Grand Canyon Rim to Rim 2018

Today I am letting my husband guest write this blog.  Here is his story…in his own words and in the pictures he, my son and my daughter-in-law took.  Still so proud of them!

“The Physical punctuated by the Beautiful”

49 IMG_3800 copy copyI checked my watch. 5:15 am.  Not bad, only 15 minutes behind our scheduled start time.  We adjusted our headlamps and backpacks and then stood three abreast as my wife snapped a quick photo to record the start of the adventure.  Only moments before, we all had exited our cabin on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, looked skyward, and wondered at the incredible number of stars blanketing the dark pre-dawn sky.  At 8,200’ in elevation, this less-visited part of the park was the perfect place to stargaze, if only for a few moments.

The thermometer was just dipping below freezing at the North Kaibab trailhead, so we donned our hats and gloves and then said goodbye to my wife.  My youngest son, daughter-in-law and I would use the trail to cut across the canyon and my wife would drive the four hours around to the south rim to pick us up once we finished.  Our Rim-to-Rim journey would start in the dark, and we’d have to make swift progress to ensure we wouldn’t finish after sunset.

The three of us headed down the trail, my son in the lead with my daughter-in-law and I close behind, all of us armed with our trekking poles and backpacks.  We disappeared into the forest of tall pines, yellow aspens and red maples, each illuminated by our three headlamps.  We headed towards our first stop on the trail, the Supai tunnel.  As we descended 1,400’ over the next 1.7 miles, we could see the headlamps of hikers farther down the trail glowing like fireflies.  We stopped briefly and then passed through the tunnel and pressed on towards Roaring Springs. 

We crossed over Roaring Springs canyon using the Redwall footbridge and followed the narrow trail carved into the redwall limestone. 

05 waterfallA little ways down the trail, we could see and hear the water rushing out of the cliffside on its way down the canyon to form Bright Angel creek.  As we pressed on towards the Manzanita rest area, we enjoyed the first hints of sunrise as the very top of the canyon glowed bright in the day’s first light.  We arrived at Manzanita before 8 a.m., having descended 3,600’ and 5.4 miles of trail.  My son was setting a great pace, but I was starting to worry that the soreness I was already feeling in my feet might become an issue with over 19 miles to go.  We all shed a layer of clothing and I adjusted my hiking boots in the hopes of achieving some relief.

From Manzanita we headed towards the Cottonwood campground, crossing a footbridge over the Bright Angel creek.

As the trail tracked along creekside, we enjoyed a riparian environment of cottonwoods, reeds and willows.  We arrived at Cottonwood campground having traversed 6.8 miles and descended from 8,200’ to now 4,000’ in elevation.  We took a short rest and refilled our water.  It was now around 9 am.  We had a long, relatively level stretch of 6.8 miles to get to Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. 

This would be the longest uninterrupted stretch of trail, as this section enters the inner gorge.  The trail winds through rock that has been dated at over one billion years old.  With massive cliffs and incredible beauty, the trail along the gorge was striking.  This stretch is also known to be unbearably hot during the summer months with temps well over 100 degrees, but on this October day we enjoyed sunny skies and only about 60 degrees.  We had a time goal to meet however, so we rested infrequently.  At one short stop, I was enjoying a quick snack (a Clif bar ironically) along with my son and daughter-in-law when suddenly we noticed several rocks splashing in the gravel just a few feet in front of us.  I made the mistake of looking up at the cliffside to see where they were coming from just in time to see gravity pulling another small stone straight at me.  With no time to move, I took the blow right on the forehead.  While keeping my sleeve pressed against the wound to stop the bleeding, we all quickly picked up our gear and moved away from the stony cliffside.  The kids helped clean the small gash on my head and we slapped a Band-Aid over it.  Wrong place, wrong time I thought.  Though I was glad it was only a minor injury.  I was also glad the stone had hit me and not my son or daughter-in-law.  This trip had been my idea from the start and the thought of either of them being injured along the way would have unacceptable to me.  The stone had my name on it, and I was OK with that.

07 phantom ranchWe passed over several more bridges across the creek before finally making it to Phantom Ranch.  At about 2,400’ in elevation, it is the lowest point on the trail. It was just before noon and the ranch was a warm 70 degrees. We quickly found an open picnic table and settled down for some lunch.  The kids grabbed a small snack from the tiny canteen and we rested and ate lunch.  We had covered almost 14 miles of trail.  After just under half an hour which included time to change into fresh socks, we packed up and prepared for the last 9 miles of trail.  Before leaving the ranch, I took time to read one of the historic signs on the way out.  In 1913, Theodore Roosevelt had stayed right here, back when it was known as Rust’s Camp.  So cool to think we were walking the same ground as TR.

We headed out of the ranch and past the Bright Angel campground.  Before long, we were at the Colorado river and the Silver bridge.  By far the largest bridge on the trail, it is only used by hikers.  Mule trains cross at the Kaibab bridge just upstream. 

