Tag Archives: hiking

Nothing beats the love and support of a good partner.

It is Sunday, September 30th and I am writing this at Governor Dodge State Park campsite 349 in our dark green 1999 Dodge Ram conversion van. I backed up the van to the electrical hookup just like a huge RV instead of this little van and pushed the cord to my lap top out the little pop out window. The back bench seat folds down to create a bed big enough for Mike and I to lay side by side. I am lying here on top of the sleeping bags which are zipped together to create a sleeping bag for two, typing. I am not really comfortable but not uncomfortable either. I’m alone expect for the dogs. One dog, Angie is on the floor by the bed sprawled on her pet bed. Dean-o, the other dog, is up here with me. It was a trip getting here I’ll say that, deciding whether to come here or not. First it was yes, then no, then yes again.

A few days earlier.

The Love and Support of a Good Partner

the support of a good partner“Mike I want to drive up to Governor Dodge and hike. The fall colors are so beautiful. I can leave Sunday. Spend the night and come back Monday. That will give me two days of hiking. What do you think?”

“I think that would be great.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Of course he thinks it would be great. He knows I love to hike. He knows I love Governor Dodge. He knows I am enthralled with the fall colors this year. And most importantly, he wants me to do what gives me joy. We could have come together. We could have left on Saturday and returned on Sunday because he would need to be back for work but since his health issues of arthritis and gout in his big toe he doesn’t enjoy hiking much anymore. Plus he’s not too big on driving even if it is only two hours. So I came up with this big bright idea all on my own for myself.

Saturday night, the night before I was to leave while lying next to Mike who was also reading, I set my book down and looked over at him. I realized I didn’t want to leave him. Yes, I love hiking and Governor Dodge but I don’t like leaving Mike.

“Mike, I’m not going,” I announced out of the blue.

“Why,” he asked turning to me placing his book spread open on his chest.

“Well, this book I’m reading is too scary. It’s about a woman who survives this rapist murderer and she helps get him sent to prison. He is getting out of prison and now he is going to be after her. It’s going to be one of those on-the-edge books where she is on step away from danger. I’m sure she will come out OK but the book is just too dark for me. And it’s scaring me now. Anyway, I don’t want to leave you.”

“You’re an independent woman. You can do this.” Mike picked up right away that the book wasn’t the real reason.

“Maybe, but it’s my choice not to leave you. So, you don’t have to think I’m not going because you are making me.”

“OK,” he said knowing full well it is of little use to argue with me.

With that I toss my book on the floor vowing silently to myself not to finish it and turn off my bedside light.

The next morning at around nine o’clock all of a sudden going to Governor Dodge didn’t seem like a bad idea. The sun was up and the scary thoughts and the sadness about leaving Mike have vanished with the night. After all I have to walk the dogs anyway and the fall colors are not going to be around much longer. All we need is one strong wind storm and they will all be knocked to the ground. What the heck I should go.

“Mike, I think. I’m going to go after all.”

“OK.” and with that he immediately sets out to get things ready for me. He remembered I wanted to take my hiking boots which were out in the shed. He got those and put them in the van. He got together the sleeping bags, a folding chair, flashlights, lighters and fire starters so I could start a fire. The day before when he thought it was a go, he went to the store and bought me some red grapes, pineapple, bananas and strawberries. Now that it’s on again he cut up the pineapple and strawberries, put them in containers along with the grapes and set them in the cooler he dragged out. He packed in some bottles of water.

“Do you want your salsa and chips,” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said not giving them a thought till he mentioned it.

“What about a Coke.” I looked at him quizzically wondering, should I?. I don’t drink soda at all but once a week we have a Coca Cola in little glass bottles made in Mexico with sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. They are more expensive than regular Coke but worth it.

“Go ahead. Treat yourself.” I grinned.

“OK.”

I gathered together some clothes and put them in a backpack. I packed up my laptop and some books. Mike got the dogs food, their bowls and leashes. He put all this in the van. We were rushing around in a flurry to get me on my way. Within the hour I was draped over him in an embracing hug saying good-bye.

