Posts Tagged With: hiking


Full Circle Moments

It’s Gratituesday! Today I remembered a bunch of different camping experiences. Places with names like Tony Grove, Emigration Canyon, North Fork, Minnetonka. These places, and dozens of others shaped who I became.

A stand of Quaking Aspen trees. My favorites.

A stand of Quaking Aspen trees. My favorites.

Activities included wandering among the pines and quaking aspens, skipping rocks, hiking trails, burning marshmallows and hotdogs and best of all, poking sticks into the campfire while singing songs and hearing stories. Nothing felt better or more freeing to me than hanging out among the peaks and valleys of the mountain west.

Similar experiences, I hope, shaped my own children’s lives when we went camping. Some of my favorite mom moments involve trickling streams, rock climbing, rappelling, rainy camps and lots of mud and dirt. We camped from the Cascades in the Northwest, in the rolling hills of North Carolina, and in the flatlands of Oklahoma and even in Arizona’s mountains.

One tiny example: I still laugh when I remember one trip where my two youngest gave each other titles, Queen of the Flame and Little Muddy Foot. You can imagine what that must have entailed. I believe a pile of unmelted spring snow sat about ten feet from the tent on that trip. Good times!

Trees and sky on a slope in the mountains.

Trees and sky on a slope in the mountains.

Today I saw photos that let me know that love of things outdoors has translated across generations. My youngest grand “hiked” on her daddy’s back with her mom beside her (my oldest daughter) to a stunning peak of over 11,000 feet! Their smiles said it all! Pride, joy, freedom, peace, accomplishment, solitude and togetherness, all packed in to one amazing experience.

Part of me felt transported to that mountain top (where I’ve never actually been) and to the woods of Oklahoma and the peaks of the Northwest and back even further to countless childhood camping trips.

Is there anything more joyful than seeing those we love embrace the same things we love? I think not.

I have a lifetime of gratitude filling my heart today. Thanks Dad and Mom for planting and nurturing the love of outdoors deep within me. Thanks MSH for wholeheartedly supporting my little obsession way back when. Thanks to my kids for being good sports and going along with us, (not that you had much choice, I suppose.) And thank you for passing along that fun to your own current and future families.

I wonder sometimes if heaven will have mountains and lakes, tents and campfires. I sure hope so!

Best. Lake. Ever.

Best. Lake. Ever.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment


I captured some bits of nature this past month. Actually, I only managed to get photographs of those bits. The real thing took my breath away, time after time, and sadly, had stay behind.

photo-21 copy 8For instance, this lady bug that took a layover on my jeans as I sat lakeside. Crawled right on my finger, no hesitation, no worry. Then back to my jeans. The bright orange-red, the antennae, the black spots, vibrant and stunning in comparison to the azure water, the cerulean sky, the gray rock and sand.

photo-19 copy 3While hiking in the November forest, most of the trees bare for the coming snows, a few trees donned this delicate lacy moss. Reminded me of ice crystals, bright green and practically growing as I watched. Not sure I’ve ever seen a more lovely winter coat.

photo 2-2The waves at Lake Tahoe, one of the clearest I’ve ever seen, created this pattern in the beige sand, with a light dusting of almost black sand adding contrast. Incredible unique artwork.

photo 1-2But then I took a walk on the dock and saw this underfoot. Nearly the same waves duplicated in the wood that stands above the water. Nature duplicating nature?

photo-19 copy 13Trees never cease to surprise me. Frosty mornings, one after another, can strip most trees bare fairly quickly. And yet, here and there, bright colors hang on to their branches tenacious and brilliant. How many shades of orange can you see?

photo-18 copy 6Taking an alternate path down the mountain from the one we hiked up led to some backtracking, exploring and uncertainty. Fortunately it also led back, eventually, to somewhere close to where we started. Nature continued to surprise and delight along the way. Looking back where I’d been I captured this view, one that felt somehow like biting into a fresh peach. The juice of the moment running down my chin, the sweetness saturating all my senses.

If I ever get to doubting about the wonder and beauty of life, I simply need to slow down, look around and pay attention.



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A Disturbance in the Force

Did you feel it?

I’m sure I did. My heart did this fluttery, skipping a beat, then a rushing to catch up weird sensation earlier this week. Like a balloon deflating there was suddenly no energy in the room.

My cousin, Darrin Olsen, almost thirty-three years old, passed away.

Darrin lights up a room when he walks in. He’s one of those people everyone is so happy to have show up. The vibe around him is upbeat and pulsing with life and excitement.

Whether he’s telling a joke, goofing off in front of a camera, or playing Ultimate Frisbee, he is all in, one hundred percent going for it. Talk about infectious laughter and smiles! Just saying the name Darrin puts a smile on the face of anyone who knows him.

