We just returned from a Labor Day weekend trip to one of our favorite places to camp, hike and ride 4 wheelers at ~ the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado. We took our 4 year-old grandson, Jackson, with us. He loves camping, fishing, 4-wheeling, and just plain being outdoors. So, we decided to take him hiking on the Indian Trail with us.
The Indian Trail is a 9.6 mile trail which offers spectacular views of red rock cliffs in the Tabeguache Creek drainage. We thought a short hike on this trail would be a fun first hike for Jackson.
Late Sunday morning, I loaded up his backpack with water, extra clothes and lots of snacks that only a 4 year-old would love ~ string cheese, crackers and cheese, crackers and peanut butter and chocolate. Of course, those snacks are Grammie’s favorites, too!
We loaded our Polaris Ranger up and headed to the trailhead. As we were riding, I explained the rules of hiking to Jackson:
Always listen to what we say
Never lose sight of Grammie and Grandpa
Carry your own backpack
Always drink lots of water
Never wander off on your own
Never touch something without letting Grammie and Grandpa know what you’re touching
blah, blah, blah
At the trailhead we unloaded. Jackson wanted hiking poles just like mine. He didn’t care about how you use them, he wanted to be a hiker just like Grammie. So, Dale fitted Jackson with poles. We strapped his backpack on him and we headed down the trail mindful of the fact that if we lose him or hurt him in any way, shape or form, we’d have to answer to his parents. Not a conversation I was looking forward to. So, we kept a good eye on him at all times. After all, I have lost that child in a Penny’s store before. Not a problem for him. He knew where he was. I didn’t.
Along the trail we showed him acorns, Fireweed, a bovine jawbone, a snake, bear scat, a waterfall and how to use his poles to bushwhack through the tall Hawthorn berry bushes without getting scratched.
Jackson practiced his elk call and we ate snacks. Round trip? Probably a mile. We didn’t want to wear him out and make him not want to go with us ever again! It was a great first hike for him.
At the end of the hike, we loaded back up into the Ranger and headed to our camper. On our way back, Jackson wanted to recite the rules of hiking. Here are the rules through his 4 year-old’s eyes:
Always bring water, hiking makes you thirsty
Never lose sight of your partners
Always keep moving
There’s no crying in hiking, unless it’s Grammie
Carry your own backpack
Always carry out trash
Never go off on your own
Always whisper, never yell
Be quiet as much as you can
Always pack good snacks you will want to eat
Always hike downhill. Going uphill is hard.
Stay away from the edge of the cliff, it scares Grammie
Take lots of snack breaks
Always point your poles down in the dirt, never in the air like a spear
Always watch what you’re doing and where you’re going
Wear clothes that don’t make you sweaty. Sweaty is gross.
Always go with Grammie and Grandpa because you get chocolate at the end of thehike
Always take a nap in the camper after hiking (those where his words, not mine!!)
Later that afternoon, Jackson said he loved his hike and wanted to do it again. He couldn’t wait to tell his mom and dad about it. But, first he needed a nap. We actually wore him out? The next morning he woke up and wanted to hike the Indian Trail in the Tabeguache Drainage again. My job is done!
“Never give up! Never surrender!” These are the immortal words spoken by the commander of the NSEA Protector in the 1999 movie, “Galaxy Quest”. Proud words, I tell ya. The way he conveyed them, I wanted to jump aboard that spaceship of his and help him save the galaxy from alien attacks. Let’s go!!! Let’s fight and never ever give up!! And, hell no, I willNEVERsurrender!!!
Never give up. Never surrender. These are words I try to live by every day. I’m a competitor. I’m hard~headed. I don’t like people helping me. When Dale sees me struggling, I stubbornly refuse his offer to help saying, “I can do it myself!” Then I proceed to drop a 30 pound bag of dog food in the street because I have just wrestled it from him while he was trying to help me get it into my jeep. Silly girl….