We crossed the muddy Colorado (which is Spanish for “colored”) and start to parallel the river downstream on what is known as the River Trail.  Vertical walls of rock rose over 1,000’ on our left as we followed the muddy river, even passing through a small area of sandy dunes.  The trail led us to the River Resthouse where we took a short break before heading up the Bright Angel trail.  The trail here follows Pipe Creek.  The lush creekside environment and its tiny waterfalls made for a pleasant distraction as we started our slow climb towards the Bright Angel trailhead, still 7.7 miles and 4,400’ away.

My feet were no longer sore.  I really hadn’t noticed when they had stopped bothering me.  Instead sore shoulders and a sore lower back accompanied a slow fatigue.  But there was no stopping now, and ever since we crossed Silver bridge I knew that we were going to finish.  I just didn’t know how long it would take us to reach the trailhead.  I did have a goal in mind however, to finish in 12 hours and 59 minutes or less.  That kept me moving.  My son and daughter-in-law were kind enough to let me take the lead and set the pace.  Though I knew that they could cover the last 7 miles of the trail faster than I was hiking, I was very happy to have their company and to stick together.  Months ago, I had originally planned a solo hike on this day, not knowing that anyone would want to join me.  When the kids volunteered to come along after I mentioned my plan in a phone call, I knew the hike would be much more memorable with the three of us making the journey and my wife as our support crew.

09 devils corkscrewWe continued to head up the trail towards our next stop, Indian Garden.  We hiked up the switchbacks appropriately named the Devils Corkscrew and then up through an area of pancaked sandstone called the Tapeats Narrows.  At one point, I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other that I didn’t even notice the single deer grazing about six feet off the trail.  Fortunately, Daniel did notice and we stopped for a couple of pictures.  Finally, after 3.2 miles and over 1,300’ of elevation gain, we had made it to Indian Garden. 

Indian Garden was a beautiful section of the trail, with massive cottonwood trees and fed by several springs, it was certainly a garden among the desert trail.  We rested there for a while, finding some empty benches directly next to the water source.  Here we met two gentlemen who were “running” rim-to-rim-to-rim, over 46 miles!  They had passed us on the North Kaibab trail shortly after we started and here they were coming down from the Bright Angel trailhead on their way back to the North Rim.  A journey that they expected would take them to 10 or 11 pm, more than 17 hours from start to finish.

After a short rest, we headed out for our next stop, the 3-mile resthouse.  We were now only 4.9 miles and just over 3,000’ down from the south rim.  It was 1.7 miles between Indian Garden and the resthouse which included a 900’ elevation change.  Just prior to the resthouse, we hiked up through another series of switchbacks known as Jacobs Ladder. 

10 3 mile resthouseAnother short break, and then we pressed on towards the 1.5-mile resthouse.  Up another 900’ of elevation and about 50 minutes of hiking and we had made it to our final official rest stop.  I had cell service for the first time during the hike and sent my wife a quick text “ETA 5:45 – 6:00 p.m., all are well. Luv u. C,” so she would know we’re on the way.

    It was just after 5:00 p.m. when we left the resthouse and I was feeling every bit of the previous 22 miles of hiking.  The last mile and a half proved some of the most difficult steps of the journey.  As we climbed over 1,000’ of trail, I found myself needing to stop about every 10 minutes.  We hiked through one small tunnel as we approached the rim.  We knew we were close when we started seeing more tourists who had hiked a short way down the trail for better photos.  I chuckled inside when I thought of their short journey compared to the over 12 hours we had been hiking. 

11 tunnelAs we passed through the last short tunnel, and by more tourists, with only a few hundred yards left to go, we finally spotted my wife up at the top.  She, of course, had seen us much farther down the trail with the benefit of her camera and had been busy capturing the end of our journey.  I was very happy to see her—she was a sight for sore eyes and tired bones.  We made our way over the last few yards of our hike and arrived at the top of the south rim. 

We had been hiking for 12 hours and 50 minutes, and the sun was still 5 minutes away from disappearing in the western sky.  On top of the rim there were hugs and big smiles all around as well as a “we’re done!” photo.  We had descended 5,700’ over 14 miles of trail down from the north rim to the bottom of the canyon and then climbed over 4,300’ over 9.5 uphill miles to reach the opposite rim.  I was exhausted but happy—it had truly been a journey of the incredibly physical punctuated by the absolutely beautiful.  

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A Solo Adventure

It was dark.  REALLY dark.

We were on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.  It was 5 am.

Hundreds and hundreds of stars twinkled in the dark, pre-dawn sky.

49 IMG_3800 copy copyThe time had finally come for me to drop off my husband, youngest son and daughter-in-law at the trailhead.  They were going to do the Rim-to-Rim hike in the Grand Canyon.  And they wanted to get a very early… before the sun comes up… start to their hike.  The three of them planned to complete the hike in one day.  Yes, one day!  Before they even started I was proud of them.  Very proud and a little jealous of their adventure together.

My husband had been planning this hike for quite some time.  And originally he was going to go alone.  I was relieved when he asked our youngest son and daughter-in-law to go with him.  This meant he wouldn’t be alone and I would worry just a little less about him.

