Hiking in Baja California Sur Winter 2017/2018

We were drawn to Baja, Mexico by the thoughts of warm sand, clear ocean, and cold margaritas. What we found there was even better! The Baja Peninsula has a range of mountains that runs all the way down its length. They are part of the coastal ranges that run all the way from Alaska down to the tip of the Peninsula. The Sonoran desert also extends into Baja. The shoreline, mountains, and desert combined offer so many diverse opportunities for hiking and exploring. We only scratched the surface of this pristine, wild land. What we discovered has us longing for more time to explore this beautiful area.

Most of the hiking we did this year was near the tiny town of Loreto. Loreto is on the Gulf of California side about 400 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. Many visitors to Baja discount Loreto because the waters are not as warm as they are further south, and the town is much quieter than the typical tourist destinations. However, Loreto was one of our favorite places.

The hiking near Loreto was especially attractive to us because it was mostly canyon hiking. There are technical canyoneering opportunities, but we stuck to non-technical exploration, and still enjoyed some of the most beautiful canyons we have seen. These canyons were amazing oases of crystal clear water falls and pools, greenery and palm trees. We felt like true explorers as we scrambled, swam, climbed, and hiked up the canyons as far as we could each day. Each corner we would turn, we would plan to turn back, but the beauty kept urging us forward. We really hope to do some multi-day trips up the canyons to see how far we can go. Our three favorite hikes were:

Tabor/Steinbeck’s Canyon – one of the most known hikes, named for John Steinbeck.

Mesquite Canyon – lots of refreshing swimming in crystal clear pools!

El Río del Pez – lots of scrambling and the owner of the land (and grand son of the original settlers who built the historic ranch) joined us on horseback for much of the hike and shared his passion for his land with us.

While most information about hiking in Baja is gathered by talking to the locals and long-time visitors there, one couple wrote a book giving basic directions to some of the hikes in Loreto. It is worth checking out since it is pretty challenging to locate some of these places. There are no markers or signs, and lots of river beds and off-road trails to get lost on. DeeDee and Dave Kelly’s book “Hiking Loreto” is a great resource, and can be ordered on-line.

This year we plan to explore higher up in the mountains, hiking in the area near La Paz. Picacho de la Sierra and other treks are beckoning us. Many of the mountain hikes we want to explore are multi-day trips, so we will be looking for someone to stay in our RV and dog sit for a few days!

Alpinism 1 course with American Alpine Institute at Mt Baker, WA August 2019

Back in 2014, we reached the summit of Mt Pisco in the Cordillera Blanca range in Peru. It was by far the most difficult and exhilarating outdoor experience either of us had ever had. Both of us loved it, but we both had to face fears and challenges. For Oscar, the biggest challenge was the altitude. It really got to him. I felt pretty good until the sun came out on summit day, and I saw these crevasses we were passing. I was very close to tears and turning back at one point. But we kept on, reached the summit, and returned. While that was an amazing experience, we didn’t learn a lot from it. We basically just blindly followed our guides and kept moving.

In 2018, we hiked in Patagonia, and again our trails took us across some snow, ice, and steep mountainsides over looking glaciers. I found that my fear of and experience with these situations had not improved much. So when Oscar suggested we attend the Alpinism 1 course, I was nervous, but excited because I knew I needed increased exposure, training, and confidence to learn to love traveling in those conditions.

The course was six days, and included basic rock climbing (to practice knots and prusik skills), traveling on ice and snow, working as a rope team, self-arrest, crevasse rescue, and ice climbing. In addition to these core skills, the instructors gave basic instruction on backpacking, back-country camping, navigation, and many other critical skills. It was excellent because you could attend as a complete beginner with no prerequisite knowledge, but those with more experience could gain a ton of knowledge without feeling like anything was too basic.

The self-rescue and crevasse rescue portions of the course were by far the most difficult physically (and for me, mentally!). It’s hard to set an anchor to hold your buddy in place when they are dangling off the end of your rope! Hauling them up is no joke, either. I didn’t love the “being rescued” part either – dangling in a crevasse looking down and imagining becoming a “cork” down there wasn’t fun for me. But of course Oscar got me out, much faster than I pulled him up.

