Random rainy Saturday musings

Lately, I’m pretty bored. Not because I don’t have work and activities going on…I do. But they aren’t really lighting up whatever region of my brain is supposed to light up when I’m thoroughly jazzed about the spin our home rock is doing around the sun.

This, of course, prompts my tendency to think deep thoughts about life, society, and where, if at all, I fit. Today I feel like writing some of these musings down, in no particular order and without any plan to resolve them. You’ve been warned.

So, it’s Saturday. A Saturday after a fairly long week, made longer by having a show last weekend. A show where I didn’t have much to do other than be present and show support for those around me who were working their butts off. Aside – this is called “management”, for those who’ve always wondered what managers do.

It’s Saturday, and rain is in the forecast. I woke up and immediately (well, more like after 30 minutes laying around in bed checking facebook) decided that Sadie and I need to get a walk in before the rain begins.

Interesting factoid: Since she came into my life 6 years ago, there have probably been fewer than 50 days in her life when Sadie hasn’t been walked by someone. That is remarkable, and represents some serous mileage.

One of the things I dearly love about my life…I can choose to walk the dog whenever I want, and I live in such a wonderful neighborhood in which to do it. I have walking/breakfast options of all kinds: short jaunts to Dunkin and the local pastry place, a slightly longer jaunt to the local co-op followed by eating by the pond, or, like today, a few miles round trip to my favorite, the Ula Cafe, where they have biscuits with sausage gravy that I’m only allowed to eat after I’ve run within the last 24 hours. Yum.

On said walks, I run in to all kinds of people: other dog owners, parents with kiddos, college kids, retired folks. Today, I think everyone had the same idea as me; get out for some exercise before the rains come.

I love being part of that bustle, but I also can’t help but feel that age-old sense of being alone in a crowd. I don’t know any of the people I pass. I don’t know their names. We don’t hang out. We might share a smile or a pat each other’s dogs, but they aren’t my friends. It’s a lonely feeling sometimes.

I came home to two boxes of cookies outside my door, with no idea why they were there. I noticed some by a neighbor’s door too, so maybe they came from our landlord? Weird. I left them out there. I’m not sure what to do with them.

It’s raining now, and I’m ensconced on the couch thinking that I should do some housecleaning before settling in for some movies/tv. This is another thing about my life that I (most of the time) love – more often than not, no one needs anything from me, so a Netflix binge is allowed and acceptable.

But once in a while, I wish there was someone here to need something from me.

As I tried to talk myself into doing the dishes, I came across a facebook post of a friend that included the words “parenting can be an isolating journey” and I had to pause for a second. Parenting is isolating? That panacea of procreation, that miracle that will give life meaning after long, cold years of living only for oneself? I thought being single/kid-free was the ultimate exercise in isolation.

Then I laughed at myself. Because such comparisons and generalizations are silly. Life can’t be put into such boxes. It simply doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, while alone, a person can feel totally fulfilled. Sometimes, surrounded by people, a person can feel completely isolated. That’s just how it is. That’s just being human.

And it’s a comfort to me, in a selfish way, that I’m not alone in feeling alone sometimes.

End random musings. I’m off to do those pesky dishes and put away the laundry that’s been sitting in the basket for two days. Have a lovely day, everyone.

Peak-bagging in the White Mountains

Living alone can be wonderful, empowering, freeing, fun.

It can also suck.

Like, for example, when you’ve just done something fairly epic and you have no one who is forced, by virtue of his/her being trapped in the same space as you, to listen to you retell the story, adding the occasional “wow” or “uh huh” at appropriate intervals. Dogs don’t count, because, well, they can’t speak.

Blogging just ain’t the same. But we humans are nothing if not practical and persistent, so I will use the tools I have and blog on, because, dammit, I want to tell someone about my Saturday hike in the White Mountains.

I don’t understand my recent obsession with hiking lately, but luckily, I am able to indulge such whims without it negatively impacting my, or anyone else’s life; after all, the laundry left languishing on the floor at home is mine alone. Sadie would probably argue that her life is negatively impacted, being that she’s often left behind when I embark on longer adventures, but, well, I will just have to accept that dog mom guilt. Because I’m pretty sure the tortuous 7 hours in the car would have erased any joy she’d have gotten from the 7 hours on the trail.