“I don’t like leaving you,” I said into his neck.

“You’ll be fine. You’ll be hiking,” he said squeezing me tighter.

As long as I thought I was just going for a hike it felt OK, but camping over night. I don’t know. We broke apart and looked each other in the eye.

“I could always come back after I hike,” I said with a sheepish grin. “Not even stay over night.”

“Just let me know so I can get my girlfriends out of the house,” he said. I punched him in the arm. “No, really, Janice, you’ll have a good time.”

“Well, you know I’ll be calling you.” I said as I got into the van.

So, I drove two hours to go hiking feeling apprehensive, selfish, guilty, silly. Many people do this kind of thing, I thought. They drive hours somewhere to do something they love to do. I don’t know why I should feel like I’m doing something so weird and crazy, so wrong.

About halfway there I smiled to myself thinking about the last-minute running around we both did just so I could go for a little trip out hiking in nature. How blessed I am. I am with a man who goes out of his way to help me get what I want out of life. I feel a fullness in my chest that spreads upward causing my scalp to tingle realizing what Mike did to help me get on my way. This is what a marriage, a partnership, is all about, isn’t it? Being a support, a catalyst for the other to ‘go for it’. Our marriage has had its ups but it is times like this that I understand how truly blessed I am. Nothing beats the love support of a good partner which colors my world as brightly as the fall colors.  My partner, my husband meets the seven qualities of an ideal partner that I found on Psychalive.    I just hope I do the same for him.  I hope I am an ideal partner for him.

And so I hiked for two days, four hours a day. I snapped pictures every step of the way. And, as it turned out, I had cell phone coverage even on the trails and called Mike often sharing little adventures with him. The first thing I did, after hugging Mike, was sit down and show him my pictures. I don’t know if they captured the beauty of what I was seeing. Being there and seeing the colors, inhaling the fall aroma and listening to the birds can’t be totally captured. I put a little slide show together adding some word values to a few of the pictures. Values that being on my hike, admiring the colors and having the support of Mike inspired. It took me quite awhile to put it together which is the reason for the lateness of the post. I hope you enjoy what I put together.

More thoughts on Collecting Experiences

Rising up to collecting experiences

Rising up to the experience

When thinking about my last post on “Collecting Experiences” a paradox came to mind. Sometimes I find myself wishing I could collect certain experiences that only having some things, or living a certain life, would allow. This wishing leaves me with a sense of longing. I had such a feeling the other day when I was at Kopp’s Frozen Custard, a local restaurant which describes itself as being a landmark in the metro Milwaukee area, to pick up some butter pecan custard. For my husband and I, Kopps is “the” place for butter pecan. We get a schedule of the flavor forecast Kopp’s prints up and mark all the butter pecan days so as not to miss a one of them.

That is why I made a trek out to the Kopp’s on Bluemond road in Brookfield, it was butter pecan day. I was at Kopps waiting for my custard when I looked out the window and noticed two Jeep Wrangler’s pull into the parking lot. Two middle-aged couples climbed out and stood by their vehicles talking. I had an image of people with money who buy brand name clothes and are spending their Monday four-wheeling it around in their Jeep Wrangler dune buggy type cars. I imagined a life of sail boats and yachts, horses and traveling, friends and catered affair gatherings. All this in a flash. A sort of feeling flash.

“Hey, wait,” I thought. “What about collecting experiences?” I am sure this is my spirit guided self. Always looking for the silver lining, always pulling me back from the edge, always being the voice of acceptance and love gently reminding me of the power of consciousness

“Yeah, well, what about collecting experiences that only having those things can give,” I retorted. I’m sure that is my ego self. The self that wants what it wants and wants it now, thank you very much.

Truth is I could sit and feel this longing all day and into night and it won’t change a darn thing except bring me more longing. I had to shake those things out of my head with a little nudge from my higher self and deliberately focus on what I personally experience in any given moment. The kind of experiences that I can only have with my life the way it is.