The grand finale of the course was traveling as rope teams up to the summit of Mount Baker. Mount Baker isn’t that high (10,781) but it is one of the most heavily glaciated peaks here in the lower 48. And it was absolutely stunning! The trek presented me with plenty of lip-biting, crevasse-maneuvering challenges. I muttered plenty of curses, but I became more comfortable with each successful crossing. I was also happy that some situations that used to cause me great distress didn’t really bother me as much. One of the other members of our rope team had a lot of anxiety about those situations, and not a lot of rope experience, so it felt good to be able to give him reassurance as well as help him tie-in to anchors and do other tasks we needed to do. Thanks, of course, to prior training with AMC.

I found that I left the course with much more confidence and better skills for glacial travel, and even just moving on ice and snow. I don’t know how far we will take our mountaineering, or if I will ever feel capable and confident enough to do some of those things without a guide (or at least someone much more experienced). But now I feel that I can be an informed and effective member of a rope team. As a bonus i captured great pictures and met awesome new friends!

Not everyone is naturally comfortable and competent with outdoor skills. It’s great to know that there are courses like those offered by AMC, and American Alpine Institute, that allow adventure seekers of all backgrounds to learn these skills in a supportive and fun environment. Outdoor people really are the best!

Letting Loose in Los Barriles, January 2018

Our month in Los Barriles began with mixed feelings.  We loved the RV park, right on a lovely stretch of beach with amazing sunrises and some good snorkeling spots.  We also enjoyed seeing the kite surfers cruising the waves and the skies as they practiced their sport.  What we weren’t sure we’d like was how “gringo-fied” the town is.  It turns out that while there were many other Americans and Canadians there, it still felt like Mexico.  We enjoyed the small town, miles and miles of beaches, and the proximity to Cabo Pulmo and Los Cabos for some scuba diving.  We also enjoyed having family visit for a few days while we were there.DSC04002

I’m not much of a crier.  But during our stay in Los Barriles, I had a couple of cry fests, and alcohol was involved both times.  I wish I were better at expressing my emotions.  It seems that often it takes alcohol for me to break down and let feelings be acknowledged and expressed.  I don’t like this, because I know that what comes out is often distorted, and I don’t always remember the nuances of the discussions which can be meaningful.

My first cry fest was on the sunset cruise we took in Cabo.  It was a perfect evening, there was an open bar, and we took the last dinner seating so we had plenty of time to partake from the bar.  The bartender was mixing up some kind of delightful, fruity drinks.  I’m not usually much of a delightful, fruity drink drinker.  I actually have no idea what they were, so maybe they had tear potion in them.  Anyway, there was a decent band, and they were playing all music from the 80s.  So I got all sappy, and reminiscent about my life now versus how I thought it would be.  Actually, I never had a really clear plan for my life.  I know I wanted to have a career, and not be “normal”.  I guess I am a success if those were my goals!  I’m definitely not normal!  It was a wonderful evening, even though I got all sappy, and it was good to think about where I’ve been and where I am now.  I certainly feel fortunate for both my foundation in life and all the paths I’ve traveled.IMG_3037 (2)

My second tear session was when my family was visiting.  We thought it would be a great idea to walk down the beach to the bar where you can use the pool if you have a drink, and watch all the kite surfers up close.  We started off on the wrong foot, with some deliciously deceptive margaritas.  Before lunch.  We found out later that the bartender is known for his wicked drinks.  I really have a hard time talking to pretty much everyone in my family about feelings, but with a little alcohol, feelings started to come up.  I believe we were having some open-hearted, good dialogue, but I was feeling a bit out of control, and a bit exposed.  And so, true to form, both when I have been drinking and when I have been feeling, I escaped.  Into the cold, refreshing pool.  It ended up being a blast as two of us (maybe the two that were more tipsy) took turns jumping in the freezing pool, and the freezing, crashing waves of the ocean.  I realized later that I had missed an opportunity to perhaps be more intimate, but I couldn’t find a way to open that door again when there weren’t margaritas involved.

