Tag Archives: outdoors

Go to the empty places

January is empty for reservoirs. They hold the void. There is no water, wake, or waves. Hardly anyone is there. You’d see them if they were; there’s nowhere to hide.

I tromped around wondering about the emptiness. Which reminded me of the importance of being empty.

My friend recommends going into a room empty. Especially when offering support. Hold the space, but don’t fill it.
Here in this expanse void of water, I fill up on empty. I also feel it. It’s sort of nice to jump into. It radiates something, even if it looks barren and not promising at first glance.

January is not the same as July. No fishing, paddling, skiing, or swimming is happening. It’s a forced stop of action, or yang. The reservoir is taking a break, restoring its yin. And by being here now, I follow. I move in step with January. This is what’s happening.

What is there to do? Visit it. See it in its current state.  Without. This leads to about one thing- walking around and observing what is contained in the emptiness.

Things seen were old shoes,  wood, grasses, rocks, tires, beer bottles, plastic bags. Mud.

What to do when something doesn’t float our boat? Out of water? It does not fill any expectations.

When the water is low, or mostly gone, we can see the bottom. It’s a good reference point.  What I like about this connection is it feels closer to the Dao. The ancient advice went something like, “be low, like water. Be close to the lowest points.” Walking a more humble and quiet route was encouraged, nothing much about running up mountains, pumping your fists. Instead flow like water, adapt to whatever shape you encounter.  Just my loose interpretation.

The bits of wood gathered around the edges are connected to the earth this time of year. They lie there exposed. They are not covered by the muffle of water. There is no light and liquid creating beautiful illusions to mesh with. Most will float up again in a few months and ride the water and watch the sky.

What I like about the seasons is it’s not about me. It’s about everything. The status and state of everything, of which I am just passing through. I can appreciate it or I can complain about it. It’s a choice.

 

Orcas Island

 

I felt on the brink of magic. I was, Orcas island was next. Still, Anacortes is beautiful; you can walk on the beach or a boardwalk path if you have time before your ferry pulls in.

 

Anacortes is the place to drive onto ferries that go to Canada and the San Juan islands.

 

The original people of the San Juan islands were Samish. For more about them, go here:

https://www.samishtribe.nsn.us/

If you had been among these tribes, you might have spoken Samish, Semiahmoo, Lummi, Sannich, Songish, or Sooke. They had a good life. Then non-natives showed up and wiped them out with diseases.

A huge cannery was built in the late 1800s, where the ferry station is now.

Canneries were a big deal at the turn of the century to preserve meat. By the 1930s, refrigeration put many canneries out of business.

This is a little beach off Eastsound, in Orcas.

I got sick in Orcas, so spent 36 hours in bed. It kind of killed the adventures and stories. I listened to sounds from the room.

1. Men doing business calls from the balcony.

2. Kids screaming or laughing.

3. Housekeepers chattering and vacumming.

4. One Kingfisher shouting.

5. Dogs barking.

6. Unknown noise. I finally settled on 2 monsters gargling.

I stayed at Rosario resort. This is a short drive from Eastsound, a good spot for food and shopping. Robert Moran built his dream home on this land, and named it Rosario. Moran, based in Seattle, made a fortune building battleships. His mansion is the most elegant and strongest residence I’ve ever seen. Moran had humble beginnings, and as a young man was influenced by John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt. Though highly driven, he had a soft spot for nature, not just for the wealthy, but for everyone.

For more history go here:

http://rosarioresort.com/museum/

I highly recommend the show by Christopher Peacock, which is free. He plays the original huge pipe organ and tells juicy* historical stories, in between showing gorgeous vintage slides of the island and Seattle. It’s a one-of-a-kind show.

* {the wife of the second owner of Rosario would drive into town on a motorcycle to play poker. She often didn’t bother to get dressed, just went in her red nightgown}.

The reason we can all trot around so much of Orcas is because Moran donated thousands of acres. This was so unusual at the time that the state didn’t know how to accept the donation, so he went to work with the paperwork and procedural process to make it happen.

Cascade lake

Right above Rosario is Moran state park. Two lakes are within it: Cascade lake and mountain lake. Both are great for swimming or paddling or walking around. Don’t miss Mt. Constitution. Incredible views of all the islands below.

