This fall, Sprocket and I had some fun hiking and running Ouray’s trails after school. We’re so so lucky to have these trails right home!
This fall, Sprocket and I had some fun hiking and running Ouray’s trails after school. We’re so so lucky to have these trails right home!
I’ve been feeling rather Grinchy about Christmas this year. Stuck in house limbo with balmy temperatures more suited to San Diego than 7000′ in Colorado with finals impending I just couldn’t muster my usual enthusiasm for Christmas music, twinkly lights, Christmas trees, presents and gift wrap.
And then suddenly, on Monday, I had a house deadline: an actual three day range in which I can expect to get my certificate of occupancy and move in. I briefly had a little tantrum and decided I wasn’t going to have a Christmas tree. I was going to do my best to move in and then I’d sort out Christmas later. There I sat, behind my usual pace on Christmas presents, threatening to basically skip Christmas traditions, and begrudge the entire trip to Tacoma to celebrate with my family.
Home for the holiday,
I believe I’ve missed each and every face,
Come on and play my music,
Let’s turn on every love light in the place.
Tuesday, I took a look at my list of gifts I had left to purchase. Somehow my icy feelings towards the holiday melted all at once. I started placeing orders on gifts that I’d been procrastinating on ordering, simply going for the gifts I knew I wanted to buy those people love. Somehow my list got longer as I reconsidered a couple people I wasn’t going to purchase for and I did it anyway. I know it’s in vogue to simplify and cut your list these days but that’s just not my style.
As a kid, Christmas at my house was magical. My mom and dad went out of their way to make the holiday special for us as kids. There was a never ending string of traditions that lead us from our viewing of “It’s A Wonderful Life” late Thanksgiving night to doing a puzzle to the background of college football bowl games between Christmas and New Years. Throughout high school and college I never was ashamed of my absurd love for the joyousness of the Christmas holiday. In high school I wore giant gift bows on my head unapologetically. Once I even found a battery pack set of mini lights and wore them in my hair (OMG… with LEDs I might have to get on this again). In college, I introduced more than a few friends to the cannon of Christmas movies.
In my young adult life, however, things wavered. Even during the two Christmas I spent mobile, I decorated the van and camper. The sparkle had dimmed and I kind of started to think that I’d lost my love for the season.
It’s time I found myself
Totally surrounded in your circles
Whoa, my friends.
After making a list and checking it twice, I put it on my list for next week to go get a Christmas tree permit—damn it, a tree was going to be the first thing in the house after a bed. I’m nothing if not stubborn and I wasn’t going to let this be the first time I could have a tree and not do it.
As I’m sure all of the lovely people in my life can attest, my affect around questions about the house has been mellow and sinking. It occupies my thoughts a lot but I don’t really have control so I’ve just settled into a holding pattern. It feels disappointing to me and I just can’t decide whether I should show excitement for the people who are so excited for me or whether I should retreat to my safe non-emotional space. I always choose the latter.
Please, celebrate me home,
Give me a number
Please, celebrate me home
Tonight though, on the way home from my side hustle chocolate shop job, I decided to play some Christmas music. I went to the little amount of Christmas music on my phone. In a hurry to get home to Sprocket, I put it on shuffle and the first song was Kenny Loggins “Celebrate Me Home.”
Immediately I froze. Tears welled in my eyes. Suddenly, it all seemed real. I was going to give myself the best present ever just before the holiday. I realized there could be little better than wrapping presents in the glow of Christmas lights on a tree cut at 12,000′ with the warmth of a woodstove warming me in my own home even before I get the rest of my possessions moved in the house.
Play me one more song
That I’ll always remember
And I can recall
Whenever I find myself too all alone
I can sing me home.
“Celebrate Me Home” was my dad’s favorite Christmas song. He would play it repeatedly. He would always take every opportunity to do just one extra Christmas thing but every single year, Christmas night he would remark, “Aren’t we so lucky to have so much family to spend Christmas with?”
