Hermit Trail

I tried to sleep at the trailhead after parking at 3 am, but all I could think of was whether or not there were mountain lions in the Grand Canyon. Sitting in my car, waiting in the darkness, I remembered that best practice was to never hike alone. I remembered that if you chose to hike alone, then you should let people know when you expect to return, but my people were down in the bottom of the canyon without cell phone service. My thoughts spiraled… this was a bad idea.

Despite these fears, I laced up my hiking boots and hoisted my pack onto my back. I wasn’t going to let these last-minute doubts ruin all the planning and dreaming that had gone into this moment. Walking into the Grand Canyon from the rim it was pitch black except for the tiny beam of light coming from my headlamp. The silence was broken by my shoes crunching rocks, my breath quick. With each step the darkness slowly lifted and soon enough I turned a corner to see the Earth drop away into the depths of the canyon, while the sun grazed the walls rising around me. I continued to hike, following the trail that hugs the canyon wall while slowly descending deeper, and I felt like someone in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids”; a miniature version of myself picked up and placed on a topographical replica of something imagined.

After hiking for several hours, I began to wonder when I would run into Leah. According to our newest plan (hatched over the spotty satellite phone connection), she would start hiking on Hermit Trail from Granite Camp at 4 am. We would hopefully pass each other on the trail, she climbing out, me climbing in, but I left the keys at the car. Just in case.

The moment I saw Leah approach me was the moment I was first able to breathe deeply, and a weight lifted off my shoulders. Maybe this crazy thing was going to work out all along. We exchanged a hug, some snacks and I checked in about the first part of the trip while Leah checked in about my exam the day before. We snapped a selfie and departed in our own separate ways.

The next big hurdle was meeting the rest of the group at the beach before Hermit Rapids. I arrived around 9:15 and sat down to wait; stripping my shoes off and dipping my toes into the cold, clear Colorado River for the first time. It was hard to relax (I wasn’t quite on river time yet), so I paced, applied sunscreen and checked to see exactly how squished the cupcakes were that I brought with me for Garrett’s upcoming birthday. They were only **slightly** squished. Around 9:45, I spotted a single raft at the bend in the river. Then two, three … four. Okay, now I could relax and it was going to be an FA day.

Ice…And Tequila?

Alternative titles, “The Big Ditch” or “The Grand Canyon”.

Our trip down the Colorado River was years in the making, starting with a dream and a group of men, who were once boys at Colorado Mountain College together. As a kid, I got the chance to go on a couple of raft trips. The first was also on the Colorado River, but where its runs through Westwater Canyon in Utah. I distinctly remember holding onto the front of the raft and watching the wall of water, wave after wave, come towards my face, while screams of joy erupted from within me.

Time passed and a little over two years ago, while I was returning from Thailand, I started reading the book, “The Emerald Mile” by Kevin Fedarko. A beautiful and gripping tale of the fastest run through the 300 miles of river that cuts the Grand Canyon. It tells the history of the canyon, a story of exploration, destruction, bravery, redemption and revitalization. As I read, I felt as if I was racing through the canyon myself and I knew that I was captivated by the beauty, power and awe of this place I barely knew.

Luckily for me, my dad never stopped dreaming about another trip on the Colorado River. I can now safely say that if you ever get the chance to row [or ride] a raft through the Grand Canyon do not hesitate. Drop everything and run to Lee’s Ferry.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to share about this adventure and I think I’ll do a mini-series. So, hang on to your hats and get ready to high-side because as they say on the river, “We’ll run her down the gut”.

Waiting for the rafts to all clear Bedrock Rapid. It looks like you can go right or left at the top, but if you go left you end up in deep trouble. You gotta pull hard right and glide through the rest of the way.

Sleep Under the Stars

At least once in your life.

A few weeks ago I was up in Winter Park and we decided it would be the perfect weekend to hang up the hammock. With the gentle sway I fell asleep between the trees and under the stars.

There is a short list of places that I have felt vulnerable, but also at peace. There’s something about opening yourself up to the things that scare you, but will leave you wanting more.

As I’m typing this I’m sitting in the airport. Not that abnormal, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to fly places because there are a lot of people in the world who only dream of this.

I’m going to London. By myself.

I’m scared, excited and desperately trying to soak everything in. I’ve wanted to solo travel for the longest time, but I’ve always been too chicken. This summer the chance presented itself and I jumped. Or, cautiously dipped my toe in the water and then jumped.

I feel vulnerable. I feel at peace. See you when I get back.

Bellingham, WA

The breeze coming off the bay was cool, especially in the shade. The tall trees shielding the bright sun from my pale skin. It had been hot and dry in Denver leading up to this trip, with the temperatures approaching 100 every day; wildfires raging in southern Colorado, national forests closed to humans.

It was a bad winter. It’s going to be a bad summer.

But, our Leah was graduating from college and so the Huey’s [Wirths, Petersen’s, Gordon’s and Kallin’s] trekked to the Pacific-Northwest. Apparently, if you live in Bellingham, Washington you become a “Bellinghamster”. Like if you live in Colorado long enough you become a “Coloradan”. I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my cheeks and my stomach burned when Leah told me that’s what they call themselves. Yet, the name couldn’t be more perfect for the small town, tucked into north-western Washington, two hours north of Seattle and one hour south of Canada. The bay to the west with the Pacific Ocean just a bit further, the North Cascades to the east.

Bellingham is beautiful.


I’ve been to visit Leah at school once before. A few years ago, when she was still living in the dorms, Anna and I took a sister trip out to see her. We flew to Seattle and rode the Amtrak up the coast, stayed in a hotel and walked everywhere with Leah. She carefully showed us her new school, where she was taking classes and studying, introduced us to her friends and brought us down to the boardwalk.

