Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Waddles, Sunsets, and Rocky Mountain National Park

This time last year I experienced by first adventure in Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was definitely one of the places I wanted to check off the list while on my two week trip in the Rockies.  With over 350 miles of trails, Rocky Mountain National Park is like an adult playground for the outdoors enthusiast!  It offers trails of every level, plus backpacking, climbing and cabin camping.  Although I was only there for one day, I plan to go back as soon as the park opens with fewer COVID restrictions.  

Upon arriving, the ranger handed me a map of the park and asked if I had any questions.  The map was pretty overwhelming with just me and my Toyota Yaris rental.  By the way, so fun!  I felt like I was Mario Karting through the Rockies.  As I started driving through the park with absolutely no plans and not a worry in the world, I just told myself that when I saw a trail name that spoke to my soul, I would pull over and hike it.  I passed so many beautiful and intriguing trail names, and then I saw it!  "Bierstadt Lake!"  I immediatley pulled over into a parking space and grabbed my water bladder and I was off.  Both the trail and the lake are named after a famous landscape painter.  But, honestly, I thought it all sounded like a German beer, which apparently spoke to my soul at the time.

As I passed the trailhead, there were these stick fort/tipi's that were reminiscent of "Blair Witch"?  Ammiright?  Or am I thinking of another terrible horror flick in the woods?  Anyways, there were about three or four of them.  I kept on trekking.

As you hike higher, spectacular awe-inspiring views panoramically open up.  I started skipping along, with very labored breathing, singing, "The Hills Are Alive," because that's the cheesy feels this hike will give (especially when you've never seen beauty like that in your life.)  And, there's this medical condition called "Rocky Mountain High" that also messes with your head...but in a good way.

When I finally reached  Bierstadt Lake perched atop the mountain, I saw a couple there (even though I was the only car in the lot).  I assumed they hiked in from another outlet.  They were from the mid-west and she was about eight months pregnant.  He was set up on a tripod taking some shots of the lake.  I smiled and we greeted and I immediately wondered how in the world that lady made it up the same mountain I just did.  I was still acclimating to the elevation, but to be carrying a little one in your belly?  She sat there voraciously eating a granola bar while her husband took still shots.

This is the place you paint and write your poems.  So inspiring!  I walked around the lake and found a rock to meditate on.  Lake Bierstadt is surrounded by lovely pines and an amazing reflection of both the trees and grandeur of the Rockies were consuming my soul.  When out of no where I heard a little "quack."  Honestly, as if this were the set of the "Truman Show" and the "people behind the curtain" wanted to elevate my experience any more than it already was, the friendliest duck in the world waddled up to join me.  It was like he was trying to communicate to me and tell me about his home.  He even, without a worry in the world, got right up on my rock to join me.  And, then, when he felt the moment had passed (and maybe I was a little overzealous with my duck impersonations) he plumped right into the water and swam away and out of my life.  I nicknamed him "Waddles" and you can see his cute little duck self in the pics below.  You can probably tell by now that I have a much stronger connection with animals than I do humans.

Hey there, mates!  Still with me?  Because lastly I want to leave you with these breathtaking sunset pictures I grabbed before exiting the Rocky Mountain National Park.  I climbed out of the Yaris and crawled on top to get these shots.  I hope you enjoy (but, sadly pictures never really do opinion)!

Pretty righteous, no?  I had never seen a sky painted like that.  And, that is what I love so much about Colorado.  It's like you're up in the clouds and in the sky.  When I was driving to the Continental Divide later that same week, I literally looked down to see a rainbow after a short rain shower.  What can I say?  Sunsets certainly do make my soul flutter.  

As I was exiting the park, I saw so much wild life!  I guess it's feeding time at the zoo around sunset o'clock.  I can't tell you how close I got to an Elk.  He was basically right at my window.  None of the shots were any good because I was so scared and excited at the same time.

A quick note about the wildfires this year: I was a saddened this year when my family came out to the Rockies to visit and the entire time the sky was raining ash.  There was not only little visibility of the mountains, but the sunsets were so clouded by the smoke.  I hope they get a chance to come back out soon and experience the true essence of the Rockies.

Thanks for reading, friends, and I hope you have a terrific rest of your week full of new learning experiences.  And, most of all, I hope you find the time to get out in nature and take your shoes off (to connect with the energies of the Earth) and look to the sky and just breathe in the beauty of the world around you.

Much love,

Sunday, September 27, 2020

From the Beaches of Nebraska an Apple Butter is Born...

