Get Mad About It

Just get mad.

That’s what I tell myself when I feel like I can’t go on. Can’t take the next vertical step, can’t row another single stroke to move my kayak, can’t push one more pedal to keep my bicycle upright. And it works. I’m not proud of the amount of cussing that went into the last 1/2 mile of my first backpacking trip. It was solo, so nobody got injured from my verbal tirade except maybe my immortal soul.

When my hubby or kids make me mad, my house is cleaned in a snap.

Mad for me, is a motivator.

And yes, I use the term “mad” loosely. It can mean angry, crazy, tightly wound, or deeply passionate in my world. It’s a multi-use word. Like y’all.

And my blog. That’s why it’s called Diary of a Mad Baby Boomer. Not a happy, sleepy, bashful, dopey, or terrified Baby Boomer (Terrified was the 8th dwarf I think).

Mad means no mercy for myself.

I have mercy for all other things, in fact if you could have witnessed me catching a salamander in our shower just now, you would be laughing madly (see how I used mad  there instead of hysterically, and it works right?). I don’t know why, but lizards are particularly nerve-wracking for me.  Maybe I think it rather unfair of God to put feet on a snake. But…I did battle with that little bastard to get in a cup, and he did not go quietly (why so many times underneath the cup?).

Now he is happily residing in the garden. Mercy.

Besides, how many times could that poor thing take a shower with my hubby and have it not be cruel and unusual punishment?

But this is not a lizard post.

My greatest endeavors have been birthed after getting deeply mad about something. Like my trip up the west coast solo. It was born in madness, but ended in bliss.

About 7 months ago I got very mad. So I booked a solo action adventure in New Zealand. Right up there at the top of my bucket list. I was really, really mad.

Since then every hike, every kayak endeavor, every bicycle ride, every single circuit training exercise has been leading up to this trip. Don’t be too impressed about the aforementioned, they’re like little old lady versions of the real thing I’m sure.

Nevertheless, I have worked HARD! In fact, in recent weeks I broke through to almost double the weights in my circuit training.

And now, this trip is only a couple of weeks away. So what would I have to be mad about you say?

My body has been working against me every step of the way. It doesn’t mean to, it just gets confused on what it’s supposed to be attacking, so it attacks itself. Mixed Connective Tissue Disease (with autonomic involvement) is a little bitch. The Lupus link.

But this is not new you say. You’ve been on chemo meds for 10 years. Why get mad now?

Because I have Pneumonia! Arghhhhh. Some little snotty nosed, sneezing, coughing kid kept running an orbit around me at the grocery store and I knew instantaneously that this was not going to end well.

Not his fault. He’s just a kid. I just have a compromised immune system. And it’s just that time of year. A toxic recipe for an immune system that is already working double time to repair nightly from that circuit weight increase.

I’m slowly getting better, but my body is not my friend. And as much as I would like to jump right back into where I was, I run the risk of becoming truly debilitated as a result.

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I know this from experience. It takes me 6 months or more to recover from Bursitis when I decide to push my joints farther than they are willing to go.

So here I lay, 10 days in bed and counting. Losing muscle mass at a faster rate than I made it, and in terrible, inexplicable pain (ah, the joys of auto-immune disease).

So it has left me no choice. I am just going to have to get mad. Real mad.

 

And I will make it to my destination, both mentally and physically as a result of much prayer and even more madness.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

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Wallowing in My Bliss

Dear Diary,

I know it’s been awhile, but I’ve been busy conquering a mountain. A mountain you say? Yes. I conquered a mountain.

From the time I was old enough to look out of the window and take note of what was outside, Cucamonga Peak has loomed large over my very small life.

For 57 years, this mountain has given me assurance that some things are unchanging. And when I am gone and come back, Cucamonga Peak means I am home.

This peak and I go so far back that I long ago considered it mine. It may stand tall over millions of Southern Californians, but it’s my compass that Cucamonga Peak  provides a true north for.

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Now imagine my surprise when that flat topped source of a lifetime of comfort began taunting me.

“Beat me. I dare you.”

It’s no secret in this diary that these mountains have done nothing but teach this city girl respect. And terror.

Remember that time I was on an icy ridgeline and narrowly escaped sliding to my death 6 Things I Learned On the Trail – That Everyone Else Already Knows? Or how about the rattlesnake that was kind enough to teach me what one sounds like when they are mere inches away from my exposed chubby leg People are Funny, Rattlesnakes are not?

And all of these occurred before I ever got to set foot on the actual peak of my desire.

Why would a perfectly normal baby boomer who lives in a perfectly normal house, with a perfectly normal husband (ok, that one might be a stretch) keep self administering the pain and agony associated with hiking?

All I can do is tell you what I tell the women in my Bunco club, “It quiets the voices inside my head .” Then we all have a little laugh.

But the joke is on them. It really does quiet the voices in my head. The manic pace that thoughts race through my brain. The sheer speed and randomness make it impossible for me to grab hold of one and make sense out of it’s origin.

The only thing worse than those manic thoughts are the tired old thoughts that come back over and over again to crush me under their weight. To sneak through a crack in my carefully crafted wall of defense to demoralize me.

Besides, it might be rude if I answered the Bunco ladies question of why I hike with truths. Like; “I just don’t find cleaning my house over and over again fulfilling”, or this one “Having faced my own mortality, I would rather walk while I still can”, or the ever popular “Trapped on a ship with 5,000 other people is much like sitting in traffic 24/7 to me.”

That last one is super snarky I’ll admit. But since I’ve never really said it out loud, it doesn’t count.

Besides, for the life of me, I really don’t know why I wouldn’t rather be sitting in a stateroom waiting to be pampered by food servers rather than punishing myself on the slopes of a mountain that may not even like me.

But I wouldn’t.

So I hike, but I have no illusions about my limitations. I am used to being the slowest one on any given trail. I make myself feel better by remembering that just 3 years ago, I wasn’t able to even make it around my block. But still the mountain taunts. It doesn’t care about me and my little woes.

So last week I pack my 10 essentials and head up the same old worn out trail I have huffed and puffed up many times now. But today would be different. All the right elements (I didn’t even know what they were before they actually occurred) came into alignment like planets to the sun. 1. A couple of women my age played leap frog with me (meaning we had the same skill level) up the Ice House Saddle trail (that leads to 5 different peak trails) with me and were headed up to Cucamonga. 2. I made it up to the aforementioned saddle in new record time (for me), which meant it was still early enough in the day to actually consider making an assault. 3. I could still breathe after 3.4 miles and 3215 ft.

So I texted my husband that I was going to take on Cucamonga (for some freakish reason, I have phone coverage at the saddle) and on I went. The two ladies who shared my skill level were long gone once I finished my protein bar and considered actually taking on the mountain. I was alone.

So it was just me vs. the Cucamonga Peak trail. And it proved to be all that I had read about it. Painfully steep, terrifyingly narrow, with drops so far down I couldn’t see where they ended.

But both the manic and familiar destructive voices were silent. Only my breathing and balance mattered.

I adopted a mantra “if they can do it, I can do it” that kept cadence with my feet. Once in a while, I allowed myself to stop and take in the vista. The wonderment kept me buoyed to have the faith that I would make it.

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Of course, I made all the same mistakes. On the most narrow and terrifying parts of the trail, I froze instead of keeping my pace. But each time I would find the nerve to steady myself and move forward. Without falling. I can’t help but think that God has great influence in saving me from myself.

Being the slowest one up the mountain (except for a couple that quit early on, and thank you for that), has it’s surprising advantages. The view ahead is sometimes good too. But I digress.

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I caught sight of one of my greatest hiking fears (besides bears), forest fire. But it was far enough in the distance to not be a threat.

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Long past the point when both my legs and lungs had given up, I kept going by sheer will power. I could not quit. The damage done to my psyche would be irreparable. I made up my mind that even if I had to spend the night in a hollowed out tree, giving up was not an option.

I had to rest after each 30 or 40 steps on the last mile. The switchbacks went on for miles in that last mile. I felt like after every one of them the summit would be in sight, but just more switchbacks met my expectations. Even the seasoned hikers that seemed to fly by were groaning under the ascent.

After seven hours, the two women who had originally inspired me were on their way down. One said, “I thought we lost you at the saddle”. At this altitude, I couldn’t get enough oxygen to my brain to understand what that meant. All I could do was smile. It must have been painful to look at because she went on to say, “you are only 50 ft. away from the top.”

