About Me

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Somewhere in the Mojave Desert, California, United States
Gazing into this abyss called Life and wondering.....what's next !?!!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Making heart space...

Leisurely summer days. For me, it means catching up on things left undone from a hectic work period. Purging. Cleaning. Sorting. Interspersed with reading, fiddling with camera gear, day trips, and meandering up roads forgotten in the cooler parts of the day. Sprinkle in visits over long breakfasts, lunches, and dinners with friends. Carve out working in the studio time with occasional afternoon naps - a necessary and rare treat. Creating heart space.

Today, I stumbled upon some photos from a hiking group I began several years ago. I got tired of hiking alone. Not many of my friends enjoyed daylong treks in the canyons and arroyos of this beautiful place I get to call home. So, I decided to see who I could find to join me via an online social group called Meetup. At that time, I was very active with the education segment of Joshua Tree National Park Association - the Desert Institute. I had the training to take groups of people out on field classes - safety being paramount. I knew a lot of great trails and was eager to share them with hopes of discovering some new ones. I also wanted to venture out a little farther and longer when it's not a good idea to do so alone. And then there is the simple sharing of these inspiring, head clearing, soul soaring natural places with kindred spirits. I was seeking friendship.

In November of 2009, the Hi Desert Trekkers was born. 

This was our maiden hike...the Warren Peak Trail from Black Rock Visitor Center - one of 4 official entries into the park.





















Over the course of nearly 3 years, the group grew to over 200 people coming in and out, staying steady at around 125 members. I'd say well over half never made it to a hike. It drew in many local folks as well. Some people breezed in for a bit from far away places - solo travelers just wanting a bit of local company as they enjoyed the peaks of our area. 

My vision of what I originally intended for this venture quickly evolved into something quite different. During this time, there were several people who had rarely hiked and felt safer to try this out in a group. Since then, they have become avid hikers. There were folks who joined us recovering from illnesses, cancers, personal trauma..... It would be the first time some of them ever completed a hike of 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 miles. A few, the first hike ever. They were slow. They got winded. They complained it hurt. They trekked on - and finished with smiles from the heart. No doubt the high from the accomplishment carried on for weeks afterwards. It does for me.










There was one morning short hike where a fellow from Canada signed up. We waited for him until a few minutes past the hike start time and as we were just ready to head to the trailhead, he comes flying in on mad wheels. Having driven all night - escaping the summer Olympics crowds of his city - he got his 'driving willies out' with a 3 mile hike with us before heading to a quiet condo in the lower desert. Funny, interesting man. Never saw him again.


<-------   A couple of the many lovely people who joined us on only one adventure.....












Another woman was visiting family in the LA area and extended her vacation to explore Joshua Tree National Park. She signed up for a few weekend hikes with us during her stay. Lovely person. I still remain in touch with her even though she hasn't come out this way since. I gained a friend and someone to visit on the east coast.

Most of our hikes ended with a signature shared meal. Either we'd all bring in something to share at some wild open spot or head to a local eatery. Lots of laughter and stories and sharing of lives. I invited them into my home; introduced them to my family; piled them into my car as we caravanned to the trailheads. It began to feel like family.




I wish I could post more shots of the incredibly beautiful trails we trekked upon but, alas, those files are gone with the stolen laptop episode earlier this year. As it goes when more and more people get involved, the different personalities and agendas change the atmosphere. What once was something I looked forward to nearly every weekend (I originally promised one hike a month - weekends only as I work Monday-Friday), began to feel like breaking up schoolyard tattle talers....   Some of the hikers started snipping and complaining about how slow the pace was; how meat eaters were inferior to vegans; personal banter and life sharing became digs on life choices. Comments would be made to me regarding why I would allow certain people to come when they "clearly were out of shape to keep up...."  The attitude was felt all the way down the line. Tight faces and scowls would greet the last of us getting back to the trailhead when they have been waiting for minutes for us (never hours mind you....).  Occasionally, a hike would end an hour or 2 later than I originally quoted due to a member not being able to keep the pace. I'd hear about that one - all over town. A few members preferred a break neck speed, checking their GPSs to see how fast we were going - taking pride they finished first and sending snarky remarks back to the "tortoises".  Did they even see anything along the trail? I'd wonder...

I didn't realize it, but the group was being unraveled. I lead too slow. I talked about my kids too much. Certain members wanted to be done by a certain time because they had "things to do" so the hikes began to feel rushed. At the hand of 2-3 people, another group was formed - around the time plantar fasciitis and the good ol' sciatic nerve started flaring up followed by the "Big C".  I had to slow down and heal, but did the baby need to be thrown out with the bath water? Into the cholla no less....

Sometimes I run across the old group on Facebook, now renamed - sporting photos of their weekly adventures; "their signature" potluck picnics... And when I do, my throat seizes up. The tears well over and spill down my cheeks. I feel a sharp pain in the pit of my stomach. You see, I'm never included. I hike too slow. I talk about my kids too much. I'm out of shape after my brief bout of health 'adjustments'.  I just don't 'fit their style' is the gossip on the streets....

A year and a half later, I'm finally back up and hiking again. Back where I began. When I'm not hiking the national park, I do have an eager friend to share the joy with on my neighborhood trails. My companion doesn't think I hike too slow. He loves my kids, too, and quietly allows me to vent about work stuff and family stuff and just stuff. He never mentions the weight that came on during my brief 'health adjustment period'.  He doesn't mind when I stop to gawk and marvel and catch my breath. 

He is always grateful any time we hit the trails.........



Still, with the heartache of the unraveling lingering even now - I am grateful to those who shared the trails with me; who trusted me with their life stories and listened to mine; who made me laugh; who let me cry; and those who relished stopping and gawking and marveling and making a full day out of it as much as I did. 

On the trails again....