"The heat of autumn

is different from the heat of summer

One ripens apples, the other turns them to cider."

Jane Hirshfield

Nothing inspires me more to create than cool, crisp Autumn.  I find beauty in the changing colors of leaves and the beautiful stark white trunks of the Aspens, and thus, my personal rebirth is really just inspired through death....annnnnnd, apples.  Mmmmm.  I remember trips to the apple orchards of North Carolina this time of year.  Apple slushies, apple cider donuts fresh off the line, and hot apple cider to warm my soul (FYI: don't even try to bring those preservative free donuts home, because that deliciousness is meant to be double fisted and for immediate consumption).  My favorite orchard was "Sky Top Orchard."  A friend here in Colorado just visited an adorable orchard nearby in Lyons, called YaYa's Orchard.  It's definitely on the list for an upcoming day trip with my Canon and a possible upcoming blog post!  

Recently I went on a beach camping trip in Nebraska with a group of friends.  We drove to Lake McConaughy for a relaxing weekend.  The sand was so soft, so white and extremely Zen.  Some of the attractions of Lake McConaughy are the fishing and the wind surfing (and getting stuck in the sand and paying a guy on a tractor $100 to tow you out).  I could watch the wind surfing all day.  It's so lovely and entrancing to watch both the traditional water/wind surfers and the guys/girls who get up on the foils and literally look like he/she is "hover boarding" over the waves.  We laid out by the water listening to music, painting with water colors, sipping adult beverages, paddle boarding and exploring the beach/lake.

Our tents situated under a whistling tree, it sounded like nature singing every night while I cuddled up in my sleeping bag.  The star gazing was incredible.  With no light pollution, we had a full panoramic sky full of stars each night.  Great connections with the earth, walking around bare foot all weekend is such a great way to recharge (there are actually so many (mental and physical) health benefits to walking barefoot in the sand) .  Fall was officially in the air with a nippy and beachy evening breeze and the aromatic and arousing aroma of the wood crackling on the sandy campfire pit all while facing and gazing out at the sunset's reflection on Lake McConaughy.  

The weekend recap would be incomplete if I did not hand out mad props to this entire group of culinary campfire geniuses.  We feasted one night on fajitas, another night on steaks cooked over the campfire (w/asparagus and potatoes, and teriyaki chicken kabobs (w/a mango rice and black bean cilantro salad).  I'm not officially spoiled with this camping experience.  

One morning we awoke and my friend was making some stove top coffee + cooking up a delicious breakfast.  I volunteered to be sous chef and do all the chopping.  After she toasted up the English muffins, I one layer of ghee (which provides a saltiness) and some of her daughter's homemade apple butter generously atop the muffins.  Holy deliciousness!  Coffee and apple butter muffins on a crisp cool morning on the beach.  Hopefully you just read that in my NPR "Delicious Dish" voice: "Mmmmm, naughty little apple butter on my muffin."

Well, it's the God's honest truth.  That naughty little jar of homemade apple butter campside inspired me to begin my research and learn the artful slow cook, thus "Colorado Kimmie Apple Butter" was born.  And, then it happened.  It goes without saying but, TIS THE SEASON to start dabbing apple butter on sour dough toast, muffins, pancakes/waffles, an accompaniment for your charcuterie board, in your oatmeal, or dabbed on a porkchop.  These delightful jars of heaven are slow cooked, or slow burned as I like to say, for twelve hours.  Located in a perfect locale for locally sourced apples, it was just meant to be that Colorado Kimmie would start small batching her own "butter."  For Colorado Kimmie's Apple butter I combined Fugi, Honey Crisp and Granny Smith for just the right amount of sweet + tart.  I added some delicious spices and some vanilla before a quick puree and then a pour into the mason jar. 

As I type this blog, I wish I could share out to all of my readers to amazing aroma radiating my entire loft.  Ahhhh, apple heaven up in here!  Here are a few snaps of my kitchen during a small batching process: 

If you're interesting in trying my artisan butter with locally sourced Colorado apple varietals, feel free to shoot me an email at  Also, here are a few captures from the beach camping trip and an inside look into where the inspo happened:

Have a lovely rest of your weekend, and I hope you catch some beautiful changing colors (or, watch the awe-inspiring death), my friends!  An apple a day keeps the doctor away, so just imagine what the butter could do for ya!?  Peace + love, friends.


Wednesday, September 23, 2020

A Letter to My Younger Sisters...

