Category Archives: Goals and Dreams


The first time in a long time, I really felt like writing a Christmas letter. Looking back, there were so many landmark accomplishments in 2017, we don’t even need to talk about toils, trials and setbacks.

For location, location, location, you can’t beat sleeping in a beautiful place whether in the company vehicle or your own camp worthy conveyance. Here’s a sampling of my favorite, beautiful, sleeping in the car locations:

Ouray Colorado

Notom Road just outside Capitol Reef

Moki Dugway near Muley Point

Williams Arizona near the Grand Canyon Railway

Bluff Utah for a star party

Dixie National Forrest

The main difficulty with sleeping in the company vehicle lies in remembering to transfer all the necessary items from your own, perfectly outfitted Subaru, into the company car while still leaving room for the merchandise you are delivering or the event you are supporting. I spent the night in the company vehicle four times in 2017. I matched that number in my Outback. Though smaller, my Subaru has lots of little niceties- things like curtains, a sleeping mat, a fuller range of hiking gear.

You make discoveries when you sleep in a car – whether the company vehicle or your own. You acknowledge things like:

Burrrr it’s cold. All I really want for Christmas is a zero degree, down sleeping bag.

I spent the first two and a half months of 2017 at Natural Bridges National Monument where I am pleased to say I hiked all the trails. On March 15th I arrived in Page AZ. I waited through a long hot summer in Page for a chance to really get out and hike and explore the area. With temperatures often breaching 100 degrees, all hikes had to be completed before 8:00 am. While I waited – not so patiently – I swam in Lake Powell every night after work just to lower my core body temperature to a comfortable state.

September temperatures slacked off enough to start seeking beautiful trails. In October came reward in a big way for a tedious and difficult summer. With my daughter, Andrea, I hiked the South Kaibab Trail into Grand Canyon, stayed the night at Phantom Ranch and hiked out the next day via Bright Angel Trail.

In November I got the serendipitous chance to drive to Kanab and spend a few hours with son Philip. Also in November, I spent a weekend near Torrey with my brother and sister-in-law. There have been scattered trips to Grand Junction to visit family, friends, son Kevin and grandkids, though not enough to satisfy my parents.

I continue to write and make music-mostly for my own fulfillment. A few more experiences are in my inspirational arsenal and a few more guitar chords under my belt.

I wish you a Merry Christmas 2017!

In the coming New Year, I wish you the healing tonic of getting out in Nature. Nature is beautiful. Nature heals. Nature is God’s gift of love to those of us who are unable to find solace in the arms of a human lover. Whether you hike, bike or drive; camp, glamp, or pamper, I wish you Beauty – and the Great Outdoors.

Sipapu Bridge largest of the Natural Bridges
Sipapu Bridge largest of the Natural Bridges
Lake Powell from the air
Lake Powell from the air
Andrea heading down the steep and multitudinous switch backs of the South Kaibab.
Andrea heading down the steep and multitudinous switch backs of the South Kaibab.
Me smiling at Bright Angel Bridge
Me smiling at Bright Angel Bridge


Thanksgiving Eve

It was just another work related reconnaissance field trip. Three administrative staff in a well-equipped Jeep picked up a designated Park photographer and headed off into the dust. After a circuitous and scenic route past Wiregrass Canyon and Warm Creek Bay and a bumpy crawl over some slick rock we arrived at our destination: Alstrom Point. From the point we could look toward Gunsight Butte, Tower Butte, Castle Rock, or overlook the Crossing of the Fathers.

Silently we fanned out in all directions, each seeking our own favorite perspective and meditative silence.

30 minutes later I made a panoramic scan of the edges of the perimeter of the peninsula. There we sat in the vastness and lengthening shadows, four Parcheesi players, little round knobs for heads, Hersey kiss-shaped bodies perched on ledges 200 yards away, spread out across the landscape of Alstrom Point, waiting for sunset photos and the magic light.

Twilight advanced bringing us all closer to the common shelter of the Jeep. We talked some, traded tidbits of information, listened to the click of a dark sky camera, toured the night-sky via a phone ap, enjoyed each and every constellation, satellite and planet we could identify. Down layers kept us comfortably warm until time to efficiently fold and stow all the gear.

There are places of great beauty in this world. Sometimes it is too hot, or too cold, or too difficult to get there. Other times, serendipity smiles on you and a magic carpet rings your doorbell.

This year I am not at Needles Canyonlands near Creeksgiving. I am not near Colorado National Monument with many options for a morning hike. I am not near a beach in the Northwest for a misty morning walk. In fact, I am not near anything or anyone with whom I usually spend this fourth Thursday in November. No one is coming to visit me. Yet, I had an incredible Thanksgiving Eve.