Maybe it’s because Dad latched on to “Celebrate Me Home” while I was in college when I started traveling for the holiday, but “Celebrate Me Home” has always felt like the journey into the holiday to me and I’m just going to hold it as the anthem in my heart right now. My journey towards bringing myself home is coming to a close but it’s time to start really putting the pieces together of living my life.
Traveling where the Western winds can fly
Somebody tried to tell me
But the men forgot to tell me why
This was the thread I’d lost somewhere. I’d been surviving for so long that there was so little space for traditions and time to relish the beauty of the holiday season that I really just wasn’t fully appreciating it. Being far from family at the holidays had changed things but I am so lucky to have a place I love living like Ridgway and a family back in Washington still carrying on the traditions that I had always loved so much.
The familiar melody flooded me with feeling. Who am I to be a Scrooge? In the space of three weeks, I will celebrate my new home with myself, Sprocket and a Christmas tree. I’ll celebrate Christmas with my family in Washington then return to settle into the house and celebrate New Years with Ridgway. Then, to put the icing on the cake, I get to welcome my Ridgway family to my new home.
I gotta count on being gone,
Come on home, come on daddy,
Be what you want from me,
I’m this strong, I’ll be weak
Which all brings me here to this moment, I’ve got a honey whiskey spiked peppermint tea propped in the crook of one arm that I can’t reach because Sprocket’s head is propped on the other shoulder begrudgingly letting me type my feelings out here. I dug out the charger for my speaker so I could bathe the shed in Christmas music. The tears keep coming. I know the next weeks are going to be hard, sweet, stressful, exciting, and exhausting.
I can hardly picture what living in a house will actually feel like but I can see myself adapting Clark Grizwold to fit our situation: “Sprocket, we’re kicking off our fun old-fashioned family Christmas by heading up Red Mountain in our 4-wheel drive sleigh…” Back home, I’ll wrestle the tree into the stand, laughing about how small alpine tree trunks are, and trim it with lights, my grandmother’s Shiny Brite ornaments, and tinsel.
Please, celebrate me home,
Give me a number,
Please, celebrate me home
Play me one more song,
That I’ll always remember,
I can recall,
Whenever I feel too all alone,
I can make believe I’ve never been gone
never* know where I belong
Sing me home.
*How lucky am I to have a place to belong? ♥
Lyrics of “Celebrate Me Home” by Kenny Loggins and Bob James
My headlight bounces in the dark and I suddenly notice some glowing eyes on the concrete path in front of me. The deer seem as shocked as I am to see someone running down the path in the chill October night. My breath puffs a steamy cloud in front of my face and I trundle down the path.
I’m not sure what propelled me out of my warm bed with Sprocket curled up against me. I felt required to put down my excellent book, don shorts and headlamp and run. The relatable prose had somehow pulled me in so far it has pushed me out and demanded I live, right now at this minute. Life has impeded these moments of clarity and running—or rather, I’ve let my excuses get in the way of exercising. No one blames you for not working up a sweat when you lack shower facilities. No one gives it a second thought when you say, “But I work seven days a week.” No one, that is but the yourself as you feel continually less fit, less confident, less whole.
I reach the old railroad bridge and hear rustling in the bushes near the river. It could be a bear or a skunk, it is likely more deer, and in a worst case, could be a mountain lion. There is nothing to be done about the creature minding their own business out of sight and I run on. The bridge looks like the set of a Halloween movie and I attempt to capture it in a photo because I find it so ridiculous. I fail, as I knew I would.
A mile from my house, I force myself to turn around. I haven’t been running and I didn’t warm up and it’s cold. There is no need to risk injury more than I already have and I really should get to sleep. As I cross the bridge again on the return trip, I can feel my mood rise a little bit like the mist off the Uncompahgre. “I need to do this everyday,” I tell myself.
