Adjusting Our Altitude

Continuing on with our travels, we left beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, with bubble water in hand (the first and most important part of driving in a car) Red Vines (second crucial piece of supply) and a various smorgasbord of road snacks appropriately divide between salty and sweet and headed to southern Idaho to meet up with our sweet girl and make our way to the Sawtooth Mountains with only our backpacks for a couple of days.

Our first stop was to gather a few items for dinners/breakfast/snacks. Oh for the love of freeze-dried meals! I always wonder what happens when you’re backpacking and stop to grab the MSR stove to cook a bag of dried food and it tastes like HEAVEN! It’s a phenomenon all of it’s own. I mean, in the real world of day to day meals, eating contents in a foil bag, boiled in water, would definitely not be the most palatable. But the goodness that is contained in those lamina bags after a day of hiking is some of the most delicious cuisine on the planet. It’s like opening up a box in December and a Christmas puppy emerges. Outrageously amazing! I cannot tell you how many times on a backpacking trip I will say “OMG this is literally the BEST veggie Pad Thai I have EVER tasted” as I’m standing and shoveling it into my mouth with my spork. Ok we’ve been to Thailand so this is a complete lie in the real world, but not after a day of backpacking.

The Sawtooths were mesmerizing. The jagged cliffs shot straight up to the sky and I just soaked in the beauty. We had such a great hike in. It was hot and dry and we laughed all day. Mainly at our daughter’s expense, who didn’t pack entirely “light” for the trip. In her defense it can take a fair amount of time to curate your perfect backpacking set up. G and I have ours down, and have for years, but have also done A LOT of backpacking. Everything is tiny and ultra lightweight. We can go WEEKS carrying everything we need and coming in at 25lbs. Our sweet daughter…..not so much.

I was really hoping for some bear sightings along the hike in, but didn’t see a single one. We were hiking in mid-morning so we were probably a little late for that. When we got to our primitive little campsite there were bear signs all over. We didn’t have our bear vault so I fashioned a little pulley system in a tree for our food and smelly items. Our daughter told us in all the trips she has taken out in the Sawtooths, she always kept her food in her tent. My mouth dropped open. Oye! I had to be a “Mom” and fill her in on Backpacking 101. Man I love that kid.

After leaving the Sawtooths we took off for Moab. In all of the time living in the West (our entire lives) G and I have never been to Moab. Why? We had no idea, but WOW! We were both so blown away by this amazing landscape. The twisting rocks, rose up to meet the daily sunshine wrapped in the bluest sky. The baked-in terra-cotta and garnet colors of the archways and cliffs butted up to incredible alpine peaks, far surpassed anything we had imagined. Our first day there we made a hike into a waterfall that a local told us about. Tucked back into a mineral rich, crimson valley, this place was a gorgeous oasis. The deep pool making the perfect plunge for locals.

Great dive!!

That night we headed with beers in hand to the heights of Dead Horse Point. It’s like the Grand Canyon of Utah. We loved being there for sunset and watching as the landscape below us changed colors and shadows danced. The sun set and we marveled at how for a good 50 minutes after it went down, there was still a glowing ember in the sky. It was the longest sunset we’ve ever witnessed. Truly God’s masterpiece!

The next day we woke early to make the hike to Delicate Arch for sunrise. Driving into our parking site we couldn’t see what was waiting for us after the sun rose. We hiked in the quiet, cool air of the desert in the faintest of light, making our way to the arch just as the sun rose to wake the day. We sat in amazement. The browns, reds, yellows and oranges came to life on this arch that is balancing in the middle of a sandstone valley. We had never seen anything like it. Why we hadn’t visited Moab before this, was beyond us and we fell in LOVE. We are already planning a trip. Taking mountain bikes to hit some of the incredible slick-rock trails and stay in one of the Glamp-ing yurts.

We spent the rest of the day exploring Arches. We did a great trail run in Devils Garden visiting Landscape Arch, Navajo, Partition and Double O arches. We felt like kids climbing all over these sandstone walls that you magically stick to. We can’t wait to go back.

