“The longest journey begins with a single step, not with a turn of the ignition key.” Edward Abbey
It all started with a single step…then a turn of my ignition key and a drive to my family’s cabin…then another step…plus hundreds more steps…and hundreds and thousands more to come. The cabin (fondly referred to as the Goat’s Nest) is perfect in its safe isolation and its happy position in the universe. Despite it having been neglected for the past 15 years, it never complains. Rather, it takes in any visitors that come to it in need of a home: spiders, mice, ground squirrels, buzzing bumble bees, wasps, and so on. The dusty old light bulbs and quaint sink remind me that it was once an accommodating place for members of my family and their friends decades ago. Now, those things are mere reminders of luxuries I leave behind when visiting the cabin. No electricity, no running water, and a privy built in 1940 (full of menacing looking spiders). Aside from the spiders and mice crawling on me when I try to sleep, I don’t mind that this magical place has reverted to a simpler state. I feel simpler when I am there. My most recent stay was the longest and most necessary. I’ve had a dark shadow hanging over my head for a long time, and up until recently, it felt like it had swallowed me whole and taken over my life. This summer, I decided I would keep a promise to myself I made nearly a decade ago: “I will spend the summer hiking, camping, and climbing as many fourteeners as I can.” Simple, yes. Easy, no. Necessary, absolutely!
Today I left the cabin, ready to start climbing some peaks. I’m back down south getting car repairs and looking up weather conditions…and weeding through gear and food that I will or won’t need. I hiked a familiar trail off of Highway 115, showered, shaved my legs and armpits, and did laundry. All of my journal entries from the cabin adventures are handwritten in a sketch journal I purchased for an art class I took over two years ago, when I was hopeful and confident…but still lacking something. And now, two years later, I am hopeful, confident, but still lacking something.
June 3, 2015
Arrived at the Goat’s Nest early this morning around 4:25. I unloaded a few things and found that a mouse had made a nest above the fire place and it broke a lantern in the process. I spent the day organizing my things and cleaning up the remnants of rodent parties that pack rats and other creatures host regularly when the cabin is absent of human disturbances. There is no snow, but also fewer flowers than I expected. The tips of the evergreen trees are a bright new neon green. There is no shortage of loud buzzing bumbling bugs. I’m happy I remembered bug spray.
In many ways the Goat’s Nest is secluded and refreshing, but there is definitely a sense of awareness that there are houses and people just outside my vision. The trees help to preserve the feeling of solitude here, acting as a buffer between me and the others. However, I can still hear cars driving by on surrounding dirt roads and sometimes the chatter of couples or nearby residents or rowdy teenagers off in the distance.
Lately I’ve been in a strange mood. Not sad, not happy, often tired. My desire to communicate verbally with people has steadily decreased. Every now and then I have a burst of passionate conversation (usually about something negative) but for the most part I find myself feeling too tired to put words together. I think coming up here was the correct decision. I need to exercise, and I need sunshine, most importantly I need time to call my own. I’ve given enough time and energy away. Now it is time to enjoy the simple luxury of being alive. It is time to do things for no reason other than the mere sake of doing them. Hike to hike, drive to drive, sleep to sleep, hydrate to hydrate, fuel to fuel. No race to win, no person to impress or be accountable to (other than me…and Prince: my person/dog).
The white flowers that surround me, as I sit outside to write, almost feel like glowing fairy lights. It’s 8:30pm and there’s still some light left outside, in the cabin, however, it is quite dark. I’ll relish the light for as long as it lasts, then I’ll head inside to make dinner.
I went on a hike: Walker Ranch– 7.7 miles, if I remember correctly. The last mile felt the longest, as it was a stark and steady uphill stretch. My muscles are weak and unused to hikes and challenges they would’ve once laughed at for their lack of difficulty. I crossed the creek twice, twice more than I had ever crossed it before. In all the years I’ve come here…I never visited the river or this trail, a mere half mile from where I sleep at night with the spiders and mice. I’m getting blisters already, but I’ll tough them out until my feet toughen up and my boots become gummy and formed to shape the mold of my fat feet.
A curious little bird landed on a tree a few yards from me, as I sat at the back of the cabin. Well, at least I thought it was curious…turns out it has a nest in the side of the cabin. It flew into a knot hole and then I heard little baby chirps. The bird left and came back a few times with food in its beak.
Birds chirp, the wind blows the blades of grass into a series of soft clicks, and bugs zoom around. Funny how nature has its own music without even seeming to have to try very hard. I wonder if birds and squirrels and all the other animals ever get annoyed with each others’ sounds?
Prince is a very good buddy to have here. I feel like I have companionship that is of a high quality, because of the silent nature of our relationship, maybe? He stays snuggled up with me all night and if I am really lucky he comes up from the bottom of the bed and lays next to me to spoon!
There are big puffy white clouds enveloping the sky. Maybe 25% of the sky is still blue. The clouds are slowly hinting at turning grey. Rain tonight? Prince is running around having a mighty fine time! And here comes the rain.
