One of my bucket list items is to visit EVERY National Park and National Monument in our country and thanks to my wandering spirited husband, who enjoys traveling and exploring as much as I do, I have been to a lot of the parks and monuments…..there are still many more to visit and some I want to go back to and explore more of. This past weekend we crossed off another of those bucket list monuments.
This year is about saying ‘yes’ to those things that scare me or are outside my box and it is about living life to it’s fullest, silencing that voice that tells me “no, you can’t do that….you have so much you need to do and you can’t afford to take time for you”. And I remind myself of this daily. So when our friends asked us if we wanted to join them for a weekend get-away to do some hiking and celebrate our friend’s birthday, we said yes. My mind and that voice said that I had a lot to do for work that weekend and I really needed to catch up on some things at home…..but my heart and my choice to celebrate life had me saying yes, let’s go!
We visited Chiricahua National Monument, located in southeastern Arizona. What an unexpected delight I found in this part of Arizona. When we imagine this state, we picture the Grand Canyon, the desert, brown, dry and full of cacti and rattlesnakes. But this state is so much more. And here in this out of the way part of Arizona we found the unexpected and that made my soul sing.
Chiricahua was called the land of the “Standing Up Rocks” by the Chiricahua Apache Indians and after my visit there, I can understand why. The road through the park was closed beyond the Visitor Center so we knew we would not get to see everything, but we could hike and see some of this beautiful monument.
Now when it comes to hiking my husband and I attack it very differently, much like other things in life, yet we find a way to balance it so that we both enjoy what we are experiencing. For my husband it is about the hike, the exercise, the exertion and the time spent in the outdoors, free of all of the distractions of the fast paced world we live in, communing with the nature. And the hike is done at a pace that keeps him moving, quickly along the trail, getting in the distance he wants to accomplish while pushing his limits. And the outdoors are his spiritual place, just as it is for me.
Hiking for me is about the feeling of accomplishment when I finish, the photography possibilities, the spiritual feeling I get from being in the outdoors, and the views. My pace on these hikes is often slower than my husbands, partly because I stop to take pictures or to take in the view or smell a flower and partly because I am just slower, and that is okay.
I love to take my time on a hike and really “see” what is around me. The ocean is the place I feel the closest to God and to my mom, it is where I find peace. And time in the outdoors is the next best thing for me. I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and peaceful. I see the greatness of this earth that God created and I marvel at all that is around me. The diversity in the landscapes leaves me in awe. The outdoors is my spiritual place.
This hike was amazing. And the diversity of the landscape we hiked through was inspiring, leaving me so grateful that I live in this great nation, full of diverse people and land. We left the visitor center with no real decision on how far we would hike and usually for me that is scary. I like to know how far I am going and how long it will take. And I like to know ahead of time, how much elevation change there will be so that I can be prepared. Often I look at maps and back out of the long hikes…..4 miles is okay but more than that would be too much…what if I get out there and then I don’t have anything left in my legs to carry me back? I knew this would be long, but I wanted to just take the leap and go. And I am so glad I did!
We went from the pine forest surrounding the visitor center to high points with views that took my breath away. We traipsed over dirt paths, and snow packed, icy paths. And then we traveled down to the creek bed, crossing the snow covered creek, mostly empty of water, a number of times before hiking up the other side, toward the standing up rocks. We went from winter to spring and back again. We happened upon an animal none of us had seen before, the Coatimundi, a relative of the raccoon. There were four of them and I was thrilled. We walked through tall rocks, grottos and finished at the top of Echo Canyon……and then we had to turn around and go back.
The hike, the time outdoors among the trees, rocks and animals and the time spent with friends made my heart and soul come alive and sing. I am happiest when I can be disconnected from the world for a little while, when I can find peace, the time to converse with my spiritual side and can renew my spirit.
I did this hike and I finished. We hiked over 9 miles that afternoon, for 5 1/2 hours. And I did it! One more time that I accomplished something I didn’t think I could do, I went farther than I thought I could……oh, I was SORE after the hike, but the feeling of accomplishment, the sights I saw, the time spent with friends were all worth the pain in my legs.
I am really living when I take the leap and just see where it takes me.
And the icing on the cake is when I can cross off another item on my bucket list.