15

March. My 15th month on the road. I didn’t quite do it like Jack Kerouac, but damn, I made a good run of it for sure! It was (is) tempting to keep going—run off to foreign lands on my time off to visit the beautiful strangers that I met along the way, or meet new ones—yet my feet are craving the earth, and in that earth, roots. That doesn’t mean that my wanderlust will magically disappear, or that I won’t have the nights alone wishing I were on Barbados drinking with a table full of men doting on me in the warm night air…mmm. Ok, wait, back to the present! Roots. Yes. I am very much looking forward to doing something I’ve never done before, to see what I get that I’ve never gotten before. People always say I’m so brave for living the life I’ve lived, but the funny thing is, planting myself with a house and property in the middle of a beautiful Southwestern town is probably the bravest thing I’ve ever done. A friend asked me yesterday if I was feeling anxious or nervous about it. With all honesty and complete calm I said no. “Actually, I’m more calm and excited than I’ve felt in a long time.” I think part of it is that I am realizing with more conviction just how powerful my thoughts are in bringing me to the places I imagined, so I worry less about where I am going. I know what’s coming—because I have created and believed it and felt it and know it exists already. Each time I see my thoughts materialize, I have more faith in the next ones, and it charges me up.

As I write this, I suddenly have a terrified feeling of publishing these words, imagining people out there—my friends, strangers, coworkers—saying to themselves, “Oh my God what has she been smoking out there in her tent this year!” But then I think of my many self-helpery mentors out there who I’ve listened to all year and beg me not to give into fear of excuses or intimidation, and be who I am. So, yeah, Ok I guess I’ll just speak my truth and not worry about being perceived as too woo-woo (a word I taught my dear friends in Tucson who now think it’s the coolest word on the planet!)

I could go into all of the magic that has happened to me this year, but I’m saving it all up for a book or a (different kind of) blog, or a speech, or just something where I can compile them all into neat categories with great stories to match. So, stay tuned…

For now, what I’d really love to do is make a list of numbers and facts that these past 15 months has brought: How many miles did I drive? (around 13,000?) How many National Parks? (8) What was the longest road trip I made? (SF to Vegas) ...and then there’s the fun stuff like: How many lips did I kiss? How many other people were ever in my tent? (Just One…) How many times did I rollerblade? How many trips to Value Village did I make? And, I want to make top 3 highlights from each month: D20! Tony TNT! Bacon Saves! Jim the Cowboy!

…coming soon.

Thank you for all the memories—the morning chills, the hot springs, the love ache, the heartbreak, the reunions, the new sparks, the soft sheets, the soft snow, the wet noses, the wet lips, the chills, the heat, the planes, the trains, and the automobiles.

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The hike to Colchuck Lake.

As I was ready to leave Levenworth this morning, I got the call that my friend, Nelle, had passed over the weekend. It was devastating news, as she was one of the most illuminating souls I have ever had the chance to meet—and although I have not seen her in many years, it crushed me. I rebooked my hotel room and decided I would dedicate this day to her. Last night, I was gifted a handful of wine tasting coupons from a couple I had met drinking spiced cider by the fire, and I knew that would have to be part of my tribute to my wine-lover girl, Nelle. I looked up hiking trails in the area, and found pristine reviews about a place called Colchuck lake- a 5 mile hike up to a mind-blowing view in the Enchantment mountain range. I promised I would make it to the top and dedicate the view to my friend, then raise a glass to her at the bottom.

I always get a bit nervous wandering deep into forests alone, but I saw seven other cars in the lot, and found comfort in the fact that if there was a bear or cougar, I wouldn’t be the first to know. I was over an hour in before I came across another soul. The scenery was so captivating—with snow capped boulders, rushing rivers, and frozen waterfalls—that I wasn’t too concerned about being solo. Yet, after another hour, and another thousand or two feet, it hit me that I was by myself, in the middle of a tundra, with only a bottle of water and a camera. Any other day, and I may have just called it good and turned back for fear I’d become the example of why they say not to go hiking alone—but I was able to move forward because I had a promise to keep. The last mile of the hike was grueling, and I was half in tears just begging the mountain Gods to make the lake appear. I said to myself, “If this were easy, it wouldn’t mean as much, one foot in front of the other, keep moving.” When a spot of blue finally peeked out from the trees, I wasn’t fully prepared for what I felt—my breath jumped, my body froze, and tears came to my eyes. I was utterly alone, standing on the edge of a cliff, crying as I witnessed truth in beauty. The water was completely still—frozen into layers of crinkled cellophane, not a ripple, not a sound. The cascading rock face was drizzled with lines of white icing as it looked down at its distorted reflection below. I’ve never witnessed such stillness in the air—it’s like time stopped— the Universe pausing in a moment of silence for its newest angel. I stood on the verge of rock and water, closed my eyes and felt my mind’s eye drift—I could sense my feet leave the ground and float above, existing neither in my world or in hers. It was a beautiful space in time, a oneness of existence with all that has been. I opened my eyes and witnessed the majesty of the mountain once more. I offered my deepest gratitude, warmed my hands against my heart, and began the descent back down below, carrying with me the last memory of me and Nelle, and knowing that now she is surrounding us everywhere—in the crisp fall breeze, in the smell of a freshly baked pie, and in all the little nuances that she appreciated in her very special time on Earth.

