storm (a writerly thing)

I don’t usually post my writing on here, but I rather like this and think it’s kind of outdoorsy enough to fit in here. So here you go.

The day had been hot, high 90s, and colorado-summer-dry. The kind of dry that cracks skin to bleeding and the blood just dries right up, a quick rust spot on crackling skin. I woke from my usual afternoon nap confused – already darkening at 5:30? Odd. A glance out my closed window set reality straight: gathering clouds, not a supernatural sunset, were the cause of preemptive evening. I settled in for an unambitious evening of tv, solo. I cracked a corona and slipped my headphones over a toppling bun.

A few episodes later, I became of a low background noise; removing the headphones, I recognized it as thunder, remarkably consistent and still far-off. I checked the window – still dark, no sign of the sky behind the wall. Headphones back on.

Not too much later I found myself standing at the window watching the world rage outside. Rain, precursor to quarter-sized hail, slammed the tin roof over the porch, amplified. I watched trees’ dark silhouettes thrash and flutter, all panic, in the gusts. The lightning was constant, as was the thunder. Serious thunder, too, not pleasant summer rumbles. These were sucker punches to the lower atmosphere, thick and simmering, blasting the air molecules into a sonic boom to tear through the city and crash up against the mountains. Cracks, too, terrible rips in the seams of the sky that translated directly to your own body, vibrating thoroughly. Shakes. I could just picture fiery meteors blasting out of the broiling sky in an end-all apocalyptic storm.

After some time, I stepped out onto the back stoop, warm cement on bare calloused feet. The air was so much heavier than earlier, carrying a warm moistness unfamiliar to the usual desert air. It smelled all of wet ground and slick rocks. It carried the soundwaves of fire engines wooo-ing through the streets. Downed power lines probably, and hopefully no new fires.

The sky, tinged greyish purple from the sunset which must lay somewhere behind it all and the faint straining city lights below, offered 360 degrees of lightning in all forms. Cloud to cloud, cloud to ground, vague bright flashes like bombs and fireworks, sustained scars of heavenly illumination. Long strikes to be sure, longest I’d seen. Still the thunder rolled on, always.

I wondered what terrible menace must be blowing through the mountains thousands of feet above, to have this as the afterthought to the east.
I watched the world beyond the front range flicker and glow like some great forge, the whipping wind its bellows, the rockies its anvil. And who wields the hammer – ?
I felt the wind pick up and the temperature drop and I was glad I was not in the mountains at that particular moment.

 

As a child, I had always been terrified of the inevitable summer storms common to michigan. The sky would darken, the winds would rise and twirl around in all directions, the leaves would show their telltale lighter sides – I’d feel the mercury falling and slam my windows shut to stare fearfully out at the force of nature outside. I feared trees crashing into my bedroom. I saw tornadoes forming in every cloud. I had an emergency backpack ready to go in case we had to evacuate. Yes, those storms shook me to my eight-year-old core.

Then one day, as the air cooled and the clouds began to build and I prepared to rush into the basement, flashlight in hand and stuffed bunny in the crook of my arm, my father led me firmly to the front porch, to the rail, and instructed me to watch the storm. Reluctantly I stayed. The drops began to fall and the first rumbles reached our ears. The clouds grew dark grey and the trees began their demonic twisting dance and the rain began to splatter my toes and legs and arms but I stayed. The clouds weren’t quite so dark from out there, where you could see the whole sky and watch everything build up in its crescendo, and the wind wasn’t so threatening when you felt it on your own skin. The trees exaggerated its intensity. The wind-chime bell on the top rail rang out the storm’s progress and narrated its eventual decrescendo. The rain faded to fat drips and the air was slow and sweet and moist as it heated back up, steam rising from the blacktop driveways as the sun peeked back out and almost always gave us a pale rainbow to the east.

 

There was still lightning, but far less frequent and I hadn’t heard but faint grumblings for some time. The trees were still and their leaves and the roofs were dripping slowly, content. The moths were back out, fluttering around the porch light. The sun had set for sure. I turned and quit the stoop, back in to the air conditioning where it didn’t smell of rain. Show’s over for tonight.

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An actual run happened.

Most of my running lately has been sporadic, in the middle of hikes. Which is a good time to be sure, but I felt that I needed to get out and just run. I found some flattish trails and ran 7 miles. And I felt a bit tired  at the end.

What.

