50 Hikes Project: Thoughts on an Album

Last year, Kendell and I did 50 hikes together. I didn’t blog about them much because in my head I have the spark of a book idea that is growing out of those hikes, the changes they inspired, and the reasons behind them. So I have notes in my hiking notebook and scattered throughout my journal but nothing in a central place.

In December, I had the idea that it would be great to put together a photo album with pictures from our hikes, to give Kendell for Christmas. (I would have to add the last hike after Christmas, because we took it on December 30.) I wanted this to be a simple album, mostly just photos and journaling with a few embellishments. I ordered a 6x8 photo album and some two-up photo holders (so two 4x6 photos per side). I started going through photos on my phone and, wow. I was swiftly overwhelmed. Of course I can’t print every photo I took from 50 hikes (at least, not if I wanted to fit them all in to one album), so I tried to narrow it down to 2-3 per hike.

50 hikes album photos
I'm using this Simple Stories black leather album and their Snap photo pages. Mostly 4x6 but some 6x8 photos too.

And then I bumped into the problem of photo orientation. Right now I am just using my cell phone for photos when I hike (I really want to change that and find a good small camera, as I’m getting more and more frustrated by the cell phone limitations, no matter how much they’ve improved), and think about it: how do you usually hold your cell phone when you take a pic? Vertically. But how are most pocket pages oriented? Horizontally. I know it shouldn’t matter and I can put a vertical in one pocket and a horizontal in the next one and it’s not a huge deal, the photos are still visible.

It still bugs me.

50 hikes album open with both photos
One vertical photo, one horizontal. This makes me crazy.



And then I started trying to figure out how to include some journaling. This varied widely depending on the hike. Some hikes were epic, like the 14 miler we did when we ran out of water at the half-way mark, got stung by yellow jackets, stumbled upon a big, angry rattlesnake, and got lost when we took a wrong turn. Some hikes were just…lovely rambles, but no big stories. In my head, I pictured small journaling blocks that I would stick on top of one of the photos from each hike, with the name of the trail, the distance and vert, and a few details. But as the “few details” are so different for each hike, some of the small journaling blocks are not really very small.
And then I also got hung up on how to orientate the journaling. If I had, say, four vertical photos for a hike, all together in the sheet protectors like this:

50 hikes album open with vertical photos
This is the album lying open on my desk, with four vertical 4x6 photos. You have to turn the album one quarter turn to see the pictures properly. Which way would you put the journaling?

then should I put the journaling so you could read it when you flipped the album to look at the photos? Or so you could read it as you just turned the pages, even though it would run the opposite way of the photos?


Eventually, I got all the photos printed. I printed some as 6x8 and more as 4x6. I tried to find as many horizontal photos as I could. I gathered all the story details.

50 hikes album journaling
See....these are the journaling boxes. No consistency to the size because the stories are all different lengths. I will put a stamped image in the empty space under the hike details.



Did I finish it and give it to Kendell for Christmas?

No.

Did I finish it and give it to him for our anniversary in February.

No.

I’m just frustrated by the whole thing. I wanted it to be simple but it’s gotten more and more complicated and I have a TON of photos (250+ so I have options to choose from) and all the sheet protectors but I don’t know how to proceed.

Actually, here’s what I want to have happen. I would like some scrapbooking company to make an 8x8 album that has two types of pocket protectors for the photos. One that holds two vertical 4x6 (which would be 8x6, yes, which is entirely different than 6x8) photos and one that holds two horizontal 4x6 photos. The holes on the protectors would line up so they all fit nicely into the album. Yes, the pages themselves would be a different size, but you could just flip the pages without having to turn the album to see the photos correctly.

One day I will put on my big girl pants and put the album together…but I already know I won’t love it.

At any rate, that is a very long introduction for what I really wanted to write about today (which I will blog about tomorrow), and that is that I have set myself a new goal. This year, who knows how many hikes we will take. We’ve had a slow start because of muddy trails and so only did one hike in each January and February and two in March. I don’t know if we’ll make it to 50 again. But I DO know I want to document it in an easier and less frustrating way. For one, I am paying attention now and trying to take horizontal photos on EVERY hike. I am researching a new, small camera I can take hiking with us. And I’m going to blog about every hike we take. These blog posts will include photos, and then I will just save them so I can print them at the end of the year, but I won’t have to spend 57 bajillion hours processing them all at once. The stories will all be in one place (in my 2020 hikes category). And maybe by then my dream album will have been invented and produced. Or maybe I'll figure out some different approach, I don't know. I'm open to suggestions!

Tomorrow I will start posting about our first hikes of 2020.


My Solstice to Equinox Streak: Thoughts, Results, New Directions

On June 21 I set out to accomplish a goal: MOVE EVERY DAY between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox.

Ste streak stewart falls start
To make sure I didn't miss the very first workout of my streak, I did this hike after work. There wasn't a ton of light at the waterfall so this pic isn't fantastic. What isn't apparent, unless you hike here often, is how the area was just decimated by our winter of heavy snows. Trees down everywhere!

So here it is, September 24, the day after the autumn equinox, and I'm thinking about how I did and what I learned and where I'll go from here.

I did 20 hikes including yesterday's, which was, while short, an epic one because there was a moose on the trail, and we had to wait for him to move before we could go around.

Ste streak end aspen grove trail
Same trail head as the June hike, but a different direction so a totally different waterfall. Early evening so still not a lot of light! This is a fun trail with several little scrambly spots and amazing views. And moose!

I'm feeling too lazy to scroll back through Strava and count my runs, but I ran about 45 times during my streak. Two of my runs were on the beach in Florida!

I did a few trail runs (three to be exact) and want to do more, but I think I need some trail running shoes and I haven't made it to the running store yet.

I went to one High Fitness class, which I really enjoyed but my knees sort-of didn't. (Squats are basically impossible for me.)

The rest of the days I did yoga or strength training of some sort.

I missed either one day or four days, I can't decide. When we were in Florida, on the days we were at Universal Studios I didn't do any other exercising besides walking around the park. I think that counts, as we went at least ten miles every day, but it wasn't all sustained, fast, high-cardio walking, so maybe it doesn't. (I know, it's my streak so my rules, but I can't help but think it was cheating.)

My results:

I lost not a single ounce, nor a millimeter of measurement anywhere.

That is, of course, super frustrating. Actually, as I sit down to write this, I find myself almost in tears over that fact. Especially because during that time, I developed a medical condition that requires me to give up chocolate, tomatoes, spicy foods, citrus, coffee, tea, yogurt. Chocolate was the one indulgence I wasn't restraining myself with at all, but after my diagnosis I have had almost none (one mint brownie at our city-employee lunch, one mint brownie at my aunt's funeral, and, yes: A bag of almond M&Ms I bought when we were in Florida because I was pissed at Kendell, and it was actually that moment when I realized how much I've been depending on chocolate for my emotional stability).

