Monday, November 6, 2017

Seasonal Confusion Disorder

November is upon us, and generally for me that means I'm loving all the pumpkin food choices. I'm a sucker for pumpkin ale, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin soup. I like me some pumpkin seeds to snack on. I'll grab some pumpkin ice cream if I can.

Except this year.

This year, I'm in warmer climates and it just seems too warm for pumpkin anything.

I was picking up some beer for some weekend socializing and not once did I entertain the idea of Pumpkin-head Ale. I went straight for the hefeweizen. Grocery shopping, I'm still leaning toward salads and veggie stir fries. Not even thinking of squash soup. And for a nice after dinner warm beverage? Leaning toward green or chamomile tea. I'm still in late summer mode.

Which is messing me up a bit. I go on social media and people are posting these crazy memes like "Only 7 weeks till Christmas". Christmas? I'm not even ready for pumpkins!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Gratitude

It's not unusual in November for thoughts to turn toward gratitude. It IS the start of the holiday season and the month of Thanksgiving, after all. I usually do things a little differently, though.

It seems that everyone is thankful for the same things. The big things. Family, friends, children, health, etc. Which, of course, are perfectly wonderful things to be thankful for. We all should be grateful for the big things. They are important.

In November, however, I always like to challenge myself to be grateful for the small things. To me, it forces me to be a bit more present, to really pay attention. It seems easy to list off the big things- it almost takes no thought at all. But to notice all the little things during the day and to be grateful? That  takes focus.

Plus, it ends up being rather silly and fun- two things the world needs more of.

JeepGirl's List of Random Things To Be Grateful For:

1) Warm, comfy socks
2) A decadent extra 9 minutes of snoozy sleep in the morning
3) Beautiful pink, orange, and red sunsets
4) Meal prepping for the week
5) Sitting under a tree and reading

Oh, November, surprise me in the days to come!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Saturday Hike

Last Saturday was pretty epic.

Last Saturday, I got to cross off a big item on the Life List.

Last Saturday, I hiked the Grand Canyon.

I have dreamed about hiking the Grand Canyon for- I don't even know how long. Since before I discovered my love of hiking, even. Long before I considered purchasing a backpack, I thought "Why would anyone ride a mule down when they could hike?" And I fully intended to do just that.

First off, I have to say that I would much rather have hiked down, spent the night at a campground, and hiked out the next day. That kind of trip takes a lot of advance planning, however. Six to 12 months in advance, especially this time of year when the weather is perfect. I attempted to secure some cancellation campsites, but to no avail. I would have to go down and up in one day.

Grand Canyon National Park is filled with signs warning people not to attempt this. I wasn't worried, though. These warnings are mostly for folks who arrive at the park and decide - spur of the moment - to try hiking down and up. The warnings are also for the heat. It is not uncommon for the temperature difference between the rim and the floor of the canyon to be 30 degrees or more.  Ninety degrees at the rim with no humidity isn't nearly as uncomfortable as 90 degrees say in Washington DC with 90% humidity. People get overconfident by the lack of humidity and end up in 123 degree heat at the floor of the canyon. I was not in either one of those situations.

It would be a strenuous hike, no doubt. Seventeen and a half miles with 10,000 feet of elevation gain and loss (or loss and gain, more accurately). I had done worse, though. And since I would NOT be camping, I'd only be carrying a day pack. I could do this!

I had booked a cheap room right outside the park entrance, so I could get the early hiker's shuttle.  My planned route would take me down South Kaibab Trail, on the east side of the South Rim, across the Colorado River, and back up Bright Angel Trail, more west on the South Rim. I would park my car near the Bright Angel Trailhead and take the 6 am shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead. Me and about 80 other people.

Sunrise was at 6:45am, which explained the popularity of that early shuttle. About half the bus jumped out with their expensive camera equipment and sprinted to the trail. They converged at a spot 1/4 mile down called "Ooh-ahh Point" which had a great view of the sunrise.  Though I only had an iPhone and took the shot while moving, I still like my sunrise shot!

Even more spectacular than the actual rising sun, in my opinion, was the way the light played with the colors on the rock. The red rocks are spectacular!

The temperature at the start of the hike was 36 degrees, but as the sun came up, so did the temperature. And I soon found myself dropping layers. The trail was steep and windy with lots of switchbacks. I was warm and comfortable and loving the scenery!