I’m not a fan of this long injury deal. Or this not-being-in-running-shape deal. It’s been years since I’ve felt tired after a non-speedwork 7 miler. And trust me, this was not speedwork. Barely sub-9. I’m not beating myself up about it because (a) I’ve been injured so (b) I haven’t been running, and (c) it’s not like I’m completely out of shape, but still. I can’t wait to finally go get this checked out once I’m back in Michigan.

Also, WESTERN STATES IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW AHHHHHH. #rungeek

Also, a brief thought on healthy eating. It’s so simple and it makes such a huge difference. For some weird reason, probably the stress of being in a weird transitional situation and other things, I’ve been slipping majorly – not even sticking to vegan things. I had straight up vanilla ice cream the other night. The day before was filled with thin mints and chocolate chips. It’d odd because normally, I don’t even really think about or crave those sorts of things any more. But it doesn’t take too long to slip into a kind of downward spiral. Luckily, it’s pretty easy to be motivated to stop and to actually do it, since eating normally (healthy) is delicious and makes you feel so much better. Oh right, that was my other point. Eating poorly – or even not 100 percent healthy – has such a big impact on so many things, for me anyway. My mood got grumpy and pessimistic and generally blah, and I lost motivation and willpower and those sorts of things. But all it takes is one or two days of being back to normal (for me anyway) and then I’m good. For instance, I went out and ran this morning, then came back and made a berry/spinach smoothie slushy deal. A good start to the day helps so much in having a snappy good rest of the day.

Ok, mini-rant over. Going to go make some sort of food now.
peace love and balance!
bec

PS. speaking of balance, I’m doing yoga again.

I’m coming for you…

I hiked 3.5 miles up Barr Trail this morning (and ran back down in less than half the time, that’s always fun!). I was uncertain about when I’d be able to go up because of my shins and now my quad, but when I saw this sign… man, I was feeling it. I had the itch. The only reason I didn’t keep going was insufficient water, and I had someone waiting for me at the bottom. But I knew – I know – I’ll make it up just fine, assorted semi-injuries or no. My goal is sub-5, which is totally doable. Last time I made it up in 4:42, I think, and that was with basically no running on what I can now recognize as extremely runnable trails even if they are at 10,000 feet. That last mile will still probably take an hour, but if I maintain about 3 mph the rest of the way, I should be fine.

Flashback: August of last year. 4:42 ascent.

A few other shots from today’s little jaunt:


The peak peeking at me… I see you! 

Columbine flower.


I love these – mountain bluebells or something?

Also in the works for sometime before I leave CO: a few days on the Colorado Trail, somewhere in segments 10-14, about 60 miles-ish, 3 or 4 days. So pumped.

peace love and MOUNTAINS!
bec

Tofu and sore everything

Last night, I went out for a short evening run and decided off the bat to see how fast I could do a 5k. I just used my phone gps so I’m not sure entirely how accurate it was, but I clocked in around 22:18 without too much difficulty – just the last (uphill) half mile. Short, fast runs/races are just so many levels of different from distance. Definitely fun to push myself and try to go all-out for 20 minutes. My high school PR was around 21:30, and that’s really the last time I can think of that I’d have run a 5k, so I think I can get down there or below fairly quickly

It wasn’t all fun and games, though, since after jogging around a little to cool down, I decided to do some strides – something I usually do after runs, even long ones, just to shake things out and focus on form. But for some reason (maybe it was the speed, or maybe the five hours of yoga I’d done earlier), within three to five seconds of starting, I felt a distinct pulling pain in my left quad. I pulled up short and limped to the porch to assess the damage. It felt like I’d pulled it for sure. I did’t stretch it too much in case it was torn and iced it before bed, which helped with the swelling. This morning (and currently, I’m icing it as we speak – err, I type, you read) it was still tender and stiff so I’m taking today super easy. I did an hour of non-strenuous yoga, skipped some of the more stretchy moves, and then made the following once I’d worked up an appetite.

Balsamic Lemon Tofu with Roasted Veggies (and quinoa/grain of choice)
Makes 2-3 servings (Becca-size). Adapted from here.

For the tofu:
(Oven at 375)
1 pkg firm or extra-firm tofu
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice
Parsley, paprika (~1/2 t), pinch of dill, salt, garlic, and onion powder to taste
Sesame seeds

Cube the tofu and tumble it all together; let sit for a while (longer is better, obviously, but if you’re hungry and impatient like me…) While that’s happening…

Veggies: 2 each zucchini and yellow squash, cube it up, toss with about 2 T olive oil, salt, garlic, rosemary, a pinch of thyme, pinch of oregano,fresh ground black pepper, and sage.

