Slowly, Very Slowly Moving East

Zion National Park

Mojave Desert

After a beautiful drive across the Mojave Desert, last Monday, I arrived in southern Utah. I planned on a few days outside Zion National Park (ZNP) and then would be on my way east. I am here a bit longer than I expected.

A good and very long time friend, Sharon, is in need of some assistance so I am going to be here through the end of the holiday weekend and depart next Tuesday. She was in an accident and is bruised and banged up with a few fractured ribs and sternum tossed into the mix. This is what friends do for each other. They help each other out. It is my honor.

This is not a hardship. I have known the whole Hatfield family since I was a girl and I love this woman dearly. We have ample time to talk and relax in each other’s company. And when she is off to take a snooze, ZNP and surrounding areas are there for me to explore. It is amazing country out here and I never tire of walking off down a wash to see what I can find.

Sharon has a lovely yard. It is big and currently needs grooming. Since she cannot tackle it, in her current state, I am gardening for her. There is nothing I love better than getting some gardening gloves on and digging, prune the trees, pull up weeds, and get things organized. It is probably the one thing I miss, living my current lifestyle. I love the smell of dirt and loam. Earlier in the week it was raining, which brings all the smells forward. There is no other smell like it.

Elsie and I are camped in the driveway. I chose to live in my small space this time, rather than finding a bedroom to sleep in. I have gotten quite comfortable in my cozy tiny home on wheels. Miss Elsie the Cat has too. I spend my day letting Elsie out and into the rig. She has discovered the catmint in the driveway and is a happy camper lying in the midst of it. When Elsie is out, Dharma the dog is in. When Dharma wants to go outside, Elsie goes back into the rig. I am the animal monitor. Who is in and who is out. I definitely need to stay on top of this. Dharma would like to meet Elsie but Elsie is not so fond of this idea. So I remain the door monitor.

Having been to this park many times before (it is good to have friends that live so close), I have not felt a great urge to hike every trail. Instead I have wandered from Sharon’s home and explored what I can find on foot. The Virgin River is at the end of the drive. It is an easy walk. Currently there is a lot of water in the river which adds so much drama to a river visit. When not there I have wandered the town of Rockville. I have visited the cemetery and meandered the side roads. This is a delightful and quaint little town. And, how convenient that it is so near the entrance to ZNP. On Monday I may decide to explore it by bicycle. That would be a new experience for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so my adventure unfolds a bit at a time. I have rather enjoyed the slow pace yet I know that I need to move east. Africa awaits. Next stop southern Colorado.

A Different Winter in the Desert.

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With daylight savings time arriving this weekend, I have been reflecting on my winter and the arrival of spring. This winter has been a very different winter than the previous two.

The first two winters after I went full time,  I went solo into the desert, in my RV. I saw a few friends along the way, and even traveled with a few for a short time. Those first two winters were solo winters for me. I withdrew from too much “people” interaction and contemplated life, my existence, what had happened with Jim and more. I call these two winters my existential winters.

It is not easy to delve into the depths of myself and work my way out the other side of some dark and truthful moments. Since then I have discovered that it is not unusual for people in their mid-sixty’s to go through this self evaluation and reflective time. It was very reassuring to discover that I was not alone and that it is a process that others might be going through as well.

And I thought I should be done growing by the time I arrived at this age. Ha!!!

This winter was very different. I chose to stay close to San Diego as I was truly hoping that my thyroid surgery would be behind me, by now, and I would be in the recovery stage. Well, guess what?, I am still waiting. The surgeons must be very busy.

I went to the desert about two hours east of San Diego and spent the winter. The Anza Borrego desert is an amazing place. It is alive and usually dry. It is a good place to be solo, yet my time there, over the past few months has been delightfully active with other people. I camped near a good friend of mine, Peggy, for almost two months. I enjoyed meeting her new beau and spending time hiking and exploring the area with them.

Friends in the Desert

Sandy and Pat arrived. They are fellow Roadtrekers and delightful people. I am happy to be friends with them. More hiking ensued, including a climb to the top of Coyote Mountain. The three of us met two winters back at the White Water Draw Wildlife Refuge (AZ) and we are friends. I cherish them.