Well, Commander, do you have any words for when you do give up? For when you do surrender? I do. And they aren’t for the faint of heart…
A few Sundays ago, we were on our way home from a weekend adventure with friends in Silverton, Colorado. We drove through the town of Ouray, which is nestled at the base of the rugged San Juan mountain range. We enjoy Ouray. We have jeeped in their mountains. We have hiked to the Box Canyon waterfalls. We have attended ice climbing competitions there and have snowshoed at Ironton Park above Ouray. The town has mining history galore. Ouray is also known for having numerous hot springs. Ouray is surrounded by beautiful mountains, cliffs and trails and is also home to our favorite pub, the Ouray Brewery.
Ouray is also home to the newly completed, Ouray Perimeter Trail, or as I fondly call it, The Death March. According to ouraytrails.org the Perimeter Trail is described as a moderate trail which circles the town of Ouray, with an elevation gain of 800 feet over 4.2 miles, which takes 3 hours to complete (must be the feel-good Chamber of Commerce description). Another website, http://www.gjhikes.com/2012/09/ouray-perimeter-trail.html describes the trail as a strenuous 5.9 mile hike with an elevation gain of 1,426 feet and takes roughly 4 hours to complete (but only if you’re a effing mountain goat!). Seriously? Come on people, get your act together. In this amazing age of technology, how can trail lengths, elevation gain and difficulty rating be like night and day?? Wish I had known these discrepancies earlier in the day…..
Coming off Red Mountain Pass, just before you drop into Ouray, there is an USFS amphitheater parking and camping area. You can jump on the Perimeter Trail from there. Dale and I had noticed the sign numerous times and decided a quick hike around Ouray would be the perfect thing to break up our 4 hour trip home. So, we parked our camper in the parking lot, and proceeded to gear up for the hike. I put on my old trail shoes, not my boots which I always hike in. I didn’t have my hiking poles. No problem, the trail looked pretty level. I didn’t have my day pack or snacks. That’s okay. I was still full from breakfast in Silverton. No pack = no camelback bladder, either. No problem. It’s not too hot and Dale has a bottle of Smartwater in his pocket ~ we’ve taken longer hikes with no water. I’m all set. Let’s go!!!
We quickly found the trailhead and I went skipping down it like one of the seven dwarfs on their way to work ~ Hi ho! Hi ho! It’s down the trail we go!! As we hiked further down the trail, we would catch glimpses of Ouray down below us. Wow! Everyone looks so tiny down there! That’s pretty funny how tiny they are! Dale, aren’t all those tiny people cute down there? Wait. They’re down there. They’re way down there. We are way up here… Hey, wait a minute…. Don’t we have to cross the highway at some point in town to go around Ouray and circle back up to the camper? Oh well, no worries…
The trail took us higher and the people down below got smaller. I was out of breath and thirsty. Never give up! Never surrender! Then the trail turned sharply downhill. Small rocks were rolling under my feet forcing me to grab a hold of tiny aspens and the branches of pines trees that lined our path. Sweat was starting to form along my hairline and drip down my cheeks . I was starting to get really pissed.
What kind of trail is this anyway? Is that a hunger pain I feel? What time is it? I’ve been 3 hours without food? Crap. I need my poles. Where are my glucose tablets? Stupid trail…
I kept looking uphill behind me at our camper which was parked far away at the top of the hill across the valley. Shit. Oh well, it’ll get better. We must be halfway there! We made our way down to Lower Cascade Falls. Yay! Water! A parking lot! People! We’re home free!!! The sign there said we had only gone a distance of .40 miles. Hey! That’s not right! That sign is messed up ~ no way in hell can that be true! I’m sure we hiked 2 miles, at least! I turned around and looked at the camper parked way up on the hill across town. Then it hit me. What goes down, must go back up… Crap. I was spent. I was hungry. I was thirsty. I hated my shoes. I needed my hiking poles. I wanted to go home.
