Experience Insignificance

Seems I only write after an extreme experience like hiking to the Maroon Bells alone in the winter, or jumping off cliffs into an ice cold mountain lake. Why don’t I write about the rest of my adventures like downhill mountain biking in Telluride, or surfing in California? They are pretty awesome stories too, but it’s weird writing about my life all the time, like I’m bragging or showing off or something. Maybe it’s because I’m picky, with unreasonably high expectations of myself. Or maybe it’s because I’m simply too lazy to sit down and do it. I think it’s a combination of all three, but I realized that each and every adventure is epic in it’s own way. The short bike rides in the woods, the intense sprint sessions by the river, even the quiet moments on top of a mountain I just climbed – every adventure has a story. That being said, not every story needs to be shared. Some I keep only for myself.

Too often I’m reminded of how short life is, and that it is meant to be lived with passion, not to be predetermined by guidelines or rules, and definitely not to be lived in fear. While maybe I’m never meant to fully understand why, I believe I seek adventure to feel like part of something bigger than myself. And maybe that’s what people seek in God… I’m not sure. Moments like being alone with the bears in the Aspen Wilderness in 4 feet of snow, exhausted, sunburned, sore and hungry give me a sense of insignificance. Feeling small and unimportant allows me to see my life from a greater perspective. This also explains my fascination with astronomy and the universe.

Ok, yes, hiking alone in those conditions was reckless, but I was pushed past every limit I thought I had, and it changed me, just like CrossFit did when I was training. Powerful experiences like these remind me that there are bigger and more important things than the petty situations I call “problems.” The most important thing I can do is live my life my way, not waste time on things that don’t matter, or people who don’t care, and to make my mark on the world. In other words, I don’t just want to play the game, I want to change the game. 

So even though I am going to keep most of my stories for myself, here are some pictures of what I’ve been up to.

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California Dreaming

After a crazy Winter of non-stop work and play, it was time to breathe. Because I worked full time through college, worked two jobs after graduating, moved to Breck to take on a huge new job last year, and had the craziest Winter of my life, it was time for a much needed vacation.

Once my professional life was in order, I booked a flight to Orange County, California. While working for Quiksilver in college I was lucky enough to spend a Summer in Huntington Beach interning at their world headquarters. I hadn’t been back to visit since I moved back to Colorado. Almost two years!

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12 short days later, I was walking barefoot on the beach; the warm sand slipping between my toes. I couldn’t help but smile as I felt every bit of stress, worry, and confusion about my life melt away and get carried out to sea. The five days I was there flew by, and the next thing I knew I was home.

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I spent the first night with my friend Baxanne in Carlsbad, well she is my friend, but she is also my ex boyfriend’s mom. Weird, right? Well, I dated her son, Kelly for 7 years, lived with him for 6. Even though things with him didn’t work out, her and I remained close. I mean… she is a badass! Drives a Corvette ZO6, rides a Harley, is President of the Women’s Carlsbad Golf League, and she is fun, beautiful, insightful, and extremely generous.

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It great to see her, but I couldn’t wait to get to Huntington Beach… My old stomping grounds – Surf City! As soon as I got there, I grabbed some friends, surf boards, my GoPro and hit the water. Got some sweet action shots, but the battery died right before the surfing money shots…. you can bet I won’t leave the spare battery in the car next time… Anyways, enjoy some pics from my trip. It was all around amazing and I’ll be back on the beach soon.

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For Whom the Bells Toll

Ever been upset, frustrated, overwhelmed, and just need to get away? Yeah, me too. I had one of those days recently, so I decided to get out of town and clear my head.

When I got home from work, without even changing my clothes, I stuffed some socks, a hoodie, a tank top, and toothbrush into my gym bag, and 5 minutes later was on the road. Drive I-70 West until the sunset was as far as my plan went. IMG_6093

After a spectacular sunset cruise through Glenwood Canyon, I spotted Glenwood Hot Springs. I went there frequently with my family when I was a kid, but hadn’t been in years so I decided to stop for a quick dip.

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It felt so good to relax in the warm water under the moon and stars, but my fingers eventually started to prune so I went to find food.

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I left the hot springs a little before 10pm, when I saw a Village Inn across the street and suddenly HAD to have french toast and bacon! All alone, with soaking wet hair, smudged makeup, and an oversized hoodie I devoured about 1,000 calories worth of breakfast foods and some OJ. I wondered what the people in the restaurant thought when they looked at me, all haggard and somber looking, but to be honest I didn’t care what they thought. In fact, it was kinda of perfect that I looked as discombobulated as I felt inside. I felt mysterious and kind of bad ass.