The impossibility of that looms before me; even just this week I have evening work commitments and I question how realistic it is that I’ll sort out how not to smell at work. Part of me, a big part of me, doesn’t care though. I want to feel strong again. I’ve started rediscovering social parts of myself but this, the part of me that can agree to any hike and is ready for new challenges has been in hiding. Perhaps I’ll try to reclaim that part in the dark where no one can see a bit longer; I know that’s better than not reclaiming it at all.
Running past my appliances in my yard, I glance at the house before I go into the shed. That’s mine. That’s why I’ve sacrificed the feeling of the chill on my legs and the hours for words to enter my eyes and also to exit my fingers onto the screen.
I’ve been feeling like there’s some moral to my story, the larger story, not just this run or the house or processing of lots of old feelings I’ve ignored but I can’t put my finger on it. I need to write about it more, both publicly and privately. I need to move my feet to ruminate on it more. Back in the shed, I pulled off my clothes before I could really start sweating in the warmth of my tiny home. Baby wipe basics done, I crawled in bed, pulled my pup to my chest, finished the page I’d been reading and wondered if this is what it feels like to have the pieces come together.
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences…”
–Susan B. Anthony
I almost didn’t share these photos. This little adventure on the Hayden Trail didn’t seem all that “worth” posting. It wasn’t grand, it didn’t go for miles and miles (I think we did three miles round trip?) but it was a joyful hiking adventure after work with my buddy.
The views of the peaks over in the Sneffels range in the dramatic raincloud influenced light didn’t disappoint. (Actually, I don’t know if I’ve ever been “disappointed” with a San Juan hike.)
Earlier this summer, my friend Molly asked if I would pilot her Jeep up Yankee Boy basin while her mom was visiting. Molly drives a JK with a pretty good size lift but wasn’t really comfortable driving it off-road herself. A girl needs to know how to drive her own Jeep so we decided to take a little adventure so she could get that experience.
Cruising around the San Juans is always such a delight:
I’ve written before about my memories of my family and baseball. Most of my summer trips back to Washington wind up featuring a Rainiers game. Baseball is just part of how my family functions.
Last winter when the Mariners announced that they would be retiring Edgar Martinez’s #11, I knew that I had to make it happen. I talked to my sister and to some family members and then nothing really happened. Just before school got out for summer, I started to organize. And as a family, we ended up purchasing 13 tickets.
I am so glad this all came together. It was a fantastic day. We made a whole day of it which was fantastic! First thing in the morning, I boarded a bus to Seattle along with my mom, my sister, my aunt and uncle, my godmother, and a cousin. When we arrived in Seattle, we grabbed coffee and headed to the Mariners team store because neither my mom or I owned any Mariners gear. (I was okay with this, no one else was.)
We did a bit of touristing at Pike Place Market but our group was a bit too large to maneuver the crowds and we quickly ended up at Pike Brewing for some food and catching up.
Once we reached the stadium district we rendezvoused with the rest of our group and hung out at Pyramid Brewing. There was lots of beer and some nachos, I started a round of “What’s your favorite Edgar memory?” and we hopefully didn’t drive our nice server too nuts.
Inside the stadium, I only cried a little bit during the ceremony. But my cousins jumped in as family does and made sure to tease me a bit. I don’t think I’ve ever been at a game and watched so little of it; living so far away this was a great time to catch up with people!
Thanks family. This was definitely the event worth planning my summer Washington trip around.
Sometimes when people tell you that they know of a book you should read you just nod and say that your list is really long because their suggestion just isn’t your style. This latest book, Blood and Thunder, wasn’t one of these books. I was sitting around telling my friend Chris about immersing myself in a whole bunch of books about The West this summer and he immediately suggested that I read it. Blood and Thunder: The Epic Story of Kit Carson and the Conquest of the American West by Hampton Sides was simply fantastic.