Dale asked me what I wanted to do. I said in my cheeriest never surrender, never give up voice, “Let’s keep going!!” You can catch the trail at numerous spots around town. Lower Cascade Falls is one of them. We bypassed the falls parking area and headed up the hill towards Upper Cascade Falls. Wait. Why are we going uphill? Town is downhill. We know the trail crosses the highway at the end of town. We were almost at the end of town. How can we cross when we’re headed uphill?? Oh crap. I want my poles. Where are my poles? I can’t do this anymore. I cannot continue. I need to… surrender. Wahhhhh!!!!
Have you ever had a trail chew you up and spit you out? I have. It’s not pretty. There are a lot of unladylike characteristics involved: swearing, crying, bending over and hacking. Yep. I’m not proud of what I did. It was an ugly moment for me. Dale asked me if I wanted to keep on hiking or if I wanted to…. quit. QUIT???? “I’m not a quitter!”, I snarled back at him. Quitters are losers who have given up too easily. I refuse to give up, give in or just plain give!! But, my body told me different. I was forced to give in. Dammit.
I told Dale I couldn’t do this anymore. I wanted to turn around and go back. I’m hot. I’m hungry. I’m gassed. I give up. I surrender. Wow, never saw that coming. He turned around and looked at me in disbelief, “Really?? You really want to quit?” Tears in my eyes, hanging my head, I said, “Yes”. I had been defeated by a stupid trail. Granted, I wasn’t prepared, but that didn’t matter. I gave up. And that pissed me off.
We hiked back down the the Cascade falls parking lot and reassessed our trip back to the truck. We looked across town and up the highway leading to Red Mountain Pass ~ the highway has 2 large switchbacks before you get to the amphitheater parking area. Some how, we needed to march back through town and straight up the hill to our truck.
I mustered all the strength I had left and we walked back through town towards Red Mountain Pass. We laughed and talked about how silly we were to think we could conquer the trail unprepared. We got to the end of town and looked straight up. There was our truck parked straight up the mountain from where we were standing. I dropped the f-bomb like it was confetti. How in the f*&king hell are we going to get up there? F*%k that $&#t!!!!!! F*%k, F*%k, F*&k!!!!
Well, hike up the effing mountain, dumb ass. I was actually thinking about hitchhiking when I decided to GPS the neighborhood. I found a trail that cut through private property, and led right to the road that would take us back to our truck. Glory be to God Almighty!!!! Let’s go!!!! We found the trail and started up the stairs that would take us to Heaven! Did I mention stairs? Stairs either lead down or up. In this case, they would lead up. And up. And up. Straight up. This is where I had my meltdown. A full blown hissy fit. I was so gassed, I hit a wall. I bent over and gasped for air. I even dry heaved. I cried, “I can’t do this! I want to go home!” Tears of anger and frustration ran down my face. I couldn’t stop it. Dale stood above me and let me have my moment. Then he calmly said, “Jill, you have to do this.” Never give up. Never surrender.
I gathered myself, wiped my face and nose with my bare arm and proceeded to trudge up the stairs like I was on a death march. We eventually got to the top of the hill and found the Perimeter Trail. We met another woman on it who couldn’t believe the trail was this difficult. She was led to believe it was a little more user-friendly than it really was. There, validation that I wasn’t the only one who thought the trail was a little more difficult than the trail head sign let on. We eventually arrived at the truck. I was never so happy to see our truck and camper! I kissed the side of it and happily jumped into the front seat.
Now that I think about it, I didn’t give up. I didn’t surrender. If I had, I’d still be sitting by the side of the highway in Ouray, crying, hacking and carrying on like a baby. We will eventually conquer the Ouray Perimeter Trail. And when we do, we will be prepared for the battle. I found out later from a friend of mine who is an experienced runner, that she had tried to run the trail and had failed. I don’t feel so bad. And as a side-note, we only hiked .80 miles….
