Second Stop: Colo(rad)o Pt. 1

There is a reason why the word “rad” is in Colorado. It’s such a plentiful, amazing, beautiful state! I was lucky enough to be able to explore many different areas of Colorado during the second part of my end-of-the-summer solo trip. Colorado has been my second home away from Oregon my entire life; half of my family live there. So I have been able to experience the wonderful state for years, but this time was so much more fulfilling! I was able to explore practically the entire southern area of the state, west to east, and then some.

When I left Moab, UT, I pointed my wheels toward Marvel, Colorado. The tiniest, little town, with population, roughly, 50. There is one elementary school, a post office, and a church. So one could say Marvel is possibly the most interesting town in the U.S.! The best part about this sweet little town is Sheridan Packer lives there and this is why Marvel was my next destination. Sheridan has been one of my best friends since high school, and it had been too long since I’d seen her, so it was an anticipated drive!

The drive from Moab to Marvel went from desert and canyons, to rolling plains, to mountains and pine trees with a side of open plains. The little towns I drove through gave off the vibes of serendipity, and were spotted with the arts and crafts of the Navajo and Southern Ute Native American peoples. It’s absolutely amazing to take the time to drive through different areas of America. The cultures, societies, and landscapes flow in a change that’s so subtle and different from the last. Yet, at the same time the change is so quick and sometimes even dramatic. It’s so compelling to experience. The drive was about three hours long and I arrived in Marvel around two in the afternoon. Sheridan called me prior to my arrival to give me directions and to tell me to meet her at the post office because her house is tricky to find, and can you believe it?! I couldn’t find the post office. Being practically the only thing in the entire town and I drove right by it. I had to laugh at my blonde self for that one because it was too ridiculous. But alas! I found Sheridan and she found me and we were once again reunited. I parked my car in front of her adorable farm house and was greeted by all  her precious fur babies. Her dogs were a definite highlight in my whole trip.

That afternoon Sheridan and I drove into Durango, Co and walked around downtown. Durango is absolutely enchanting and gorgeous. It’s tucked down in a valley with mountain ranges and plateaus on either side. Highly recommend everyone take a visit to the cute little, old railroad town. The next morning we left around 8 and were on our way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. My visit overlapped with a family gathering Sheridan had to attend there, so I just tagged along! When we arrived in Albuquerque, we went to Sheridan’s grandparents. Awaiting there for us were homemade pie cookies and an endless amount of food Sheridan’s grandma had prepared. Talk about living the dream! After lunch, we set off to explore Albuquerque. Dressed up in dresses and sandals, we decided to go on a hike. Naturally. We took just a short drive to a trail head where we parked and set off on our fancy dressed, hiking escapade. The scenery was stunning, with different species of cacti, wild flowers, deciduous trees, and pines dispersed thickly throughout the area. We hiked along the well groomed trailed for only about 3/4th of a mile before we decided to turn around. Both Sheridan and I have it set to go back to that trail one day and hike to the peak of the Sandia mountain. We returned to Sheridan’s grandparents and left to the family gathering party where we shared lots of laughs and indulged in more delicious food. After the party Sheridan, her sister, Alyssa, and I had plans to drive to the peak of the Sandia Mountains (there is a paved road that leads up to the peak) so at around 11pm we set off to find the road. It took a good hour to figure out where the correct road was, but after a couple phone calls, and some U-turns, we found the correct path. The view from the top was stunning! The lights of Albuquerque stretched far and wide and shone so extravagantly. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a big-city kind of person, but experiencing sights like looking out over all of Albuquerque, New Mexico from the top of a mountain in the middle of the night really makes one appreciate all a big city has to offer.

The next morning we parted ways with Sheridan’s grandparents and we headed over to the New Mexico state fair. We explored the ginormous gathering of people, animals, food, old cars, and carnival rides for a few hours until we had seen everything there was to see, so we slipped away and pointed our wheels back toward Marvel.

We awoke that morning to me asking, “Do you want to go get tattoos?”. Yes. So that’s what we did. We left the tattoo parlor and headed straight to a trail head. Probably not a very sanitary idea considering our new tattoos were on our feet and lower legs, but that didn’t seem to matter. We hiked to the peak of Engineer Mountain, which over looked Durango. I very clearly remember the wind being so intense it almost blew me over a couple times, but besides that, it was stunning! Durango is so adorable.