I didn’t know anything about Kit Carson. I didn’t know anything about ho he fit in with the Mexican War, New Mexico’s history, and the Navajo Long Walk. He was just a name that was famous in the west not one that had been involved with a huge swath of the southwest becoming American soil.
Furthermore, Sides weaves Carson’s story with that of John C. Frémont, Steven Watts Kearny, the governors of New Mexico, Navajo leaders, and more. All the stories are carefully woven together and create a wonderful picture of New Mexico and Arizona in the mid 1800s.
While I enjoyed The Earth Is Weeping, it wasn’t wasn’t as readable as Blood and Thunder. I started this book just before going to Washington and given some uninterrupted reading time on planes from Montrose to Seattle, I devoured the book and finished it just as my plane landed back in Denver. (I didn’t have any time to read while I was in the Pacific Northwest.)
A sign of an excellent book about history is that it leaves you feeling like you got a pretty complete picture of the topic at hand while also adding to your list of books to read because it raised other ideas and questions that were tangential to the topic. Sides’s Blood and Thunder more than met the standard. In this case, I was quite happy that the next book on my shelf is a biography of Frémont!
Mount of the Holy Cross is barely a 14er, with its summit reaching 14,005′, but it is not Mt. Holy Cross it is “Mount of…” which I find sort of pompous but I digress. I’d heard that Holy Cross was a beautiful mountain and I was kinda skeptical since it’s listed on 14ers.com as part of the Sawatch Range which never quite does it for me. (I have become a mountain snob, I won’t lie to you.) I was wrong. Holy Cross was a great mountain to climb. It is, however, the highpoint of Eagle County, and it was my 49th county highpoint in Colorado, bringing me to just over 78% completion!
Famed western photographer William Henry Jackson, photographed the mountain in 1873 from the flanks of neighboring Notch Mountain (Notch actually obscures Holy Cross from US 24 so it cannot be seen) while traveling with the Hayden Party. Some questions exist as to whether Jackson doctored the photo so that the cross was more distinct.
In 1874, another famous artist of the American West, painter Thomas Moran climbed to the flanks of Notch Mountain to make some sketches of Mount of The Holy Cross for a painting. Moran’s inspiration by Jackson in turn inspired Henry Wordsworth Longfellow to write a poem “The Cross Of Snow.”
Anyway, in addition to being Mount of the Holy Cross, there’s a lake named Bowl of Tears and another snowfield called the “Supplicating Virgin.” This also finally explains to me the name of “Shrine Pass” leading from Red Cliff to I-70 near Copper Mountain (no joke this always made me think of the Shriners…). In the 1920s there was a large push to develop the area around the mountain, as well as the mountain itself, as a place for “devotion” and worship. The Colorado Mountain Club pushed back, advertising a 1923 outing as an opportunity to “see it BEFORE it is desecrated in the name of religion. It is a glorious mountain, in a splendid and so-far inaccessible setting of ragged ridges and sparkling lakes.” After their trip, they were clear to note in their report that the cross was barely visible as a result of it being late summer.
As a result of all the interest surrounding Holy Cross, President Hoover declared the area a National Monument in 1929 leading to the construction of Tigiwan Road in 1932 and 1933. The Tigiwan Community House, spotted on the drive to the Half Moon Trailhead, was built to house pilgrims and the CCC built the stone house visible on Notch Mountain from the summit of Holy Cross was built to shelter them as they viewed the cross.
Then, as quickly as it had grown, the pilgrimage movement ended in the late 1930s. In addition to economic hardships followed by World War II (and the heavy usage of the Leadville area by the 10th Mountain Division for training), for various possible reasons the cross always seemed to be less impressive than promised. (One suggestion is that rockfall happened in the right arm to make it less apparent.) In 1950, the National Monument was decomissioned by Congress.
Okay, giant historical aside is over but I owe a huge thanks to Kevin Blake’s article “Imagining heaven and earth at Mount of the Holy Cross, Colorado” for allowing me to really geek out on this.