Clearing skies over Morgan, Utah

(Photo credit: coty creighton)

I’d like to think he’s had a nice visit with Grandpa and Grandma Olsen and a couple of other cousins. Then, I envision him on a phenomenal hike in the heavens with a view unmatched here on earth.

I’m thinking he’s figuring out if he can do an ultimate bungee jump from there to here, just for the thrill of it. He’ll be able to talk whoever is in charge into it, no doubt, with that charming smile of his. I can here it now. “Sure, Gumpers, for you, I’ll bend the rules a bit. Here’s the bungee cord. Have fun!”

Ah, Darrin, you are already missed so much by so many.

Get a team together for a game of Ultimate for the rest of us when we get there. It’ll be epic!

In the meantime, feel the love we’re all sending your way.

Categories: Death, Hope, Memory Lane, People | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Hills Are Alive

It’s Gratituesday! I’m thankful for sweet surprises out in the natural world this past week.

Two mornings in a row I encountered an elk herd grazing near my campsite. Majestic, serene, bigger than life, these animals seem unruffled by humans and all their noise. They tolerate our presence. They look on in what I imagine is amusement at all our accoutrements and fluff and necessary survival gear. Meanwhile they wander the forest finding what they need, surrounded by family.

The Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) ...

Myriad numbers of squirrels crossed my path. Big fat ones, the size of cats! I’m afraid they might be getting too many munchies from the human side of the food chain, i.e., green apple flavored hard candy, (lick, lick, lick, lick, lick…) tootsie rolls, “cheese” covered corn chips, hot dogs, marshmallows, chocolate, taffy. Can you just picture their little food storage dens loaded with acorns, random candy and assorted junk food? They probably get through the winter on their body fat alone. Cute little critters though. I credit them with keeping the forest clean, the little foragers seem to love it all.

I also witnessed a variety of lizards, large and small, striped and plain, tailed and tail-less.

Butterflies visited a damp spot nearby every morning. I’m not talking your average run-of-the-mill monarch, although they are stunning. No, there were nickel-sized periwinkle blue fluttering songlets, yes, songlets. Their wings beat in a rhythm I couldn’t match and they flitted about like notes on a page, tones on a scale. Breathtaking. And the yellow butterflies were flower-petaled in their grace and color, elegant fliers with direction and purpose and no hurry to them at all. One morning a wasp or hornet of a variety I’d never seen before stopped by the butterfly watering spot. The stinger on that yellow and black sleek body was three inches long or more. Maybe it wasn’t a stinger, maybe it was a feeler, an antennae. I didn’t stick around to find out. Looked fierce enough to give it a wide path.

Pointleaf Manzanita blooming in the Mazatzal W...

Did I mention the wildflowers? I need to learn their names. A snapdragon-like cluster of three-foot stems with pale blue curling petals lined our hiking path several times. And always there were ground-hugging miniature purple throw rugs of flowers. Bright yellow mini-daisies jumped out in surprising places. Even the Manzanita trees had blossoms on them, highlighting the deep brownish red of their bark. Fresh needles, soft to the touch and new-green, tipped the branches of every pine tree. There’s no air-freshener in the world that matches that scent!

Luckily nature didn’t provide too many snakes, bugs, spiders or stinging or poisonous plants. I got lucky that way. Sure there were a couple of blisters, a cold night or two, some scorching days, but all the beauties that nature provides makes time out in the mountains a cornucopia of things to be thankful for.

If it’s been a while since you’ve experienced the joys of the mountains, maybe you can enjoy Julie Andrews singing about that particular joy. If you listen closely at the beginning you can hear birds in the background. Nice touch.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Answering the Call of the Wild As Best I Can

Nature calls. No, not the way you’re thinking.

Let me rephrase.

I’ve heard the call of the great outdoors, the mountains, ponderosa pines and dirt trails for a couple of months now. It’s been a long while since I’ve been out among the wild things.

I’m anticipating some nature time here soon. Just thinking about it relaxes the muscles in my back and brings a smile to my face. Ahhhh….

English: Young female cones on Ponderosa Pine ...

Did you know the bark on a Ponderosa pine tree has a vanilla scent to it? You have to get up close and personal to really pick it up, but it’s there. And the needles and pine pitch? Mmmmmm, there’s a smell to enliven the soul and rejuvenate the senses.

Getting away from the light pollution of the city, up into the mountains, allows a view of the night sky that’s always there, but not always visible. A spectacle of magic and mystery, uncountable stars emblazon the night sky like so many scattered gems on a black velvet cloth. That alone gives pause for some seriously deep contemplation and introspection.

Hiking slows the pace of the world down to manageable proportions. There’s time for savoring details like a scattering of quarter-inch flowers, or the sound of a small stream making its way downhill, or the varieties of green.

Birds accompany every activity up there, especially morning goings on. Mornings and birds are inseparable and a perfect combination, like hot chocolate and whipped cream. Every pip, cheep, chitter, whistle, peep, and song adds to the delights of the day.