Anyway, I set out at around 5:45am, with a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me. Driving in Boston early on a weekend is bliss; I zipped through town and onto the highway. The sun was rising to my left, the harvest moon was setting to my right, mist was rising off of various ponds and rivers; it was magic, pure and simple. A wonderful start.

I-93 is so eerily familiar – I drove it a million times in my youth. It’s still a little weird to drive by exit 23 without my car automatically taking the exit…but it’s only a little bit weird. I feel pretty remote from that part of my life these days.

Anyway, I arrived at the Edmands trailhead around 9am and it was already fairly full of people. It was a beautiful late-summer-not-quite-fall day, and I set off with a spring in my step.

A little background for those unfamiliar with the Whites: there are 48 “4,000 footers” up there, and those tall (for us East Coasters, at least) hills have been calling to expert and would-be hikers for hundreds of years. I was headed for Mt. Eisenhower, which according to most articles, is one of the more “moderate” 4,000 footers, because, well, I’m still building up my fitness and skill for difficult mountains. If I felt good when I got up there, I planned to bag Mt. Pierce, as well, about 500 feet lower and a mile and a half away, and then loop back on the Crawford trail.

This is the 2nd time now that I’ve been lulled into the idea of “moderate” by a White Mountain (the other time can be revisited here). And objectively, it wasn’t like I was scaling a vertical cliff. Nope, the first three miles were just…up. Sometimes mildly up, sometimes more severely, but unrelentingly, steadily UP. There were no switchbacks. The trail showed a lot of use, which meant it was full of roots and boulders and mud and so I trudged, waaaay slower than I’d hoped, up the first couple of miles. I stopped a lot. I was passed more than a few times, and I’ve gotta admit, with no one to talk to other than the occasional fellow hiker, I was a little bored.

But eventually, I passed a trio of older hikers who informed me we were 500 feet from something (I didn’t catch what we were supposedly heading to) and that put some life into my legs. And finally, I saw a hiker ahead of me get out his camera. Yes!

We emerged to a brief view of the brilliant blue-green that is the signature of the White Mountains. I saw no evidence of changing leaves, by the way.


And then, I turned back to the trail and blinked. Gone was the boring woodsy upslope – instead I faced a cliff of wet, black rock. It’s a sign of how I’ve changed that I said to myself “FINALLY! Something fun to tackle!” and up I went, slowly as always, but grinning nonetheless.

After I cleared the slippery rocks, I found myself on a flat ! trail that was clearly winding around something…and that went on for a bit. There was a slightly hairy place where I was stepping over boulders that were part of some kind of rock slide, completely exposed and at the mercy of a fairly steep cliff to the right. I wished for hiking poles in that moment. A few more big boulders to scale and then I reached the junction of Edmands Path and the trail to Mt. Eisenhower’s summit, which looked pretty steep from where I stood.


However, there were a few dozen hikers at the junction, and they were loud and chatty, so I lit out for the top of Mt. Eisenhower pretty quickly. It was a short trek up, about half a mile, and not nearly as hard as I’d thought; just some scrambling and long rock faces. I saw this view along the way…I mean…come on.


And then, the summit, marked by a huge cairn and 360 views of the mountains, including Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, just two peaks away, looking tantalizingly inviting. The weather was completely perfect, which is saying something at a place where it (the weather) has killed people when it’s bad. But not today, it was sunny and windy but not too cold. So, so, so gorgeous.


One sandwich and a bunch of water later, the gaggle of loud hikers had reached the summit, and I layered up and prepared to head down the mountain and on to Mt. Pierce. The trek down was as fun as coming up, with some helpful wooden ladders dropped in occasionally when things got too steep.

img_9557When I reached the bottom of Mt. Eisenhower, I found myself at a crossroads and had to get my map out. I set off along the Appalachian Trail (also known as Crawford Path), and had one of those moments that the chronically directionally-challenged among you will understand – even though I’d checked the map 17 times and confirmed with a passing hiker that I was indeed heading to Mt. Pierce, I still had that niggling fear that I could possibly be going the wrong way. So out came the map again, and this time I even got out my compass, confirmed that Southwest was the direction I wanted, and continued on my way.

Crossing the ridge between Eisenhower and Pierce was wonderful. Gorgeous views, easy hills. The biggest adventure on this stretch was remembering how to use the bathroom in the woods, which I’m happy to say I achieved without incident.


