Canadian Rockies

Oh, Canada!

4,500 miles driven, 15 days, 7 National Parks. Whew!

We did so much during our 2-week trip to the Canadian Rockies that I know I will begin to forget details like the places we saw and our timeline, so I wanted to make sure to chronicle it here while it’s still fresh in my mind.

We tried to take this trip 5 years ago but our plans changed drastically. Two days before leaving, I suffered a ruptured ectopic pregnancy that sidelined us for a long time. We cancelled the trip and thankfully got most of our money back from all the reservations we had made. I still thank God for the timing, for not allowing that tragedy to happen while we were deep in the wilderness. So. This was a re-do trip. Except this go-round we had more time and a little more money, which is always a win!

We started in Glacier National Park in Montana. Montana has been hit hard by forest fires this year and we were so sad to see just how much of the park had been devastated by fire, not only this one but from years past. We saw thousands of acres that had been scorched by fire. Some areas burned in 1967 and some burned just a few years back. The haze and smoke was so thick that it was pretty difficult to see the mountains on our first day there.

Lake McDonald with lots of smoky haze

 

On our 2nd day in Glacier, we hiked the famous Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet, which is a cool stone backcountry lodge where you can stay if you make reservations like 18 month in advance. We got an early start because this is the most popular trail in the park and we really wanted to avoid crowds. We spent almost the entire time hiking in the fog and clouds which was so cool!

 

After another day in Glacier, we headed on towards Waterton National Park in Canada. What a remarkable place! We stayed at the Prince of Wales Hotel, which sits perched atop a hill looking over the Park and town of Waterton. We really only had enough time in Waterton to eat dinner, stroll through town, get a good night’s sleep and drive around in the morning. Of all the places we visited, this is the one where I wish we had more time to explore and appreciate.After Waterton we made a quick stop at a Canadian healthcare clinic because David got the Shingles. We were super impressed with how fast, easy and cheap the whole process way! After a stop at the pharmacy, we headed towards Banff. To be totally honest, I didn’t love the actual town of Banff. It was overly crowded, commercialized and it had a vibe like it was just catering to the rich tourists that were in town. Meh. Not a huge fan of all that. I did love the mountains surrounding Banff however – beautiful! We stayed in Banff long enough to talk with the Rangers about out backcountry trip, buy a topo map and set up camp while we prepped for our multi-day backpacking trip into the Assiniboine Provincial Park the next day.

This backpacking trip almost didn’t happen. Wildfires had forced the closure of Assiniboine and nearby areas for almost a month and we didn’t think that it wouldn’t open up in time for us. As luck would have it, it opened the day before we had planned to hike in. We did 10 miles on our first day and camped out at Marvel Lake. Bear activity was high and we saw…umm, evidence, of bears everywhere but we never actually encountered one thankfully.

 

Our goal on the second day was Lake Magog  which sits at the base of Mount Assiniboine (also known as the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies) and it has a campground that we were originally planning to stay at. But upon arrival we learned that the campground was actually not scenic at all. 20 miles in to this beautiful area and the camp sites were all tucked away in dense pine forests with no views at all. I was sooo frustrated!

Thankfully, the Assiniboine Lodge is also at the base of Mount Assiniboine. This is a luxury lodge and the only way to it is to either hike in or take a helicopter and they usually book out 12-18 months in advance. Rooms go for $650/night, cabins are $800/night and then they have cute little backcountry huts as well. We hit another streak of luck, the Lodge had so many cancellations due to the fire evacuations that they had several backcountry huts available for $20/night. Yes please! We took them up on that offer without hesitation.

Photo Aug 18, 8 01 31 PM (1)
Lake Magog at the base of Mnt. Assiniboine

We spent several days hiking around the Assiniboine wilderness, reading on lakeshores and sleeping soundly in our little primitive backcountry hut.

Next came the highlight of our backpacking trip….the helicopter ride! We decided long ago that if we were going to hike 20 miles in to this place, we were going to enjoy a wonderful ride out and get an aerial view of the terrain we hiked. It was AMAZING!!! I loved not having to carry all our gear back out after hiking a combined 40 miles in the area, we were ready for someone else to do the work in getting us out haha!

We stayed the night in Canmore with enough time to do a load of laundry and grab a burger and beer before heading north. Our next stop was Lake Louise, Moraine Lake and the Icefields Parkway on our way up to Jasper.

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Lake Louise
Photo Aug 21, 11 40 44 AM
What some of these amazing places are actually like….bleh. so. crowded.