So like Dory from Nemo fame, I just kept swimming. And 50 ft. later I came upon the summit that had either comforted me or taunted me every day that I called the Inland Empire home.

But this time, I was the champion.

There were others at the summit so I refrained from actually collapsing. Well I collapsed, but I executed it in slo-mo style so it appeared that I was in control of my knees. I finally found the energy to ask a fellow peak bagger to take a photo of me. Even I wouldn’t believe it without proof. I had ascended 5,407 ft in 6.4 miles (according to my gps). I bagged one of the highest peaks in Southern California.

I win.

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No matter what happens in my life after this, I have only to look out of my window to remind myself what I am capable of. I shall wallow in this bliss for a very long time.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

That Time I Got Hit by the Crazy Train

Dear Diary,

I broke a bone yesterday. It’s ok though, the bone is a small one. I know what caused it too, I got hit by a train.

Even though I got hit by the Crazy Train 9 months ago…the physical manifestations of a hit that hard take a long time to show themselves.

Remember when I wrote about disembarking the Crazy Train back in October? No? You can read it here…Disembarking the Crazy Train.

I was woefully ignorant on how far the crazy engineer (my Narcissistic Mother) would go to make me pay for that.

Stupid me…acting all strong and thinking by disembarking the Crazy Train I could actually get away from it. Oh no…that’s not how the crazy train works. By disembarking I actually bumped the Crazy up to a whole new level. I should have seen it coming, but I got hit from behind.

After a lifetime of crazy, what could possibly have affected me so deeply that it has taken me 9 months to actually write about it? That’s easy. She hit me in the place where I am most vulnerable. By inviting all of the people I love the most to ride her Crazy Train. The people I hold dearest. Who are those people you ask?

My children and my deceased sister’s children (also my children I like to think).

She wrote one of her poison letters to me and sent copies to all of them. The most poisonous of all. She has outdone herself.

By the grace of God, I was out traveling when my copy came in the mail. My daughter picked up the mail, opened my copy and read it. Evidently it was so evil that she threw it away (or so she said), and never intended to let me know of it’s existence. She intended to try and protect me from my own Mother.

It worked for a few weeks evidently, but she felt guilty deceiving me and finally broke down and told me about it. My daughter said the letter was so bad that she was hoping none of it was true. She went on to say that we could  pretend it never existed, but there were copies sent to other family members.

With just those few words I was pushed, and started freefalling, into a deep crevasse. Like anyone who is falling, I tried desperately to self arrest the descent. Clawing at the sides of the deepest and darkest places in my mind to keep some sight of where the light might be so I could find my way back out.

I started with damage control. I called my niece to ask if she had received a copy of the letter. I could tell by the pity in her voice that she had. Here’s how the rest of the conversation went.

Niece – “Auntie did you read it?”

Me – “No, Daughter (not her real name ha!) intercepted it and threw it away.”

Niece – “Good for Daughter, nobody should have to read something like that.”

What? I thought I knew what my Narcissistic Mother was capable of, but how bad did it have to be that NOBODY should have to read it?

I assured her that none of it was true…but this rang hollow with both my niece and I since I hadn’t actually read it.

With that I was yet again sent spiraling down the rabbit hole even further.

I called my son. “Yes Mom, I got it.” I tried to downplay it with “well you know how Nana is.”

“Yes he said, I know how she is. I called her and she told me that she never wanted to see or hear from you again after how badly you abused her when you took her on vacation with you last June.”

WTF?

Trying to self arrest again I said, “You mean when I tried to take her to one of her favorite places in the world and make it perfect for her because she may never make it there again? That time?”

My son replied, “Yes, but Nana has a much different story Mom. She said you abused her, are evil, and you will bring us down with you into hell if we go around you. Don’t worry Mom, we know that can’t be true.”

Falling…still falling.

Before I bid him goodbye I tell my son, “Please don’t tell me anymore of what Nana said. Not if you love me and want me to stay on this Earth.” But he continued on anyway…”she said to tell you never to contact her again, and when she dies she doesn’t want you at her funeral.” I think he thought by telling me this he would be igniting a fire in me to fight back. But that’s not how this dysfunctional relationship ever plays out. I may be mad, but I know better than to get into the ring with a narcissist. They fight dirty.

I told my son I had to go and hung up the phone.

Injustice has always been something I can’t endure. And now…I stand accused and convicted of a crime I not only didn’t, but wouldn’t commit. Evidently there was much more slander in the poisoned letter, but who cares what it said. Just this little taste was so toxic I was rendered paralyzed. She played the “victimized little old blind lady” card.

So here I am. In a deep hole. So dark that I have no  idea which way is up. I am 5 years old again and so full of self loathing that I am quite sure that not even Jesus could love me. So enraged that if I have to share heaven with her, I don’t want to go.

Depression has always been an ugly word to me. I know it’s real, I have the suicides of my Daddy and little sister to remind me. But I hate the word because my dear Mother used it as a crutch to make everyone wait on her. “I’m too depressed to get up.” was her mantra, thereby (as the oldest) creating a overdeveloped sense of being responsible for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE around me. I loathe the word.

But a perfect storm was already set into motion and depression was bearing down on me. Just a couple of minor things happening at the same time as my Mother’s newest betrayal and I was down for the count. For the first time in my life, I couldn’t even get out of bed for a couple of days.

I normally am a master of disguise. I can fool even the most intuitive of audiences. So I feigned illness (well I feigned physical illness anyway), which is another of my taboos, while I desperately clawed at the sides of my dark prison to find a way out. The more I struggled, the deeper it seemed to get. Like a psychotic quicksand.

When I finally was able to get up and put on my cloak of normalcy, I was out of step with the world. Standing in line at a store, I looked around me and wondered if they could tell I was an illusion? Would they notice the real me was being held in a prison of pain with no hope of being helped back out?

That’s the conundrum of depression. When you need to be saved from yourself, you cannot ask for it. Depression steals hope. It steals even the idea that you might be worth saving. I didn’t even bother talking to God because I was sure he could not hear me from this place.

The more I told myself that I didn’t care, the more my auto-immune disorder was fueled into a full blown flare that even now is not quieted.

So the months passed in this suspended state of desperation. Going through the motions of daily routines so that the dark musings in my mind could not be detected. How often did I wish for death to deliver me? Every. Single. Day.

But as I clawed desperately at my prison walls, I remembered a familiarity of this place. I had been here before. Many times. In the past, when I finally made it out of this dark place, I would block out the memory that I was ever there. And now it is a slow realization that this is the place my Narcissistic Mother and Abusive Step-Father made me call home when I was growing up.

So I stopped clawing. I sat quietly and waited for redemption, if there was to even be any I couldn’t be sure. My mother had pulled the rug out from under me and I was left with all the dirt I had swept under it. So fresh I could still taste the blood in my mouth from the beatings, so real I could feel the terror as I heard my step-father’s car door close when he came home from work. And so alone.

But I kept still in my dark place. I knew that nobody would come for me. I was trapped deep in my mind. So deep, I couldn’t even find myself. I dared not look in a mirror. I would be looking at a ghost.

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And then I saw it, a tiny crack of light. Through the tiny crack of light, I heard a voice. A familiar one say, “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Oh my gosh. I remembered how I got out so many times before now. I remembered that it wasn’t me that found my way of my own private hell, it was my faith. I remembered that nobody can be so far gone that they can’t be found.

Even though I thought I could never write in my Diary again (because remember I have to be honest), I remembered that I am already a MAD baby boomer …so I have set the bar low. I can’t really let you down then, can I Diary?

My daughter asked me to find something in her room for her recently (she is living somewhere else but hasn’t actually moved out of her room yet), when I ran across the letter from my Mother she said had been trashed.

On the back of the envelope it said, “I know you are prone to throwing things away, but you really need to read this.”

No…I don’t Mom. I really don’t. You are done here.

I promptly trashed it.

I am still deeply angry at my Momster for running me over with her Crazy Train. I am still paying for it through my dis-ease. My dark auto-immune passenger is not easily put back to sleep. But I remembered that the best medicine is also the sweetest revenge.

HAPPINESS.

So I do what I always do when faced with a long climb to get back to the top of the  happiness scale. I turn to my bucket list and book a trip. I can happily announce I have six months to get back into physical shape and be ready for hiking, biking, and kayaking NEW ZEALAND!

As for all of the kids? Nothing’s changed. Turns out that the letter really says more about her than it does about me. And the broken bone? It will heal. They always do.

