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.


2019 Second Quarter Goals

Tomorrow is April first.

That just blows me away….it seems like it was just Christmas, and here we are, already one-quarter through 2019.

It seems like a good time to check in with my goals and to establish some new ones.

What I accomplished:

Hiking. In January I set the goal to hike 3 times per month. I barely fit it in, as I did my third March hike today, but I’m happy to say I accomplished this goal. One of the hikes was in a national park I’ve never been to, Congaree in South Carolina. One of my favorite hikes was the day we hiked Squaw Peak. This is a hike Kendell and I have done together many times, but it was our first time doing it in the snow and it was fairly amazing. Easier in some ways, harder in others. This was my first winter of hiking consistently and I am so happy to have discovered snow hiking.

Winter hiking

Running. I intended on trying to run three times a week, but I didn’t accomplish this goal.  Partly this is because this part of 2019 was so full of difficult things: my mom’s last illness, death, and funeral, and then the long process of going through her things. Partly it’s because I was lazy. Partly it is because I’m still figuring out my new limitations with my knees. But, I did get in at least one run every week, and several weeks had two, and a couple of weeks had three. And I’ve slowly upped my mileage, by about 3-4 miles per week on average. So, while not perfect, at least I pressed on.

Running on the prt march 2019

Writing. I started the year with a goal of writing more poetry with one of my writer friends. I wanted to write a new poem every three weeks or so, and to polish and perfect what I wrote. I wrote one and a half poems. Which is a little bit dismal, but is more than I wrote in all of 2018, so it’s a start. Again…it was a difficult three months, so I’m not going to berate myself here. Also, I was happy with the talk I wrote for my mom’s funeral. A few blog posts. Not enough writing, but I am glad I managed a little.

Reading. Here’s another ball I dropped. I intended on reading one poem a day from a print source. I went in spurts with this but never got consistent. I'm not sure why, as I read some beautiful, amazing, moving, funny, intelligent poems. I also get several poem-a-day emails, so I did still read a lot of poetry. But the "from a print source" is an important part of the goal. I interact more with a printed book than an email, especially as for this goal I am reading my own copies (rather than library books), so I can underline and write and respond.

Creativity. I made one scrapbook layout and one baby quilt. Hmmmmm...

Baby rag quilt folded

There was one goal that I failed at spectacularly. I wanted to exercise every day that Nathan was at boot camp. Not run every day, but do something. I made it five days...and then I got a cold. Three more days, then my knees were hurting. A few more, then my mom got sick. I REALLY wanted to be brave & strong for him, and out of all my goals, not accomplishing this one is the one I am most annoyed at myself for not completing.

Goals for the upcoming quarter:

Hiking. Continue with three hikes a month. This might have to be on the same trail for awhile, the rockiest one, as the trails are super muddy right now. I’m looking forward to the wildflowers starting to bloom!

Running. I am going to very carefully train for a half marathon. We’ll see how it goes, and if I have to bump down to a 10k, that will have to be OK. But I need a race to train for to keep me motivated. I also think I need to work on some of my emotions about running. I need to accept that I will likely never be able to just run, but will always have to take walking breaks. In theory I know this doesn’t make me weak, or less of a runner, but in my heart I feel like I am less of a runner. For my sanity I need to figure out how to embrace this new reality.

Writing. Two words: WRITE MORE. Also recommit to my poetry-writing friend. And apologize for being such a flake.

Reading. Take up my poem-a-day goal again. And be more devoted to books, by which I mean: leave my phone in another room when I am reading, so I don't get distracted. I only read two books a month during the first part of the year, so my reading goal is to bump it up to three a month.

Creativity. I think this fell by the side because I spent so much time working on my mom’s house. One of the biggest parts of that project was working through all of her fabric. She had so much. I took enough of her fabric to make a quilt or two. Her style was very different from mine, but I think what I will make will be a good blend of her and me. I’m excited to make it. But I also have a quilt to make for Jake and one for Kaleb, and there are FIVE upcoming babies to quilt for. So for a little while, I think scrapbooking might not happen as much. I still want to make more than just ONE layout in three months though! So, the goals: finish Jake’s quilt, Kaleb’s quilt, and the baby quilts. Spend one afternoon a week making scrapbook layouts, including printing the pictures from Christmas and our trip to South Carolina. And take more pictures!

A bonus goal: I have spent way too much money lately. Online shopping has been a sort of comfort to me. Which is dumb, of course. Especially when I think about the excess stuff at my mom’s house we had to get rid of. I don’t need anything. But there is just something about getting a package in the mail. It brightens my heart when I see something waiting for me. Scrapbook supplies, books, workout clothes, fabric. So I am setting myself the goal of NOT SHOPPING. And of using the stuff I’ve bought: make the quilts, use some pretty paper, and keep running and hiking in my beautiful new Skirt Sports skirts. HOWEVER!!! If you want to keep shopping, you should use my discount code at www.skirtsports.com, because a deal AND a package on your porch is pretty awesome. The code is SSA57Amy for 15% off regular prices.

One More bonus goal: next to fall, spring is my favorite. It’s just so beautiful. So my last goal for the next three months is to savor spring. The flowers, the gardening, the return of warm sunshine. This means sitting outside to read, and talking to my trees, and keeping the blinds open and my heart wide. My mom was always happy when winter ended and spring came back, and I’m sad she didn’t get to see yellow daffodils one more time, or sit on the grass next to blooming purple hyacinths just to smell them. So I’m going to do that since she can’t.

Do you have any upcoming goals?


An Ode to Winter Hiking

One early morning late this fall, a Saturday, Kendell, Jake, and I decided to take a hike. It was a grey day, threatening to drizzle, and a little bit cold. And we almost never hike on Saturday (as there are just too many people and dogs on the trails on Saturdays). But we went.

