Tough Love & Hiking

I love to hike. I have been hiking since I was in my twenties. I have marched over hill and dale, sometimes carrying a loaded back-pack with me. I have camped in gorgeous places and seen amazing things. I have enjoyed the company of good friends and also being solo in nature.

Many years ago I did a nineteen day trek in the Himalayas. After this trip my enthusiasm for carrying a back-pack waned. These days I find I enjoy day hikes and carrying a much lighter pack. I also like coming back to my Roadtrek, to a comfortable bed and satisfying food in the evening.

When I am out on the trail and the going gets tough, steep ascents, too long of a day and I am weary, I get whiny. I don’t usually whine where others can hear me I just whine as I march along. I am very good at this. Sometimes it helps me reach my destination.

I used to hike and back pack with my friend Diane. We camped and hiked throughout the western United States. She may not know this, until now, but I used to march along behind her when there was that one more mile to go and whine to myself. “I don’t know why we can’t just camp here.” “God how much longer is she going to hike?” “Maybe I will just stop here and camp and she can just go on by herself.” Yet I would make it that final mile. The camp sights and the view were often the reward for that final mile.

I used to whine when Jim and I hiked. I was often a bit more verbal to him about this. “You just go on alone, I will wait here.” “Let’s make this your hike and mine, you go ahead and leave me behind.” he never did. Whine, whine, whine. One time after I was diagnosed with breast cancer I told him to just leave me in the desert and let me die. I got a major eye roll from him on this one.

A few days back my friends Sandy and Pat met me in the desert. I spent time with them before I went back to San Diego and met up with them upon my return to the desert. The last day they were here Pat came into their rig and said “we are climbing Coyote Peak”. I never thought to say, I am not coming, so off I went.

Sandy, Me & Pat at the peak.

Coyote Peak is not a long hike, approximately five miles round trip. It is however, straight up and straight back down. it starts at about 600 feet and ascends to 3165 feet in 2.5 miles. About three quarters of the way up I was tired and I began to whine. “Maybe I will just stop here. “I don’t need to see the top.” “This is really really steep.” “I know I will just stop here.” “Why are they so far ahead of me? I need to tell them that I am stopping.” Whine, whine, whine.

After we made it to the top I told them I had been thinking of stopping and waiting for them to return. Sandy said she thought I was thinking that way. She decided she was going to stay far enough ahead of me so that I could not stop them and tell them I was going to wait below the summit for them. Her idea was that if I couldn’t tell them I was stopping I would march my way to the summit. And I did.

Tough love is often used to describe a direct and up front approach in regard to helping someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. Tough love can have a broader context among friends or a teacher or someone who loves and cares about me. People who know and care about me, often can see when I really do have that extra half mile in me to reach the top. These same friends would also know when I had reached my limit and could go no further.

When I arrived at the summit of Coyote Peak, I could still smile and laugh. The view was amazing. There was even snow on the peaks of the Santa Rosa Mountains. It was a beautiful day on the summit. I was glad to be there. I felt accomplished and weary. Then we had to hike back down. On those steep ascents it is often much harder going down than up. I was glad when we reached relatively flat country once again. I was tired and happy and glad I had pushed myself to the top. 

I am very thankful for my tough love hiking friends. Today I am grateful for Sandy and Pat.

 

 

 

Assumptions

Lately I have become aware of the common assumptions many of us make. As an example, “I didn’t invite you because I didn’t think you would be interested”. This is a very common one, one that, I am so sure, I have made many times over the years, without considering what I have done. Why we make assumptions about others appears to be a very human condition. Is it a good idea to make these assumptions? I am beginning to think that it is not. It short changes me and it short changes others.

An assumption directed at me, recently,  is that Christmas and the holiday season is not a big deal to me. When Jim was alive we usually spent the Christmas holiday with his family. I enjoyed the company and fun day we all had together. It was good to be with family and friends. I love gatherings.

Since Jim’s death I have been wading around in uncharted territories. I don’t know what to do with myself. I mean, I would love to spend the holiday with others, however,  it is a time for family and often family forgets that there are those of us who are single and alone. I find myself hesitant to invite myself to other’s homes. I don’t want them to think they have to say yes. It becomes a trap for both sides. Instead I buck it up for another year, find things to do to keep myself occupied and move on.