Jasper was the place we stayed the longest and it was probably my favorite. It’s absolutely huge and the opportunities to see and do amazing things are endless. It was also much less crowded, it seemed like most people just didn’t want to venture up that far north. We did so much in Jasper! Boat cruises, mountain biking, hiking, fishing. It was awesome! I was really sad to leave this amazing place because I knew that it meant our trip was coming to a close.

We headed back south and made our way over to YOHO National Park, Glacier National Park of Canada and Revelstoke National Park. These 3 parks are on the smaller side but they were all beautiful and I’m glad we had a chance to explore them! Glacier was the only one that felt relatively inaccessible. In order to see a lot of Glacier, you had to embark on a 10-12 mile hike which we just didn’t have the time for.

My overall impression is that the Canadian Rockies are incredible! We saw so many jaw-dropping sights, I lost count. The mountains are rugged, jagged and steep. The glaciers are thick, the water is silty blue and the people are kind.

I could have done without so many tourists at a few of the places we went to, but that’s what you get when you only hit the National Parks. I frequently got overwhelmed by the crowds and had to leave certain sites.

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A Little Catch Up

For the first time in almost 7 years, I let my blogging lapse. It’s been a little over 3 months since I last visited this space or even had a thought to begin writing. I’ve actually enjoyed the break and there might be more in the future. I’ve also found that since starting a personal Instagram account that is separate from my business, I’m sharing a lot more over in that space which has kind of almost replaced blogging. I don’t have the energy to write anything in-depth, so I thought a little bullet point update would suffice.

  • The house. Oh this house! We’ve had a love-hate relationship ever since moving in. The previous owners opted to not clean…ever, so we had a pretty gross situation on our hands after we closed. It took me a solid week of scrubbing + professional cleaners to finally get to a point where I’d walk on the floors barefoot. Immediately upon buying this house, things began breaking: air conditioning, pipes, sewer lines, electrical system, toilets. You name it, it broke. In the midst of that, we decided to do a little updating too. Hey, if you’re already sinking gobs of money into repairs, why not just keep your wallet open and do a few fun things too?! So we installed hardwood floors, solar tubes and redid most of the kitchen. And now we are officially done. Done with updates and hopefully done with repairs. At least for now 🙂

    To be honest, I haven’t been in town enough for this place to feel like home yet. It feels like a wonderful place to lay my head, but it doesn’t feel like home. I hope that changes in the months to come because I really do love it and I’m very thankful to be here, even if it’s only for a few days at a time.

     

  • Bahamas! We went to the Bahamas for a week to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. It’s hard to believe that it’s already been a decade! We had to wait until after closing to make any travel plans so as to not throw off bank account numbers for the underwriting of the loan. So with 3 weeks so spare, we made a last minute decision to go to the Bahamas. We stayed on the island of Great Exuma, which is a smaller and quieter island compared to Nassau or Paradise Island. Our hotel was great, the beach was gorgeous and it was a great way for us to decompress and reconnect. We didn’t do much other than hang at the beach, read, drink pina coladas, golf and enjoy yummy food all week.

    Everyone kept asking us if we were on our honeymoon which always made us laugh. Either we’re aging well or we act like newlyweds…or both! 🙂

     

  • Photography insanity. With fall came 21 weddings and elopements for my company to photograph. They were all over the state so consequently every week I was traveling and running from one place to the next. The leaves here in Colorado are just gorgeous in the fall and I have a lot of out of state clients who travel here to take advantage of the beauty. Our window is pretty small for how long the leaves stick around so I wound up packing in as many weddings as possible. One week we had 8 weddings in 7 days. Bananas. It was beautiful but oh-so exhausting. I’m actually pretty mad at myself for allowing things to get so crazy. I live an intentionally slow life with a lot of breathing room and margin, so to take on this much work is really not my norm. I think it was a combination of needing money for the house, trying to prove that “I’m back” after taking most of last year off due to surgery, and pride. Bad combo. Lesson learned.

     

  • My heart. As life is slowing down, I’m starting to get a handle on my emotions, my heart, the pace of my life and my focus. This has been a hard year with David’s health, coming to terms with life after brain surgery, family problems, selling our dream house, living 8 months in a basement, moving to a new town and a new church. My emotions went wild for a few months, dipping to the lowest of lows as depression returned. David was right there with me for a while at the bottom. We hung out there for many months, looking for hope, looking for reasons to keep going.