So, healthier eating and more exercising for (almost) three months, and not even a pound down? Not even a half inch somewhere?

In fact, my belly is even bigger.

Yes, that makes me feel like crying. (Actually, I *am* crying.) I had my gynecologist test my blood and my levels are normal. I have an appointment next month with my GP, but I already know what he's going to say: something about how my body responds to cortisol, and how the changing levels of hormones effects belly fat. {{{shrug}}} (Cue me going off on a rant about how the medical community is skewed towards men's health, as you can be damn sure if there were a falling hormone level that made something distressing happen to men, they'd have solved the problem decades ago.)

BUT.

I do still feel like I had some results, if only that I changed some of my attitudes. I learned that having a goal helps me to be more consistent. I've watched people on IG or in my running groups do running streaks and right now I can't do that. But this little goal of mine, a moving streak? It changed my thought processes and got me more dedicated to always making sure I take care of what my body needs.

I also learned that I have a LONG way to go as far as strength goes. Mostly this is because strength training is so boring to me. After I finish a run or a hike, my heart is lifted, my spirit is lighter. During a run or a hike I feel that happening. During a weight training session I'm just…bored.

But I know I need it. Especially as I've done more over the past months, I can see where I am weak. I definitely have some asymmetry going on, my lazy glutes are still lazy (I have been known to actually TALK to my glutes on a long uphill hike to get them to do something other than go along for the ride), it's hard for me to work my quads.

Clearly I'm OK with getting my cardio in. I think, knock on wood and barring any injuries, I will continue to be more consistent with cardio. So for my next streak—now that I've streaked once, I want to keep doing it—I am going to concentrate on muscle work. I will still run and hike (and hopefully do more High Fitness classes, maybe just once every other week for my knees' sake), but my goal for today until the winter solstice is to do some strength work EVERY DAY.

It's a strength streak!

Some ways I am going to accomplish this goal:

  1. Use the tools I already have. I have some weights, a couple of yoga mats, and three books with workouts in them.
  2. Actually *use* the workouts I've saved or pinned on social media.
  3. Acquire a few more tools: heavier weights and some resistance bands.
  4. I haven't decided for sure on this one, but: sign back up for Ballet Barre classes. It is SO expensive. But I loved them when I went. But I never managed to go consistently, even though I was paying for them. But I know it would help me. But I feel weird showing up by myself when everyone else seems to be friends (probably that's the real reason I wasn't consistent before). But maybe if I went consistently I would make friends? Why is this a complicated decision?
  5. Post about it. (Not every day, but more consistently than I did with my solstice-to-equinox streak.)

Also, just going to include this other goal: I am searching for a half marathon to do near the end of October or beginning of November. I haven't really pushed myself to up my miles, and I think a race would help with that. Seriously considering the Moab Trail half marathon and I can't tell if the little thrill of fear I feel at that is because I'm actually afraid or if it's just excitement at a new challenge.

Did you streak with me? How did it go? And if not, what are your upcoming fitness or health goals?


Goodbye July!

I can’t believe July is already over. We are still in the heat of deep summer here, and honestly, July isn’t my favorite month. It’s hot and almost no flowers are blooming and even the grass just seems drained.

But if July ends, then it’s August. And if it’s August, can autumn be far behind?

Time, though, moves too swiftly, so I’m trying to savor summer before it ends. I’ve tried since Kaleb got out of school, in fact, to just enjoy the days, even though they’re hot. One thing that’s helped is that this year I’ve mostly abandoned trying to wear shorts. I just never feel comfortable in them. I’ve worn a lot of dresses and a LOT of running skirts and yeah, my elephant knees are exposed but I’m just so much more comfortable this summer. I didn’t post on Instagram every day for 31 Days of Skirt, but I did actually wear Skirt Sports every day!

Heat aside, July was a pretty good month. And before I turn my calendar over to August, I wanted to write a recap.

Solstice to Equinox Streak:
I exercised every day this month, except for the Saturday I was sick. I didn’t do cardio every day; on some days I lifted weights or did resistance training for a half hour. I had a little exercise epiphany: there is almost always time. One day I went for a walk at 1:00 in the afternoon, when it was blazing hot, but I wanted to get it in. So I went to the shadiest part of a path by the river and I got it in. Several nights I did my resistance/weights at 9:00 p.m. But committing to the streak has helped so much, not just with my consistency but with my mindset about exercise. I can really do it every day. And while I have yet to see any weight come off (it actually is continuing to bulge around my belly…I have an appointment with my doctor next month because I’m so frustrated by this!), I feel like I am stronger.

I added cartwheels to my workout strategies. I know: that sounds totally weird, and is a cartwheel really a workout? Surprisingly, yes. More of a plyometric thing, but a simple cartwheel asks a lot of your upper body, your core, and your flexibility. Plus it’s just so fun! I visited for a little while one night with my niece and her daughter, who was trying to do ariels in the grass. My body totally remembers how to do them, how it’s not really about the speed you put into it but learning how to swing your arms correctly. I gave her some pointers, and she said “but you can’t do ariels Aunt Amy!” and I said “not anymore, but I can still do a pretty good cartwheel,” and she said “NO WAY! Show me! I think you’re too old!” and so when I was done holding her new baby brother I did a cartwheel for her. Never too old!

Cartwheels

I also achieved a milestone this month that I haven’t done in two years: I had a 100-mile month. 103.7, to be exact. (To compare, I ran 90.5 in June and 75-ish in May.) And, I know: that’s not a lot to many people. Lots of runners have 100 mile weeks! But for me, it is a little reward to see my count for the month go over 100. Even last summer when I was in marathon training I never had a 100-mile month (whooping cough!). It feels like I accomplished something. Not all of those miles were running, but that’s just fine, because I also hiked a lot!

Running:
I ran a total of 50 miles (it’s actually 49.98 but I think I can round up). I had my longest run since my marathon, 6.5 miles around where I live. I had the fastest mile I’ve had in a long time, 8:48. (Again…I know that’s not fast in comparison to many runners. But it’s fast for me.) And, guess what?

I TOOK UP TRAIL RUNNING!

Trail running

Well, maybe “took up” is too intense. I started trail running. I didn’t buy any trail running shoes so I don’t feel like I can call myself a “trail runner” yet. I was cautious and I went on very safe trails. But I just decided one day: I want to run trails too. (A longer blog post is coming on this topic.) I did two trail runs and I’m really itching to do more.