From a distance, it looks like the ferries eat cars then spit them out. Too soon it was time to take the ferry home.

The view from the front.

The tide was out when I got up early to paddleboard Eastsound before leaving. I didn’t feel like mucking thru 70 yards of thick gooey sand.

That means I have to go back, which I look forward to!

 

 

Random note- this was my theme song- just stuck in my head during the trip!

 

The Maiden Voyage

“You ate your dessert first!” She said, stating the obvious as the fudge brownie was already half gone.

“Yes. I do that,” said I. The sandwiches were taking forever. I have little self control.

We were having lunch at the Metropol to celebrate the first paddle of the new kayak. Mariann, my friend and paddle partner for the day, was pretty stoked about her new sit-on-top inflatable kayak.


Mariann wanted a clean run-through, to go through all systems, work out kinks, sync with the kayak and water elements. She is a Virgo. So am I. We understand each other. Yet, are quite different.

Her: “I need to attach my leash for my paddle.”

Me: “You will not lose your paddle in this reservoir. Let the fussing begin. No worries, I will practice my breathing exercises!”

Her: “Your commentary will not be helpful.”

Me: “Ok, understood. This is gonna be great!”

She: “Do you know what this is? It is the maiden voyage!”

A woman stopped to talk with us about the pros and cons of the paddle board vs. the kayak. We gave her feedback.
She: “I like to have a place to sit, to be, defined and with back support.” Me: “I like the freedom of movement, unrestricted, free form.”
She: “That pretty much sums up our personalities.”

We carry our watercraft toward the ramp.
She: “What if I have a panic attack?”
Me: “Do you have panic attacks?”
She: “No. But what if I did?”

We hit the water at the perfect time. Soft gentle motion on top, no wind. Ideal.

After a couple minutes on the water, Mariann smiled. “You have to be like when you’re on a plane and you are just there in that place and not worried about what’s above and below.”

“I like it!”

This is fun!
Going under a bridge for the first time

The weather changed. The wind came up and the water got tossy. We were getting pushed around. After being blown downstream, we decided to turn around. She made good time, got ahead of me. When I caught up she said, “I got a tad panicky. There were white caps!”

We made it back and explored a little more- I wanted to go under the bridge and into a protected canal.

She: “You’re going to make me go under a bridge?”
Me: “Yes.”
She: “You are pushing my limits!”
Me: “Someone needs to.”
She: “Yes, but most don’t.”

The reedy canal was peaceful. I pointed out a red-wing blackbird. Mariann said, “oh yes, I’ve seen those in the store- you squeeze them and they make that sound!”

The ease of the inflatable watercraft loading
I like to be close to the water to listen to it and smell it

It was the perfect maiden voyage. The weather was good and not good, which made for excellent practice. We had most of the lake completely to ourselves. We talked about how lucky we are to live here and take part in the nearby nature as often as possible.

I helped her with boating, as she helped me with Nordic skiing this past winter. Both things made us smile and be happy and grateful!

Stand-up paddle the urban Willamette

Sellwood bridge, just south of the launch site

I pushed off at Sellwood Riverfront park. The plan? Paddle the board toward the city. I wouldn’t make it all the way, but the journey looked good. I parked on a street nearly under Sellwood bridge and headed toward what I thought was a boat launch. It seemed that it had been one a long time ago. As I approached, I saw a vague hazard sign. It didn’t explain much and there was no fence. I couldn’t see anything scary, so I went in. After launching, I looked back over my shoulder to see a warning sign about a cable and 11,000 voltage! I paddled much faster. Note to self: don’t exit this way.

Between Sellwood and downtown Portland

Going north toward town was a push against current and wind. The water was a little choppy, not too bad, no white caps. I dropped to my knees a few times when I came upon cross currents, water stitches, surges, and bucks. I absolutely did not want to fall in. Too cold. This was more of a workout paddle, not a cruise. I really wanted to get a good view of the city and the first bridge, so I didn’t take the side route through calmer water that diverts east, just off the yacht club.

Also on the east side, just before the yacht club, is Oaks Park. Sounds of people screaming on the roller coaster bounce out and off the water.

I was glad to not have my chihuahua mix hood ornament dog with me. She would have hated the water splashing across the front of the board.

