accepting loss

I had a conversation on Friday that I did not want to have.

Nearly three weeks ago, I was body-deep in Colorado sunshine (but wishing for more snow), enduring a grueling skin into the North Pole hut in the San Juan mountains (see photos in winter is back).

I thought that was pain. I thought that was suffering. I even believed that those 14 miles were my battle for the next few days.

When we arrived at the hut, I was so exhausted yet ecstatic about finally getting there. In an odd fit of reconnecting my disconnectedness to the busy world, I thought it would be fun to call the wildest woman in my life: Marla (my mother).

I love this woman more than words can describe

She’s my mother. She’s the kind of crazy a daughter needs in her life. And…she answered.

Prior to calling her – when I turned “airplane mode” off on my phone – I didn’t realize voicemail messages were waiting for me…

phone ringing..surprisingly! We were miles deep in the San Juans and looking through a hut window into the wilderness area. 

Me: HEY! I’m in the middle of nowhere and I actually have SERVICE!

Marla: Have you talked to your father?

Me: What? No…What’s wrong?

Marla: Call your father.

Me: What happened? Is he ok?

Marla: He’s fine. It’s your Aunt.

I knew what was about to come next…

When that weekend ended, I drove to Denver and boarded a plane for California. I spent a week in some of the most beautiful and inspiring country I have ever experienced (exhausting..empowering). The granite, the giant trees, the smell of pine along one of the steepest trails I have ever traveled…it was breathtaking (literally).

It was a week filled with non-stop work until Friday afternoon, when I could finally embrace the place I was in and explore a small percentage of it on my own. But my mind kept taking me back to that phone call.

When I returned home, I was welcomed by a Frontrange to SLV snow storm (winter is back). I was exhausted and knew the work week would begin in another 24 hours. I told myself I should, but I couldn’t pick up the phone to call my family. Sunday came and went and suddenly, Friday was upon me.

As the phone rang, I almost hoped the answering machine would pick it up & then…I heard the voice of my uncle on the other end.

Some thirty minutes later, I came to a hard and sudden realization:

 I didn’t want to make that phone call because I didn’t want to accept that this loss was real.

I didn’t want to accept that my father lost his sister, that my cousin lost his mother, or that my uncle would now need to embrace a new normal – one that would be vastly different from that of the past 40 years of his life.

Though difficult news is hard to swallow, I am grateful for the minimal cell reception that day in the mountains. And I am even more grateful that I made this call two weeks later.

We lost an amazing woman and in the days since her death, a flood of memories has rushed into my mind. I’ve shared stories, cried, sat in silence with myself, others, and the wilderness. She wasn’t my mother. She wasn’t my sister. And she was not, unfortunately, a part of my daily life. But she was and will always be my aunt: a woman that had a profound effect on my life as a young girl.

When a loved one is lost prematurely, we are reminded of the fragility of life, and that realization stays with each and everyone one of us until our own lives end.

winter is back

On Saturday, February 21, 2015, winter came back to Colorado

I know this because I had just landed at the Denver airport after a turbulent two hour flight from sunny Sacramento, California.

We may have landed at five in the afternoon, but it was nearly eight o’clock and I was just reaching Conifer – – a 4 hour drive on a good day.

I also knew that winter returned because as I traveled from snowy Denver through several questionable mountain passes and along white-knuckle winding roads until I reached the San Luis Valley, I kept trying to shake the eye-crossing vortex caused by whirling, twisting, mystifying flakes along route 285. I questioned my sanity.

Should I turn around?

Get a hotel room?

Hang tight and wait until daybreak?

The weather maps answered all my questions for me: If I didn’t continue now, the likelihood of getting home before Monday was slim.

It was Saturday.

Within the next fifteen miles, flashing lights appeared in the distance. I passed a car front-end deep in a creek.

I slowed down.

The next hundred-plus miles featured five plows, very few other vehicles, and my speedometer resting right around forty-five.

Winter was back and I felt uplifted! After the nearly seventy degree temperatures on the previous weekend’s ski hut trip, this was worth the wait.

As I drove a once semi-familiar road, I counted down the miles until home and wondered what this fresh snow would have felt like beneath my skis last weekend and how great it will feel next weekend. And tonight, as I sit home with my husband and wait for the five feet of fresh powder over the course of the next five days…

6 inches tonight

5 inches tomorrow morning

14 inches tomorrow night

16 more inches the next day

It goes on…

I embrace our fifty-plus inches on the way.

In the meantime, I’ll share our valentine’s weekend getaway: frozen skin tracks, forty-five pound packs, and pure Colorado sunshine…

aspen grove
::The skin track through the aspens lead to a steep ski-off/hike up path::

::Map check::

mount sneffels
::Mount Sneffels::

::Frozen skin track and sunny days meant hiking was the better option::

emma lounge
::Emma on a lunch break::

::Keep smiling on the tele/hike to the hut::

moose on trail
::Moose leads the way::

::Ski below the hills::

to the hut

hut view
::View of the hut::



It has been far too long since I’ve posted…

Perhaps it was the “romantic” (if that’s what you call a 45+ pound pack and grueling frozen skin track to out weekend hut) getaway we took a few weeks ago to celebrate love, endurance, and Colorado sunshine?

I suppose it could also be the packing and re-packing of boxes, books, gear and more as we prepare for life in a new home.

Or, maybe the week of work and exploration at Yosemite?..