Our last adventure in Los Barriles was a five hour horse-back ride down the arroyo to see a waterfall.  It was a real ride, not a trail ride where the horses know exactly where they are going and you are just along for the ride.  The highlight of the trip was that our guide encouraged us to gallop our horses for a while in the sand.  I hadn’t ridden a horse all out like that since I was a kid.  Letting loose like that was both exhilarating and a little frightening!  It took me a while to be able to relax and feel like I was moving with the horse and not just clinging on hoping not to fall. IMG_1616

As I look back on my emotional outbursts during this time, I realize that for me, dealing with emotions is a lot like galloping on a horse.  It can be really frightening, because I feel out of control.  I don’t like feeling out of control.  But if I can relax, and trust that I’m going to be okay, it can also be a very liberating experience.  I envy people that seem so comfortable sharing their feelings freely.  A goal for me this year is to continue to try to let loose, and do it without needing liquid courage.  If there are more fruity drink cry fests, I guess that’s okay too.  Just gotta let loose!

 

Oh, Canada! August 2018

This was our first real trip to Canada.  Other than a visit to Niagara Falls and a quick business trip to Toronto a long time ago, we’ve never really spent any time there.  It was a real treat to touch a tiny bit of this beautiful northern neighbor of ours!  While it was very comfortable travelling in Canada, since in many ways the country and citizens are  similar to the U.S., I always love and look for those little things that make a place unique.  My joy in being a traveler is always exploring the new and unknown.  Being too comfortable is just not fun!  So here are a few things that I learned about and found to be special in Canada.

  1. The Canadian Rockies are absolutely, undeniably, overwhelmingly GORGEOUS! So many glaciers, beautiful rivers and lakes.  It definitely felt and looked different to us than any place we’ve visited in the U.S.  Oh, and they have Tea Houses in the mountains that you can only reach by hiking or helicopter.  That was a new one for us!
  2. Elk Poutine…… YUM! Fries, covered with gravy, covered with cheese curds, covered with slow-simmered tender elk meat.  Yes, my arteries clogged just smelling them.  But they were delicious!
  3. There seem to be a lot of different accents! We didn’t cover much of the country, but we definitely noticed that people from different areas of Canada have a bit of a different accent.  It was similar to Midwesterners versus Southerners versus New Yorkers in the U.S.
  4. Hawkins Cheesies and ketchup flavored potato chips. My gastro-tourism is not limited to haute cuisine.  Well, maybe my gastro-tourism seldom gets as fancy as haute cuisine.  I like the everyday unique treats.  We loved the Cheesies.  We had a split opinion on the ketchup chips.  Oscar loved them, and I just thought they were okay.IMG_1261
  5. Canadians estimate distances in hockey rinks instead of football fields. OF COURSE!  But I didn’t think about it and it made me laugh when someone was describing a land area in terms of hockey rinks.
  6. The Canadians we had the opportunity to chat with know a LOT more about the U.S. than we do about them. I learned a little while there, but I realize just how lacking my knowledge is.  The Canadians we met also seem to enjoy discussing politics (and seem to be able to do it in a cordial way) more than we do.
  7. A lot of their road and trail signs are pictures only with no words. We were curious and had to ask for explanations for several of them.  Inquiring minds want to know!
  8. Canada is “provincial” while the U.S. is “stately”.  We loved their very sophisticated, provincial architecture in the parks we visited.IMG_1469
  9. Canada has a long weekend almost every month. Not “holidays” per se, just long weekends. Isn’t this the best idea ever? Okay, unless there was a long weekend every week. That would be even better.

We loved our short trip to Canada, and can’t wait to go back.  Hopefully next year we will be able to make it to Jasper and explore that area.  Hopefully we will find even more unique attributes of our beautiful northern neighbor!

Peace in La Paz, Dec 2017

Dove & Whale Tail sign for La Paz“La Paz” means the peace in Spanish.  A Spanish explorer gave the city its name back in the 1500s.  The beauty of the place, ensconced between the glittering, emerald Sea of Cortez and the brash, beautiful mountains of the Sierra de las Cacachilas, is enough to make one feel peaceful there.  The month we spent there was very special, and one that I will reflect back on whenever I need to find peace within myself.

