Monte Vista Skies

Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog has had a proclivity for getting car sick which makes her a bad bet for my hiking buddy. This morning I decided to drive my ballot to the county seat and put it directly in the County Clerk’s box. What if I gave Bear the chance NOT to get sick on a 28-mile round trip jaunt?

Tricked her into getting her leash on (she knows when we’re supposed to go and when it might be a vet trip) and off we went.

There’s a storm coming over the mountains, already snowing hard at the summit of Wolf  Creek Pass and at the ski area, so the sky was in the early stages of storm drama. Fantastic.

Bear didn’t get carsick, and I didn’t want to go home. The Sandhill cranes are still here, so we turned down the road to the refuge. One of the signs on this road is an Amish Buggy warning sign.

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The first time I saw this I thought it was a joke, but it’s not. There’s a (comparatively) large Amish community in Monte Vista’s rural area. Over the weekend, one of these buggies was hit by a pickup, and the horse was injured. I see no reason at all for a pickup to hit an Amish buggy.

So we got to the refuge and there were many cranes off in the fields. They’re on their way to New Mexico and I can imagine they know a storm is coming at least as well as I do. I took Bear to a viewing area where there were no cranes. She deserved a reward for riding 50 miles without getting sick, and I wanted to photograph the sky. We had a lovely walk and a big flock of cranes flew overhead, calling and cooing and bringing joy to my heart.

cranes 2

I just LOVE them.

 

 

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West Frisco Creek

Four years ago today, I moved into my house. I wanted to make a big deal out of that anniversary, so I asked my friends to go with me on my first mountain hike since I moved back to Colorado.

My friend Elizabeth (originally from a tiny town in Australia by the name of Buxton) came along. We followed the directions of my physical therapist who’d recommended the trail, “Go to Del Norte and turn left at the car wash.” We were then on a beautiful paved road that evolved into a nice graveled road, that evolved into a nicely maintained dirt road. At the end was the trailhead.

It was my first hike (since my hip replacement) on truly uneven ground with loose rocks and some ups and downs (other than daily life, I mean). It was easy.

We only wanted to be gone a couple of hours, and I didn’t want to undertake more than I could return from, so we ended up walking a relatively short way. I told Elizabeth that the end of the trail is an alpine lake — six miles up. We decided to work toward that for next summer.

It’s a perfect day, not a cloud in the sky, not much wind, comfortable temperatures. The aspen were enormous — I’ve never seen anything like that. They have grown up in groves of beetle kill pine so they haven’t had much competition. But coming up — five feet and lower — are pines, protected by the giant aspen. The light was not only impossible to photograph, but I don’t think I can describe it well. It was my first experience in a large aspen forest and it was enchanting. There are no aspen in Southern California.

Elizabeth is very active in the beautiful Gfenn-like Episcopal church in our town. I’ve visited a few times. Now she’s been with me to my church. ❤

P.S. Now I’ve looked on the topo map and we got the wrong trail, but there are three branches of San Francisco Creek, and we are going back. 🙂

Run, Martha! Run!

I have always been an athlete (and am striving hard now to return to that though godnose what my sport will be). I was a runner in junior high and high school, played softball, hit practice balls for my little bro’s baseball team, played field hockey. I have hiked and run thousands of miles of trails. All this took its toll on my joints, and I have had two hip replacements. I’ve been cleared by my orthopedic surgeon to run and ski, but I don’t know if I will get my mind to the place where those will happen. I hope so.

I think some people are designed so that their brain works better with hard physical exercise. I had rheumatic fever as a kid, developed a heart murmur, and while we lived in Colorado (where I was born) I wasn’t very physically active. But when we moved to sea level when I was 8, that all changed. I discovered baseball, ice skating, high-jumping and running in the forest. I felt free, strong, happy. By the time I was 13, I could hit a ball farther than anyone in my town of 10,000. I could catch anything. I could outrun everybody.

My parents didn’t encourage me — well, my dad did. He’d play catch for hours with me after he came home from work. My mom was an inanimate object who thought physical activity was bad for women. When I ran an incredibly fast 400 meters, my coach called my mom to see if she would sign a permission slip for me to go to Olympic Training Camp for the 400 meters and 400-meter hurdles. Mom refused, saying running would make it impossible for me to have children. I was 13! I think that was the moment I decided I’d rather die than have a baby, and I have no children. Parents who tramp on their kids’ dreams might be killing their own — my mom wanted to be a grandmother.

