile for the tension to begin to loosen- sometimes two.

About a mile and a half out she turned. The afternoon was waning. Finding the end of the canyon would have to wait for another time. Then, just like clockwork, her appetite returned. Appetite – the signal of lifting depression. This time she craved crème brûlée or custard or flan. She hungered. But not for egg rolls – her usual fantasy food.

“How odd,” she thought, “right out here in the wild and I can almost smell dessert cooking, wafting warm and sweet from the kitchen.”

It was then she realized she was striding through a stand of ponderosa pine, inhaling great gulps of air two feet away from thick sun-warmed trunks. And ponderosa are known by their faint vanilla scent.

Dream on, Happy Wanderer. And may all your desires and appetites be healthful.

 

I smiled yesterday

I smiled yesterday. Smiled despite the excessive heat and the gritty dust and sand and the annoying no see ums. I smiled and it felt a little strange, a little different than the furrowed brow and stressed frown that has become part of my office attire. I smiled involuntarily because I went out to meet Nature and I found her. I found the road less traveled. And yet that road-cautioned as unimproved – was actually a well- graded dirt road that led to somewhere; somewhere famous and beautiful. Grosvenor Arch is about 20 miles from Cannonville, Utah in Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It is featured on a sticker that I buy and sell hundreds of regularly – one of those stickers for National Parks Passport Books. It is beautiful. Grosvenor Arch is named after Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor – known as the father of photojournalism – the president of National Geographic Society – and a friend of National Parks. Grosvenor Arch is situated fittingly as a neighbor to Kodachrome Basin State Park.

And here’s the thing; Grovesnor Arch is way out there on the dirt road, yet there is a sign. More noticeably, there is a concrete path that leads from the parking area up towards the arch. This path has resting benches along the way. The path is intentionally constructed and maintained to lead visitors to the best possible view of the arch – the photographer’s perspective. The path ends in a pedestrian cul-de-sac that clearly indicates “stand here.” “Take a photo here.” And still Nature beckons me deeper into the juniper forest, the cool cleft of the rock. Beauty restores. Nature refreshes. And Nature makes me smile.

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Gluten Free Sun Screen

She didn’t even flinch as she pressed “submit reservation.” Nor did she deliberate long over ordering the lunch for $13.00. It was not clear from the information if she was allowed to bring food and she well knew her propensity for hunger on the river, or anywhere in the out of doors. What do we work for anyway but to give ourselves a treat once in awhile? A mini vacation. An early birthday gift. A reward to ourselves for staying at work nine hours a day and often going in on weekends. This was a  reminder to herself why she is even here in this town on the edge of the river.

“So what’s a $100 dollar bill between best friends?” she asked. Me, Myself and I.

A trip to the beach just the day before in 99 degree heat reminded her of the necessity of sunblock. Don’t underestimate burn potential of reflected sun. So when she arrived at Colorado River Discovery to check in, she went straight to the counter and requested fragrance-free sunscreen. The clerk read the ingredients: hypoallergenic, gluten –free…. she laughed at sunscreen needing a gluten free label. “I’ll take it,” she said. She gulped at the $10 price tag, but did not reconsider. A moment later, as she slathered on the expensive, but quality, goo in bright hot sun she had no regrets. An hour later, eating lunch on a raft with fingers, camera lenses, sunglasses and nearly everything in sight greased with sunblock she acknowledged the necessity of gluten free-or at least non-toxic, sunscreen. It was a fabulous trip. The river is beauty. The river is nature. Nature has healing powers. Beauty can restore. And it did.

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Getting Back Your Best Game

She was new to this place and it had been a grueling two months. The face in the mirror looked her age – no longer youthful and refreshed. She had slipped into working every day of her life (again) in a mad bid to catch up, to get settled, to get a grip. BTDT in her twenties. Sometimes you have to pull out all the stops for a season – but she knew it was now time to get her game back.