Snow hiking 01

The valley was dry, and no snow had fallen there yet. We didn’t know it had fallen overnight in the mountains. But as we hiked up the canyon, we started seeing it: a little skiff of snow, just on the edges of the trail. Then more on the cold side of boulders and, as we got higher, more snow. Beginning to fill in the meadows, to weigh down the trees, to cover the trail. Not yet deep, no more than five or six inches at the highest elevation. But snow.

I’ve snowshoed before. I’ve attempted downhill skiing (not my finest experiences). I’ve hiked muddy trails, wet trails, trails in a downpour. Even, a few times, trails that were almost streams as the spring melt used the hiking path as a way down the mountain.

But I’d never hiked it snow before.

And I fell in love with it. The way the snow silences the voices of the stones on the trail, so your feet are hushed. The way the familiar trail is transformed, made into a place at once familiar and unknown. My breath in the cold air.

Since that first accidental snow hike, Kendell and I (and sometimes Jake, too) have taken up snow hiking. We’ve gotten equipment, spikes and gaiters and better gloves. Kendell actually bought a pair of exercise tights. And another pair. And some warm long sleeves. At least once a week, through the end of fall and right into winter, we’ve hiked. Depending on the weather, sometimes there has been snow, and sometimes just mud and damp.

20181125_134621

But winter hiking has become something we both love. My only regret is that I didn’t discover it sooner. All of those winters I stayed home in the warm house while the snow was making the world into a new place!

Last weekend, we hiked in the afternoon on snow that had fallen that morning. The freshest snow you can find. Pure, fluffy powder, marked only by a few sled trails and boot prints. There wasn’t any color there, as even the pine trees were covered in white, and the sky was still grey; even the water in the creek gathered into silent black pools. Everything was quiet, even my feet in the deep snow. It was like moving through a black-and-white movie, and it was deeply peaceful, almost holy.

This weekend, when we hiked the same trail, some of the trees had shed their snow, so there was some color again, pine green, and a few nightshade berries here and there, and that sky! A bright blue sky, and when we got out of the shade of the deepest canyon, the sunlight made diamonds on the snow. It was icier, less powder, and crystals lay on the top of the open, unbroken snow expanses. The snow under my boots squeaked, and my hiking poles in the piles made a sound like a hawk’s cry.

I thought, as I hiked, of the other snowy trails we’ve done so far this winter, and I realized: every single one has felt different. Even when we were on the same trail. The color of the light, the texture of the snow, the temperature, the wind. The shapes the snow made, the sounds our feet made.

At my favorite part of this trail, which comes when there is only about a half mile left, you hike up along a ridge that first gives you a view down the whole canyon you’ve hiked so far, with an inverted triangle of cliffs framing a part of the valley below. Then, a bit further on, you come to an overlook, which gives a view of the next valley, which has no trail in it. Across it there is a ravine where water sometimes flows. Not quite steep enough to be called a waterfall, but usually loud enough that the sound of water fills your ears as your breath slows.

Snow hiking 02

I’ve stood at that overlook perhaps twenty times in my life (as this is a trail we’ve hiked often). It is one of my favorite places in the world. This time was my first time of seeing the peak across the valley entirely covered in heavy snow, while the creek still ran down the ravine with its happy voice. I thought about my mom—back in the hospital this weekend—and how she’s never seen this place, and never will. About a friend whose handicapped son couldn’t reach that peak on his own. About the friends I have who aren’t hikers and don’t understand why I love it. About my own knees, which someday might keep me from tramping in the woods. About global climate change and my descendants in the future: will they even have snow? Or mountains filled with pine trees and naked oak and aspens still deeply sleeping in coldness?

Every moment of life is a gift.

But the moments of standing on mountains, looking at beautiful landscapes I have brought myself to with sweat and aching quads and quivering glutes: these moments are some of my favorites. I love them in autumn and summer and spring, and I am feeling blessed to have discovered they are also here for me in winter.


2018: My Year in Skirt Sports

In February of 2018, I got to sign up for another year as a Skirt Sports ambassador. I love these exercise clothes and I love that I have gotten to become a part of this community. Sure…it’s about cute running skirts and comfy tights (with pockets!) but it is also about embracing yourself as you are while you challenge yourself. I’ve made some online friendships I cherish and felt like I had people who understand me.

Plus I got to wear some really cute stuff!

To celebrate, here is my year in review, Skirt-Sports style:

01 snowshoeing at big springs

2018 was a SUPER dry year, with almost no snow here in Utah. The day before Kendell's knee surgery in February, though, we finally got some! I insisted on getting to the snowshoeing paths, as I suspected that day would be my only chance, and I was right. It was a perfect few hours to relax and regenerate before facing those post-surgery nursing duties I just really, really love.

Skirt: Happy Girl in Persevere (over tights)

02 gardening

In 2017 I sort of neglected my flowers. So I made a really big effort this year to garden. Between weeding, planting, pruning, mowing the lawn, trimming, raking, I kept my yard looking so much better this year! Most days I would go running and then garden, so I mostly worked in my exercise clothes. 

Skirt: Hover Capri in Holiday, Peek-a-Boo long sleeve in Blue Ice

05 spring hiking

Spring hiking! Kendell and I hit the trails a lot this year. We hiked together 31 times in 2018. That's a record! This is at the top of Brush Mountain (Battle Creek Overlook) in May. The wildflowers were so pretty! Funny story about this hike: when I got to the top of the peak (I usually hike up in front and then Kendell hikes in front on the way down, as I'm faster uphill and he's faster down), there was a guy up there. Youngish—mid twenties probably—dressed entirely in camo and holding his camo-patterned rifle, in front of a fire he'd built.  He scared the crap out of me! So, to show I wasn't scared, I said "hey, did you roast me any marshmallows?" and then made small talk until Kendell caught up. I'm not usually squirrly about being on my own...but that one made me uncomfortable. 