 A culture fixated on female thinness is not an obsession about female beauty, [it is] an obsession about female obedience.  Dieting is the most potent political sedative in women's history...a quietly mad population is a tractable one.  - Naomi Wolf

I received a letter recently from a reader who told me she wished all female teens could read my post.  Honestly, when I write, I never really have a particular audience in mind.  That's the first thing we learn in "Composition and Writing 101," KNOW your audience.  Well, to that I say: SCREW YOUR CONVENTIONAL RULES (just like in my photography).  So, although I do not practice a routine of writing to any particular audience and remain completely authentic to who I am, the encouragement brought me so much joy in learning that my words could reach and inspire younger women.  And, to that reader, I say thank you so much for that.  My heart nearly exploded.

Now, in response to the aforementioned email, this blog post IS indeed dedicated and written to my younger sisters.  And, if you're reading this and not a young woman, that's completely okay.  Chances are, you will come into contact with a younger woman in your lifetime who may be struggling as a very real person in a very fake world.  We live in a world full of illusion.  Everywhere we look we find some product or service that tells us: "This will make you more attractive to men, more desirable, better."  What happened to uniqueness and authenticity?  Why are there less and less women willing to stand alone in complete individuality?  As a redhead and growing up in a culture of very few  other redheads, I knew what it was like to be the freak, the "redheaded step child"...and I'm thankful for that.  But, now??  Wow, I went to a public park in SC recently and there were too many little redheaded kids to count.  I think the recessive gene has made its way to dominance!

AVOIDING FALSE PROFITS (they're everywhere and in the least expected of places):

I've never shared this story on a public forum.  When I was in high school, I enjoyed the Communications arena.  I was co-editor of the yearbook and I did the morning announcements (which meant I had to arrive at school much earlier than the average bear AND stay after school for filming and editing).  My teacher in "drama" class (who also oversaw the morning announcements) told me one day, after learning that I wanted to be in broadcast journalism: "You'll never make it as a redhead."  He died of a massive heart attack in the general office area of that same high school years after I graduated.  But, to Mr. D I'd like to say (and, my intent here is not to disrespect the dead...rather, what I wish I had said at the time): "You have so much more influence as an adult and as a teacher than you'll ever realize.  Try talking "the impossible" with your students as opposed to their limitations."  

Anyways, I don't have cable and haven't for several years (because I have better things to do with my life these days), but quite literally redheads are everywhere on television.  The silver lining: I went on to be an English Major (partly because the Communications College at my University couldn't get their shit together and provide the necessary classes for freshmen.)  My point: don't ever let a man tell you that you can't do something.  In fact, do it TWICE and then email the pictures.  Additionally, have you noticed in this day in age and in the "Cancel Culture" grown red-heads are the only ones not offended by something?  Lastly on this topic, scientifically, redheads have more pain receptors and fewer hairs on our head than the average.  I argue: we learned to handle pain much better.  But, I still cringe at the sight of a needle.  I didn't share this, but a few weeks ago, I was down in my back (from not taking proper care of myself).  It got to the point where I couldn't take care of myself or even bend down.  I had to go to a clinic and get a $160 shot in my buttocks.  And, when I saw that needle come out, I asked to remove my mask so I could do deep yoga breaths.


Next, as you age, you'll thank me for this.  I never worshiped the sun or tanning beds.  And, for protecting my face and neck (the most delicate skin on your body), I've managed to look years younger than women my age.  Sun screen and high SPF is your friend, sister.  And, skin cancer is the #1 contracted cancer of your largest organ in the world.  No one is immune from it.  We lost Bob Marley to skin cancer.  

All through high school and my youth (and growing up in the South) I was ridiculed for the color of my skin.  Sounds familiar right?  Only we mostly hear about the narrative of white people ridiculing darker skin.  Well, I'm here to tell you that my entire life I've received criticism for being too white.  Specifically, in the health and fitness arena and if you've ever been a member of a gym, everyone tans.  Look, if you have naturally olive skin, rock it!  But, if your ancestors grew up under centuries of cloudy skies, you can be just as beautiful rocking your porcelain skin.  Some pale skin beauties that inspire beautiful pale and healthy skin.