More friends arrived, Karen, Larry and Joni. I had the opportunity to hike and camp with them in a different part of the park. Karen and Larry arrange private river raft trips. I met them when I became a swamper for Zee on the North Fork of the Flathead River, over a year ago. They are fellow desert hounds, hikers and explorers. 

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I took time to meet new friends on the east side of the Salton Sea. Rhonda and Jim are more fellow Roadtrekers. They spend part of their winter running away from Michigan, seeking the warmer weather of Southern California. I spent two nights at The Fountain of Youth RV Resort. For two days I enjoyed the hot springs and getting to know this delightful couple. They took me on a tour of Slab City, East Jesus, and Salvation Mountain. I might suggest a visit to this unique spot.

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A few days later Mary, (Zee) arrived after she traveled for two months in Mexico. After spending time on the east side of the Salton Sea and getting some serious bird watching in, oh those cute burrowing owls, we met up with Karen and Larry in Joshua Tree National Park. We arrived in time to witness a Superbloom on the south side of the park.

Being stationary near Borrego Springs gave me the opportunity to become involved in the town, meet the locals and check out small town life. It was a seven mile ride to town from my campsite. This is a small town in the desert and a hub of activity. I attended the theater, an Independent Film Festival, saw the San Diego Ballet Company perform, went to yoga, and enjoyed playing bingo. Their new library is also an amazing place to sit and work, read or ponder. Oh, and the best place in town for goodies is the Fudge Store. Yummy. (try their Maple Fudge-trust me it is to die for.)

fullsizeoutput_2921The desert has always been magic to me. This year was a very different experience. It was wild and rainy and flash floods became common. I have never seen the desert so green or so wet. On the intense rainy days, my favorite activity was to go see the flash floods. It was a very cool thing to watch. I hiked into waterfalls that usually are dry. Not this year. I love seeing nature at its wildest. This winter was the desert’s turn.

My winter was different. I felt ready to be more social. It was fun interacting with everyone and yet, I could still find time alone to contemplate and breath and just be. It was a good winter in the desert.

I have returned to San Diego. Currently I am staying with my friend Phyllis. We are intensively planning our trip to Africa this summer. There is work to be done, reservations to be made and much to discuss. We are doing well. We have not gotten into arguments yet. It bodes well for a two month trip to somewhere very different.

I enjoy San Diego. I am more of a tourist now in this city. I take the time to go see things that I would have put off, while I was still living here. Though I am enjoying my time here, my mind often wanders to those wide open vistas and a bit of longing fills my soul. I know that I will return to those wild open spaces as often as I can.

The world awaits— Out there awaits. 

I am on my way.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Into the Desert

I have been in the desert for over a week. To be more specific I am in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and the town of Borrego Springs. I am boon-docking (dry camping) and visiting friends.

My usual way of doing the desert is to be as remote as possible, isolating myself from the world. I have changed up my game plan, thanks partially to Peggy and Roger. I am learning to be a bit more social. It is a casual social, nothing forced or big.

I am still doing what I love best, hiking and exploring in the back country. One day I found a wash that I followed for a bit, discovering natural water tanks, small waterfalls and of course flowers. The desert is blooming a little bit at a time this year, thanks to the abundant rain.

The first few days I was here I stayed with a friend, Phyllis, at a resort and spa. We did some hiking and then sat in the jacuzzi and rehashed our day. There is a very good massage therapist in Borrego Springs, Paul, and he just so happened to be working at the resort I stayed in. Massages were in order. I love a good massage therapist, my body loves it more.

I am camped just outside of the small town of Borrego Springs. Peggy and I have taken the opportunity to access what is available in this small town. We have gone to yoga class and played bingo at the senior center . I won $30. Peggy has become involved with the quilting community.