Yay! I’m so excited and HAPPY! Did you hear that Mom?

I win.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paralyzed Between Pleasure and Pain

Dear Diary,

I’m so sorry I have neglected to update you on my most recent adventures off the beaten path, but ever since the Paris tragedies I have been paralyzed between sharing the pleasures of my small little world, and the horrors of the larger one.

I was actually at the Inland Regional Center a few years ago at a Christmas party for San Bernardino’s foster children to hand out the gifts that my company had amassed through a drive that I chaired. The mass shooting at the IRC was both physically and emotionally very close to home.

The horrors of terrorism are not individualized in me, and I suspect not in any normal human heart. They accumulate one on top of the other, like a pyramid of pain.

For me they started with 9/11, when I actually watched on live TV the second tower attacked. An event so horrific that every American remembers where they were and what they were doing when it occurred.

An event so terrifying that every normal human put themselves in the shoes of those that chose to jump the 110 stories than perish by fire. In fact…most Americans cannot speak of it still because it brings it all back anew. So we don’t, because that is what the terrorists want.

But we remember, oh do we remember.

When Paris was attacked, every American wept on the inside (some of us on the outside) to live again through the agony of watching terror unfold before us on live TV. We put ourselves in the shoes of those innocents and their families.

I watched until I couldn’t take it anymore because I felt I owed it to Parisians and to France, to live through it over and over with them as an act of solidarity. As an empathetic American who had lived through the shock, fright, panic, and tragedy before. And the helplessness.

Why? Why? Why? Is always the question. We continue to ask ourselves this question over and over, and it goes unanswered.  Because nobody can make sense out of the insane.

I am not so naïve as to think that the US is capable of despicable acts abroad, like arming certain factions to satisfy their own agenda.

But we the people are not our government. We are the same people of any nation under any government that just want to raise our family, pursue happiness, and enjoy this gift of life while we are here in a relative state of peace (I say relative cause some of our relatives are just plain crazy ha!).

So when innocent people are killed to satisfy someone else’s agenda we get angry. A deep down roiling kind of anger that threatens to spill out through fear, paranoia, or just plain anarchy. I want to be angry at somebody. I want to blame someone. I want somebody guilty to pay.

But here’s the truth of it.

When I get angry, and I get fearful, or vengeful, and depressed at what is unfolding in the world, and I want to lash out at someone…I make my world very small and stand back for a minute.

Then I see what I should always see. Random acts of kindness everywhere. Just regular people being kind to other living things (humans and animals). And some of those acts were mine.

And then I remember…it is still America the Beautiful.

And Paris is still the city of light and love.

And San Bernardino is still a place where broken children are loved and healed.

And no terrorist can take that from us.

Thank you dearest for letting me get this off my chest, because I can’t wait to tell you about going WAY off the beaten path and what treasures we found.

Until next time…

 

 

Disembarking the Crazy Train.

Dear Diary,

Seven years.

Seven years is how long it takes for me to think if I try hard enough, I CAN achieve that Norman Rockwell visit with my mother.

Seven years is how long it takes for me to forget that we can’t hope for Norman Rockwell, because we are more of a Norman Bates clan.

Remember that trip I took to the Redwoods earlier in the summer? I invited my mother to come along. In most families, that would be a good thing, but in mine that is a certifiably crazy thing.

My dear narcissistic mother.

Seven years is how long it takes for me to forget that she doesn’t like me. I shan’t forget again. Of course I said that seven years ago, and I did.

No matter how much I plan, how perfect I make it, how much money I spend, or how much I think all of that will make it Norman Rockwell…it doesn’t. In fact, I’m calling bullshit on you Norman Rockwell. I don’t think that ideal family picture exists for anyone. And if it does, I don’t want to know about it.

It started out so perfectly innocent, like in the horror films where you go on a family vacation and don’t expect that one of you will morph into a monster. A Momster I mean.

Except this is not new. This is not a virus. This is not the result of a rabid animal bite. These behaviors are based on a 57 year old dysfunctional relationship.

It’s always the same. She gets mad at me for some perceived slight and I cower and beg for her forgiveness. She stops speaking to me and I beg her to tell me why. I apologize over and over even though I have no idea what I did to warrant her anger.

So why did I pick the time my daughter and her fiancé were with us to stand up to my Momster? I haven’t got a clue.

Why did I choose to stand up to her in the confines of a Chevy Suburban where none of us were able to escape? I have no idea.

But I’m not sorry.

I am sorry that my daughter’s fiancé had to see me turn into a crazy person, but baptism by fire I say. Let’s see how serious he is about my daughter. Let’s see how much he can take. I am laughing as I type this. Crazy maniacal laughter.

My husband said it best when he compared my Mother and I’s relationship to fish. It’s good at first, but after three days it starts to stink.

I hate it when he’s right.

Ever since I have been home from that trip, I have been wracked with regret, anger, confusion, and worst of all…self loathing. So much self loathing that I imagine doing myself harm.

I don’t wonder why my sister committed suicide. I know why. I’m going to kick her ass when I see her again for leaving me here all alone to deal with our Momster.

I have healed just enough from our vacation to realize I may have gotten out of the Suburban, but I’m still riding the crazy train. And so is she. In fact, my Momster is the engineer.

And just like every time before, she is sending me the predictable hate mail. The follow up letters. The one where she uses bible scripture to outline why I’m going to hell. The one where she drudges up childhood failures. The one where she takes no responsibility whatsoever for getting angry for no apparent reason. She never remembers that part.

Luckily I was in Havasupai Arizona when the poison penned correspondence arrived. My daughter opened it and was horrified at it’s contents. She threw it away in an attempt to save me from it. Little does she know I already know what it says. It’s the same as all of the those before it, and the same as those yet to be written.

Because she is far from done with me yet.

But I am going to have to disembark the crazy train. I have reached the end of the line. As much as I have been trained (pun intended) to ride it out with her, I can’t do it anymore.

Until I forget again.

Only seven years to go.

 

 

Supai/Havasu Falls Trip – And How We Survived the Flash Flood of September 2015

Dear Diary,

There are moments in time that forever alter the course of your life. Some are planned, some sneak up on you like a thief. This one was the latter, but what this thief took was all of my preconceived notions about FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), judgments of other peoples based on my own lifestyle bias, what a vacation may or may not be all about, and left me awash with a much different perspective. The chain of events leading up to our struggle for survival started out predictably.

Pre-Trip – We spent the night at Hualapai Lodge on Route 66 which is the last bastion of creature comforts before heading out the 60 miles of Indian Highway 18 to the Havasupai Hilltop Trailhead. Three notable things happened this night.

  1. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make a Native American smile back at me, or even acknowledge me passing through their world. I assumed they are still angry at Caucasians, and rightly so.
  2. There was an extremely loud and obnoxious group (hiding a little barky dog in one of their purses) staying at the hotel and I hoped they were not going down to Havasu Falls.
  3. My husband bought a hat at the gift shop and while checking us out, the Hualapai Native gave it an old Indian blessing that nothing bad would ever happen to my husband while wearing it. He didn’t really pay attention to it while I thought it was incredible, and took in every word and gesture. I was mad at him afterward for not taking it more seriously.

Day 1– We checked the weather one last time and noted a 30% chance of rain, with only a 10% chance the next day. We added rain gear to our daypacks.

We drove the 60 miles to Havasupai Hilltop early in the morning to try and get a jump on the desert heat. We had a 10 mile canyon trek ahead of us (8 miles to the Supai village, and another 2 miles to the campground) and had to drop off our backpacks at a designated area to be hauled down to camp by mules (there are no roads). We had daypacks full of water, food, and other essentials that wouldn’t fit into our backpacks. We were not traveling light as we felt it necessary to plan for any contingency during the 5 nights and 6 days we would spend in Havasu Canyon, which is on the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon, a world away from convenience stores.

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The trek down was long, hot, and humid (it rained a little along the way), but incredibly beautiful. I was so glad we had not opted to take a helicopter flight down. The vastness of just this arm of the Grand Canyon is so magnificent, you begin to get a small glimpse of how insignificant a human is on it’s truly grand scale.

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From research on other blogs…I knew to be aware and steer clear of the mule trains that traveled back and forth along the trail. It is the only way for supplies and mail to be delivered to the village (some supplies are taken by helicopter).

One of these mules would be swept away and drown the next day (I learned from the owner/driver of this train who took our gear out later in the week).

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We got our first glimpse of the blue-green water in which the Havasupai get their name before entering into the village. It is a part of nature that defies being accurately captured in any photograph.