Skirt: Black Go Longer and a vintage Free Me tank (I think the print is called Alta Moda)

04 recuperating

After coming down with two really rough colds in a row, a painful sinus infection, and then a weird stomach thing that lingered for a week, I got something even worse: whooping cough. I learned many things from the 100-Day Cough (as they call it in Asia; mine actually lasted for 4 months), but one of them was to appreciate normal lungs and healthy breathing. This was the first hike I took once I was sort-of feeling better, and it was only barely a hike...two miles at a very slow pace so I didn't star coughing. But I was so happy to be outside again, after lying around for literally TWO WEEKS. Get your DtAP booster peeps! 

Skirt: Gym Girl Ultra in a limited-edition print

06 boulder mountains

Despite the whooping cough, I still went to the Skirt Sports ambassador retreat and half marathon. It was my slowest-ever half marathon, but I didn't care because I only had two goals: 1. Finish and 2. Not cough my head off in front of everyone. I accomplished both! This was from a hike I took the day before the race, in the Flatiron mountains near Boulder. Such pretty cliffs!

Skirt: Happy Girl in one of my very favorite prints, Sidewinder, with a Free Me tank in Amethyst (one of my favorite colors Skirt ever had!) Yay purple!

08 half moon all summer

I set a goal to get as many photos as possible of me in this yoga pose. It's my favorite post-hike stretch (and post-run, too). This is overlooking the north peak of Timp, from the Pine Hollow trailhead, after we hiked a trail that was new to both of us. The National Forest guy was in the parking lot giving tickets and I was SO GLAD I'd remembered our park pass! 

Skirt: The Lotta Breeze skirt in Holiday. This is a new skirt this year and OH MY. It quickly became one of my favorites and I ended up buying it in every pattern they made it in. Peek-a-Book short sleeve shirt in Ice Blue

08a marathon

Finishing the San Francisco marathon. Because of the whooping cough this was also my slowest marathon. My goals for this one: 1. finish and 2. finish before the sweep trucks. I beat them by 14 minutes!

Skirt:  My very favorite purchase this year, the Jaguar in Temper Tantrum (although, you can't really see it because of my long sleeve around my waist!), and the Free Flow tank in Aquamarine.

11a bryce canyon

The week after my marathon, I went to southern Utah with two of my friends, Jamie and Wendy. I convinced them to hike the Fairyland Loop trail with me in Bryce. By the time we were almost finished they really weren't very happy with me (the thing with hiking in Bryce is that all trails end with a steep uphill out of the canyon), but they have since forgiven me. Bryce is one of my favorite places in the world, so experiencing it with two great friends was just magical for me!

Skirt: black Go Longer, and, oh, hello, Amethyst Free Me tank again!  

09 hike with nathan

Hiking with Nathan! I decided on this hike that his trail name is Legolas, because MAN those legs move fast! He is a good conversationalist so we talked the whole way up to this peak (Buffalo Peak). I don't understand hiking in Chacos (I'd come home with a bunch of bloody toes) but they work for him.

Skirt: Lotta Breeze again (told you I love it!) and a Free Me tank in Cosmo pink.

10 first 14er mount evans

Me on top of my first 14er! It felt like cheating as we drove to the top of Mount Evans in Colorado, via the scenic byway that is the highest paved road in the United States. This was one of my favorite experiences this year, even though it did trigger quite a bit of coughing. I'd never really been that high above the tree line and I am grateful I got to experience it. 

Skirt: Lotta Breeze Capri in Ruby and the Wonder Wool jacket

11 glass pond rmnp

Hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park. This is Glass Pond (NOT Sky Pond like we thought, alas) and the last photo of me before the precipitous knee crackle. You can't tell from the photo but it was hailing (despite the sunshine) and so cold. But also so beautiful. "Go back to RMNP" is high on my to-do list!)

Skirt:  Happy Girl in Shimmer and that Amethyst Free Me tank again.

12 knee recovery

Recovering from my knee crackle (which was a tear in my femoral condyle) which required a bunch of physical therapy. I wore skirts to every appointment because I realized I no longer own any running shorts!

Skirt: black Gym Girl Ultra and black Hang Out hoodie

13 fall hiking

Last fall I had an ankle I'd sprained twice. The fall before that Kendell needed open-heart surgery. And the fall before that! So, it's been a few years since we consistently hiked in the fall together. Because of my knee injury I couldn't do anything REALLY steep. Except...I did this hike, to Silver Lake in American Fork canyon, which was pretty steep, steeper than I had planned on. But I made it. This was the first hike I did after whooping cough when I felt like I was really starting to get my lungs back. 

Skirt: Tough Girl in Love Triangle and the Tough Chick jacket in Mulberry. I wore this jacket a bunch this fall.

13a hiking with jake

Hiking with Jake! (Next year it is my goal to hike with Kaleb, and maybe with Haley if I can make it happen!) We actually went on three hikes together this year, which resulted in some good, honest conversations and some companionable silence. This one was in Rock Canyon and it was the first time any of us had ever hiked in snow. It was love at first step! 

Skirt: Tough Girl in Temper Tantrum and Watch Me Go in Grape. I've worn the Watch Me Go shirt about 1 million times since I got it, and not always for hiking. Sometimes I just wear it for a regular shirt.

14 winter hiking

See....we really fell in love with hiking in the snow! After that first time, we got a little bit obsessed with it, and started getting some snow gear. Actually, I didn't need much, but Kendell needed tights and long sleeves and gloves and a hat. This hike was a short one we did in Battlecreek Canyon; a few steps after this photo, it got WAY too steep on the slippery, icy trail for us to keep going. The next week we bought the spikes I'd been trying to convince Kendell we also needed.