As I left them at the trailhead and drove back to our cabin, the darkness and silence intensified how alone I felt.  I know I have said this before, being alone and doing things on my own is outside my comfort zone.  Being alone brings back all the emotions and fear of my early years, when those who were supposed to take care of me, left, leaving me alone.  The feeling of abandonment, the fear of being left alone, the fear that those I love will leave and never come back… those feelings come rushing back.  I know that I am not alone, but those feelings send me into anxiousness and are the basis for the discomfort and fear I have when I am faced with being alone.  And the darkness only intensified those feelings as I drove away, leaving three of the four most important people in my life at that trailhead.

Back in the parking lot of the lodge, I stepped out of the van to walk back to the cabin.  It was dark.  REALLY dark.

And I was alone.

Our original plan was for our oldest son to come with us and for him and I to drive together to the south rim to meet the other three.  But just a few days before we were to leave, the doctor at his clinic said he couldn’t go with us…. They would not give him the medicine he would need while we were gone and he would have to go to the clinic every day….

It is funny sometimes (or maybe not) how I am forced by circumstances beyond my control, to step outside my comfort zone, to discover what I am capable of…. and to learn about me.

So the plan changed.  I was going to be alone on the drive to the South rim…. Only about a 4-hour drive, but the cell reception is little to none on the route, which made me nervous…. There would be no talking to anyone while I was driving, no connections to anyone…. Just me on the open road…. Alone.

So, here I was, in a very dark parking lot needing to walk back to my cabin.  Did I mention it was REALLY dark?  Like I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face, dark?  Thankfully, I had my cell phone, so I turned the screen on to help me see the path and find my cabin.  I spent the next couple of hours talking to myself, wondering how the three were doing on their hike and working up the courage to get into the van and drive to the South Rim….. telling myself it was an adventure and I should find a way to enjoy it.

I have driven farther distances by myself in the past.  To Colorado from Louisiana.  To Virginia from Alabama.  Across the mountain passes in Washington.  Yes, I was capable of doing this much shorter drive.  But each of those longer drives was about getting to my destination while only stopping for gas, food and restroom breaks.  And on each of those drives I was alone, but not really alone, as I was able to talk to my family and friends through the Bluetooth while I drove.  Ahhh, technology kept me close to others and kept me from feeling completely isolated and alone.  But this drive I would not be able to use my phone.  There would be no calls to others to keep me company as I drove.  And I wouldn’t need to stop for gas on this drive.  I decided in my conversations with myself that morning, that this drive needed to be different than those in the past, if I was going to enjoy it and make it an adventure.

Finally, it was time for me to load up the van, check out of the cabin and get on the road.  My heart was racing as I started the engine of the van and put it into reverse.  It was the stepping outside my comfort zone, doing something different that created the discomfort for me.  I like routine.  I like comfort.  I like the known.  And I like the safety of others being around.

But true personal growth only comes from pushing myself out of that safe place.  Realizations, learning and healing come from stepping outside my comfort zone.

And so I pushed myself and off I went.

The morning was beautiful.  The day before had been cool, cloudy and rainy.  This morning, though cool, was sunny and bright.  A perfect day for a drive.

I turned on some music and drove.

I wasn’t far down the road when my heartbeat slowed to normal and I began to take in, REALLY take in, the beauty around me.  There was more snow and the white covering the trees was beautiful.  Calming.  I saw deer feeding in the meadows.  And the glowing yellow and orange leaves of the aspen trees made me smile.  The scenery had me turning off my music and rolling down the window.  I was present in that moment.  Smiling.  Laughing.  Talking to myself.  And enjoying the beauty around me.

And then I realized just how much I was enjoying the “me” time.  I was enjoying the time alone.  The time with nature.  The time to think about things, to work through things and to realize how much I like me.

As I drove down the road, I talked with God.  I talked with my mom.  I talked with my mother-in-law.  There was a lot of open road on this drive.  And a lot of time to think and figure things out.

I drove down the open road, the wind blowing through my hair and my thoughts were the only music I was listening to.  Yes, I knew where this fear of being alone came from.  And yes, I understood how the choices made by the adults in my young life had deeply impacted my adult life.  Understanding the impact and how it still manifested in my life meant I could now change my response.  I realized on that open road that I could either let that fear and the emotions from my childhood continue to affect my life or I could take it for what it was and use it to make my life experiences even greater.

And in that moment I chose to be in the moment…. To know that as long as I had me, I would never be alone.  That yes, people leave, but that doesn’t mean I have to be alone forever.  I have my husband.  I have my children.  I have my extended family.  I have my wonderful friends.  And I have God with me, ALWAYS!

I chose, in that moment, to enjoy this solo adventure.

I stopped at the viewpoints.  I had never stopped to sight-see when traveling alone.  I pulled off when a pullout came along.  I got out of the van.  I took pictures.  I looked around.  I breathed.

It was pure joy!