Whatever the reason, I apologize to myself (maybe to all of you that read this as well..though, I’m not sure if you follow these words regularly…just know that I do appreciate you and any visit you may make to this blog).

Yose Valley


Half Dome


Yose Valley

My first week in Yosemite was Powerful. This place is thought-provoking. It is awe-inspiring. This world within and surrounding the granite and bark is power and peace, beautiful life, beautiful loss, challenge and ease. It is a reminder of what was and hints at what could be…

I am amazed by the power a place can possess as it provides an opportunity to walk among giants.

Day 41

Today is the forty-first day of 2015.

It would appear that Monday began the three months of epic, nearly non-stop, events. Workshops, board meetings, meet-and-greets, skiing adventures and more…After two days on the road, my next eleven days will include two at home, three on trail in the San Juan mountains, and six in California’s Yosemite National Park. Amazing.

Tonight, as I rest after a long day of travel, the dogs lay beside me and the husband is my DJ – weaving together Jerry, the original Jack, and…is that Bobby Weir I hear? It’s nice to relax at home for an evening. To read others’ words, reminisce about last weekend, and dream of the next weekend to come.

Here are some images from this last weekend…while the pictures serve as a nice way to share this great place with all of you, the sandy gritty gravel clogging my boots out on the porch will serve as my own personal reminder.

Seeking a heeler
::Elephant-size boulders warn from the dry winds of valley::

::Emma’s treasure::

Moose & Elephants
::The overlook::

::Cacti quickly remind us that we aren’t in east anymore::

CO Pride
::When in Colorado…score epic thrifstore finds::




In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Scale.”

When I moved from Pennsylvania to Colorado, I was reminded of just how big this small world can truly be…For this week’s challenge of scale, I’d like to share a photograph from a few days after we arrived in the San Luis Valley.

Emma on dunes

::Emma at the Dunes (November 2014)::

The dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park appear to be foothills from across the valley. But standing next to these shifting sands make them appear larger than life. Our blue heeler, Emma, didn’t let that stop her from exploring full throttle.

livin’ the life…

This evening I read a blog post on The Big Outside. I always love reading Michael Lanza‘s work…it’s inspiring, informative, and his writing allows the reader to join in the adventure. After finishing posts, I tend to reminisce about past trips and dream of future excursions…but this one was different. As my mind flashed images of parks and trails I’ve visited and ramblings through mountains and along creeks, one trip in particular kept pushing the others to the side.

It was 2009. I was preparing to graduate from my undergraduate program – pending one last assignment: an internship.

Over the previous three years, I had worked each late spring through early fall as a seasonal Park Ranger with the National Park Service. Starting as a lowly fee collector, I landed my “dream job” two summers later in the Interpretation & Education Division. Ranger Ryan
::Ranger’ing about at Delaware Water Gap NRA (Pennsylvania/New Jersey 2008)::

Since this final semester was mandatory for graduation and encouraged challenging yourself and who you wanted to be in life, I took a bold and brave step: I left the place that inspired my passion for an agency, natural history education, and so many other aspects of who I was to to embark on a journey I only dreamt of: Colorado – a place I only imagined visiting not living!

So, I packed my ’98 Jetta and headed west – with ice cream, I’m sure.

::Jetta love (Pennsylvania 2008)::

Colorado welcomed me with open arms, well…more like big skies, tall trees, and more public land than I ever imaged possible. I moved into a 1-room cabin in Summit County, worked long days, long nights, and weekends, but still found time to travel north to points outside Steamboat Springs and eventually a little further west to my first western park: Arches National Park.

::View of Greys from Toreys – the Sister Peaks (Colorado 2009)::

Mad Creek
::Mad Creek (Colorado 2009)::

Routt NF
::Fire-side in Routt NF (Colorado 2009)::

Three penguins at Arches NP
::Three Penguins in Arches NP (Utah 2009)::

Wide Arch at Arches NP
::Unknown Arch (Utah 2009)::

Tall Arch at Arches NP
::Tall Arch (Utah 2009)::

on rapell
::Rapelling Dragonfly Canyon (Utah 2009)::

The job I held was likely one of the most challenging experiences of my young adult life. I moved into a completely foreign environment where was responsible for other people – not just myself, but groups of some of the raddest kids I had met in my life. It was powerful. To say the least.

It was my job to lead this youngsters in outdoor pursuits while teaching them a little bit about the world they were walking, paddling, and climbing through..about the stars they slept beneath, and about the respect and appreciation we owe it all. Stewardship.

Counselor Ry 5 Counselor Ry 3Counselor Ry 1

Counselor Ry 2  my cabinteambuilding
::Summer of Sol (Colorado 2009)::

For a long time, I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted. But after that summer, something changed. I left Colorado reluctantly – as I mentioned in a previous post – and found myself bouncing around Pennsylvania and Maryland for a few years, but each time I watched that eastern sun sink into the western sky, I felt a tug on my soul.

If you have read other posts on this blog, you know what happened five years later

Tonight, my mother-in-law mentioned how we’re “livin’ the life” out here…I think she’s right. We’re living the life we sought, but weren’t quite sure where to find it. Now I’m back with the agency that opened my eyes to so many things back when I was just a kid (a younger kid than I am now, that is). So go out, live that life you want to live, even if you don’t quite know how to do it. My dad always told me life is the longest thing you’ll ever do. We might as well make a good go of it, huh?

With that, I’ll leave you with this:

Adventure On…


rambling across the mountains of colorado seeking adventure and inspiration…