After close to an hour of paddling, I pulled into a small gathering of snags in the middle of the river. A perfect rest area and a place to sit down and take a few pictures of the still far away city. I noticed a small board held between roots and branches. I plucked it out- my next sign! It was imperfect in perfect ways- part lumber, part river wood. It had aged and ripened in the river.

From the river: Holy. Sacred, divine, blessed, nature.

The only other boaters out were people fishing and kayaks. I like to throw a friendly wave and hope that doesn’t cause me to pitch off my board.

Evening on the water- almost out

It was getting late or I might have pushed it farther. I needed to get off the water before dark, and that meant I needed to turn around. Two hours of solid paddling is enough anyway. Coming back was faster with the wind and current; however, the river still had surprises in movement. For example at random times, there would be drops and surges, or it felt like the board was goosed and pushed me forward toward the nose. No idea what that was but it made me laugh.

The way out? Just take the stairs. Right before the last dock prior to Sellwood bridge, dart left, and there are two different sets of steps leading out of the water. Incredibly civilized. Sort of like Venice, only concrete rather than marble. Close enough to make for a magical water outing.

Easy access to Riverfront park

 

Field trip for the soul

A place with room to wake up.

I was feeling a little bummed out. I needed some different scenery. I had some things on my mind and they weren’t all happy things. What to do with a melancholic half day off? Leave town. First stop, the bird refuge. My spirit needed a rinse of water, sky, birds, rain.

This is a story with pictures about moods, inspiration, letting things be, and beer. There might be some Buddhist stuff squeezed in here and there.

This represents an empty mood.

This is how it feels to me when things don’t work out. I saw it from the highway and knew it was the perfect shot to illustrate melancholia. Here is a structure that was a home, a base, but now it’s abandoned and not functional. When I am dealing with my own perceived tragedies, I am forced to go through loss and pain. Oddly enough this is a good exercise.

Through reading The Way of the Bodhisattva, I kept hearing the same message: self-absorption is the main source of suffering. How to get out of self absorption? Expand expand expand. I was constricted in my thinking. I was thinking small. The ancient book recommends that we connect with our expansiveness in order to gain access to tenderness and compassion. This can move us beyond a self-centered point of view.

I pull from all directions for guidance. Yesterday I listened to a vlog about lots of cosmic things, but the best part of it, for me, was: Live with passion! Live inspired! I immediately felt my recently repressed passion awaken. I can do this. How could I forget this?

He also emphasized letting go of the superficial. We are bombarded with the superficial ALL THE TIME. Chuck it.

How to expand? Go outside. I laced up my kick-ass boots and hit the road.

You need the right footwear to balance the mood, sturdy the spirit.

In a short time, I was at the bird refuge. Grass, mud, and water was in every direction. Clouds and sky and the sound of singing frogs and red-wing blackbirds filled the moist air. That was more than enough, but then I got to see a bald eagle, a kestrel, and a swarm of killdeer. I know they’re not technically called a swarm, but I like it.

Next stop, a small town. It is small but there is room for poetry. If at all sorrowful, one must hit up poetry. It just works!

Soul waves must be a good thing

Love the imagery of the erosion of rigidity. I can see the salt and water softening the rock and soil, from millions of waves.

You must be prepared. Sometimes it’s really o.k. to stop.

I’ve heard recently of a concept that we have to empty ourselves. This could mean many things, but I think the idea is that we clear out internal space. It’s a little like spring cleaning or Feng Shui for the head and heart spaces.

I’m reading Ilene Cumming’s book, The Truth is at My Front Door. She talks about her experience as a hospice volunteer. Among the tools needed–compassion, presence, emotional stamina–what stands out to me is “the courage to simply enter the room empty.”

I was a hospice volunteer. I was on the roster to supply acupressure touch and acupuncture. I remember arriving at the door, just before knocking, and having a holy shit moment. What can I possibly do to help this person? Oh no oh no oh no oh no oh–what have I done?! Too late, I have to go in.

I think I’m going to practice being empty more in regular life. Just show up. And that takes expansion. It takes remembering the sky is really large. I don’t need to contract because of my own, or others’ expectations.

I wrapped up the field trip with beer. There are no pictures of the beer. I was at Sky High brew pub in Corvallis with a window seat looking at clouds and light.

