Finding a Good Hike for a Good Old Pair of Boots

1Today I went for a mountain hike with my almost sixteen year old son, and our exuberant and lovely dog. We were alone on the trail, and we both spent time reminiscing about all the time we’ve spent on the beautiful Italianos Trail. It was delightful to listen to my son remember his stories — that when he crossed the creek as a child the stones seemed impossibly big and scary to reach across. He remembered feeling sure that he would tumble into the cold water. But today his legs are so much longer, and the stones felt so small. Today, the crossing was so easy. Oh yes, the perspective that age brings.

We also commented on how much he has changed in that last thirteen years, and how the trail has changed so little. The caves are all still intact, the special trees, swimming spots. Yes, so much changes, and so much stays the same. Life is so much that way, and the older we get the more we notice the little things, and the big things. And truly all of it is so much sweeter. If we let it be.

Italianos Trail is familiar. It is like home in the mountains for us. We used to come here when he and his cousin were toddlers. We would bring friends here. I helped him learn how to hike, how to maneuver through the rocks and identify plants, bugs, and learn how to be in the mountains safely on this trail. Noitalianos2w as a teenager, my son is my hiking partner, my equal, stronger than me, with more endurance and strength, but still innocent in so many ways. I so appreciate this transition. He remembers the spot where his cousin fell into the creek, and the place where our friends got stuck in the creek when they were attempting to be adventurous.

Along the way, I realize that while he’s changed, I’m still hiking in the same boots that carried him on my back when he was a baby. He changes at such a fast pace, and I’m slower, in so many ways. He still can kick my butt on the trail. But in terms of self awareness, and shifting perspectives and adapting the changing world, youthfulness simply takes the fast 2lane easier. It is beautiful to watch, and to remember when I was more nimble, my body more flexible, requiring less thought to more through the world.

So I wear the same worn out, comfortable boots that taught him to jump across the creeks. The boots have taken me from my college days, to my son’s birth to his teen years. They have helped me forge new paths, and stay on well beaten ones. They are like good friends.

And as life transitions, we certainly need things that we depend on, even if it is just good old hiking boots.

italianos

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Why Dirt Road?

Ric at the summit of Imogene Pass. Telluride, CO
Ric at the summit of Imogene Pass. Telluride, CO

Why Dirt Road Journal?

The short answer is because my family loves to get off road and have an adventure. But there’s a lot more to it too. We are adventurous souls. Being on the road of life pushes boundaries and comfort zones, and adventure makes new rules and breaks old ones. That is is where real living is.

And sometimes, we have no choice, adventure finds us. Life is that way.  It happens, and how we respond to it is our choice. We can engage with courage and a sense of curiosity and self-reliance, or we can sit at the bottom of the mountain and cry at the steepness of the summit. Life is in the climb. Traveling gives us practice climbing. Traveling off road gives us tools and stories, experiences and love for tackling new and unknown life.

Sometimes off road is a new cafe, or a practicing a foreign language, or trying new food. It could be taking a hike for the first time, visiting a world heritage site or sitting in meditation.

Being in those places is sometimes like scare-your-socks-off, and sometimes it is pure and simple beauty that makes you cry. Life is funny and scary and when you’re on off-road, it is also pure. It is the place where my husband is truly himself, and where we work together in pure fun. It is the place where anything pretentious dissipates and where presence is profoundly cultivated. Of course, the 1,000 foot drop on the passenger side is a friendly reminder to stay present.

In the last decade, my family has driven hundreds of back country roads in New Mexico and Colorado. These photos and video (forgive my video-editing skills or lack thereof) give you a small glimpse into one way we cultivate presence and find ourselves through adventure. Most often my husband drives, my son navigates, and I document. We’ve driven the highest roads in the country, and they are magnificent! And we all look at roads like Devil’s Punch Bowl and think, “holy moly, how will we navigate that doozy?”

Yes. Hell yes, we’ve gotten stuck, many times. We’ve had to turn around, and a couple of times we’ve had to ask people for help. But I always think, “well, it is only a days walk to the closest town. That’s do-able if anything were to happen.” And really nothing does. Nothing we haven’t handled at least. One time the car died. One time we flooded the engine driving through water too deep. One time we were stuck in a mud bog. But we’ve always gotten through it, and in the end we have a great story and a satisfying day. Even if my finger nails are gone at the end of it.

Life in general is much the same. Sometimes it can be nail-biting. Sometimes we get stuck, really stuck, and need to ask for help. Sometimes we can recognize that it is a short trip back to “normal” and just go for it.

