My First Love; The Desert, and Our Reunion

Every year I do a trip to the southwest to visit the part of my soul that resides there. I was trying to describe this to someone the other day and the best I can do is this. There are places that feed the fire of your heart/soul, stoking it up so it expands and fills your chest, there are different places that do this for everyone. Other things can do this too, like creative works and what not, but for me it’s a few places located in various places such as: Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Montana. Of course there are other places out there also, things that I haven’t seen yet or maybe that I cannot draw from at this moment. This year I took along a friend of mine that I have had from high school, she’s amazing and it was totally worth showing her the places I had only talked about with people. In actuality she was the only one of my friends from Washington state (and childhood) that I have been able to share the places we saw together.

Exploring resets me, like a circadian rhythm, I come back to my reality a little sad to have to leave but more set on my goals and more clear of what I want from my life. Below is the image reel and mini description of what we saw and experiences.

Day 1: Leaving Seattle, WA (after fighting the TERRIBLE drivers that live in this city and visiting whole foods where we harassed the cashiers)IMG_2922

 

 

 

Image 1- After long driving through the night, with a small break at a rest stop the sun began to rise in Idaho.  This whole day was a rush which ended at Page, AZ.

Day 3-6 was spent visiting my family in AZ and also Flagstaff, Prescott and also Sycamore Canyon.

Day 6-8 were spent on the Colorado River below the Glen canyon dam, camping out under the stars, attempting to fish and drinking lots of good beers. This was the highlight of the trip for me, a great shooting star across the year. A happy hello and a sad goodbye.

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Day 8-9 was spend getting back from the trip, heading to williams and also hanging out with my sister for one last day.

Day 10- Getting to Moab, UT. There was rain, sun and snow along the way.

 

Day 11- Driving, lots of driving. Slept at rest stop next to “lucky lils” Casino, We did not test how lucky she really was…. Also went to Thompson Falls to visit my boss for my summer internship and check out the town. Very pretty town.

Day 12- Camping out near Alberton, Montana. This is a favorite place of mine, good fishing (specific location denied….) This was also the last day of the trip. Sitting by the crackling fire, we drank ginger beers and I played songs for Rachel on my Harmonica (not well I may add). After this we woke up and headed home back to reality.

When this trip ended it left me feeling hopeful followed by an overwhelming sense of lose, and I had no idea what to do next. It’s a new beginning, a chance at rebirth and by grace I have been given it, its difficult to let go of the things that bind us to the past but we must to make room for future.

 

Another Turn Around the Sun

30de398ee2f123cba7afcb8d339d56adAs the year ends and a new one begins, take the time to use the change for renewal and reflection. Also, take a moment to breath and look inside, take any residual pieces of yourself that are hindering you and let them go. A new year is not a time to make plans and goals you’ll never keep, don’t set yourself up for failure and disappointment. Let’s instead choose to make maybe a handful of small changes, letting go perhaps of something that you have held onto a little too tightly for the last year. Let me walk you through what I see in my mind for all of us on this wonderful day.

Standing up from our comfortable huddled positions, we stand the dust of the previous year falling around us. Pabst in hand we peer around looking for the crystal chandelier, instead we see nothing just dark expanse. Out of the dark comes a small flicker of an image, but the light flickering is a flame inside of your belly. Fear sets in, what is that?! We exclaim. The flickering light is warm and slowly it grows and suddenly you feel safe and you feel almost as if the flame is consuming something you didn’t know was there some emotional baggage shoved under the bed after the long trip. At first at the thought of letting go of that emotional baggage, we cringe, what would we do without that? At this point that baggage has become a part of your formed personality, to lose it would be to have to reform yourself again. This could come in the form of baggage so to speak or it could just be residual hate/love/awkward feelings that you have harbored, long unable to release for unspeakable reasons. In this moment you can choose to let that flame expand and take the things that you no longer require, that do not benefit you and your experience, if you would only let them go. In this moment, we let them be taken, and the flame grows except its not a flame at all it’s a warm soothing light that at the release of your baggage glows more brightly for just a moment then dims until it goes out completely. At the lose of the light you again stand in a dark room, but then only just then do you realize that there was a door in reach this whole time, so you open it now and walk out of this dark room you had put yourself in and walk out into the bright new undiscovered territory. Its beautiful and new on the other side and you would have known earlier if only you could have had the power to get yourself out of a situation you knew to be dark and diminishing to your inner self.