As many of you already know, last month I was one of 36 women to be chosen as an ambassador for the online community, Hike Like A Woman. Hike Like A Womanis the brainchild of Rebecca Walsh. She envisioned a community of like-minded women who would encourage and inspire each other to get outdoors and enjoy all the gifts Mother Nature has to offer. She wanted to share her knowledge of the outdoors with others in hopes of motivating them to do the same. Well, it worked!!!!! She has built an online community which has over 14,000 followers! She must be doing something right ~ and the community is gaining new members every day.
A few months ago, Rebecca posted an idea that she hoped would help expand her philosophy ~ why not create an ambassador program to help her spread the word? What she originally had in mind, was to find 12 women who would contribute blogs and articles on hiking and backpacking, trip reports, stories of inspiration, hiking hacks, gear reviews, book reports, favorite hiking snacks, and more, so the website could take on a different personality. Rebecca didn’t want HLAW to be all about her. She wanted to extract ideas from different women of all ages, backgrounds, demographics and levels of knowledge in the hiking community. She crossed her fingers and encouraged women to apply for her pilot ambassador program by filling out an application and submitting an essay on why they should be picked as an ambassador. She hoped for any kind of a response. Well, guess what? She received 118 applications ~ one of which was mine! WOWZER!!!!She was bowled over by the unexpected enthusiasm of women who wanted to be a part of theHLAW Ambassadorprogram.
Now, Rebecca had a big problem – who to select? How in the world does one read through 118 applications and select only 12 to represent? She looked through the applications and decided she had to open the program up to more than just 12 women. She eliminated applications until she came to a manageable number of 30 women representing the US and 6 international ambassadors.
Frankly, I had forgotten about applying for theHLAW Ambassador program. I had seen it flash by my newsfeed on Facebook. I doubled back and read about it. Intrigued, I applied, thinking it would be so great to share with other women who enjoyed hiking and backpacking as much as I did. I LOVE hanging with my friends, but, other than my husband, Dale, I really don’t have anyone close to me who enjoys the outdoors like I do. So, I filled out my application, wrote my stupid essay, thought, “no way in hell, Jill”, pushed SEND and that was that. Over the next few weeks, a post would appear from Rebecca, “Narrowing it down to 80 applications. Will let you know by email when I decide…”. Holy moley! That’s a lot of women with more knowledge, charisma and experience than I have. I’m done…. So, I forgot all about it and channeled my energy towards other things.
On July 23rd, I opened an email from Rebecca, fully expecting a sweet, “Thank you for applying, but….”. The email thanked me for applying , the response was overwhelming, blah, blah, blah, and oh, by the way, “I’m excited to announce that I selected you as an Ambassador!”
SCREAMING!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh. My. Hell. I was chosen. I WAS CHOSEN! Wait.
What? I was chosen??? Really? Me? From Nowhere, Colorado?? Me? Really?? I must have read and reread Rebecca’s email numerous times. I still have it. I think I’ll print it and frame it. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would even come close to being selected. Call it self doubt. Call it being humble. Call it low self esteem. Or modesty. Whatever you call it, that was me. And it still is.
I am a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador. I am a Hike Like A Woman Ambassador. I kind of like the sound of that! ♥ My girlfriend, Cindy, who didn’t know at the time (we were sworn to secrecy ……great… that was soooo hard!), noticed I had a spring in my step as I cruised by her office. It does give you a sense of validation to be one of 36 chosen from 118 applications. I’m still internally SCREAMING on a daily basis.
I’m starting to sweat bullets and have a touch of anxiety as the deadline approaches for my first submission. But, I have all the other ambassadors and Rebecca inspiring me and encouraging me along the way, so that gives me the confidence that I can handle whatever comes my way. I am not alone in this journey. And that’s what we are all about. There are amazing women within this group of whom I have come to know and love as if I had known them forever. They bring so much to the table and I look forward to collaborating with them over the next year.