On two separate pans, bake for about 45 minutes total, flipping/stirring occasionally. Make whatever grain you’re having, if any, while it’s all baking. (And you could clean, too… nah). Wait for the things to cool a bit, stir it up, top with finely diced kalamata olives, and eat!

Thoughts for next time: I’d keep the tofu separate, actually, to enjoy the flavor better. While the flavors do mingle nicely, it’d be nice to savor them both. Also, I’d definitely let the tofu marinate for longer, and make sure that each cube is baked on each side. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s nice when they’re all firm and a little crisp on the outside. Lastly, some sauteed mushrooms and onions with thyme would go well with all this, but (a) I didn’t have an onion and (b) I was super hungry.

So there you go. I’m going to spend a while laying in bed, icing my quad and generally feeling like someone beat me with a bag of wet sand. Flipping yourself upsidedown a lot uses a lot of muscles, apparently.

peace love and noms!
bec

Vegan chocolate chippers (aka the best cookies I’ve ever made) (subtitle: Can you believe I only ate three?)

[IMPORTANT EDIT: I made these at 6500 feet; back in MI, they turned out super dense and “functional tasting,” as my dad says. I’ve yet to figure out the exact fix, but in general I think less flour is necessary. I’ll update this again once I get it right… but I’ve made two batches and they’ve both turned out weird. It make take some time.]

I’ve been wanting chocolate chip cookies for a couple days now and since I’d spent the rest of today up til now doing yoga and working out and eating a delicious smoothie, and since it was now the hottest part of the day and I’d just be waiting around to run/hike anyway, I decided that it was Time. I looked around for vegan chocolate chip recipes but none really struck my fancy, so I took a risk and winged it.

And boy, did I soar.

The result of my risk-taking was this.

And this.

(Sorry for the Instagram photos, my D60 is still out of commission… and I just wanted quick pictures so I could eat them already!)

Vegan Chocolate Chippers (uber-delish version)
Makes 12 1-2″ ball cookies.
Preheat the oven to 375. Mix dry, then add the wet stuff. Ball up and stick em on a greased pan. Bake for about 18 minutes; the tops will be a bit soft but not too much, they’ll harden a bit as they cool, and the bottoms will be a bit crunchy. Try not to eat them all at once.

½ cup brown sugar
1 T honey
¾ cup whole wheat (or oat or pastry) flour
½ cup whole oats
about ½ – ¾ cup vanilla soy/almond milk
~2 T coconut oil
~1 T peanut butter (creamy and not the ‘natural’ kind, since that unfortunately doesn’t translate well into baking situations)
large splash of vanilla
coarse sea salt to taste (mixed in and sprinkled on top for a nice sweet/salty taste)
vegan dark chocolate chips (many as you like)(I used about 1/2 a cup in these, I think… possibly more. I just dumped in the rest of the bag.)

Approximate nutrition, in case you were wondering (per cookie):
150 cal, 7g fat, 2g protein, 14g sugar, 21 carbs, 2g fiber
Overall rating: Not Deadly, But Don’t Eat Them All

peace love and noms!
bec

PS. My lunch smoothie: 1 banana, some frozen berries, 2 giant handfuls of spinach, chia, flaxseed, and water.

Lunch! Banana, buncha spinach, a few berries, flax and chia, water. Sooo good.

The Grand Adventure (May 11 – June 2)

I’m back! After a month of various traveling – first down to Texas for my boyfriend’s graduation from Air Force basic training, then up to Colorado, then out for three weeks in Utah and California – I’m finally back in Colorado Springs, where I’ll be spending some if not all of the rest of the summer.

While my shin/stress fracture was sadly still acting up, the trip was still a great success. We came, we saw, we climbed. And we napped. There was a lot of High-Quality Hot Desert Afternoon Napping. And we ate probably more than our weight in corn and beans. I’d never been to Utah, Nevada, California, New Mexico, or Arizona before (plus the states I drove through to get to Texas), so it was pretty cool getting to really see this part of the country.

THE TRIP
We set off on a bright May morning, out around 8 a.m. We drove straight through to Moab, Utah, where we spent the first couple days. Massive rocks, a deep saturated red, surrounded us; the Colorado river flowed through the parks, wide and muddy. The dust here is infamous for getting on and staying on everything it comes in contact with. The area is best known for mountain biking; unfortunately, we didn’t have ours. We made up for it by hiking around lots of red rocks and arches and canyons under an equally saturated blue sky, usually cloudless. The heat wasn’t crazy, but I got burned on the very first day out, leading to a month of deep tan/molting skin barnacles cycling around and around. In this area we hit up Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, as well as Dead Horse Point State Park. Arches had arches and rocky trails; Canyonlands had awesome (in the literal sense of the word) canyons; and Dead Horse was a canyon so great we later decided to skip the Grand Canyon because the ones we’d already seen were so cool.