    Now that we are in our own space again and the cloud has lifted a little I can feel my heart settling, calming, lifting. It’s tempting to say that I’m “returning to normal” but the thing is, there’s no returning to anything. Things are different now. So much has happened in the last 2 years (err, 7?) to shake up my normal that there’s really nothing left to return to. Now it’s about pressing forward.

  •  School. Fall semester at Denver Seminary started at the end of August, right when the pace of my photography picked up dramatically. At the last second, I switched to an on-line class taught by one of the professors who founded my Christian Formation & Soul care program. I couldn’t pass up learning from him! Studying on-line this semester has been helpful since I just don’t have the time to drive to campus each week but it’s also hard in that you don’t have an opportunity to really interact with people in a classroom. I am looking forward to the rest of the semester because we’re going to make use of some video conferencing and I’ll finally have time to focus.

I guess that’s all for now. Maybe I’ll write sooner than 3 months from now. Or maybe not! We’ll just see how the Spirit moves 🙂

On The Road

The first half of 2016 was not terribly kind to us. David got seriously sick with 2 pulmonary embolisms in his lungs and almost died, I was still trying to fully recover from brain surgery, we lost a house we were trying to buy, a crazy lady surfaced at David’s work and took him to mediation (if you know my husband at all, you know how craaazy that sounds. He is maybe the kindest, quietest and most caring person in the world), we became basement dwellers in my in-law’s house as we waded through the hopeless housing market, I felt depression begin to resurface after a 10 year hiatus. Everything was looking pretty dismal.

We’ve had some crazy nights during these last few months. Nights where we bought cold beer and drove out of town to sit under the stars and have conversations I never thought we’d have. Nights where the tears wouldn’t stop. Nights where I worried about David. Nights where he worried about me. We took walks in the dark of night. We clung to each other for dear life before falling asleep. 7 years of trials had finally caught up with us.

We had many nights where we tossed out crazy ideas and discussed “what ifs.” Like, what if we just got the hell outta here? What if we just left? Like, leave it all behind. What if we took the equity from our house, bought an RV and just left town. Didn’t tell anyone. Just left. We could kiss our attempts to live a “normal” life with the rest of society goodbye and just do our own thing.

We were ridiculously close to doing it. Still are at times, if I’m being honest.

Ultimately, God intervened with a house. We bought a precious little bungalow and decided maybe we’d stay in town a little while after-all. If it weren’t for that house, we’d be long gone by now.

When we were on our trip to Utah, we encountered many people living the life that we almost lived. We’d pass a VW van barreling down the highway with the windows rolled down and sun-tanned faces smiling in the wind. We’d walk by a camper that was stocked with food from the latest grocery store, 80 miles away. We’d smile at a single woman and her dog as they walked back “home” which was a campervan with a doormat laying on the wet pavement. We’d catch a glimpse of a solar panel powering someone’s laptop in their RV as they answered emails and got a little business done.

It made me realize that there is a whole other world out there. A community of people who are perpetually on the road (and I’m not talking about retirees who are strategically vacationing in their motorhomes). These wanderers are not homeless. They are very much at home. Home is the road. They work from their RVs and Airstreams. They make a steady income. They live simply, in no more than 400 sq. feet of space. They see new things and meet new people with each week that goes by.

For whatever reason, these folks feel that life on the road is better than life at home, wherever home may have been at one time. Some of them are surely running away from their problems, like David and I would have been. But some of them seem utterly content to maintain a nomadic lifestyle, they aren’t running from anything or to anything. They simply enjoy life in the moment, wherever that may be. Call it perpetual wanderlust.

Instagram is a fascinating way to look at the lives of this wandering sub-community. Hashtags like #vanlife #airstreamdreams #sheroams #homeiswhereyouparkit bring up images of hundreds of people who are living in this countercultural way. They’ve given up their mortgages and desks for camp stoves and folding chairs.

Honestly, there is an entire community of landscape photographers that do this full-time. One of my photographic inspirations, Sarah Marino, lives in her Airstream with her husband and travels throughout the US taking photos to sustain her business. Photography is a beautiful way to sustain this way of life.

Since being home, our conversations about buying a camper, RV, Airstream or some other type of mobile housing have continued. We talk about early retirement, living on the road full-time vs. part-time. We talk about the benefits of having a “home base” here in Colorado. We talk about passive and active revenue streams. We are not talking in what-ifs anymore. What-ifs have morphed into strategic vision and meaningful plans for creating a different kind of life. It stopped being about running away. It started being about cultivating a life that we both feel drawn to, and have been for many years.