“And just what would those be,” I felt myself stiffen in response, sure that my experiences could not be as great as those that only having money could offer. Right off the top of my head, at that moment, when I was on the spot, I couldn’t think of much but I made a conscious decision to become aware of when I am experiencing things that bring life to me.

The next day while I was walking the dogs, I basked in the sun drenched cool autumn day with temps in the mid 60’s. A mild fragrant breeze rustled the leaves on the trees. Some leaves broke loose sending yellow leaves  gently wafting downward around me. I reached up as one drifted passed and caught it. I was feeling exuberant joy, light and happy while walking in this tranquil scene, I realized that how living with a man who loves me and has been with me for more than 33 years brings me great joy and delight and soothes my soul, that my kids and their families enrich my life more than I even realize sometimes and my pets are a great comfort and help me get outside and keep me on track with my exercise. I have a friend or two who I can talk things over with and get me set back on track, a brother whose relationship has healed and matured. I realized that I am blessed with living in a place where a beautiful county park with miles of hiking trails and a small lake is just about a mile from our house. All I have to do is walk out the door, walk 15 minutes and I am there. I can go there every single day and bask in nature if I so choose. Cranes live there and a red-tailed hawk, deer rabbits, squirrels. I’ve even seen a blue bird which caused me to exclaim out loud, “Oh, look, a blue bird”. There are horse trails that are used by many people who own horses. Even though I can’t own a horse or live on a cool ranch surrounded by horses I get to look in their big beautiful deep brown eyes  as we pass each other on the trail.

Collecting Experiences

All of these things are where my experiences come from. No money is involved. No expensive equipment. I am grateful for these experiences. It’s just sometimes I forget. I go unconscious and move from day-to-day taking care of my daily tasks. And sometimes, like the day I bought the custard, I will think that some people “have” more. From there I determine these people have better, more interesting, more exciting experiences. I stop short of thinking about those who are less fortunate than I. For one, who am I to judge those as less fortunate. Likewise who am I to judge those as more fortunate. However I don’t seem to have much of a problem comparing myself to those who have things, money, or whatever else I haven’t a clue about because that is not me.

My experiences and how my life contributes to the kinds of experiences I have may seem simple and understated but when I am experiencing them I feel a profound sense of joy, peace and aliveness. That is, when I am consciously allowing myself to be present and grateful. But I guess that’s the trick. To be conscious. To be grateful. To not dwell on that which I can’t change or that which I don’t have. I have my higher spirit self to thank for bringing me back, for reminding where I need to put my thoughts and energy. Let’s face it. There is always plenty out there for me to think that my life lacks. It’s up to me. It’s my choice.  I can choose life and feeling joy, or like something is missing and feeling longing or even resentment.   For now I am choosing to look for my blessings, collect experiences that only my life can give me and I think I am choosing wisely.  What do you think?

Related links:

Fabulous 50’s. A great photo blog by a fiftyish baby boomer who’s sub title says ‘Collect experiences…not things’.
Collect Experiences Not Things.  A thoughtful post titled like mine with like minded thoughts posted on Gifts of Serendipity.
Collect Experiences Not Things. Another great blog post by Corey Barton in his blog Healthy Living: Stories about how I took my life from negative to positive.

Collect Experiences

How was your summer? Was it a long hot one? In Wisconsin it was definitely a long hot summer. This summer I turned 62 and I grappled with that birthday. It’s hard to believe I’m 62 and yet I am well aware that I have been around for 62 years. It’s been a wild ride these 62 years. Lots of experiences. Some good. Some not so good. Some really fantastic and some down right awful. It is these experiences that I think is the stuff of life. I even came up with a little “saying” for lack of a better word to help remind me about what is important.  The living of life not acquiring things.  The saying  goes like this:

Collect Experiences Not Things.