 I reached the canyon floor in about 3 hours. The trail goes through a rock tunnel to the Black Suspension Bridge. I had to wait, with 15 or so other hikers, since the mule train was crossing the bridge. Since there is a chance a mule can get spooked and bolt back up the trail, hikers are not allowed on the bridge when the mules are crossing. I used that time to drink up and eat a little snack. (I hadn't eaten much on the way down and was feeling a little tired and hungry)

On the canyon floor, I headed to Phantom Ranch. I have a friend who honeymooned here and she had a beloved hat from Phantom Ranch. A few years ago, her dog ate her hat, and she has been unable to replace the hat, since it is sold ONLY at the ranch itself. So I had the task of replacing the hat. Phantom Ranch also has really good lemonade, so I ate and drank two glasses of lemonade before heading back up to the rim.

Once again, I had to cross the river, this time via the Silver Bridge, which is too narrow for mule trains to cross. No waiting this time! Just a quick stop to watch the river for a couple minutes.

Once across the bridge, Bright Angel follows the river west for a mile or so, which is pleasant, but also has stretches of soft sand, which is not so pleasant.  When I took my shoes off at Phantom Ranch, I noticed a pretty good blister on my small toe, and the soft sand was not the most welcome surprise.

After the stretch along the river, the trail follows a narrow canyon and follows the Pipe Creek up an alternately steep and moderate trail. This was the only section of trail that was hot this time of year, as it got some direct sunlight. Most of the way down, I was in shade.  Still, the temps were only in the high eighties so it was pretty comfortable.

My favorite part of the Bright Angel climb was just below the Indian Gardens Campground. The trail passes through a gully with Garden Creek. It is filled with cottonwood trees, cooler temperatures, and a refreshing breeze! I stopped for a water break and a granola bar here, enjoying the surroundings.

Shortly thereafter, I reached Indian Gardens Campgrounds. It was quite crowded, as there was piped water, rest rooms, and benches. The campground is also a popular turnaround spot for people hiking down Bright Angel.  Once again, I stopped for a bit. By now, I was right around 13 miles and starting to get tired. Eating, drinking, and taking off the shoes for a bit helped.

Past Indian Garden Campgrounds, the trail got significantly steeper. There were a series of switchbacks that, after a while, seemed endless. Luckily the last 4.5 miles two rest spots with piped water: the 3 Mile Resthouse and the Mile and a Half Resthouse. This section of trail was much more crowded. Lots of people doing shorter hikes and a handful of folks like me, pushing out the last 3 miles of the day. I'm not gonna lie: the last 3 miles were STEEP! The last 3 miles were hard. The last three miles saw me trudging along like an extra on the Walking Dead.

But I did see goats.

And I did have excellent views.

All in all, it was an excellent experience. I finished the entire hike in 9 1/2 hours.

If I were to do it over again, I'd skip Phantom Ranch and rest on the sandy beach by the river instead. I'd also eat more. I didn't feel that hungry, so when I stopped I snacked lightly. After the hike, I felt pretty worn out and my muscles were like jell-o. Fortunately, the hotel I was staying at had a dinner buffet. I piled up pasta like Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters and felt much better. Monitoring my calories more carefully may have helped.

For those in good shape (marathoners, experienced hikers, endurance athletes) a down and up Grand Canyon hike is very reasonable. Take your time, eat enough, bring plenty of water, layer up, and have a light source in case you get caught below the rim at sunset.

Go for it! You won't be sorry.

Friday, November 3, 2017

November Goals

After a rocky October, goal wise, I'm excited for November goals. And as if to match my newfound excitement and motivation, the weather has dropped just a couple of degrees and with it, my sinuses are just a little more clear. So that's promising.

One of the things I ponder when moving from one month to another is what to do about outstanding goals from last month. Is it a sign that now is not a good time to focus on that area? Or should continue with some goals, giving myself a running start? It's a tough call. And the answer varies from month to month, depending upon the reason the goals were not met in the first place. This month, it's a pretty clear decision to me: I'm continuing with a number of the goals from last month. 


1) Work out every day: Good goal. Good to continue. I'm on it

2) Clean eating: Ditto. (the word "ditto" always reminds me of the movie Ghost)

3) Get the damn car fixed Come on, girl! You deserve to drive around in a pristine ride.

