Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Adventure Continues

I've been so awful at updating this ever since I left California. I don't have a great excuse except that I've fallen so completely into a 9-5 M-F routine, that the lulls in the day often seem to be pre-determined simply because they fall at the same time and habits reigns supreme. Either way, this by no means is an indication that I'm not having fun. Quite the opposite. I've been so busy exploring, adventuring and trying new things that I feel as though the other parts of my life have fallen a little bit by the wayside. Obviously, it's far too late to catch up on the adventures of the last 15 months, so I'll just start now and try to do a better job. However, Kyle and I have done a great job of exploring some of the best parts of the state - on foot, on bicycle, on skis, on boats. It's been a blast!

When you move to Grand Junction, you have to make a decision: you are either going to become a mountain biker, or you're not. The middle ground is narrow, it's hard to be a recreational mountain biker here because the terrain is technical and challenging. There are few options for beginners. If you decide to become a mountain biker, you're going to fall a lot, you'll be covered in scrapes, bruises, and bumps, and you're going to get pretty good pretty fast. I learned this from experience.

I got a screaming deal on a great bike this winter (always buy from people who work at bike shops - they just want the money to prodeal a new bike and they've probably kept really good care of the one they're selling you). It's a hardtail 29-er (for those of you not familiar with the jargon - that means it only has front suspension but makes up for it with 29 inch wheels. It's been an adventure every step of the way. Twice, I've crashed so hard I thought one of my legs was broken but both times I've walked it off and gotten back on the bike. No permanent damage and I'm having some fun too!

Our first big ride this spring was the Slickrock Trail, very possibly the most famous mountain biking trail in the US. It was hard and I hated it, but the views were phenomenal.

Here we are at one of the overlooks. Slickrock riding all around us, La Sal Mountains the east, Colorado River to the north. It was a pretty great backdrop. 

This is what we were riding up, down, through and around all day. It was pretty brutal. It's hard to tell from this picture, but the trail was essentially 10 miles of VERY steep down hill and VERY steep up hill pitches. It was mentally and physically exhausting. I don't think I was good enough to be on the trail, I think I would have had a lot more fun if I had more experience and was quite a bit stronger. There are a few other details these pictures leave out. The "trail" is marked by a dotted white line, like the middle of a highway, for all 10 miles on the rock. It's certainly helpful, but a little strange to see. In most places, you can just follow the black rubber stains on the rock. The other thing that took some getting used to was the OHV (off highway vehicle) traffic. Moab is world famous for mountain biking, sure, but it may be even more famous for the "jeeping" opportunities. Oftentimes these opportunities overlap or butt right up against one another. In our case, the Slickrock Trail was open to dirt bikes and ran up against several different jeep routes so we could hear engines whining almost all day. Slickrock wasn't what I expected. It was hard and frustrating and busy. But now I never have to wonder, I've done it and I never need to do it again.

This past weekend, we rode the Porcupine Rim Trail. After Slickrock, I was a little skeptical about Moab mountain biking. After all, we're only 90 miles away and have great riding of our own, only much quieter and more peaceful. But Kyle really wanted to check this one off the list too, so I went along. This was a completely different ride. We started at almost 9,000 ft in the La Sal Mountains and rode all the way down to the Colorado River at around 4.000 ft. It was still a challenging ride, but for very different reasons. This ride was technical downhill riding all the way, with very little climbing. On the Slickrock Trail, the hills are so steep that if you miss the first move, you walk the rest of the way. Procupine Rim had short climbs that were very doable. The difference was the downhill. A majority of the people that passed us on this trail were wearing some kind of body armor or another. There were drops of 2-3 ft that you either rode down or tossed your bike down. Needless to say, I tossed my bike. Here are some photos from the trail:

Here's a view of Kyle and I on the edge of the rim, La Sal Mountains in the background.

There's Kyle, hanging out over the edge of Porcupine Rim looking down on Castle Valley.

I'm riding down towards Professor Valley in the distance. The Colorado River sits below those cliffs.

Here we are at one of the overlooks. It was probably a 500 foot drop just to my left. It was a little scary riding singletrack with that just off the side of the trail. It was great fun though, this trail has many built-in overlooks and gorgeous vistas. For all the time I've spent in the Moab area, I've never looked down on it from above like this. It was truly amazing. I'd recommend this trail, but everyone who has ever written a review before me has already done that. It was BUSY! As we were getting ready to take off in the morning, three vans of shuttled riders pulled up and took off before us. And they must have kept coming all day long, because we kept getting passed my armed riders on downhill bikes. But everyone was very courteous and friendly. I even ran into three guys I went to high school with on the trail. Small world!