Hiking:
Big Springs with friends twice
My friend Wendy and I got out three times for hikes in the foothills.
Kendell and I together: Great Western Trail, Scout Falls and part of the TImponooke Trail (until the snow got too risky), Buffalo Peak, Rock Canyon, and Silver Glance Lake. We are up to 28 hikes together this year. I’m hoping we can make it to 50 but we’ll see.

I am more in love with hiking than ever. The best thing this year is the wildflowers. They’ve been amazing from all the snow we’ve had! I just wish that I were a better photographer and could capture images that communicate how beautiful they are. But instead of carrying my big camera to photograph the flowers, I have tried to focus on being present and fully admiring the meadows.

20190719_200502 wildflowers buffalo peak 4x6

Family:
I had a couple of conversations with my kids this month that helped me get rid of some unnecessary guilt I’ve been carrying for a long, long time. Well, maybe the guilt wasn’t exactly “unnecessary,” but these two conversations just helped me to see my choices in a different light. My heart feels so much lighter.

I took Kaleb to swim in a little local pond this month, with some of his friends. He loved it. I had taken him there five years ago, when he was only 9, and I had to pull up my pictures of that day. It was amazing to see how much he has changed. (Sometimes I just have to stop thinking about how utterly strange it is that Kaleb, who was the baby I waited the longest for, is becoming a person. Even though he’s been a person (by which I mean, not a baby) for a long time, it still just sometimes hits me hard. I waited and prayed for him for so long, and then, BAM, all of a sudden he’s grown up. I had a lovely time relaxing on the grass by the pond, reading, but I got so fried on my legs. Three weeks later, they are still so tender and itchy.

Kendell and I had a fun date night when we had to drive north to pick Kaleb up from Lagoon, an amusement park about 90 minutes away from us. We brought Kaleb and his friend some pizza for dinner, and then he and I went out to eat, went shopping, and then saw The Lion King. We haven’t done enough dating in the past little while. We hike together a lot but it was nice to get out and do something a little bit different.

I got to meet my two newest great nephews. I just love babies and am so happy they are here safely. I love that both sides of our family continue to grow.

Hobbies:
While I managed to buy a lot of new supplies, I didn’t ever get around to making any scrapbook layouts this month. I haven’t, in fact, made a scrapbook layout since February or March. I’m not really sure I can explain why, but this is the longest I’ve gone without scrapbooking since I picked up the hobby in 1996. I scrapbooked as a mom with young kids, as a mom with young kids working on her degree, as a mom with young kids doing student teaching and then being a teacher. I scrapped around Kendell’s many surgeries. I scrapbooked while I stayed up late waiting for teenagers to come home from dances and jobs and dates. It’s been a central part of my identity for as long as I’ve been an adult. Kendell working from home has something to do with it, as does the process of cleaning out my mom’s house. (By scrapbooking am I just creating a huge burden for my kids to deal with when I’M dead?) Some of it is that I feel like all the pictures of my mom’s that I need to scan are hanging over me, a project that is zapping all of my creative energy. Some of it I don’t understand. I still want to make scrapbook layouts. I still shop for supplies. I just…haven’t done it.

But! I have quilted a ton. I’ve got all my scraps managed and organized. I am almost done with the quilt I’m making for Jake and then I can start the one I’m making for Kaleb. I am actually, finally sewing together all the billion half-square pink and black triangles I’ve made over the past 7 or 8 years. (I’m trying to decide…is 90x90 too big for a quilt that won’t be used on a bed? I just have so many squares I love. And I live with tall people. But on the other hand: How much will a 90x90 quilt weigh once I back it (with minky!) and add batting? Will it even be useful or just a big pain in the butt?

July has not been a great reading month for me. I’m stuck in a book with characters I like and am interested in…but the story is moving so slowly I keep putting it down for other things. But I don’t want to not finish it because I want to know what happens to them all! Maybe I need another sick day just to get through it. I am also re-reading the novel Contact, which I read about 18 times as a teenager. I was a little bit nervous about the re-read because what if my adult tastes found it lame or inane or narrow minded? But what I am discovering is just how much of my beliefs about the universe/religion/is-there-anything-after-this-life was shaped by this book. Which is really strange, but also fairly liberating.

Finally, writing. I’m continuing to work on the poem I started. There is a deadline and a place to submit so that is pushing me. I still haven’t written the perfect transition I need, but I DID dream I wrote it, and then in the dream repeated it over and over so I wouldn’t forget it when I woke up. But I don’t remember it. I want to write more—I have an essay about pie crust that’s partly formed, too.

Tomorrow I am going to write my goals for August, but right now I am going to go sit out on my back porch. I’m going to listen to the crickets and admire the scent of the summer air, which is especially delicious tonight because it rained today. I’m going to breath in this deep-summer night and try to store it up as a hedge against winter darkness.

How was your July?


Hiking to Silver Lake and Silver Glance Lake

Last fall when I was restricted to only hiking trails with not a lot of vert, Kendell and I hiked to Silver Lake. I chose it because it was listed as “easy” on many of the hiking websites and apps I use, and the elevation gain didn’t seem too bad.

Aside from the last quarter-mile, which IS steep, it was a perfect trail for my knees at that time. When I got to the lake, though, I was a little bit frustrated, because I knew that there is another lake, Silver Glance—smaller but less crowded—about a mile up the trail, but with almost 1000 feet of elevation gain in less than a mile, definitely too steep.

Now that my knees are doing better (they are not healed and not “normal” but I can do almost everything I want to do, with a few modifications and a little bit of wincing) I decided that it was time to go to all the way to Silver Glance.

20190728_125916 amy silver glance lake 6x8

We have to time this hike carefully, because it’s not easy to get to. It’s in a canyon that’s about 25 minutes from our house, and then there is a three-mile dirt road to the trailhead that takes FOREVER to get up. (It actually takes only 20 minutes, but 20 minutes of jostling and bouncing in our old truck is a long time.) We’ve almost done it for three weeks now, but other things came up that required us to be home sooner.

But yesterday was the day.

When we hiked this trail for the first time, it was at the tail end of fall. Almost all of the leaves were down and there was very little water in the streams. This time, at the height of summer after a very snowy winter, it almost felt like we were on a different trail. It was so pretty, full of all different types of wildflowers, and the water was still raging. You don’t ever get to the waterfalls you can hear, but there are two stream crossings. I love crossing water, even if I get my boots wet. (Actually….I sort of prefer it when I get my boots wet!) Right by the second crossing, Kendell saw two raccoons! I turned left after the stream and wandered for quite a while before I realized the barely-a-trail, straight-up-the-slope “path” I was following wasn’t the actual trail, and plus, Kendell wasn’t behind me, so I had to backtrack, figure out where the trail was (RIGHT after the crossing, not left), and then I started hustling because I had no idea where Kendell was. A few minutes later I heard him hollering for me, so we kept track of each other by shouting “Aim!” and “K!” (“Kendell” just doesn’t travel well) until I caught back up to him.