We stayed in a little RV Park that reminded me of a forgotten garden,

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The hummingbirds had not forgotten our garden!

right by the ocean.  It was lush with fruit trees and flowers, and so well laid out, but no longer maintained to its former glory.  The owner, 85 year old Maria Louisa (MaryLou in English she would tell us), was a tiny woman whose internal force was tangible.  I wish we would have met her a few years ago; her mind is starting to slip with dementia.  Even so, she was delightful, and entertained us with tales of how she schooled herself and left mainland Mexico when her job as a flight attendant was moved to Baja.  She met her American husband here, a former U.S. Navy diver.  The two of them built a diving business together, and he taught her everything he knew about diving and boats.  When they bought their first ship, MaryLou had to travel to Mexico City to register it.  When she arrived, she was surprised that the president of Mexico asked to meet her since she was the first Mexican woman to be a ship captain!  Although her mind has started to slip, you can still see the fire and determination in her eyes.  Every night, she would walk around the park to make sure everything was just right, and would share with us how she and her husband had built the place up from nothing with trucks of dirt the construction companies would dump for free.  She would point to the house in front of the park and share how they had lived there many years, before he became sick and they had to sell some of the land.  She was a true joy of a person to have met.  She was a lovely, lively inspiration.

In our forgotten garden, we usually didn’t have too many other RVs with us, but I had a lot of company.  There was a woodpecker who lived in the palm tree right outside our RV.  I loved watching his ritual each night before he popped into his hole.  A flock of parrots

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One of the “bandido” parrot

frequented our park most evenings, with their loud squawks and bright green feathers.  I called them “my bandidos”.  Right outside the park, an osprey had chosen to build its nest,

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Osprey with her catch

and I would look forward to hearing her cries, and watching to see what she caught for her meals each day.

Leaving the park, we had a short walk along the beach and through side streets in town

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The world is the size of your gaze…

to the malecon, the boardwalk running several miles along the ocean on the edge of town.  One thing we sometimes miss in our gypsy lifestyle is routine.  During this month, we had a routine that felt like we’d done it forever.  We would bike, walk, or run (or all of the above) on the malecon almost every day.  Most days, we would also wander deeper into the city and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of this very authentic town.  It was a bit sad that the city almost seemed too big for the activity there.  The malecon area was built when they had many more cruise ships coming in than they do now.  For us, though, it felt like being a tourist in a main attraction off-season.  We IMG_3352enjoyed the statues, sunsets, coffee shops, taco stands; all the city had to offer. I loved the vibe.  It felt like being at home in a way I don’t remember feeling.

Our main adventure while we were in La Paz was getting scuba certified.  The training wasn’t particularly peaceful.  Our first night of training, we ended up going to the city pool, and had to wait until after the diving team finished practicing, around 8 pm.  I’m usually winding down for bed around then!  We finally got in the water, and I panicked a little.  I didn’t expect the dryness of the air from the regulator, and I felt like I was choking.  My mask was leaking and I was freaking out.  I went back to the top, took a minute to chill out, and then went back down with no more issues.  Fortunately, I didn’t freak Oscar out, and he waited at the bottom for the instructor and me the entire time.  He did great through the entire session, even when he ran out of air unexpectedly.  Although the beginning was a little rough, the gift of scuba diving has been amazing.  Talk about peace!  I have done 18 dives now, and they just keep getting better.  Being down in the ocean, is an “other world” experience.  The marine life, the coral, the ship wrecks, even just the shapes of the rocks are amazing.  It is like a moving meditation for me.  It is a gift that I am so happy to have.

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He loved nibbling on my snorkel!  And my fins, and my hands…..

It was hard to leave La Paz.  It was such a happy place and a peaceful time for me.  I will always cherish the memories and visit there often in my thoughts and with my soul.  It is my peaceful place.

Bad Asses in Baja, November 2017

I didn’t know exactly what to expect when we decided to come to Baja California, Mexico for the winter.  Mainly, I expected adventure.  Baja has not disappointed in that respect!  What I was most surprised by, however, was the bad ass traveling companions with whom we had the pleasure of beginning our adventure.

When we decided to come to Baja, we decided to come with a caravan for two reasons.  First, we’ve heard all the travel warnings the U.S. has issued.  Second, we figured that taking a trip with someone who knows the peninsula would give us a crash course in the area so if we decide to come back we will already be aware of our options.  It turns out that we didn’t need to come with a caravan for safety.  We’ve found Baja to be very safe and friendly.  We are already making plans to come back next year on our own.  But it was certainly well worth the investment in a caravan to learn about all that Baja has to offer, and how to navigate here.  The icing on the cake was that we had a great group of people in our caravan, and really enjoyed getting to know all of them and hearing their interesting stories.

