Embrace Nature

Embrace Nature

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not perfect.

I am me.
Just who I am.
I am not A,
with her
professional attitude
and fashion plate style.
I am not B,
with his
multiple degrees
and unwavering confidence.
I am not C,
with a productivity
and physical ability
beyond what I thought was human.
And I am not
But I am
what I am
and it has worked so far,
so let's just expand
on that
some more.
And I'll stay me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Humans as Social Beings

On Thursday night we trekked up to Los Alamos (yes, birthplace of the atomic bomb) for the monthly meeting of EAA Chapter 691 (Experimental Aircraft Association). The evening ended up holding a truly crystallizing moment for me.

We made the 1-hour drive in darkness, but with the nearly-full moon and abundant stars, I could still make out the silhouettes of amazing formations of tuff rock that cover much of this part of New Mexico. The rock, cliffs and remnants of snow shining in the darkness made the drive very exciting, and it passed quickly.

Throughout the various socializing opportunities of the night, I conversed with at least half the people in attendance (almost all grey-haired, balding men, except for one or 2 younger guys, plus the wife of the guy who was hosting the meeting at their house). They all had interesting stories, kids to brag about, insight into what I am doing. And almost all of them implied that I should stick around this place a little longer to help each of them build their personal airplane projects. (I said I'd stick around if they could find a way for me to make some money, har, har).

These conversations, along with a good talk I had with Rick on the way up, made something very clear to me: I love learning about people. About their dreams, the hopes they have for their children, their hobbies, their travels, their outlooks on life. On so many occasions the people I interact with have vastly different views than I do, and I get a rush from analyzing why that is, where they come from and how they got to where they are.

And I'm beginning to realize that maybe that's why I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm out here to meet people. To learn from them. To figure out what each individual has to offer - because it's always something. Humans are social beings, so learning from each other is the logical next step - but remembering to go into any situation with an attitude like that is something we all need to do much more often.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Sunset photos taken from my back porch.

Awestruck in Arches

The day I arrived in Moab, I did a road bike ride through Arches National Park. The ride was longer than I had planned, but presented me with so many unbelievable views that I didn't really care. I neglected to bring my camera, so all these photos are taken with my trusty iPhone 3G. If you have never been to this little part of the universe before, I strongly recommend it. I had never been, either, and am already planning my next visit.

Looking down at the entrance. The gate is on the far right, then the switchbacks begin.

One of the first stunning views.

Balanced Rock

Exiting as the sun sets.

*Thanks to the kind photographer who took the last photo of me. He even had me pose and everything!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Slickrock Lessons I Wasn't Expecting

"It's sacrilege to visit Moab and not ride Slickrock Trail."

That's what everyone told me when I said I'd be going through Moab on my way to Santa Fe. This is the trail - the ride - that made Moab famous, brought hordes of mountain bikers to the town and continues to draw people, young and old, to this mecca of mountain activities.

Sadly, I am a novice mountain biker, my fitness is at a low point and my bike is heavy.

But I had decided I was going to ride Slickrock.

The morning after getting way too little sleep and waking up with a screaming migraine, I drove up to the trailhead, paying the $5 fee to enter the Sand Flats Recreation Area. The road up is steep, and I wondered if this foreshadowed the riding to come. As I arrived in the trailhead parking lot, I found that my car was only the fourth to arrive that morning. Excited to have gotten an early start, I packed my Camelbak, put drink mix in my water bottle, donned my mountain biking apparel and pumped up my tires. As I made all these preparations, I became increasingly nervous about what lay ahead. I procrastinated. I went to the bathroom again. I read the signage at the trail entrance. One memo reminded riders to wear their helmet and gloves. Ooh! Forgot my gloves in the car. Went back to grab my gloves.

Finally, I got on my bike, and rode up the first little incline. And then I came upon this sign:

I tried to ignore most of it, and headed onward to the practice loop.


The practice loop is supposedly no easier than the rest of the trail, it's just a shorter loop to give riders an idea of what's in store should they continue on to the main loop. Well, believe me when I tell you they're not kidding.

The loop is about 2 miles total.

I think it took me an hour.

I must have walked at least half of it. It was so steep in parts that I thought I was going to do a backflip off my bike - so instead of that, I got off and walked. There were parts of the trail that went right up to the edges of cliffs, and then hairpinned back around and descended into a crevasse, only to present you with yet another impossibly steep incline.

I spent approximately 92.3% of the time talking out loud to myself, asking myself what in the world I thought I was doing, and if I was perhaps the least experienced rider ever to attempt this crazy trail. I spent a lot of time taking photos, too. The view from that place was beyond words - and definitely beyond my tiny camera's abilities.

Lesson 1

And then I met Girly.

Of course her name isn't really Girly, but that's my nickname for her because I never did ask her name, and because she was even more of a weenie that I was. She was standing over her bike, next to her Boyfriend, at the point where I took the first photo of the sign, and they were debating their course of action.