Skirt: Tough Girl in Enchanted (a vintage print) and black Wonder Wool long sleeve.

As I put this list together I realized...I have a lot of Skirt Sports clothes! They make me happy, they keep me getting out onto the roads and the trails, and they give me a sense of confidence. It's taken me years to accumulate it, but I love my collection. I'm glad for that happy day I found my first Skirt Sports skirt on the clearance rack at my running store, way back in 2010. It has taken me to many places and hopefully 2019 will include many more adventures.

If you want any, the website is HERE. And you can use my discount code for 15% off: 842Sore


Grove Creek Canyon: A Hike Recap

Despite knee surgery (Kendell) and mysterious knee pain (mine) and whooping cough (mine) and marathon training (also mine), Kendell and I have done quite a bit of hiking this spring, summer, and fall. Almost every weekend, we’ve hiked some trail or other, sometimes with Nathan or Jake along. (When my knees were really problematic, Kendell took the boys without me, which was a little bit traumatic for me, especially because without me there they didn’t take many photos!) We’ve repeated several trails more than once, especially after my knee injury, because I was limited to not-very-steep trails, and we live in Utah, where steep trails are the norm.

But this morning, when we decided that it would probably be dry enough to hike, and that we could survive hiking in 30 temps, I couldn’t stand the thought of doing a trail we’d already done two or three times before. Even if it meant some elevation gain, I needed to go somewhere new.

And how cool is it that there are still trails close to us that we haven’t hiked yet?

I took him to Grove Creek, a trail about 10 miles north of where we live, on the west face of Timpanogos. He’d never been on it. I had checked it out earlier this week, when I wanted to just sit by the side of a river somewhere, to listen to running water in the trees and be alone for awhile. That day, I drove to the trailhead and walked up for about ten minutes, found a log by the river (well, really: it’s actually a creek) and sat. But I wasn’t alone for long; a man and his daughter came up the trail just about 15 minutes behind me. He walked right over to where I was sitting and asked me if I’d seen the dead deer. As I hadn’t, he told me his story: earlier that day, he’d been running up the trail, came around a curve, and saw a mountain lion pulling a deer off the trail.

As “seeing a mountain lion in the wild” is high on my list of things I hope to witness while hiking, I was intrigued by this story. He showed me where the cougar had pulled the deer into the weeds. It had eaten the muscle of one of the legs, and what looked like most of the internal organs.

After the guy and his daughter left, I went back to the log by the river and waited, hoping the mountain lion would come back, but it never did. (PS: Yes, I know that is crazy. I just…I want the world to be like it should be. The mountains should have mountain lions eating deer in them.)

That’s when I really decided what our weekend hike would be.

The Grove Creek trail starts at a trailhead in the foothills above Pleasant Grove and heads east into Grove Creek Canyon. It is immediately steep, a dirt road that follows the creek fairly closely. Not very far up this road—no more than 10 minutes—there is a trail on the left. (The road ends shortly after this, at what I assume is a mine shaft; there is a metal door in the mountain, but if you speak friend it doesn’t open.) The steepness continues! Eventually it levels out just a little bit, and then it takes a sharp turn west. This made me a little bit anxious, as I thought I’d missed a turn. Most trails along the Wasatch Front go, in some rambling way, right up the canyon, but this was just my first hint at how different this trail is.

There are two very long switchbacks. You go west for about a half mile, and then south, climbing all the while. This is the steepest trail I’ve done in a little while, so I was huffing pretty hard. Most of the trees have lost all of their leaves, but there were some evergreen bushes here and there, and some vibrant purple plants so there was still some color. You’re still just in a landscape that feels like Utah to me: scrub brush and dryness, with the cliffs on the opposite side of the canyon coming in and out of view as the trail winds and dips.

Eventually, the trail gets to another sharp turn. It turns east—and then you realize just how much you’ve climbed. You find yourself high up on the side of the mountain, on a trail that juts up and down, right along the edge of the cliff. It goes over talus slopes of clattering slate and next to towering basalt cliffs lined with white intrusions. Far down below is the creek in the bottom of the canyon; to your right are steep drops. Kendell, who has some fear of heights, was nervous on the spot. I get a little bit nervous sometimes on trails that cut across steep angles, but for some reason (perhaps just my hiking poles) I wasn’t afraid at all.

20181118_123811 grove creek 4x6

We followed the trail up to a bench that’s perched near the top of a waterfall, marking the spot where all of that climbing pays off. You turn around to sit and the canyon is below you, forming a ragged, inverse triangle that frames a view of the valley. It was hazy when we were up there (my cell phone gave me that “you should clean your lens” message, but it was because of the haze), but on a clear day it would be an even more beautiful view.

The trail keeps going past the bench. It eventually hooks up to the Great Western Trail and Timpanookee Road. You can also loop somewhere and follow the trail down to Battlecreek Canyon. We were running out of time, so we went for about 20 more minutes past the bench.

I think it’s fairly established that I love hiking. I’ve never really hiked a trail I couldn’t find something beautiful on. But this trail—it was beautiful but also just really fun. That long walk along the side of the canyon was invigorating! After the bench, there’s a bridge across the creek, and then the landscape totally changes. You’re now hiking at the base of tall trees, on a trail that’s soft dirt, pine needles, a shifting carpet of browned aspen leaves. We climbed over a huge fallen tree, which looked like it had come down just yesterday; the broken trunk was still bright and you could smell that woody smell. In a deep, shaded section, the trail meets up with the creek again, as it comes down a pine-lined ravine, and at that part it was frozen solid. Someone else had put some pine boughs across the ice, so we crossed it carefully and kept going. The trial crossed the creek a couple of other times. Finally, we got to a marshy meadow that must be beautiful in the summer. We were out of time and had to turn around, even though we didn’t make it all the way to the meadow at the top.