Wildflowers on the way to silver glance 6x8

When we got to Silver Lake, we found a big, slanted granite boulder where we sat and had a snack. For about five minutes I laid back on the rock, closed my eyes, and tried to listen and feel everything around me. The wind in the aspens, the birds, the piney scent mixed with florals…I opened my eyes and looked at the layers of colors in the cliffs across the lake…the only way it could’ve been better is if the groups of hikers around us could also be quiet!

I’d read as much as I could find only about how to get to Silver Glance. Everything I read was super vague: “find the slight trail.” Clearly there WAS a trail, as people have gone there, but once we started looking for it, I just wasn’t sure. We did a few false trails before going back to the first one I’d tried with the goal of just seeing if it petered out or not. It didn’t!

20190728_132728 taking a rest on the way to silver glance 6x8 amy

So, if you, too, want to hike to Silver Glance Lake, here’s how you find the trail. It’s not so much that the trail is “slight.” It’s that there are so many different little paths people have made. When you first get to the lake, turn right. Then look for another trail that is also a right turn. There are at least two right turns you could take (because I went up one and came down another). One is almost immediately after you turn right. The next one is just past a big white granite boulder. If you miss these and continue to move around the lake, you’ll get to a stream crossing and then you know you’ve gone too far. You want to stay south of that stream.

I was also not sure I was on the right trail because right at the beginning it curves south and I knew I needed to be going north-east-ish. But, keep going around the curve. The trail IS faint there, but push on for just two or three minutes and it gets more defined.

The trail from Silver Lake to Silver Glance is steep. And while the total elevation gain (about 900 feet) spread over a little bit less than a mile is steep but doable, it’s not a consistent uphill. You climb, climb, climb, and then you get to a flat meadow, and then you climb some more. So the climbing parts are actually more than 1000 feet per mile. You just have to settle in and realize it’s going to be hard and slow, but that’s OK.

It’s OK because it is a really fun trail. There are small boulders than kind of work like stairs. At a few different places you just walk right up the little stream of water. (I’m guessing that by the fall this is dried up and you walk up the dry bed.) The meadows have tons of large boulders that are great to sit on for a quick break and some water. And the flat parts feel so amazing to cross after you’ve pushed hard up the incline.

The BEST part about this trail, though, is the views. You have to look back to see them when you’re going up. As I usually hike in front on the uphill sections of a trail, I stopped several times at the high points and looked back for Kendell, and I loved being able to watch him ramble through the meadows with the north east side of Timp behind him. It was amazing. 20190728_130611 amy silver glance red baldy 6x8

Once we got to Silver Glance—which really is much smaller than Silver Lake!—we wandered around a little bit. I had wanted to put my feet in the water but there wasn’t a really great spot to do it there, so I kept my shoes on. The views change dramatically depending on where you go, so if you hike up to Silver Glance, spend some time exploring. The lake sits just underneath Red Baldy, and you can summit Red from here, but you have to just find your way, there isn’t an established trail.

When we were headed back down, I stopped at a spot I had seen coming up, which had white rocks and a bunch of artist’s paintbrush. This is one of my favorite wildflowers but I haven’t seen any so far this year. I was so happy to find a bunch of it all over this mountain. I asked Kendell to take a photo of me there, and just as I got into place I heard a roar and a clatter. It took me a minute to figure out what I was hearing: a rock slide! A bunch of rocks were tumbling from the tops of the cliffs behind me. I didn’t look back…I just sprinted back to where Kendell was standing. I was slightly terrified but the slide was happening at least a half a mile beyond us, so we weren’t in danger. (I couldn’t tell until I turned around to look, but in my panic mode I distinctly thought Go! You don’t have time to look!”) We watched the rock slide until it stopped and it was crazy to see those big boulders bouncing and rolling. 20190728_133043 artists paintbrush amy 6x8

When we got back down to Silver Lake, I took a quick moment to dip my feet in the water. I’ve decided that I want to do this more when I am hiking (and it’s not against the trail rules for people to get in the water). The first time I got my feet wet on a trail was when we hiked to Half Dome, and it was almost a spiritual experience. It felt like a way of putting more of myself into the landscape, and besides: it is so refreshing to chill your feet. There was a big group of hikers by the water when I first got there, but they left before I got my boots off, so for a few minutes I had my feet in the water with no one else around. It was bliss! I’m so glad we did this hike again, that I didn’t get frustrated and give up on finding the trail to Silver Glance, and that I was strong enough to make it. It was an incredible day!

20190728_123705 amy silver glance lake red baldy 6x8


Bryce Canyon in the Snow

The older I get, the stronger my urge to travel grows. There are so many places in the world I want to see: the fjords of Scandinavia, Antrim Island in Ireland (and, frankly, all of Ireland), more of Italy and England and the Netherlands. I want to hike to Machu Picchu and the peaks of the Alps and the crags of the Cairngorms. I want to wander the New Zealand landscape, see Mayan ruins, walk along the Great Wall, go running on a trail in South Africa. Closer to home, there’s still a huge list of places in the states I haven’t seen: Sequoia, Acadia, Glacier, (honestly, I would like to visit every national park), Mount Rushmore, the monuments and museums of Washington D.C., the Midwest, the great plains, the Montana mountains, the Knife Edge Trail on Katahdin. The Appalachians.

The list of places I’ve been is relatively small, as I’ve only really traveled very much over the past ten years or so. I’ve got to see Rome, Venice, and entirely too little of Florence, Italy. Bits of London, Paris, and Amsterdam. Niagara Falls and some of Ohio and Pennsylvania. 20170525_145141 green sands beach amy
A few beaches in Mexico, the Green Sands beach in Hawaii, the grey coast of South Carolina. A few cities: New York, San Francisco, Seattle. A few national parks: Yosemite (where I hiked Half Dome), Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Congaree, Rocky Mountain. All of Utah’s, of course.

And it’s there that my favorite place in the world is. Yep, right in the state I’ve lived my entire life: Bryce National Park.

In May, I had some unexpected time off of work, so Kendell managed his schedule so that he and I could go hiking. Southern Utah in May sounds perfect, right? Warm-ish, definitely not too hot (Bryce is at 8000 feet, so it is never as hot as the other parks anyway), blue skies, maybe some wildflowers. We planned on hiking our favorite trail, the Fairyland Loop.