I’m just passing through
Should I expand or contract
I choose my next breath

Spring is coming. Be inspiring. Be passionate.

 

Be slightly ridiculous

Madrone branches from ice storm make great winter potted features.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but I pick up sticks. I collect them. I see them everywhere. Usually they are on the ground. I don’t go around poaching live branches off trees. Some of the best places to find them are on the borders and edges of reservoirs. Roots, limbs, branches, and even lumber pile up and roll around on each other from the waves and wind.  They end up soft and smooth and weathered like driftwood. They are no longer alive. At this point, they have become art.

Found in mud after a swim at Lookout Point.

In the beginning, I just placed the sticks around my yard or deck. They enhanced any space. Then I found more purpose, like making trellis for plants to climb. This gave way to more ideas, like making twig sculpture towers. Things really took off when the towers started to host humming bird feeders and suet.

One thing led to another.

I made suet the other day, for the first time. This was in response to a  friend saying to me, well, can’t you make that? I’d never thought of doing such a thing. The Farmer’s Almanac had a recipe that looked simple and honest and wholesome, so I made it. That exciting story might be another blog!

I put the fresh suet on my older wobbly curly willow twig bird and squirrel tower. Birds didn’t seem interested. I joked that at least the raccoons would like it. That night, the raccoons held a rave, and knocked the structure down leaving it badly beaten. Most of the suet was eaten.

I needed to build a new twig structure habitat! All the birds, mainly hummingbirds, counted on this thing. They have their hummer poetry slams here every Saturday at noon!

I looked at my backlog of sticks. Not enough good ones.

We had just had an ice storm that left a lot of tree limb casualties. About a mile away, along a running trail, I spotted a yellowish colored, smooth barked, very long, snapped-off elegant branch hanging by a tiny thread of fiber.

I hopped on my bike with my ratchet loppers in the saddle bags. This branch was destined for purpose. I hoped it was still there and that I could discreetly harvest it. That turned out to be the easy part. Snip, it was down. It was around 11 ft. I couldn’t ride my bike with it and risk impaling a jogger, or skewering a bicyclist.

I had to walk, looking balanced and normal with this very long branch. I only fell over once; managed to just dropped the bike and stick. Most people didn’t seem to notice. I passed a dog park, and there behind the fence staring at my great find was a very excited dog. His face lit up! His eyes said, “I love it!” In those few moments, we connected over this perfect and elegant wild-crafted branch.

The walk toward home was tiring but I didn’t show weakness. About a third of the way there, a man asked, “so, what are you going to do with that stick?” A fair question, and I told him the truth. Just then, another man called out my name and offered to deliver it to my house. It was my neighbor. He had a truck!

I told him that would be really great, and that I was feeling like I was looking weird. He picked up the stick, hoisting it across his shoulders and strode off, exclaiming, “now I look weird!”

The point is, it’s fun to be a little weird or ridiculous toward a creative goal. It makes for a more interesting day for you and others.

The finish of the PCT, back from the wilderness

Remember when I interviewed Chance Fitzpatrick about halfway through his walk from Mexico to Canada? Here is that:  http://www.maryannpetersen.com/?p=120

Chance kept going as a thru hiker and made it to Canada in good time.

The end of the trail
The end of the trail

We decided to chat again at the end of his journey. I wanted to ask a few more questions.

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1. Why would you recommend thru hiking?

For me it was an opportunity to prove to myself that fears can’t stand in the way of achieving your dreams. Thru hiking is not for everyone. But I do believe that anybody can successfully complete a journey like the PCT if it’s in their soul. I love hiking and being out in nature without any distractions. Lots of people fall victim of the “Too’s”: I’m too young, old, fat, busy, afraid, etc. This list could go on and on. But I met countless hikers from all walks of life that really inspired me on the trail. We’re all equals out there.

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2. Did you feel lonely?

One of my greatest joys was discovering that walking alone does not mean that you have to feel lonely. At first, being gone for about five months seemed like a long time. But in reality, it’s like a blink of an eye or a drop in the ocean in the bigger scheme of things. Sure, you’re going to be missing out on lots of “things” happening. But honestly stepping out into the void of constant daily change and being way outside of my comfort zone was awesome. I felt more alive, and in times of difficulty would chat with my trail companions or call close friends.