Our society has become more and more insular. As it has become so, many people, such as myself, are trying to figure out what to do with ourselves. I find the holidays to be a lonely time for me. My family is 3000 miles away. Friends who are involved with their church or others are busy and often don’t remember to include solo friends in their plans. Do I let everyone know I am sad, or I have no-one to celebrate with or do I buck up and tell everyone that the holidays are no big deal to me? It is a conundrum. I don’t feel comfortable with either statement

Jim and I loved to include others. We invited our single friends to go on vacation with us. Our hosted dinners were an inclusive affair, everyone was invited. You didn’t have to be a member of a certain group of people. Singles and couples were invited. I know I tried my best to include everyone. I love my friends in all their forms, single, married, living alone, living with others. I find it easier to be inclusive than exclusive. It sure makes for a more animated and fun event when others get together.

Before I met Jim I was single for my whole adult life. I was also working as a nurse. I often would work the holiday shifts, money was good, and it allowed others with family to have the time off to enjoy their holiday. If I wasn’t working I went back east to my family’s for the holidays. Now I am many years older and still trying to figure it out.

I love adding events to my calendar. So far there are two and I look forward to both of these parties with anticipation and joy. I have decided to go see the Nutcracker. I know it is a bit of a cliché but I love the ballet. I would have gone to the Nutcracker with Jim, but he was somewhat of a bah humbug when it came to this holiday. I believe I need to find the events that speak to me and take action on them.

Today I left my house and chicken sitting job for the last time. Elsie and I have moved in and are in east county San Diego, to camp and enjoy some time at Santee Lakes. I will remain there through the holidays. I am looking forward to being back in my small home on wheels. I am gradually looking forward to the Christmas season. I may stumble my way through it ,yet, I will seek out those moments of joy and fun.

And, for the coming year I am going to attempt to be aware of the assumptions I make regarding myself and others. I would like to stop assuming. If I want to include others in my adventures, I will out right ask them to come along. If they say no, I will try to remember it is not personal. Sometimes others may have other things to do or they just aren’t interested. And, just maybe, when I invite others along, one of them may say yes. Oh what fun will ensue.

Working my way into December. Feeling thankful.

 

 

The Life of a Swamper

As many of you may know, I am spending a part of my summer in Donnelly, Idaho. It is up in the mountains and is, simply, a delightful place to be. I came into the area late in May and have been spending time, first, in Boise (a great medium size town) and now here in Donnelly.

I interrupted my stay for two weeks, so I could travel to northern Montana and join a group of people and raft down the North Fork of the Flathead River. I have never been on a private multi-day raft trip before. It has a very different flavor than a commercial trip. It is work!!! The rafts have to be hauled to the put in, blown up and outfitted. It takes approximately 3 hours to complete this project. It is not easy work. Many items are heavy.  Team effort is a definite must and this group of sixteen excelled in helping others.

I was the swamper of my friend, Mary’s, raft. What, you may ask, is a swamper? Originally the term was used in the logging industry but when it comes to rafting, well, it is a whole different story. Swampers help with everything. Loading the raft?  Yep. Unloading the raft? Yep. Hauling stuff from point A to point B? Yep. Now those tasks sound easy but there is a lot involved. Each item on a raft has a certain place. Everything is double checked to be sure it is strapped down and locks, locked. Does the raft need to be pumped up? Here, let me do that. If anyone needs help in and around the campsite, well there is another job to be done. I decided early on I wanted to make Mary’s and my life easier. I chose to learn quickly so she had less to do with the boat as each day progressed. She could, then, focus on other tasks. By the end of the week, I was pretty much responsible for packing the raft for the day. Mary and I worked well together and made quite a team. I am proud to be called a swamper.  Next trip, if there is one,  I want to learn to row.

At the end of the floating day, my fun began. I set up my tent and took off exploring with my camera. We camped mainly on sand or rock bars on the non-National Park side of the river. Glacier National Park was our east river backdrop. Each day was a beautiful ride. There was always something interesting to explore. I found bear tracks, Sandhill Crane tracks, and we think, wolf tracks. Now how cool is that? One night I camped near a Spotted Sandpiper’s nest. We made good room-mates for a night. I felt honored.