Girly: Wow. This is crazy.
Boyfriend: Yeah, the rest of it is like that, except harder.
Girly: *silence*

I laugh, and chime in.

Me: It's true. I just did the practice loop and it took me forever.
Girly: I can do regular stuff just fine, but this is so different.
Me: Just don't be afraid to get off and walk.
Boyfriend: Yeah.

I followed them for a while, until I realized I didn't want to wait for Girly so much. She was actually slower than I was! It made me feel better about myself, but even more than that, it reminded me that there will almost always be someone slower than you at just about anything. On the same token, though, there will always be someone better than you, too. Good stuff to be reminded of, especially when I'm wondering what I thought I was doing when I went mountain biking by myself on a "Strenuous" and "Very Difficult" route.

Lesson 2

After I left Girly and Boyfriend, I came upon Mike and Doug. I am fairly certain these are their real names, but with my awful memory I can't be sure. These two men had grey hair and nice bikes. Mike was skilled and strong, and rode in front, coaching Doug through the maneuvers. Doug was older, slower and less daring. He rode his brakes a lot, and went off the trail if the painted route was too steep.

I followed them for a while, benefitting from watching Mike's technique and which lines he took. We chatted, mostly joking about the route. Mike made a comment about how he was a lot better 30 years ago, and that he wasn't as fast as those young'uns. I replied that I didn't think age mattered here. He laughed because it was true, at least for the 3 of us.

Mike continued to encourage Doug, giving him tips and props.

And then Mike told me that this was Doug's first time on a bike in 4 years. After a stroke.

And my jaw dropped. What a trooper Doug was!

But it wasn't until I was in the car, driving away from Moab, that I realized what I had actually witnessed up there on the trail. Mike and Doug had an amazingly strong friendship - a bond that is hard to find. I had stumbled upon one friend helping another to become better, stronger, healthier - and it was like watching truth in human form. These two men, obviously friends for a very long time, had a love between them that many people only dream or write about. I started crying at this realization while I was driving down the highway, and had to calm myself down to keep going. I know that this writing does not do their friendship justice, but I hope it can give even the slightest idea of what I saw. It was moving, to say the least.

Lesson 3

When I arrived back in the parking lot after doing 2 laps of the practice loop and a few extra excursions, I smiled at a woman in a FatCyclist jersey, heading out for her ride. She asked me how it went, and I told her that it had gone about as well as it could have. She told me she remembered her first time on Slickrock, and even offered to ride with me a little. Knowing that I should be on my way if I wanted to make it to Santa Fe at a reasonable hour, I didn't take her up on the invitation. But my final lesson up there on that mound of rock was a great one. She offered to help without me asking, giving selflessly. If we can all remember to do that as often as possible, I think this world will be a much, much better place for everyone.

Thank you to all these people I met on the trail - the lessons they taught me were far more meaningful than the lessons I learned on the bike out there.

I will leave you with some photos that just do not do that place justice.

A ginormous cliff that terrified me the first time I came upon it:

Can you see the people on bikes in the distance?

At Peace on Slickrock

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Moonflower Campground

cold ground, feet and nose.
unwanted, disturbing dreams.
alone. magnified.

In Moab, I camped at Moonflower Campground - a BLM site that has walk-in camping only, is situated nicely near the river and features historic petroglyphs and a ladder in the holed out rock. It's stunning. Photos do not do it justice.

I pulled into the campsite in early afternoon, and set up my tent before heading out for a road bike ride in Arches National Park. The campground was empty. The sunlight hitting it was perfect. The canyon that it's situated in was cool and striking and enormous and secluded. I can't describe the awe that I felt just standing there.

When I returned to camp after dinner, the sun was just beginning to set. Four other campsites had been claimed, and a larger group was singing and playing guitar at the 2 sites closest to the entrance. I was exhausted, but enjoyed the way the guitar and voices echoed along the seemingly endless rocks. That is, I enjoyed it until I couldn't sleep, and was awakened again and again, and then it got colder and colder. And I wasn't wearing enough clothes, I didn't have the right tent and I had forgotten my ground cloth. My thin sleeping pad wasn't long enough to keep my feet off the cold ground, and despite feeling dehydrated, I kept having to leave the tent to pee in the woods. It was a restless night, and on top of that I had some horrifying dreams. Dreams that I still don't understand, and that I'm not sure I even want to make sense of.

My conclusion? Moonflower Canyon is haunted. I think it's possible, even probable. I rarely have such nightmares, and I hardly ever remember what I've dreamt. And the migraine I awoke with is corroborating evidence.

After I awoke, I swiftly packed up camp and grabbed a bite to eat at the Love Muffin Cafe - a great place with vegan pastries, amazing coffee and tasty, hearty breakfast fare, perfect for pre-mountain bike rides. Then I headed up to Slickrock Trail - the mountain biking trail that made Moab. And that, my friends, is a story for a blog post all its own.