Throughout this entire trip we just kept thinking how grateful we are. Grateful that during a pandemic, we can still find tons of adventure, new opportunities and travel to new places. Grateful for nature and our complete love of the mountains and water. Grateful that we had three weeks to see our family and friends and explore some of our own country. Grateful for our health and the ability to backpack the mountains and run in the desert. Grateful for a God that gave us such an incredible and diverse landscape to play in and painted some unimaginable sunrises and sunsets just for us. Grateful for pine. The rugged trails. The dirt. For peaks & summits. Grateful that we took the time to go wild for a while. We love to travel unscripted and without a schedule. No plans, other than where the wind blows us.

We returned back to Denver and spent some time in the mountains there. Talking about which fourteener we’d like to take on next and the possibility of backpacking the Colorado Trail again. We knew our trip was coming to an end and that our time in the mountains was closing. We allowed the deep peacefulness and tranquility to filter through us. We welcomed in ourselves, the ability to feel small and humble and gain some new perspective on our future. We prayed a lot and were and still are, expectant for answers.

For us being in the mountains is almost too much sometimes. It’s a beautiful spoonful of wonderment, that never gets old and never eases or let’s up. Almost as if our heart is trying but unable to gather it all up. We look and stare again and again, but it’s never enough. I can’t explain it any better that to say that it just gives us a deep ache inside. It’s like being with family……needing one more day. It’s why I cry every time I see them and every time we leave.

We allowed time to stand still, gave way for our mind to imprint the imagines, take in the smells, listen to nature and taste the clean air until we meet again. Our hearts expand, gather up as much as possible and hold on.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.” ~ John Muir

Wild Wild West

Well howdy there. G and I have been out traveling, doing what we called our Wild West Tour.

With Corona virus still raging through the country, closing international borders, we thought we would use our time to do some in-country travel. We’ve missed the West, our family and our kids. Since the Hood to Coast Relay was ALSO cancelled, we thought we’d head to the sunset side of the country a little earlier than the late August trip we had planned.

We started off making our first stop in Denver, CO. We will come back around to this at a later date. Denver was also our last stop before returning East, because honestly, we just can’t get enough of that Rocky Mountain area. Both G and I have always had a “thing” with the area, so it’s always fun when we can have some extended time there.

Good Morning Tetons
Day before I finish GVRAT

We wandered our way through the Tetons in Wyoming and Yellowstone in Montana after leaving Colorado. Making note that the Teton glaciers will definitely be in the running for our next long backpacking trip.

Can’t be in Coeur d’Alene and not hike Mineral

Second on our list was Big Sky, Montana. We love it! It’s always been a favorite ski area with our family and when we lived in Minneapolis, it was a trip we took often to get some nice, steep, slopes loaded with fresh pow! It’s just stunning all times of the year. I was working through my mileage to finish off the GVRAT 1000k (and now continuing back across, because I’m a glutton for punishment a lover of running) I chose to finish my 1000k on our last day in Big Sky. Waking up on the mountain, with Lone Peak, still with it’s snowy patches, out our window, just stoked our mountain running love affair. The air was crisp, clear and filled with the scent of evergreen forest. The trails were buffed and soft with pine needles and it made those last few miles an absolutely perfect finishline.

The Finish Line of 1000k
Searching for breath in the thinner air.

We soaked in the mountain vibes, sat outside drinking fabulous Montana beer and just really took in the enormity of those western ranges.

It’s a funny thing, our love of the mountains. I remember when we lived in MN and would take our ski trips to Montana, the anguish my soul felt when we would leave. I’d often be sobbing and it would take the ache days to go away, once we returned to the Mid West. It’s like something in the fabric of our lives was off. Our DNA was made to be steep and it’s why a lot of our trips have always been through hiking and climbing big mountains. With G growing up in the mountains of Northern Idaho and me in Northern California, it is just wound into our pneuma. So it was no surprise when I got that first glimpse of the Rockies and started to cry. Actually I take that back, it WAS a surprise, because since being in NC, we have spent A LOT of time in the mountains. Almost every weekend, hiking, climbing and running and have loved every single second of it. But something inside me broke and I was left longing.