The crazy adventure Sheridan and I went on the next afternoon was adrenaline filled, to say the least. Being the brilliant beings we are, we came up with the clever idea to drive up Kennebec Pass. Sheridan’s Jeep did wonders on the moderately sketchy dirt road leading up to the peak of the mountain. However, we thought the road we were on was bad…. little did we know it would not even compare to the road we so intelligently decided to drive up to get to the very top of the summit. When we reached the top, there was a parking area with informative signs that discussed the wildflowers, trees, and wildlife of the area, but there was a road that veered to the right to drive to the very peak if any one wished. We wished. And we very much regretted. The road was a one way, thin, dirt lane, with a straight drop off off one side and a wall of jagged rock on the other. All was well until we got about 10 feet from the itty bitty turn around that lived at the very top; the road stair stepped. It’s nearly impossible to paint the picture of complete, absolute fear that filled the Jeep within the 0.2 seconds when we both laid our eyes on the literal rock stairs that zigzagged up the face of the mountain. With the Jeep becoming so quiet one could hear Sheridan’s hand bones breaking from gripping the steering wheel so tightly, we slowly inched our way up the dreaded, horrific stairs. It wouldn’t have been so horrifying if there wasn’t a straight drop off, off the side of a mountain a foot away from the side of us. I have to admit, the view from the top made seeing our lives flash before our eyes worth it. It was ravishing. Driving back down the stairs? Not so ravishing. But with at least three wheels on the ground, we intricately teetered back down the road.

That night we went into Durango and tapped into our teenage selves again. Laughing, riding bikes, and long-boarding down the sidewalk at 10 at night with a group of friends really puts what “living” is into perspective. That is exactly what living is.

The next morning I would be leaving Sheridan and Marvel and Durango and going to Kit Carson, Colorado. Another little “population, 50” town where my grandparents live. My time spent with Sheridan really bettered the both of us, and lifted us into a state of pure happiness, if not only for a couple days. The memories and pictures we now share will last us a lifetime, and so will our friendship. I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life to share such phenomenal experiences with. I began this trip with the intent of it being purely solo, but I discovered no matter where I go or what I do, even if I am by myself, I won’t ever be alone.

Find people who you can be your real self around; people who accept you and appreciate you for who you are. Find people who you can be wild with and who won’t question or snark at you when you want to go dance in the rain; but who will gladly dance with you.

Happy Hiking. Happy Days.

Nettie Pitman

S1S2S3S4S5

Sandia Peak overlooking Albuquerque, NM

S12S6S7

Engineer Mnt.

S10S11S9S13

Kennebec Pass La Plata Canyon, CO

Advertisements

First Stop: Moab, UT

I was extremely blessed to have the opportunity to take a solo end-of-the-summer-adventure to Colorado. I have loved ones in Colorado who I haven’t been able to visit for a couple years, so it was my first choice destination. The normal route from Oregon to Colorado that my mom and I usually took was through Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, and into Colorado. However, since I was trekking alone, and it’s been on my bucket list for yearrrsss, I decided to skip Wyoming, go down to Moab, Utah, and then east on over to Colorado. Best. Decision. Ever.

I left around 7am on September 5th. Of course my mom had already called to threaten me; “You better be careful!”, “Take it slow!”, “Watch for deer!”, “Did you forget anything?”. Along with multiple texts from my uncle, Marilynn, and Sheridan about the same warnings and questions. I’m blessed to have so many who care so much. I had packed both my hiking packs, my hiking boots, three water bottles, my sleeping bag, a pillow, my cooler with food, and all of the other necessities that are required when traveling. My cooler was full of the food I would live on for the next three and a half days which consisted of, a bag of baby-snack size bell peppers, baby carrots, two cans of black olives that I dumped into a Tupperware, salami, sliced cheese, three apples, veggie chips, granola bars, crackers, and lots of water. I did not think my choices of food through very well…

So, off I went! It wasn’t long before I was through Oregon and into Nevada, and then heading into Utah. The drive itself wasn’t extremely exciting, although I did get caught up in a cattle drive about twenty minutes outside of Lakeview. That was kind of neat. But other than that, I just trekked right along, singing to myself and pondering life.