 

I found that the moments of alone time, helped me balance living for a week with sixteen other people. For those of you who have been following my blog, you may recall that being around large groups of people has been an issue for me since Jim’s death from cancer. I enjoyed all of the people I traveled with for the week. It was interesting and fun to watch the group dynamics unfold. Please remember that the majority of this group had already been traveling together for about a week. Some of these folks have been traveling together for many years. They were like one big happy family with all their quirks and fun. I enjoyed getting to know all of them. I enjoyed the stories and laughter. It was fun to join in.

Beaver

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I am back in Donnelly, Idaho. I am recovering. I am healing sun burned lips. I have an infection in my big toe. It has given me the opportunity to soak my foot and relax a little. It is a good time to write blog posts.✍🏻 Soak and Write.

I am getting to know the area I am staying in for the next month plus. I take long walks, am hoping to rent a kayak and explore the lakes. I am also catching up on some much needed chores. Daily chores do not go away just because I am leading a gypsy kind of life.

My closest lake.

Sunset not too far from my door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this swamper rests and heals, I can look out the door at the mountains and get ready to hike. Life is an adventure I am glad to take on.

 

It’s All About Water

Payette River

I am about water. We are all about water. We are made of water. Without water we and this planet would not exist as we know it today.

I love bodies of water great and small. This spring is about water in the west. There has been an abundant supply of snow this past winter and spring runoff is happening, in the lakes, rivers and streams. I have heard several comments from the locals here in Idaho regarding the amount of water in the rivers this spring. “I have never seen the Payette River this high.” “There is usually a beach here.” “Wow!”

Since Jim’s death the ocean has been my friend. I sent his ashes into the Pacific and I have found some comfort in being close to the ocean since then. Leaving the ocean behind was hard for me and I was wondering how much I would miss it. When I discovered these wild flowing bodies of water, I find, I have not missed the ocean one bit.

Pacific Ocean in all it’s Glory

I love water. I love it when it is quiet and meandering. I am attracted to weather at it’s worst. I think many of us are. There is something about nature in all it’s fury that beckons me to go outside, climb the mountain, stand on the sand and witness the un-tameness of it all. Big waves? You bet. Wild surf and bad storms? Yep. I once had to crawl under a boulder on a mountain peak while lightening struck and hail was coming down, fast and furious (it was a surprise storm). At these moments, when nature is in it’s full fury I am reminded that I am a speck in this universe. It is a good reminder and humbling.

Spring is a juicy time of the year. Water abounds and is usually at it’s most prevalent. There is still snow on the mountains, more water is still to come. This year I am going rafting for six days on the Flathead River in Montana. Ah, more water. I love to put my feet in water and if it is warm enough I love swimming in it. In San Diego, the summer is boogie-boarding season. There is a quiet joy in kayaking or paddle-boarding a peaceful lake. It is fun to  meander the shore-lines and see what I can see. There is nothing better than the sound of a loon on a quiet lake.

Fields near Donnelly

Since I have arrived in Donnelly, Idaho, I have been surrounded by large bodies of water, Cascade Lake and Payette Lake. As a nature photographer I really enjoy all this water. It attracts birds and all sorts of wildlife. If I want a chance to photograph, all I have to do is put on some mosquito repellant and sit by a lake or stream and wait. Right now the open fields have quite a bit of water in them. I can stop almost anywhere and wait. If I am quiet and patient enough the animals and birds will come. My favorites this spring are grebes and sandhill cranes. They are my current favorites until something else attracts my attention.

Greebe

Greater Sandhill Crane

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cascade Lake

Ponderosa State Park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Water attracts all of nature, People, animals, birds, bugs-the list could go on. Water is a part of my life and I am happy to have it there. I like to camp next to it. Fishing is fun. There are times that I enjoy renting a hotel room right on the beach and sit and contemplate life, as the waves gently or not so gently crash onto the sand. When evening falls and a lake is still, the sunset is awe inspiring. It quiets my spirit before sleep.

Today and every day I celebrate water in all of it’s wondrous forms.

 

Breezes of the Desert

75ccc72e53440b46961e7776d2add1faimagesEarly this morning I awoke around 1:30 am, windows open in my Roadtrek and the gentlest of breezes was beginning to blow. I love the desert. When the night breezes begin, the desert is beginning to cool down from the heat of the day. My RV begins to cool off and now it is a time where snuggling into the blankets begins to feel really good.