Back then, there was the idea, also, that sports were “masculine” and girls and women who played them were not very feminine. Sure, there were some sports that were OK for girls — tennis, figure skating, softball, gymnastics, swimming — but otherwise? It was iffy. I grew to hate the word “feminine” because it limited me. Female, OK. Feminine? No thanks. Back then, many people thought that if you were any good, you were overburdened with testosterone like a female Russian weightlifter who’s been caught juicing. Sports are gender neutral and people should do — play — what they love.

When I was a university professor, one of the high points of my time teaching was attending the Scholar Athletes Award Banquet with one of my students, a girl on the soccer team. Her boyfriend — who played on the men’s soccer team — was being honored, too. At our table were two petite young women who ran 400 meters and 400-meter hurdles. I loved that, enjoyed talking to them about their sport, and took it as a sign from wherever signs come from. A gift for me. “You couldn’t have this, Martha, but these young women can.” ❤

The vast majority of the scholar-athletes receiving awards that night (B+ GPA and above) were women. It was (surprisingly) a very emotional evening for me. I got to see the results of Title IX, the law that requires schools to put as much into women’s sports as it does into mens. On the surface it’s an equal opportunity law:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

But it opened a door that, when I was young, didn’t even exist.

Athletics programs are considered educational programs and activities. There are three basic parts of Title IX as it applies to athletics:

  1. Participation: Title IX requires that women and men be provided equitable opportunities to participate in sports. Title IX does not require institutions to offer identical sports but an equal opportunity to play;
  2. Scholarships: Title IX requires that female and male student-athletes receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation; and
  3. Other benefits: Title IX requires the equal treatment of female and male student-athletes in the provisions of: (a) equipment and supplies; (b) scheduling of games and practice times; (c) travel and daily allowance/per diem; (d) access to tutoring; (e) coaching, (f) locker rooms, practice and competitive facilities; (g) medical and training facilities and services; (h) housing and dining facilities and services; (i) publicity and promotions; (j) support services and (k) recruitment of student-athletes.

I know not everyone is designed as I am, but everyone should have the right to reach for the highest level of their abilities if they want to. My mom’s decision didn’t make me stop running and who knows? Maybe I wouldn’t have made it to the Olympic team. That I didn’t get to try is, ultimately no big deal, but the fight I had with my mom after she got off the phone with my coach was, for good or ill, a determining moment of my life.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/10/17/rdp-wednesday-sport/

My Brain Doesn’t Get It

So since my hip surgery and the recent (2 weeks ago!) pronouncement from my surgeon that I have no restrictions, I’ve felt very sad. I can’t figure out why. I also don’t understand why I’m not just OUT THERE trying things, hiking trails, taking my bike out of the garage, everything. I’m in good condition. I don’t know why I am sticking with the patterns of rehab I developed and that worked.

I was thinking today as I rode the Bike to Nowhere that the last time I had no restrictions, I was in my early 50s and my most frequent hiking pals were three boys in their 20s who had, at one time, been my students. Two of them were professional athletes, one a surfer and one a weightlifter. For the weightlifter, I provided un-boring cardiac training, and we had so much fun together running up and down the Laguna mountains, hiking long distances fast.

The surfer had no idea that dry land was fun, but he learned, and at least once a month you could find us on a dusty trail going up a hill or a mountain. When he went to Europe to hike the Camino de Santiago, he took a jaunt to Morocco and climbed up one of the High Atlas Mountains so he could take a photo of himself on the mountain for me. When he came back he said, “I don’t why, but it was hard to breathe up there.” It was over 10,000 feet, but he had to have good lungs from surfing…

The third was my most reliable hiking friend — he wasn’t as extreme as the others, and he lived nearby. We hiked often. Our thing was finding new trails and different times of day. We both liked late afternoon/evening/night hikes. We had a lot of fun together. He joked around about the other two because all the hikes usually ended with lunch or dinner in the little cafe in my town. “She (the waitress) probably wonders how you end up here with all of us hot boys.”

But it was great. A couple of years into this wonderful routine, my right hip started to go south. The weightlifter thought (and I thought) it was an injury but it wasn’t. And after that, it seems to me now, my life just went dark. That was 14 years ago.

It’s not dark now, but I’m not where I was last time it was light. Honestly, part of me doesn’t know where I am. I’m going to have to take a big, brave chance, and I sense that my best bet is not a hiking trail. I think a X-country trail on a snowy golf course might work best to bridge the years. I know it sounds absurd and maybe self-indulgent, but anyone else who’s had surgery like this experience post-rehab bewilderment and sadness over the next step?

