Sunday, February 15, 2015

Will you be me Valentine's Mother Nature?

Pure bliss: Kokopelli Trails. Fruita, CO.
Growing up an only child, I was bred to be fiercely independent, stubborn, curious and reflective. I would embark on daily adventures with my partner in crime, Mother Nature. She was the best adventure buddy because she taught me infinite lessons about my sense of self, beauty, humility and compassion. She never judged, she would just give me a little nudge and exclaim “Hey…let’s go explore!”  Fast forward to where I am swiftly approaching 30 and guess what? Nature is still in vogue. She has yet to go out of style. She still inspires and challenges me every day.

This Valentine’s weekend (ahem…and President’s Day), I decided to pack up the truck, load up my bikes and set out to the desert of Colorado. I tentatively planned to mountain bike in Fruita, road bike the Colorado Monument and sleep in my truck. That’s pretty much all that was on the agenda.

Well, here is what I managed to pack in, in 2 1/2 days:

The Colorado River. Kokopelli Trails. Fruita, CO.
I bathed in the frigid Colorado River where afterwards, I struggled to locate my manhood; I mountain biked some of the best desert single track I have ever ridden; I unleashed my inner rapper, Jamaican and 70s iconic rocker jamming to everything from Tupac to Bob to Zeppelin; I slept under the brilliant night sky pondering my place in this universe; I pedaled my road bike past big horn sheep and through dazzling sandstone red rock slot canyons eagerly curious what every switchback would unfurl; I trampled around climbing in snow and ice with my trusty hobbit feet and Chacos; I stumbled across fresh mountain lion tracks at night and felt that adrenaline and heightened sense of reality (might have slightly peed my pants); I drank delicious beers with new found friends on the side of the river listening to the crackling fire and strumming guitars; I sampled wine in Colorado’s Napa Valley (Palisade); I laughed until my belly hurt; I took in the splendid rainbow of colors of sunrise and sunset; I simultaneously smiled and cried as I picked out cacti from my legs; I incessantly wiggled around trying to find a marginally comfortable position sleeping in my truck; I did my best slip-n-slide up the icy slopes to a stunning travertine lake…and most importantly I rekindled my love for traveling solo and my innate curiosity for exploring.
Rim Rock Road. Colorado National Monument,
Don’t get me wrong, I love good company and thrive meeting new and interesting faces across the globe, but I undeniably and stubbornly relish just being on my own with my trusty lifelong love, Mother Nature.  It’s calming, it‘s spiritual, it’s disconnecting yet fully connected, its’ being present, it’s humbling, it’s reflective, it’s authentic, it’s honest,  it’s motivational, it’s challenging, it’s selfish yet selfless; it’s innocent, it’s well…just glorious!  There aren't enough superlatives. Traveling alone is really chicken noodle soup for the soul (or lentil for us vegetarians).

Sunset from truck mirror. Feeling rejuvenated!
I have led many trips, and many of you who read this will hopefully be one of those that I was lucky enough to cross paths with somewhere across this beautiful planet.  I am sure many of you grew tired of my rhetoric and constant nagging of me constantly reminding how important it is to take time daily for yourself and your thoughts. Well…I am at it again! Whether you live in Manhatten, rural Kansas or Timbuktu (alright that might be a bit cliche) about Yakutsk, Russia, there is beauty to be found and somewhere to escape to get your daily dose of Vitamin N.  Go find your happy place. Go make the familiar unfamiliar. Go adventure in whatever shape or form and trying doing it alone. Trust me, you and your thoughts will get quite creative when hanging out together. It’s like sharing secrets with yourself.

Bighorn Sheep on road bike ride. Colorado Monument.
One of my favorite quotes comes from the late Jim Valvano. He gave a speech at the ESPY’s as he was crippled and weakened by cancer which ended up killing him shortly after.  He poignantly exclaimed, “To me there are three things everyone should do every day. Number one is laugh. Number two is think -- spend some time… time in thought. Number three, you should have your emotions move you to tears. If you laugh, think and cry, that's a heck of a day.  You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special.” I was almost 7 years old when I heard this. It has stuck with me, and it is a tried and true method to happiness, compassion and sense of self.  When you do go out and take your solo day in nature…yes you WILL do it!! Try to do these three things. I bet you they will come naturally because you are more vulnerable and in touch with your feelings. 

Mother Nature, thank you for being the best Valentine’s date a grown boy could ever ask for!

Hanging Lake. Glenwood Springs, CO.
I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts and any additional insight into alone time or being connected with nature.  Please do share!

Oh, and for all the people that got out into nature with their Valentine’s date, that’s cool too! I hope you shared intimate moments and were reminded to enjoy the simple pleasures in life!

I will leave you with a couple quotes from the masters that really resonate with this theme:

“Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, and as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” –Edward Abbey

Last bit of light illuminates peaks outside Eagle, Colorado.
“I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude." –Henry David Thereau

“If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company.”-Jean-Paul Sartre