So this blog…not so much about dragging your truck through the mountains, as expanding your mind and body by traveling to places off your beaten path. Finding your own off-road adventures to open your hearts and mind.

That’s why this is the Dirt Road Journal.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

 

 

 

 

Snow in a mountain town

WProcessed with Moldivhen it snows, I mean really snows, our little town totally changes. The atmosphere completely shifts. Our town often has an air of depression surrounding it, but when it snows, that lifts immediately and those snowflakes bring in a feeling of celebration that is palpable. For the last week, the snow has heralded a beautiful celebration in our town. People arrive ready to ski. Children and teens take off to the valley, boards and skis in hand ready to catch new powder. My son brags about the runs he and his friends will do before any tourists even get up the lift. I remember what it was like when I first moved here, before the drought really hit hard. I remember what it is like to live in a ski town. The community that happens when it arrives. I remember that I love snow.  The stories that arrive with the headline “massive snowstorm blankets Taos Ski Valley.”

I also remember that I love making soup, warming up my house and snuggling up with a novel. I prefer to ski after the crowds have gone. I finished two novels this week, and to me that is almost heaven. It is worth celebrating the powder in the ski valley — I get to read! I do a bit of celebrating in the snow too — shovel the drive, chase the dog around and build the snow fort, but I also like to take advantage of town closing down. I can truly hibernate for a bit and let myself sneak away into a good book. And that is a change for me.

However we enjoy the weather, inside or out, it is good to recognize the good. The ease at which we move into and through more than a foot of snow (more the three feet in the mountains). It is more deliberate, and joyful. It is more hopeful even. That certainly makes me hope for more snow!

 

Rounding up the summer at Bobcat Pass

Bobcat Pass 3To celebrate summer and the beginning of autumn, my family and I ventured up to a special spot near Red River on the Enchanted Circle for an evening of good food and good entertainment. At 10,000 feet at Bobcat Pass, there’s the Moreno Valley’s Cowboy Evening. There they serve you up a ribeye hot off the grill, fresh made beans, corn on the cob, biscuits and baked potatoes. There are covered wagons and cowboys. Lots of ’em too, cowboys that is. There stories and fiddlers, and those ribeyes are delicious. Coffee and cinnamon rolls for dessert.

The evening finishes up with two hours of cowboy music with Syd Masters and the Swing Riders. They share the legends of cowboy music, and do some fine playing too. They sang an infamous song (around here at least), a song he wrote called ‘Fryin Bacon in the Nude’ and more seriously, the New Mexico State song. My favorite is his rendition of an old Dean Martin song from, John Wayne’s Rio Bravo ‘My Rifle, My Pony and Me’. So lovely.

Cowboy evenings happen all summer at Bobcat Pass.  We were lucky enough to catch the grand finale this season. So mark your calendar for next year if you want to experience a little cowboy music in the northern New Mexico mountains. It is worth remembering.

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Raining in Fall

Autumn 4Every year as school starts, there is one event that really tells me that autumn is finally here. That one big rain that clears out the summer air and brings with it the crisp sweet smell of autumn. It always happens after school starts, usually the second or third week of September. When it arrives, we know it. It is not the afternoon sprinkle or hour-long shower that brings on the early evening rainbows. It is a real long steady, northern England kind of rain. And from it springs the blue autumn skies that one can only experience in northern New Mexico.

The autumn skies become the backdrop to the gold aspens and the snow cap on the mountains. The chilly October mornings bring in the most gorgeous weather one could imagine. It is my favorite time of year. The rain this year has been steady for two days now, and right now looks like it will keep on for another. The zinnias are perked up and the flax are taller, but I know it’s the beginning. And as the rain moves, on the dirt roads are full with ruts and washes. It is the best time for the mountains, good hiking, biking and running. We plan to pack our weekends with a few adventures before the snow sets in.

The conversations change too.  From flowers to harvest, canning and chopping wood. I pulled out a scarf yesterday and a long sleeve for the day.  My husband scoffed. It is too early for scarves. I simply smiled and wrapped my neck, feeling warmed as I went into the cold rain.

Yep, transitions are good.  And a bit bittersweet too.

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Tent Rocks: someplace you gotta go, and my family thought they looked a little like something else . . .

Yes, they’re called tent rocks, but as you wander through the trail to the top of the mesa, it feels like you’re wandering through another world.  A bit like Star Wars or a bit phallus depending on your state of mind, but in either case, it is magnificent. The monument is about an hour north of Albuquerque and definitely off the beaten path, but so worth the adventure of finding it.  Truly, not much else could be said about it. Find it! Tent Rocks National Monument.

Tent Rocks National Monument
Tent Rocks National Monument

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