There were three other pairs with us, besides our caravan wagon masters.  The wagon masters themselves, of course, are super cool people.  They have been coming to Baja for 35 years, and decided to make a business of sharing their passion of getting to know Mexico with others.  Not only do they bring people to Baja, but they also are expanding their business to mainland Mexico.  We can’t say enough positive things about them – we would recommend a caravan with their company (BajaAmigos.net) to anyone.  They planned and organized an excellent trip, and managed the caravan very well.  When we drove, we used radios, and we were each assigned a number based on our position in the caravan.  We usually took the tail position, so we were number five.

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Number two RV in the caravan was a pair of sisters from California, and these two were beyond inspirational!  One in her 60s and the other in her 70s, they have traveled and hiked all over the place.  The younger of the two is a thru-hiking triple-crowner, meaning that she has completed the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail.  She did all three after the age of 50, and all by herself!  They are expert fly fishers, foragers, mushroom hunters, and know a lot about a lot.  They volunteer at Yosemite and are active in several environmental groups.  They are both just all around impressive people.

Number three in the caravan was a very successful Canadian couple who owned their own business, lived on a boat for a year, were into riding quads in crazy places, and were just all-around delightful and fun.  They were the quietest in the group, but when they shared stories, they were always the most entertaining!  The biggest surprise was that the wife had been a competitive body builder for eight years.  She’s still a hard body, so it wasn’t surprising in that way.  She is super cute, petite, modest, and feminine, and just didn’t seem the type to be into that sport.  So I guess I am definitely guilty of stereo-typing.  Regardless, they were such cool people.

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Number four couple were also Canadians, although the wife was actually born in Germany.  Her parents immigrated when she was a child.  These two adventurers have literally traveled and worked all over the world!  They worked in some real hot spots at times, and visited some places that are a lot scarier than Mexico.  They were both very knowledgeable, and always so “put together”.  We all were delighted in particular by the wife who was incredibly sweet, but had a very sharp and witty sense of humor that always surprised us.  It was a treat hearing about their travels and adventures throughout the world.  I couldn’t believe all the unique and remote places they had been, on their own.

We are having a great time in Baja, and I will write more about that over the winter.  I’m sure we will have many memories to cherish.  But I hope that we leave here not only with memories, but with friendships that will endure over the years with these amazing people we traveled with from end to end in Baja.  They are all bad ass people in their own unique ways, and we are lucky to have met them and hope to remain Baja Amigos!

Mega West Coast Road Trip August 2017

We are sitting in Las Vegas right now, with both air conditioners in our RV running full-blast, non-stop to keep the temperature inside below 90 degrees.  While we are enjoying Vegas (the recreational areas near Vegas, to be precise, NOT the casinos!), we definitely wish we would have waited to visit until it was a bit cooler.  We didn’t consider this when we decided to add Vegas to our road trip several weeks ago.  We decided to come here because we have been hearing about the awesome hiking, climbing, and canyoneering opportunities.  We are still getting out and doing some things, but more modest endeavors than we would if it weren’t triple digits outside.  Overall, however, I think our mega trip was pretty successful, and definitely chock full of lessons for us to keep in mind as we continue our travels.map

We made it to all but two of our intended destinations this summer.  The two we missed were Redwood Forest and North Cascades National Parks.  Redwood Forest we missed because our RV needed some work and we were delayed, and the Cascades we skipped because it was farther than I realized (unless we took the RV on a ferry – expensive), and there were a lot of fires in the area so we didn’t know if we would even be able to enjoy it.  So those two parks will have to be explored another time.

The rest of our stops were pretty awesome.  We missed most of the real mountain action in the Sierras and Cascades because of the heavy snow last winter.  Many roads and trails in many of the parks we visited were still closed when we were there due to snow.  But we did experience amazing waterfalls, gorgeous wild-flowers, and less crowded parks by visiting each one early in their season.  I felt like we were experiencing spring all summer long, chasing it from Joshua Tree all the way up to Olympic.  But these places must be experienced during more than one season to get the full effect.  We are already planning to do another run to hit the prime hiking in the mountains some year (maybe next year!) in August and September.