I read a book for class the other week called Searching For Home: Spirituality for Restless Souls by Craig Barnes (great book if you’re interested). It’s all about how we wander through life in search of meaning and a destination. Some literally wander in their VW van, across state lines and through National Parks. Others wander through relationships, jobs, churches, friendships, the newest technology. They get married because they think it will make them happy. They have children because they think they will finally feel fulfilled. They switch jobs. They move states, thinking that a change of scene will bring happiness (I literally see this in Colorado every day. People flock here in droves looking for a better life.).

Everyone wanders at some level. But it is possible to wander with a purpose. If you know where our true Destination lies, you’re never just adrift. There’s a difference between wandering aimlessly through life and being a pilgrim with your eyes set on your Heavenly Home as you journey along. As my professor said, “In Christ, home is within us.”

Heck, Jesus was a nomad. He wandered from town to town. Paul roamed an entire region, as did most of the apostles. The Desert Fathers intentionally removed themselves from society in order to seek God in the wilderness. Who says the only way to live a godly life is by following American society’s standards of living in a stationary house with a lifelong career, freshly mowed lawn and 2 weeks of vacation each year? Couldn’t you live an equally obedient, prayerful, God-pleasing life while traveling? Ministering to your RV neighbors and campground hosts? Helping a fellow traveler who has broken down on the side of the road? Volunteering to do trail maintenance and picking up trash in the parks? Reading the Bible and praying while taking a walk through the forest? Is that life any less honoring to God?

The whole point to life with God is to receive His love, love Him back and love others in the process. I believe this is possible whether you are living on the road, at home or somewhere in between. If we do this thing, we want to do it well. I want to live a life that deeply fulfilling and also glorifying to God. I think we can cultivate a life on the road that has purpose and is full of meaning, focus, beauty, simplicity, community, friendship, formative growth and intentionality.

I’m pretty sure this will happen. One of these days we’ll have our mortgage paid off, we’ll rent our house out and buy something to travel in. Maybe it will be in 6 months, maybe it will be in 10 years. We’ll just listen for God to whisper now is the time, go. If we’ve learned one thing, it’s to never count on your own plans. “You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail”(Prov 19:21). But holding your plans loosely doesn’t mean you can’t keep a dream in the forefront of your mind while you continue to refine a vision that might become a reality.Photo May 15, 6 44 55 PM (2)

Travels: Capitol Reef National Park

Photo May 14, 5 57 34 PM (1)This was our first long vacation in almost 2 years! Sometimes it seems like we’re always traveling but truly most of that is just long weekends away. This was a real trip!

We decided to continue our love affair with Utah, especially since it’s mud season here in the mountains. We love Utah so much, there is just something about the desert that has captured us. So far, we’ve done Zion, Arches and Canyonlands. This time, we aimed our sights at Capitol Reef National Park.

We left Friday afternoon and made it to the State line by about 11pm. We ended up in BLM land just off of the Interstate. We wandered around in the dark trying to find a place to camp for the night. All the campgrounds were full so we poached a site off a guy who was sleeping in his Airstream and wasn’t using his tent pad. We left Saturday morning before he was awake and kept heading towards our destination.

We decided to start our tour de Capitol Reef in the northern section, called Cathedral Valley. Cathedral Valley is only accessed by 4×4 roads so it’s really pretty empty. Most tourist in rental cars shy away from the river crossings and bumpy roads that lead into and out of the section of the Park. We dropped in from the northern area of Fishlake National Forest. It’s a windy and bumpy 4×4 road that offered some really great views of the Cathedral Valley area.

Eventually we came to the primitive Cathedral Valley Campground.We found a great campsite and set up our base camp. We spent the rest of the day hiking the Cathedrals Trail, driving through sandy washes and checking out the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon. This area was probably my favorite in terms of scenery, it was so amazing! The monoliths just rise straight up to the sky out of the ground. It is really so beautiful!

Photo May 14, 3 51 23 PM Photo May 14, 1 19 10 PMSunday morning, we ate breakfast, packed up camp and headed towards the Fruita Historic District, which is the main section of Capitol Reef where most people go. The road out of Cathedral Valley was long, bumpy, winding, full of washed out creekbeds and eventually a large river crossing. We heard the water was only running 12 inches high, so our 4Runner had no problem crossing, it was pretty fun!