She insisted on a half day off. It was only herself she argued with. She made herself take it. Half day out of seven, but it was a start in the right direction. She took a long hike. She sloshed her feet through the sand and water at the edge of the river and let the rushing water chill the raging worry and the work addiction within her. She sat on a rock in perfect spring sunshine. It turned out to be a comfortable rock – so comfortable she leaned back and closed her eyes and hazarded letting her mind drift like the gently gurgling riffle.

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How long had it been since she said that phrase, “These are the best years of my life?” She used to mean it. Now life felt suspiciously like some of the earlier years; grasping, gasping for survival.

She longed to laugh at a well-turned phrase, to feel the wind of adventure in her face, to see and hear new beauty.

“Take a look back,” she said to herself, “What were you doing? When was the last time you felt, really felt you were at the top of your game? The last time you said with sincerity, ‘These are the best years’?”

She remembered those deeply spiritually reviving days of living on the edge of beautiful places, of hiking before the heat of the day, of watching a sunrise, of strolling a beach at sunset. Times of letting nature nourish and nurture.

Those were the times she was dating herself; taking herself to an event or a concert-traveling – finding how to love herself so she might in turn love her neighbor as herself.

Those were the times she was eating with thought and care and great appetite for the healthful.

Those were the times she tucked into bed at a comfortable hour and woke naturally without necessity of an alarm or agenda.

So now, lounging on the rock like a lizard, she pondered, “How did I get to that soul- healthy position in the first place?” Part of it was a product of a resolution to live the next 365 days as though they were all she had. Part of it was allowing herself to be steeped in music and art.

She had a well-balanced brain and at one time had made the decision to live more fully in her right brain – her creative brain – with her organized left brain always guiding her. Now she wondered if it was possible to live in her left brain – forge ahead in organizational success –while letting her right brain guide her.   It was a grand experiment.

She didn’t want to give up the corporate part of life – the paycheck. Some of the best times of life to be had are times when you share with others. Her one big reason for having a job, for making money, was to have something to share.

But now she knew it was time to nourish and nurture that spiritual side again. Not all day. Not in lieu of the practical, but every single day in tandem with the practical.

More nature

More exercise out of doors

More music

More love

Less addiction to work stress and more commitment to working smart

Managing smarter

Embracing the beauty in work

Mini vacations

Why do you work? What do you love? What nurtures and nourishes your soul?

 

 

Happy Easter

Happy Easter from the beach nearest my condo. It is only four miles from where I sleep, but I have to drive in the car, cross a state line and go through a fee station to get here. I am lying on my beach towel, conducting a little self-care, taking a mini R&R, and thinking Easter thoughts. Perhaps I’ll just rest and relax here until Someone brings me grilled fish and little loaves of bread, breaks the bread and offers it to me saying, “Take. Eat.” Doesn’t that sound like a wonderful Easter Sunday brunch? Wouldn’t that make a believer out of you? But for now, I have the balm of the wet sand and sunshine, the smell of the water, and I will try to relax. I will not check my cell phone – which doesn’t have a signal out here anyway-to see if someone at the office needs me. I will spend an hour or two in sacred silence. I will walk away spiritually renewed, ready to speak truth, live in peace. I will know myself a little better and consequently be able to better love and understand those around me.

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Take Me To Church

It is Sunday morning as I write this – For many, a traditional day of gathering together in brick and mortar buildings for worship. A time for soul searching, spiritual refreshment. Others like to worship in mountain cathedrals, commune with the great outdoors. Still others find peace in the wilderness.

“If the desert is holy, it is because it is a forgotten place that allows us to remember the sacred. Perhaps that is why every pilgrimage to the desert is a pilgrimage to the self.” Terry Tempest Williams

I hope you did something deeply spiritual today, something sacred. May the peace linger with you.

Hike, Write, Make Music

I moved to the desert to find a portion of myself that was lost – my writing. I moved further into the remote to hibernate and polish a manuscript. Have I been successful? Kept a modicum of my resolutions while restoring myself with vast hikes? Yes. I would say so. At least I have reached a milestone.