It took me a little longer than planned to make it to the South Rim, but that was because, this time, I was enjoying my time on the road.  I was having fun.  I was stopping to see the beauty surrounding me.  I was taking it all in and enjoying the adventure!

I finally made it to the East Entrance on the South Rim.  I was proud of myself for taking some time to enjoy the day, not just to get to my destination.  And it didn’t stop when I entered the park.  I pulled off at the viewpoints.  I got out of the car.  I stood on the rim of this amazing canyon and looked down into it, wondering where the others were… were they enjoying their adventure?  Were they having as much fun as I was?  Maybe, just maybe I could see them…..

And I wondered at the beauty from God!

This was a healing and empowering adventure for me.

114 20181009_164425_HDR copy copyFinally, after many stops I arrived at our lodge for the night in the Grand Canyon Village.  I managed to get us checked in and everything in the rooms.  And then I planned to rest for a while…. But I wanted to continue my adventure, so I headed back out to explore more of what the Grand Canyon had to offer me.  Eventually I found my way to the parking lot next to the trailhead where we planned to meet.  I explored the area for quite a while, taking in the splendor of the Grand Canyon.  I was amazed and awed by the colors on display in front of and below me.  Nature’s art at its finest.  And then I made my way back to the trailhead.

I stood above the trail, watching as person after person made their way up the trail to the top.  I was watching for my three.  Hoping to see them soon.

133 IMG_3919 copy copyAnd then I saw them!  I yelled in excitement.  The people near me laughed.  Relief took over as I watched the three of them make their way on this last part of their journey.  I was not alone.  And when they finally reached the top, I hugged them.  They did it!  An amazing accomplishment for them—23.5 miles and many thousands of feet of elevation change, all in 12 hours and 50 minutes.  Wow!!  They did it!  I was so very, very proud of them (still am!).

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And though my accomplishment was not as physically demanding, I realized I was proud of me too.  I stepped outside my comfort zone, though I really did not have much choice.  But I did it.  And I found a way to enjoy my adventure instead of just getting from one place to another.  Instead of letting my nerves and discomfort keep me from enjoying the moment, I embraced it!

I stepped outside my comfort zone and in the process found that I can have fun on my own.  I can enjoy the world around me even when I am alone.  And the world around me, especially the natural world, is worth spending time in, with or without others.

And being alone does not mean I will ALWAYS be alone.

Each event that causes me to step outside that comfort zone is an opportunity for me to learn, to grow and to heal.

It just takes a leap…..

I look forward (with a little trepidation) to my next solo adventure.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park

Today is the 102nd birthday of our National Park Service, so in celebration I thought I would share another one of our adventures to a National Park… Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico.

My husband has always been an adventurer and loves to explore near and far.  So when he said he wanted to take me on a day trip to some ruins he had researched, I thought, okay let’s go!

On Aug 11, 2013, we loaded the car and headed out early for another adventure.

entrance

The drive was long… 3 hours to get to Chaco.  And the last 16 miles of the drive was on a gravel road.  Yes, a gravel road.  This was an out-of-the-way, you REALLY want to go there, park.  And we wanted to see it.

Chaco Canyon was inhabited by the ancestors of the Hopi, Navajo and the New Mexico Pueblo Indians more than 1000 years ago.  The Chacoan people began using this canyon as a cultural center in the mid-800’s and for 300 hundred years it was inhabited.  There were many Great houses built by and for those who stayed here or just traveled through.  These Great Houses were used for ceremonies, storage, burial and hospitality among other things.  This valley was the cultural center for hundreds of miles.   

As we drove into the park, where the road was finally paved, I couldn’t help but wonder about those early people who lived here…. And how they lived.  This was such a harsh desert environment. 

Our first stop, as always, was the visitor center where we were able to see and learn a little more about these long ago people. 

We then drove further into the park, stopping at Pueblo Bonito, the largest of the Great Houses here in Chaco Canyon and it was impressive.  In its heyday, Pueblo Bonito had 500 rooms and 16 kivas (ceremonial rooms).  We were able to walk in and around the ruins, seeing for ourselves the incredible architecture of those ancient people who used sandstone to build their buildings and kivas and then held it all together with mud mortar.  Incredible!  And enough was still standing for us to see and imagine what a magnificent building this Pueblo must have been. 

We explored Pueblo Bonito for quite some time and then walked down to the next Great House, which was smaller.  This one, Kin Kietso, had at one time 100 rooms and 5 kivas.  It was easy to imagine the people wandering around here, socializing, trading and celebrating. 

After exploring the ruins, it was time to go on a hike…. To the top of the mesa above the ruins… where the park ranger said there was a great view of the canyon and the pueblo ruins.  And she was right.  But…

She didn’t tell us that the hike was so steep or that it was a trail from an ancient trail to the top.  Talk about fear of heights!  Of course, I had imagined the trail going up would be like most trails we had hiked in the past and be a path to follow, well maintained and though steep, fairly uneventful.  And then I saw this…. 