4) Finish up the Remaining 2 Online classes: Got to be done.

5) Journal and Blog Daily: Off to a good start

6) Get rid of one thing every day: This is something I've done every November for the last few years. Its a good reminder to simplify and a good reminder to be intentional with the possessions I do keep

7) Daily gratitude challenge: You see these everywhere in November. And for good reason

8) Start teaching POUND: Got the certification, time to spread the love

9) Read and get rid of 5 books: I got a plane ride this month. Should help

10) Get next summer's family trip Booked. Ya gotta do it way in advance!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

October Goal Review

Last month was a bit of a crap shoot for me- full of excitement to tackle all the goals, and then sidelined by some pollen and smoke. But I made some decent progress, I think

1) Work out every day: About 3/4 of the way on this one. Some late evenings in October, after a busy day, found me doing lunges with a weighted vest in my bedroom as I got my stuff ready for the next day. And of course, I was putting together a POUND routine for a demo class (next month!!) And then there were days I couldn't breathe. So overall, not bad.

2) Hike South Kaibab to Bright Angel: SUCCESS! Best day of the month! (followed by the sorest 3 days of the month)

3) Halloween gifts for the kids: SUCCESS! Nothing beats a Halloween text video of kids in costume saying "Thanks!"

4) Clean Easting: 1/2 Credit: good for a while, and then I fell victim to Halloween candy :(

5) Get the car fixed: Oh, not yet- soon.

6) Finish up outstanding classes: Half credit. 2 of the 4 done, tackling the next two in November

7) Journaling and Blogging Daily: Journaling (yes) Blogging (no)

8) 4 Handwritten Letter to Friends: SUCCESS! And probably the nicest part of the month

9) POUND certification done: YES! And the demo class is ready to go

10)  Sleep Outside One Night: No. Had planned on it before the hike, but the area was really smoky and ended up happily able to get a last minute hotel room.

One of the nicer things about a long history of setting goals is that my perfectionism has been reined in. So on a month like this, when my success was sketchy, I can look back and say: "Great start, lots to continue on! And it points me in the right direction for November Goals. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Desert Blues

It's weird.

When I was younger, I would always hear about people with respiratory issues who moved to the desert to get relief. The cold, wet, New England climate wreaked havoc on their lungs, so they'd move to Arizona and breathe easier for the rest of their days.

For me, that's not working.

I didn't move to Arizona for respiratory relief. I moved here for adventure. Which I have gotten in spades. However, for the last several weeks, I have been sniffling and snorting, coughing and sneezing and - quite frankly limiting the adventure side of my life because breathing has become such an issue.

It started around the last week of September, when the weather changed from highs of 110 or so to highs of 99. At first the air was much more pleasant and being outside much more comfortable. (The adventures could start when the sun came up and could continue past 10 am!) But shortly thereafter, the sneezing began. Some plant, it appears, started releasing pollen when the temperature dropped. Some plant that I had not grown up with and was not used to.

The local folks told me that both sagebrush and juniper pollen was high right now. Makes sense. Years ago, when backpacking in Utah, I discovered that I was sensitive to sagebrush. (People were simply calling it "sage", though. And I was so sensitive to it, that I became concerned that maybe I should not eat food with sage in it, for fear of going into anaphylactic shock. No worries, though. Sagebrush and the spice sage are completely different) The desert plant, though, that kicks my butt.

The pollen isn't the worst of it, though. It's also the time of year for controlled burns. In the mountainous areas surrounding me, there have been a series of controlled burns over the past few weeks (as well as a handful of unexpected fires). Smoke has been in the air. And all the symptoms that go with breathing in smoke have plagued me, as well- dry throat, dry eyes, itchy nose and ears, sore throat, dry cough. I've been a mess!

Then it occurred to me that maybe it's not the pollen or the fires, but the convergence of the two- maybe I've been breathing in the smoke from burning sagebrush. That can't be good. ( I knew somebody who once accidentally made a campfire from poison oak. It was bad. He was way worse than I am now.) But still.

The best laid plans of mice and men sometimes are toppled by pollen and smoke! I'll keep pushing through the best I can.

I just keep pondering the irony of the idea that the desert is the best place for people with respiratory issues and my current state.

Oh wait! Maybe it was people with arthritis who moved to the desert!