The blue-green water (natives don’t say turquoise).

BlueGreenwater2

My hubby entering into the village just ahead of me. hubby into village

Did I see the animals described in other blogs? Yes. Horses/mules so painfully thin that every bone in their body was evident, and I wondered how they were still standing. It haunts me still. But I also saw well fed horses and mules. I saw a young man intentionally trip a black dog that was at a full run and it went tumbling along the road for at least 6 feet, but got up and kept running unhurt. I tried not to be mad about it. I’m still trying.

Did I see the trash others described in their blogs? Yes. But I also saw neat and tidy homes. I intentionally did not photograph either what I thought to be the good or the bad, as photos tend to capture only a tiny fraction of what may be a bigger picture. More on this later.

The landscape kept getting more indescribably beautiful as we hiked past the village. Waterfalls were everywhere.

Little Navajo Falls on the way to the campground. Littlenavajofalls

Next was Havasu Falls on the way to the campground. We stopped and refreshed ourselves here. Despite the photo I was able to capture with no people, the place was quite crowded. We all eyed each other as interlopers on a personal dream. In other words…not in a friendly way. Along with the landscape, this would change drastically in just a day.

Havasu Falls in all of it’s spectacular glory pre-flood. Havasufalls

The campground was much more crowded than I expected for mid-September, but we were able to get one of two adjoining campsites creek side. We left our daypacks there to hold it and hiked back up to the campground entrance to wait for our backpacks to arrive by mule train.

While we waited, the obnoxious group arrived (just as loudly and with much fanfair as in the morning at the hotel) and headed into the campground. I knew it. The most I could hope for now is that they would not be within earshot.

Our backpacks arrived and we headed back to our spot with our gear and to set up camp. Who had set up camp right next to us? You guessed it, the obnoxious group. The cigarette smoke was noxious, barking of the little yappy dog was endless, and the incredibly loud voices ensured the conversations of the 6 people would drown out the sound of the babbling creek.

I was really mad about it and vowed to find another campsite the next day. How could I know that every decision being made this day and the next would mold the fate of each of the people making it?

Our camp taken from the side so as to block the OP (obnoxious people).

ourcamp

That night I slept with an awareness of rain off and on all night. The next morning we awoke to a glorious cloudless sky. The rain from the previous night had left not a trace of change to the landscape, and this contributed to a false sense of security of events in our very near future.

Day 2 (Flash flood day) – We dressed for the warm weather and for our 7 mile round trip trek to both Mooney and ultimately to Beaver Falls. I emptied my daypack of the ten essentials (except water and a water filter for some inexplicable reason) for the first time all summer as I was tired of carrying a load from the day before. A mistake I was soon to deeply regret and will never make again. Luckily my hubby did not follow suit.

As we headed out I noticed a campsite was still available that I had found the day before (when this photo was taken) in the middle of where the creek split that was perfect and far away from the OP. me on the brdige

I knew with new people arriving this day (Monday, September 14, 2015) it wouldn’t last long, but my hubby objected at the amount of work it would take to move our camp. I was mad about it, but to placate me he said we could move if when we got back from the day’s adventures it was still available.

Another fate molding decision to be sure. In just a few hours the people that were on islands would have to be rescued by both Supai and federal rangers. The bridge I was standing on would be tossed aside by a raging river.

As we started out on our trek my hubby snapped this photo. I would have you note the deceptively blue skies.

trek

We proceeded onto the vertical corridor of various gangways, each slippery and requiring a different skill set. The warning should be duly noted by all proceeding down it’s treacherous throat.sign

I proceeded with the necessary caution especially due to the wet conditions from the waterfall mist.

MF1

And down…

MF2

Note the still cloudless blue sky…MF3

 

And down…

MF4

Finally we reached Mooney Falls. Taller than Niagara Falls, this is as close as we dared get.

Mooney Falls

We didn’t tarry here but to take the photo and we were on our way to Beaver Falls another 3 miles down the narrow canyon. We were blissfully ignorant of the clock already counting down on a wall of water headed our way.

Onward we went, crossing the creek several times throughout our little trek. Fatefully I snapped this photo of the place that would be impassable in short order, and trap us in the canyon for over 15 hours. This shoreline would disappear under a seven foot swell that would roar and rage as swiftly as an over fueled freight train. creek crossing

We stopped to take photos of flora and fauna along the way, had a leisurely lunch near Beaver Falls, not knowing that every one of these moments would waste what little time we had left to make it out of the canyon.

Big Horn sheep trailside..big horn sheep

We finally made it down to Beaver Falls where we talked with two other groups…one group would leave the area slightly before us, and one group of 5 beautiful young Asian Americans we would pass as they made their way to Beaver Falls as we were headed back. I would worry myself sick about these 5 people all night, not knowing that they were rescued by helicopter, along with the group that had left before us. We alone would be trapped in the canyon.

This is a photo of me being all dumb, fat, and happy in Beaver Falls. The first clap of thunder and our first indication of a storm would occur just after this photo was taken. We hadn’t noticed that the sun had quite suddenly disappeared. Beaver Falls

How could we know that it was already too late.

We took off running as the skies were lit up with bone chattering thunder and blinding lightening that seemed to happen simultaneously. The rain poured down making every step muddy and making the trail increasingly harder to find.

running

Then we saw brown muddy waterfalls forming all along the canyon walls, and terror gripped me as the full realization of what was happening hit. In the same millisecond I took in how narrow the canyon was.

canyonwater1

We ran faster still clinging to futile hope that we could make it out. The canyon walls became monstrous spouts of water.

We were becoming surrounded by brown water as seen in this photo. canyonfilling

A rescue helicopter passed us several times and at some point I knew they saw me, but never stopped. I didn’t know they were busy with the 5 downstream. What we did know at that point is that it was up to us to save ourselves.

My hubby’s inner boy scout kicked in and we made our way further upstream where there was higher ground, but not high enough. We reached a point where we had to cross the rising water to get to a knoll my husband has spotted. I would not be more terrified than when he directed me to a point that he felt was safe to enter and I dropped into a hole with water up to my neck.

As I struggled to get my footing and felt the water taking me with it, I screamed for my husband and he was able to grab the hand I had held out and pulled me back and up to where he was while I got footing to keep following him. We held hands to steady each other and finally made it to the other side. We later learned from a Supai ranger that we should have held onto each other’s shoulders. Swift water rescue was not something I had learned for my summer of backpacking.

We reached the high point and settled for a minute to watch the water below. It continued to rise until nothing was recognizable. As it rose it started foaming like a mad horse charging blindly through the canyon. Then we saw debris. Lots of it. Huge logs and tree limbs and even cut lumber (later we would realize this was parts of picnic tables and bridges).

We sat there helplessly watching as the world transformed. I’m not sure if I withdrew into my poncho to retain body heat or to distance myself from the grim picture before me. ponchome

Always a person of action my husband suggested we move further down the trail to see if the water was passable.

When we came to the water’s edge, I stuck my six foot stick into the water and it disappeared. The waters edge kept collapsing into the roiling brown river that moved up and down like a swift moving canyon serpent devouring everything in it’s path.

To enter into it would have been suicide.

We returned to our vantage point and took stock of our situation. We looked for anything to take shelter under. Even though it had stopped raining (temporarily as it turned out), the river kept rising.

My enterprising hubby had noticed an animal den and we went back down to find it and see if we had to fight an animal for it

Luckily it was empty and we proceeded to move in and make it our own. It would be our home for the next 15 hours. And even though we were wet, cold, hungry and tired, we were thankful to have it.  caveme

I had 15 hours to think about the events leading up to this moment. We had made judgments about a 10% chance of rain based on our So. Cali knowledge (which means no rain), and we were paying for it.

I said prayers for God to preserve our stuff so I could someday have warm clothes and food. Then I realized that our ordeal was not over and I prayed for the rain to stop and the water to subside before I had to spend another night here. Then I just prayed that we would live. I also prayed for the animal that lived here to not return. It didn’t.

Our view before it got dark…cave view

At some point during our long night it did stop raining. We had to exit our cave about once an hour to stretch our cramped legs and to check the sky.

I pondered if the Indian blessing my husband’s hat played a part in our being able to survive thus far.

At one point I noticed that there were little points of light twinkling in the jungle outside our cave. I realized I was seeing fireflies. I hadn’t seen them since I was a little girl spending a summer with my Daddy in Oklahoma. I had forgotten about them since then. For a moment I was transported back in time and was with the Daddy that I miss so much. Such a magical gift at such a frightful time. I will remember it forever.