Wishing you the blessing of beauty for all your holidays!


Wherein my daypack retires but I continue working

I am unpacking my daypack today for the last time. It has become an old wineskin, unable to hold the wine of new adventure without bursting. The seams are frayed. The entire shell is pocked with evidence of tight squeezes and adventurous crawls.

A compact and stuffable travel model, it was designed to be carried in a suitcase, pulled out and quickly packed for spontaneous day hikes; it was never intended for backcountry trips or overnighters-but it served.

There came a time in my hiking life when I knew I needed to graduate from a simple drawstring pack to something with shoulder strap padding. Hikes were getting longer, the climate more strenuous. A water bottle sling fit the bill for morning walks around the neighborhood but not for six-mile hikes down Monument Canyon.

And so, I splurged. In October of 2013, smack dab in the middle of a government shutdown, I used my employee discount and invested in a Chico Travel Pack. Red, of course, to match my adventurous Subaru. Soon I added a 2 liter water reservoir. An emergency rain poncho. Three or four bandanas. A small first aid kit. Then, a change of socks. And still more recently; a pop can stove, matches, a box of soup.

The daypack became my poster child for “Oh the Places You Will Go.” Here are some of the places it has been:

  • ALL the trails and more at Colorado National Monument
  • Crag Crest and snowshoe trails on The Grand Mesa
  • ALL the (non-permit required) marked trails in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park – those under 11 miles
  • The Ouray Perimeter Trail – again and again
  • Most trails in the south rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison
  • ALL the marked trails of Natural Bridges National Monument
  • Two trails in Zion and two trails in Bryce
  • And this week -as one last hurrah- the South Kaibab and Bright Angel trails in Grand Canyon

So today, with great ceremony, I unpack the frayed and worn and torn body glove of my past outdoor adventures, snap a photo, and retire the side.

My red Chico travel pack daypack must be replaced immediately with a nearly identical new model. Spontaneity happens. Opportunity knocks. I need to be packed and ready. Yet, neither my red Chico travel pack or its successor is built for overnight backpacking, so I will invest in some additional expensive outdoor gear, something properly framed and fitted to my body type and build. I am in need of more straps for jackets and bedrolls – and I need a brain. Hiking in the great outdoors is habit forming – and it is a very healthy habit, this habit of putting one foot in front of the other.



Descending below the rim

Five points of contact
Me: (scrambling down from a rock perch after the mules have passed) Most useful thing I ever learned from a ranger; don’t be afraid to use three points of contact if you need to – or even five (vigorously brushing dust from my behind).
She: Are you sure that’s not six points of contact?
Me: Naw. Five. They are joined at the hip.

What can I write about a once-in-a-lifetime trip into the Grand Canyon? – That I want it to go on forever? That I want it to be more than once? That I am so stiff I can hardly walk? That a river beach is a wonderful thing for the feet after seven miles on a rigorous trail that goes down, down, down, always down?

I have found to really experience a place – to feel I know it and have really seen it – I need to go on my own two legs. And so I did. Heeding the good instruction of those who have gone before, we descended via the rigorous South Kaibab Trail.
“It is rated difficult on all the hiking sites,” she said, “but there IS a trail.” Speaking from the perspective of a wilderness guide, a trail mitigates the difficulty measurably.
“I don’t want to take another step down, ever,” says I, after six miles and the onset of wobbly knees. Wobbly knees? Shaky legs? This feeling that my legs will uncontrollably buckle under me at any minute? Over sixty years of use and suddenly I can no longer trust the calves and quads to do my bidding?

“I’m down,” I said quietly and philosophically as my body involuntarily seated itself in the dust with a soft “whump” after an encounter with a pebble of miniscule size. She came back for me and we jolted on downward. I hiked the South Kaibab. Check one off on the list. I remain convinced it is a trail every hiker should experience once in a lifetime. And only once. When I return, I will take Bright Angel both down and up – despite its additional two mile length.

But oh, the views. Will I ever forget first view of the Colorado River rippling emerald green in the canyon a few thousand feet below? Will I ever forget setting my sites on a sandy beach way below and saying, “There. When we get there we will take off our boots and soak our weary feet in the Colorado River.”

Nor will I ever forget the many fast hikers who passed me on the trail, and those slower whom I passed, convening for dinner after dark and hearing, “Of the roughly 5,000,000 people who visit the Grand Canyon each year, only one percent descend below the rim – and a lessor percent make it here to Phantom Ranch, congratulations!”