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Finding Bend

Annette had been asking me to visit for years. I had this sneaky suspicion that once I did, I’d never want to leave. Turns out, I was right. By day two, I knew I had found my new home.

I’ll admit, Annette laid on the Bend-charm thick! She has every toy known to woman—paddle boards, bikes, camper, kayaks, snowboards, 4X4 roller skates, the list goes on and on. Day one, four of us girls took a ski boat up to Billy Chinook lake and wake-boarded all afternoon, then filled up the ‘fatties’ and swapped out to wake surf. That evening, we biked around town, crossing the magical Deschuttes river where the river surfers were out playing, and ended at an outdoor concert venue to watch Brandy Carlisle sing her soul out. Day two, we hiked to the peak of Tumalo, where one is rewarded with 360 views of the valleys and other peaks beyond—most notably, Sisters and Broken Top. Afterwards, we threw the SUPs in the car and drove past handfuls of crystal lakes until we arrived at Hosmer Lake. The dogs both hopped on Annette’s board, as they’ve done hundreds of times before, and we roamed along the path that weaved like a river through the tall grasses that rose from the shallow waters. The image here is from a spot where we stopped along the shore to share cans of vino and gawk at the pristine landscape around us. While I was paddling down the ‘river’—snow speckled mountain straight in front of me, sunshine on my shoulders, dogs on SUPs behind me—the feeling enveloped me like no other: THIS was home. I knew it as sure as shit (as my Dad would say). I’ve been on cloud 9 ever since, envisioning my magical unicorn world (as I call it) and all of the adventures, love, and awe that await.

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Life changer! Little Red Riding Hood

I don’t know what took me so long, but once I finally made the rash decision (after 10 months of research) to invest in my roof top tent, life- was- changed- forever! Best thing I ever did. My first overnight was at Frog Lake, in the Mt. Hood National Forest. I was thankful to have a privacy so that no one could see me struggle getting the tent down for the first time (later I would discover that the key was using the ladder as leverage.) I slept like a— well, not a baby, cuz I don’t sleep well lately, so hmmm…. I slept like a happy, comfy insomniac! It was heaven! I even did a down dog when I woke up in the morning, filled with giddy smiles as I felt the immense room around me and the padded floor (as opposed to the previous deflated air mattress that left indentations from my hip bones at 3 am.) Yes indeed, this was PURE luxury! (Stop laughing, Sprinter Van people, you elitist snobs!!! …just kidding, I love you) Anyways, day two I drove to Smith Rock State Park, which is one big mind blow surrounded by a river, and then ended up camping lakeside at a quaint little volcanic waterhole called East Lake. The following day, Paulina Peak beckoned me to climb her before heading off to the place I would discover would become my Paradise on Earth. (You’ll have to keep reading to see where that is!)

Little Red Riding Hood! Day one—Frog Lake, OR.

Little Red Riding Hood! Day one—Frog Lake, OR.

Smith Rock State Park, OR.

Smith Rock State Park, OR.

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Sunset at East Lake

Sunset at East Lake

Awesome camp neighbor, Sonny the dog.

Awesome camp neighbor, Sonny the dog.

Waking up in LRRH on the shore of East Lake.

Waking up in LRRH on the shore of East Lake.

Coffee in the sand, with my beer bar mug from a layover in WKW..

Coffee in the sand, with my beer bar mug from a layover in WKW..

Half way to Paulina Peak

Half way to Paulina Peak

Paulina Peak (East lake is on the right)!

Paulina Peak (East lake is on the right)!

Mt. Rose peak & Yosemite

After the High Sierra music festival, I drove through Tahoe and decided to visit Yosemite on my way back to the City. I had a recommendation to climb Mt. Rose, but didn’t expect to go all the way as it seemed crazy long and far. Ultimately, I took the wrong turn and ended up there anyway! But what a view! The last 1/4 mile was brutal, and I felt like I was on the final approach of Everest! (Ok, not really, but it was hard.) I was rewarded later that day with the perfect campsite just outside the park gates. I put my blanket down on the edge of the lake, made myself a G&T, fluttered my toes in the water, and read a book whilst soaking up the mountain sun. (My sunburn later reminded me that in my glee I should have been more prudent) The mozzies came out with fury at dusk, and I had no camp wood, so I climbed in the back of my MIni and watched the light fade away as I drifted off to sleep. At dawn, I was wide awake and jumped out of the car to capture the sun rise over the lake, eager to start my journey through one of my favorite National Parks on the planet. One that I had been absent from for too long.

The view from the peak of Mt. Rose with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

The view from the peak of Mt. Rose with Lake Tahoe in the distance.

My pristine view at Tuolumne Campground, just outside the gates of Yosemite.

My pristine view at Tuolumne Campground, just outside the gates of Yosemite.

Sunrise just before heading into Yosemite.

Sunrise just before heading into Yosemite.

Muir Lake. Yosemite.

Muir Lake. Yosemite.