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Some wild flowers live out there

3. Barfing and diarrhea in the woods? Seriously. How to deal with that?

Haha, this isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. My first bout with the “runs” was the evening before reaching the Paradise Valley Cafe. I poured a very generous serving of coconut oil into my dinner thinking nothing of it. Only to awake several times at night to face the wrath of my midnight cleanse. While talking with several hikers further up the trail they revealed similar stories after digesting too much coconut. My next round  was due to eating bad salami because the vacuum sealed package was  compromised. My only time vomiting was heading out of Stehekin (WA) as a result of eating way too much rich food. All of the examples above could have been avoided and easily prevented.

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4. Nature is often advised for mental health. Yet difficult emotions must still come up. According to your blog, there were ups and downs. Talk about some of those and how it landed out in nature.

Each day had its ups and downs that ebbed and flowed like the changing landscape. There were many times when my emotions and experiences were far too personal to share. It’s a long time to be with your thoughts. I would allow myself to feel a full range of emotions, yet move through them and not have any attachment. Also, I’d usually focus on deep and slow breathing to bring myself back into the present moment and be centered. Maintaining a daily blog requires a lot of commitment and dedication. It really only provides a snapshot of the entire hiking experience. This worked wonders as you can’t really grind out mile after mile if your emotions are dragging you down.

You have to start somewhere
You have to start somewhere

5. What lessons learned there apply here?

It’s made me more aware of opportunities when I can help others and pay it forward. Being able to step away from my mind and thoughts controlling me was one of my biggest lessons on trail. You can have any thought or emotion pop up in an instant but it doesn’t have to define who you are or how you’d like to feel for the rest of the day. Hiking day after day for 12-13 hours puts you in a very real space. It also helps you to view the world with a different set of eyes. It’s made me appreciate many things on a whole new level. Plus gratitude comes into play at every turn and twist in the road. You also get to experience the generosity of many strangers that help you along the way.

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6. People might expect an epiphany from such a journey. Is it something big? Or a series of small things?

I didn’t find a holy grail or discover the meaning of life. It’s a series of many small events and daily miracles coming together to form the entire experience. It brings clearness to questions like: What’s important to me? What makes me happy? What am I afraid of?
You start to see and experience a level of honesty and transparency within yourself.

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7. Trail angels. What are they? How can we be trail angels to each other, while at home, not on the trail?

A trail angel is usually defined as someone who will help you with a ride, food, water, shelter etc., and always seem to show up randomly at just the perfect time. One of the most common things done to reach resupply points is to hitch-hike. Most people can’t imagine stopping to give a stranger a ride. It’s too dangerous, there’s a lot of weirdos, etc. The feeling of someone pulling over and giving a ride when you’re out of food, tired, and looking forward to enjoying your next town stop is magical. People helping people is what trail life is all about. Often times we can become so enveloped in our own little worlds. Completely oblivious to the joys that come from helping others in simple and subtle ways.

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8. There is a spiritual thought that we need to step out of our thinking, and step into the wilderness. Often this refers to internal work, but you literally did go into the wilderness. Were you trying to step out of overthinking things, to move out into a more organic space?

Yes, one of the most satisfying parts of my journey was being fully present. Turning walking all day into an active meditation. Letting emotions and feelings rise and fall while being centered and taking in all of my surroundings. Many of us, myself included are at our best when we stop thinking so much about everything. All of the analysis, processing, and figuring just gets in the way of being mindful. I enjoy walking in nature to achieve a feeling of overwhelming stillness and joy. But this can be done in any activity that someone is passionate about. Thru hiking provides the opportunity to walk in nature for months on end without the stress of daily life interfering.

Enjoy the whole journey by going to Chance’s blog: chancingit.com

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Sanctuary. Do you have one in your neighborhood?

Sometimes sanctuaries are just sitting there. You have no idea. I found one today, just a few miles from where I live. Cortesia Sanctuary is in the woods of South Eugene. Cortesia comes from Cortese, a 900-year-old French word, which means “quiet.” Just kidding, actually, it means “a deep, noble courtesy and reverence for the sacredness of life.”