I arrived in Moab at around 8pm, by this time it was dark (obviously) so I really had no idea what to expect for the next day. The moon was almost full so I could see the outline of the canyons and mountains (which were beautiful!) and I saw the most amazing, gigantic shooting star. I didn’t go all the way into the city of Moab, I turned off about 20 miles from, toward Dead Horse State Park and Canyonlands National Park. My plan was to camp the three nights I was in Moab, so I set off to find a camp ground. I drove up the road toward the parks until I reached a sign that read “Lone Mesa Campground”. I turned down that dirt road to figure out what I was in for. It was weird. To find a spot to camp, one just drives down the road and if there is a pullout marked with a stick with a picture of a tent on it, he can camp there. So that’s what I did, and the first spot I came to, I backed my little Honda in and parked for the night.

I slept in my car for the three nights. My trusty little four-door Honda Accord. I have to admit, it was actually really cozy! I would move everything that was in my backseat to the front seats and trunk and I would cuddle up in my sleeping bag and pillow and pass out. The first night I was there, I was TERRIFIED. I was so scared to be out there alone, sleeping, not even knowing what my surroundings looked like. But it was the fear that really made me feel alive and excited. I slept like a rock.

When I awoke the first morning, I was amazed at what I saw when I looked out of my window. Pure, raw, natural beauty. I threw my hiking attire on, laced up my boots, situated my car, and took off toward Dead Horse State Park. Seeing this areas’ canyons, rock, trees, grasses, cacti, etc. for the first time is so insanely exciting. I was absolutely blown away by every large and tiny organism I came in contact with. I hiked around Dead Horse for a few hours and then headed on over to Canyonlands National Park. I was shocked to see how strikingly vivid all the scenery is in this part of the country. When one thinks of desert, the majority might think “bland, blah, boring”, nooo way man. The canyons look fake. They look like a painting, or a Disney creation. Staring out into them and admiring all they have to offer is life changing. They really make you think about how small we really are; how massive everything else around us is. They make you think about life and change and difference. I cannot put into words how immaculate they are. All of the life they hold, the rivers running through them, the tiny chipmunks (and they are TINY), the wildflowers, the cougars and bear and deer, the juniper trees, and Douglas firs. They house all of this life and so so much more. (Fun fact I learned from a trail head sign: the desert floor may just look like sand and dirt but it is actually called Biological Soil Crust and it is made up of microorganisms, cyanobacteria. This bacteria not only keeps the ground from being eroded, but it also provides nutrition to the plants that inhabit the desert floor. So even the dirt in deserts is living!)

For the next two days, Sept. 6th and 7th, I hiked around and explored Canyonlands. I went into Dead Horse in the morning to get an orange juice from the little coffee stand. I’d go there at night before bed too, to use the campgrounds outdoor shower. I was so excited I found somewhere with running water to brush my teeth! You really never know how much of a luxury running water is until you don’t have it around. The longest trail I hiked, and found for that matter, was a five mile loop in Canyonlands called Neck Spring. The trail gradually went down into a canyon to two natural springs. Cowboys and Native Americans used to take their cattle to these springs for water, and at the springs they left behind old watering troughs and tin cans they used as cups. I was pumped when I found this trail because it was a long one compared to the others I had hiked and it led to water! Which I thought was going to be really exciting to experience in such a dry, hot area. Let me tell you, I had NO idea what I was in for. I had it set in my mind that hiking down into this canyon would be more or less like hiking to the summit of a mountain. Not even remotely close. Going into the canyon was an uphill battle and coming out of the canyon was an uphill battle. Not to mention, it was around 95 degrees on the rim of the canyon, so it was about 100 degrees down inside. With small patches of shade along the trail, and still, dry, non-moving air, the majority of the hike was in the blazing hot sun. I soon learned I was the only one on the trail. (PSA: don’t ever hike alone. It’s dangerous and can be really scary. I personally know this and I know the consequences, but I personally do a lot of things I know I’m not supposed to do… Sorry mom…) At one point, I thought I heard music playing down the trail from me, so I picked up the pace a little to see if I could catch up to the people in which it belonged. It would have been reassuring to know for sure I wasn’t the only human hiking down in this death-valley of a canyon. I never caught up to the people, in fact I never even seen another person on the trail, except one guy who was hiking in while I was hiking out. He was the brunette, hiker version of Shawn White and all he said to me in passing was, “Why are we hiking in this heat right now?”. I told him I’d like the answer to that as well. So, I’m not even sure if the music was real, or if it was a figment of my heat-sparked delusion. I did, however see an old chute-like structure and a few sections of old fence from the old cowboy era. It is amazing to me to think about how these canyons were used by humans. People used to use these canyons as a “fence” to keep all of their livestock. It must have been such a difficult job with intense, hard work to keep animal’s well and alive in such hot, steep, uneven conditions. I am in awe of all of the people who utilized the canyons for their benefit. Anyway, this particular hiking story has a disappointing ending; I never made it to the springs. It was too hot and miserable, and even though I had packed three bottles of water I was beginning to run out. It was too dangerous in the conditions I was in to go all the way without water, even if it was only five miles. (Which seems like 150 miles when you’re in 100 degree, roasting hot sun.) But heat stroke and heat exhaustion are no joke. Horrible damage can come out of those conditions, and I wasn’t ready to experience what they were, especially being alone. So I relaxed under a tree, ate an apple, and hiked back out of the oven I was baking in. I now have it on my bucket list to go back during a cooler season and hike Neck Springs all the way. I will conquer that trail one day.