Mt. Pierce was full of lovely views, too, but by this point, about mile 6 into the hike, my feet were starting to hurt, and I was feeling tremendous dog mom guilt, so I didn’t linger, and headed down Crawford Path, which is, for those who care, the oldest continually in-use trail in America. This path was basically a reverse of the Edmands path – a long, rocky, muddy slog through the woods that, I’ll admit, sort of kicked my butt. I’m pretty sure that every muscle in my legs rioted on me at least once on the trek down. I might have whimpered once or twice as the 3-mile trail seemed to go on FOREVER. It was also crowded, and several times I encountered lithe, gorgeous teenagers hauling giant boxes of supplies up to one of the huts, which of course made me feel totally lame for being tired.

However, I did reach the bottom eventually, only to have another 2 miles of road to trek before I got back to my car. I passed one couple who were talking about how much they couldn’t wait to take off their boots (YES!) and another group who asked me if they looked as bedraggled as I did (NO, they looked positively chipper…bastards). Despite my niggling fear that I’d again taken a wrong turn (even with multiple map checks), I did eventually make it back to my car, where I might have collapsed on the hood for a moment or two before violently tearing off my shoes and socks and nearly weeping in relief.

Then it was the drive home, which was made nearly 1.5 hours longer by traffic and other nonsense coming in to the city. By this point, the dog mom guilt was at its peak, but Sadie, the awesome pooch that she is, had not peed in the house and was super glad to see me.

However, going down the stairs to let her out that night, and the next morning, and the next night…yeah…ouch.

So, all in all, a good adventure. Can’t wait to get back up there and bag some more 4,000 footers. Thanks for reading and hopefully adding your nods and “uh-huh”s at the proper intervals.

PS: Summiting more than one peak is called, appropriately, peak-bagging, and it’s cool to say you’ve done it. I won’t lie.


Mountaintop words

The other day, I wrote a blog post for work that used the word “awesome” three times in three paragraphs.


I was grateful for the colleagues who pointed it out, ever so gently, even as I imagine they were gagging onto their keyboards. I was also fully willing to say “Yeah, that was BAD writing.”

But sometimes, I do good writing. Maybe 10% of that writing ever makes it into actual public circulation. After all, it has to be edited, approved, rewritten, and, more often than not, tempered so as not to offend anyone.

Usually, I can accept this as the nature of a job in non-profit marketing. I mean, if I couldn’t accept it, I’d have lost my mind a long time ago.

But once in a great while, I simply lose all ability to accept it, and I fantasize about saying, out loud, that editing the fun or hope or vision from my words kills a little piece of my soul.

Yeah, I know…melodramatic much?

I suspect my colleagues know I feel this way, and because their heads are cooler than mine, they are secure in the belief that my need to fun or hope or vision is trumped by the need to be safe.

Because safety, well, it’s not likely to get you hurt.

But it’s also not likely to get you to the top of the mountain, where the air is clearest and your heart beats faster and anything is possible.

Up there, the right words might just make a difference.

A grand western adventure

There are some vacations that, when they are over, however awesome they were, we are glad to get back to our lives.

And there are some we wish would never end.

Other than a twinge of missing my dog once in a while, my most recent western adventure is one of the latter.

Together with a semi-old (we met in 2009) friend turned new travel companion (this was our first extended trip together), I recently spent 9 days flitting…well, driving…about the American West. Here are the stats:

States I’d never been to:  4 (Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana)
Miles walked/hiked: more than 60
Miles driven: more than 1500
Times we heard “Desperado” on Sirius XM radio: At least 3
Mormons met: 3
Bears seen: ZERO…harumph, and I even got bear spray
Bison traffic jams: 2
Ankles rolled: ZERO (seriously, that’s a big deal)
Cans of Febreeze needed for the car: 1
Times we tried to visit Delicate Arch at dusk: 2
Stars seen over Yellowstone: Millions
Times we didn’t die in Death Canyon: 1

So, yeah, it was quite an adventure. Lakes, mountains, waterfalls, geysers, bison, sunrises, sunsets, Korean barbeque, Mormons, red rock canyons, arches….so many wonderful things were seen. I could write a whole blog post on the experience of traveling as a twosome, but really, you don’t want to hear me rant against how society is biased toward couples. You’ve heard that before.

Nah, let’s just look at some pretty pictures. You can live vicariously and I can try to keep the buzz going.

Day 1: I flew into Salt Lake City and arrived late. Nothing exciting to report there.