We snagged a great camp site in the Fruita District, it was on the edge of the orchard and looked over the red cliffs and apple trees. Deer grazed in the orchard every morning and evening, it was so peaceful!Photo May 15, 6 16 20 PM We headed to the Visitor’s Center to inquire about backpacking. We originally wanted to do a 2 night backpacking trip in the Park. The backpacking “expert” was probably the worst help we’ve ever received at a Park. Every question we asked, she would respond “I”m not sure, I’ve never hiked that trail” or “oh I’ve never been there before” or “I can’t really answer that question because I’ve never done that before.” We eventually ignored her and relied on our own intuition and decided on a 2 night trip up Pleasant Creek. We got our permit and left to explore more of the Fruita District.

We thought a good day hike would be a great way to see part of the Park. We chose the Grand Wash trail, which turned out to be our favorite hike of the entire trip! It leads all the way to Cassidy Arch, which is rumored to be where Butch Cassidy hung out back in his outlaw days. We did 7 miles all together with 1,000 feet of elevation in the last mile. On our way out we got caught in a downpour. It was actually really fun being in the wash and watching all the rain pour off the rocks. There is always a danger of flash flooding in the desert so we made sure to keep an eye out for higher ground if needed.Photo May 15, 2 50 31 PM

The rain that started on our hike continued for the next 2 days and eventually forced us to cancel our backpacking trip. It rained pretty steadily but we managed to sneak in a few more quick hikes and scenic drives as the clouds let up every now and then. Hickman Bridge was a favorite for sure!
Photo May 16, 10 50 45 AM

Photo May 16, 11 00 57 AMOn our last day in the Fruita District, we found a little trail that lead from our campground through the orchard and along the river. We just thought we’d take a morning stroll but soon enough the trail started going up! We weren’t planning on a hike, but the scenery was so beautiful, we just kept going and it turned into one of our prettiest hikes of the entire trip.

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We packed up camp and headed over towards the Waterpocket District which is the southern most section of the park. It’s a pretty remote area, and another one where 4×4 is recommended so not many people visit. We had a picnic lunch, hiked a little bit and then saw some pretty ominous storm clouds approaching so we decided to keep moving.

The goal was to head to Goblin Valley and camp since it was on our way back towards Colorado. When we reached the visitor’s center, the ranger told us he had one camp site available and that we should go check it out, so we did. We liked it, so we set up our tent and then went back to the ranger station to pay. I knew the second that rangers saw us that something was wrong. “Uh sorry guys, it’s first-come-first-served and I just sold that camp site to someone else.” Ummm, what?! YOU told us to leave and go check it out before paying! And then you sell it right out from under us? Gah! He totally screwed us, so we had to go back to camp and take our tent down and then find some BLM land to camp on. So frustrating! We did at least check out the Hoodoos, which is what Goblin Valley is known for. Photo May 17, 4 26 59 PM

Photo May 17, 4 13 18 PM

We found a great spot of BLM land that gave us a great view of the valley surrounding us. We made a fire, cooked dinner, listened to good music and watched the skies fill with more storm clouds. Photo May 17, 6 14 53 PMAnother night of camping in the rain didn’t sound appealing and thankfully we hadn’t set up our tent yet, so we decided to head out and grab a hotel room in Grand Junction for the night. A hot shower and soft bed sounded delightful after 4 days of camping in the rain!

Our trip home was uneventful and easy. To be honest, we were both a little sad that our trip had to stop at 5 days. I could have easily spent another week out in the desert. We are still living with David’s parents, which is going just fine, but when you don’t have your own home to return to…returning home just doesn’t sound like fun. Oh well, just another excuse to go back to Utah in the near future!

Healing: 1 Year

Last year on Easter, I was sitting in the neuroICU at UCLA. My goodness time has gone by so fast! I can’t believe it has been a full year since my surgery. During my final post-op with my neurosurgeons, they said, “expect to feel better in 8-12 weeks….expect a significant improvement at 6 months….and expect full healing to take 12 months.” Here I am at 12 months!

SCDS is a degenerative syndrome. There is no cure for it. Surgery doesn’t make everything all better. You can’t just go back to normal again. Surgery isn’t about fixing things and getting back to life as usual, it’s about trying to make sure nothing gets worse. Big difference.

As I have gotten further into my recovery, I began to notice that it was hard to tell where my SCDS symptoms ended and brain surgery side-effects began or when healing ends and the “new normal” begins. Lines blur and all I know is that things are different now. Good, but different.

