Powering Through.

This week is short, and that excites me.  We have a four day work week, thanks to a huge summer celebration event we’re having on Thursday night.  My boss is out of town until Thursday, so I also get a less watchful week to catch up on things before I head off to Alaska.  I am at my most efficient working stride when I can have TV shows on in the background.  I can sometimes work okay with podcasts or books, but the TV shows really make the day fly by and I get so much work done while being mildly entertained by the Food Network.

A couple of weeks ago I strained my calf by rolling my foot on a root while hiking.  The pain subsided, though it was never that bad.  On Saturday, I jumped off the boat using my toes to push off an strained it again.  This time, I was limping and could hardly walk for the rest of the night, through yesterday, and into today.  I’m hoping it stretches out and goes away by the time we fly out Saturday.  I don’t want to be limping through the forests of Alaska!

As I get into the week, I have a lot to do before we leave Saturday.  I’m so glad work gave everyone Friday off this week because it give me an extra day to prep for the trip.  Friday will be cleaning, last minute laundry, copying keys, meeting with our friend who is watching the cats, and hopefully an early morning hike for me!  I’m just trying to stay positive this week, keep an upbeat attitude, and work on making my calf feel better.

I’m going to work on being less critical of others – as I’ve picked up that nasty habit of playful banter turned cruel.  I am going to remember my goals.  I’m going to have a good week, despite any setbacks.  Time to be a big boy and power through it all!  I have a lot to be thankful for.

Utah Ideas.

Out of all of the possible places to go on a weekend getaway, Salt Lake City was the best bang for the buck.  I looked at Charleston, to visit little sister, but the flights were outrageous and didn’t coordinate with my time constraints.  I looked at various flights to Michigan, realizing that they were too expensive and not that great on timing.  I looked at Portland to visit friends, but again the timing and price were off.  I checked multiple other cities with nearby nature and Denver was a close second but Salt Lake City won with low fares and a PERFECT schedule.  Can’t be getting off work on Friday, flying out and not leaving til Sunday at 8 PM.

I do not feel bad, whatsoever, for booking this flight and going on a (potentially solo) weekend road trip of Southern Utah.  I’ll be seeing family in June when we go to Alaska and again in December when we go to Michigan.  This is my trip!  So, if anyone comes with me or meets me there, I am sort of open to suggestions but mostly have my mind made up on what I want to accomplish in the 48 hours.  If anyone wants to tag along, I have schedule requirements so just get in touch.

I spent some time over the weekend researching, followed by some time this morning doing more research.  I like planning and making lists, even if I don’t stick to them.  The plans will vaguely include Capitol Reef NP, Bryce Canyon NP, and Cedar Breaks National Monument.  I want to drive to the Devil’s Backbone, but nothing is mandatory.  There are a few short hikes in Capitol Reef I’d like to do, and at least one at each Bryce and Cedar Breaks.  I like to have more things on the list than I can do, just to have some knowledge about everything.  I like to know what’s out there, and play it be ear–or eye–based on what looks more fun in person.

I’m going to Utah in August!

Hey Utah, I’m coming in August for some sightseeing, hiking, and general moments of peace.  Get ready!

Out-of-state trips, for me, typically involve visiting someone.  This is almost always a positive experience, and something I look forward to every year.  That being said, I am beyond excited to be taking a trip to Utah for no one but myself.  I have no strict plan in place, except the flight and rental car.  I have no exact destination in mind, no specific person to see, and no real need to do so.  I plan to hike on the Saturday that I’m there, a little more on Sunday, and whenever else I can.  I plan to drive through some places with stunning views, visit a National Park and/or Monument or two, and just escape for 2.25 days.

I found a very inexpensive flight from DFW to Salt Lake City for a Friday evening, so I don’t have to use any vacation days, and a flight back on a Sunday evening.  It’s literally perfect.  I couldn’t have found something more perfect in terms of flights.  I found a rental car for the entire weekend, well below $100 and I’ll decide what to do for sleeping – as I’m not sure what car I’ll have or if I’ll be able to bring any gear.

My only requirements for this trip include:

  • A sunrise and/or sunset overlooking a canyon
  • An early morning and/or night drive with the windows down
  • Minimum of 2 hikes – Kind of want a good balance of what I can see in 48 hours by car and really get the most bang for the buck on hikes
  • I feel like one of the hikes needs to be in Bryce Canyon National Park – not necessarily in the canyon or anything

I don’t have a lot of requirements for this trip, it’s early yet.  I feel I have reasonable expectations because I’ve driven through the area before.  I am just excited.