It rained heavy last night and there was a lot of thunder and lightening. The lightening reminded me of the blue flicker you see outside someone’s home when they are watching tv in the dark. I didn’t sleep well at all, kept tossing and turning and my hips were hurting a lot from the bed. I visited grandmother and grandfather (I don’t know what he’d want me to call him). I talked to them and told them I love them, that I miss grandmother and that I wish I had met grandfather. I tell them that my mom misses them too. I thanked them and just sat there. If I die…I mean when I die, I’d like to be up here like grandmother, grandfather, and their friends. Of course, I know I must earn my place here and cherish the cabin as they did. I hiked to the river and found a nice rock in the water to sleep on with Prince, then went back up to the Goat’s Nest.
“I have never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working will always be alone, let him be where he will.” Thoreau
There’s definitely something to solitude. Alone, I feel like I’m more task oriented and that my ability to appreciate scenery or nature is greatly enhanced. Each quiet moment is more intense and pure when no one is around. I feel like it will be hard to go back to town and work when my summer adventure is over.
The mountains in the distance are dark shades of blue with patches of pure white snow. They look powerful and peaceful. I hope I can find my peace and power. I am often restless within myself, but being at the Goat’s Nest has really calmed a lot of that down. I’d like to find a sustainable peace and confidence, that is unchanged no matter where I am or what zinger comes my way. Life is strange and finite.
Hiked a fire access trail, I think. Found a horse skull placed on top of a snarled dead tree with rocks surrounding its base. It was in a clearing at the high point of my hike. I also took cover in an old hay barn when the weather turned.
Now it is time for the sun to set. Bright blue mountains, white snow, glowing orange clouds taper off into a grey-white sky. The trees here look exceptionally green against the vivid view. And now the sky’s colors slowly begin to fade into darkness as my crackling fire burns on.
“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” Thoreau
4mi easy hike
“The best way to keep one’s word, is not to give it.” Napoleon Bonaparte
“Our biggest problems come from the avoidance of smaller ones.” Jeremy Caulfield
5.2mi Meyers Homestead
? mi- hill work at White Ranch
Heard a funny comedian on the radio say, “sleep is like temporary suicide. Goodbye cruel world…I’m going to bed!” Sleep has definitely been a coping mechanism for me for at least a decade, if not my entire life. Things have been better lately though. Definitely feel like hiking is a very good outlet for me. When I am out doing it and exploring I wonder why I haven’t been doing it on a consistent basis for all these years. I admit, when I am in a cozy bed, I have a hard time getting to it.
“If you can forgive yourself then you will no longer see the reflection of your own internal judgement in the faces of the people around you. And if you can do that, then suddenly you’ll be in a whole different universe, because the universe we all exist in is the one where we’re all so terrified of the judgement of our peers.”
“We’ve just barely stopped being Monkeys.” (on people)
“Bob Dylan sounds like an old wallet somebody found on the beach…He sounds like a meatball grew vocal chords.”
a few of my favorite quotes by:
Eldorado Canyon hike via Walker Ranch, approx. 12mi. Very beautiful, with just challenging enough switchbacks to make me feel like I was about to die and like I was being reborn all at once. Encountered a plethora of bright flowers, varying in size and color!
Half way through June already! Went to the south side of the reservoir. 2 hours of hiking…scenic hiking. I almost sat on a dead fish that had eggs coming out of it! Bleh!!!!! Very overcast today. Saw a few people out on little boats and made me want one. Black beans and Spanish Rice a la Jet Boil for lunch, was very filling. Yogurt covered raisins for dessert, yum! Then napped…then walked to the end of the dirt road near the cabin and back, maybe 4 miles of hills.
Fire access hike 5.2 mi and a hike to the end of the dirt road and back…9 mile day total.
Woke up at 5:30am. Terrible sleep, tossed and turned because of pain. Been playing guitar and ate breakfast.
Walker Ranch loop and then drove to grandmother’s (My dad’s mom).
Grandmother’s was nice, but slightly stressful. I have to repeat myself a lot because her hearing is going and so is her short term memory. Makes me sad. She talked about daddy a lot. Grandmother liked Prince! He was very well behaved. She was sitting in the kitchen and Prince came up to her and she said, “Well I didn’t sit here just so you could come and get petted” then he walked away and grandmother said laughingly, “Boy! I think he really understood me!” She gave him lots of food and treats, which he enjoyed.
Grandmother always quotes her grandmother and says, “But the Lord can’t take me and the Devil won’t have me.”
She also says, “I just suffer in silence, not really though” and then she laughs a sad laugh. She is beautiful in her wisdom and life experience, but worn by the process of gaining it. I love her. I’m sad she lost her son, sad her marriages were so hard, and hopeful that my visits do something to boost her morale.
45 min little walk around a trail near the reservoir and then Walker Ranch Loop.
“The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline toward the religion of solitude.” Aldous Huxley
“The thoughtful soul to solitude retires.” Khayyam
“Solitude is painful when one is young, but delightful when one is more mature.” Einstein
Walked down to the Cafe and had a large cappuccino with banana bread and a milkbone for Prince. Walked back up the hill and then down to the other junction with 72…then back to the Goat’s Nest.
my dog is the best person I know!