I will long remember the sheer luxury of clean feet in the shower house at night and sleeping on an adequate bunk with Egyptian cotton hotel bedding. How else could I rise before dawn on day two and head back up to the rim?

My knowledgeable and experienced friend was right. You want more than one night’s sleep and turn around time at Phantom Ranch. You want a few more days to explore other nearby trails and vistas. You want to be able truly to relax and feel the luxury of a location visited by Presidents (at least one) and other anonymous folks wealthy enough to travel in by mule and have their duffels transported by the same. And that will come, in time, with more financial success and more accrued vacation time.

But, for now, we enjoy it on a weekend. We haul our own duffels. We travel on our own two feet. We open our souls to the beauty and our bodies to the workout and the goal. I feel it in every muscle. I know the location of every bone in my body, whether I can name it or not. And was it worth it? Yes. Yes it was.



The Extended Work Day

It had been a long work day. Much had been accomplished – including the requisite and unscheduled altercation with a defensive employee resistant to change. But now it was an hour before quitting time. Sunshine beat down and a strong breeze careened down the street. Doors were open everywhere; two to the warehouse, four and a hatch on each of the two Toyota Highlanders backed up to the loading ramp right next to an open Jeep with a full capacity gear basket on top.

Tables? Check

Projector and Screen? Check

Membership materials? Check

Cooler? Check

Tent? Check

Sleeping Bags? Check

Three of the principals of the organization are about to experience an extended workweek, but who is complaining? Camping for work. Travel on the clock. Head ‘em up; move ‘em out! The great outdoors beckons.

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.

A trickle or a flood

San Juan River, Bluff Utah, May 2016
San Juan River, Bluff Utah, May 2016

She sat on the banks of the muddy San Juan, in the shadow of a bighorn sculpture and watched the river roll away lazily to the Southwest. It made her long for the beach. That is where the river was headed, after all – to join the mighty Colorado at Lake Powell and finally empty into the Pacific Ocean.

But she knew something the river did not yet know; it would never make it to the ocean. It was headed for the beach, but along the way destined to recreate, irrigate, hydrate, relax and refresh millions of people. Somewhere, 50 miles or so short of the Gulf of California, the river would trickle to a stop.

Desert Bighorn sculpture in memory of author Ellen Meloy
Desert Bighorn sculpture in memory of author Ellen Meloy

So she pondered this truncation, this travesty, this unavoidable change of plans people foisted on the river and she asked herself, “How are you doing on your own bucket list? Are you headed for the beach? And whether you ever make it to the beach, will you restore and refresh and recreate and relax? How much of you will be absorbed and diverted into the schemes and needs of others? How much of the landscape of your life will you beautify along the way?”

Live. Love. Laugh. Learn. You do not know if your end will be part of a cataclysmic flood or simply trickle away.

Whoa! What just happened?

In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus is handed a shotgun and calmly drops a mad dog. His daughter Scout thinks something like, whoa, what just happened? She had never seen a gun in the house, much let alone in her dad’s hands. She did not know her father had been a dead shot from his youth.

I lived for a time in Edmonds Washington – in the bowl. Weekdays, I worked with extracted body parts in a medical facility. There was no refreshment I loved better on a weekend than to walk the half mile to the beach-the edge of the sound-the freedom of a ferry port that could take you away on a moment’s notice.

On the beach was a small quirky thrift store that supported the attached senior citizen center. I was 55, so in a way I qualified for all the benefits. The center boasted a vintage linoleum tiled dance floor / concert hall and a cafeteria that hosted Grey Gourmet a few days each week. But it was the thrift store that could distract me – at first.

One Saturday as I browsed the blouses, books and unique kitchen gadgets assembled, I heard live music – a guitar, a mandolin – coming from the regions beyond retail. I picked my way to the hall that accessed the curtained restroom stalls and passed beyond to the next available room. I poked my head in the door to listen. “Hi!” called the guitar player and evident leader. “I heard the music,” I stated.

“We’re a seniors oldies band. We practice every Saturday morning.” I smiled.

“Are you a musician?” For the next 90 minutes, Vern called chords and I played along to some Elvis songs and other oldies I had never heard before. Hits caught in the gap between my mother’s generation and mine. On my way back home, I mused, “Whoa, what just happened?”

I practiced with the band for a couple months before my departure for Colorado. We played a Sunday dance or two in the ballroom – fish bowl conspicuous. My portion of the take was $3.00.

On an odd midweek day off I strolled Olympic Beach unshowered and barefoot with my corduroy pants rolled up a la Tom Sawyer. Suddenly, a voice hailed from the observation deck of the senior center. It was Craig, the 91-year-old ladies man from the Sunday dances.