Actually when I did a Google search on that saying I discovered that it was not an original idea at all.  Such is life.  Anyway, I believe that it is experiences that can never be taken away. Unless of course the great cosmic design has Alzheimer or some other brain/memory disorder written in the cards. But for now, while I am still vibrant, I am on a quest to collect experiences.

Demonstrating what a monkey does while at the zoo.

Right now at this point in my life I am collecting many experiences taking care of our little 2-year-old grandson, in addition to experiences with other members of our family  With Gavin, however, I am with him at least 34 hours a week which allows for a lot of experience collecting.  He is one darling little boy who is showing me what it means to meet life with exuberance and joy. He teaches me about trust and openness.

Our house is full but not just with our grandson. We also have Angie and Susie our dog and cat. However, I got a wild notion one day that I would like to have another dog. Seems I thought there was room for one more, like our house need more life.
I mentioned to my husband Mike my thought about another dog and he said, “yeah, sure” but he didn’t know I was seriously considering it, like right this very minute. Once he said, “sounds good” I immediately looked at a couple of humane society web sites. I had a specific idea of what I was looking for. I wanted a dog smaller than Angie, our chocolate lab/pit bull/Rhodesian ridge-back etc mix. Although Angie’s hair is short she sure can shed. I wanted a dog that didn’t shed. So smaller, less hair.

I found many dogs like that on the web sites but they were mostly males which I never wanted because of an experience I had when I was around 12 with a girlfriends male dog going at it on my leg. It was a mortifying experience and so I stayed away from male dogs. In addition, the humane societies were asking hundreds of dollars to adopt a pet. I wanted a dog but I didn’t want to shell out that kind of money. So, I said to the universe that I would be open and wait and see what comes my way. Angie came into our lives as a stray running loose in the small town we lived in at the time. That was six years ago. I thought maybe another dog would come into my life in a similar fashion. I didn’t have to wait long.

On July 22 days before my 62 birthday, Dean-o, a little Italian Greyhound/Whippet mix showed up. It’s kind of an interesting story. I’ll save that for another time. Right now I am talking about experiences and how they are the stuff of life. And so…

I realized that it is through experiences that I feel truly alive. Well, that and being foolish a sentiment I articulated in the quote below and wrote about in my post Foolishness means Aliveness:

To Be Foolish Means To Truly Be Alive.

What I mean by surrendering to what I perceive is my foolishness  is that I am able to fully engage in an experience. On the big plus side if you spend my life collecting experiences I won’t need a big house or storage facility to store them. And many experience are basically free.

Okay, so there I was back in July turning 62 and adopting a new dog which brought me a whole set of experiences in itself, yet feeling how can I get more out of life? How can I get more out of life on a limited budget? Suddenly an idea just showed up for me to find, just like little Dean-o, the Italian Greyhound/Whippet mix, which I can’t wait to tell you about in a later post.

Hiking the Ice Age TrailI took Angie, our resident dog and Dean-o, the new little guy, to Kettle Moraine State Forest for a hike. It seems Dean-o needs plenty of time and space to run.  On this day, in late July, the dogs and I went to hike the trails of the Southern unit of Kettle Moraine. I wrote about these trails in January in my post Peacefully Coexist. In this forest there is the red trail and the blue trail and the green trail.

The Wisconsin Ice Age TrailBut there is also the yellow trail which is the Ice Age Trail. It’s more rugged and less traveled than the regular hiking trails because it was built and is maintained entirely by volunteers. Because there were others out on the trails that day I veered off the regular hiking trails and took the ice age trail.

Hiking rocky rugged ice age trail

The rocky, rugged Ice Age Trail

It was a great hike that day. I totally enjoyed nature and the solitude. I fell in love with the ice age trail. I was hooked. I wanted more. Seemed to me I remembered seeing on the internet that the ice age alliance published maps the trail. Before I left that day I stopped in at the ranger station and purchased a loose leaf binder with all the maps of the 1000 mile trail winding through Wisconsin. My goal, to eventually walk the whole thing albeit in increments. That is what I have been doing once a week since July 30.  So far I hiked 52 miles of the trail. I feel pretty good about it.