Summary of the past few days:
Sunday-Helped a friend move, went to the gym
Monday-car serviced, North Table 9-10 mi
Tuesday-White Ranch 8.8 mi
Wednesday-North Table and hill work later near the Cabin. Prince went to go get fat at Ma’s house…all this hiking was supposed to help us be healthier…but he has lost too much weight…and he didn’t need to drop one ounce in the first place! 😦
I cried last night (June 23) for the first time in a while. The world just came crashing down on me, rather, my world came crashing down on me. The reality of life, loss, obstacles, money, expectations, judgments, everything…everything came up near the surface. Only some of it made it past the surface, I only let out a few sobs and tears before calming down and falling asleep. I feel like it is so easy to forget how finite life is, and maybe that’s what keeps us sane? When I break down it’s usually because I am coming to terms with the reality of life; the fact that each day is a gift I’ve usually taken for granted.
During my hike today at North Table I reminded myself that what I’m doing is important. What I’m doing isn’t wrong. What I am doing is right for me. I take one step at a time each day, one foot in front of the other. I climb steep trails, I shuffle down hills, I sweat out the heat, soak in the sun, breathe deep, I look ahead of me to what the trail offers next. Butterflies swarm me, deer curiously stare at me, and in those moments I am exactly where I need to be. Nothing else would feel so right. I am so lucky to have my family supporting me. I know I am not climbing Everest or really doing anything worthy of praise from anyone outside of my little world, but I’m doing something that nobody told me I had to do, with nothing but willpower and hope. It’s a dream becoming a reality. Hike, camp, climb 14ers, catch butterflies, take pictures, smell flowers-rain-and dirt, and write about all of it.
“Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out. Let it all pass. Let it go.” Sarton
My sadness has transformed into appreciation and reassurance. Positivity is vital, sometimes I deviate from it. Thankfully I found it within myself again. Thank you to everyone and everything that has aligned and helped make this summer possible. I just have to remember one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Small picture today enhances the big picture tomorrow.
Strange dreams, but fairly restful sleep. Up at 6am and getting ready for Eldorado Canyon today.
Started my hike at 8am. By 10 minutes past 9:00 I was done with the first set of switchbacks. Before I knew it I was at the bottom of the hike near the river and the ranger station. Stopped and used the fancy ranger station bathroom and ate lunch for about 30 min and ascended the second set of longer more exposed switchbacks. After some sweating and huffing and puffing, I had completed them and was back on the saddle. I took pictures and found honeysuckles…but they had no flavor, which made me sad. Honeysuckles are such a fond and exciting memory for me from my childhood, but they have been almost completely eradicated from my life. It seems they just don’t grow the way they used to in the places I once easily found them and sucked in their sweet airy flavor. By 1:00pm I was back in my car and headed to the Goat’s Nest. Did laundry, aka washed my clothes with dishsoap and water outside. I set them on my car to dry in the sun.
Reading is nice up here. My book is sad though. Storm is moving in but it’s still sunny even though there’s lightening and loud thunder and rain.
Storm ended up being a dud. So I headed down the hill to the gas station to get an evening cup of coffee. Honestly, I didn’t necessarily want the coffee, just wanted a reason to walk some more. Grand total mileage today was 16mi. Don’t know my plan for tomorrow, definitely a phone charge. Thinking next week will be a good time to start climbing some 14ers. So, I’ll do some research tomorrow. Will probably get my repairs done on my car early next week and get an oil change/fluid top-off so I’ll be road trip ready. Will do some more reading tonight and then get my teeth brushed so I am ready for bed. I am continually feeling stronger each day, and lighter too! Obviously, my first few 14ers are going to be hard, but hopefully my hiking so far has helped me prepare. Second night at the Goat’s Nest without Prince. I am sad he is gone, but I feel slightly accomplished that I am not afraid to be without him.
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a God.” Aristotle
6:45 am, slept pretty well after my big day yesterday. Read a lot today. Walked to the Cafe and researched 14er conditions. Looking at heading to the Sawatch Range as early as next week. There are a few non 14er trips in that area I’d like to do and it looks like it is clearing up nicely. May or may not hit Pikes Peak before heading south, even though I have already climbed it, just as a warm-up.
Attacked by spiders last night as I read my book. Squished one inside my book and its innards are memorialized forever.
Packed everything up and headed back home to Ma’s house. Traffic was terrible and I didn’t keep that zen state of mind, I had so hoped I could. “The master understands that the Universe is forever out of control.” Lao Tzu
Aiken trail to the canyon, plus the overlook, approx 6 mi. Flew through the hike! Felt really good! There were so many beautiful flowers and the plants were so tall and happy. There has been a lot more rain down here than at the Goat’s Nest and it is surprisingly greener here than it is there!
Helping my friend move the rest of her stuff to her new home tomorrow…then car repairs asap next week…then organization, route planning, and GO!