It was a long night and my hubby and I worked hard to make little jokes in an attempt to make the other laugh. Like me telling him I was looking forward to my spaghetti being rehydrated by the time we got back. We shared two packages of cheese crackers my hubby had squirrelled away in his daypack. God bless him.

Finally, the sky began to become light.

Day 3, 4, and 5 – When there was enough light to make out footing, we headed back up to our vantage point to check the water levels. In another answer to prayer, the water had receded but was still muddy.

We used our staffs to check water levels and made our way back to Mooney Falls and the vertical jungle gym that was now muddy in addition to wet.

We were tired so it was tough going back up, but we did it. I had imagined during the night that the whole camp would erupt in applause when they saw us making our way out of the canyon. We would be reported as missing by the OP when they noticed we had never returned.

The reality was much different.

There was a Federal Ranger filming the canyon at the top of Mooney Falls where we made our grand entrance. He was nonplussed at our appearance and seemed much more concerned with the landscape. We told him about the 5 young people we were worried were still in the canyon and he made a note of it.

Later I would put together when I heard that 9 people had been rescued out of the canyon. That would account for the party of 4 that left before us, and the 5 youngsters downstream from us.The ranger still sent down 2 others to double check that nobody else was left between Mooney and Beaver Falls.

He said, “The flash flood happened so quickly.” I thought that was curious and still wonder why he would tell us something that was so obvious we already knew. Don’t get me wrong…everyone entering the back country needs to take responsibility for their own actions. Period. But after I returned home and read that seven canyoneers  were killed by a flash flood in Keyhole Canyon “despite Ranger warnings of imminent flash flooding” I thought back on what the ranger said.

Were they really warned though? I wonder. I can’t help but doubt they would have gone in knowing that flash flooding was imminent. We wouldn’t have.

As we made our way through the campground we didn’t really notice the destruction as much as we noticed it was eerily empty. I dreaded seeing what had happened to our campsite.

Another prayer answered. Our campsite was one of only a couple creek side that was left untouched. The flood waters had eaten up shoreline before and after our tent but mysteriously went around our tent. Not mysterious to me. God had answered my frivolous prayer.

The OP’s had been also spared but were silently and quickly bugging out. They obviously didn’t report us missing as they never even looked our way. I didn’t care anymore if they stayed or not. I was just happy to be alive and to be able to get into dry warm clothes and eat!

This is how close the water came.closeness

We spent the rest of the day eating and sleeping. A few die hard campers returned and we learned that the camp had been evacuated and most campers bugged out that morning.

The route to Beaver Falls was closed for the duration of our stay.

The next day we offered to the Supai Rangers to clean up the trash around Havasu Falls, and from then on worked with the humble, hard working Ranger Ron who taught us the proper swift water rescue technique.

Here he is already at work on repairs. The two rangers to everything by hand.

Ranger Ron

We cleaned up Havasu Falls and then took a dip in the waters that were slowly turning back to it’s normal color. As if nothing had happened. The black dog I had seen being havasufallsafterabused earlier found me and we became fast friends.

As I watched Ranger Ron and other natives interact, I realized that I had completely misjudged their “niceness”. Their communications are quick and direct. Not filled with niceties or superfluous language. Nor do they feel the need to apologize for it.

We walked around the camp and took in the devastation. The zip line was still up from rescuing people from the island where I had thought I wanted to move. zipline

The campsites like ours just downstream from us. damage

The rangers have their work cut out for them for awhile…

damage2

My hubby’s victory pose over the flash flood of Havasu Falls Sept. 2015.

victorypose

On day 5 we rose early and took the helicopter out to the “hilltop”.

I left a much different person than who I went down the canyon as.

FOMO (fear of missing out)? Never again. Each journey is the one we are meant to travel, not the dream we build from other’s experiences.

As I sat in the helicopter waiting to take off I couldn’t help but wonder, how would we fare if our lives/community were laid bare for hundreds of travelers a day from all over the world to judge us based on their egocentric standards? I doubt that our lives would be as picturesque as we would like to think.

We don’t have the right to judge other peoples here or anywhere. Their world is not ours, and if we have been granted the privilege to travel through it, we must focus on the experience it leaves us with, not the one we bring with us.

As we parted, Ranger Ron told us we were welcome on Havasupai land anytime.

I had an incredible experience and it was a value added bucket list trip for sure, but I think once was enough.

Until next time dearest.

 

The Next Little Thing

Dear Diary,

I did it. This city girl backpacked.

In the wild.

Alone.

With wild animals.

I knew that I had to pull the trigger on backpacking just so I could answer the question, “am I able”? How can I proceed onto The Next Big Thing if I’m not able to backpack one night alone on the mountain that’s practically in my own backyard?

Obviously I survived because I am writing this post. But just barely.

I made some significant errors in judgment, but you probably already knew I would dearest.

I learned a tremendous amount about backpacking (but to be fair, just driving out of the city with a backpack in my car is new) but unexpectedly and uncharacteristically, the biggest revelations were about myself.

I did a couple of things right;

I chose Mt. Baldy because it’s close and there are no bears (I learned there actually ARE bears, but thankfully I was blissfully ignorant on this subject going in). The downside to this however, is that it is a MOUNTAIN which means my options were straight uphill or straight uphill.

San Gabriels

The camp I chose I have hiked to 3 times now (sans backpack) and it is only 2.75 miles from the trailhead where I parked my car, so I would not get lost and could easily bug out if needed. The downside to this is that if you are unable to walk, it doesn’t matter where your car is.

Proud of me so far? Me too. Things began to go downhill from here though (except the trail, as stated earlier).

I had packed my backpack a thousand times in my mind. When I actually did it however; I over packed. In fact, I think I shall change my style of backpacking to be called overpacking.

In my defense…

  • The first aid kit I assembled included supplies for every possible scenario. An EMT would have been impressed. Why? Because I’m a Mom. Being a Mom is like having a disease called “worry in advance”, and I’m afraid there is no cure.
  • I brought clothes to sleep in and a change of clothes for the next day. That’s 3 sets of clothes for one night out. I brought a jacket. Evidently I thought I might spend all of winter up there? In addition, I brought all the hygienic products that one would normally use to keep themselves clean and minty fresh. I have only one thing to say here…city girl. Duh.
  • Extra food. This is one of the ten essentials, so I packed 3 days worth of food. Thank God I’m not a foodie and Top Ramen and Cliff Bars were my choices. I brought my cooking equipment along with the largest butane fuel thingy they make. Because it was already used in the Grand Canyon this summer and why waste it?
  • Tent. Unfortunately I chose my tent when I still thought my hubby would humor my calling to the outdoors. It’s quite roomy and heavy for one person, but what the heck I took it anyway.
  • The largest and heaviest bear spray made by Counter Assault, on the off chance I would meet up with a hostile animal or a psychopath. And I like the product name. I also included a boat horn and a flashing beacon light for self defense. Because I read it on the internet.
  • I took all of the things my Eagle Scout of a hubby told me to which was; enough para-chord to circle the Earth (even though I can’t retain how to tie a proper knot), a knife (again, don’t know what for but it is part of the 10 essentials  so whatever), a large tarp (he says it’s important to protect the bottom of my large tent), extra tent stakes (not sure where I would lose the regular ones, but God bless him he’s just looking out for me), a mattress pad to protect me from the cold (because it’s Southern California in August for crying out loud where there IS no cold, not even in the mountains) so I dutifully packed it.

I’m even boring myself at this point, but you get the picture. Add in all of the hydration equipment (including filter), navigation equipment, sleeping bag, and a book for entertainment and you’ve got a” bursting at the seams” situation. I weighed it on my bathroom scale at 33 lbs without water. I thought that was doable.

I called one of my selfish kids that had a day off to watch Lucy (my little grand dog and BFF) overnight so that I could concentrate all of my efforts on this outing of mine. No dice. Why was I surprised?

So I had to take her with me.

This required more water storage for her and some snacks for later, but I decided she had to carry them herself. I attached her doggy bones in a baggy to her collar with a paper clip and hung her water bottle from the same. Problem solved.

Never mind that little strip of black on her back. She chased a lizard under the car. She’s ferocious like that. Lucy packI filled up my hydration bladder with 3 liters of bottled water and was ready to hit the trail.

I was feeling pretty darn accomplished at this point.