20181118_115939 grove creek 4x8 ice

I loved this trail. It was constantly changing and surprising me. I feel pretty lucky to live so close to so many trails and plan on going back to this one next summer, to see it in green and wildflower colors.


Hike to Sky Pond (sort of) or, The Story of My Knee Crackle

The story of how I messed up my knees in Colorado begins in the redwood forests near San Francisco.

I prefer every trip I take to include a hike of some sort, if possible. (I haven’t managed this yet when we’ve got to New York, but I think if we go again I will make it happen.) So when we went to San Francisco for my marathon, I found a trail for us to hike. I made sure that we hiked a couple of days before the race, to give my body a little time to rest between hiking all day and then running all morning. The trail I chose was Berry Falls in Big Basin State Park. I chose this ten-mile loop hike instead of going to Muir Woods because I wanted a little bit of solitude, and we found it there. We saw only about six or seven other people during our hike, and it was beautiful: not too steep, the perfect distance, three waterfalls, and glades of redwood trees lit by filtered sunlight.

It was perfect.

Big basin hike

Except, once we got back to our hotel in San Francisco, I got out of the car and discovered that something was weird with my knees. They didn’t hurt, really. They just felt…strange. Wobbly and irritated, as if the spaces inside the joint were full of the wrong level of tension. I iced them that night and the next morning, and did some extra quad, hamstring, and popliteus stretches throughout the next day. I also slathered them in Deep Blue. And tried not to be frightened: could I run my race if my knees were weird?

When I woke up the morning of the marathon, they seemed fine. A little stiff, but the strangeness was gone. I ran my race and only thought about my knees a couple of times; it probably didn’t hurt that there were several aid stations with Biofreeze, and I had the volunteers spray both the front and back of my knees.

I didn’t really think about the knee weirdness again. Over the next month, I gave myself some good rest days, and then I started running again. I planned a little weekend get-away for Kendell and me, to dovetail with a trip he had to take to Denver for his job. I walked with friends and I did a few hikes and I started eyeing the possibilities for a late-fall half marathon.

For our trip to Denver, I decided to have some mountain adventures. I went running the first morning we were there, a beautiful little run around Broomfield. Then we hit the road. There was quite a bit of driving on the first two days—we went on the Mount Evans scenic byway (my first 14er!) and drove the whole length of Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park, stopping here and there for the small hikes that are near the road (the Tundra Communities trail was my favorite). And every time I got out of the car to take pictures or to hike, I discovered that my knees had that same feeling I’d had in California: wobbly but stiff, not really painful but just…wrong, somehow.

Our last full day in Colorado was our long hike day. I choose the trail to Sky Pond for several reasons, but mostly because it was the one that the most people recommended. I was especially intrigued after reading this blog post by Kate, one of my fellow Skirt Sports ambassadors. I took a bunch of Advil the morning before we hiked, and had Kendell rub my legs, and then we took the shuttle bus to the trail head.

Trail to sky pond

I love hiking on trails in national parks. They are always beautifully maintained, with steps and bridges and cairns. This trail follows that idea and is absolutely beautiful. It includes a waterfall, the stunning Alberta Falls. One thing I noticed hiking this trail is just how different these mountains feel from mine in Utah. Even though technically the Wasatch Front is a part of the Rocky Mountains (the very furthest western part, in fact), there is a different spirit in each mountain range. I don’t exactly have a word for how it is different; the light, and the air, and the smells. More it is just that each mountain has its own personality, and I confess: I fell pretty hard for those mountains, too. A creek runs beside part of the trail, and there are mansion-sized stones scattered around. Despite the knee worries, we were doing just fine; in fact, if it doesn’t sound too strange, I felt like the mountains were glad I was there and lending me some of their strength.

Alberta falls

The trail is consistently steep but not excruciatingly so. It leads first to Loch Lake, and, wow. If we’d just hiked that far, I would’ve been OK. It was so beautiful. The mountains I usually hike don’t have lakes and ponds like this, and it makes the experience feel entirely different. I wanted to find a spot to dip my feet in (as I did when we hiked Half Dome) but I we wanted to get to our destination first, and then be a little bit more leisurely on the way back.

Past Lock Lake, the trail gets much steeper. There is a long stretch of steps carved into the mountain, and then you get to the spot I had been both dreading and anticipating. To get to the next lake, there is a scramble, a spot where you have to climb rocks. Climb rocks next to a waterfall—not exactly ON the waterfall itself, but close enough that there is still some water coming down the stones.

I’m not afraid of heights. I can stand on the edge of a cliff and feel nothing but exhilaration. But I was a little bit nervous to tackle that scramble. It’s not something I’ve done very often, and I feel like all of this year’s illness has negatively affected my body’s strength. But I wanted to get to Sky Pond, so I put on my Big Girl Pants and started scrambling.

20180826_122201 scramble to sky pond 4x6

Going up was actually really fun. There was one little spot where I felt like my legs weren’t long enough to manage, but Kendell was behind me and he helped heave me up. When we were about halfway up the scramble, though, the weather changed abruptly. It had been a little bit cool but sunny, but then all of a sudden some clouds rushed in and it started to hail. (Look how blue the sky is in that picture...and just after Kendell took it, the clouds came out of nowhere.) I just kept going, though, and finally made it to the top.

To Sky Pond! (Actually, this isn’t even Sky Pond. Because I was overwhelmed with adrenaline or just because I’m an idiot, I didn’t realize that this is Glass Pond. I didn’t realize until we finished hiking and I could look at the map on Strava that we didn’t even go all the way to the pond we set out to see. %#&*(&@^^@*+=_@! This makes me annoyed at myself! But it also is a reason to go back to RMNP.)

