Monday, July 21, 2014

Branches

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Thoughts are like trees, one initial thought forms a trunk, and each subsequent thought sprouts a new branch, with questions forming the leaves.  Nowhere is this more evident to me than on the trail.  Often, Dustin and I have our best discussions, our most meaningful, and also our most abstract while hiking, or in the close confines of our tent. Two weekends ago exemplified this concept perfectly. As I watched Drake’s face light up at each trickle of water, I thought to myself how different his childhood will be from mine; this formed the trunk. Often I am asked, “Don’t you wish you were closer to your family? Wouldn’t you like a night out? Don’t you ever need a break? Don’t you miss the money Dustin made in Missouri? Don’t you miss your parents and friends?” The answer to each of these is, “Yes. Of course.” My longing for home is especially strong as my closest friend finds herself about to be a mother; another life experience her and I will share, but this time long distance. How will I handle seeing her son grow from afar?  I cannot answer the last of these questions; however, as for the others, my desire for a respite from being Drake’s mom, a good face-to-face conversation, and a larger bank account, rank far below my desire to provide him with the opportunity to experience and interact in the natural word. In my opinion there is no better place for him to do this on a consistent basis than in Colorado.  Dustin fits here. I fit here. Drake fits here. This is home.  However, are we doing a disservice to Drake by keeping him far from his family? Is home truly where your heart is? 

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Our tree continued to grow; thoughts led to conversations about family and friends.  Dustin and I are in our fourth summer in Colorado.  We haven’t made many friends.  Our closest Colorado friends are older than my parents. Making friends gets harder the older you get.  This is no secret.  However, Dustin and I, we think, are likable enough.  What keeps us from being befriended?  In my opinion, an opinion we developed on the trail, relationships take cultivation. At this point in time, we aren’t willing to spend the time to cultivate. Moreover, I’m less tolerable of b.s.  We lack the desire to sit around have cocktails or get wasted at a bar and shoot the breeze; we can’t go out to dinner because of dietary restrictions; I have strong opinions regarding preservation; being without friends and family, we don’t have care for Drake; thus, a night out sans kid is out of the question.  Perhaps the biggest of all these, summer is short, and there are fish to catch.  We spend our free time in the summer with packs on our back. It is hard to meet people when you spend your weekends seeking solitude.  In the winter, I’m busy with school and being a mom. The little free time I have I want to spend with my family, not meddling through awkward silences with new friends. Perhaps, I am just antisocial. Again we ask, are we doing Drake a disservice?  Do I need to find some mommy groups? These leaves in forms of questions led me to tell Dustin, “I’m horribly selfish, I suppose. I’m not sure I want to share my time with Drake.  Fall will come all too soon, and he will be off to school. Time slips by fast, and I don’t get these years back.”  The branch continues to leaf into more unanswerable questions as the trail winds up the mountain.

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Once we arrived at our campsite, our tree sprouted a new branch.  Evidence of previous campers littered our campsite.  A freshly singed piece of ground connected us to the group that had just vacated this slice of heaven .  Echoes of other backpacking enthusiasts filled the air.  Another camper’s bear bag hung in a tree not 50’ from our tent.  Absorbing all this, I commented to Dustin that Rod can give us all the crap he wants about the park.  It is the one place where we have spent the most time, and seen the fewest people.  Dustin continued my thoughts by pointing out the trails are also well maintained; we are always guaranteed a campsite; we hardly ever see a trace of previous campers.  Do others treat the park better?  Do we see fewer people because the permits ensure fewer people in the backcountry?  These thoughts led us to discuss how Rod’s memories of the backcountry differ from today’s reality of the backcountry.  During his prime high country years, Colorado was not near as populated as it is today.  Fewer people backpacked as well.  The internet didn’t exist; it didn’t point people to breathtaking destinations.  Solitude could be found in today’s most popular areas such as Indian Peaks, Maroon Bells or Summit County.  Which led us back to the previous branch, how different is Colorado now compared to the Colorado of Rod’s youth?  How will the Colorado of Drake’s future look?  Is Colorado less beautiful now than it was during Rod’s day? How can we ensure Drake has a natural world to enjoy when gets our age? How can we be better stewards?

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This stream of consciousness post could continue until you couldn’t see the forest through the trees. Time in the backcountry for our family grows dense stands of large trees. We come home with many questions, but these questions remain shrouded in silence until we find ourselves introspective under a canopy of a conifer forest.  Muir’s sentiments ring true, “In every walk with nature, one receive more than he seeks.”

-Stephanie

Thursday, July 17, 2014

More like a Sparkler

I woke up on the 4th of July, not by the alarm clock as planed, but by a chest and face full of toddler vomit.  Toddler vomit, a sure fire plan canceller.  I’m thankful he chose 3AM to begin instead of around 9 when we would have already been on the trail.  Thus, instead of embarking on our three day backcountry excursion, we spent all day Friday with a pukey Drake. 
Saturday morning arrived vomit free.  When we left the house in the wee hours of the morning, we had a plan overnight at a few lakes in the Mt. Zirkle Wilderness.  However, our plans changed when we could not, no matter how hard we tried, drive by Michigan Lakes.  While Snow Lake was still frozen, the two Michigan Lakes were ice free, and most of the trail and camping areas were free of snow.  Instead of taking the trail we knew, we thought we would save ourselves a few hundred feet and start at a different trailhead.  As it would play out, it was a 100% bonehead move.
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While the trail was shorter, the way to Michigan Lakes consisted of crossing a snowfield along a ridgeline, and then dropping down into the basin.  Had we not made a last minute decision and had our good map with us, we would not have made the decision to go this way.  Alas, a last minute change of plans put us in a very dangerous situation.  At this point, we should have turned around, but we chose to try to follow a lower elevation ridge line.   The ridge line we found ran out.  We had no option but to descend and try to hit the trail.  In a tenth of a mile we descended approximately 600 feet with fully loaded packs.  Luckily, we ran into the trail on the only place for about a mile that wasn’t a sheer drop…pure luck. 
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Exhausted, mentally and physically, we stopped for some snacks and refocus.  After a bit, we made the decision to trudge onward.  Our minds were changed by a family returning to the trailhead.  They made the comment that several tents were at the lake.  Knowing only a few good spots exist up near the lakes, Dustin and I exchanged a knowing look.  As the storm clouds swirled above us, we discussed how we didn’t want to set up in the rain, nor scurry around for a campsite, and possibly not be able to find one.  Campsite selection is a little more important with a toddler in tow.  Alas, we headed back to the car.  Perhaps this weekend just wasn’t meant to be.
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Sunday we took to relax.  We needed it.  As for Monday, Dustin had already scheduled Monday for PTO as a recovery day from 3 days in the backcountry.  Since the backcountry plans fizzled out, recovering was not necessary.  Instead we took a short day hike to The Loch in RMNP.  This is such an easy hike to a stunning destination.  Moreover, the lake is full of hungry, willing cutthroat.  We got an extremely late start and were only able to fish for about an hour.  Thankfully, we were rewarded with several fish in the net.    An agreeable end to a wacky weekend. 
Our holiday weekend was a bit of dud, but it is one that we won’t soon forget. 
-Stephanie