Ok, sorry for the long update. I'm going to try to be more diligent with updates in the future. I love living in Colorado. I love that I have an incredible, driven adventure buddy(/boyfriend) to explore all these amazing places with. I miss the places I've been before, but I love the thrill of something new. Alright, that's enough for now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

12 Months

Recently, I celebrated the one-year anniversary of my move to Colorado. And if you're expecting to read about how Colorado changed my life in the one year, you're reading the wrong blog. That's not to say that being here hasn't changed me, but the biggest change took place before I ever arrived here. I moved to Colorado with no plans of moving anywhere else after. And I didn't. This may sound irrelevant. After all, who ever plans to move somewhere at the same time that they're planning to move away? Me.

My one year anniversary in Colorado is about much more than me and Colorado. It's about me and commitment. It's about staying in one place for long enough to get invested there, to become a part of things. Grand Junction was kind of an unlikely choice given my past locales, but it was more about timing than anything else. The important thing is that I'm happy here.

It's a funny feeling when the shiny newness of things wears off. The routine sets in and a life that would seem fabulous, meaningful and worthwhile from the outside looking in takes more than just work, sleep and play to be great. After each coffee shop has been tried, each trail run embarked upon, each park tested for dog friendliness, it's the little things, the daily interactions and the people you know, not the people you see on the street, that make the difference. It's the assurance that your job is going somewhere, that your gym membership (which lasts for 18 months!) will get used, that the woman that makes your coffee on the mornings you forget to make your own knows your name and even says hi to you when you see at the movie theater. It's about becoming a part of a place rather than using a place up. Contribution instead of consumption.

I live in Colorado.

There are lots of reasons why it worked here and not anywhere else, not the least of which was the timing. But the people, the work, the landscape, all those things that I loved about previous home-like places, combined with desire to be here, nowhere else, right now makes Colorado home.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Beginning again, beginning anew.

"Write honestly and thoughtfully about what moves you."
-Molly Wizenberg

I've been reading more recently. And writing too. I've forgotten the sheer pleasure of combining words to form phrases that bring color and meaning to your imagination and of reading the combinations of others for new ideas. I didn't write for awhile, for a variety of reasons, but now I'd like to write again.

For a long time, I think the biggest roadblock (or mental block) to my writing was wondering about audience. Who is out there? Why are they reading my words? What do they think of them and of me? With wondering came worrying, with worrying came stagnation. And with that I forgot the reason that I do this. For me, writing has always been less about the creation of something and more about the remembering of something. I write because I want to remember feelings and days, moments and people. Ultimately, it's a selfish endeavor and that's the way I've always done it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Modern Day Wild West

During the fall of 2008, my senior year of college, I participated in a set of field courses called Semester in the West. During this experience, we traveled through 8 western states and northern Mexico learning about the various environmental, political, ecological, social and humanitarian issues of each particular place. We learned that the American West is an idea, not one contiguous region; that there are different kinds of issues in each specific locale and many different ways of searching for solutions. We learned that it's hard to talk about the West as one coherent area. Rather it should be addressed as a large collection of smaller regions, each with it's own unique culture, ecosystem and associated issues. We learned that making generalizations about the West is like saying there's only one way to wear a bandana.

Upon graduating, I was lucky to spend a couple of seasons in Lee Vining, CA working for an environmental non-profit organzation who's work focused primarily on water policy and education. For several months, I lived in a water-loving, outdoor oriented bubble that was exactly what I needed at the time. I could find inspiration from people who's views were like mine - they gave me fresh perspective on the same old issues and helped me find a way to start thinking about these issues in terms of action and involvement. That's not to say that dissenting views didn't exist. Far from it, in fact. Eastern California is full of red counties, and Mono County is no exception. There are many ranch families that have been in the area for much longer than any of us "environmentalists" and they let us know it at town meetings and on the street corners. They gave us hell for many of the things we proposed. New education center? What about the native american artifacts that might exist on the land? Re-vegetation of the old airport strip? Where will the county get the money for that? But on an everyday basis, the people I worked and interacted with held the same general views and values that I did. It helped me put shape to my ideas and prioritize the issues and actions I felt were important. Sometimes it's good to agree.

After almost a year with the Committee, it was time to move on and stretch my wings a little bit. Now I find myself working on a ranch in Western Colorado where the priority is the bottom line, making sure we end up in the black, hopefully well into it, every year. The people that work at this ranch come from a very different background from those at the Committee. No Harvard-graduate, tofu-loving, prAna-wearing people here (sorry for the cascade of cliches). My new co-workers were raised on ranches all over the country. They are cattle men and women, horse men and women, hunters, and fishermen; a whole different category of outdoorsperson. And they're wonderful. They don't recycle because it involves a ninety mile round trip drive to the nearest facility. They drink bottled water because the water from the ranch cistern is laced with minerals and bugs that don't agree with our stomachs. They drive big, noisy trucks because the roads aren't plowed everyday. Even when they are, the mud can get as deep as a new snow. This time, I'm looking at the same issues from a completely different perspective that often comes to very different conclusions than I'm used to. My views are getting challenged daily by the people who. Sometimes disagreeing is important too.