I drug my backpack into the car, all the while convincing myself that it wouldn’t feel so bad once I had it properly attached to my body. Ah yes…the optimist self. Where is my pragmatic self when I need her?

I drove up the mountain and parked my Jeep where it would spend the night.

I went around the back, opened the hatch, and sat down in the back so I could strap myself into the overpack (remember that’s what we’re calling it now). How could 38+ (remember I added 3 Liters of water) pounds be so heavy? I had carried children that weighed that much.

No matter…I could do this. I HAVE to do this.

I threaded the handle of Lucy’s retractable leash onto the waistband of the overpack and we were off on our adventure.

By the time we were half a mile in I was aware of the change in altitude, the unforgiving terrain (the first mile in gains about 800 ft. in altitude and includes some rock scrambling), how much longer it was taking than without a backpack (4x as long), and that Lucy looked like a little white fluffy Scooby snack in the great big wild.

At the 3/4 mile mark I hiked down to the stream that ran alongside us and took off the overpack to fill my 24 ounce reserve water bottle and Lucy’s water bottle. Once filled, I realized I would have to carry her water bottle too. She could still carry her snacks, and she got a big drink and cooled herself off in the stream. Lucy water

I sat down on the rock and tried to hoist the overpack over one shoulder and “holy crap” was all I could think. It felt like I was trying to strap a recreational vehicle on my back.

At the 1 mile mark I thought (my wimpy self did anyway) maybe I should just cut bait and find a nice flat place by the stream to spend the night. Turns out the wimpy self might have been the prudent one.

I probably should have listened.

I kept pushing myself up the mountain until I finally hit the 2 mile mark. At this time I realized that I am going so slow that I may end up racing the sun. But I kept going.

At 2 1/2 miles I was having to stop and rest every 20 steps or so. My legs and back were in so much pain, my mind was oxygen starved (it felt that way anyway), and I knew there was a possibility that I would not be able to go forward or back. The trail was only 2 feet wide on a ridge so camping there was not an option.

And still the sun was going down faster than I could move.

Every time I had to bend down to untangle Lucy’s leash from around my legs, herself, or my trekking poles with that recreational vehicle strapped onto my back, I became exponentially fatigued.

Even my personal coach self was waxing weak. There is nothing she could say to wring blood out of this tired turnip.

Still, I inched forward.

WARNING: EXPLICIT LANGUAGE

Then out of nowhere the seldom present “bad ass self” took over. Evidently she is a mad hiker, ’cause I heard myself yell “FUCKER” every time the camp was not just after the next bend like the personal coach self kept promising.

When I felt the need to rest after just 10 steps…the bad ass would yell in my head, “no way…you CAN’T rest your fat behind and make it before sunset. Keep going.”

So I kept going. Who knew this abusive bitch would be the one to get me to push myself so far beyond my limits? Never mind, the title of this blog says it all.

The bad ass promised I could drop my pack as soon as I saw the campground sign, and that’s exactly what I did. The sun had set, there was a little light in the sky, but I still needed to drag that overpack up a little bunny hill to my camp site.

I couldn’t do it. My legs were shaking, I was dizzy every time I stood up, my mind and body were exhausted by the superhuman struggle to get this far. I just wanted to lay down in the dirt and give up the ghost.

Thankfully, there was no one else around to witness that I had become the psychopath on the trail.

I disengaged my tent and tarp from the overpack and drug it up the hill. I picked up a small rock to pound in the tent stakes and could barely lift it far enough to bang it back down. It was not enough to drive them far, but I didn’t care.

As soon as the tent was up, Lucy and I fought to be first to get into it and lay down. A couple of chubby bitches that had been pushed too far.

I made myself get up and zip Lucy into the tent so that I could finally work without the leash.

I picked up the overpack and forced one last push up the bunny hill.

It was getting dark, and there was no moon. Crap.

I found my headlamp and switched it on. Then promptly broke the strap. Now I was working with one hand, but no matter. The hard part was done, the tent was up and my pack was in it. I would spend the next 2 hours unpacking what I needed and cooking my dinner of Top Ramen.

When my head finally hit the jacket (my pillow), I was grateful for the book because of the cacophony of sound coming from crickets and other insects and/or amphibians. There was an owl “who-who” ing in a tree overhead. I remembered my Grandma telling me that if an owl whoots only three times, someone in your family will die. If it is more than three, it is a lucky omen. So I started counting, and let’s just say I must be the luckiest darn person alive.

After an Ambien and a couple of more hours I felt myself fall into a delicious sleep, only subconsciously aware of giant heavy footprints outside of my tent, but very close to my head. Was it a good thing that Lucy began barking loudly to rouse me, but also to chase off a herd of what turned out to be big horned sheep? Not sure.

It was a long night for both Lucy and I. Unfortunately she could sense much more than I, so her constant unease, pacing, and occasional outburst of barking inside the large tent was not exactly soothing. She’s a city dog after all.

Finally she settled wearily on the sleeping bag, and I let her have it. Lucy sleepingbagAs I sat in my oversized tent going over all I had done in this day…I was finally able to move beyond whatever mistakes I had made, whatever sins I had committed (all that cussing), and I was left with a slowly burgeoning realization;  From what I thought was a little thing, I had accomplished something big. Really big.

I had pushed myself beyond any prior capability. I had accomplished my goal of reaching the camp, however unrealistic it had been. When I had a minute from pushing myself forward to take a look back, I had come a very long way.

Not just the distance from the trailhead, but a long way from the depression of my empty nest, a long way from the daily struggle with my auto-immune disorder and adjusting to the retirement it forced me into, a long way from trying to get my hubby to look up from his ipad, and a very long way from the city girl who always played the supporting role.

A very big thing from something I thought was a small step toward a larger goal.

The next day I dressed into my white shirt that became black when I packed up my tent and belongings. I only had enough water (Lucy still had most of hers…but I couldn’t live with myself if I used it) for a cup of coffee or breakfast…so I had the cup of coffee.

The best cup of coffee I’ve ever had.

I belatedly realized I had not packed anything to brush my hair with, so I did the best I could with my fork (thank you Ariel) and carried on.

I made it down the mountain in record time. I suspect it was because I told myself I had to be down before Del Taco quit serving breakfast burritos. Whatever works.

And I made it down off of the mountain with a new realization that the next small thing may be the next big thing in disguise. And to never, ever, forget to celebrate your accomplishments….no matter the size.

You and your bad ass self are pretty darn awesome after all.

Until next time dearest.

 

 

 

 

Dear In Somnia, It’s not working out between us.

 

Dear In Somnia,

I’ve been in a relationship with you for a long time. I keep trying to break up with you, but you’re still hanging around. I’m pretty mad about it. I don’t mind if you visit once in awhile, but you can’t live here anymore.

I know why baby boomers can’t sleep. It’s not just us, but since that’s the crowd I run with (not run…you know I can’t run even when I think I’m being chased by a wild animal see Pacific Coast Highway Day 5) so I feel like I can speak for a few of us.

I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, what with In Somnia stalking me and all, so I’ll share some obvious reasons and try not to expound on them too much.

1. We are the creamy responsible middle of a multi-generational worry sandwich – Our aging parents are getting increasingly feeble, our children are coping with launching and re-launching their careers in a difficult economic environment, and those of us who are lucky enough to have grandkids (I worry about never getting any from my selfish kids) get to worry about them too. We don’t cognitively go to bed worrying about it, but our subconscious knows, it knows our whole world can be rocked by one little phone call, and probably already has a few times. It knows…it knows.

As a side note on this subject – Christians are taught to lay our burdens at the foot of the cross, but I sneak back and pick mine right back up. I guess I don’t think Jesus can handle the job…I hope I find out he has a heck of a sense of humor when I get there.

2. Sensory Overload – We go a hundred miles an hour and before we go to bed (sometimes in bed) we are on the web, email, electronic games, TV, and most of the time these are simultaneous. Our brains need time to decompress not multi-task…but in a well tread world of immediate gratification, we expect our brains to instantaneously turn off and go to sleep like a computer. They don’t work that way, unless we take sleep aids which is my next topic.

3. We are a nation addicted to drugs – I only recently became aware of this in myself. It’s easy to get lulled into a dependence on both over the counter and prescription sleep aids. I got educated on the scientific end of the ramifications by my soon-to-be-RN daughter. I hate it when she does that. I wish I could go back to not knowing how they mess with your body’s natural rhythms. I kicked the addiction but I miss them like any other Tylenol PM or Ambien junkie. Sleep aids are drugs and there is a price to be paid both physically and mentally. I don’t need any more of either of those challenges thank you very much.