My recently finished novella of 42,000 words is distributed for beta-read to five women. I am sure the plot is not what you would expect given my propensity for writing philosophically about hiking. But it does chronicle some walking and piano playing and travel and a big move of growth on the part of a 30-year-old woman. Yes, I still remember what it was like to be half my age.

After I clicked send on the manuscript to the beta readers I returned to my other work in progress – also about being young – and hungry – with a child to feed. It needs a major overhaul.

On the back burner is a post apocalyptic novel about a young woman who loves rocks. Let’s hope I get it finished before Steampunk dissipates completely. By and by I’ll get to the collected essays inspired by hiking – maybe posthumously. And then there is a graphic novel in progress – but it must keep the pace of the artist, not the writer.

In a couple days I move on down the Colorado River. I carry with me my piano, my guitar, a bass and cahon; my journal and laptop; my hiking boots and trail shoes. It seems no matter how many goals we meet, things continue the same. I still love to Hike and Write and Make Music. And I still get hungry. I feed myself and pay my bills by working innovatively in non-profit retail. This time the location from which I carry out my goals and resolutions will be the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Grand Staircase Escalante.

I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. How about you? May it always be in beautiful places.

For the Beauty of Nature

I saw him get out of the car and make his way carefully, painfully toward the glass visitor center doors. The interpretive ranger desk is situated ideally with a view of the five nearest parking spaces and the handicap space. It is not a sit-down desk, it’s more like a bar, really, with shots of information on tap and rangers dispensing topo maps instead of steins.

Creeping slowly up the sidewalk, slinging one foot ahead of the other, he greeted the all-sport 30-year-olds in their jeans and crack climbing gear who were returning from the restrooms. Nice restrooms. The kind with running water where you can actually brush your teeth and wash your armpits after a few days spent camping with the Anasazi.

He took his time coming in the door, feeling for the adjoining wall as a support. I took my time welcoming him and offering a map. I was waiting for the rest of the family to join him before commencing information. He took a drink of water from the fill station. Then, leaning heavily on the desk, he followed its curve to the cash register.

“What I need,” he said, “Is one of those walking sticks – a cane to lean on.” I hurried to the telescoping hiking pole display, selected a pole, extended it to what I judged to be his proper height and handed it to him. He tried it out. “I’ll just see how it works as I tour the visitor center,” he said.

“Would you like to use the wheeled chair while you are enjoying the exhibits and the bookstore?” I asked.

“What?” he said.

“Do you have a park pass?” I asked.

“What?”

“Park Pass,” I enunciated clearly.

He showed me a vintage Golden Eagle Park Pass.

“I’m eighty years old,” he said, “I can’t hear very well.”

“Can I get you a map and directions, or shall I wait until your family arrives?”

“What? Oh, I am traveling by myself.”

He asked about the campground. Did it really mean what it said about the combined length being 26 feet? His motorhome was only 24 feet. He thought he might be able to park his tow car beside the motor home. Would that be all right? Eventually he bought the hiking pole and a couple books, made his way back to the car and drove the eight-mile loop. He retrieved his motorhome from somewhere alongside the road and camped in the park campground that night. I know this because I saw him pass the entry station three hours later in the motorhome with the car in tow. Both vehicles were snuggly parked side by side in the campground when I did the rove at 8:00 the next morning.

Eighty. He could well have been ninety. Deaf. Difficulty walking even 50 feet; yet he is still busy touring America and seeing the sights.

Twenty years ago I was hiking Box Canyon, Ouray CO, with the man I was wedded to at the time. The trail overlooked a wooded picnic area and we watched a family arrive in a van. They assisted Grandpa as he disembarked into a wheelchair and then they placed him comfortably at the picnic table.

“I hope,” said my husband, “that when I am old and in a wheel chair, someone will still take me camping.”

I have thought of that comment many times in the intervening years as I hiked, camped and travelled to beautiful places. Sometimes alone, other times with friends or family.

Yes! Somehow, some way, may we all keep on putting one foot in front of the other. May we enjoy the great outdoors until our last breath. Because out there is beauty and refreshment and life!