Essentially what I want you to gather from me today is hopefully some courage today or in the future to take the dusty things we keep in the shelves of our minds and hearts that clutter and confuse, and let them go. Dust them off look at them and gently release them, shed tears if you need to and if it takes more than one attempt that is okay just do it eventually.

This year, I will attempt this myself, to let go of that thing I have dragged with me most of my adult live, that person that I have held onto who I really formed most of my being around. Who will I be without that? That terrifies me. We cannot hold onto that which hold us back from our paths, happiness or progress, well at least I cannot anyway, I can’t speak for you and should not even try.

So in this new year please get out there, explore and grow in whatever way you need to. So much love and light is being sent to you, whoever you are way out in the nothingness of space.

-Leah

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

 

The Things We Don’t Speak Of

Man posts newspaper ad seeking leads in killing of wife, daughter over 9 years ago

Just as life was definite, so is death. This has been on my mind for the last year or so, the impending darkness that beckons us from our first breath. It terrifies me some nights, that my thoughts and I one day would fade from this world. It’s something I cannot fathom and I cannot fathom it for my loved ones either. I think that death and the fragility of our lives should be talked about open, not kept in a scary closet where we store the things that we’ll never speak of.

Often when I go out into the wilderness by myself , at times I feel apprehensive as most people would. What exactly do I feel apprehensive about? Strangers, unreasonable predator fear and just the unknowing of what is out there. I remember my first trip out on a long hike by myself in the cascades I got to the trail-head put my heavy backpack on immediately wanted to go home, I didn’t, but every noise for the first miles scared the life out of me. I ran across this story about the daughter and mother shot in the head for no reason and something hit me, that trail the first one that scared me was this very trail that they lost their lives on, Pinnacle Lake Trail. I remember reaching the top of this long climb and there was this beautiful vista, sitting at the edge of the trees looking out on the view were two crosses and I had always wondered who they were and what happened, now I know.

The back of my brain says that I should never go back out there to that area, to that mountain, but the other larger more dominant says this: We cannot let fear ruin life for us. We cannot hide under our beds hoping that death doesn’t find us or that evil people simply pass by us. Life is hard, and hopefully long, but for most that is not true. It is a blessing to live long enough to truly know what it means to live.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
―Mark Twain 

You will die. Maybe peacefully, maybe in an hospital or maybe from a senseless act of violence, but it doesn’t change the outcome, fear won’t either. This I will say, knowing that one day your light will go out, knowing that maybe you won’t make it to see all of your goals meet fruition , what are you going to do with that? Why do we wait to tell people we care, or go to a place we have always wanted to go to or even to just take a day off of work. We have learned that we must put our head down and follow the paths of all those before us- Work, home, work , home……. until we get embalmed (so we cannot decay even once in the earth that bore us) and occupy a coffin (our family likely couldn’t even afford) unaged for all of time. Do what makes you happy, I am not talking about “living each day as if it were you last” because if that was true we wouldn’t need to pay our bills or worry about the consequences of dropping acid. What I am talking about is remembering that your happiness is that matters and you are in charge of it, every minute of every day regardless what you actually think. Make sure you are following where your soul beckons, I think you will find that it takes you strange and magical places.

Also, don’t let “evil” people scare you away from the things you love (I am also telling this to myself) because then fear has won, they have won.

HIKE NAKED. 

Get up out of your snuggie and get outside!

Much Love, Leah

“If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture—that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves.”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Pinnacle and Bear Lake, WA