What were our lessons learned, other than to avoid Vegas in late August/September?  These are logistics lessons, since I’m the logistician in our partnership (Army-trained logistician even, lol!)

  1. Snow can hang around a loooong time. I knew some of the first parks we visited might have snow.  But when we got to Mt Rainier in late July and could not hike some trails due to snow, I was surprised.  Crater Lake even still had their main road closed in mid July.  We still thoroughly enjoyed each park, but missed some parts.
  2. Getting an RV serviced can take a loooong time. We first noticed a problem with our RV in April.  It took us until August to finally get it completely and permanently fixed.  We went to several different shops in three states trying to get it taken care of.  Fortunately, Tiffin really stood tall and took care of the situation, but we did invest a lot of time.
  3. A series of short stops (less than a week) can really throw us off of our fitness plan. We had a really tough time in August keeping up our running plan because we were just moving too often.  We had a hard time finding good places to run in some cases, and in others we were just moving every day and we don’t run on driving days.  Oscar says driving the RV is like flying an airplane, and I believe him.
  4. When a park gives a length limit for the size of the RV, they really mean it! Our RV is 36 feet, and some of the parks we were in this year had a limit of 35 feet.  I knew they wouldn’t come out and measure, so I figured we could fudge it.  We squeaked in to all the sites okay, but at one park, we almost had a catastrophe.  It wasn’t the RV site that was the problem.  It was the road getting to the site.  There was one sharp U-curve with trees and ditches on both sides.  Oscar made it around, but only after several back and forth maneuvers.  Thank goodness he’s an excellent driver!
  5. We should just skip cities, in most cases. We enjoyed flying around San Francisco, but when we drove into the city to “be tourists”, it wasn’t long before we wondered why.  We repeated our mistake in Seattle.  While we appreciate every little bug, flower, mountain, etc we see in nature, all the cities are starting to look alike.  Crowded and concrete.  I’m sure we will still visit some cities along the way, but we will really have to have a specific attraction to see.
  6. Don’t join Napa wine clubs when you travel in an RV full time, no matter how good the wine is! We bought too much wine and had our whole fridge filled with it (had to keep it cool so it wouldn’t spoil when the RV was being worked on!) and then had to figure out where we could receive wine shipments in October.  We had them shipped to an upcoming RV park, hopefully they will still be there when we get to that park!

Next year we are planning to do things a bit differently.  Rather than plan our travels around national parks and other major attractions (although we’ll probably still plan to see a few that we haven’t yet), we are going to focus more on events and activities.  This year we did rock climb a couple of times, ran one technical canyon, and ran one half marathon, but we found it difficult to continue to focus on keeping ourselves in shape for and getting better at these activities that we love.  And, Oscar’s middle daughter has her first baby due in early April, so we’ll want to plan time to be with her as well.  Wherever the road takes us, we will do our best to make the most of every minute and appreciate this life and our country.  Happy trails, everyone, I hope you will go on some mega adventures of your own!

Mesmerize, July 2017

While we were walking on the beach in Washington, I found the first whole, living sand dollar that I remember ever seeing.  I’ve seen bits and pieces of them, of course, and the whole, dead ones that they sell in the tourist traps.  But when I spotted this little living treasure, I was thrilled.  I’m sure I was bubbling with enthusiasm when I showed it to Oscar, and I wanted to show it to everyone!  There wasn’t anyone else to show it to, so I had Oscar take a picture of it, and I put it back in the water so it could live its life and maybe amaze someone else who finds it.IMG_0160

I have had a fortunate life, and I can’t say I have any major regrets.  However, once in a while, usually in seemingly trivial situations, I get a twinge of sadness that I never had any children of my own to experience life with.  I wish I would have had little ones to share new things with, so that I could see the joy of discovery in their eyes.  I wish I had someone that I know will always be connected to me, no matter what life brings.  Of course, I realize that having a family isn’t all fun and wonderful memories, and blood related does not mean a guaranteed good relationship.  But it is a part of life that I, and many like me who for whatever reason could not or did not have kids, will never experience.  But it is what it is, and when I feel that twinge of sadness, I just try to remember that “If wishes were fishes we’d all swim in riches.”  Everyone has wishes, and some are just like the proverbial fish that got away.  But when one gets away, we don’t throw the rest of the fish in our basket out!