As we drove east from the interstate on the smaller winding roads that lead to Bryce, we felt the wind pick up and could see clouds gathering. It started raining, small off-and-on bursts of fast water and bits of hail. When we stopped to stretch our legs, we opened the car door to chilly air. It was undeniable: we were arriving at Bryce at the same time as a late-spring storm. In fact, just as we pulled into the entrance later that afternoon (after a rainy hike at Kodachrome state park), it started snowing. We just wanted to drive to the top of the canyon that afternoon, stopping at overlooks here and there, but there was so much snow we decided our little Corolla might not be the safest.

But we were there. We had our gear—the spikes were still in our packs from our winter hiking, we both had brought long sleeves just in case, and our hiking boots are waterproof. So the next morning we hit the trail.

Hit the trail in another snow storm.

20190523_095250 bryce in snow 6x8

My favorite way to hike the Fairyland Loop trail is to start at the Fairyland parking trail and hike counterclockwise. This way, you get the rim part of the trail out of the way first. Not that the rim trail is bad. If that is all you hiked in Bryce, its rolling hills and amazing views would cause you to fall in love with Bryce yourself. But the thrilliest thrill (at least, for me) is being down in the actual canyon. Hiking along the rim trail first gives you an overlook of the beauty you’re about to descend into. (And it also gives you one last bathroom stop, at Sunset Point before you start down into the canyon.)

Well, usually you get an overlook. For us on that snowy day in May, we couldn’t see much into the canyon because it was snowing so hard. This made Kendell grumble, as mud is one of his least favorite things. So I picked up my pace a bit and hiked where I couldn’t hear him. Because for me the mud—and it was super muddy mud, sticky and orange and sucking at my feet where ever I couldn’t walk on snow—didn’t matter.

It was so beautiful.

The pearly-white mist of the storm filling the canyon, the orange cliffs at my left and the deep-green pine trees and manzanita bushes at my right, all topped with white, white snow. It was silent, the storm muffling the sound of traffic you can sometimes hear on the rim trail, the snow a cushion under my feet. It was cold, but not bitterly, and my jacket and gloves were enough. 20190523_102131 snowy bryce 6x8

Then, about half a mile before the turn into the canyon, the snow abruptly stopped falling. The clouds thinned into white bunches so there were wide expanses of clean blue sky. The snow in the sudden sunlight glimmered, and the addition of blue to the color scheme nature was making was just perfect: orange-pink stone, green trees, blue sky, white snow.

“Beautiful” hardly describes it.

20190523_103918 bryce in snow 6x8

Kendell was hopeful that the trail conditions would be better once we got down off the rim and into the canyon. His hopes were woefully misplaced, however. Unlike on the rim, not much snow had built up on the trail inside the canyon. It was all just sticky mud. More grumbling on his part, but again, I chose to not care about the mud, because really: I was right there. The air was perfectly cool and fresh, utterly clean, and the canyon was dripping, the snow melting off of trees and dropping from the tops of hoodoos, filling the space with a dreamy sort of rhythm. The sun came and went around the clouds, and when I trailed my fingers against the canyon walls they came back wet.

The descent into the canyon here is fairly gentle, the trail winding around the cliffs and spires. At the bottom, you get to hike through trees again, the twisted forms that heat and drought and wind make a sort of echoing repetition of the shapes of the stones. A few purple wildflowers were blooming, and the usually-dry places were like tiny little meadows, lush for a moment with the plants that grow so quickly when the desert gets water. After a while, you come to a wash that clearly sometimes has water in it, but which I’ve never witnessed. This was my fifth time hiking this trail, but the redundancy hardly mattered because when we got to the wash we discovered not just the evidence of water, but actual water, rushing down it. We got to cross the wash several times and had to pick our way through the water with rocks and balance, trying to keep our feet dry.

At one spot, as I was crossing the water again, I stopped and just listened. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I heard a…a waterfall? In Bryce Canyon? So instead of finding the trail, I walked along the side of the wash, following the sound, until I found it. A very small waterfall, yes, but, in fact: a waterfall. In Bryce!

20190523_120508 bryce canyon waterfall amy 6x8

I know I’m prone to over exaggeration. Of gushing about the beauty of nature. But that moment of finding the little waterfall was one of my life’s most magical. The sun was glimmering on the moisture still in the air, little yellow flowers waved in the breeze, and the water gurgled over stone that when wet turns from orange to a glowing, deep pink. Words like “beautiful” or “amazing” or “unforgettable” can’t quite capture that feeling of a dry place suddenly given water.

Maybe “joy” is the right word. Not mine, mind you, but the canyon’s. It was joyful with all that water.

When we were on the uphill part of the trail, hiking out of the canyon, we met a park ranger who was hiking down. She talked to us for a minute, asking if this was our first time at Bryce. I said “this is my fifth time hiking this trail and I don’t think I have ever loved it quite so much as with the snow.”

“I’ve probably hiked this trail fifty times,” she said, “and I think you are right. The snow and the water make it magical.”

And so, while I haven’t seen all of the world, Bryce Canyon continues to be my favorite place on this globe we call home.

20190523_131959 bryce canyon amy


Beauty in Utah

Usually I go hiking because I love being in the mountains, out on the trail with the vistas and the trees and the wind and the cliffs. That it is exercise is the secondary bonus.

Sometimes, though, I hike just for the exercise. I am grateful I live fairly close to a steep trail so I can do this, because I love the sustained effort of hiking uphill as fast as I can, without the distraction of beauty to slow my efforts.

Because, yeah: the trail to the Y is not a truly beautiful trail. The trail itself is wide, with dry, grey dirt and gravel. It works its way steeply up the west-facing side of the mountain, and in Utah the west side of any mountain is the dry side. So there’s some grass, and some scrub oak, and 13 sharp switchbacks to get to the Y painted on the mountain. It’s also a very popular trail; many people hike it for the same reason I do—sheer uphill stamina—but there are also young couples making their way up the hill, and moms with young kids (who are either crying or running effortlessly), and groups of BYU students (especially in August and September, as hiking the Y must be some sort of requirement for them).

It’s not really an encounter with nature.

Except, I’ve lived in Utah all my life. I’ve heard every variation of “Utah is so ugly” that you can imagine. It’s dry, it’s brown, there’s a severe lack of towering pine trees and shaded meadows. Yes, yes, I know.

But if you look, there is beauty to be found. Even on the Y trail.

This will grow less true as summer continues, and all the greenery that’s just burgeoning right now—fed by all the snow we had this winter—dries and browns. But even on the hottest day in the middle of July, beauty is there if you watch for it.