Slow Down!

I’m always thinking about all of the road trips I’ve taken over the past decade or so and smiling at how lucky I am to have those memories.  In 2007, our spring break road trip opened my eyes to the country west of the Mississippi.  In 2008, I saw the west coast.  In 2009, we actually camped at Arches and saw the west coast.  In 2010, I saw many things in southern Utah and Death Valley.  In 2011, I moved to Texas and visited the North Rim of the Grand Canyon  In 2012, I saw my first Saguaro.  In 2013 I saw the Oregon Coast again and everything in between there and Texas as well as the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  In 2014, I saw Big Bend for the first time as well as the Rocky Mountains up close.  In 2015, I saw the the Petrified Forest National Park and the Grand Canyon again.  In 2016, I revisited the west coast and spent some time under the mighty redwoods.  This year, I will revisit Alaska, with more exploring, and I can’t wait.

While I know I’m lucky, fortunate, or whatever, my goal since our first road trip has been to stop and explore a little more.  Our first trip was so unplanned and rushed, we drove through the Rocky Mountains, made a rest stop, and kept going.  We drove right on by Arches and Canyonlands without even realizing it.  On our 2008 trip, my best friend and I set out with our good friend at the time to head west wanting to see and do as much as we could.  We got to the coast, but didn’t explore much.  We went to the redwoods, but didn’t hike much.  We went to Death Valley, didn’t do much.  But, on the way home our third friend was insistent on going to some big name brewery.  My best friend and I almost lost it – this guy was so unwilling to alter plans to hike to the coast in the redwoods or through Death Valley, but had to go to a brewery?  So, from that point on, I vowed to explore more wherever I went – planning trips with like-minded adventurers.  And, in following trips each year, I hiked more, saw more majestic views, and spent more time in all types of random places.  I feel as each year went on, I took more time out during road trips to see and do various things.  As the years clicked forward, my trips became more about exploring and less about getting somewhere.

The shift from 2008 to 2009 was simply being more adventurous, and making the most of the time we had.  Back in 2009, we hiked to all the major arches in Arches as well as several short hikes in Canyonlands and Grand Staircase Escalante – this was all on our way to US 50  to drive, camp, and hike along the loneliest road in America before reaching Sacramento to pick up a friend at the airport.  In that 2013 trip to Oregon, we stopped at Arches along the way and hit up the Rocky Mountains on the way home – just to see them!  During our 2014 visit to Big Bend, we hiked as often as we could for as expansive a place as it is.  In Colorado, we took some dirt roads through a national forest along a winding river to get home.  Our 2016 trip to Redwoods included an abundance of scenic drives, hikes, and even a spontaneous trip along the Smith River up to Oregon Caves National Monument for a tour.

Not every road trip is going to allow extra time to stop and explore, or include the most adventurous people, but it doesn’t mean giving up.  There is always a thrill in not fully planning a trip, but nowadays I will at least check the map before finalizing anything in case there is a spectacular piece of public land to explore or some attraction to see.  All of this rambling is just a reminder to myself, and anyone choosing to read this, to slow down.  Slow down, check stuff out, and enjoy every little trip you get.  You can be efficient and adventurous all at once, I promise.

Keep Swimming.

This morning I got out of bed, walked the dog, got some coffee, and headed towards the trails to go hiking.  I’m a week behind, so I was going to do one this morning and one tomorrow morning.  I get there, and overflow parking is full and people are being redirected down the road to the community center.  Seriously?  Screw that.  I kept driving, figuring I’d head to the state park nearby because it never fails me as a backup location. Get there, and there is a huge mountain bike race on the multi-use trails and only one other trail is open outside of that loop.  What the hell?  So, I talk myself down, take deep breaths, and leave the park because there is no parking and no where to hike that isn’t in the way of a bike race.  I head home.  I tend to my plants, eat lunch, and do some other chores.  I’m just now calming down, as I sit on my patio in this BEAUTIFUL weather with some ice cold water.

I hate this city-nature bullshit that I have at my disposal.  It’s entirely too small, overused, and underwhelming.  These trails don’t really allow me to fully escape much, and the people using them don’t give a hoot about actual nature.  I feel so stuck with the choices I have when I can’t drive over 3 hours to a better, more authentic location.  I have to continuously remind myself that we have a plan and this isn’t necessarily forever.  This is just now.  We are working to get to better place – hopefully literally – with a plan.  I know, I sound like a whiny millennial, and I probably am.  But, I also realize that I must continue to work hard to get better things in life.  Nothing is free, nothing is handed to me, and nothing good comes easy.  I truly understand the concepts of hard work and patience…I just never have patience at all.  It’s as if I came to this realization that I love nature, wanted to be more involved with it, and now I live the furthest from what I find appealing.