BEAUTY REGIMEN: These are suggestions for feminine beauty.  By all means, preventing aging and aging as gracefully as possible are not everyone's cup of tea.  However, I'm sharing these as self-love tips and daily self-care to start at an early age.  You have your body and skin for a lifetime, and taking care of it is the most beautiful form of self love.  Three things I always preach in body health adn maintenance:  (1) flexibility to prevent injuries, (2) strength, specifically core strength and lower back bone density for women (dead lifts) to prevent injuries, and (3) balance to prevent injuries. 

FIRST RULE OF SELF-CARE CLUB: Be a minimalist with your make-up bag and a queen with your skin care regime.  Seriously, I cannot tell you how many YouTube make-up tutorial videos I've sat through (which are oddly calming and therapeutic), watching layer after layer applied to an already beautiful woman.  For years I covered my freckles and hid my natural beauty.  Let that skin glow show!  Make-up should be an enhancement for the features you want to showcase, not a mask.  You see your face every day, so you're probably completely unaware of the features others see and how beautiful you really are.

Again...self-care, ladies.  Fill your cups.  When you practice it, it shows.  Here are a few of my tips: 

1) Water.  Hydro-therapy.  Simple.  Alcohol dries out your skin like nobody's business.  Am I saying don't drink?  No, absolutely not.  I enjoy a nice glass of a wine and some campfire goodness just as much as the other.  But, moderation is key.  Shoot for drinking a gallon of water a day.  Stay peeing, my friend.

2) Post-shower moisturize.  After towing off, whether it's an oil or a lotion, treat your entire body to moisturizing therapy.  Hot showers will deplete you of your natural moisture.  I use Cereve, religiously.  To me, this is the best drug store moisturizer on the market, and I've used plenty. 

3) STAY ACTIVE:  Always keep and stay active.  Exercise is the key to youthful energies!  Sweat, sweat sweat away those impurities.  You don't have to have a gym membership.  A yoga mat will suffice.  (1) Squats, lunges for legs (weights optional), (2) Cardio: you can run in place or jumping jack, mountain climbers, squat jumps, high-knees, (3) arms and shoulders (and most importantly, grip strength), (4) ABS (your core is where you derive all your strength...keep it strong)...

4) Wear sunnies (sunglasses) and hats, always.  Protect your face, but especially your eyes.  This is the most delicate skin of all.  Squinting will age your face quickly.  A great eye cream is key (said my aesthetician from SC)

(5) Get out in Nature: to all my hiking and climbing friends, ya'll looking good.

(6) Keep the curiosity of a child.  Always.

(7) Collagen, Vit D, and Vit C supplements.  I use the powder in my smoothies.  As we age we naturally stop producing collagen.  That's why those pillow indents take a little bit longer to dissipate as we age.  Vitamins can be found in yummy sprays after brushing your teeth, if you're opposed to swallowing a bunch of vitamins like me.

(8) Sleep.  This is when your skin regenerates and heals.  Keep a clean face while you sleep.  Clean pillowcases are key.  Some women swear by silk pillowcases.  There are so many books about the benefits both outwardly and inwardly (mental health-wise) of good sleep.  A great mattress is so key.

(9) Steam, exfoliating, and pore care: Hot baths, hot tubs, hot springs, etc. are good for the soul.  The hotter, the better in my book.  You naturally stop exfoliating skin layers in your mid to late 30's.  Salt and sugar scrubs are so key to a healthy glow.

(10) Stay away from assholes.  Protect your energy like it's your bank account.  Keep your circle small and know when you've been disrespected.  Learn to walk away.  Read: "The Prince" and "The Celestine Prophecy."  "The Prince" is a hard one to get through, but you can learn a lot about how to protect your energy.

(11) SMILE: Happiness equals beautiful.  Confidence radiates 100% attractiveness

(12) Derma-rollers.  I swear by these.  Anytime I'm using a cream or skin care product to my face, I will derma roll my entire face to make sure the product is actually going to sink in and work.  I bought mine from my aesthetician, but I've seen these sold in a lot of places.

(13) DIET: Not sure why I added this so far down the list.  NOTE: these are in no particular order of importance.  I'm not talking about dieting here.  Simply put: You are what you eat.  And, your skin will show it.  So, if you eat processed and refined sugar, you're going to look like you do.  If you eat clean, you'll look like you eat clean.  It's as simple as that.  Fruits and veggies are key to youthfulness.

(14) Laughter: If you're not laughing multiple times a day, make some changes to that, sister.

(15) Practice love and avoid fear.  Love and fear can never co-exist.  Your mind can be your worst enemy or the Universe of: passion, appreciation/gratitude, proclivity, growth, authenticity...always find passion in the things that make your soul burn.