This town is celebrating the 6th year of the Borrego Springs Film Festival. The whole event is sold out. I was able to buy certain film blocks. I have been enjoying interesting and cool movies. People come from afar to be part of this weekend. The films I have seen have been extremely varied and different. After the movie block the film producers are invited up on stage and anyone can ask them questions. The attendees are friendly and interesting as well. This will definitely go on my radar for next year.

I have yet to explore the new library. I will get there. It is a beautiful and modern building. I am always anxious to explore libraries.

Almost every day I have gone hiking, alone, with Peggy and Roger or any combination of the three of us. I have been exploring old favorites and finding new places as well. Jim and I used to come out to this desert all the time. We only stayed for a few days. I am enjoying spending more time here to explore a bit more leisurely. We even hiked up a small section of Henderson Canyon in the rain. Yes, you heard me right, it has been raining in the desert a unique and rare event. One afternoon we went out in Roger’s jeep to find flash floods. We were successful and safe.

The sunrises have been spectacular. Each day it is a bit different. When I am living in my small RV my schedule shifts. I go to bed earlier and arise with the sun. Often I stayed curled up in bed yet there are mornings where it is worth the effort to rise and greet the dawn.

This next week I will be returning to San Diego for eight days. I need to get some work done on my rig. I will be there for eight days and then return to the desert and hopefully get ready for the “Bloom”. The desert is greening up. The ground is covered in green waiting to bloom, be eaten by caterpillars and fade into existence for another year. Ah the cycle of life. I believe it will be another grand wild flower year.

I look forward to seeing my friends in San Diego, once again. I also look forward to returning to the desert and enjoying the small town of Borrego Springs and hiking into the wild. 

 

 

Leaving the Sonoran-Arriving the California Desert

Today I move. In about two weeks I need to be back in San Diego. One more dental surgery to go and taxes need to be done. Sigh.

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Ah, Sunset

Last evening was the warmest evening I have spent in southern AZ. I could actually sit outside till long after the sun had dipped below the horizon. It was a perfect Sonoran desert evening. No wind, owls hooting, and the traffic had dwindled to a minimum. Elsie was busy watching things, out there in the world. Definitely a perfect evening.

I spent the last two days meandering the desert. There are no trails here except the ones the wild burros have made as they trek to the tinaja (water tank). I had to sign in to be on this land. The docent where I signed in said just follow the burrows. FTB. I did just that. I walked through the mountainous terrain to the valley that lies beyond. I walked into the wide dry wash and stood listening to birds. Those pesky birds are hard to find amongst the willows, palo verde and creosote.

What I thought was a dry wash revealed itself as I looked down. The burro tracks revealed a different story. I could see water at the bottom of their prints. The wash was not as dry as I first thought. Water, the life blood of the desert, the mountains and all humans. In this dry, harsh climate I have gained a new respect for water. The tracks at the tinaja were numerous and varied. Even the bees were there drinking from the green rank water. If I was really thirsty, I know I would be joining the others for a drink.

Those Pesky Chollas

Those Pesky Chollas

img_8671You have to be careful when walking in this country. Even though the cholla really do not jump sometimes it feels like they do. Most things are thorny and prickly and demand respect. There are many holes dug in the ground, big and small. They are critters homes. If you don’t observe where you walk you could stumble into one of these. It could lead to disaster. The first hike I did alone I returned to where I thought my RT was only to find I was quite a distance to the south. A strong sense of direction is a must. A map is even a better idea (I didn’t have one). I always carry a compass and in this case looked west. I knew there was a road out there somewhere.

I have seen desert Big Horn Sheep, climbing up and over the top of a rocky mountain. Two javelina surprised me as much as I did them one morning. They started up the mountain. One stumbled and slid down a rock but quickly regained his footing and the last I saw of it, it was running over the summit.img_8570

 

Desert Lily

Desert Lily

Wild flower season is beginning to happen here. With just the right amount of water the desert blooms with the tiniest of flowers. All are showy. It is hard to step around the white daisies that carpet the floor in these washes. The desert is a happy place when there has been rain. Ah, water. I could mention most of the flowers I have seen but that would take too long. The desert Lily is always one of my favorites.