Yet… I have felt foolish. Foolish because I was doing it by myself, cept the dogs of course, with myself and for myself. This to me feels like utter selfishness and foolishness.   However, while I am hiking, I allow myself to surrender to the experience. I bring snacks and water and a camera. I feel so totally peaceful and serene out there on the trail. However, if I gave into my feeling being foolish I probably would have abandoned the whole thing. I haven’t done that. Instead I surrendered to foolishness; I’m collecting my experiences and feel truly alive.

So here is my crone wisdom pearl: collect experiences and share them with others. Whether they be joyful or not. It is the experiences that make up who we are. Our individual experiences are our story. Sharing your experiences/ story with others can not help but breed compassion, understanding and a sense of belonging. What do you think?

Links for the Ice Age Trail:
Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age National Scenic Trail Wisconsin
Ice Age Trail – Wikipedia

Peacefully Coexist

Running through the pine trails of the forest

My start to the new year was not something to be desired.  I woke up New Year’s day with the flu.  I stayed in bed all day and watched the snow falling gently outside my window.  I love walking when the snow slowly drifts down.  But not that day.  That day I tossed and turned and moaned.  But the day before, on New Year’s Eve, now that was a different day altogether.

Mike had gotten the flu the day before and was still recovering so Angie and I decided to go for a walk.  More like a hike, actually.  I choose Kettle Moraine State Park Southern Unit.

The temperature was in the upper twenties.  Nice and cool with the sun peeking out behind forming cirrus clouds.  A light dusting of snow covered the trails.  Frost coated the trees bare branches glistening in the sunlight.  As the day wore on the frost turned to gleaming water droplets.  Wet tree trunks stood out from the backdrop of the frosty branches sporting patches of mossy green.  Some oak trees held fast to last fall’s colors leaving bright patches of burnt orange.  Angie and I hiked almost five miles climbing and descending the glacial hills.  It was a most glorious time.  With one possible exception.

I was not the only one with this idea.  I never saw the parking lot so full.

“Look at all these cars,” I said to Angie.

Angie sitting in the car seat next to me like the little human she thinks she is, turned to look at me with her round yellow/brown eyes.

“Yeah, sure.  Let’s just get going,” she seemed to say.

I smiled and patted her chest.  When we got out of the car that’s when I heard it.  Gunshot.  It was hunting season.  I hadn’t even given that a thought.  I am not a hunting fan.  In fact, I don’t like it at all.   Were all these cars for hunters, I wondered.  I let Angie out and hooked her up to her leash as gunshots fired all around us.  Another car pulled in and I watched as two men got out and walked towards the trails.  They were runners.

“They’re not even wearing hunting colors,” I said.  “What do you think Angie?  Is it ok to hike or will we be shot.”

We started on the trail and a lone runner was headed in my direction.

“Hey, did you see any hunters?” I asked as he trotted past me.

“Just a few over towards the far end.” He said jogging backwards.

“Thanks,” I called after him.  I made the decision to go for it even though I didn’t bring our orange vests.  Angie had her pink coat on and I had a red hat.  That should be ok.  Shouldn’t it?  We would just stick to the trails.  I noticed most of the hikers and runners were not wearing blaze orange either.

And so we hiked.  I took pictures up the ying yang marveling at the beauty around me.  At last, I ran into a group of five hunters all wearing orange from head to toe sporting huge rifles.  We greeted each other as we passed.

I couldn’t get over how their orange clothing stood out in the forest.  If I didn’t think about what it was they were there for, it was almost part of the beauty.  The next hunter I saw I decided to take his picture and I did just that.

“Got your picture.” I said to the hunter standing in the path ahead. “Want to see?”

“I’m very photogenic,” he replied smiling.

“Well, I didn’t actually take a picture of your face.  See, your looking off into the distance.  You really stand out.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said as he looked at the screen on my camera.  Just then there was gunshot close by.  I jumped and said, “Oh my”.  We looked at each other briefly.