I went here a couple of weeks ago now but thought I should still mention it. This is a wondrous hike that starts off pretty mellow as it connects to bear lake very early on, this lake unfortunately from what I could see could not really be fished. The lake was very shallow and very warm at the time I was there and I saw now sign of fish as I went bush wacking around. So I continued on unknowingly I was going on a must more intense hike than I thought it was! However, I was really excited to see that the trail was not pristine as it keeps the yuppiest of the yuppys out. The trail gained some serious elevation on switchbacks that were heavily rooted and washed out, and a couple times there were false trails leading off to who knows where. Eventually you get to the top of the switchbacks and see some amazing views before seeing Hempel Lake on the right below you then moving on to some beautiful meadows, I definitely startled some bunnies chowing down on the sweet low grasses. Eventually you reach a large tarn, and at first I wasn’t sure if this was indeed the lake! I moved on and found that now it wasn’t, but that little tarn was pretty darn cute! (hyuk hyuk). In the tarn I saw some salamanders, many birds and various aquatic inverts. Oh by the way I should have mentioned that chacos are a must for this trip, waterproof boots if your so inclined or any shoes you don’t mind soaking with mud (I stepped into some mud, found it was a hole then had to pull my legs out- knee high caked with mud). Anyway the destination of Pinnacle lake was reached and the trip was totally nothing in beauty compared with that of the lake, beautiful and serene, clear and quiet, with views far outreaching. Also you get to see a pretty cool side of Mount Pilchuck and its spires. At this point it started raining and got pretty chilly, I ate my lunch and drank my beer, considered fishing but my fleece wasn’t warm enough to stick around long. When I was done I marched back down the mountain sad to leave early but happy to return again. Funny though when I reached the bottom the rain cleared up and the sun came out, so that was nice. This is a great hike, dont underestimate it though come prepared with more food and water then you need. Thankfully it was pretty clean other than the pet poop bags I saw every once in a while. If you bring a pet and you pick up its poop and put it in the bag TAKE OUT THE BAG. I know you say “well ill leave it here and get it on my way out”, I say “put it in your bag now, its in a bag, itll be okay”

Tangent ahead

For you who may not know anything about me I am going to school and it seems the more I learn about environmental conservation the more I just feel overwhelmed by the problems and helpless to solve them, as if you see a person bleeding out and you cannot get to them to put pressure on the wounds but there are so many people standing RIGHT THERE who refuse to help or just don’t see the person. That is how I feel almost everyday looking at humans and our impact. The only reason I mention this is when I say “Get off the couch and get out there” or something to that effect, I dont just mean get physical activity I mean learn about nature, appreciate it so when it comes to making decisions about its fate you are educated. Thanks for reading.

Get up and get educated!

-Leah

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.” -Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

A Little More Volunteering

 It is very easy to become connected to your environment, with one click of the mouse you can find yourself at your county’s page for volunteer opportunities or maybe your states Department of Game and Fish. There are amazing things to be discovered out there, like for me, Mount Saint Helens. I signed up to do some scotch broom removal from an elk habitat area below Mount Saint Helens (MSH) , not really knowing what to expect. Surprisingly I also had a friend decide that a weekend outside of manual labor sounded good to him too! So away we went, a 5 hour drive later we were in an area of WA that we had never seen with beautifully replanted (for future timber cuts unfortunately) firs and pines and large striking mountains. We stayed overnight then went to work the next day using pectoral muscles you never thought to exist while using lobbers for 8 hours then spraying the stumps with an herbicide. It was hard work but I don’t think I have ever had such a good lunch spot. Standing on the banks of the Toutle River it looked like pictures I had seen of Denali. Wonderous would be the word I would use actually, it made me feel so small and complete to be out there in the rebirth of this new earth. I would have never even though to go here if it had not been for this opportunity and if you would so desire this event is held by Washington Dept of Fish and Wildlife about three times a year and a very funny and amazing couple Rodger and Mona host a camp for the folks wishing to stay overnight, be prepared Rodger brings Fireball.

http://wdfw.wa.gov/about/volunteer/

I guess my overall point is that we often dont know what is out there to protect. We hear about issues on the news or via word of mouth (that may or may not be true) so how do we really know the importance of conservation/management without seeing the lands with out own eyes. So we should all get out there, help each other out to whatever capacity you can and it will help everyone. Get up, sign up, Get out there!

Bye for now – Leah

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” -Aldo Leopold

Oh the places we have been

I wanted to take a moment before I wrote about my adventure today to tell you about where I came from. I am not talking my the womb of my mother but the place my mind was soul was born, Arizona (AZ). Most people when I tell them that I come from AZ exclaim how dreadful that must have been or something like how they just cant stand that there is just rocks and dirt. The first thing I ask is if they just visited Phoenix or the surrounding valley on their visit, the answer is typically “No, we went to Scottsdale” or something like that, well that’s just the rich side of Phoenix. Regardless of the answer I respond again by telling them if you drive north about an hour and a half and get off the freeway your idea of AZ should change.