Coyotes are howling out in the countryside. Despite how I worry about coyotes and Elsie the cat, I love them. They remind me of the wild country before we had big cities. They remind me of Jim, (one of his major spirit animals) and they give me comfort. I embrace the wild-around me and in me. It gives me the will and desire to wander into uncharted territory.

Instead of worrying about not being able to sleep through the night, I accept the waking and explore the dark, welcoming the moon and the moonless nights. I listen to the wind. Reaching over I open another window so I can get a cross-breeze. I love the feel of the coolness on my face, arms and hands.

Sonoran Desert

Sonoran Desert

Before I arrived on the outskirts of Tucson, where I am for the next few days, I was in the desert north of Ajo, AZ. I was boondocking(dry camping). I had driven about a half mile off the main road into the desert. Each day I would go on my own short walk-about, exploring my temporary home. For two days I sat in silence. My only conversation was with Elsie the cat. In the distance I could hear the occasional braying of the local wild burro population and the occasional coyote. Silence is hard to get used to at first. Then it becomes familiar. Then I embrace it. It is hard to let it go, when I go back into the city or even the small town. I hope that some of the silence follows me back into the noise of the everyday world.

Wild Burros

Wild Burros

In the quiet I can begin to hear and feel in a deeper and clearer way. I feel the gentlest of breezes and welcome it’s whisper, quieting my heart and mind.  The sky becomes clearer and the world around me brightens. Sitting out after dark I begin to hear the scurrying of little critters and have a passing hope that a pack rat is not setting up home in my engine, they do that.

When I first moved west I thought I was going to see sand and dirt and nothing.  The desert is so alive. There are plants big and small and so many different cactus. The birds and wildlife are varied. In Suguarjo National Park there are over 200 species of birds. They all have their own unique way of surviving in the hot summer months and cold winter months.

Late Afternoon Hike, near Gilbert Ray Campground

Late Afternoon Hike, near Gilbert Ray Campground

I would like to consider that I may also have my own unique way of surviving. This is why I sold my home last July. This is why I moved into my RT. This is why I accept my questioning spirit. This is why I know it is OK to grieve. This is why I know it is OK to roam and wonder what is next. Maybe just maybe when the wind whispers, I will hear the answer I am seeking.

 

 

 

 

Elsie, My Mini-Adventure

my latest favorite spot to hang and sleep

my latest favorite spot to hang and sleep

Hi everyone, Elsie the Cat here. Lately I have been quiet and let Janet write all the postings. Mainly it is because I haven’t had much to say. I have been spending my days doing what I do best: sleeping, eating, getting petted and going outside where I enjoy the chase of the lizard. They are one of my favorite preys. I hardly ever catch them but the chase is fun and entertaining.

I digress. On Monday, I am happily laying in my favorite window, watching Janet go in and out of the house & in and out of the house, again and again. Now I was suspicious she was going somewhere but I had no idea that what she was doing would involve me. She has gone places since our big outing over the spring and summer but they have not involved me. I am happy about this as I like my routine. You should try the above sometime. Living is good.

Around noon she comes back in the house, picks me up, puts my halter on and the “short leash”. Oh No, the leash is never a good sign. Next thing I know I am in the little house on wheels and we are going somewhere. What??? Janet could have said something.She didn’t even give me a chance to hide or protest.

This house looks familiar and there are all my comfy items; the sheepskin, my litter pan, my food and water bowls, and one of my favorite toys, Miss Piggy. Okay then, let me crawl under the sheepskin and I am ready to roll.

We travel over hill and dale (I am not sure what that means but it sounds good). For a while we drive quietly and then all of a sudden I am bouncing all over the place. I am not sure what that is about but I am hanging on for dear life, under my sheepskin. When we stop and I look outside I know I am not in San Diego anymore.

the desert

the Desert

There are miles of nothing, just shrubs and the wind and one of my most favorite things in the whole world “DIRT”!!! I love dirt, I love rolling in it and becoming one with it’s color. Janet took me to the desert. The wild ride was riding on sandy roads to a perfect camp site. Okay I am good with this.