I hiked to the Mesa Arch to watch the sunset before driving back to the main overlook of the canyon to star gaze. It was an easy hike that only took me about five minutes. The sunset was absolutely mesmerizing over the canyon. Especially with a rain storm coming in, the cloud coverage mixed with the oranges, reds, yellows, purples, greens, and blues of the sunset was an image so perfect that I had to thank God I was blessed enough to be able to admire it. All of His creation blows me away. Star gazing over a canyon is something everybody needs to do at least once in her lifetime. It is a little creepy, I must admit, because it’s a big huge pitch black hole. But, the stars are so worth it.

I laid in my little backseat-bed that night happy as a clam. I ate a couple pieces of salami and black olives for dinner. This was the kind of dinner I ate for the three nights I was there. I need help with food shopping for travel and adventures. I replayed all of my Moab escapades, smiled, laughed, and felt overwhelmed with joy and thankfulness that I was lucky enough to be out here doing this. The next morning I would be seeing Moab in my rear view mirror, driving two and a half hours to Marvel, Colorado, population 50, to reunite and stay with one of my best friends, Sheridan. This would begin my Colorado visit. It would also be the beginning of yet another whole new outlook on life and the world, a whole new world of possibilities, and a whole lot of memories and adventures that would last me a life time.

Moab really taught me about fear, and how it can be such a great gift. I haven’t ever felt as scared, yet, as wild and free as I have on this solo trip as a whole, but especially while I was roughing it in Moab. This trip has really brought to me a feeling of “life”; an urgency to live. Life is way too short to be miserable, so the time is always now to make yourself happy, to make yourself appreciate and love who you are and who you want to be. Forgive others who have wronged and hurt you. Forgive yourself for wronging and hurting yourself and others. Let all of that weight fall off your shoulders. Or better yet, go throw it off of the edge of a canyon! Go out and do something terrifying yet astonishing. When you’re truly scared to death, that’s when you will learn how to live.

Happy Hiking. Happy Days.

Nettie Pitman

DSC_1047

Canyonlands National Park canyon overlook

DSC_1096

Canyonlands National Park: Mesa Arch

DSC_1130CANYON2

Canyonlands National Park: Island in the Sky

RHONDA

My campsite ft. Rhonda the Honda

DSC_1124CACTUSFLOWERDSC_1137C3

Canyonlands National Park: Murphy Trail Destination Overlook

C4

Dead Horse State Park canyon overlook

Conquering Life’s Mountains

Hiking to peak of a mountain. Every person in this world can relate. This may be physically and mentally engaging oneself in the motion to conquer one of earth’s land bubbles, or it could be picking oneself off of the ground to conquer one of life’s strenuous, uphill climbs. Mountains are part of life and no one can escape their steep slopes. However we can all get to that glorious peak. The peak is really what we’re all after; it is the ultimate goal. We all have that one special object, person, idea, event, that we long for and we climb for. Once we conquer the slopes, the rocks,  the sweat, blood, dirty hands, and scraped up knees, and we reach that peak where we finally get to bask in all of our hard work and glory; that is when we truly understand ourselves.