It’s in the shape of the cliffs—look up, look up!—and the inviting shadows of the canyon to the south. It’s in tiny wildflowers crowding the edges of the trails. It’s also in the spaces defined by the switchbacks, little triangular patches of meadow where, if you stop and wait quietly when no one else is around to huff and groan, you’ll see squirrels, quail, a rabbit if you’re lucky.

And, here’s a secret: keep going.

Actually, don’t. Just stop at the Y, enjoy the touted view (I love the view up there, but I also don’t, because I know I’m supposed to stand in awe of all the beautiful big houses crowded the hillside but instead I just feel annoyed—and sure, probably jealous—that I don’t have a big beautiful house on a hill), turn around. Whatever you do, don’t keep going.

Leave the lesser-known remainder of the trail to me, OK?

Because if you keep going, you find a narrow trail that swishes through the trees and right along the cliffs. Keep going and you’ll find yourself in that inviting canyon. Yourself, and not many others, or at least not the hordes that hike the Y and then turn around. You’ll find wildflowers and cliffs and a trail that will challenge your lungs while it leads you along soil padded with last year’s leaves. If you’re lucky you might see an elk, or long-horn sheep or, like I did only once, a moose making its way down the canyon wall on the other side. You’ll wonder if a mountain lion or two is hiding somewhere in the brush.

And you’ll remember that beauty in Utah is the kind you have to search for. It’s not showy and it’s hard to access. Huffing lungs and a pounding heart, strong quads and flexible calves are required. But it is always worth the climb.


Week In the Life, Day 1

(I’ve slipped a little bit in my blogging. This is because there is a blog post my spirit wants me to write but which I’m not sure I should share. It’s raw and revealing and might make me look weak and foolish. Usually when this happens I just stop blogging until that feeling passes, or I just write it in my journal. But it also feels important so I’m going to write it and ponder. Instead, I decided at the very last minute to jump in on A Week in the Life. Not doing it on Instagram like all the cool kids, or at least not very much.)

Sunday, May 5, 2019:

This morning I slept in. I’ve been fighting a headache off and on all week, and on Friday afternoon I started itching like crazy. So Friday night I took two Tylenol PM (I know, I’m a heavyweight). The itching stopped but holy cow. It takes me so long to get the Benadryl out of my system. Thus the lovely sleeping in this morning!

After slathering up with sunscreen (I got so burned when we hiked last weekend) Kendell and I hit the trail. We first wanted to hike to the overlook we hiked to on Christmas weekend, but when we got to the turn off, we both felt great so we kept going. Thanks to Strava, we figured out a route to do a loop we’ve never done before, and I finally, finally made it to The Rock Pile! The rock pile 2019 05 05

I’ve seen this spot about a million times on the Instagram feeds of local trail runners and bikers. I could see it on a trail map, but I wasn’t 100% sure how to get there. But today, once we went about a mile further on this trail than we ever have, we got a little bit turned around. I wasn’t sure if we should keep going or just go back the way we’d come, so I zoomed in on the map, and there it was: The Rock Pile on a route I could understand.

I’m not going to explain how we got there, because it felt so fortuitous that it almost feels like a secret. (Even though a billion people probably know how to get there.) (And even though there are like five or six different ways to get there.) We wandered through just-blooming trees on trails that were still covered with last year’s maple leaves, down valleys and up ravines, through narrow meadows just starting to flush with wildflowers. A few deer bounded across the trail. (It was like a magical fantasy fairyland loop of a hiking trail. Plus I finally bought some more pink lemonade Zipp Fizz which is my favorite flavor and I’ve been out. It’s like a sour, pink fizzy little bit of icy-cold nirvana.) (Icy cold because yes: I carried up some ice in my Hydroflask.)

I mean, I’ve asked friends before, and they’ve all be vague. Even the hiking group I belong to on Facebook hasn’t ever posted instructions.

So maybe the first secret of The Rock Pile is to never tell anyone how to find The Rock Pile. Orem foothills timp behind me 2019 05 05

Go exploring!

After The Rock Pile, we had about three miles left to get back to the car. These miles were also magical: Another meadow, where three deer were eating until I startled them and they bounded into the trees. Higher up, as we were climbing up to the shoulder of the ridge, there were more deer in the trees, always in groups of three. Can you see the deer

(Can you see the deer?)

And then, when we got to the other side of the ridge, we discovered that a huge storm was blowing up over the lake. Behind us, to the east, blue, placid skies over Cascade; in front of us, grey squalls and the rain already falling on the far shore. The wind kicked up and a little bit of rain started to fall. Which maybe seems miserable but it wasn’t. It was just enough to cool us off.

The only thing that made this hike not perfect was this: I forgot my hiking poles. And just a little bit less than two miles away from the car, we hit the steep spot. About a half mile of sheer, rocky, dirty steep trail. When I hiked up it I thought “this is going to be hard to come down” and I was right. I haven’t hiked without my hiking poles since I injured my knee back in August, and while I am OK on gradual steepness without poles, I am not, I learned today, OK on steep-steep steepness. It was like being shocked on the side of my knee. I was so glad I had my knee compression sleeve in my pack. It helped me get down off the mountain.

But I won’t forget my poles again!

As we drove home we talked about how hungry we were, and what sounded good for dinner. I decided I wanted to try a new recipe, which means I needed some hamburger, so, yes: not only did I hike on Sunday, I ran into the grocery store. Which I only mention because I loved the cashier. She said “I need to tell you something that might sound weird, but I think you look beautiful,” and I said, “oh, ummm, wow, I look hot and sweaty” and she said “you look like you’ve been out running and you just look so happy” and instead of rejecting her compliment I said “Oh, thank you, I really appreciate that!” And I wanted to remember that because it felt like a moment of grace.

For dinner I made this chili mac soup from my friend Red Molly’s old blog. I loved it, Kendell and Kaleb not so much.

Kaleb came and talked to me for awhile after dinner. I like him so much right now. Once I can dig him out a little bit, he tells me the best things. I mean…I want to gush and say how cute he is, and how cute his strong calves are, and how cute his tallness is, but I just keep it to myself because I know it would annoy him, and I just want him to keep talking to me.

Tonight, that storm that was building over the lake finally broke. It poured. So, in keeping with my “savor spring” goal, I went into my crafty room, opened the window and the blinds, and worked on my cutting project while I listened to the rain. Kendell was a bit annoyed with that, as he thinks that “rain listening” is kind of a waste of time. But, really: rain is my favorite, and this spring aside, we don’t get a lot of rain in Utah. So when it falls, I always appreciate it.

And that, friends, is my first day of A Week in the Life.

My goal tomorrow: Take some pictures!

Are you doing WITL? Link me up if you are, I’d love to read it!