Our time in Denver and Big Sky went by too quickly. We drank in the mountain air, literally. I remember running and saying to G “I can actually draw in huge, full, gulps of air” which if you’re living in the south right now, you have no idea what I mean…. or you do, and are looking forward to fall/winter running when the air isn’t thick and oppressive and slapping you in the face when you step outside. I LOVE humidity, but not when I’m running. I think in a perfect world it would be humid for morning dog walking, firefly watching and porch-sitting and crisp and arid at the perfect time for my daily runs. But for now, I’ll have to deal with the daily beat-down of humid, hot air that constantly assaults me while I run.

Distance like a Grizzly and wash like a Raccoon

When we got to Idaho and Coeur d’Alene it was full-steam-ahead with a steady stream of visits with family and friends. It’s hard living somewhere so long, and coming back as a visitor. You know your time is limited and we always try to stretch it out anyway we can, but it’s never enough. Now looking back, we wish we would’ve stayed longer, since we weren’t really on any schedule. We had fun acting like tourists in a town that is so close to our hearts. Running with our kids at English Point, hiking Tubbs, Mineral Ridge and Lost Man Trail all made it to the top of our list. We had fun watching our Goldie-girl realize she was back where she had learned and trained to run trails with us. Her old stomping grounds.

We were able to see friends who now live in AZ that were back in ID visiting their kids. God had impeccable timing. We were so grateful.

I know one thing; solid friends are solid friends and no matter the distance we are separated by now, when we walk into their homes, sit in their back yards having dinner, and picking up right where we left off on our last visit home, it’s magical! Unchanged and constant in my life, they are my sisters and are such gifts to me.

The time we had with our own kids flew by. We always want one more day. Always. I think that’s the way it is for parents. We raise such independent kids, who grow, and fly off and we are so proud, honored and satisfied with the jobs we did raising them and of their accomplishments and then the go and be adults, and you’re left with with the want of “one more day.” G and I feel fortunate to be able to see our kids often, even on the other side of the country. But no matter the time, the yearning of one more day is always present.

I think Covid has us all revisiting what’s important. G and I have really been talking about this a lot. This pandemic, as terrible as it has been, has also given us all the time to stop and redefine some things. To bring into focus what’s most important. To see things differently and with more clarity. To appreciate, recognize and discover what is paramount for us. It’s brought things that may have been in the back of our minds to the forefront and has made them more acute and pivotal. It’s has us both listening so raptly to that Still, Small, Voice. Waiting patiently, and watchfully. It has turned our prayer life upside down and has driven it to a whole new depth. It has made us both keenly and profoundly aware of some goals and dreams that may have slipped to the back of the lineup, that seem to have new breath being inflated into them. We recently had sweet friends that after years and years living out of the country, decide to come back, saying Covid and a recent birthday really put some things into perspective with a new angle and outlook. Has it had this effect on you? Has it brought around a new vibrancy and newness to chapters you’ve maybe left half read? Has it spurred some new passions that maybe you’ve shelved for a later time? Take the book down off of the shelf, dust off the cobwebs and crack its weary spine open. What do you see?

I think it’s in most of our natures to grow. I also think for some, the thought of growth or change can be paralyzing. I think Covid has either nudged or downright pushed some entirely out of their comfort zone.

For G and I we use our time in the mountains for prayer, reflection and to bust ourselves out of stagnation. We are most inspired on long hiking trips. We have some of our best conversations either hiking or sitting in the ocean on our surfboards. Maybe it’s the thin air and altitude, but more likely it’s the place that’s the most quiet where we hear the voice of God. We are both pretty content people, but are both constantly seeking to evolve. We have been gifted in knowing when and when not to make a move unless we both feel a prompting. Things tend to be disastrous when we put our own plans before God’s plans for us, but we ALWAYS see how even in the confusion and jumbled disarray we can sometimes step into, God works things out for the best. It’s such a comfort to us, having that faith.

