Colorado Rocky Mountain High

Today is my day for feeling alive!

We’re  in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I took my last dose of Inlet on Thursday, and I’m feeling terrific.   I’ve got energy.  My feet are unsteady, but they don’t hurt.  The dropped metatarsal is taken care of with shoes and inserts. And the corn and deep blisters  aren’t causing any pain, or have gone away completely. 

This morning we took the gondola up the mountain, and hiked the nature trail up there.   It was only a mile, but it gave us lots of great views of the mountains and Valley. There were wildflowers of all colors (my favorite remains the columbine).  And it was relatively flat and easy to shuffle along. 



It was such a joy to be out on a trail again. Even with kids complaining about the bugs and the sun, and with not being able to rely on the placement of my feet, I was able to get into that blissful state that hiking provides me. 

And if that wasn’t enough, we spent the afternoon inner tubing on the Yampa river. It’s a very nice run, with lots of good dips and rapids. Afterwards, we went back to one of the areas we’d seen on our way down. We played in the river there, diving in, swimming the rapids. The water was very brisk, in temperature and spirit, but it felt wonderful to be out there, just playing!

The kids have already convinced me that we need to go again. Who am I to argue?

And, as a testament to how good I’m feeling – I’d been planning to make a run to the dispensary, since marijuana  is legal here in Colorado (and I wasn’t going to risk transporting on the plane).  But I haven’t felt the need to use since I’ve been here.

Once again reminded that it’s not so much the cancer as the treatment. I’m just so glad I can take these breaks. 

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Some of these might be possible

Antelope Canyon, AZ

Bourbon Street, New Orleans

Camino de Santiago, Spain

Forum, Rome

Gorges of Australia

Great Blue Hole

Iceland

Jordan, Petra

Marketplaces of Marrakesh/Morocco

Ngorogoro Crater

Olympic National Park

Pacific Crest Trail

Rapa Nui

Scottish Highlands

Yucatan Peninsula

Zion National Park

Colorado – Live by Living retreat

I-70 looks like a fun road to drive, but I was in a rented Mazda , which looks at a hill like I do now, “I’m pretty sure I can make it, but it’s going to be a long, slow haul.”  If I didn’t pay close attention and kep my food to the floor, I’d end up going 40 and pissing off even the truck drivers.  I eventually made it to Leadville, despite my putzy little car and all the stop-the-car-it’s-gorgeous! scenery.  At 10,000 feet above sea level, Leadville is surrounded by mountains that tower above the small town.  If the view doesn’t take your breath away, the thin air will certainly do it.

Saturday morning I met up with the Live by Living crowd: 7 volunteers and 5 participants (nice odds!)  I’d realized the night before that my body wasn’t going to let me hike that day.  Even walking across the Safeway parking lot left me winded.  There was no way a 4 mile hike with 1300 foot climb was in the cards.  So, two of the volunteers and I dropped the rest at the trailhead then drove up a tricky and steep dirt road to the hut.

Uncle Bud's Hut

Uncle Bud’s Hut

The 10th Mountain huts are a series of huts on federal land that are open to the public.  Our hut, Uncle Bud’s, situated at the top of a meadow, provides about a 180 degree view which is dominated by Mount Massive to the south.  Inside, there’s a kitchen, dining area, woodstove, lots of seating, and sleeping for around 20 upstairs.  To the side of the cabin are the outhouses, with windows.  That’s right.  Even the bathrooms have a great view.

Mount Massive

Mount Massive

Saturday was spent waiting for the rest of the group to arrive, getting to know the volunteers and participants, exploring the cabin and immediate area, and, most of all, enjoying the views, the sun, the fresh air.  The volunteers cooked dinner – pasta with chicken and vegetables, a couple of different salads, and, of course, cake to finish.  We spent the evening around a campfire outside.

Ready for the hike

Ready for the hike

On Sunday, I woke up feeling good and ready to hike.  After breakfast, we strapped on our packs and headed up the mountain.  It was slow going for me; both the thin air and my previous breathing issues made it necessary for me to stop every hundred feet or so.  But we made it to our goal of the treeline, and spent a while just enjoying the views.  During the hike, we got some rain – a pleasure for me, since California has been so dry.  Plus, I got to pull out my wet weather gear for a change!   That evening, we held a guided meditation under the stars and nearly full moon.  We followed this up with time spent talking, enjoying the moonlit vistas, and drinking hot tea.