My Hiking Mantra or, A Story about Hike #14

In the woods, we return to reason and faith. There I feel that nothing can befall me in life—no disgrace, no calamity which nature cannot repair. ~Emerson

I belong to a local hiking group on Facebook, and I love it because other people’s posts give me clues as to what’s happening in the mountains around me. Someone posted about how beautiful Rock Canyon is right now, the small river (usually completely dry) running loud with snowmelt, so I decided, totally on the spur of the moment, to hike it yesterday afternoon. Kendell’s schedule was clear so he went with me.

Rock Canyon is a trail I’ve hiked at least twenty times in my life. It’s really the perfect beginning hike, over bridges, up mountains, with two amazing viewpoints, but without being incredibly steep. It is, in fact, the trail that introduced me to hiking in the first place. It’s strange to think, because I have always loved the mountains, but the first time I really hiked was in 1999, when I was 27 and pregnant with Nathan. My brother-in-law suggested we all get together on Labor Day and go for a hike, and I was like “I’m not sure I can hike as a pregnant person!” so I asked my doctor, and he said “yes, hiking is fine” and so I hiked. My mother-in-law Beth didn’t end up hiking very far, so she kept the kids with her while Kendell, Jeff, and I finished the trail. (Why didn’t I take any pictures?) It would still be years later before I started hiking with any regularity—I had a baby and then three little kids; Kendell’s hip condition made hiking hard for him, and then unemployment hit our family hard;  then I was teaching, and then I had Kaleb.

(Incidentally, the Rock Canyon trail was the first trail I took Kaleb on, in his baby backpack when he was about four months old.) IMG_5864

(You can tell I was a novice hiker because I hiked in jeans.)

Mostly, though, I just hadn’t caught the vision that a person can hike. Not for a special occasion, not with a big group. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You just put on your wool socks and your boots, put some water in your pack, pick a trail, and go.

I thought about the differences between myself on my first hike and myself on that trail again, on my…I don’t even know. 100th hike?

I remembered how, when I was a little girl, I would sit in our backyard on the comfy reclining chair and look up at the mountains around me, and imagine myself up there. I didn’t know how you got there, although every once in a while we’d drive up the canyon. I didn’t know about trails and altitude gain and topo maps. I just imagined being high on the cliffs, looking out, and I imagined meadows full of flowers with wild creatures wandering through.

Figuring out how to be a hiker is one of my life’s best things, because hiking has made my life better in immeasurable ways.

I got to hike through the canyon when it was loud with roaring water; I got to cross all five bridges when water was flowing underneath them. I didn’t expect to see many flowers. I didn’t expect to see any, honestly. But as we got higher up, past the bridges and the waterfall and the Squaw Peak turnoff, there were a few here and there, and then at my favorite overlook spot, yards and yards of yellow glacier lilies, blooming under the still-naked scrub oak. Rock canyon provo peak overlook with flowers

Kendell is used to me getting excited about flowers. He doesn’t understand it, but he at least isn’t surprised by it. I love flowers in any situation, but somehow wildflowers in the mountains are my favorite. No one plants them, no one weeds or fertilizes them, no one deadheads them or waters them or prunes them. Technically, no one even talks to them (although, you know I did) but, yet: there they are. Blooming under the trees.

They are magical.

So even though my husband was rolling his eyes a little bit, I spent some time with the flowers. It is something to experience—this little yellow flower, one of the very first to bloom in the west, which Merriweather Lewis also loved. You have to be lucky to hike a trail at just the right time, especially in Utah where our winters range so dramatically in their water content. All of the snow we got this year has made the mountains vibrant this spring. So I just stood in the flowers, careful not to step on any. I examined them as closely as my knees would let me. I thought about that child I used to be, who wanted to stand in high places among flowers, and I sent her a message through time: you will. Yellow glacier lilies

I decided that my hiking mantra is

“go steep for ecstatic wildflower experiences.”

We continued hiking up the trail—up and down, as the rest of it rolls south east in hills and across beckoning little valleys. The glacier lilies continued here and there, and the snow was still there, not deep, very slushy. We made it to our destination, which is a campground (you can also get to this campground via the boring route, which involves driving, but why drive when you can hike?), sat down to take our packs off, and ate a snack. (Our usual beverage, which is a Zip Fizz, but not our usual nutrition. Actually, it wasn’t nutritious at all, but instead of eating nuts or beef jerky, we shared a sugar cookie from a local bakery. Delicious.)

The second I stopped moving, I started shivering. This is almost always my response at the turn-around point of any hike, even on a hot summer day. (I also shiver after finishing a run, until I get my damp clothes off and get into a hot shower. Even in July.) So I dug into my pack, hoping I was prepared, and yes, I was: I had a long sleeve to put on. Even better, a long sleeve with thumb holes. Top of rock canyon with snow

Kendell was also shivering. He warmed up OK as soon as we started moving again, but I kept my long sleeve on for the rest of the hike. While I went, I decided that’s not my only hiking mantra. Equally important:

“Hike expansively, and always carry a long sleeve.”

I loved the idea of my hiking mantras. I decided I will watch for more of them, as the summer comes and we hike through it. Maybe I will discover they are as plentiful as rocks in Rock Canyon; maybe they will be as fleeting as the glacier lilies. But I will watch for them, and pick them up to bring them home with me when I find them.


Tips for Beginning Hikers Part 1

This weekend I was chatting with my neighbor Blanche. She mentioned that she’s always wanted to hike to Lake Blanche because, well, coolest name ever, right? But she said she wasn’t sure where to start with hiking, as it’s not something she’d ever loved doing. Still…Lake Blanche! It looks so beautiful. I’ve never hiked it either, but now I’ve got to do it, even if my neighbor does.

When I was hiking with Kendell this weekend, I was thinking about that conversation, and how overwhelming it probably seems, to try to start hiking. How do you pick your trails? How do you know what to wear, what to eat, how long to go, what gear you need?

What I told my neighbor was this: just start. Start hiking and then keep hiking.

07 July (2)

Of course, it’s more complicated than that.

So while I was hiking (we did almost 7 miles today, after planning on just doing 4ish; it was just too beautiful to stop), I thought about how someone could become a hiker. The only expertise I bring to this question is my own experiences, so take this advice for what it’s worth. But here are my suggestions for becoming a hiker.