(16) Never stop reading and learning.  A great vocabulary and an open mind makes you so beautiful.  Just being able to engage in an intellectual conversation with the spirit of wishing to learn and expand keeps the soul young.  My opinion.

(17) Travel.  Experience and embrace the beauty around you.  Make memories.

(18) Find inspiration in females you relate to, not just the ones society tells you to adore.  I find zero inspiration in the Kardashians.  Hey, whatever floats your boat.  However, there is a feisty Scottish curvy female (a blogger), who is actually a decade or more younger than me who I draw feminine energy and inspo from.  The way she dresses to fit her curves (high waisted sailor pants, bold patterns, and cropped blouses), the way she embraces her butt and Marilyn curves and basically gives the finger to the "runway" culture of beauty is so inspiring to me.  

(19) Make music and learn self expression.  Not everyone was blessed with this spiritual gift.  But, dance and sing in the shower anyways.  Never bottle up emotion.  If you're hiding who you are to keep people around, you never really had them "around" to begin with.  

(20) Don't ever take yourself or life too seriously.  God is the greatest comedian there is!

(21) Scars and imperfections are beautiful!  Showcase them.  We all have them.  Your natural lines, features, and "imperfections" are an expression of your beauty and personality. 

(22) Stop smoking now.  It's not even worth it.  Cigarettes will age you so fast and limit your life so much.

(23) Learn to create your own wealth, your own happiness, and your own future before finding a partner.  Sick people attract sick people (depressed, lost, anxiety-ridden, co-dependent, controlling).  Healthy people attract healthy people.

If you've now read this and you insert fats into your lips or Botox into your face or insert fillers, that's 100% you and whatever makes you feel beautiful is perfectly applauded.  However, my advice shared here in this forum is for those wishing to embrace aging without the cosmetic industry's help.  

Start practicing self-love now.  You'll thank yourself in the following decade to come.  And, in those ten years, share the wealth with your younger sisters.  May the circle be unbroken.

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a lovely week.  Light and healing to you, my friend!


Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Flying Leap Outside the Box

I was sitting in a salon chair when it hit me.  I was being socially conditioned to online date and stay in relationships that no longer served me as a way to "fit in."  Why was the fact I was inching up on my 40th birthday, never married and no family anywhere in my near future somewhat terrifying to me?  It's because that was my environment!  That's what seemingly EVERYONE was doing.  And, I was being constantly questioned about my life decisions.  And, women, c'mon, we know the ol' tick tock, tick tock, tick tock...which is nothing but fear of time.  Time should never be feared.

Also, there's nothing worse than "fitting in," is there?  My opinion, take it or leave it.  To me, fitting in suggests that you shed some, if not most, of the precious semblance of yourself in order to be accepted.  "Fitting in" might be the worst thing ever, really.  I'll hang on to my "weirdo" card, thank you very much!

You know, a lot of people have these awe-inspiring epiphanies while hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro or some super surreal adventure in the Galapagos.  But, nope, there I sat in that leather swivel chair staring at the beautiful woman in front of me (complete with alien-esque tin foils protruding out everywhere, which were over-processing and burning the shit out of my hair).  I found myself sparking off one solid truth after another.  And then, suddenly there I was making big plans for my life.  

What I had wanted from the universe was a partner!  Was that too much to ask?  I even, to a friend's suggestion, made out a list of what I specifically wanted: someone to love hard (and who loved me back hard), to laugh with (like, a 100% MUST), to travel with (who is also a foodie), to adventure with (a wonderful excitement for the great wide open), with amazing chemistry (hubba hubba), spiritual, a good kisser, preferably an accent, someone who is broken (and healed), and a generous soul to share life with.  But, plot twist...what if, and hear me out, what if that partner was me all along?  I mean, if you were meet yourself, would you like the person you are?  

The question also occurred to me: Was I writing (the author) my life, or was I a passive character allowing life to happen to me and waiting for something which, quite possibly may never happen?  (not AT ALL knocking the power of manifesting your future here).  It was one of the scariest feelings in the world, but as I sat there thinking about that question, this amazing feeling of freedom came over me and warmed my heart.  It was love.  Love for me and my life and my amazing mystery of a future.  The best was yet to come.  From that point forward, I would embrace being a strong, single, fierce, independent, brave woman!  And, I would do it with grace, humility and with the curiosity of a child.  I AM the author of my book.