And I told my husband there was no trail.  Really, where was that trail?  It was just rocks with no safety holds…. Ummm…. We started up.  It started off okay, there was a path to follow and then…..

When you see huge rock walls with cracks in them, you ask yourself when will the day come that that rock sheers off (and I was just praying today was not that day)…. and never think that oh, yeah, lets hike through that crevice in the rock….what?  And that is where the trail took us.  When we got to that point we stopped for a minute (I needed to figure out how I was going to do it, as my heart was already racing and my head felt light from the height and knowing that one wrong step, one loose rock and there I would go, falling down the cliff-side…).  While I was gathering my courage, we were joined by a young father with his kids.  He was from the Laguna Pueblo and had brought his children here to show them their ancestral heritage.  Today, Chaco Canyon is a sacred site that is revered and honored by the Hopi, Navajo and Pueblo Indians of New Mexico and they often come to learn and connect with their ancestors.  And that is what this young father was doing with his children.  He told us a little about his life in the Laguna Pueblo and a little of his heritage and then the five of us finished the climb.  My husband and this young man helping me and the children up and over the rocks, through the tiny crevice and onto the top of the mesa.  At the top we said goodbye to this nice young family. 

mesa top trail down

And then I looked at my husband and said there is NO WAY I am going back down that path.  NO WAY!  I was still shaking and had to sit a minute to calm my trembling legs.  We had forgotten to bring the map with us but we remembered that the map in the visitor center showed that there was another way down at the other end of the mesa, which would mean a longer walk back to the car but that was okay because it would be on flat ground. 

We had each brought a bottle of water with us, I had my camera and there was a marked trail.  Did I mention this was August in New Mexico?  In the middle of the day?  On top of a mesa with no shade on a bright sunny day? 

Off we went.  I was determined to find less treacherous, less scary way off of this mesa top.

The views were absolutely spectacular.  We could see forever.  And looking down on the Great Houses allowed us to see just how enormous they really were and the amazing architecture.  The view was worth climbing up to the top for!

mesa top are we going down yetWe followed the path….. and followed the path….. and began to wonder when we might start going back down…. This was pretty flat.   And then we came to a spot where we started to descend, it was a little scary but nothing like the climb up…. And then the descent became gradual…. And then we started to go back up again?  What?  Okay, we should be going down by now….

By this point I was hot!  The sun was beating down on us.  I had finished my water.  My husband still had some of his.  Good thing!

We continued following the path until we found ourselves right back where we had started… right back to the spot where I said I would NOT go down.  Crap!  It was the ONLY path down from this mesa and I couldn’t stay up there…. We had just finished my husband’s water but there was more water in our car, waiting for us in the cooler.

I began to panic.  I was shaking.  I was petrified.  I knew how steep that path was and that one wrong step would mean certain death…. But I had no other choice.

So with my husband guiding me down, we began the descent.  And YES, it was just as frightening as I thought it would be.  I was holding back the tears.  DANG, that was a long way down. 

And then we made it.  I wanted to kiss the ground!  But we were hot, sunburned and thirsty. 

Back to our car for some cold water and a look at the map to see how we missed the way down on the other end…. Oh….. there was no other path down.  Had we known that we would not have hiked the mesa top and then we would have missed the views and the fun we had.  I am glad we didn’t know before we hiked.  

We did learn that day, though,  to always take a map with us and to carry more than one bottle of water each when hiking in the middle of the day, in the summer in the southwest.  That could have gone terribly wrong for us.  God was watching out for us that day!  

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is worth the many miles it takes to get there.  To see ruins from more than 1000 years ago and to imagine what life was like back then, and to see the harsh environment was worth every step taken on our hike.  After visiting Chaco Canyon and learning about the Chacoan culture I can’t help but admire the people that lived there over 1000 years ago, their creativity, their strength and their resilience in such a harsh environment. 

That summer day in August, 2013, we went on an adventure to learn about the past.  We drove 6 hours round trip and spent 4 hours walking through the ruins and hiking atop the mesa.  At the end of the day, after hiking 5+miles, 17,000+ steps and up 39 flights of stairs, this girl was VERY sore, exhausted and sunburned….. It was an AMAZING day! 

We would love to go back again and see this amazing cultural center and piece of our countries history.   But I think I will stay firmly down in the valley next time….been there, done that and I don’t need to do that climb again!

And we checked another National Park off our bucket list!

 

That View….

My husband and I just spent an extended weekend in San Francisco, visiting our youngest son and daughter-in-law. We had a great time seeing this city through their eyes….food, drinks, shopping, site-seeing, and hiking. A wonderful trip for us and time spent with our kids was priceless.

My husband normally plans all of our trips and what we are going to do. Those trips are filled with so much that we often need a vacation to recover from our vacation. So, when we planned this extended weekend, we let our son do the planning for us….. with time spent with the two of them the priority. And we wanted to see San Francisco through the eyes of these two young adults, to see what they loved about their city, their home.

Our son and daughter-in-law did a fantastic job of planning just the right amount of things to see and do and quite a variety. We completely enjoyed our time with them, creating more memories to look back on.