Garden entrance from the front meadow
Garden entrance from the front meadow

Once you step out of the car, it is quiet. This is a private home setting of 22 acres. It is surrounded by tall 150-year-old fir trees. It has a personal feel, like you are stopping in to see old friends. We were greeted by Forrest McDowell, one of the owners. He and his wife, Tricia, started living here in 1986.

Forrest emerged smiling and friendly, providing us with a map and background about the property. Soon, we were off, heading down the Fern trail. This passed the labyrinth on the left, then branched to the right with two bench options: St. Francis or Gandhi. These were near the edge of the ridge. Though the trees, you get a lovely view of west Eugene, Fern Ridge reservoir, and Mary’s Peak off in the distance.

My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden
My favorite thing- a door on a shed that sits off of the garden

The garden has many herbs, flowers, and even some opportunities for simple rituals. One such thing is a prayer shrine. You can write down a prayer on a card and then hang it from a small tree. They had several dwarf apples trees.

One of the prayers hanging from the tree
One of the prayers hanging from the tree

This organic garden space grows their vegetables and herbs, which they turn into flower essences, tinctures, and salves. They sell their products locally and on the web. The McDowell’s wrote the book, The Sanctuary Garden, in 1998. It is said to explore the personal, philosophical, spiritual, and practical aspects of creating a natural garden that emits peace and harmony. From walking around on their land, I’d say they walk their talk.

Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me
Looks like a Chinese Lantern plant to me

The place has a real sense of peaceful purpose. It even has an 18-year-old healthy and happy cat. Permaculture methods are in place, compost is revolving, nature spirits are dancing. It’s not flashy or pretentious, rather just being here now, as is, rustic.

Back to nature spirits, there are a lot of them. By that, I mean people have been talking about them since the beginning of time. There are dozens, maybe hundreds of them, from every part of the world, with exotic names and colorful personalities. If I had to choose one for this place, it would be: Aranyani, Hindu goddess of the forest, and the animals that dwell there. Just my opinion.

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St. Francis in his moss shawl
St. Francis in his moss shawl

There are cute sheds and yurts on site, and even a “cob grotto.” We spent about an hour onsite. You could certainly stay longer, maybe have a picnic. It is not large enough for long walks, but better suited for a slower and more thoughtful time.

A voice from the Pacific Crest Trail

Chance Fitzpatrick is over halfway through hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, from Mexico to Canada. I asked him some questions about his journey so far.

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MP: What would you tell your past self, prior to getting on the trail?

CF: Just relax and trust the process. The trail always provides and everything will be given to you at the perfect time. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want or need at anytime.

MP: What would you tell your future self, upon finishing this journey?

CF: Hmmm… A bit harder to answer since I’m imagining what I might want to hear. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart’s desire. What is it that you truly want to do? What scares the shit out of you? Find out what it is that you’re most passionate about and take the leap of faith.

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MP: What do you love the most about your experience?

CF: Being able to spend 10-12 hours a day hiking in the wilderness alone with my thoughts and no distractions. Living such a simple lifestyle with purpose is extremely rewarding.

MP: What do you love least about your experience?

CF: Balancing wants vs. needs can be tricky. Just because you want something doesn’t mean that it’s needed. To make sure what you’re carrying on your back is essential. Another thing that’s very important is to make sure you keep a positive attitude at all times. There are many reasons to keep going, and even more to quit.

MP: Favorite sound?

CF: The constant churn of my footsteps on the earth along with the clicking of my trekking poles.

Milestones are celebrated!
Milestones are celebrated!

MP: Least favorite sound?

CF: Noisy hikers that talk way too much and don’t respect your need to be alone in nature.

MP: Favorite smell?

CF: The fresh mountain air is always changing on the trail. The desert smells very different from the pine forests and grassy meadows.

MP: What has been the most unexpected thing?

CF: How the trail can change drastically from one moment or day to the next. One minute it’s foggy, then it snows. Next day you’re one ridge over and it’s windy with scorching heat. I’ve experienced all of the above in a 24-hr period.

MP: Has this experience, so far, effected your relationship with yourself?

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CF: I am much more patient, loving and forgiving. Not getting all worked up with circumstances and situations that are out of my control.

Chance has a great blog: chancingit.com. You’ll get a good feel for what it’s really like to be out there and see some stunning photographs.

Stay tuned for a follow-up!