She hooks me up to the short leash and we go walking. She tells me that the short leash is important because there are coyotes here and I would make a tasty little snack. I don’t like the sound of that. I thought all animals got their food from cans. I certainly don’t want to be anyone’s snack. NOPE!!! I am not sure if I remember what coyotes are but if they will eat me, I am good with the short leash.

My climb up the hill and way down there is the RT

My climb up the hill and way down there is the RT

We climbed a hill. The wind was blowing a lot and it was kind of chilly. I thought the desert was hot. Not this time. And there were clouds and did I mention the wind? I could not find one lizard. I thought with all these rocks there would be lizards everywhere. Not one. Where do they go?

After our walk, I was ready to snuggle in and look out at the big wide world from my small home. After Janet fed me I snuggled up on the bed and pretended I was in my favorite window at home.

We stayed there all night. The wind blew and it rained. I was very happy to be inside this little house sleeping next to and on top of Janet. There is even heat here so I could be comfortable all night long. It was snuggly and fun.

I like that this little house on wheels is familiar to me. I don’t have to go through it being a first time thing any more. I am becoming a pro. I am glad Janet takes the time to make sure I am comfortable. The one thing I like about being in this little house and on-the-road is that I have Janet all to myself. We bond. When we are in our “sticks and bricks” house, Janet is often busy and goes out a lot. She hasn’t learned to sleep in the window yet. When we are in the little house, she is all mine. She does go out for hikes and stuff but mostly we hang. I like that.

IMG_7094Because the wind was wicked, we headed to the mountains. This morning we are camped in the oaks. Late yesterday afternoon we heard all this howling. Janet said they were coyotes. They sounded like the neighborhood dogs when the fire engines go by. There seemed to be a lot of them. I was glad to be inside. I have decided short leash walks are better than no walks at all.

I remember that sound they make from this summer. I thought and thought and then I remembered that coyote on the land in Colorado. He was just a little thing. I guess what looks harmless is not always true.

Now I am back home and in my favorite window. I am dreaming of that big land of dirt. Even though I don’t mind my routine, well, sometimes it is OK to jump out of the routine and do something adventurous and fun. I am glad Janet helps me do this.

A rainbow kind of morning

A rainbow kind of morning

I think I will go to sleep now and dream of the next big adventure in this very small cat’s life.

An Update-Janet is Camping on the Property

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Janet, walking the ditch.

I thought I would sneak into southern Colorado, yet, I knew the whole time I could not do this.

I spent yesterday and last night with a good friend. Deana was the realtor who helped Jim and I find this piece of land. Now she is a dear and close friend. After shedding many tears she packed me into her jeep and we drove to the property. It was good to have her support.

The Wetlands

The Wetlands

Oh my it is gorgeous here right now. they have had a very wet spring and early summer and everything is green and lush. The natural wetlands are high with cattails and other moisture loving plants. We were greeted by a hawk who flew out of the cedar trees. It is just a pretty piece of land.

I had lunch yesterday with Miss Carrie and Ron of Ron-d-View Outfitters. Ron leases my property to run his horses and mules on. We spent two hours talking and catching up. It was decided by the end of the meal that I needed to camp on my property. Ron came over in the afternoon with his tractor and a major lawn mower attachment and cut a section of grasses down so I could camp in comfort.

Ron carving out a spot for the RT

 

Deana and Ron

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today I ran errands. I think I was putting off going there until I had nothing to stop me. Around 3 pm I drove over here and am happily ensconced on the land. I was greeted by the summer monsoon thunderstorms. They remained in the distance yet put on a beautiful display. Then I took a nap.

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I am sitting outside at the moment and am enjoying the early evening. Elsie has seen her first deer. Boy did her eyes get big.

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Tomorrow I am going to walk the property and say hello. It is not the most emotionally comfortable I have been on this trip. In fact I find it hard to be here. There were so many plans involved with this place. They were Jim and my plans. I am not feeling yet whether these can become my plans. I miss my buddy.

I am planning to be here tonight and tomorrow night and then I will be on my way to San Diego. It is hard to believe that next week I will be back at work. Thank goodness I enjoy my work.

I want to thank everyone for their support. I am so glad that I have so much support on this continuing journey.