Once again, my views of the West are being challenged and changed. I'm so lucky for the time I've had to explore this vast, empty part of the world and I can't wait for every new opportunity to further broaden and deepen this love and appreciation that I've developed for it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Well, I'm here!

So I've tried to blog a bit since I've been here, but every post has either gotten interrupted or been too boring to publish, so here I go again. Here's hoping this one sticks.

I arrived in Grand Junction on January 2nd, exactly one month after I left Lee Vining. I spent a glorious month at home skiing, spending time with family and friends, buying my first car, and enjoying a full month with no work and few committments. Every time I return to Bozeman I go through a new set of emotions. It's still home, but that feeling of belonging has started to slip away. My Bozeman friends have either moved away or created new lives for themselves with people that I don't know. Much of the town itself has changed as well, and many of my favorite businesses are either gone or have moved somewhere else. I've begun to feel like a visitor in my past life when I'm in Bozeman and though that can be fun for awhile, it's also important to me to keep moving.

This past stint in Lee Vining is the longest I've been anywhere for several years. I really started to nest there and feel at home. It was hard to leave a place and a community I loved so much. However, it has inspired me to create that kind of community in any place I live. This never happens overnight, and as a result my first couple weeks in Colorado, in addition to being ridden with minor house dramas and the settling in phase at my new job, were a little rough. Beth and my work schedule is a little crazy - 8-5 with an hour long commute on either end - so we were spending a few hours each night trying to get our house furnished and livable while fighting with first frozen and then burst pipes, no dishwasher or internet.

But with a first week like that, everything else looks easy and over the last couple weeks we've really begun to settle in and enjoy our house. We live in a quiet neighborhood near the college and not too far from downtown. We've got a huge fenced backyard for our dogs (two black labs, one 11 year old, one 6 month old) and beautiful old wood floors. Grand Junction is really beginning to feel like home and I'm beginning to measure my time here in years rather than months.

In our time off, we try to adventure and explore as much as possible. We spent a great weekend in Laramie with good friends from Africa. We watched lots of football, reminisced about study abroad experiences and went to a phenomenal country show at a cowboy bar. We spent a weekend skiing on the mesa and are planning for many more.

On top of all of this, I've been playing some volleyball at the Gold's Gym here and meeting some really great people. One new friend even spent a good deal of time in Lee Vining/June Lake and is the nephew of a park ranger that I knew there. I never cease to be amazed by the connections between people.

One final note - Beth and I are working really hard to train for a half marathon. She'll run one on March 12th in Little Rock, AR and depending on her recovery, hopefully run one with me the following weekend here in Gateway, CO. In order to motivate ourselves to keep up the training, we've registered for a 10k in two weeks in Fruita. I've done a bit of running here and there in my post-college life, but I've never really had races to train for (not because I want to do well, simply because I don't want to keel over and die) so it's really nice to have that date looming in the back of my head each morning when I wake up at 4:45 and think, "Wouldn't it be easier just to go back to sleep?"

All in all, things are going well here. I'm keeping very busy and enjoying most of my daily goings on. I don't have any pictures to post because I've been super lazy about taking pictures, but hopefully soon that will change. We skied Powderhorn on Sunday and the view from the top of Grand Mesa was breathtaking. Flat-top mountains that fold in onto themselves and form this crinkle-scape that catches light and casts shadow with incredibly minute detail. It's unlike any place I've lived before and I'm looking forward to becoming intimate with this landscape.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Saying Goodbye

This place has been home and it's going to be hard to leave. Here is a brief list of some of the things I'm going to miss:

-The mountains. They are the landscape here. They divide our quiet slice of the state from the hustle and bustle of the west side. They provide recreational opportunities during every season and they are the reason that most people live here. Some people feel insignificant in front of huge mountains. I feel protected. It reminds me that there still are wild places out there, they just have to be found.

-The lake. After all, it's the reason I came here in the first place. Because of the lake, I have become an educator. Because of the lake I have found love. Because of the lake I have challenged myself intellectually, socially, physically and emotionally. Because of the lake I've had a home here for the past 7 months.