I write this as a person who is thankful to have received the help that I have from surgery, but who is also very much struggling to accept the idea that the “normal” I used to know will probably never return. There is a mourning over the loss of what used to be, and likely will never be again. That’s a big deal. Anyone who has been sidelined with a chronic condition will resonate with this (fellow infertility sisters perhaps?).

After all the dust has settled, I have realized that a few things linger. These are things that have not changed much over the last 12 months. They’re here, probably to stay. And I’m slowly making peace with that. Some of them are SCDS symptoms that just never fully resolved and some of them are probably due to the surgery itself.

-Barometric Pressure induced headaches, dizziness & cognitive disorientation. Bottom line, I never feel well when storms are approaching or leaving the area. In Colorado, this happens several times per week, if not several times per day haha!
-Cognitive disorientation in high stimulation environments

-Difficulty with short term memory, focus and concentration
-Nerve Pain and numbness
-Low-grade headaches 5-6 days/week
This list of things that remain is far better than what I was dealing with before surgery, so I will happily accept them as part of my new normal. And you never know, some things may improve in the future, like the headaches now that I am on the Migraine Diet (I’ve gone 7 days without a headache so far! May be coincidence…may be the diet actually working, too early to tell). And if we ever move to a place with no barometric pressure changes (Honolulu is #1 on the list haha!) then I will most certainly feel better. 

    Recovering from this whole experience has had it’s ups and downs. It’s been a long year full of tears, slow walks, frustration, gratitude, struggle, relearning things and adopting to a new way of life. I don’t have a story where I can say “Look at me! I’m 110% better now!” But I can say “I am grateful for the healing work God has done in my life and I am slowly learning to accept and embrace my limitations while praising God for bringing me this far, which is much further than I was a year ago. Amen and Amen!”

    David and I took a quite trip to the mountains to celebrate this milestone and to also celebrate the fact that we finally have a house under contract! Wooo! We booked a last minute condo on the river just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent our time lounging around, fishing, sitting in the sunshine, eating good food, hiking and looking at wildlife. It was a great way to get away and celebrate together all that God has done for us.


    Right-Side Up

    I do great in crisis situations. I am rarely rattled or scared. I usually know what to do, where to go and how to get there. I don’t hesitate and I seldom panic. As long as that adrenaline is pumping through my veins, I’m level-headed and perfectly fine. It’s usually after the crisis that I start to fall apart. Inevitably this is due to my poor adaptation to change which has been a lifelong challenge. Unfortunately, crisis and change go hand-in-hand.

    When the change starts to settle in after the crisis…. the new routines, the new way of life, the memories and emotions that need to be processed…that is when I come unhinged. And believe me, the changes have come flooding through these past 2 weeks.

    David’s health of course is one of the biggest changes. My strong and resilient husband has been set back a few steps. I still wake up at 3am worried that he has stopped breathing. The blood thinners make him cold all the time. I am always looking for the next sign that suggests we need to rush back to the ER. It’s going to take some time for the PTSD to wear off. I actually read a study recently that said the majority of pulmonary embolism survivors exhibit signs of PTSD. It makes sense…especially when you realize just how close we came to losing David. It’s going to take time for our heightened levels of fear and paranoia to come down a notch.

    Then comes the fact that we sold our house. The second I went in that hospital with David, I never returned to our home. Other people packed our boxes, moved our belongings and cleaned our house. We left home in a frantic hurry and by the time David was out of the hospital, the papers had been signed and the keys had been transferred to the new owners. I had Power of Attorney so David wasn’t even at the closing, he has far less closure than myself on leaving our home. I blinked and suddenly our home wasn’t our home anymore. I’m currently floating somewhere between denial and suppressed acknowledgement that we are never going back to that house. The vast majority of our stuff is in storage somewhere and we are almost always looking for missing shoes and hair gel. Side note, I did just find all of my shellac and gel polish, which I thought was lost and gone forever so occasionally there are happy surprises!! 🙂

    Then comes grad school. I can’t even begin to describe the changes that alone has set into motion. So yes, change. Lots of it.

    If you know us at all, you know exactly what we do when life gets a little too hard. We do this…

     We headed south towards a little town in Colorado called South Fork. We drove through it in 2014 as we were coming home from Arizona and we were both intrigued by how quaint it was. We made some seriously last minute reservations at a little B&B on the river and headed down for a long weekend of reconnecting, reflecting and relaxing. It was exactly what we needed.