I could write a book about our trip and all that there is to see and do in San Francisco. But, this blog post is all about THAT View….

Our son planned a hike for us for Sunday morning. Saturday night we watched the fog roll into the city from their living room.   Of course, we checked the weather apps to see what the morning would be like and if the fog would lift before our hike.

And the weather apps all said it would lift about 8am. Yes! We would get to see those views our son had told us about.

He chose to take us on the Lands End trail hike. And said that hike would offer us spectacular, out of this world views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the ocean and the bay. We were excited and my camera was ready to go.

Sunday morning came and we were ready for our hike. The fog was hanging on, but the weather apps said it would lift about 9am now. So, off the four of us went.

We started from the ocean, hiking toward the Golden Gate bridge and the bay.

And the fog hung on…..that view our son and daughter-in-law said was so spectacular was shrouded in mystery. The fog was surreal and mystical. And it was beautiful, creating an air of mystery all along the trail.

Our views were spectacular. And magical. And beautiful.

As we hiked and talked and took in the surrounding areas, I couldn’t help but realize that THAT VIEW was THIS—my family….my son, my daughter-in-law, my husband.

THAT view was spectacular. THAT view was beautiful. THAT view made my heart dance. THAT view was just what I needed and wanted. And THAT view will make my heart sing and bring a smile to my face for many, many years to come.

My son and daughter-in-law were right. The hike would give us amazing views! And time spent with them, talking, laughing, sweating…..all AMAZING!

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The love of family and time spent with family is absolutely priceless and NOTHING beats it!

A Visit to Our Nation’s Capital

Last month my husband and I took 6 teenagers, his students, to Washington DC on a Leadership Fieldtrip for 6 days. Those 6 days were filled from morning until night with tours of historic sites, historic buildings, monuments, memorials, military sites, museums and a ton of walking. We were pretty worn out after that trip.

But it was so much fun!

And we learned a lot!

My husband and I had lived in Northern Virginia for 6 years and knew our way around so we were excited to take the kids to see our Nation’s Capital. Some of them had never been and some had been before but did not see all that we were planning.

The kids got to see and learn about the workings of all three branches of our government through our tours of the Whitehouse, Capital Building (where they also met their Representative), and the Supreme Court. These tours gave them insight into the way our government works and let them see for themselves what they had learned about in books in a classroom.

 

We took them to the monuments and memorials—for some of our Presidents, for our military and the wars fought and for historic figures who had great impact on our country. All of them moving, especially when toured at night. So many only see these sights in books or on tv….but to stand there in person, next to or inside these great monuments, well, the emotion overtakes you…..they really are a sight to behold, the inscribed words inspiring all those who have come after and those who are still to come….a reminder of our great country and those inspiring individuals.

We visited some of the Smithsonian museums, letting the kids explore and see what interested them.

We spent some time on an island in the middle of the hustle and bustle……an oasis that has long been one of my husband’s favorite places and a place that honors one of his heroes, Theodore Roosevelt. As we walked through the trees and down the paths, we could not help but relax and enjoy the time there together as a group.

We also stopped and toured our National Cathedral, a first for most of the kids and a first for my husband and I. And we also spent time inside the Library of Congress, one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington DC.

 

Midweek, after our tour of the Whitehouse, we went to the National Archives, where we saw the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, the original oct 6 a Mt Vernon (4) copydocuments…..amazed to see the signatures of the very brave men who helped to establish our democracy and create our country. Our last day, before our flight, we visited Mt Vernon, home to our first president. These historic documents and the historic home of George Washington made the founding of our country, real. How wonderful it is that our country has kept so much of its history.  

We saw a lot while in Washington DC. There was traffic and tour groups to deal with. There was great food to be had. There was shopping. There were protests witnessed, reminding us of the freedoms afforded Americans. There were also more security screenings than we have EVER experienced! And yes, there was LOTS of walking!

oct 1 Air Force Memorial (4) copyAnd then there were the military sites—a cemetery, a battlefield, museums, the Pentagon and war memorials….all honoring our military men and women. The military sites were among the first sites we visited, starting with the Air Force Memorial, standing tall on a hill above the Pentagon with an amazing view of Washington DC. We had arrived in DC at 7am after a long night of flying, stopped for breakfast and then headed out to see some sites before checking into our hotel. It was only fitting that our first stop should be at the Air Force Memorial…..after all, these kids are part of the Air Force JROTC at their high school.

We then attempted to stop at the Iwo Jima Memorial, but it was closed for refurbishment and could only be viewed as we drove past it….so we instead went to the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial. The kids were all babies when the horrific events of that morning in 2011 happened, so they only knew it through the stories told to them…….unlike most of us, who remember it all, every moment of that morning and the days that followed. We solemnly walked around the memorial, stopping to read the names of those lost on the plane that morning and those lost inside the Pentagon. This was a sobering memorial, bringing to reality all those lost that day. The kids, as part of their AFJROTC group, participate every year in a 9/11 Flag Raising Ceremony and now they were seeing for themselves, why they do it, why they honor and remember those many lives.