“Cherry! Cherry!” He called, “am I glad to see you! Come in, come in quickly.” I obeyed. “Come. See the piano. We always have sing-along before our meal on Tuesday. Our pianist did not show today.”

Turns out Craig was the leader of sing-along. The usual pianist was retired after years of pleasing crowds in Branson. The darkness of dementia had overtaken her. Some days she forgot which song she was playing and launched into a medley. Sometimes she simply forgot to show-up.   The seniors gathered around the piano and commenced the enjoyment of oldies I didn’t know and harmonies with which I was intimate. 20 minutes later the Branson pianist arrived, taxied by a daughter my age. I graciously took my leave. On the walk home I murmured, “What just happened here?”

I never quit on my music. Invited, I will play any piano, anywhere, any style. Whatever style I am playing at the moment is my favorite style of music.   There have been nursing home gigs, years of folk music with elementary kids, decades of private students and plenty of church praise and worship. There are intervening years of enjoyable jobs that seem to have nothing to do with music on the surface, but are inextricably woven to music via location – the beauty and inspiration of a dock on the bay or a Rocky Mountain high.

So recently, I have found myself moonlighting with a John Denver tribute band. Evenings, I keep my habit of enjoying an hour of piano before bed. On my days off, I practice feverishly. The John Denver originals are familiar friends. The current pieces, written in a style and spirit honoring John Denver, can be quite intricate and challenging. Just this week, I had a break-through with a lead-in reminiscent of the Eagles and Desperado.

Quiet joy, like happiness, overtakes you when you least expect it. Rising from the piano bench I muttered, “Whoa, what just happened?”


Like traveling with a fat boyfriend

“I’m thinking of selling the upright bass,” he said. “Selling the upright bass?” she gasped, scandalized. “I think I could get a thousand for it, maybe more. I don’t have a case, so I can’t just stack it in the studio closet with the guitars. It’s hard to protect and store.” “Sell the upright bass,” she repeated with dismay. “Aw Mom, I’d just give it to you, but I know you like to be mobile and move everything in your Subaru,” He reasoned. “Yeah,” said her daughter-in-law, “hauling an upright bass around is like traveling with a fat boyfriend.”

She loves to travel. She loves her independence. She outfitted her Subaru to be a mobile sleeping cubicle. She keeps looking for a tiny house with French doors – to accommodate her acoustic piano. “My daughter-in-law is entirely right,” she concluded, “I need a bigger Subaru – one with room for my piano and my fat boyfriend.”

Reveal a bit of yourself in music and business – advice from my children

My three grown kids shoot straight. They speak directly, analyze and point out truth. My children are most supportive of all I do musically. For the last several decades, my byline has been, “raising young musicians,” and I raised them well. They are all musicians. I dreamed for them. I encouraged them. Now they reciprocate for me.

My youngest once admonished me, “get your own band, Mom.” Recently I had that opportunity. In fact, that is what precipitated my daughter’s chiding.

“Mom,” she said. “You can’t just go spy on them. It’s not right to spy on them and not reveal any of yourself.” She is right. The introverted, timid side of me protested. It wasn’t like I was sneaking about without their knowledge. I just wanted to find out a bit more about them before I committed myself, maybe before I even offered myself. Conscientious caution says it is better to be prepared before you go to an interview or audition. Do your research. Google the main stake holders – the key players, learn as much as you can. First impressions are first impressions whether business or personal and I want to make informed choices, know what I am getting into. The timid side of me loves to analyze and over-prepare so I can be confident. The shy side of me conducts great people watching and asks lots of interested questions. The reticent side of me waits for others to draw me out. Wouldn’t want to bore them, you know. They will ask if they are interested. Besides, I was taught it is better to be interested in others and not talk about yourself or show off. But my daughter is right. Sometimes you need to dare greatly – put yourself out there. I ponder my daughter’s comment in light of a new acquaintance, a person who talks too much, IMO, but then, she is very easy to talk to. Always interested in what everyone else has to say, it is no wonder she believes everyone reciprocally interested in her narrative. After awhile, if all you do is listen and you don’t reciprocate, others give up on you.

Enter my eldest with sagacity born of a lifetime in music. “If you ever get a chance to play in a band, do it. Bands don’t last forever, but it is magic while they do.”

I spied. I revealed. I woodshed day and night. I will play with the band for whatever length of time the magic lasts. But of course, if the magic goes away, I will never give up on my music. Nor will I forget the interpersonal lessons learned through band or business.

May all your relationships be enriched today with a proper balance of giving and receiving – – and with music!