The first mountain I hiked was one of life’s fabulous uphill climbs. I was twelve years old and I held the hand of my father as he left this world. Cancer is the fastest uphill climber I had ever witnessed at that point in my life, and twelve year old me had no idea where I even was in my forest. I was lost. I couldn’t find the trail I had been on my entire life, and I couldn’t find anyone to lead me back to that trail. I wasn’t the only one standing lost in a forest, my whole family was lost in their own parts of the woods. My mom was just as lost as I was, so we were both alone, with not even each other. Of course, I was only twelve and grieving was not something that came naturally to me, I got over the death of my father moderately quickly at that time and I began carving my own trail. I went off the beaten path of what I was used to and hiked my way through school. I graduated in 2015 and ventured onto the University of Oregon where I decided to work toward a bachelor’s degree in environmental science. I wish I could say that the college life was the life for me and that I was a normal college kid, but alas, I hated college. Since I am still a nerdy little college kid, I guess “hated” should be present tense. School is just not my cup of tea, probably because I would rather be on a trail than studying for an exam… but that’s beside the point! Anyway, I transferred to Rogue Community College to complete my generals (for wayyy cheaper, might I add), and I am more into the smaller college. But ever since I began college and started this new chapter of my life, the unfinished grieving over the death of my dad made its unwelcome return. I couldn’t seem to get past the fact that my dad will never be able to watch me grow and graduate college and walk me down the aisle, or just be here for me in general. I was rolling down the slope of the mountain I was working so hard to climb and I couldn’t seem to stop myself. I knew I had to do something before I hit the rock bottom, so I decided to take on an actual mountain.

Nature is very powerful and healing, and I was done being beaten up and pushed around by my own self. Without a second thought, I threw all of my hiking gear into my small Osprey hiking pack, laced up my Ahnu hiking boots and threw my middle finger up at myself in the mirror because I was done with my old self. Okay, the last part didn’t actually happen but it makes me sound like I’m a badass, so we’ll pretend it did. I was on my way to hike Mount McLoughlin. This “little” mountain packs a big punch, let me tell you. But it is one the most rewarding hikes I have ever been on. It’s mysterious, beautiful, and cleansing for each soul that makes it to it’s amazing summit. However, it’s a hike for sure, and in some parts it is not easy. For me, once I made it to the lava rock switchbacks, I had to tell myself sweet little inspirations to keep going. Those things are worse than climbing a hundred flights of stairs. The stretch leading up to the summit is pure sand. So I would walk for five minutes and remain in the same spot, which was the best! But all of this hard work of climbing uphill didn’t mean one thing when I stepped foot on the peak of that mountain. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking, and I was standing on the top of a freaking mountain! It is such an awesome, rewarding feeling to look around and know you’re standing on the top of world, practically. It’s almost unreal.

It was at this point, on the peak of this mountain, that I had a revelation. Life isn’t meant to be lived grieving. Life isn’t meant to be lived sad or mad or anything other than happy. Happy and excited about every single thing. Life is precious and we are only given a specific amount of time to fulfill ourselves in the moments, people, and things that we love, and to live our individual lives to the absolute fullest. I’m not saying never be sad, be sad. Be sad and be mad. Be pissed! Feel all of your feelings as deeply as they come, but don’t hang onto them. Feel them and then let them go. Let go of what makes you anything but the happiest you can possibly be. We are meant to be one with nature, and nature wants us to be happy and confide in her. Watch sunsets and get up early to watch the sunrise. Go on hikes, pull over every once in awhile to get out of your car, pause your hectic life, and just breath. Look at some flowers, hold a cute bug, find a cool rock, listen to a river, look out over the ocean. Nature wants us to be happy and feel loved. She wants us to love ourselves, and she wants to help us all achieve just this.

If you’re ever feeling lost and desperate, go into nature for just a minute and you will be healed just as much as you will let her heal you. We all have a wild side, stay in tune with it.