Look, for anyone who knows me, I'm already one of those women who can eat alone in a restaurant and walk into a theater alone to see a movie I wanna see.  I raised to be an independent woman and make my own money and own decisions.  SIDE NOTE: growing up in the South, I guess it was considered faux pas to attend a movie alone.  I can recall so many of my girlfriends treating me like a social pariah when they learned I go to movies and eat out alone when I feel like it.  I remember the moment when I started going solo to the theater.  I had called a friend, Jeanine and asked her to see a movie with me.  And, she said, "well, I'll go but I really wanna see this."  So I agreed to HER selection of some cheesy rom-com, and the movie sucked so hard.  The entire time I wished I had just not called her and resented the fact I had spent $12 on such a lame flick.  And, from that point on I never begged anyone to accompany me to the theater ever again.  If I got the sudden notion to see a movie, I got in the car and saw that movie!  Back row, center seat.  FYI: The theatrer is not a social arena anyways (cough, yes that means you if you talk the entire time).  

But beyond independently eating and viewing cinema, I wanted to truly live!  I knew I wanted to come to the end of my life and have zero regrets about how I lived it.  Even my self-diagnosed terrible choices in men.  You will waste precious moments sitting around waiting on someone, but you will never waste a moment living your life to the fullest.  I read this the other day and I really felt it: You can always fix mistakes, but you can't fix regrets.

I made two goals at that time: (drum rollll, please...I never learned the art, so I'm so impressed by people who can drum roll with their tongue)

1) To take an international and epic trip alone.  To go to a place that would feed my soul.  (FYI: Waterfalls feed it pretty good).  To be scared, to be out of my element, and to be completely outside my comfort zone as much as possible.  (I have now lost count of all my solo trips, but Croatia was my first international solo trip, and I made friends and connections that changed my life for the better).  SUGGESTION: If you're gonna do it, go big!  Dive into the deep end.  I promise, you'll learn to swim real quick.  Also, if you wait until you're ready, well, you'll never go (because the truth is, we're never ready).   And, your trip doesn't have to be international!  There are State and National Parks everywhere.  Just taking a solo journey day trip can be so amazing (take your camera)!

2) To move from an environment that made me sick in order to spend the best years of my life healing and growing into the woman I was meant to be.  I spent 9 years of my life in a system of my choice.  Yes, I take 100% ownership in the fact that my life is a result of my choices.  And, it was only by my conscious choice to leave that I could begin to accept all the amazing gifts the Universe would bless me with.  I then begin to truly heal.  It's never too late to heal, and you never arrive at any destination.  The cool thing about self discovery and healing is this (a meme I saw on social media): "It's crazy, working on yourself never ends.  You get better, and then boom, not it's new shit you gotta work on.  You just be unlocking endless levels of growth."  What level are you on (p.s. it's a not a competition)?

If you're reading this, I hope you realize today how very special and loved you are.  And, if you have one person, just one person, cheering you on in life, you are truly blessed.  Namaste.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Surviving the Wilderness

Hello!  And, a very happy Mid-week to you!

I've been meaning to share this experience with you guys, and I just now got into the right head space to relive it in order to share it.  So, I hope you enjoy...

Thinking back on it, I've carried many titles in life at the tender age of 41: "Friend," "Sister," "Daughter," "Comrade," "Survivor," "Counselor," "Traveler," " Creator," "Bitch," "Sweetheart," "Aunt," "Mother"...and now, I'm proud to add "Survivalist" to that list...


Recently I went on a road trip to Crested Butte, CO.   I took a side kick for a quick day trip to walk around Downtown Crested Butte and find a nice nature hike to take some sunset pictures.  Colorado has been experiencing some nasty wildfires, so we were hoping for some decent visibility in the mountains.  The trip from the front range to Crested Butte is filled with surreal scenic beauty.  

We arrived downtown around 2 p.m. and explored visiting some local art galleries and a museum.  We grabbed some street food at this tamale place (I cannot remember the name, but these burritos were seriously GIGANTIC and delicious!).  Anyways, I asked the cute tamale guy where we could catch the most amazing sunsets in Crested Butte.  Without hesitation, he said: " Oh Ohio Pass in the ski country is where you wanna go."  We grabbed some coffees at a local coffee shop and decided to get on the road to make it for the sunset.