After dinner, I booked a nearby hotel room off Groupon and went to bed. Tomorrow was going to bring some adventure. I just knew it.

At 6am the next morning I drove to Aspen to find my adventure. I decided to try to get to the Maroon Bells, knowing it might be a challenge in the winter. I didn’t realize that the entire road was covered in 4-5′ of snow and slush and that the only way to get there was to hike, cross-country ski or to snowmobile. I thought about renting a sled for a few hours, but decided to save my $250 and hike. Everyone I had asked and the websites I visited all agreed that it was roughly 6 miles from where the drivable road ends to Maroon Bells Lake. I stocked up on some water, food, grabbed my GoPro and decided to take on the 12 mile challenge.

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When I started the hike around 8am, the path was mostly ice, and although slippery, I maintained a steady pace. After 3 or 4 miles it started to soften up and was much easier to tread on. I could feel myself starting to let go of the things that were bothering me, took some deep breathes and soaked up the quiet natural beauty all around me. I was all alone in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest person, home or business. I felt tiny and insignificant.

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I knew it was a risk going alone, especially with it being the worst avalanche season in as long as I can remember, but it was a risk I was willing to take. Anyways, after hiking for nearly two hours, the slush became so soft that sometimes I sank past the top of my boots. This made it much more challenging to keep my pace, and it wore out my legs much faster. I was already beginning to feel sore, and I had pulled a muscle in my hip. I could also feel my shoulders and face burning in the spring sunshine, but it was too warm to wear my sweatshirt and beanie. After what seemed like forever, I stopped to rest for the first time. I sat on a fallen tree and stretched out my legs and back for a few minutes before continuing on my way.

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The Maroon Bells were looking bigger and more majestic with every step I took. I knew I had to be getting close, but I was beginning to think they were a mirage.

FINALLY! I had made it! I passed a post marking mile number 9, and I thought to myself “That’s strange, it’s supposed to be 6 miles. They must have started counting from the bottom of the road, not from where the road closes for the winter.” As I approached the lake at the bottom of the bells, I sank deeper and deeper into the slush. I decided to keep my distance from the edge of the lake because it was hard to tell where the ground stopped and the water started. I also wanted to conserve energy for the long journey back to my car.

I stomped out a small area in the middle of the field to make a firm place to chill, tossed my hoodie and bag onto the packed slush and lay on top, staring up at the wondrous peaks in front of me. I don’t know how long I lay there, but other than the birds chirping, it was so quiet I could only hear myself breathing.

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After a while, I set up my GoPro and did some handstands like I always do on my adventures. When I finally decided to head back to my car it was about 2pm. I was running out of food and water, my legs were aching and I had a long, long way to go through the sinking slush.

Mile marker after mile marker, I trudged through the soft snow. I stopped to rest on the same tree laying across the road, but the more I sat, the more my legs hurt and the hungrier I became. I kept moving. The amazing landscape all around me was the only distraction from my aching muscles and growing hunger pains. I frequently looked behind me to marvel at the Maroon Bells again and again, or maybe I was double checking that the experience I just had was real.

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More mile markers. …6,5,4… I figured since I left the bells near marker number 9, I was on my final mile or two. I couldn’t wait to take off my wet shoes, drink the coconut water I had in the car and to just sit down.

…3,2… I started to wonder what was going on as I approached mile marker number 2 instead of my car. At that point it didn’t take a genius to figure out the count had started at the base of the trail, not the base of the road, and it was a lot further than I prepared for. Finally there was a pink ribbon attached to a wooden post which I assumed stood for mile number one. **Sigh** Instead of the 12 miles I had planned for, I hiked a total of 19 miles! I had never been so happy to see my car in my life, and immediately tore my wet boots and socks off. My feet felt raw on the bottom so I drove all the way home in my spare socks. Shoes of any kind were not an option.

Even though I was physically exhausted, mentally I felt calm, clear and ready to head home and deal with reality. The struggle I had felt those last few miles had pushed me beyond my comfort zone and to a new personal level. All in all, I was stoked on my adventure and recognized the significance of what I had just accomplished.

“Be uncomfortable. Be comfortable being uncomfortable. It might not be easy, but it’s a small price to pay for living the dream.”

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