-The people. This is a transient place. People here are generally nomadic. This is both amazing and the most tragic thing imaginable. It means that each season a whole new crop of young, energetic people arrive in town. In a town of 400 people, you never expect to find 30 people who could potentially be your best friend. That's how summer is here. But then fall comes and everyone leaves. Everyone always leaves. And then you discover that there is a whole separate community aside from the seasonal sector. There is a school here with kids and parents and all the things any other town has, just smaller. One of the best things I did here was to get involved with that side of the community. Coaching at the high school has introduced me to some of the best people and most rewarding relationships I could have hoped for.
-The solitude and quiet. You don't move to a place like this without knowing how to be alone. I'm so grateful for the good friends I've made here, but I'm also grateful that I've gotten to spend time by myself - hiking, swimming, biking, thinking - and have really begun to understand who I am and what makes me happy. I'll take the wind rustling through the Jeffrey pines and a Great Horned Own who-whooing under a spectacular array of stars on a frigid fall night over traffic and sirens and neon lights any day, even if it means I have to drive 30 minutes for the nearest cup of coffee.
-My job. I don't know how I got so lucky. Every day I get to spend time with kids teaching them the value of spending time outside. Together, we discover things they never knew about themselves and about the world. We talk about stream ecology standing ankle deep in Rush Creek. We think about the differences between a Jeffrey pine and a pinion pine with a cone from each in our hands. We discuss climate change standing in the shadow of Califonia's biggest refrigerator - the Sierras. We address real world issues while we're out there, in the real world, apart from computer screens and cell phones. My co-workers provide me with support, new ideas and many, many laughs. I have the best job in the world.

It's time to move on now, and my feelings are very mixed. My next step will take me to a new and different place, but so many of these little details will be missing. Surely I'll find many things to love about Colorado too, but for now I'll be dreaming of following a great blue heron down the Lee Vining Creek Trail, of standing on top of Glass Mountain and seeing the entire Eastern Sierra laid out in front of me, and of wandering through the tufa with Violet Green swallows darting and weaving through the air around me.

Lee Vining, Mono Basin, Eastern Sierra: I will miss you.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Why I'm Thankful

Apparently it's trendy to make lists of why you're thankful. I've never been one to follow trends - I'm doing this simply because for me, the biggest thing is always family and friends and this year I was not with either. But don't worry, this is not going to be a whiny, you should all feel sorry for me kind of post. Rather, I hope it will be quite the opposite.

First, let me start by saying that as the years go by and especially now that I'm not in school anymore, I'm beginning to really learn and appreciate the value of family and friends. These people have made me who I am today, they continue to support me as I move forward in my own endeavors, they let me lean on them, depend on them, call them at all hours of the day (and night), ask ridiculous favors of them and give me their love. I wouldn't be who I am or where I am without them. So naturally, it was a little difficult to spend the day without any of these people. Last year, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by a great group of friends when I was stuck in a far away city. Here is a picture from our wonderful night:

And to my family, there are not enough words to explain how important you are to me. I'm so glad we've had the opportunity to travel together and visit each other even though we live in different states (and sometimes different countries). This photo was taken during the week of my college graduation:

Today, I actually had to work. I've mentioned previously that I teach environmental education to at-risk youth from Los Angeles. I've learned more about the diversity of lifestyle and experience within our own country this summer than I have in all of my previous travels throughout the US. The group we have right now is an group of high school alumni that have made an almost annual trip up to the Mono Basin for the past 7 years. They come from very different backgrounds and have very different interests now that they're a little more grown up and some are even in college, but a trip to Mono Lake is an important way for them to stay connected to one another. Some have very close knit families, some have no families at all, but this trip and this holiday was important to each and every one of them because for these five days they are surrounded by people who love them and know them better than any other people in the world. To watch their interactions, their respect and appreciation for one another, the way they crack each other up for no apparent reason (at least it's not apparent to me), they way they look up to Santiago, my boss, is absolutely inspiring. I've only known them for two days, but they have included Michael and me in every part of their tradition and are open and honest with their feelings and thoughts about this place. Rather than feeling sorry for myself today, I felt blessed to be around such kind and caring people.

-I'm thankful for my job. I get to work outside every day with kids who's eyes are opened to a whole new world beyond the city during the time their with us.
-I'm thankful for my co-workers. We've had our ups and downs this season, but at the end of the day, they are kind men who have the best interests of our team and the kids we work with at heart. They give of themselves to provide an amazing opportunity for kids who may not have a chance to experience something like this again. And they support me as I learn and come into my own as an educator.
-I'm thankful for this wonderful place that I've gotten to call home for the past 7 months. Each cardinal direction holds a different view equally beautiful and worthy of exploration.
-I'm thankful for my friends who love me even when I go for 6 months without contacting them. They make me laugh and give depth to my existence. To quote one of my kids this summer, "You're like elevator music. You make the ride more fun."
-But most of all I'm thankful for my family. To my parents who taught me curiosity and to have a sense of adventure and who understand when that takes me to Africa or Ecuador or the middle of nowhere in Colorado. And to my sister who has taught me to use my imagination. With those three tools, what else could you possibly need? I love you guys and I'm missing you today.