4. Money – this one is easy to describe…2009. With our retirements wrapped up in 401k’s and equity (which has still not recovered), need I say more? Now combine this with topic #1. That should do it.

5. Don’t believe what you tell yourself late at night – Some of my best ideas come when my mind finally slows down after going to bed, but if I lay awake long enough the dialogue with myself can take a left turn. A scary paranoid schizophrenic kind of turn.

6. We’re going to hell in a hand basket – That’s what my Grandma used to say and I would smile affectionately at her and say to myself “Awwwwwe, she’s just old”. Now I sometimes think the same thing (not verbatim since I never knew what a hand basket was) when I think too long about overpopulation, pollution, war, etc. I don’t know what scares me more, the issues or the fact that I’m old enough to be my Grandma.

7. Pain – As we get older, things start to hurt. That’s on the physical side. Then there are those horrors that we accumulate over time that can occasionally haunt us. You know that old saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”? It’s not true. What doesn’t kill you…just doesn’t kill you.

How can we ever hope to sleep well again?

I don’t know the answer to that, so let me lay awake and think about it for awhile.

Until next time Insomnia (I mean diary).

Pacific Coast Highway Day 6 – Gold Beach to Yachats, Oregon

Dear Diary,

I really couldn’t wait to leave Gold Beach, and ahead of me was the most anticipated accommodation on the entire trip – spending the night in the Heceta Head Lighthouse keepers Victorian bed and breakfast. I was very excited.

Little did I know that I would be spending the night with a ghost. Not just a bump in the night ghost, this one spent most of the night with me.

But that story in a minute.

The southern Oregon coast is a well kept secret. If I had my way, I would retire in some little house on this coast and live out the rest of my days in beach combing bliss.

oregon_isls

I finally stopped for a full meal. Even a greasy spoon tastes wonderful when your staple has been PB&J sandwiches. I followed 101 both alongside the Pacific as well as inland, although with the trees blocking my view of the sea, sometimes it was hard to tell whether I was inland or not.

I came upon Coos Bay Bridge, and what a marvel of engineering it is.

coos-bay-bridge660

As beautiful as it may be, like any other Californian I don’t like spending too much time either on or under a bridge. When you’ve lived in California for 50 years, unpleasant memories can pop up at the most inopportune times…remember the Oakland Nimitz Freeway collapse of 1989? Three levels of freeway reduced to one during rush hour?

I do. Just sayin’. nimitz-freeway-collapse1I had better get used to it though, Oregon has so much more water than Cali and the 101 will traverse many a bay, river, creek, and lake before I’m done.

I pass Florence and the Sea Lion Cave. I had wanted to stop there, but the reviews were lukewarm so I passed. Heceta Head Lighthouse was in my sites, and only about a mile away.

Please see Bucket List Value Added – A Ghost In My Room for a full account of this amazing place, the ghost that haunted me, and her suspected reason for doing so. The rest of this post will not make much sense without that reference I’m afraid.

After my night with Rue (also known as the grey lady) I can count her as one of the fascinating women I encountered along the Pacific Coast Highway, even if she was invisible and terrifying.

I took away far more than a ghost story from that night however. I was at total peace when I climbed back into my car the next day. I can’t say that the too tight twisted rubberband completely let go of the grief link, but I can say that it relaxed it’s grip on my soul.

I’ll never be ok with my Sister and Daddy choosing suicide, but I felt the weight moving off of me, like taking off a dark heavy cloak for the first time in a long time.

Rue also left me with a surprising truth.

We who persevere, who wake every morning and no matter how hard the day may be we endure (I always feel guilty when I say that, it’s not like I’m being tortured in an Iraqi prison, but so much is relative I guess). We who cherish and hold onto the hope of good times to cushion us when we fall on the despair of bad times. For those of us who trust in God even when it seems like he is nowhere to be found…we get credit for time served.

In the book of life it is noted that we lived our lives fully, we took the good with the bad and rode it out to the end. Our butterfly wings influenced the world in ways we will never know just because we kept flying.

For those who sought to end their strife/grief/pain in taking their lives, I think there may be a harsh reckoning in that they didn’t end anything. The ultimate price, for what did they pay? At least in Rue’s case, she was here a hundred years before I got here and how many hundreds of years after I’m gone?

There is tremendous merit in working through whatever it is that may be stealing our joy while we are still here on this beautiful Earth as mortals.

When I left this unforgettably scenic and mystical place the next morning, I took much comfort in knowing that we have a choice in which path we take, and the hard road reaps the most rewards.

I choose to stay and ride it out.

Thank you for indulging my ramblings, and I hope that by now my dear readers know they are really my diary. Until next time.

 

 

 

Pacific Coast Highway Day 4 – Gualala to Trinidad, CA

Dear Diary,

I can describe Northern California in just one word – Spectacular.

But again, I am getting ahead of myself.

Maybe because I knew I would have the shortest drive day thus far ahead of me, or maybe feeling accomplished (having conquered a part of Highway 1 the day before that made the stretch between Carmel and Montereey look like driver’s ed), or maybe just being awoken by a gentle surf, I rose with such a feeling of tranquility.

I would say that on a map Gualala is unremarkable, but my soul had been fed by the Gualala River/Pacific Ocean estuary outside of my window, the redwoods at my back, and the incredible South African transplant I had met the afternoon before. Gualala is quite remarkable in that regard.

I also got to meet and speak with another transplanted (from my area – LA) very young couple who managed the motel where I stayed. They had moved here to make a go of the solitude of this place and hopefully start a family.

I encouraged them to tell me how they felt about their relatively new digs over the complimentary continental breakfast served in the motel office. This is another perk of traveling alone. There is nobody demanding your attention, so you have the luxury of directing it toward absorbing what the moment is offering.

Remember, my husband is the energizer bunny with the AAA personality type. He is always pushing me to hurry, hurry, hurry which leaves no time for anything but the task at hand.

The couple told me they loved Gualala, but the transition had been difficult. The nearest Walmart was 3 hours away (driving time one way) and while they had chosen this place because of it’s remote location, they found themselves longing for the option of stimulation (restaurants, theater, museums, sporting events, amusement parks, etc.) and conveniences (groceries, shopping malls, medical/dental care, etc.) that we who dwell in the city take for granted.

Still, they were not going back. The traffic, fight for parking, crime, cost of living, and the lines you must stand in for ANYTHING kept them on track to continue to adjust. What fantastic role models for braving new frontiers they were.

Yet another notch in my fascinating people belt.

With both my soul and stomach satiated, I packed the pony, put the top down, and hit the road again. I was blazing an unfamiliar trail from here on out. There is nothing quite like the excitement and anticipation of penetrating the perimeters of the familiar, liberating yourself from the chains of your own making that bind you to your quotidian.

I was ever so slightly becoming aware of something else. Just a dawn of awareness if you will.  The only way I can describe it is something twisted, turned, and pulled too tight. Like a rubber band when you twist it around and around while pulling it between your fingers to the point right before it breaks. The pinch points seem to be at each end, but in reality is every twist in-between.

I am not big on self-awareness, not because I have anything against it, I just never had time for such a self-indulgence. When self-awareness has crept in on its own in the past, it was usually as a result of a tragedy or horror. Not anything I wanted to spend any time analyzing that’s for sure.

What I was feeling was entirely new. A gentle awakening. A look inside that however fleeting, was generated by a calm desire to understand the obstacles lying between where I was, and where I wanted to be.

I also become aware that this journey was both physical and metaphysical. This is not something I had planned. Was it as a result of me taking this journey alone? Was it as a result of the time and distance I had put between the year’s events?

All I wanted to accomplish with this trip was to answer the question…WOULD I BE ALRIGHT ALONE. I still didn’t have an answer, nor did I have an answer for all of the rest of what was happening. It seemed like I was becoming more of a mess than I was straightening myself out.

The drive between Gualala to the point where I would turn back inland to join the 101 again was nothing less than stunning, and what I had envisioned when planning this journey. The sea became much more untamed than So Cali’s beaches, and I drove so close alongside it that I could feel the spray, taste the salt, and smell its incomparable fragrance.

Fort Bragg

Who needs Calgon? Take me away Pacific.

For the first time I was eager to go inland. I was looking forward to driving through forests of my favorite tree – the California Redwood.