Best part of being involved in the ambassador program? I get to help encourage and inspire others ~ whether you are a seasoned veteran hiker or a novice to the outdoors, we all need someone in our hip pocket to give us the little extra push to walk off that cliff backwards….
Thirty-eight years ago, while as a student at Western State College (now known as Western State Colorado University) in Gunnison, Colorado, for the first time ever, I walked off a cliff backwards. I had equipment and teammates to support me in my journey downward until my feet touched the ground. Once my feet were planted firmly on the rocky soil of Hartmans Rocks (I don’t remember how I even got there), I fell to my knees and literally kissed the ground, thankful for the trust I had to have in my equipment and in those who were in charge of my well-being. I mean, who would want to make that dreaded phone call to my parents: “Mr. and Mrs. Norcross? I’m calling to inform you that your daughter has made a very unique splatter pattern on the rocks. Looks kind of cool, like a Spirograph pattern, ya know? Anyway, could you please give me your address so we can scrape her off the side of the cliff and ship her remains to you in an envelope?”
Not me, man. So, I can understand why my mountain rescue teammates would want to ensure that I survived this simple act of walking off a cliff backwards.
Thirty-five years later, I again walked off a cliff backwards. This time, there were no material things or physical bodies to arrest my free fall… I dove headfirst into a world I had always fantasized about, but never took the first steps to enter, until 3 years ago when I entered the world of backpacking and hiking.
My husband and I have been together for 36 years ~ married 32 of those years. We have been through a lot. Births, raising a family, deaths, illness and other factors that could tear a marriage apart. But we persevere. So, this blog was born for many reasons ~ I won’t go into detail, but for the most part, my husband and I want to share our adventures. We are a team in the game of life. We love our children and our grandchildren as much as a human possibly can. We realize they have their own lives and we have ours. It’s just the two of us now ~ so we have decided to make the most out of our time together as much as we possibly can. Adventure awaits!!!
I LOVE BACKPACKING!!!! Did I say that loud enough?? I always have. I was introduced to it during my years at college by my teammates on the Western State College Mountain Rescue Team which I was a part of for 3 years. I love being outdoors. I love hiking. I love identifying flowers, plants, animals, valleys, peaks, and sharing with others. I love the simplicity of knowing all you need to survive with, is on your back. I love the freedom from all the technical communication gadgets that were invented to make our world an easier place to live in. I love saying, “We’re going off the grid for a few days. Will phone when we return.” Dale, on the other hand only hiked as a necessity; a horse trail to clear, or a fence to be mended, or a game animal to chase which would help to feed our family for the year.
Dale was raised in Meeker, Colorado, smack dab in the middle of the hunting culture. That’s all he knew. You didn’t hike or backpack just for the freedom of doing so. You hiked because you needed to hunt an elk or deer. You backpacked the carcass out of the forest. It was work. Not play. You snowshoed not because you wanted to experience the crisp, winter chill or see the snow sparkle and glisten upon it’s surface, you snowshoed to shovel the snow off of cabins in the winter so you would have one come spring.
With that in mind, we have been been at a tug-of-war for 32 years. Three years ago, I finally won!!! I somehow managed to open Dale’s eyes to adventure in hiking and backpacking. He is now on the lookout for adventures ~ so much, that at times it’s overwhelming, but I’m not gonna kick it! We enjoy sharing together, pointing out cloud shapes, blooming Columbines, tundra, peaks, listening to Pikas call to each other, where to set up camp, how many miles to hike on a given day, sharing meals, taking care of each other and making decisions together to insure our survival. Life at it’s simplest.
We enjoy dragging our friends down our path.And they seem to enjoy the ride, as well.
We all have so much fun, but at the end of the day, it’s just Dale and I. And that’s what counts. This blog is dedicated to all our adventures, past, present and future ~ my hope is that others will enjoy and realize that everyone has their own cliffs to walk off backwards ~ “life is a great adventure, or nothing”. What you choose to do with it speaks volumes as to who you are.