As I was speeding off from the blocked entrance and man waving a sign saying that the overflow was full, I thought that if we lived in Grand Rapids or if we had moved to Portland, I could be hiking already and could easily name 50 different places off the top of my head between the two cities.  I think that only fueled my hate fire more, but I just kept driving to the next place.

Here’s to hoping when I go this evening it’s a little less obnoxious, though I can almost bet there will be more than enough people there crowding the parking lot.  Just give me a parking space so I can go to the only legitimate place within the DFW metro area to hike and not hear traffic.  PLEASE?!

Life gets hectic.

With weddings, work, and social activities consuming my days, life has spiraled out of control.  I have been going non-stop every day, night, weekend for a few weeks now.  From mid-April until now, I’ve stayed overnight for work seven times.  I’ve stayed at a friend’s house at least five times.  I missed last week’s hike, for a wedding so no big deal, and so this weekend I’m finally catching up on that along with another hike and some general upkeep on our apartment.  I want to get some flowers for near our front door and maybe some more garden style plants for the back porch.  This weekend will also be for updating our freezer/fridge, meal prepping, meal planning, and starting to prep physically for hiking in Alaska in six weeks.  I’ve been eating terribly, and I can really feel it which is a sign to slow down, figure it out, and get back to being somewhat less gluttonous.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of eating quickly to satisfy hunger while overeating or eating poorly.  I need to keep things in the house, prep for the week, and get back down to a good caloric intake for the activity level of the day.  Here’s to hoping this weekend is actually productive.

Book Report.

I’ve recently listened to Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford.  This book was probably my favorite of 2017 so far, simply because it kept me laughing while not losing it’s serious undertone.  My eyes were opened to things I had only speculated about in regards to the National Parks.  I’ve listened to a lot of books this year, and this one is the only one I’ve been excited to start back up each day.  John Muir’s books were excellent, but much more fluffy than this.  To some, these stories are things they’ve all heard, but to me I was ignorant to many of the situations that park employees are put in on a daily basis.  I’ve always respected the park ranger, park employee, and anyone else working there that helps me see the beauty of this country.  I know most are underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked but this book reminded me with a few extreme examples of why I need to remember their services as that: a service.

Some takeaways from the book:

  • Too many people don’t grasp the reality of hiking the Grand Canyon despite signs, warnings from rangers, and news stories.
  • People just don’t respect National Parks and what they stand for
  • The general population, myself included, do not understand how hard it is to be a park ranger at  a National Park
  • Park Rangers inevitably deal with death
  • I had no idea how many people visited Yosemite – I mean, I had a general idea, but holy shit.
  • The NPS, like any other organization, doesn’t always spend their money wisely.

As a tourist, I pride myself on at least a little bit of planning ahead and knowing what I’m getting myself into.  In the age of information, we have everything at our fingertips.  I can understand wanting a little bit of surprise, but generally a trip can be planned without spoil.

  • When hiking, backpacking, etc, know what you’re doing.
  • Know what it means to change elevation while hiking, backpacking, etc.
  • Know the climate you’ll be in – prepare for extremes.
  • Ask questions, legitimate questions.
  • If you’re an average person, maybe think twice before attempting an extreme hike.
  • Don’t drive like an idiot, don’t park like an idiot, and don’t disobey signs in parks.  Seriously, don’t feed the animals or drive like a maniac.
  • Always let someone know where you’re going that isn’t with you.
  • ALWAYS take water when going on long walks, hikes, or backpacking.  Seriously, how do people forget this?  Don’t drink too much water, either.  Also, bring a salty snack to help with sodium replenishment.
  • Sometimes it’s as simple as changing plans to accommodate an unplanned situation.

I’m no expert when it comes to hiking, backpacking, or the desert but I know enough to make sure I stay hydrated and to avoid exhaustion.  Western Texas has some dry, hot places and I’ve been lucky and learned some valuable lessons in terms of hydrating and planning ahead when hiking.  No view or accomplishment is worth dying or putting rescuers lives in danger because I didn’t plan ahead.

I’m not saying this book was the best book I’ve ever listened to or read, but it was just a book that came in with the right message at the right time.  I am looking at things from a different perspective and I’m also inspired to be better at planning and communicating.