Over the next few days we visited more military sites and memorials—The war memorials on the National Mall to those who fought and died in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam, and Manassas Battlefield, the site of the first major battle in a war that almost tore our country apart. We took the kids on a tour of the Pentagon, where they learned about all branches of our military. And we visited both Smithsonian Air and Space museums.

Our visit to Arlington National Cemetery was quite moving. We walked, rather than taking the shuttle, to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We walked so that we could see the graves, read some of the names on those white headstones and honor those who have protected our country. Heroes, all of them buried here in our Nation’s Military Cemetery. And then we watched the changing of the Guard at the tomb of the unknowns. The kids all stood for the ceremony, watching as the Changing of the Guard occurred…..honoring the unknown soldiers buried there, the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country, including their identity. Words are hard to come by to adequately describe the Changing of the Guard, the reverence these Sentinels show for those entombed here. A solemn ceremony. And the kids watched. They absorbed it all…..the meaning, the honor, the sacrifice. And for the kids who themselves are part of the AFJROTC Honor Guard, this ceremony held even more meaning, showing them the highest honor for any Honor Guard member. Arlington was a very emotional, solemn place.

oct 1 National Museum of the Marine Corp (1) copyOur last stop on our first day before we checked into our hotel was at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. We were all pretty tired by the time we arrived here, but once we stepped inside our energy renewed and we were ready to tour the museum and learn about our Marine Corps. When we first entered the museum we noticed chairs set up for some kind of ceremony, one we assumed had already occurred. We headed further into the museum, enjoying the history of the Marine Corps from inception to current day. The kids enjoyed the interactive exhibits. The museum was a wonderful way to honor our Marine Corps. We came to the end of the exhibits and wandered back into the main atrium, ready to head into the gift shop, when we noticed the ceremony was beginning…the chairs were filled with those there to celebrate the Commissioning Ceremony for a Navy Sailor. And we stopped for a minute, noticing that the Honor Guard was preparing to present the colors. We watched as the Honor Guard moved to the front of the ceremony and presented the colors and then the National Anthem began…..and we all stood, facing the flag with our hands over our hearts. This was our flag, our anthem and our military. And then I noticed we were not the only ones. Everyone there in the museum stopped walking, stopped talking, stopped moving and hands over their hearts they, too, faced our flag and honored this Sailor and our country. There was only honor and respect being shown. Here in the middle of a museum strangers stopped and paid tribute to our country and our military….young and old…..male and female….all races……for a moment we were all a part of this young man’s ceremony, a part of a military tradition.

I was moved to tears.

And the kids were moved by the respect shown here on this afternoon.

Our trip to DC was filled with many opportunities to learn and to see firsthand the greatness of our Country…..how our government works, the history of our government, the honor of military service, the freedom we all have to express our opinions, and how inspiring and impactful one individual can be in making things better for others.

This was a GREAT trip for many reasons, but especially because of how meaningful it all was!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resilience in the Redwoods

 

Ahhh….

The mighty Redwoods.

Walking among the giants was mesmerizing…..peaceful…..majestic.

We were in California 2 weeks ago for our youngest son’s wedding and while there we decided to spend a couple of mornings seeing nearby sights. My husband and I love to travel and explore and seek out new adventures. And we don’t believe in letting an opportunity to find some hidden gem, pass us by…

On our second morning in California, we got up early to go explore Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. It WAS WORTH the early morning!

The first thing that hit us was the smell…..that redwood forest smell….ahhh…..we don’t get that in the desert and boy do we miss it.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park encompasses 40+ acres……acres filled with the tallest of the trees, the redwood. Here the coastal redwood survives and thrives. We walked the Redwood Grove Loop Trail in the park and were thrilled.

Walking with my husband through the forest of giant redwoods was exactly what I needed at that moment. The redwoods are giant, growing tall, some for over 2000 years. These coastal redwoods were magnificent! Majestic! Mighty!

The Redwoods grow tall….some reaching heights beyond 300 feet! Here in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park the tallest tree—the Giant—stands 270 feet high. And among these trees we felt very tiny….just a spec in the forest.

As we walked through the forest I was awed by the beauty surrounding us. Learning about the redwoods in a book is one thing, but to actually walk among the trees and see for myself how they grow, how they spawn new growth, and how resilient they are, took my breath away.

Redwoods can live for over 2000 years. And some of the trees surrounding us had been here far longer than us, our parents, our grandparents and our great grandparents……actually, many of these redwoods were here long before any of my or my husband’s ancestors came to this land. It is hard to comprehend how any living organism can stand so tall for soooo long. Yet here they were, just waiting to tell us their story.

At the beginning of the trail we picked up the brochure that would explain the stops on the loop trail. We learned about the redwoods and how they grow. And seeing for ourselves the redwood family circles was beyond amazing. Redwoods have the ability to sprout from the tiny seeds, but it is their ability to sprout new growth from the base of the “parent” tr3ee that really struck me. These magnificent trees sprouted new growth from the base, and from their roots. Amazing! And as we stood looking at one of the family circles, it struck me….this was representative of our family, and of the young couple whose wedding we were celebrating….this family circle. Love, support and strength are found in the family circle.