Day 2: The first part of the day was spent wandering the city, trying not to sing tunes from Book of Mormon out loud. We were given a tour of the Tabernacle and Conference buildings by several really, really nice Mormons. One was named Sister Hug. I kid not. It was quite the impressive setup.

Salt Lake City

The view of Sal Tlay Ka Citi from the park built on top of the 21,000 seat theater where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir performs

Then we drove the 4+ hours north to get to Grand Teton National Park. We pitched our tents in the dark and turned in with plans to rise early the next day.

Day 3: And rise early we did. So we could see this.

Grand Teton National Park

And this:

Jenny Lake

We got a few miles in on relatively flat ground at Jenny Lake to ease my East Coast legs and lungs into higher elevations, then decided to do a hike called Death Canyon, which, let’s be honest, was really all about the name. The legend is that some dude entered the canyon and didn’t come out, though the ranger we talked to said he could have just kept going to Idaho. At any rate, I struggled with this hike, although views like this helped:

Phelps Lake

At one point, I sent Shawn on ahead so he could, you know, hike at more than a snail’s pace for a bit, and spent some quality time communing with nature by the side of the trail. Needless to say, I slept pretty well that night despite chilly temperatures.

Day 4: On this day, we were bound for Montana, to check out an arts center called Tippet Rise that has sprung up from the ranchland. You can read about it here; I don’t want to try to explain it when others have done it better. But it was an interesting experience; we heard some incredible solo piano, and trekked a few miles out into the fields to see these sculptures:

Montana (47 of 15)

Montana (49 of 15)

Montana (50 of 15)

But really, the highlight was the locally-sourced barbeque. Yummo. We stayed the night in a totally adorable little cabin, complete with antlers and horses as our neighbors. Get it, “neigh” bors? Cracking myself up over here.

Day 5: For the first time, our drive wasn’t more than 4 hours, and we made our way down to Yellowstone National Park in good time. So began two days that are a blur of wonderfulness – hikes and photos and views and campfires and stars and bison. I’ll just share some photos and not try to talk about it too much.

Yellowstone day 1 (41 of 42)

Yellowstone day 2 (42 of 3)

Yellowstone day 2 (43 of 40)

Yellowstone day 2 (47 of 40)

Yellowstone day 2 (72 of 40)

Yellowstone day 1 (62 of 42)

Seriously, y’all, Yellowstone is a magical, magical place. I plan to go back. Anyone who wants to invite me along next time you go, don’t hesitate.

Day 6: Our drive back to SLC took more hours than it should have due to some nasty wildfires in Yellowstone, but by this point, we were pretty tired and dirty and smelly, so heading back to civilization was worth it. Civilization also meant Korean Barbecue (my first), a long shower,  and sleeping on a mattress, plus yummy Mexican food the next day before we headed south.

Day 7: If being among the craters of Yellowstone felt like being on the moon, Moab, Utah and the parks there felt like visiting Mars. We got to Moab fairly late, but managed to get in a two short hikes, one into a canyon, accompanied by bagpipes…yes, I said bagpipes

Moab (41 of 1)

…and one up to try to see the Delicate Arch. If you don’t look too closely, this is a good photo (no tripod, alas):

Delicate Arch

It was warm and pleasant in Moab, so camping that night was pretty easy. It’s also worth pointing out that this day was the official 100th birthday of the National Park Service. We are lucky that at one point, some politicians decided to do something noble and visionary for all of us to enjoy.

Day 8: On our last day, we ran/drove a gauntlet of gorgeous red rock places: starting off in Canyonlands National Park, where we hiked out to Upheaval Dome, a crazy crater that was formed either by the movement of oceans or a meteorite; we chose meteorite, for obvious reasons.

Moab (4 of 1)

Next up was a walk along the canyon rim at Grand View Overlook, where you can see the Colorado River.  It was indeed a grand view.
Moab (4 of 2)

After lunch at Dead Horse State Park (don’t ask how that park got its name, it’s a terrible story), we went back to Arches to do a 7.5 mile hike through Devil’s Garden. Hiking on the so-called “primitive” trail, we saw a bunch of arches, and also did some scrambling over rock fins and down into canyons. Shawn breezed through, I had some moments of struggle, but it was super fun and the views were incredible. See all those towers/spires of rock down there? We basically came through that to get to where  took this photo.

Moab (5 of 2)

Later, we visited the Windows area of the park, and saw some more arches.