 

Bark

Four years ago I set out for Colorado. I’d sold my house, I’d quit my job and I was leaving California behind, hotel and all (ha ha). In my rented van were Lily T. Wolf, Dusty and Mindy T. Dog, the only companionship I’d have on that journey and in my new life in a new town where I knew no one.

Life in the mountains of CA had been hard on Dusty T. Dog. My neighbor hated him and was abusive and mean to both of us. Yes, Dusty barks, but 1) He was never outside unchaperoned after 8 pm, 2) I scrupulously cleaned the yard and their dog run, 3) Dusty would not leave the yard even if someone left the gate open.

One day I went out and my asshole neighbor was standing next to the fence in front of my house (at that time it was a 3 foot fence; it was soon changed to a 6 foot fence) shaking the fence, screaming at Dusty and yelling, “Come on you son of a bitch. BITE me!” He threw rocks at my dog. He hoped to provoke Dusty so that Animal Control would haul Dusty away.

Animal Control came in response to a formal complaint the guy lodged against me. They found three friendly dogs and a clean yard. I conferred with Animal Control and my trainer and the consensus was that if Dusty wore a bark collar it would control the barking. It didn’t. Dusty’s urge to bark was stronger than the pain of the electric shock. One day I felt a scar on my dog’s neck, took the batteries out of the collar and put it back on him. To the world it looked like he was wearing the bark collar, but it would never shock him again. Grrrrrr.

Dusty was a rescue. I got him from a shelter. He was on his way out as an unadoptable, nervous and aggressive dog, but I didn’t know it when I met him. He was a 4 month old black puppy who let me know as soon as he saw me that he wanted to be my dog. The Animal Control people who ran the shelter warned me that he was not adoptable, but when they put us in a little room together, Dusty laid his head on my chest and talked and talked and talked. The Animal Control officer said, “I guess he’s your dog after all.”

I spent $1500 to have him professionally trained and socialized because where I lived he would not meet people or dogs and he needed to. He never really got calmed down with either (though he is a very sweet, affectionate and friendly dog if you get past the bark) but he did learn to love horses. Dusty barks at people as a warning, to protect me, and to protect himself. You see, when Animal Control picked him up, he was a two month old puppy who was injured and left by the side of Interstate 8 outside of Alpine, CA. Someone had intentionally hurt that dog — puppy, rather. How could he trust anyone?

But he does trust a lot of people. He’s come a very long way from the scared creature he used to be. He used to be terrified at the vet — scary terrified, and now he’s happy to see Dr. Crawford, Dr. Ratzlaff and all the other people who work at Alpine Vet in Monte Vista. He loves my friends (and their dogs). He adores everyone at the kennel where I board him. He likes other dogs, just not from a distance or if they charge him.

Still, my early experiences with Dusty made me wary, and I have always tried to keep him from scaring people, even when it was the people who were the assholes.

Until today.

There’s an old guy who sometimes walks where I do. When I see his truck parked, I go somewhere else. There’s just something about him that creeps me out. The first time we met, the dogs and I had just arrived. Dusty was off leash, and the guy pulled up beside me in the parking lot. Dusty barked and ran to him. The guy was obviously (and naturally) afraid. Dusty’s a big dog.

“I’m afraid of dogs,” he said. “I used to be a mailman.”

“I’m sorry.” How many times have I said, “I’m sorry” because of Dusty? Thousands.

“Keep him away from me.”

“He’s friendly.”

“I don’t like dogs.”

Somehow, that guy’s “I don’t like dogs” trumped my dog. Until today.

We got to a spot to walk. I let Dusty out (off leash because he heels off-leash very very well) and Bear (on leash because she catches a scent and she’s GONE) and off we went. Dusty pooped on the edge of the parking lot. This parking lot is used by teenagers for, uh, parking, (snicker, snicker) and it’s replete with used condoms and beer bottles and dog poop. Lots of people take their dogs there. There is no trash can. Sometimes I pick up my dog’s poop, and sometimes I don’t. It depends whether I am prepared or not. Lots of people don’t, but it’s the country, it’s out of town and who cares?

On the trail are cow pies, road apples, coyote shit, cat shit, elk, deer and rabbit droppings along with god (and Bear) knows what other excremental delicacies.

Today we took a walk by the river (humid, mosquitoes, flies, horseflies, not fun) and then we turned back. I saw the guy walking toward us with his stupid ass hiking stick and not wearing a shirt. Did I say mosquitoes? Flies? Horseflies? I leashed Dusty, took both dogs to the side of the trail, pointed their noses toward the woods, away from the trail, and held them tight.