To jar myself out of my little moment of self-pity and sadness, I reminded myself how fortunate I have been to have such good health, wonderful family and friends, and interesting experiences in my life.  I have had step-kids, step-grandkids, and lots of friends’ kids in my life.  I have enjoyed getting to know and be a part of many children’s lives, and I hope I made an impression on some of them along the way.  I hope I gave them an example to follow to enjoy and wonder at even the smallest of nature’s marvels.  I hope I set an example of how to have fun and be silly and not worry about what others think.  I hope I showed them that growing up is over-rated.

I’m sure everyone has that one (or more) fish in life that got away.  That’s okay.  We just need to stand up, brush ourselves off from that disappointment, and keep fishing.  I don’t want to let something I can’t change put even a small cloud over my enjoyment of life.  I want to keep my eyes open to the wonder of the world as a child seeing things for the first time.  I want to share that unbridled enthusiasm with as many people as I can.  This world is amazing.  Whatever our age, and regardless of who we share it with, our world has the power to mesmerize!

 

Mesmerize

The wonder of a child

Seeing something the first time,

Is a wonder in itself,

A glimpse into the mind.

 

Their eyes lighting up,

Connecting new with what they know

Connecting the dots of ideas-

Learning, enjoying as they grow.

 

Taking the hand of a child,

And leading them to adventure-

A simple ride on an escalator

Or the Grand Canyon in its splendor.

 

The thrill of discovery,

The feeling of being mesmerized,

By something that is amazing

And new to their young eyes.

 

Nothing quite compares

With the privilege of sharing

The joy and wonder of life,

And appreciating it and caring.

 

It’s a reminder that while our eyes

May be older, and have “seen it all”,

That does not diminish the beauty

In this world, not at all.

 

The opportunity to be mesmerized

Is still there – every day.

We just need to remember-

Open your eyes and be carried away.

 

(A little poem I wrote several years ago after spending some time with my step-grandkid).

Waterfalls and Wine, June 2017

A Californian we met hiking at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon suggested that we visit Point Reyes National Seashore when we headed west.  Some of our favorite places have been those that random people suggest to us, so we always try to check them out.  It worked with our travel plans to stop there for a week, and I’m so glad we did!

Many places we visit have their own unique vibe.  The personality was rich at Point Reyes.  It was right off Highway 1, and seemed to be a very back-road, small-town, off-the-beaten-path kind of place.  During the week, it was quiet.  On weekends it filled up with local tourists, mostly people trying to escape San Francisco, we guessed.  We couldn’t blame them.  It is amazing how wild much of this area is, and much of what isn’t wild is agricultural or historical.  The coast is rugged, the ocean untamed, the wind strong, and the trees and shrubs threaten to engulf even trails that are frequently traveled.  The locals are salty, yet welcoming.  Oysters are a specialty, and we ate them every day while there, usually in old farm buildings, or small shacks that looked like old fishing docks.

Alamere Falls Point Reyes NS

We kayaked Tomales Bay, and hiked Palomarin Trail to Alamere Falls during our stay.  I feel like I say this almost every time, but the hike was one of my favorite!  I didn’t know it at the time, but the waterfall at the end of the hike is one of only two waterfalls in California that falls directly into the ocean.  We actually missed the little side trail that leads to the falls, (marked only by a rock arrow in the path pointing at a very over-grown trail; we were not the only hikers thinking it led to a trap of some sort…) but once we circled back and made it to the falls, we fell in love.  The four-tier, delicate, colorful falls winds its way gracefully down to the ocean, and requires some not-so-graceful scrambling to enjoy them in full.  They were romantic and had a feeling of seclusion, even though there were several other hikers there with us.   Another fun part of this hike, in keeping with the vibe of Point Reyes, was that most of the other hikers were scantily clad college-aged kids.  I’ve never had the desire to hike in a bikini, but those adventurers made it look fun.  In addition to the usual memory card full of pictures, I did bring home a little case of poison oak as a souvenir.  I definitely thought of the bikini girls as I treated my rash, and hoped they aren’t as sensitive to it as I am!