As a hike, Holy Cross is a bit of a bear because the standard route from Half Moon Trailhead climbs about 1000′ to Half Moon Pass before descending 1000′ to East Cross Creek and only then can you make the 3200′ ascent to the summit. This, of course, means that one must also climb 1000′ on the “descent” of the mountain to get out of East Cross Creek’s canyon.
I’d given a half-hearted effort to climbing Holy Cross back in fall 2015 so I knew it’d be nice to get the climb to the Pass out of the way before going for a summit and decided to camp at East Cross Creek. I arrived at the trailhead about 2pm and really hoped that I wouldn’t wind up just getting drenched on my way to camp since the clouds were looking somewhat ominous.
Although a few drops fell on me as I started to pitch my tent, it never actually rained overnight. I had hoped to crawl into the tent and do some reading but I lasted about 30 minutes before I promptly fell asleep… at 5pm.
My headlamp appears to have jumped from my daypack, which I discovered when I woke up about 11pm, so I set my alarm to go off at 5:30 since hiking before that without a light source would be rather silly. I hit the snooze button once and started climbing up the ridge of Holy Cross about 5:45.
It never ceases to feel magical to be in the mountains as the sun makes its way over neighboring ridges. This one was no exception. Suddenly, as the sun crested Notch Mountain, Holy Cross started to shine.
There’s a great stairstep-y path leading a good chunk of the way up the talus slopes before you cross a somewhat flat section of the ridge and then tackle the final steep, 500′ easy scramble to the summit.
I’d been worried the last 800′ to the summit that the weather was going to take a turn significantly before the 10am predicted by the National Weather Service but it actually seemed to get better while I was lounging at the top. By this point, I was basically dreading the ascent back to Half Moon Pass with my pack. It wasn’t particularly heavy but it was enough to just not want to do.
It was only after grinding the first 500′ of the climb out of the way that I had a chance to really appreciate that I’d gotten my 49th Colorado County Highpoint (of 64) and my 14th 14er (using the CMC list).
Blake, Kevin (2008) ‘Imagining heaven and earth at Mount of the
Holy Cross, Colorado’, Journal of Cultural Geography, 25:1, 1 – 30. DOI:10.1080/08873630701822588.
Longfellow, Henry Wordsworth. “The Cross of Snow.” The Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44629/the-cross-of-snow.
“Mountain of the Holy Cross.” National Museum of American History, National Museum of American History, americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1276028.
I’ve been complaining about this on Twitter but it’s a real problem: getting an alpine start when you work until 11pm and then you’re wired and can’t sleep is next to impossible. I’d had some ideas about bigger peaks in the Sneffles range and elsewhere along Red Mountain Pass but ultimately settled on a pair of 12ers above Brooklyn Road because I could leave the house at 7:30 and have plenty of time.
Things went according to plan until I wound up behind a herd of sheep being driven up onto a chunk of private land around Red Mountain 3. I sat stopped for a bit while the herders seemed to be taking a mid morning break. Since none of them signaled to me or said anything, I put Ruth in 4-low and just started creeping through the herd. It seemed to work.
Finally, reaching US Basin, I started a pretty direct ascent up the western slopes of McMillan Peak. Sprocket was delighted to find some snow on its flanks and before long we’d reached the 12,804′ peak.
I ran down the slopes of McMillan while Sprocket frolicked his way along.
It wasn’t long before we reached the Ohio Peak-McMillan Saddle where some old mining remains were.
It was sunny and gorgeous and the mountains were making me smile so we took a little break to lay down in the alpine grass.
Or I did, anyway. Sprocket seemed to want to move on. We made out way to the summit of Ohio Peak, 12,673′, where I briefly considered continuing on to another 12er, Anvil Peak but decided against it worrying about the endurance of the SP. We made our way back to US Basin along the ridge and then descended through the most beautiful wildflower bloom I’ve ever seen back to the road.