The guy approached. The guy approached me. “Don’t stop,” I said. Dusty was barking like crazy, of course, because a guy with a cudgel was coming toward his human. “DON’T STOP!!!” I said again because the guy just didn’t get it. Finally he walked on, and I got back on the trail. He stopped and said, “Someone let their dog poop in the parking lot.”

I’ve been Dusty’s human for 12 years. For 12 years I’ve taken the peoples’ side in their objections to my dog. Today, I didn’t. “Big fucking deal,” I said thinking of the museum of excrement that is a path along a river.

The guy yelled toward my quickly retreating back, something about “Don’t talk to me that way.”

The thing is, I never wanted to talk to him at all.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/09/06/rdp-thursday-prompt-bark/

Walk on the Wild Side

One of the places I like to hike in summer, fall, winter has enclosed part of itself with electric fencing. When I first saw the fencing, I wondered why (duh) but yesterday I saw the absolute bovinity of the reason.

Cows. Moms and kids. I don’t think they’ve been in there long as the herbage hasn’t been chewed down and there were no cow paddies on the trail.

And the fence isn’t secure.

Not everyone likes hiking with cows. In California it was the way things were up in the higher mountains east of San Diego where I hiked most of the time once I mooooved out of town. I thought of that yesterday. Pastures. I hike in pastures. There are dangers involved in hiking in pastures, especially with heifers and calves, but (so far, apparently) I’ve only had one scary moment when a mom cow thought her precious child, Hamburger, or, rather “Grass Fed Beef,” was in any danger from me and my dogs. Heifers are very protective.

The BLM, Bureau of Land Management who has the care of the refuge, had put a sign on the (new) gate saying, “Cows in field. Please close gate.” I’m a rabid gate closer having once — as a little girl — allowed 20, 50, five million chickens to roam freely in the pasture between my Aunt Jo’s house and my grandma’s. I paid dearly for that sin of omission and have NOT committed it again.

We closed the gate and began walking. It was really, really nice to be out there with my dogs. My knee was fine, I was fine, the whole thing was fine, but I didn’t bring water and at 1/2 mile, we had to turn back. It was hot and 30 minutes is all I could see was fair to walk my dogs without a drink.

Meanwhile, almost literally back at the ranch…

As we were leaving, I saw a black cow and a white calf make a subtle moooove (yes, cattle may be large but they can be subtle) near the gate. I didn’t see them where they should have been when I passed the spot.

They’d escaped.

I got into the car, backed out of the lot and headed down the dirt road. There they were. Strolling together in the shade.

Trapped between an irrigation canal on their (and my) left and an electric fence on the right, Mom sauntered along with child behind. I wanted to find a way to circle around and drive toward them, possibly turning them where I would heroically open the gate and shoo them back in with the others, but the opportunity never came.

They made it to the busy county road at the end of this lovely lane. They were nearly hit. I called my vet, whose office is very nearby, thinking they might know the owners, but the woman answering the phone had no clue, and thought I was talking about the Alamosa Wildlife Refuge. As I didn’t know the number of the county road (I live Where the Streets Have No Name) so I could set her straight, I gave up. It’s amazing — but true — that people living in this tiny Colorado town don’t have intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny. I headed back toward home, and who should be coming out of Sonic but the BLM truck with an actual BLM worker inside. I blocked his exit and motioned him to come to my car.

I don’t think that would work in LA.

“There’s a heifer and a calf loose on the 3E.” (I’d learned the number of the road in the meantime.) “By the Wildlife Refuge.”

He grinned and said, “I’ll go see if I can herd her back inside.”

I came home. I hope they’re OK.

***

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/08/16/rdp-77-encircle/

Life’s Topo Map, Bastion of Hope

 

I’m not a bastion of anything. Not a bastion of virtue. Not a bastion of values. Not a bastion of tradition. I have friends who think I’m “passive” (so not the case) and others who think I’m easy going (also not the case). I have boundaries as most of us do, they’re just not in places where anyone is likely to fall over them. I’ve also learned that REAL boundaries are not subjects of conversation. Open your mouth to someone about your boundaries and negotiation begins. My boundaries — like those of any well built medieval castle — are not negotiable. Have at them with your catapults and battering rams if you must, but the little person inside has probably escaped through the back staircase up the cliff.

People have to go through their shit. Me too. At the moment, some of my dear friends are confronting inter-personal cataclysms in their lives. For now, I am blessed with the absolute clarity and simplicity of recovering from hip surgery. I know what my job is and how to do it. My list of priorities is comprehensible, elegant and  beautiful.