A long weekend full of exploring.

I missed my flight back to Denver. I thought I booked my ticket for Monday, but to my dismay at 5 am I learned my plane had left 24 hours earlier.

It was okay. There’s always a plan B. We rolled with the punches.


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This time we chased the sunset from Denver to Seattle, spent too short of time catching up with good friends in Seattle and drove up to Bellingham. This time I watched fields and hills flying by the window of the car.

On Friday, Leah presented her Honors Thesis. The research she’s been a part of for the last few years – building a product that would help people that need large quantities of blood transfusions not have to depend on donors for a supply. Some smart stuff going on in that girl’s head.

Next, we grabbed lunch at Aslan Brewing (YUM – I highly recommend the Hawaiian Pork Tacos) and headed to the house we were staying in at Lake Whatcom for naps. The front deck had these glass banisters so you could sit and watch the deer coming through the yard for a snack and feel the breeze blow across the lake. Peace and rest came over me for the first time in the last few months, as I sat and simply listened to the wind rustle the leaves on the trees and reveling in the beauty.

Graduation and a Thai dinner were in store for us on Saturday, and kayaking [we rented from here — Community Boating Center] in the Bellingham Bay and a salmon dinner was on the menu for Sunday. It was good eatin’ this weekend.

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At times, things seemed a little crazy. I guess it sort of comes with the territory when you bring together 11 adults. Some things didn’t always go as planned, and if there wasn’t already a plan B, we quickly came up with one. That’s called, “thinking on your feet”.

It wasn’t a perfect trip, because everything went flawlessly, it was a perfect trip because of the people who joined in. There was grace in the ways we handled each other’s imperfections and beauty in the way we celebrated.

One of the first lines of Bob Goff’s new book, Everybody, Always says, “It’s given me a lot of comfort knowing that we’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming”. Maybe instead of a red pen of judgment, we should read through our friends’ rough drafts with a softer color like purple, or aqua – grace and truth.

The gentle breeze in Bellingham reminded me of this practice of patience.

Thailand, Part 1

Welcome to Thailand. From the bustling metropolis of Bangkok, to the old capital of Chiang Mai City, and to the hammock-loving life down in the Andaman Sea we traveled with variety.

Here is a photo journal of my trip to Thailand. This will scratch the surface of the laughs we shared and the memories we made. Our list of non-negotiables for this adventure —

  1. Thai Massage
  2. Watch every sunset; watch one sunrise
  3. Drink endless amount of Thai Tea
  4. Kayak in the Andaman Sea
  5. Ride a city bus
  6. Take a yoga class

Now onto the good stuff —


Bangkok, Thailand

 

To start the trip the three of us met up in the great city of Los Angeles. Then we boarded our flights for Asia. Leah bought her tickets separate from Anna and I so we split again at this point with a plan to meet at baggage claim in the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

Our travel took us first to Tokyo and then on to BKK. After we arrived in Thailand we found out that Leah’s flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok was delayed 4-hours.

Now that’s some pretty rough news after binge watching movies and cuddling up under airplane blankets for 16 hours, but we took the delay in stride and played some serious rounds of “Spit” [card game] until Leah’s face showed up across the baggage carousel. Reunited once more, we sisters caught a taxi to our Airbnb near the airport for some shut eye.

 

Following some seriously needed sleep (~2 hours) we rounded up our things and jumped on the train to find a hostel in Chinatown. For this trip we made “big picture” plans. Meaning we had a general idea of the places and things we wanted to do, but we didn’t necessarily know where we were going to sleep each night. Thankfully things like HostelWorld exist and we ended up finding a bunch of really great places to stay. Our first home in Thailand was at Loftel 22. A hostel in the heart of Bangkok, it was right on a main road through the city that the bus #1 drove along. This was a highlight of the trip. I enjoyed having some sense of responsibility over our location. In a foreign place you get in a taxi and trust they will take you to the right location with the risk of being scammed, but when we took the bus I felt the wind blow through the windows and listened to the movement of people through the streets on their bikes and cars and tuk tuks. I felt free.

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In Bangkok we rode the #1 from our hostel to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The Grand Palace is home to Wat Phra Krew and the Emerald Buddha, the most sacred of Buddha images. ‘Wat’ means temple and there are a ton in Thailand. At the Grand Palace and at Wat Pho the buildings sparkled as the sunlight reflected off the beautifully tiled roofs. In Wat Pho lies the reclining Buddha, a direct contrast to the Emerald Buddha less than one mile away. People were making such a huge deal about the Emerald Buddha that I figured it must be quite large, however when we stepped into the heart of the temple I had to squint to be able to see him. Ha! Now, the reclining Buddha on the other hand is enormous! He stretches from one length of the temple to the next, laying on his side.


In this buzzing city we found tranquility among the golden Buddha’s. We found beauty in the flowers tucked inside the corners of the temples and peace in the shadows under the Thai sun. For dinner, we stumbled upon a restaurant over looking the Chao Phraya River and toasted to the start of a great trip as the sun set behind Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn).


We spent our second full day in Thailand wandering through market places filled with baskets of spices and produce. Winding deep through the fabric of the culture and uncovering what a day-to-day might look like to a Thai. There were cats everywhere. Lounging amidst the peppers and making grumpy faces because they were probably too furry and therefore too hot. We walked through Bangkok on foot after getting kicked out of our Tuk Tuk for striking a hard bargain, but we picked up our #1 bus and it almost felt like we had been there for days.
We even braved some street food and came away with full bellies and happy hearts. At the end of the day, we jumped on a train bound for Chiang Mai, turned our chairs into beds and waved good bye to the big city.

Next up —> Chiang Mai