Cooler air. Ah, yes. Getting off the desert floor up into higher country provides a welcome and much-needed respite from the flirting with 100’s temps we’ve had here. Just the mere sound of wind making its way through the pine boughs brings relief. When the actual breeze brushes past carrying snatches of songs from all the trees I feel renewed, baptised and reborn.

I think I sound lovestruck. Infatuated. Irrational.

Probably true.

Toronto racoon at night. Toronto, Canada is no...

The reality is:

  • I don’t sleep well while camping. I’m jittery and nervous of the great outdoor’s night noises.
  • At the first hint of daylight I’m outta the tent and building a huge fire and heating a pot of water.
  • Some of the other campers will be noisy, annoying, silly and clueless.
  • There’s probably some fire restrictions if not an outright ban.
  • Mosquitos and I don’t get along well and will be battling it out every evening.
  • After a few days of bliss I’ll be happy to return to the valley of heat, dust, flush toilets and long hot showers, pillows, beds and internet connections.
  • I’ll wax nostalgic about the mountains and nature until the next time I get to escape.

English: Old growth Ponderosa pines in Lost Fo...

The other reality is:

  • I’ll love it while I’m there, itchy bites, dirty hair, sleepless nights and all.
  • The hills are alive with the sound of music and bugs and crazed campers and beauty.
  • There’s no separating the good from the bad.

So while I’m packing up the flashlight, camp chair, bug repellant and sleeping bag, I’ll also bring along a pen and notebook, a camera, my hiking boots and my decent attitude.

I’ll leave my iPod and earbuds at home though. I don’t want to miss nature’s playlist.

Categories: Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Where the Wild Things Are, And the Not So Wild Things

Recognizing a major need for escape from daily demands and stressors,  late last spring MSH booked me on a flight for that very day to visit a cousin in Colorado.  Not sure how he pulled that off, but he did.  Six hours later I found myself climbing into my cousin’s vehicle and sleeping on her pullout bed. What followed was a week of rest, meandering hikes, talking, eating, Scrabble and emotional healing. I returned home a new person, ready once again to face the world.  Here are a few select photos from that week.

Wishing I were here again.

This is a representative segment of one of the many lovely trails I enjoyed wandering.  Shady, tree filled, solitary.  Perfect for introspection, ideal for letting nature work her magic.

We had a nice friendly chat.

Seldom did I cross paths with other humans.  I did meet up with a pair of deer that treated me like a friend.  They actually didn’t run off when I approached.  We had a nice conversation for a while as I took pictures of them.  Their eyes have a look in them I haven’t yet been able to describe. My friend here stood still and posed for me five feet away from where I stood.  No need to zoom in.

A small pond I came across in a restoration area caught my eye.  The light and reflections were fun to watch.  The sense of calm the scene invoked was very welcome.

Surrounded by pines and peace.

Here’s another view of a lake I wrote about in an earlier post.  Must have been something about the elevation that made me feel emotionally lighter.  The heavy load I’d been hauling around for months dissipated on this hike.

Thanks for sharing my take on a taste of Colorado. Makes me want to go back for autumn, although I may have missed the colors changing by now.  These photos also remind me that I need that daily dose of nature in my life.  Being out-of-doors, my hands in the soil, my head in the clouds, surrounded by living plants, being part of the sights and sounds of the natural world, can make the difference between wellness and illness, joy and sorrow.

That connection to the real world grounds me, makes me whole and gives me energy. Here’s hoping you have such joys in your days.

Categories: Outdoors | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Listening to the Sun

Serenity found here…

The water from the lake barely ripples.  There is just a slight breeze, a few distance clouds.  Blue saturates the  sky, a clear color I haven’t seen for years.  At this elevation, 8500 feet, give or take a few,  the dust and haze of the valley hover far below, leaving no filter between me and the wide expanse above.

Pine trees enclose the small lake like a protective, natural fence.  From my seat, on an outcropping of boulders, the world is a pristine and perfect place.

The climb to this tiny utopia had been an exceptional elevation change for a desert dweller like myself.  (I live around 1200 feet above sea level.)  My lungs had worked hard to squeeze every molecule of oxygen out of the thin air as we hiked the sharply angled trail.

Sitting, with the silence as our only other companion, a kind of peace settles, filling in all the cracks and chinks of my worn out psyche.

My Personal Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Nearby a flutter of  dime-sized periwinkle  butterflies hover just above the ground like miniature flying bouquets.

I sip some water, crunch a couple of peanuts. Let out a long breath of contentment and calm.   My muscles have a hard-earned ache that let me know that, yes, I am very much alive.

The clarity of the blue above me works like a lullaby.  I am entranced, enchanted and captured by tranquility’s warmth. The weary, jagged parts of me begin to mend.

Leaning back on the boulders, I close my eyes.  The sun brushes my face and whispers.


Categories: Joy, Outdoors | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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