  1. Pick a goal hike. This can be whatever you want, but try to choose something that is six miles or longer, so you’ll have a good challenge. Pick something that inspires you, for whatever reason. The highest peak in your county, a mountain you’ve always loved. A lake with your name! (I would like to hike to Lake Blanche because it’s beautiful, but also because a little bit higher up is a lake called Florence, which was my grandma’s name, so I’ve always wanted to see it.)
  2. Set a date for your goal hike. I’d say to give yourself about four months, but this also depends on your current level of fitness. If you’re already exercising in different ways, you could do it sooner. Write the date on your calendar, take the day off work, commit to the date and the hike. 20170802_104341
  3. Pick a day of the week that will be your hiking day. Every week, you will hike on that day, so make it a day that you will be able to remain consistent with.
  4. Start flat. This will require a little bit of research. You can use Summit Post (a website with tons of details about many hikes all over the world), All Trails (an awesome hiking map app for your phone), or just start Googling. Check your library to see if there is a book there about hikes in your area (they’ll be somewhere in 796 probably). See if you can find a hiking group on Facebook. Talk to the people who work at your local REI or other sporting goods store. Your goal is to find hikes that are fairly close to you, close enough that you can drive to the trailhead, hike the trail, and drive home, all in one day—but also hikes without a ton of elevation gain. Even if you just find one or two trails that meet this criteria, it’s OK. Flatish trails, anywhere from 3-5 miles long. (I think I will write another blog post with recommendations near me for beginning trails.)
  5. HIKE! On your designated hiking day, drive to the trailhead. And hike. What if the weather is bad? Sometimes I hike in the rain. Sometimes I just wait until the next day. Sometimes I cut the hike short. Sometimes I do a brisk walk on a paved trail that is lower than the bad weather. Missing a long hike now and then will not derail your plans though. If you miss a day, go the next day, or if you can’t, just miss that long hike and start again the next week. Don’t give up! 11 November K
  6. Be patient with yourself. Even if you do other forms of exercise, hiking is different. It works different muscles in different ways. Use these flatter hikes to start learning about how your body responds to hiking. You might have to adjust gear (also another post) and nutrition (something else to write about!) as you gain more experience. Your body will learn how to hike only if you take it outside and hike!

Hike your flatish trails once a week for four weeks. On the days you’re not hiking, do your usual exercising. (If you are starting totally from scratch, try biking, walking, or swimming for the days you’re not hiking.)

  1. Add some altitude. Again—this will take research. Locate a trail near you that is steep but short. The trail I use for this in my area is the Y trail. It gains 1100 feet of elevation in a little bit more than a mile. Think of this hike as your exercise hike. It doesn’t have to be pretty because the point of this hike isn’t scenic overlooks or amazing vistas. It’s just to get your lungs into the habit of pushing through being breathless. Choose a different day, one that’s not right before or right after your long hike day—I do my exercise hike on Wednesdays—and, again: commit. Yep, you’ll now be hiking two days a week, but this exercise hike doesn’t have to be hours and hours. Take it slow the first time, and as the weeks progress, try to push the speed a little bit.

Hike your flatish trails on your long hike day and your steep hike on your exercise hike day for four weeks. Continue with your other forms of exercise.

  1. Combine! Find some steeper hikes for your long hike day. Keep doing the exercise hike, but on the long hike, get some altitude. Give yourself permission to take the entire day on your long hike, so you could drive further to different trails. Research your area and explore. If you go on a trip during this time, find a hike in the place you’re traveling to. Find some friends who also hike and do a friend hike. Enjoy this part of the training! Your body will be getting stronger and hiking will be a little bit easier. This is why you hike in the first place, you’ll learn. Not really for that goal hike, but for the weekly exposure to beauty and cliffs and tired quads and pushing through. Try to find a few trails that are similar either in length or altitude to your goal hike just to give yourself an idea of what you might experience. 20170811_170202
  2. Continue with consistency. Two hikes a week, one long, one for exercise. Continue with your other forms of exercise. This is important because A—two days of hiking a week won’t be enough to get you in tough enough shape for that goal hike and B—your body needs variety. Your muscles need to be used in different ways. Consider some strength training, if you don’t already do any.
  3. Complete your goal hike! Take lots of pictures! Have a great time!

Now, here’s the most important step:

  1. DON’T STOP. Keep hiking! Grove creek 4x6

Every Day is a Gift

Timehop and Facebook keep reminding me of something: three years ago was the week that Kendell had his cardiac arrest. I usually like looking back on memories, but this one…this one I don’t want to remember. Kendell has processed enough (or he just never remembered) that he can joke about it. But I can’t. That was a terrifying, difficult experience, and whenever I remember that early morning—waking to that sound he was making, the way he looked at me and then, even though his eyes were open, he wasn’t looking anymore. My hysterical laughter when the EMTs dashed out the front door carrying him on a stretcher. The days of not knowing. Even when it seemed like he would be OK, it was still terrifying and difficult.

Whenever I do have to tell the story, I acknowledge in my head all of the times any medical person who’s heard the story looks at me astounded. I’ve even had doctors and nurses assume I was exaggerating, because most people really don’t survive an episode of v-fib. And if they do, they usually have some sort of hypoxic brain injury.

But Kendell is OK.

So whenever I tell the story, or when something reminds me of that experience, I wonder: why is he still here?

“He must have something amazing he still needs to do,” people have told me many times.

But today I was reminded that maybe not. Or maybe just reminded of what “something amazing” really means.

We went hiking together this afternoon, after he had an yearly check-up with his heart surgeon. Desolation trail overlook hiking boots
Everything seems fine, so we celebrated with a lovely five miles in Mill Creek canyon. Spring hiking is still snowy hiking, but old, melting snow is an entirely different experience. It’s soft and slushy, a little bit like hiking through a Slurpee. (But, of course, without the cherry flavoring.) Sometimes the snow on the trail was like a shark fin, sometimes it was like walking along a balance beam made out of snow-cement.

It was OK hiking up, but when we were hiking down, I was a little bit nervous. I’m still ginger going downhill anyway (I think I probably always will be, now), but the spots of the trail that were slick ice were a little bit scary.

Kendell hiked in front of me on the way down, and whenever he got to a slippery spot, he’d wait for me, and then offer me a hand down.

I didn’t ask him for help. He just knew I’d be a little bit anxious about slipping, so he made sure to help me.

I thought about his heart surgeon, just an hour earlier telling us that he is doing OK. And those memories popping up in Facebook. And the way, if I am honest, I still am terrified. I sometimes wake up at night, still, and just make sure he is breathing.

And I don’t think there is anything more amazing or extraordinary than today. A random Monday at the end of winter. A beautiful spring afternoon, 70 degrees with a blue sky and a light wind. Sitting on a cliff eating cashews together. His hand and his strength helping me to be safe.

Heroic deeds or extraordinary success: those might seem the reasons he’s still alive. He might still have that kind of work to do, I don’t know.

I don’t actually really even care. What I care about is that he’s here, that we have more days together, for however long. No one’s days are guaranteed anyway. We can only savor. We can only love each other in the best ways we know how.