    South Fork is about an hour from the Great Sand Dunes National Park (did you know Colorado has sand dunes?! They are so random but so so so very cool!) so we headed over to the Dunes to check things out. The wind was whipping at about 30mph and it was freezing cold but we both really enjoyed being here. Since it was so cold and cloudy, there weren’t many people around and we more or less had the place to ourselves. Aside from the occasional sand grain blowing into our eyes, we had a great time soaking in all the natural beauty that this place offers.

    Gooooosh I love this husband of mine! I will never stop being thankful for him and that he is alive!!!

     I got an absurd amount of sand in my hiking boots haha!

     I made a poor decision and attempted to do a long exposure of the water that flows in front of the Dunes. It was so cold and my exposures took so long that I was sure frostbite had gotten the best of my fingers by the time I got back to the car. The pictures turned out terribly too, oh well, live and learn!

     The next day we headed home and made a few quick stops along the way. One stop was in a tiny little town to say hi to my dad. He lives on 100 acres in the boonies and I rarely have a chance to see him due to problematic circumstances (ahem, my crazy step-mom). We ate lunch with him at the only restaurant open in his little town on a Monday, which was in the bowling alley. Ha! David hadn’t seen my dad in over 2 years so it was good for them to catch up a little bit. I don’t see my dad much and I have learned over time to lower my bar of expectations so that a simple lunch in a bowling alley where all we do is talk about the weather is enough to satisfy my heart.

    Lunch with my dad was conveniently located within an hour of the very first town David and I lived in when we got married, Canon City. David got his first job out of college in Canon City. He was a reporter for the local newspaper and covered everything from city council meetings to local high school football games. He lived there for about 18 months and I would go down to visit on the weekends when I didn’t have to work. I lived in Canon City for exactly 2 weeks after we got married before David took a job in a different town, where we live now.

    Canon City is a quiet, small town that is full of a mixture of retirees who love the milder climate, blue collar workers, tourists and a smattering of folks who moved there for a job in the prison system.

    There are 13 major prisons in the area, including “Supermax” which is a maximum security prison that houses criminals who are too-high a security risk or too much of a threat to national security for standard maximum security prisons. The high value of targets inside the prison makes it just as likely for someone wanting to break-in as break-out so they have set up the prison in an intentionally disorienting way that includes underground areas, no windows, “black holes” and sound-proof cells. Most people inside can’t tell where they are within the prison or even which way is north. Supermax holds famous criminals like:

    • Ted Kaczynski aka The Unabomber 
    • the Underwear bomber 
    • the Shoe bomber
    • one of the Oklahoma City bombers
    • one of the 9/11 bombers
    • the 1993 World Trade Center bomber
    • the Atlanta Olympics bomber
    •  Boston Marathon bomber
    • several mobsters
    • many cartel leaders
    • a few FBI/CIA double agents 
    • quite a few al-queida members 

    It’s a little unsettling that all of these guys are housed under one roof together (think of the destruction they could plot!) but every prisoner is kept under solitary confinement at Supermax for 23 hours/day. Any time a prisoner is released from his cell, he has no less than 3 armed officers with him at all times. Not much plotting could happen under those conditions, right?! Ok, I’m done with prison trivia 🙂

    We drove by our very first place where we lived for exactly 12 days before moving. The window on the right was ours! Our shower didn’t drain and we had landlords that would walk in unannounced at all hours of the day, but it was a significant upgrade from where David lived before.

     This was David’s first place in Canon City. His was the door on the left. It was right on Hwy 50 and he had a constant stream of semi-trucks whizzing by. His neighbor was about 98 years old and we were always worried about him dying. The worst was his other neighbor to the west…a taxidermist ::shudders:: The dumpster out back is a thing I fear to this very day.

    I have fond memories of our brief time in Canon City. Good memories of eating Little Ceasar’s pizza on that front porch, watching the trucks whir by and looking up at the stars. We would eat lunch at our favorite coffee shop and take walks along the Arkansas River. We went to the Blossom Festival and the rodeo in the summers and spent a lot of time people watching downtown and we even found a cute little church to attend. David and I spent the entirety of our engagement apart and these visits to Canon City were the highlights of each month that went by.