View of glass lake

OK, Glass Pond! It was SO COLD. The clouds kept moving across the sun and then pulling back, but the hail didn't stop. We sat on a rock that sheltered us a little bit from the pelting hail, but eventually decided to go back down. When I stood up to go, my knee wobbled…and then I FELL. I fell face-first into the piney bushes I had been sitting by. I caught myself and didn’t bang anything, just scratched my hands and my face, but somehow, somehow…that fall made me freak out. Maybe because I was thinking about that spot on the scramble where my legs had been too short. How would I get down that spot? And the wind kept blowing and the hail was biting my skin and I just said “OK! LET’S GO NOW!” so we headed back toward the cliffs.

I was really in full-blown panic when I started scrambling down. My breaths were raspy and my heart was pounding, my hands shaking. There were probably 15 people also going down, so I waited in the line (and this, of course, is the drawback of hiking in a national park: it’s beautiful, but don’t expect any solitude as everyone else wants to see the beauty too) until it was my turn. Kendell went first, just in case, and then I started down.

I scrambled down backwards, with my chest and arms towards the rocks, and despite the hail and the panic, the wind and the slick rocks (they were considerably more wet than when we had scrambled up), I was doing OK—until I got to that spot, the one made for people with lovely long legs. Kendell made it down just fine, and he was standing on the cliffs below me, his hand trying to guide my foot to the next spot. My right leg was bent literally as far as it could bend, and then my left leg was reaching down, and my legs were just not long enough.

Kendell wanted me to just drop, but I couldn’t. The panic rose up in me again and I said “I can’t, I can’t!” in a really panicked voice. Then the guy who was above me said, in a very calm, deep, manly voice, “Excuse me, ma’am, can you use a hand?”

He reached his hand out for me and I totally trusted that this stranger, who I could only identify by his boots and his red jacket, would be strong enough to haul my fat self back up. But: he was! I thanked him and hugged him (which I’m sure embarrassed him), and the woman hiking with him said “it’s OK, sweetie, you just take your time” like I wasn’t old enough to be her mother.

I still had to get down that cliff though.

So this time, I attempted it going forward, with my back towards the rocks, and that was easier. I could sort of see where to put my feet, and I could see Kendell right there to catch me if I fell, and I made it.

I made it off the cliff.

The crowd above me and the one below me started cheering and I totally burst into tears, those post-panic tears that are cathartic and get rid of all the rush of chemicals your panic caused.

Then I had a snack and we started back down.

We still had one other lake we wanted to hike to, Mill Pond, and despite the rain (the hail had blessedly stopped), wind, and panic, I was feeling happy. I took about three steps down the trail, and then—something crackled.

It didn’t really hurt.

It was just utterly wrong. Something deep in my right knee, something horribly crackly. I froze mid-step. Carefully shifted my weight. Thought about that impossible way I’d just bent my knee on the cliff. Was afraid to take the next step.

But it was fine.

Nothing else crackled, so I just kept going. I mean…what choice do you have other than helicopter extraction?

We finished the hike. We stopped at Lock Lake for a while, and then took the spur trail to Mill Pond, and they were beautiful. I’m not even sure I could say which one I loved more. On the way back to the parking lot, we saw a female elk, right next to the trail, and I stood and watched her for a good five minutes before she very peacefully walked across the trail right in front of me, so close I could’ve touched her (I didn’t try to touch her).

It was a challenging, beautiful, magical hike and I’m so glad we decided to do it (even if we’ll have to go back again to get to Sky Pond).

We had to wait for about twenty minutes before the shuttle bus came, and it was another twenty minutes before we got back to our car. When I stood up at the parking lot, I realized: that crackle? Well, I’m not sure why I wasn’t hobbling the whole way down, because now, after sitting for so long, my knees were useless. The left one was stiff and swollen, and the right one—the one that crackled—wouldn’t bend at all.

And that, dear reader, is how I injured my knee. No dramatic fall or twist, just a gradual building-up of tension and stiffness and then the mysterious crackle. I’m not yet sure where my story goes from here…only time will tell.

Loch lake


Thoughts on Hiking Together

Last week when I was hiking with my friends, one of them asked me if I wished Kendell could run with me. He hasn’t been able to run since high school, because of his hip condition; when we met, he was already walking with a limp, so even when we were young and spry, we never even went on long hikes. He had both hips replaced ten years ago, when he was 39, and since then we’ve made up for those difficult years by hiking as much as possible. But one of the restrictions his orthopedist put on him is that he really shouldn’t run. Part of that is the nature of artificial hips, and part of it is that he has (in his doctor’s words) “large, sturdy, Scandinavian bones” and the impact of his bones would make his hip joints wear out more quickly.

Hiking together 6x8

I’ve thought about my friend’s question all week. On one hand, I wish we could run together. It would be great to have a built-in friend to go to races to, because then I wouldn’t have to sit by myself on the bus. If he could run, though, I’m certain he would be much faster than I am (those long, Scandinavian legs!), so we probably wouldn’t run together, just start together.

On the other hand (and I don’t know if this is selfish or not), I am glad to have running as my thing. I don’t really have to plan around anyone else’s schedule or needs, especially now that I don’t have little kids anymore. I can run whatever route I want because I’m not worrying about keeping anyone else happy. And, let’s face it, sometimes it is easy in marriage to lose part of your identity; to some people, I am not much more than “Kendell’s wife,” but running is mine, whether I’m married or divorced or a widow.

But I am so grateful that we can share hiking.

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In fact, every time we got for a hike, there is always a moment when I think about the first 15 years of our marriage, when he was in pain all the time. I didn’t really even think much about hiking during those years, because I knew it would be too painful for him. So we’ll be hiking together somewhere, and something random will spark me, and I’ll get a lump in my throat and think this. This is a blessing.