Moab at dusk


Dead Horse Point State Park

After a couple days in the Moab area, we continued our trek through Utah and camped in Red Canyon (State Park, I believe), about 15 miles outside of Bryce Canyon National Park. Bryce had been our main goal in this area – it’s also where the 100-miler than I had wanted to do was, just two weeks after we were there – but Red Canyon ended up being far more fun. Red Canyon offered gorgeous pink, orange, and yellow rocks, most formed in towering hoodoo formations, as well as miles of trails that wound all through them and into the pink canyons deeper in the park. The trails here were a nice mix of that sweet natural ‘gravel’ that forms in these rocky sorts of areas and good soft dirt. The first run we did here (yes, I did run a couple times) was only about 3 miles, but I had inadvertently chosen an extremely steep, roller-coastery trail. Challenging, especially at about 9000 feet (coming from 6000, and for me, coming from the lofty 800 ft altitude of Michigan!), but extremely fun with absolutely stunning views of the pink canyons and hoodoos. There were a few points along that trail that had us running along totally exposed gravelly ridges, followed by steed gravelly downhills that sent us skating. Towards the end of the run, on one such ridge, the wind really started gusting and we noticed that dark clouds were gathering. That put a bit more spring in our step and we rocketed back down the hill. The fear of being struck by lightning does that to a runner. (Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera with me that time.)


Red Canyon!

Dana and Drew leading the way.


Me with rock. I think I was planning on living there.


Red Canyon camp.

After a few days in Red Canyon, we decided it was time to venture into Bryce and see what all the hullabuloo was about. There were massive hoodoo cliffs, although their colors weren’t as saturated as Red Canyon’s – drier and duller. Still a very pretty and interesting area… but we simultaneously decided that we’d rather play in Red, so we just drove through Bryce, stopping at every single overlook to ensure that we weren’t missing something. All in all it took about 45 minutes. ‘Underwhelming’ is a good word to use. Very cool, but Bryce failed to meet my expectations. (But still stop by if you’re in the area, for sure!)


Bryce Canyon National Park. Hoodoos galore!

Since Bryce was over, we looked at a map and thought: Hey, Escalante National Monument is right there. We’d heard it was cool, so we figured we’d drive over there for the day. However, it was farther than we thought: the visitor center was about an hour away, and from there it would be another 45 – 60 miles on washboard dirt roads to get to the slot canyons and cool things. There was no way that poor van could take 90 miles of washboard, so we ended up turning around and heading back to Red anyway. A good run at the end of all that saved the day, though. Plus we had a great campsite there.

After a couple days, we decided it was time to move on to our last Utah destination: Zion National Park. I’d heard only rave reviews of the place, so I was excited. It didn’t disappoint. Even the drive in was gorgeous. (I’ve come to realize that Utah is very, very gorgeous, as a general rule. Driving through there was fantastic, hardly a spot where I wasn’t going, “AHHHH BEAUTY IS ALL AROUND ME.”) The visitor center is basically halfway through the park, which meant that we spent a good while driving through the massive rounded, stratified canyon walls for which Zion is famous. Just a breathtaking place. We set up camp maybe 15, 20 miles outside the park, next to a river.
It’s kind of a shame, but we only really spent a day in Zion – we did the Angel’s Landing hike, which ascends a 1400+ foot rock formation by way of a chain attached to a cliff, basically. It was gusty when we were there, with some clouds potentially threatening rain. My friend Dana and I went about halfway and decided that that was a good spot to stop, while our other trip friend (and Dana’s brother) Drew sped ahead and went all the way. At the time I had no regrets for stopping where I did, and still don’t, but I know that if/when I go back, I’ll be all the way at the top.


Yup. Good place to stop. (Angel’s Landing)

After Zion, we were headed into California by way of Death Valley. All we wanted out of the trip was to Not Break Down In Death Valley.

You can see where this is going.