After eating our fill of oysters at Point Reyes, we headed to Napa and Sonoma for a few days.  Neither of us had been, and we didn’t think we would be into fancy wines and pretentious wine tastings.  Seriously, we normally buy wine in a box!  However, we found the experience to be incredible.  I enjoyed the educational part of the wine tastings much more than Oscar did, but we both appreciated the wine, and ended up buying several bottles at each stop.  We even bought one fancy bottle that the guy at the tasting called “Jesus Juice”.  We’ve decided that will age well for Oscar’s 60th birthday, if we can keep it properly stored until then.  It will be fitting, because it was from Stag’s Leap (not to be confused with Stags’ Leap, as we did), the maker of the first nice bottle of red wine Oscar really enjoyed, on his 50th birthday at the Chicago Chop House.  So if it can survive without us drinking it, and in the imperfect storage conditions we have it in, it will be an incredible wine and memory five years from now.

We definitely felt we splurged more than we should have in wine country, but we reminded ourselves that it’s okay to splurge once in a while.  We don’t make it a habit, and will still enjoy drinking our wine in a box much more frequently than we will drink fine wine.  And we will keep making memories, and trying to store them properly so we can enjoy them many years from now.

Foundations and Footprints, May 2017

DSC05028During our latest backpacking trip, we visited the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park.  One of our routes during this trip followed the “Eleanor Road”, a trail that was originally a road built a hundred years ago.  The road was built for trucks to travel between the dam at Eleanor Lake and the dam being built at Hetch Hetchy.  The trucks would carry supplies for construction along the steep, narrow, winding road.

Following this trail, in many places it was hard to imagine that there was ever a road over which trucks traveled.  There were long sections that were completely overgrown, uneven, and seemingly treacherous even to walk along.  It is amazing how completely nature can consume the work of man over time in the right circumstances.  There were other road sections, however, where the asphalt was still intact, you could see where the road had been carved into the landscape, or there was other evidence of the hand of man.

One of the things I really enjoy about visiting historic places is trying to imagine the people who were there before me.  What were their lives like?  How were they feeling at the time they were in the same place I am standing now?  Did they ever think of the future, and imagine a middle-aged meanderer like me thinking about them?

As I thought of the tough, wiry workers who built the road one hundred years ago, I felt fairly certain that they never envisioned the road they built for industry becoming a trail into solitude for nature-lovers.  I felt sure that they were consumed with the demands of their work, and their immediate needs, like feeding their families.  They probably didn’t think of, or care about, what would become of their hard work on the road one hundred years later.  I don’t think they cared whether they would be remembered and thought of as hikers walked their trail.

As I first was thinking of this, it made me feel melancholy to think that most of us won’t be remembered once the people who have known us have left this life.  Most people are lucky if a couple of generations after they lived anyone remembers them or cares about their time on earth.  But as I thought more about it, I decided that it really isn’t a sad situation.  Yes, it is nice if while we are alive we can do work that in some way lays a foundation that others can build on.  We all should strive to create something that makes other’s lives easier or better in some way.  In reality, most of us do this every day in simple ways that we don’t necessarily think about.  We may give an encouraging word to a child or co-worker that plants a seed in their mind that helps them go further in their education or careers.  We may create a process at work that people continue to use and build on long after we no longer work at our company.  Maybe we write a poem or draw a picture that someone looks at one hundred years after we made it.  Perhaps we plant a tree or bush that long outlives us.  There are a myriad of small ways that each of us leave our imprint on the people around us, and therefore the world.

At the end of my hike, I decided that while leaving an imprint is nice, and most of us do that, it’s not necessary to conclude that our life has meaning.  I decided that even if no one remembers me when I’m gone, if nothing remains as proof of my existence, I can be content with that.  I can be content as long as I can reflect back and know that while I was here, I was present, and I participated.  I want to live in the moment, and be concerned about experiencing life and the world.  I want to explore, learn, and love.  I want to follow many roads, paths, and trails and leave lots of footprints.  Leaving footprints means I lived.  That in itself is a purpose.