There’s a left turn in the town of Del Norte that leads up a road to an alpine forest and hiking trails. “Just turn left at the car wash and keep going to the turnout/parking lot,”  explained my physical therapist a few months ago. I checked it out and found a six mile one-way trail.

The trail leads to an alpine lake and a mountain. It will be my first mountain hike since I moved here four years ago. We will attempt it on the third anniversary of Bear coming to live with us, July 30. We’ll arm ourselves against ticks, carry our bear spray (will we need it? doubtful…) I’m sure we won’t go very far that first day, but that’s OK. Among the lessons I’ve learned in my life are how to get better at something, how to go farther, and how to appreciate the wonder of the expansion of my powers and my vision. When will we actually get there? Who knows. I don’t, but I look forward to the clarity of a mountain trail, every bit as sweet and hopeful as my efforts now to regain the ability to walk.

I am being driven forward Into an unknown land.

The pass grows steeper
The air colder and sharper
A wind from my unknown goal
Stirs the strings of expectation.

Still the question
Shall I ever get there?
Where life resounds
A clear pure note in the silence.

Dag Hammarskjöld

 

 

 

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/prompt-11-bastion/

Juggling

This is a lovely post from a group of bloggers who call themselves “The Dihedral.” I love their blog.

My days in nature are changing because time takes a toll on all of us, and my body’s wearing out. The trails and hills of my future will be different from those of my past. It’s (kind of) OK because I’m different, too.

BUT… god willing, earth and its beauty are eternal. I love this blog because its writers are young people who love doing what I have always loved doing. It’s heartening and inspiring to me that they are there, writing, questioning life, contending with the crises of the moment in life when we’re holding up the sky AND they are writing, hiking, climbing, thinking, teaching.

They describe themselves as:

“A team of writers, artists, scholars, and professionals, who share an endearing devotion to “the outdoors”. Friends who share a warmth and predilection for mother nature and the possibilities she presents to us all. Our mutual interests in rock climbing, hiking, writing, and exploring brought us to The Dihedral, and we hope you find our eccentric little “corner” of the community just as inviting as we do.”

This — written by a young single mom — is a good reminder about what’s best in life (besides a hill).

Juggling

Lovely Blog Post on Courage

One thing I’ve gotten from the Blogger Bash thing (You can still vote. Vote for me here 😀 ) is exposure to more blogs and some of them are great. I’m following more blogs and I think I’m being followed…

This is a really good post by a young hiker from her blog, “Must Hike; Must Eat.” She writes about the question of courage. If you read my blog, you know that question interests me I guess because maybe I’m scared a lot. Enjoy!

The Definition of Courage

Tread Lightly

It’s a radiant day in the real west. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. Bits of green are poking through the dead and brittle grass. The golf course has opened in spite of not being in the least ready. People are out and socializing with neighbors they haven’t seen in months. Winter — even this very open winter — is always a kind of cocoon here. People LOVE spring and summer (except me). OH well. At least last week we had a real snow and frost on the trees, and, all in all, I think, I’m kind of glad that winter never really materialized this year. It was probably for the best, except for nature and farmers and everything that really matters…

California. When I moved there from Colorado back in the 80s, I was horrified that trails in (frequently used) wilderness areas were fenced. I didn’t understand it, but after a while I realized that hordes of people have a deliterious impact on nature. When I worked for an urban wilderness park, I was always recruiting people for trail maintenance which often meant fencing. Friendly fencing, but still obstacles to keep people on maintained trails. I went 180 degrees.

Because of the mild winter, my little walking place — Shriver/Wright Wild Life Area — has seen so much foot traffic that it looks like an overused vacant lot. I don’t even want to go there and add my 10 feet to the impact. People are cutting trails, trampling on plants (and they probably? might?) not even know what they’re trampling on (wild iris!). And bicycles — I love mountain bikes. I have one, but they are very, very bad for the ground and really should stay on trails. BUT someone is ridiing a mountain bike out there wherever, and it’s damaging the surface just as if the bike were a tank.

Just because there are hundreds of square miles of undeveloped land here in the San Luis Valley, doesn’t mean that one small place (a 1 mile loop trail) isn’t vulnerable. It’s vulnerable. VERY vulnerable. I think it should be closed for spring and maybe people need to get in there and put up signs like, “Stay on designated trails, please!” “Cutting trails causes erosion.” “Cutting trails destroys plan life.” “Give animals their space. Stay on human trails.”

But maybe summer — which is mosquito filled and nasty — will do the job.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/radiant/