“Well, Goodbye,” I said shrugging still not acknowledging his gun or hunting at all.  I got a few steps away when I heard a walky talky crackle.  I turned around.

“Two hikers coming your way” came a voice.”

“Thanks,” said the hunter into what looked like a cell phone.  “We keep track of hikers,” he said to me.  I grinned and gave him a big enthusiastic thumbs up.

Even though I don’t like hunting, when I encountered hunters on my hike I didn’t give them my opinion or tell them they should leave Bambi’s mom alone.  I respected their right to participate in the activity of their choice. I don’t have all the answers.  And I am certain that I would not make a convert out of any of those hunters anyway.  They in turn respected me.  No one talked with me about hunting and they took care when hikers were around.  And I saw that the hunters were not angry because hikers were all over their “hunting ground”.  I think this is a fine example of peaceful coexisting.

My Confession

I can’t let another minute go by without fessing up.  It’s about the vision quest.  I wasn’t alone that night I stayed up all night.  Angie, my dog, was with me.  I didn’t plan it that way.  Truly, I didn’t.  It just sort of happened.  Let me tell you how.

For much of my time alone when I wasn’t keeping my self busy gathering stones, preparing my circle or hiking I was feeling miserable about being away from Mike and even Angie.  My Sunday evening was miserable.  I cried and cried calling out Mike’s name.  As darkness fell and I crawled into my sleeping bag sobbing, I prayed asking for help.  Then it was like a light switch went on and this wonderful idea came to me.  Who says I have to stay away from Mike.  Tomorrow, I could hike to the campsite and see him.  It’s only about five miles.  I could go the first thing in the morning and be there by noon.  Once I decided that, I smiled and fell asleep.

First thing that morning, I grabbed a jug of water and my camera and off I went.  As I walked I took pictures.  The morning seemed so beautiful.  I was going to see Mike.  I remember in the Quest book Linn mentioned different Vision Quests.  One was the pilgrimage.  In spite of being exhausted from little to no food and hiking up and down the hills for the last few days my step was light.  I was on a pilgrimage, a pilgrimage to see Mike.

I forgot my map and took a wrong turn on the trails.  I ended up taking the long way.   I thought I would never make it.  I was dead tired.  Each hill I hoped would be that last.   As I trudged closer to the campsite, I hoped with all my might that Mike would be there.  I know he likes to fish in the morning but even if he did he should be back by noon right?.  He might even be cooking up something on the grill.  I thought I could smell the brats cooking on an open fire.  Yes, I said to myself.  If he is cooking something, I will eat it.

I strolled up to the campsite quietly hoping to surprise him.  Angie saw me first.  She didn’t recognize me and gave a low growl.

“What’s wrong with you,” Mike said looking up.   “Well,”  he added, a smile brightening his face.  “Look whose here.”  I just walked into his arms.  He held me for as long as I wanted.  It was sweet delight.  That’s all I can say.

I did eat and enjoyed being with him.  It was only about an hour but it was the one fantastic hour.  I allowed him to drive me back to the backpack sites.  Once there, he and Angie walked with me the mile or so hike up to my site, which was mostly up hill.  We stood in the middle of my site hugging before he turned to go.

“Come on, Angie,” he said looking down at her.

“Maybe Angie would like to stay,” I said meeting his eye as he looked back at me.

“Sure, I think she would like that.  She has been looking for you every time we walked pass a camp site.”

“Really!” I smiled looking down at Angie.   “You sure you don’t mind?”  I glanced again at Mike.

“No, it would be nice not to have to walk her.”

And so Angie stayed.  I can’t tell you how I appreciated her company.  We hiked, even though I was dead tired.  I took pictures of her and I using my little tripod.  And while I was in my circle, she just sat there as if doing vigil.  I didn’t mention Angie in my posts but now I’m telling you she was there.  And that is my confession.

I just finished putting the pictures for this trip on Flickr.  Stop by and check it out.