Let me say I am not what you would consider a tree hugger, but when it comes to this tree I would do whatever it took to preserve it. The tallest and longest living tree in the world grows only in this place.

My love affair with these ancient living monoliths began when I first laid eyes on them as a little girl. My mother introduced me to them and her love for them was infectious. She in fact wants her ashes spread among them which is going to be a trick, since I’m sure that’s probably illegal.

I digress.

Since our first meeting, I have spent time with them but in inland places like Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nat’l Parks. Never enough time.

The old growth forests, like its mammalian equivalents the land elephant and ocean whales, were logged nearly into extinction. The giants were so threatened by tourists and loggers alike that the “Save the Redwoods League” was formed at the turn of the century and the preservation fight that continues today was born.

Since it takes a redwood tree 100 to 200 years to mature, every Californian (and for that matter everyone everywhere) should be concerned for their future safety.

Reacquainting myself with them by foot by way of the Newton B. Drury bypass was planned for tomorrow, for today I planned to enjoy them from my convertible by way of highway 271 (old highway 101) that parallels the new highway, but would allow me to drive through the forest on just two lanes.

It didn’t disappoint. I followed the Eel River through these magnificent trees for 31 miles.

Eel River

The sun dappled road and the perfume from these one-of-a-kind trees is like no other. It was so much warmer here that I was actually shedding layers as I drove. The sweet explosion to my senses was intoxicating. A one-dimensional photo leaves so much to be desired in capturing the experience.

giants1

I joined the 101 again to its 8 lane meander through this magnificent stretch of land as it bypasses the Lost Coast, and coincidentally the object of my Next Big Thing.

As I finally got closer to the coast again, the weather changed dramatically from sunny and warm to grey, wet, and cold. I approached Eureka with much anticipation, since I knew this place was lousy with old Victorian homes and a colorful history that only a town built by salty seamen and brawny loggers could render.

I kept putting back on layers with my pink t-shirt, pink sweatshirt, pink ball cap, and finally my new pink Monterey wind breaker with the hood pulled tightly over my ball cap as it started to sprinkle.

Hello Kitty does Pacific Coast Highway.

As I entered into Eureka I was met with a much different sight than I expected, which attributed to it being dramatically worse in my memory than it actually was.

Good people of Eureka, forgive me in advance of what I am about to say.

There was people wandering everywhere on the street in the middle of the weekday, and they seemed to be walking in a daze like zombies. I would later confirm this with a Eureka resident I met in Redding, Eureka has a serious drug problem.

There was quite a bit of police activity, and I became painfully aware that my purse and canon camera were laying on the passenger seat in my convertible for anyone to grab. I felt scared and vulnerable. I didn’t even feel safe enough to pull over and put the convertible top up.

The outskirts of town (despite being on the coast), were industrial and for lack of a better word…ugly. Why had San Francisco done such a good job with its shipping docks, and Eureka so poorly?

In a word…money. Eureka’s long financial descent started with the gold and lumber booms ending over the last century, then the economic hardships of the 70’s, 80’s, and most recently in 2009 had hit this city harder than it could recover from.

I would have thought coming from such a metropolis as the LA area would have better equipped me for this, but I was at a loss to ingest the desperation on Eureka’s streets. In LA prosperity and everything in between co-exist with poverty, but not in this place. There was no tolerance in any of it.

I was so glad I had not planned to bed down here. I couldn’t leave fast enough, and again I apologize to the Eurekans. I know I didn’t give you anything even resembling a chance.

On to my destination of Trinidad, CA. I was terrified at this point that Trinidad was going to be more of the same I had seen in Eureka. I felt very alone and…well, Hello Kittyish. I pulled off of the busy Highway 101 to Trinidad with much trepidation, all the while my mind was scurrying for a plan B.

I was “wowed” as soon as I left the interstate. The sun came out to meet me like a cheerful greeter through the dazzling mossy canopy.

Canopy

I had a heck of a hard time finding where I planned to bed down for the night as it was a Bed and Breakfast and not your standard hotel. While it was beautiful terrain, I was still skeptical about its hospitality.

I finally found my destination and discovered a note on the door “Back in 3 hours”. I knew I was a bit early for check-in, but seriously? Now what was I going to do if I didn’t feel safe here? My window on options was closing fast.

I drove down the street a piece to Patrick’s Point State Park. This photo is not very good (taken from over my windshield again) so you can imagine how green it really was in 3 glorious D.

Patricks Point State Park

Green is not a color I am accustomed to in So. Cali.

After paying the park fee, I struck out with my trusty map of the small park to find, you guessed it, the sea.

I parked and reluctantly left all of my worldly belongings in my trusty steed, and headed out on foot to one of many trails in the park.

And there it was. The mighty Pacific in all her glory.

PatrickPointweb

There was a couple on Outlook Rock (where I took this) that were taking turns snapping photos of each other. I offered to take a photo of them together, and I knew he was from LA by the reluctance with which he handed me his camera.

We have trust issues.

I took the photo and confirmed my suspicions…he was from LA. In fact, he was an oncologist and also on the board of directors for the UCLA cancer research center, where my niece (Susan’s daughter) was working to get her Masters Degree in cellular and molecular biology. When I asked if he knew her, he said he did. Small world eh?

He returned the favor by taking a photo of me with my camera, in all of my Hello Kitty Layers and Steroid Swelled glory.

Outlook & Me

I asked him where he was staying, as this was still a worry for me. He gave me the name of the exact Bed and Breakfast I had booked to stay the night and had found the “be back later” note on.

Thank you God.

It couldn’t be bad if this doctor was staying there. I asked him how he liked it, he stated that they liked it so much they cancelled their plans to spend time in Napa Valley so they could extend their stay.

Thank you again God.

Once again he put someone in my path that renewed my energy, filled me with happiness, and was such a genuine and unique people (both him and his wife) that my life is richer for knowing them.

We parted ways after chatting and I went on to explore the park with a much lighter heart. The sun was beginning its descent and I wanted to take in a little more. The photographic possibilities were endless.

The forest floor…

Forest Floor

The biggest slugs I have ever seen in my life were plentiful (I was careful not to step on one and make a mess of my shoes and their life). Ew.

Giant Slug

I headed back to the B&B and found the door open and my host inside. I had spoken to the owner on the phone when I made the reservation, and at that time she had prompted me to ask if any of the large rooms on the second floor were available for an upgrade.

I did so and she replied “No, we only have the smaller room downstairs available as all of our other guests are staying the week.”

I imagined staying in a coat closet with a toilet.

When I took my key and made my way to my room you can imagine how wrong I was when I opened the door and caught sight of my view.  My Room - Trinidad

Thank you God.

This was the small room? Really? I couldn’t even fit in this photo the office, changing/make-up room (yes a seperate room for that) and ridiculously spacious bathroom, but who cares with this view? And my own stove/heater thingy in my own sitting enclave. I was already sorry I was only staying one night.

I walked out onto the deck and gazed at Turtle Rock outside of my room. Turtle Rock was very loud with barking. What the heck?

I retrieved my hubby’s trusty binoculars (as it turns out the hotel provides them too), and I found the source of the noise…California Sea Lions. They were at the base of the gigantic rock and in the rough water surrounding it.

California Sea Lions Turtle Rock

I found out from the owners that the noise was primarily coming from the male bull of this harem and all of the young males who were attempting to gain access to the rock to rest, challenge, and mate.

The other smaller rocks around Turtle Rock had groups of the pinnipeds as well. I could just make out their shiny coats in the setting sun.

Small colony

I actually went out for a quick meal (opting out of my customary PB&J with trail mix combo) and came back to sit and sip a cup of herbal tea by the fake fire and the most glorious of views.

ViewfromBB

As I sat and watched the sun shine its last rays of the day, I quite unexpectedly felt one of the tight twists in my too tight rubber band give way. The Mixed Connective Tissue Disorder with Autonomic Involvement (ever after thought of as the Lupus Link in my mind) I had been in the fight for my life against for a year suddenly didn’t seem like such a heavy burden.

I was finally at peace with it. Suddenly, and with no conscience effort.

I was again mindful of the enigmatic awareness of what, I wasn’t sure. That peaceful self-awareness that had started my day had also ended it with an incredible gift.

The internal war I had waged against the dark passenger that had ravaged my body was over. I was at peace with the Lupus Link, and if it chose to take my life, then so be it. It has been in God’s hands ever since.

Sometimes the biggest battles are not won with will, but with grace.

Until next time dear diary, I leave you with my Trinidad sunset.

Sunset in Trinidad