I parked right up right at the trail head.  We met some campers who had set up camp nearby who asked us if we didn't mind relocating for their friend's car, as their friend would be showing up later.  We chatted with them briefly and moved our car.  And, then we said goodbye.  They were the last people to see us.  The point I'm making here is that these campers would see us for the first and last time that night  Expecting a short hike and expecting a fabulous Rocky Mountain sunset around 6:55 p.m., I packed my water bladder with a long sleeved SPF sun shirt, in case it got chilly on the other side of the mountain.  My friend took a larger pack for a our short excursion (and, I'm so glad as you will soon find out).  

The beginning of the hike started off super technical and was a real thigh burner.  I remember thinking, "Wow, maybe I should have specified more of a nature hike to the tamale guy!"  And, then, switchback after immediate switchback directly up the mountain, the hike got more and more technical.  And, the dusk got closer and closer.  The trail mostly consisted of large loose rocks with narrow passageways with straight 50-80 foot drops.  There were parts of the trail where, if you took one misstep you would meet a pretty quick and serious death.  Struggling with a fear of heights all my life, I was hugging up next to the mountain during a few moments of this trek.  

I remember glancing up at the top of the mountain, and we were about 3/4 there when I said (after my intuition gut punched me), "Dude, we're not gonna make it.  Let's just go back to the car and maybe we can catch it next time."    That's when my friend turned around and emphatically said (as if we had hit the point of no return), "Oh no way, we have plenty of time!"   And, don't ever try this, but I ignored my intuition.  And, I guess I partly blame this on being an English Major, but words actually mean something to me.  So, when you directly and confidently express with eye contact that we have enough time to get to a sunset and back down safely, I just assume you know what you're talking about.

We finally got to the peak and it was getting darker.  We had missed the sunset.  These are the last of pictures taken from the peak of Ohio Pass before things went to shit.  Suddenly, almost in a panic, my friend looks at me and says sternly: "Look, we're going to get back down from this mountain, but you have to be quick and we can't lose a minute of time here, are you with me?  And my friend takes off and while I'm trailing behind him, while seemingly minutes pass before the sky turns completely pitch dark.  My friend was so far ahead of me and I couldn't see the trail in front of me.  The moon wouldn't be out for another hour.  I was calling out to him, and he was panicking pretty hard at this point.  He had lost the trail.  

The only light we had was his iPhone, which was already on mid-battery.  When I finally caught up to the light, we were both standing at a cliff and all sides were a steep ravine.  I'm from the South and used to Appalachia.  And, let's just say this was the Big Leagues.  He started freaking out and talking to himself about how he was going to backtrack to the trail and get off the mountain.  I would have honestly loved to have seen the expression on my face when I explained to him that I had no intentions of dying on that mountain.  The very last thing you want to do in situations like that is panic, act off of fear, and be irrational.  To be honest too, I was a little miffed that a man from Texas would go high tailing it down a mountain leaving a lady way behind.  Note to any fellas reading, but if you get a girl stuck after dark out on a trail, try holding her hand and making sure she's safe, instead of taking off in a panic.  Panicking can be contagious if you have emotionally unintelligent people involved.  Additionally I my cell phone was in the car and I had no light.  


Ever traveled or spent time with someone who is so damn irritatingly stubborn and headstrong, you can't talk sense into them?  When it's not just your life and safety at stake, you can't just think about yourself.  And, you have to start making your way out of your own head space.  So I had to sit through a hot minute of "a man at war with his own ego".  First, I got blamed: "This was your trip and your idea and I thought you were a pro hiker and knew what you were doing!" I had to really bite by cheek on that one.  Which by the way, when you're in survival mode, blame games get you on a  short trip to nowhere.  But, convincing that guy to call 911 was probably the hardest thing I've had to do in terms of communication with a stubborn man.  And, never again will I leave my phone in the car, even if it's for a short pee in the woods.  Yes, lesson learned there.  Because when there is one phone, apparently you're at the mercy of other person.  Additionally, always have a LED flash light on a key ring.

We had a brief conversation, mostly about overcoming his embarrassment of having to call search and rescue, and then I sternly asked again, for the final time, for him tocall the authorities and tell them we were out in the wilderness.  The thing I'll never forget is when we finally found a weak signal, the call into the switch board operator.  She took an enormous amount of time getting our information before placing us on such a lengthy hold, it severely drained the battery.   Further, while on hold, we completely lost the signal.  Even with the weak signal, I asked my friend to text at least two people and drop a pin for our location.  He texted his sister and his mom before the phone went dead.  And, there we were.  In the pitch dark, lost, at a cliff.  His mother and sister were able to take over from there and communicated our pin location to authorities.