Our hiking styles are different; I’m faster uphill and he’s faster downhill. I like to linger here and there, taking photos and admiring the view, but he’s more of a let’s-get-there-quick kind of hiker. Sometimes we’re hiking “together” just in the sense of “on the same trail at the same time.”

We eat totally different things while we hike—he likes beef jerky and salted nuts, I like something a little bit sweeter. (We both always enjoy some cold grapes at our destination, though.)

But together, we have seen so many amazing things. The top of Half Dome in Yosemite. The meandering view of southern Utah red rock from the Primitive Trail in Arches. Almost all of Bryce Canyon that hikers can get to. An ancient caldera in Hawaii, the island of Santa Cruz, the cool and silent groves of California’s redwood forests. The blossoming meadows of our very own Orem foothill trails, the tops of our local peaks, the crags of some of the Salt Lake County trails.

Kendell amy lembert dome 4x6

Modern medicine gave this to us. And every time we hike together, I am grateful in a joyous, sweet way that we can hike together. There are so many trails we still have to explore together, and one of my greatest hopes is that we will continue on, hiking together even when we’re old and grey and really, really slow. It strengthens our marriage, which strengthens our family; it helps me to forget the petty, everyday squabbles that every marriage holds. I might actually even love him the most this way, on a trail behind or in front of me as we both move our bodies upon this beautiful earth.

Hiking together selfie


Squaw Peak Summit: One of My Favorite Trails

Squaw Peak is one of my very favorite hikes—we try to do every year at least once—but I realized last weekend when I was hiking it that I’ve never written about. I think I’ve never blogged about it because it’s one of Utah County’s busiest hikes. You can find a million descriptions of how to find the trail, and where to turn, and what the elevation gain and distance are.

And if you hike it on a Saturday morning, you’ll also find a million people on the trail.

Well, not really a million, but a lot. Kendell and I try to hike on Thursdays or Sundays right now, whichever works best with our schedules, to avoid lots of people. We still saw about 10 people on the trail today, which felt like a lot, but it definitely wasn’t crowded.

It’s not a trail for the faint of heart: it is ruthlessly steep. And at the summit, there is a steep drop off, so if you’re afraid of heights, don’t get too close.

Anyway, here are 8 reasons I love the Squaw Peak Summit trail, and one that I don’t.

  1. Variety. This trail feels like it is made up of three separate trails. The first part is in Rock Canyon; fairly wide, mostly shady, with a pebbly hiking surface that sometimes shifts to all-out shifting trails through thick layers of slate and river rocks. The second is the first part of the Squaw Peak Trail (this is a left-hand turn that is 1.7 miles past the Rock Canyon parking lot); this part is a soft dirt trail that goes along the east side of the mountain, through forests and beautiful meadows, but always up, UP, UP. This part of the trail is fairly enclosed, because of all the trees, but there are several meadows where the trees ease up a bit. The third part is the saddle-to-summit section. The “saddle” part really starts on the east side of the mountain, before you reach the actual saddle. The trail turns south (after running north for more than a mile) and you’re hiking fairly close to the ridge, but not on the top; the vegetation totally changes to scrubbier trees and different flowers. Then you reach the actual saddle and wow—more about that in #4—it is scenic! This section is also steep, but it has several less-steep parts and open views of the mountains behind Squaw Peak. And then one last steep climb up to the summit.

Anyway, I love that the trail changes. It helps the distance feel manageable, because when you’re winded and huffing up that middle part (the steepest part), you know that a change is coming. I wouldn’t say I ever really get bored while I’m hiking but sometimes when you’re tired things can get interminable. The variety makes it so that feeling never shows up on this trail. Squaw peak hike meadow

  1. Steepness. Did I already say that this is steep? YEP! OK. But it’s one of the things I love about it because it feels like you really have to work to get to that summit. It’s 2,750 of elevation gain in four miles. Mile three is 905 feet! I love a good steep trail because hiking uphill is one of my favorite things in life. Yes, it’s hard, but it’s so satisfying to me. Plus, it’s just a thing my body loves to do. (Kendell always says that if there are two trails, he knows I’ll always pick the steep one.) A steep trail makes me feel like I accomplished something difficult and I tend to carry that feeling with me for a while.

 

  1. Accessibility. By this I mean a couple of things. One, the trailhead is less than 15 minutes from my house. But more I mean that I can do this in a morning and be home by 1:00, even with spending time on the top. So that means a day with a good, steep hike and then whatever else in the afternoon and evening.

  Squaw peak hike saddle

  1. That saddle! I will never forget the first time I hiked this trail. The view from the saddle is sort of hidden until bam, you’re right there. To the west is Utah Lake and the west mountains, plus glimpses of the valley; to the east is Cascade Mountain and Provo Peak, some of the craggy summits that form this part of the Wasatch Front. The saddle is covered with mule’s ears (I have yet to time it right to get there when they are blooming), cliffrose bushes, and a few tall pine trees; it feels more desert than alpine mountain. If I only hiked to the saddle, I could probably accept it, except...

 

  1. That summit! The cool thing about this summit is that there are a ton of big stones up there. Everyone can take a seat and eat their preferred summit treat (I always have grapes, as cold grapes on a summit are the pinnacle of deliciousness). Plus, no matter which way you turn, the view is stunning. And there’s more than one place where you can sit to dangle your feet off the edge. (No summit is complete without dangling one’s feet off the edge.) I also love it because it sneaks up on you; you don’t really know you’re there until you’re there, and then all of a sudden you can see the amazing view. In the summer there is also a flag up there (I’m not sure who takes this up and down, but in the fall it is gone.) One of the coolest things is when a storm is forming over the west mountains; you can watch it build and then start moving over the lake (which is your clue to start going back down, because that dirty part of the trail is NOT fun when it’s wet).