Beautiful Coeur d’Alene
This was her back yard for the first three years of life. Happy Doggo

The mountains give us a great escape from the noise and chaos. They are simple. Their scents and sounds, Fauna and Flora provide us soul-blanketing relief. They make us feel small and for me, like a young child.

Their balm was so welcome on this trip.

Patagonia -Coming to an End

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Leaving Paine Grande we headed to Campamento Italiano. It was a relatively short hike, but we knew there were two miradors after we arrived and dropped our packs that we wanted to see.

Francés and Británico miradors. 

We needed to get to camp after crossing a raging river on a one-person swinging bride. As I am standing, waiting for my turn to pass over this unreliable-looking bridge, I am thinking, “one person of normal size with a 20lb pack, or a small child, or a large grown man with a 30lb pack or …?” What truly does a one-person bridge mean? 

It reminds me of how God works in our lives. Sometimes there is no answer right away, and life feels like a risk. Often. But in the end always works out according to plan. 

I could allow negative thoughts, doubt, anxiety, fear, despair, worry, denial, disbelief, or uncertainty fill my head. Fill my heart. I could stand on that bridge and see the massive, furious, arctic river below me and the old, weathered, wooden, swinging bridge ahead of me and stop dead in my tracks allowing panic to grip me, but God isn’t a God of panic. He’s not a God of fear or anxiety. He FREES us from all of that! 

“This is my command-be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

We crossed and checked in to Italiano, set up camp, filled our water bottles, and set out for the miradors. 

The Valle Francés was inconceivable! The entire trip, I said over and over how beautiful each place was but this…. We stopped and took tons of pictures and then pressed on towards Británico. Patagonia is full of beauty but also full of unpredictable weather, and as we pushed towards our next mirador, the clouds started rolling in. We continued as the wind ripped at us, and then the rain started. Light at first, and then really picking up. We pulled out our rain gear from our slack packs and decided that, as we looked towards the mountains, it was only getting worse, and the view we were craving was going to have too much cloud cover, so we turned back for camp. 

We got back to camp, peeled out of our rain gear, made some dinner, and dropped into the tent. 

We continued on to Campo Central the next day, and we knew as we approached that we were nearing the end of this hike but that the most unprecedented part of our journey was ahead. Los Torres. 

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We waited in line to check-in, found a place out of the wind to pitch our tent, and headed for the showers. Ya know, being clean and showering are things we really take for granted. It’s such a luxury on a backpacking trip! The showers were HOT, and I stood in there way too long! 

Afterward, we decided to hike over to the Refugio. The restaurant was warm, and we ordered GIANT beers that tasted like a little bit of heaven. They made us lazy and sleepy, which was exactly what we needed for a quick bedtime. We had an early alarm for our frigid, dark hike to the Towers before the sun rose in the morning. 

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Our daybreak was cold — possibly the coldest of the entire trek. Most of our days were warm, hot even, with the harsh sun and no ozone. When we did have rain, we welcomed it! We left our tent and belongings at camp, hiking only with our slack packs filled with water, tea, some food items, and warm clothes. We started early, pre-dawn with our headlamps on. 

I was walking in constant prayer on our ascent. Meditative. I knew this was our last day, and I was overwhelmed in my heart with gratitude. The reasons many. The time with my husband, the adventurous spirit God created in the two of us, our friendship, and the fact that we can spend days and weeks together in a pocket-sized tent and still laugh, still love, not argue, and grow even closer together as a couple. Thankful that my husband respects and encourages the wild-girl in me. We get one another to our depths. Grateful for the opportunity to start this journey, and the healing that took place on my body to get us to the trail start. I am utterly floored by this Earth and the paradise that God has created for us. Everything so intricate and complex. I was, and am always so taken by the enormous mountains and how small and humbled they leave me feeling, stripped of everything, deprived of ego and pride. Hiking allows us the opportunity to feel God at a whole new level, a deepening, to see His provision in our lives, to hear him in a way that is clear and simple and uncomplicated. It’s easy when you break it down. He provides all we need and loves us so wholly and excessively. I was most grateful for the way the Most-High spoke to my husband. Revealing to him some areas that we were struggling with direction and trying to find closure. 