Happy hiking. Happy days.

Nettie Pitman

ml

Hiking: Upper Table Rock

10/10 highly recommend upper table rock trail. This trail is located in the beautiful Medford, Oregon and is such a nice hike. I have done this hike twice now and each time I loved it! This trail is moderately easy and casual and only 1.25 miles long. There are a few steep areas but really nothing too difficult. The view is absolutely amazing the whole way up and the trail is very clean. Both of the times I hiked up this trail I passed multiple families with small children. Speaking of, the last time I hiked it I was on my depart and a little boy  around the age of five or six, with, what I perceived, his dad and brother were hiking up. This little chipmunk was ahead of his family and when he saw me he stopped dead in his tracks and moved to the side of the trail while repeatedly saying, “Dad! There’s a girl!” We all exchanged smiles while I passed and then I heard that little guy proclaim, “Dad, tell her she needs to get out of the way.” In which his dad replayed in a slightly embarrassed tone, “Hey! Be nice!” It was hilarious, I tell you what.

Both times I have hiked this trail, all of the people whom I passed were extremely nice. I mean, I wouldn’t expect anything less out of a bunch of outdoor enthusiasts;) They were all smiles and “How are you”s. I even got a “Happy hiking!”, which I have never heard before, from one of the park rangers. I thought this little greeting was pretty awesome so now I say it all the time. Unfortunately, there are no dogs allowed on this particular trail. I really, really love dogs so it kind of makes me sad, but I usually pass by one or two dogs on it anyway… I’m not complaining!

The peak of this little, fun hill is so so breathtakingly beautiful. The top is a plateau, so it’s wide open country. It makes me feel as if I just entered Jurassic park or some prehistoric dinosaur land when I’m on the top of Table Rock. It’s really super cool, I feel like I need to let out a little screech or something when I emerge from the forest into the wide open flat land. At the top, there is a little fence and a few trails that cut off in different directions so one can explore. Hikers are advised to remain on the trail to help protect the vernal pools that reside around the land. We don’t want to be ruining those little guys! The view of the city and farm land from the edge of Table Rock is amazing. But I find views from any high peaks to be amazing no matter where I am, so it’s really up to you to decide if it’s amazing or not I guess. Which I don’t see how some one wouldn’t find it amazing!

Table Rock is a must for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s beautiful, relaxing, and an easy, short hike. Guaranteed to make you feel great, look great, and see great natures!

Happy Hiking,

Nettie Pitman

tr6trtr5tr4tr3

The Beginning…

I’m not going to lie, I feel like a high school character in the beginning of an early 2000’s movie filled with teenage angst and stuck in a weird situation that she’s later going to blog about. As the camera zooms in and everything freezes, the narrator says, “You’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation…” I’m not entirely sure why I feel like this character because obviously none of that is happening to me, but I think it’s just what I imagine when I think of blogging.

This is the first blog I have had and so far I’m lovin’ it! I enjoy writing about my passions, whether people find my entries interesting to read or not is up for question. But as long as I enjoy doing it, that’s all that matters! As I mentioned before, I enjoy writing about my passions. These include, travelling, hiking, and eating. I promise I’m not THAT boring and have many more like, horseback riding and music, but I decided to keep this particular blog at a minimum and just base it around those three.

Traveling, hiking, and eating are things I have always loved. My dad was a pipeliner, so growing up I traveled from job to job, state to state, with him and my mom. In 2009, my dad passed away from colon cancer, so the traveling came to a slow down. But my mom and I still occasionally took trips to different states. Now my mom works as a safety inspector on the pipeline, so she travels, but here I am stuck in college. Oh the joy:) I always complain about my education, like every young person does, but I am very lucky I am able to have such a great one. Anyway, my second passion, hiking. I. Love. Hiking. I love being out in nature; in the trees, in the desert, on a river or lake. I’m not too picky! If you ever need me for some odd reason, that’s where you can find me. So good luck. Last but certainly not least, eating. I would consider myself a professional eater. I love food, I love trying new foods, I love critiquing food. I could write a hundred blogs just on all the different kinds of chicken strips I have eaten.

This is the beginning of a new era for me! Blogging about the things I love, it should be interesting nonetheless.

Happy Hiking,

Nettie Pitman