  Squaw peak hike summit

  1. Fewer crowds. I wouldn’t say this trail is never crowded, especially on a Saturday. And the Rock Canyon section is always crowded. But once you turn off, there are far fewer people trying to conquer that incline. And it’s a long-enough distance from the turn off to the summit that people get spread out along the trail. I don’t know that I’ve ever had to share the summit with another group of hikers.

 

  1. Wildlife. We almost always see something on this trail. Snakes (rattlesnakes, garden, and rubber boas), skunks, foxes, rabbits, bighorn sheep, deer, and elk. When we hiked last weekend, there was a rafter of turkeys crashing through the undergrowth just before I got to the saddle; one of the moms was leading a couple of babies across the trail (alas, I was too slow on my draw to get my phone out fast enough for a photo!). Kendell saw a skunk in one of the meadows. And, when we were coming back down, I almost stepped on a baby bird that was lying right in the middle of the trail. It had an injured wing I think. I dripped some water into its mouth and helped to scoot it off the trail (I used a stick so it didn’t smell like me if its mom came back to help it) and then I worried all the way back that I did the wrong thing. Maybe I just prolonged its misery? I don’t know. It was so cute and fluffy though—I hope it survives.

 

  1. Beauty. It doesn’t matter what season you hike it (although I don’t think I would try it in the winter): This trail is always beautiful. The bright green of new spring leaves, the flowery meadows of summer, the vibrant trees of fall. Always breathtaking. This time all of the meadows were full of orange butterflies, more butterflies than I've ever seen in my life hanging out on the wildflowers.

The only thing I don’t love about this trail:

Its name. “Squaw Peak” goes along with this really stupid “legend” that a white man made up about the mountains in this area. A sentimental bit of goop that is both overly romantic and fairly culturally insensitive, especially since a certain generation of Utah County-ites tends to try to pass it off as authentic Native American story. It’s not. It’s cultural appropriation. I’d like to know what the real native American name for the peak is, and I’d like to call it that. Or even something Utah-ish, like “Temple Peak” (since it overlooks one of the temples). Or, really, anything else other than “squaw peak.”

Have you ever hiked this trail? What do you think?


Hike to Pine Hollow Overlook or Where I Find Holiness

I know there are people in my neighborhood and church community—even some who read my blog—who will think this is wrong of me, but Kendell and I have had a lovely time this spring and summer hiking on Sunday mornings. Our church doesn’t start until 1:00 this year, and sometimes we make it back from our hike in time, and sometimes we’re late.

We’ve done familiar trails and new trails. Trails we’re just on for time and to build endurance, trails to waterfalls and overlooks and peaks. We’ve talked, we’ve argued, we’ve laughed. We haven’t figured out a dang thing yet or made any of the big decisions we really need to make, but we have spent time together in one of my favorite ways. Our relationship is stronger for it.

20180617_115638 kendell and amy pine hollow

But I still continue feeling a little bit guilty for hiking on Sunday.

Not enough to stop, though. And the experience I had a few weeks ago on the Pine Hollow Trail explains why.

This is a trail that is new to us. It starts at a parking lot in American Fork canyon (there is also a very small, four-car-sized turn out farther up the canyon where you can also park, but I wanted to start where I knew we could park for sure), the one that is just below the snow gate. You cross the road and the trail begins, fairly steep at first and following the contour of the Alpine Loop until there is a gentle sway to the left…and the canyon road is gone and you feel like you’re in the wilderness. We wanted to get to the overlook that is on one of the peaks in the canyon, so we made these turns:

  • Left at the first trail junction
  • Left on Ridge Trail 157
  • Left at Mud Springs 173
  • Left at unmarked trail—the left shoots west through a meadow; it’s hard to miss

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(This beautiful meadow is just before the first left turn)

Then we were at the Pine Hollow Overlook, which is almost exactly across the road from where we parked, just about 2000 feet above. I love overlooks, especially the kind where you can sit on the cliff and dangle your feet over, even though it makes Kendell insane when I do this. (He’s not a fan of heights.)

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We enjoyed the overlook—but that wasn’t the highlight of the hike for me.

About one-fourth of a mile from the overlook, there is a large meadow. The north peaks of Timpanogos come into view. The meadow was full of wildflowers—full. And they weren’t only the yellow ones I love, but every color: purple verbena and monkshood and columbine, red Indian paintbrush and pink fireweed, yellow arrowleaf daisies. When I reached this meadow, Kendell was about four or five minutes behind me, and there was no one else on the trail. I stopped. There was some sort of hawk flying over me, right through the blue sky, and I was completely overwhelmed. Right there in that meadow I found my childhood self (who was a miniature wildflower child), and my hiking self, and my running self, and my solitude-loving self.

I stopped hiking and I started crying because right there, right there on the mountain, I felt God’s love for me. I felt a deep sense of peace, and an acknowledgement of my value and individuality, that I mattered and that this beautiful world that I love exists partly because God knew I loved mountains, beauty, crags, cliffs, trees, sun, grass, stones, flowers, and that I would need those places as a balm for my heart.

I felt so much joy radiating at me from the Universe.

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And I so rarely feel that in church anymore. In church I feel filled with my failures, overcome by my doubting tendencies, even, dare I admit, a bit annoyed at those who manage blind faith. In church I feel out of place; it is a cloak I draw over myself, my Church face, my Look at Amy Being Good apparel. At church I feel God’s disappointment in me.

In that meadow I felt God’s love for me.

Will I stop going to church? Probably not. But I also will continue seeking out that joy in the mountains, even on Sundays, as Sunday morning is when we can go together these days. Even if people judge me for it. My soul needs that recognition, needs that feeling I get only after great exertion, with quivery calves and noodles for quads, with that deep ache in my lungs (deeper these days). Those places and experiences are holy for me, and they are the holiness God made for me. I wouldn’t be loving God if I didn’t love this world in this way.