And then we stopped and read about how the roots of these trees were shallow…only 6 to 12 feet deep….wow! These mighty trees, these VERY tall trees, did not have the deep roots that I had expected. Instead their roots were shallow. Then how could they survive? How do they grow so tall and withstand so much? The roots of the Redwood tree may not go deep, but they do travel out, extending hundreds of feet from the tree base. THAT is how they withstand so much. The roots of the trees extend to the roots of other trees and the roots wrap around each other, supporting each other through the forces of nature that threaten to topple them. The Redwoods not only sprout new growth from their base, but they reach out to the other Redwoods to support each other. Amazing! Resilient! Wondrous!

Not only do these trees thrive through their family circles and their extended root system, but when a tree dies, it gives life to more trees. Trees sprout from the dead trees, growing right out of them and the root system of the downed tree lives on, giving more life and supporting the newer generations of trees. Much like my mom has done for me! Even though she is no longer living, she is still my support, she is still with me, a part of me and my family.

Our walk among these magnificent trees was showing me a lot about my life…..

All of this amazed me, but the one thing that I discovered among these 4 (2)giants that really resonated with me and spoke to me was their resilience. Redwoods have a bark that is thick, REALLY thick and the bark has a Tannic acid within it that helps to protect the tree…from insects, from animals, from the forces of nature and even from fire. We stopped at one tree that had been hollowed out at its base, much of it burned away in a fire over 100 years ago. Silently I stood under the tree, in the hollowed out area and touched its scars. This redwood had deep scars from a fire that would have destroyed the life of any other tree. Yet this tree was still standing, still alive, still growing and healing, and still sprouting new growth. RESILENT! STRONG! It had survived the worst thrown at it. Not only did it survive, but it found a way to thrive, to grow and to heal. The scars remain, a symbol of what the tree has survived.

And standing there I couldn’t help but reflect on my life and my scars, both visible and invisible, yet through it all I am still here. Like the Redwood, my roots may not run deep, but they run far, joining with other’s roots and providing support for each other through the storms of life. My family circle has grown and the support I have found keeps me thriving. Despite the forces throughout my life that tried to destroy me, I am still standing tall. I am scarred. But I am alive. My scars remind me of what I have been through and how far I have come. And like this magnificent redwood, I am resilient. I am strong. I am a survivor.

Some say it takes a village. And here in a redwood grove, I realized that it also takes a forest!

 

 

A Celebration of Love

Our youngest son….our baby, got married this past weekend. Surrounded by Redwood trees, in an outdoor ceremony witnessed by many of their friends and family, they became husband and wife….Mr. and Mrs.

We are thrilled!

Our family has been through a lot this past couple of years and the joy that this wedding brought us is priceless…..I am having a hard time putting into words what this wedding has meant to me and to my family.

We arrived in California Wednesday evening, ready to celebrate with family and friends. We all had been waiting for the day of the wedding to arrive.

My son and his now wife are perfect for each other and together they planned a celebration that reflects not only who they are as individuals but who they are as a couple…..

And it was beautiful!

As their friends and family gathered the few days before the wedding, I could see just how loved the two of them were and how much those who were there represented who the two of them were.

I was emotional every day leading up to the wedding and at the wedding.

This was my baby…..

And now he is married, a husband.

For years and years, I prayed for the perfect person for my son to spend his life with…someone who would challenge him, share his sense of adventure, and someone who would love him as much as he loved her. And our new daughter-in-love is that perfect partner and so much more for our son. I couldn’t have imagined a better person for him to share life with and to share in all the adventures that lay ahead of them.

4 years ago our son brought his now wife home to meet us for the first time. We introduced her to our family style of site-seeing…..and she didn’t run away! I knew that first time we met her, that she was THE one for our son. And she became a part of our family the day my son brought her home. Now, 4 years later we were “officially” welcoming her into our family and it felt so right! She stole our sons heart and she stole ours, too!

The two of them inspire my husband and I to be more present in the now, and challenge us to see the world a little differently. They make us so proud! And celebrating them was more than I could have imagined.

The wedding venue….the adventure theme…..the family and friends….the love…..perfect!

My heart is filled with joy….overflowing with happiness and love….

My family has grown…I now have a daughter! (And I did not have to go through labor to gain this beautiful daughter) And we have more extended family now….wonderful!

I am so looking forward to the adventures that are ahead for these two and cannot wait to see where this life takes them!

For 5 days, I left the world and the worry behind me….and I enjoyed! I cherished each moment, each conversation I had, each new person I met, and the love that flowed in every aspect of this wonderful Wedding.

I was mindful and present…..and though we missed our oldest son being there, our youngest still found a way for him to be present, through a recorded reading…..

My heart is bursting with love!

I wish my son and daughter-in-love many, many years filled with adventures and love!