I come from a place called Prescott (pronounced pres-scitt) which is called the mile high city and is amazing for lack of a better word. The scrub land mixed with large expansive ponderosa pines that smell of vanilla in the summertime when you scratch the bark.  The place is 70 is degrees most of the year, with a few months of heat (not near as bad as the valley) and a couple months of cold (colder then here in the PNW, with snow!). The town of Prescott has growth and changed like any desirable spot in the US the most common person moving in is the upper middle class/rich retired couple. They like it because its cooler then their home in Scottsdale and come up for the weekends most often. In my opinion the worst group of people to increase in the area, they require costcos/malls/olive gardens and typically have NO knowledge of what conservation is (see shopping at costco). There are other semi large groups such as; the college student (Embry-Riddle, Prescott college, yavapai), the outdoor folks (mountain biking love is here) and the random groups in between.

This place is magical, and a gateway to many of the wonders of Arizona. I have hiked, backpacked and climbed across some of it but haven’t come close to seeing all of them. From the redrock canyons with tranquil turquoise waters, to the high scrublands where the burrowing owls live in prairie dog holes and endangered black footed ferrets roam and to the iconic grand canyon and the mythical colorado river that runs through her. When people tell me they are to visit the grand canyon I tell them not to even try to go to the south rim but to take the long journey to the north rim where you can camp in the national forest, and hike the many trails seeing the canyon in your own time with out thousands of people swarming you drink tiny single use water bottles before throwing them and all their garbage on the ground where the crows and chipmunks take to feeding. The south rim is like cancer, to quote mr. Abbey again “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell” this place gets bigger and bigger allowing no one to have any idea was conservation is, for example the IRONY of the misters on the shade structures to keep people cool and refreshed while they take in the sights. Why is that ironic you might ask? Well the colorado is the most diverted river in the US, its waters feed New mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California, it even once fed Mexico, but we didn’t care about cutting those people off from the river long ago.The Colorado river is held above the grand canyon in what once was marble canyon but now is Lake Powell, filled in with water to create a hydroelectric dam to feed the needs of Phoenix. This river day to day, hour to hour has discharge rates that change as it reflects how much water needs to be flowing through the dam to create the power in consumption via Phoenix. As one could expect the river is very high in the middle of the day when it is toasty outside and the AC units are whirling away, with waters tragically low at night. The overall water loss through evaporation at lake Powell is staggering in an already water deficit area. There is simply not enough water for anyone, not even the great Grand Canyon.

So you see the misting is ironic because there isn’t enough water to feed peoples needs even most basic but the people have not discovered that. They haven’t discovered that their pools, dishwashers, 3 ACs used to cool one house, golf courses and water parks are the reason, next to the over population increase in the world, that the southwest will some day be a ghost town where everything is dead and empty cities sit with their empty pools collected dust as it is blow by. I long for that day to be honest, the desert will die, but it will come back with time and some many years later it will be what it once was, nature always takes herself back.

Okay so that got very serious, but the take away is that you should visit the southwest, respectfully and dutifully. How do you know what is being lost or at stake if you have never seen it for all its glory! I suggest Sycamore canyon near Clarksdale.

Good luck and get sustaining!

-Leah

dr seuss quote steer yourself

The Importance of Being Outside

When we think of ADVENTURE and EXPLORING, we have to remember that not only is this a trip far away from your home but in your own back yard maybe by yourself seeking solitude or maybe with friends who seek what you seek, to be more connected to something to anything. I often seek grand goals and forget the ones that are so close, not only are they really awesome but also they don’t cost me petrol/money/emissions to get there, they are most certainly more conservative and what I mean by that is CONSERVING. I often rant to my friends and family that environmental conservation is not about wearing Birkenstocks (but wait those are totally in now…) or driving a bio-fuel vehicle or even about wearing patchouli (again that is in now too…) what I mean is using/buying/unwrapping/driving/consuming/throwing away LESS. Going “green” means actually just spending less money, not putting fuel in the machine of CONSUME-rism. I am sorry I really went off on a tangent there, so lets return to the original thought, go explore YOUR backyard. You may not have the same backyard as me or as the person next to you but there is always something to see, someone to connect to in some meaningful way. Talk to someone you may have never met before, discover something new about your neighborhood, or maybe do my favorite thing and bring a bag and pick up trash its a small task but it is very meaningful, to your neighbors and to the animals that may have tried to eat that garbage and maybe died. So get your friends/family/dog/cat? unplug from your electronics (no headphones either!) leave them at home, and get the hell out there. I will quote someone who is NOT Edward Abbey now…. weird I know.

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history. No purpose or place. We have no Great War, No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t”

“This is your life, and its ending one minute at a time.”

-Chuck Palahniuk , Fight Club