    I am thankful we no longer live there, but I can’t help but feel a strong sentimental attachment to this interesting little town. In many ways, it was a great foundational place for our marriage to begin. Our marriage started in very very humble beginnings, something I would never change. It doesn’t get more humble than living next to a taxidermist haha! 🙂

    We slowly made our way north and returned to the new life we have now. We are currently set up in David’s parent’s basement. Slowly, a new routine is being established and we are finding our bearings once again. House hunting has begun, David is back at work, I’m going to school and have finally responded to the 800 business emails I got while we were in the hospital. David’s parents have graciously been feeding us and caring us over the past 3 weeks. I have yet to go to the grocery store or make dinner but I have done a few loads of laundry so I will call that progress. 
    It’s funny how in the midst of all this change, a little road trip to some big piles of sand in the middle of nowhere actually helped us feel a bit more stabilized and secure. I guess that goes to show how much being in the mountains and traveling centers us. God’s creation has always been a tool for healing in our life. Now I also see it is a tool for grounding, stabilization and turning an upside-down life back to right-side up. 

    Utah

    Mmmmmm I love the desert. I don’t know what it is about this place, but I’m officially obsessed. Moab is a 6 hour drive from our front doorstep (uh, when you’re not driving in a blizzard, which we were, so it was technically a 9 hour trip for us. Boo.) and it’s kind of just become a little tradition over the years for us to getaway in the fall (and sometimes the spring too!) to this beautiful area. This is probably the 5th or 6th time I’ve been to Moab and it just seems to get better each time! Before you know it, we’ll probably just move there. I kid, I kid. Kinda.

    We stayed at a place called The Red Cliffs Lodge, which has become “our” place over the years. It’s absolutely awesome. It’s beautiful. It’s affordable. It sits right on the river and in the heart of some of the best places to explore. They have a killer on-site restaurant and a to-die-for Sunday brunch. They even have their own vineyards and winery too! Mmmm wine….

     It’s tempting to stick with tried and true hikes and adventures in this area. There’s 2 National Parks right here and an abundance of awesome trails that we’ve done before. But we decided this time we should try new stuff.

    Our first day was a hike through Negro Bill’s Canyon to Morning Glory Arch. I’ve driven by the trailhead 40 times over the years but have never stopped to hike it. What a fun hike! There was very little elevation gain except for the very end. About 5 miles roundtrip and at the end is a beautiful arch called Morning Glory arch. We got to see a few people repelling down it, pretty cool!

    It may be winter in Colorado now, but fall was in full force out in Utah. The trees were beautiful! Here’s a photo of Morning Glory arch above the yellow foliage. Beautiful!

    After our hike, we drove around Castle Valley and Fisher Towers. These two areas are super popular for commercials and movies. There are dozens and dozens of movies that have been filmed in this area. Mission Impossible, Thelma & Louise, and pretty much every John Wayne movie ever.

    On our second day, we headed over to Dead Horse State Park, which sits right next to Canyonlands. You get all the beautiful views of Canyonlands without all the motorhomes and RVs clogging the roads. David did a 14 mile mountain bike ride and I did a 5 mile hike along the eat rim. I picked a less populated trail in the hopes of finding a little solitude. My reward at the end was astounding. I sat on the edge of a cliff (couldn’t have done that 9 months ago with my vertigo!) and listened to the wind blow through the canyons below. It was pure silence and pure perfection. See the edge of the cliff in the photo below? That’s where I sat. Pretty cool!
     I snapped a few long exposures on the ledge
    Our third day was probably my favorite of all. We hiked to Bowtie and Corona arch. They’re not in a park of any sort, just a standard trailhead and a 3 mile hike to see them. Wowza! What an incredible spot! I was also pretty jazzed because this made for my 3rd day of hiking in a row…a true sign that I getting back to normal after surgery! I’m not 100% yet and this trip gently reminded me of that. David caught the picture below where I was attempting to look up at the arch. I was soooo off balance, I had to keep my arms out and my feet super wide in order to not fall over. Haha! Nothing to worry about, but looking straight up like this isn’t a regular part of my vestibular therapy. I suppose it should be if I want to ever look up at arches again without falling over. 🙂
     Can you spot David?

    Here you can see both Bowtie arch (left) and Carona arch (right)
    After our hike out to Corona arch, we headed back to CO. Thankfully our drive home was less eventful with no blizzards to speak of. Our long weekend to Utah was one of the best trips we’ve had in a while. I’m so lucky God gave me such an awesome travel partner, hiking buddy and best friend like David. We have so much fun on trips like this, I’m just the luckiest girl to have him!