Little did we know at the time, four men were stranded in Crested Butte that night at a peak.  And, search and rescue were tied up with that.  So, we were pawned off on the Sheriff's department.  I had my camera, but the flash would not work and I couldn't see well enough to figure out why the flash wouldn't work in the dark.  The next thing that happened was the temperature started drastically dropping.  I was wearing hiking shorts and a sports bra, because it had been hot that day.  Luckily I had the long sleeve sun shirt.  And, that's it.  That's all the clothing I had.  We started climbing back up to the outline of a tree you could see.  We laid our packs down at the base and used the tree to block the wind.  Also, we were down-wind, which was apparently good if you don't want to become dinner for a bear, bobcat, or mountain lion in Colorado.

As I stated earlier, Colorado has had some serious wildfires throughout the state.  So, we hard discussed making a fire, even though there were signs everywhere saying: "NO camp fires."  We waited on search and rescue for about an hour while using body heat to keep warm.  Allow me to state here that this is so not fun when deep down you're pretty pissed at the person you're cuddling with.   

This tree I called "The Giving Tree" because she supplied us with so much.  I felt so safe next to this tree.  I took some pictures of the her the next morning so I would never forget how grateful I was.  This beautiful tree was more than likely hit by lightning because, there was so much dead clean breaking, and making manicuring and starting a fire in the dark pretty easy.  Now, the moonlight was out.  And, we started peeling away at the dead limbs and bark.  We dug trenched area with our boots and placed dead leaves and debris under the dead sticks.  And, then we sparked the fire.

Ahhhhhh, the warmth.  For the first time in my First World problems life, I said, "I'm so grateful for fire."  Honestly I cannot express to you in words the warmth and love of that fire that night.  And, for the next seven hours, we stayed up and closely supervised and fed that fire.  Because it dropped down into the teens, we had to "Brokeback Mountain" cuddle facing the fire.  Mostly we stood, and found more sticks and limbs, and did jumping jacks.  We couldn't really make the fire too big, since the winds off the mountain were so strong.  I recall, at one point, I wanted to just sit on the fire so the warmth could shoot up into my entire body.

That night, we were never rescued.  We saw the flashing lights of rescue cars on the road way down below.  I also saw flashlights coming down a trail, and then they stopped.  I yelled out as my voice echoed into the ravine "HELPPP" but my friend took his hands and covered my mouth and told me he didn't want "bad people" finding us.  Yes, another thing I was pissed about.  He started saying that there were probably "The Hills Have Eyes" locals in the mountains.  And, that does not help your overly active imagination in the pitch dark.

Lying on my back, I watched the moon cycle across the sky from one mountain peak to another.  I saw the Milky Way and the stars like I had never seen them before.  Absolutely awe inspiring star gazing ensued that night.

And, finally, after 7 hours, the sun peaked over the mountains and I took these moody dawn shots.  We were able to relocate to the trail and make it back down to see these two moose eating breakfast by this tree.  We also ran into the campers from the night before.  And, they looked so happy to see us:  "We were SO WORRIED about you guys!  The Sheriff's Department came out and everything!?"  We told them the whole story and as we parted ways, we could hear them laughing on down the trail.  And, then we laughed.  It's much easier to laugh once you've survived.  And, it's actually a quite liberating feeling at that.

I didn't have much to say on the car ride home.  I didn't even have much of an appetite.  When you're on no sleep and looking all around at the sound of every leaf crunch and limb snap, it's weird how food is the last thing on your mind.  You're maybe coming down off some mild PTSD.  I don't know.  Also, I really needed to take a shit.

Regardless, the next day, this guy texted me thanking me for talking sense into him.  And, he finally, a day later, came to his senses and agreed we both would have died had we continued to try to hike down in the pitch dark.  Not sure why it took that guy 24 hours to process that.  But, he also said he couldn't wait for the next adventure and how epic the entire trip was.  So, I guess another item of interest is how two different people from opposite sexes can have a totally polarized recap of the entire experience.  As for me, I have no immediate plans to go out into the wilderness with this guy ever again.  And, Jesse, if you're reading this, consider this a passive aggressive way of letting you know that.  I take with me several lessons on this one.  The game of life: You learn and you grow.  ALWAYS trust your gut.

I hope you either learned something, were mildly entertained, or belly laughed on this one.  Enjoy the rest of your week, and thanks for supporting this blog and your valued readership.  


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