Today El and I pack up and leave. I am not done with the desert yet. I am moving towards Anza Borrego State Park in the California desert. I am having a hard time saying goodby to southern AZ. I have seen so much, found some peace for my sometimes weary soul, and met some lovely people along the way. I know I will meet up with most of them again. We are all part of a group-the wandering, adventurous souls. We love to travel. It is a strong bond and one I want to explore more in depth.

17021834_10153749903052537_7288542039359449127_nI had the opportunity to visit for three glorious days with Missy and Dan. Missy and I have been friends for many years. They live on the east coast, splitting their time between Florida and Maine. It makes it hard to get together, yet every so many years we manage. It was a delight traveling, camping and hiking with them. I loved the access we had with their jeep. I love them.

I have no doubt that I will return to this country. The desert draws me back again and again. Who knew that this east coast woman would fall in love with the wide open space. Now it is time to pack and get ready to move.

I plan to carry my time in this country forward with me. It has changed me as each new experience does. I feel a little less alone and more at peace. These are good things and even if I forget these moments and feelings, I know my body and mind will hold them for me. That way I can tune into this anytime I want.

Getting ready to pack.

Into the Desert

img_7051Last Wednesday, Miss Elsie the Cat, the Roadtrek and I left San Diego for points southeast. The desert was calling my name. The dentist gave me a reprieve and so we departed into the vast Sonoran Desert.

It is winter here. It is chilly at night, if not down right cold. It is wonderful hiking weather during the day and after the rains the desert is alive and the color green is showing up everywhere. The Octotillo are already blooming here at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Why the desert? The desert is the place I go to seek solitude, solace, to think and sort and grow. There is something about the wind and the animals and the vastness of the desert that is wonderfully healing for me. I slow down and really observe my surroundings.

Roadtreking Together

Roadtreking Together

I am not alone. I met up with Mary, a friend of mine. She has a Roadtrek too. We are exploring the desert together. We get along well. One of the nice things about having our own vehicles is that when we need time to ourselves we can retreat to our tiny home on wheels. I appreciate the fact that we both are respectful of our need for our own space.

I enjoy sharing my life with others. Mary asked me if I felt that things were getting easier for me, regarding Jim’s death. This is a very interesting question to ponder. I don’t always take the time to gauge where I have been, what I have achieved, and where I am going regarding Jim. Now the question has been asked I will take some time to bring this into my awareness.

Before I left my friend Nancy mentioned she was having a hard time remembering what I was like before Jim. And there it is. I will never return to who I was before Jim. Who I was before him, during our relationship and who I am now is a cumulative effect of all that has preceded this day, this moment in time.

Years ago Jim and I rafted the Grand Canyon. It was a life altering event. After the trip was over, we often would mention before Grand Canyon and after Grand Canyon. I notice there are times where I regard my life as “before Jim’s death and after Jim’s death”. How have the past four plus years affected who I am today? Well that could be a loaded question. I mean over six years ago I was entangled in the the whole breast cancer issue, that led right into Jim’s diagnosis and his death a year and a half later.

Most of the time I see those times as a hard exercise in growing. I had always heard of others who went through periods of trauma (all kinds-you pick it) and then life smoothed out again. I am hoping that my time of trauma is smoothing out. There are issues still to address but for the most part I would like the smoothing to start.

I miss Jim. It is not often that I feel that overwhelming raw grief that carried me through the first few years. I am thankful for that. I was reminded of it, once again, after the National election results this year, and although the grief was strong I knew to step beyond it quickly. Raw grief is not somewhere I want to stay. I find I like to carry him with me, in the stories I tell and the photos I look at. I guess I feel he is here and I can still advance forward in my life.

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Janet, Hiking Alamo Canyon

Most days I feel I am doing much better and am working towards sorting out my own life. Grief has no timeline. I am not even sure it ever truly goes away, it softens over time. I would like to consider the possibility that grief is softening for me. I am doing better at meeting people I don’t know well and enjoying their company. I have needed to re-teach myself how to reach out to others and know I will be accepted. Being alone most of the time is not good for me. I am enjoying the moments of meeting others and feeling valued as a person. One positive experience leads to the next.