Moab (4 of 1)-2

And then we decided to end the day with a race against the sunset to try to see Delicate Arch at night. That was an adventure I’ll tell you about over a beer sometime, but suffice to say that it involved headlamps, a few curse words (uttered by me) and two different paths to the arch (one for me, one for Shawn), but in the end we both made it up and down in one piece. We then enjoyed what was probably the best burger I’ve ever had, and passed out in our tents for our last night under the Utah stars.

Day 9: With markedly less enthusiasm, we rose and drove back to SLC, where even the shower was less awesome (but still delightful). And then, I flew home.

And that, as they say, is that. If you’re still reading, I really do owe you that beer sometime. Hope you enjoyed my travel ramblings.


Meteoric thoughts

As I write this, the sun hasn’t yet come up, and I’ve been awake for two hours. Willingly. Well, mostly willingly, at any rate. This is wrong on so many levels.

And right on some others.

My social media (and traditional media, too) has been filled with the Perseid Meteor shower for the past few weeks, and if you listened to the hype, you’d think that there would have been stargazing parties everywhere in the wee hours this morning, the so-called “peak” of the shower.

You’d be wrong. At least in my corner of Boston. No one was out watching the meteors. They were sleeping like sensible people.

But I’d committed. I’d set an alarm, hauled my bleary-eyed self out of bed, and determined that the cloud cover wasn’t too bad, so I was determined to see it through.

I’m aware that living in Boston, there’s lots of nasty night pollution, so Sadie and I hopped in the car and drove a few miles out of town to one of our favorite parks, built atop a landfill, actually, but with a big open field and parking close enough to the field that I felt I could escape with my life if I was threatened by marauding meanies just looking to attack random people in an isolated city park at 3:30 am. For the record, I was completely alone and safe – more on that later.

Anyway, as insects hummed and a little breeze stirred the incredibly soupy air, I spread out a blanket and looked up.

Everything I’d read said it would take a while for my eyes to adjust to the dark, and I have to admit that it really wasn’t that dark to begin with. There was low cloud cover ringing my field of view, and so the sky was actually pretty light. But I could see stars, some of my favorite constellations, and I did see meteors. Maybe 10-12 of them over the space of an hour or so.

Not the shower of magical streaks I’d hoped for (clouds, ambient light, and I should have been out around 1am instead of 3:30), but enough to prompt all of the existential thoughts that you’d expect of an introspective girl alone in a field, stargazing.

Thoughts about how long 20 minutes is when you’re doing nothing but staring at the sky.

Thoughts of how hard it is to just stare at the sky and not think.

Hamilton lyrics. Always, always, Hamilton lyrics these days.

Thoughts about how my field of vision, even when directed upward with total focus and clarity, can’t come close to seeing the whole sky. At least 75% of my meteor sightings were outside of my direct field of vision; just a streak of light that vanished before I could look directly at it. Teasing me as if to say “You sure about that? You sure?” (that’s a metaphor for life and business, in case I didn’t make that clear).

Thoughts about fear, and how fear kept me from completely relaxing, because even though I knew I was totally alone, and I knew I had a dog next to me, and a pocket knife at hand, and a phone that could dial 911 in moment, I have been taught that I should be afraid because I’m a woman alone in a park in the dark. That’s kind of crappy, but it didn’t stop me, which I think is kind of cool.

Yummy thoughts about the last time I stargazed for real, more than 20 YEARS ago, lying next to my first college boyfriend, on a hill on a chilly early winter Maine night. We had our first kiss that night. I remember it was awkward, but the memory is also sweet and romantic and delicious.

Thoughts about why didn’t I choose to be an astronomer? (that would have required math and science courses, obviously) and how the hell did early explorers make sense of the stars enough to make sure they didn’t fall off the edges of the earth? Answer: math and science.

Thoughts about what the sky is going to look like next weekend when I’m as far from city lights as I can get, high up in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming. Eeeeek. I can’t wait. I feel like my 8-year-old self counting the days until Disney World, when 7 days feels like, literally, FOREVER.

Thoughts about where I belong in the world, where I’m going in life, how much I wished I had a bagel and some tea. You know, the important stuff.

Anyway, it’s now light outside my window, and I’m pondering heading back to sleep for an hour since I have to, you know, be an adult and a boss for one more day before the glorious weekend arrives.

It occurs to me that very little of this morning was about actually seeing meteors. I guess that’s the wonder of stargazing; it’s really not about the stars at all. It’s about us, and if we have the guts look up, feel small, and think all the thoughts.