We both know when we are in a place of discontent, confusion, uneasiness, or dissatisfaction, it comes from us not being aligned on the path that our Creator has us on. Things in our hearts that God never assigned to us. It’s so easy to veer. Easy to get caught up with our own agendas, eagerness, yearnings, and desires. It’s easy to “think” we are walking in God’s will and to B E N D our intention J U S T enough to feign closeness to what God wants for our lives, but when it comes right down to it… it is a skewed view that ends us up on an uneven, angled messed up path. Not matched or harmonized at all with what God’s plan is. We falter and end up thinking, “how did we get into this situation?” “Why aren’t things better?” “How is this still happening in my life?” 

The mountains make it simple to listen. 

As we continued our ascent, getting to a bouldering area, we knew we were getting closer. The trail was getting more difficult. We were excited about our first view of the Towers. The pinnacle of this entire trek! 

 When we reached the top, we paused — suspended in a moment awe-inspiring beauty!  

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Cordillera del Paine is such a spectacular set of mountains! It’s the area known as the Torres del Paine (Towers of Paine), the three massive summits are gigantic granite monoliths that are UNESCO-declared biosphere reserves. The highest peak of the range is Cerro Paine Grande, at 2,884 meters (9,461 feet).

Paine means “blue” in the native Tehuelche language and is pronounced PIE-nay

It was COLD, and the wind bit at us. We met up with others that had been in our original group the day we started in Laguna Amarga, each of us making this pilgrimage in our own time. Little by little, we trickled in. We took photos, sipped hot tea, broke bread together, all nestled next to an outcropping of rocks away from the wind and elements. 

Soon, we knew we needed to return to camp and break down to make our busses back to Puerto Natales. 

It was hard to leave. Hard to turn our backs on this extraordinary work of beauty. 

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Returning to camp was somber. It’s hard when you know a journey is coming to an end. Sometimes I feel like I could wander the mountains forever. Every time I hike I love the stripping away it does on me. Peeling off the lamina. I come back changed in some way. Always. Something is left behind, dropped off, and left in the dirt, unneeded, with new lessons learned, and new promises and assurances put in its place. It gives me time to do some soul searching and reevaluating. Where does God want us/me? Where is He placing us for most use? What’s important? What do we genuinely need? What is superficial and fake and inauthentic in me or in those I have in my life? Where do I draw the line? What boundaries need set or reestablished? What do I need to let loose of? Am I harboring unforgiveness for anyone? Have I put unnecessary pressure on myself or those around me in any way? 

 It’s the opportunity for God to pluck me up, and right my path with such clarity, it’s undeniable. 

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We packed up in near silence, only joking about how stinky we were. We headed to the Refugio and met up with our fellow hikers. It was fun to have one final toast to our accomplishments, to hear the stories from everyone about their journey on this incredible trek — their take-away from the trail. One beer down and we loaded our bus back to Puerto Natales, spending a couple of days here before hopping a plane for Santiago, where we almost missed our flight due to falling asleep in the airport. How were we to know they changed the gate?  I joke! We ran for our new gate in a drowsy stupor and reached the jetway only to see closed doors. We stood staring, weary, fatigue ravaging us and just started pounding on the glass doors. As the jetway was moving and the agent approached the doors, she saw us and having mercy on our completely worn-out souls, stopped the bridge, and asked them to let us on the plane. Had we been in the States… no way this would’ve happened. I could’ve kissed this sweet Chilean woman straight on the mouth. 

 

We laughed & laughed after finding our seats because this is always the way for G and I. Always coming in, hurriedly, screaming, with our pants on fire. We aren’t and have never been “planners,” and this sort of thing is just expected in any given circumstance with us. In this situation, however, we were just plain spent and fell into a delicious, deep sleep on benches in the aeropuerto. 

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We spent a few days in Santiago in the spa-comfort of a fabulous hotel. Allowing ourselves pampering and delicious PLANT-BASED foods (boy do we always miss greens and fruit) and exploring the city.

Off and away from the mountains….

Grateful, continually. Humbled, unceasingly. Changed, as always.