While this all goes on within, I find I am enjoying each day, sometimes a little and sometimes much more. I am enjoying the desert. It was time to leave San Diego. I did not know that when I left and yet it only took one look at the Anza Borrego Desert, as I was coming down the mountain, that I knew I was where I needed to be.

Gila Woodpecker

Gila Woodpecker

Even in an organized campground, with people around the quietness of the desert is everywhere. I wake each morning to a Gila Woodpecker on the cactus next to my campsite. It is good to get up early to greet the dawn and enjoy the wildlife before they disappear in the warmer part of the day.

Elsie is slowly adapting to life on the road again. Thanks to the calming flower essences my friend Beth gave me, she is quietly and shyly coming out to explore. I appreciate my steady little companion on this journey of mine. At night she curls up on the bed with me. Like I said, a good companion.

I will be returning to San Diego, late in March-one more dental surgery to go. I know some of you have been waiting for an update. It is because of all of you out there in the world, known and unknown to me, that I can continue forward with the adventure of life.

Each day, I am getting ready to hike and explore this marvelous country.

Friends & Wine Anyone?

img_3431Last Monday I took a break from the coast and route 101.

Have you ever had one of those forever friends? You know the ones I mean, you may not be in touch for years, but suddenly, one day you are back in touch. Not too long after that an opportunity arrises to be able to get together and catch up. It is like yesterday. I have one of those friends in Corvallis, Oregon.

Last Monday after I made sure Cat was good to go, I departed the coast, drove one hour inland (east) and met up with Kat and her husband Charlie. We figured 2003 was probably the last time the two of us physically saw each other. It has been almost that long since we have spoken. Thanks to Facebook and her daughter (we are FB friends) Kat and I got in touch. The first phone call was hours long.

I spent this past week in their home. Elsie and I had the downstairs apartment. I think Elsie was glad for a bit more room and so was I. Initially I was suppose to leave and head back to the coast, today. By the second day of our visit, we both realized we needed more time. I extended my stay until a week from today.

Kat, Charlie & Kat

Kat, Charlie & Janet

I am having so much fun. Kat is a spinner and loves to explore genealogy. With hikes mixed in we have been catching up. One day we spent immersed in my family’s genealogy. She has promised to help me dye some wool and go home with my own yarn. It is so much fun. I am also enjoying Charlie, her husband. We all get along very well and I am so glad to be back in her company. It is truly a delight. I am getting to see a part of Oregon that was not on my itinerary.

There was one glitch in the plans, in regards to spending a second week. This Sunday they have family coming into town to spend the night. I have my sweet little Roadtrek the RV. This afternoon I took off to go camp for the next two nights.

12249836_925564227523865_4050253941871400085_nI am a member of Harvest Hosts. They are an organization that works with different attractions all over the United States. For my $49/year I can call ahead to different attractions (vineyards, farms) and spend the night. Tonight I am at Emerson Vineyards in Monmouth, Oregon. I am camped behind the barn for the night with Miss Elsie the Cat. It is so nice here. I am out in the country. It is quiet.  While it is raining outside I am sitting inside writing this blog. 1614519_10152171414074326_1764785442_o

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Tom, owner of Emerson Vineyards

Emerson Vineyards is a small family run business. I have met Tom the owner and investor. He is very laid back and nice. Not only is he knowledgable about the wines he also was a wealth of information on the local area. I went to a wine tasting this afternoon and now have 3 bottles of wine and a bottle of yummy port sitting on my countertop. I like this type of camping.

I am so glad to know I have friends, similar to Kat all over the United States and Canada. Often my visits coincide with my need to be social and be in other’s company. My visit with Kat is very well timed. We have known each other for so long, there is an ease between the two of us. We share a history and it makes it easy to be in her company. Right now I am enjoying that ease.

Today I am thankful for organizations such as Harvest Hosts that add adventure to my life.

Today I am very thankful for my forever friends. They bring such joy to my life. Today I am thankful.