On the trail

On the trail

While the setting was fantastic, what made this retreat truly special were the volunteers.  Their attentiveness and anticipation of our needs was extraordinary.  I felt completely pampered – quite a feat in a cabin with pit toilets and no running water!  The volunteers cooked delicious and healthy meals, plied us with water, tea, coffee, and gave us all emotional support during our hikes.

I can’t say that this retreat changed my life, but it did give me a few days of peace, pampering, and relaxation.  being up in the mountains forced us all to turn of civilization for a while.  to look at the horizon instead of our hand held devices.  To interact with nature and each other.

I plan to go again next year!

 

Live by Living provides transformative outdoor experiences for cancer survivors and their caregivers.  They offer several retreats in the Rockies each summer, as well as day hikes in the Denver area year round.  You can donate to Live by Living on their website.

Donner Lake

I haven’t had enough sleep. I spent many hours battling traffic after leaving hours later than I wanted to leave. My family was grumpy for most of the drive.

But here we are. I’m sitting on the cabin porch, under pine trees, listening to the birds (jays? Not sure, I can’t see them) go wild.

It wasn’t a day of sadness, but maybe because I was too focused on driving and the slow cars in front of me to think about anything else. I’ve often been accused of living too much inside my head. That’s probably true, and probably not a trait that will help me much from here on out.

At least this long weekend won’t give me much of a chance for that. We’ve got a lake to play in, paddle boards to paddle, boats to rent. And dad, sisters, cousins to hang with. I think there might even be some trails to hike.

Scratch that. There are DEFINITELY trails to hike. I saw signs for a Pacific Crest Trailhead not far from here. I might have to get all Cheryl Strayed on my family, even if it’s just a quick half mile up and back. Good thing I brought my hiking shoes.

It’s also nice to go on vacation knowing I have a counseling session set up for when I get back. I have to give huge props to the Cancer Support Community and their quick turn around on my request. I hope that having a session all to myself will result in a little clarity and a few more tools for dealing with all that’s going through my head.

But first, some breathing. And then some dinner.

New Mexico!

I am back from an almost perfect trip to New Mexico.  My mother and I shopped for jewelry and art in Santa Fe, soaked in the pools at Ojo Caliente, explored the pueblo in Taos, and enjoyed a variety of delicious meals and sights along the way.

Santa Fe’s sights were almost overwhelming.  But it was a pleasure to chat with native artists at the Portal, and lunch with my friend, Ann, at La Fonda hotel’s La Plazuela was a delight.

Fence Post, Posi

Fence Post near the Posi Ruins, Ojo Caliente, NM.

When we reached Ojo Caliente, I was finally able to hike!  I spent part of our first morning heading up to the Posi Ruins, where there were old pot shards a plenty, along with amazing views of the Sangre de Christo mountains.

Sunset at Ojo Caliente

Sunset at Ojo Caliente

The sunsets were also fabulous, as were the dips in the various pools – iron pool, arsenic pool, soda pool.

Taos Pueblo

Taos Pueblo

We drove up to Taos and enjoyed shopping and the galleries in the downtown area.  We spent a morning at the Pueblo, eating fry bread, talking to the locals, and enjoying the sites.  (I know!  Fry bread.  But it was so good.)

During the trip, my mom and I got a chance to hang out on our own, which we rarely get, and never for so long.  We had some good talks, both among ourselves and with others, with topics often centered on cancer (of course), but also ranging to other areas.

Layover in LA

We were all geared up to have to sprint to the next gate when we landed in LA, but upon our arrival, we found that our flight was delayed by an hour and a half. I figure this is the perfect excuse to do two things – update the blog and meditate a little while.
I want to find some deep parallel between a delayed flight and having cancer, but besides the fact that they’re both a pain in the ass, I can’t find one. If I really stretch it, I can point to blog writing and meditation and say that both the flight delay and the cancer diagnosis can make you stop, slow down, and take care of things.
Or maybe it is just the thin airport air that is making me play arm chair philosopher.
Time to go meditate for a few.