The van we took on the trip, our trusty steed, was a 2004 Honda Odyssey with a fair amount of miles on her. The timing belt had been replaced within the last month. The engine light had been on for several (but then, whose isn’t?). She’d been performing well so far, not a hitch. When we entered Death Valley and saw what it was – a black and grey and tan desperate wasteland, but not flat, oh no! There had to be massive winding mountains in there was well! – we gulped collectively and crossed our fingers. But wouldn’t you know it, we were halfway through the park (“park” is a generous word, how about “hellscape”?), grinding up a long hill, when we noticed the van wasn’t accelerating. It was stuck at about 20 mph. Not only that, but it also started vibrating massively and making terrible grumbling groaning noises. Great. We switched it off and nervously flipped through the manual. The VSA light had come on; none of us knew what that was. (Vehicle Stability Assist, we quickly learned.) But all the manual said was to take it to a dealer.

Well, we couldn’t really do that in the middle of Death Valley, now could we? There was no phone signal, of course, so after asking a passing car just how far it was to the nearest town (too far for comfort), we really had no choice but to press on, take it easy, and switch off the van whenever it got finnicky. Which was pretty frequently.

It was a stressful couple of hours, but we did eventually make it out of there. As soon as we got signal, they called their dad, who immediately said something along the lines of, “Oh yeah, that’s happened before. You just have to disconnect and reconnect the battery.” So along we went, driving through the deserty eastern edge of California, until we finally hit a town with an auto shop to diagnose the problem for real. (Big shout out to Casey’s Automotive in Lone Pine, CA, for not charging us because they couldn’t find the problem!) As I just mentioned, their electronic diagnosis didn’t show anything, so we drove on to Bishop, CA, where we finally set up camp by a river, inexplicably surrounded by middle-aged fishermen. Must have been a hot spot. We spent the rest of the afternoon basically lying on our crash pads in the sun, saying, “I’m glad we didn’t break down in Death Valley” about once every thirty seconds. It was an extremely stressful day to say the least.


Coyote, harbinger of death and despair in Death Valley.


It was stressful.

The next morning, we bought a wrench, disconnected and reconnected the battery, and everything was fine from that point on.

Bishop! Land of the Buttermilks and the Happys and so much more (although those are the only two we climbed at). Also home to Shaat’s Bakery and the best town park in existence. I’ll leave the descripting of Bishop to the pictures. My high point was sending a V4 – a not-quite-slabbish face with a kind of crimpy upwards traverse. I hopped on not seriously, realized I could do it, hopped off and actually looked at it, then send the thing. It was awesome and definitely the most satisfying moment of the trip.


Bishop camp.


They napped while I tried to locate various boulders. Did I mention that crag navigation is my least favorite thing in the world? I was designated Expedition Leader. I wandered around in the sun with a guidebook being frustrated until I decided to nap too. It all worked out in the end.


Drew doing something funky.


Me doing something funky.


Sunset.


Me on the lip of Hero Roof (Buttermilks).


The V4! Hager Face, Buttermilks.

[v4 video]

Bishop was awesome, but we did eventually have to leave. We found ourselves on something of a schedule, since we were meeting David in Monterey (my boyfriend, their brother) for his long weekend for Memorial Day. We were sad to leave Bishop, of course, since it’s a wonderful town with killer climbing, but we were also psyched for some non-desert landscape. We had originally planned to spend a couple days backpacking in Yosemite, but that got cut out because we didn’t know he had a long weekend. We ended up driving through Yosemite, stopping for some pictures and a few little walks, but ultimately we decided to speed on to the coast. Also no regrets with that decision because really, in an area as vast and awesome as Yosemite, one hike will not satisfy you. I definitely plan on returning for a couple weeks to really explore it. (I plan to return to pretty much everywhere we went on this trip. It was kind of an introductory, snapshot tour of Utah and California.)

Driving through California that evening was absolute bliss. We had the windows down, good old country going loud, singing along, the valleys were deep and green and lush and the countryside was that classic California gold. The sun was at just the right angle and the world was magical, basically. Today Is Mine by Jerry Reed fit that drive perfectly. We camped an hour outside of San Francisco and had our first shower of the trip. That was wonderful, to say the least. My hair was so gross that it stayed in its ponytail shape even after I removed the hairtie.

The next day we hit up Muir Woods for some redwoods, then headed into San Francisco. Cool city for sure. We wandered around, ended up getting Chinese food and going to City Lights, where Ginsberg et al were first published. That places just oozes hip. We only spent about five hours there, since we were heading down to camp in Big Sur and it was a bit of a drive.


These lit up at night.


Tiny apartments.

The drive down the coast was glorious. It was sunset. Enough said, I believe. California has the most delicious strawberries, btdubs. They are sweet and fresh and delicious. Also, avocados 10 FOR ONE DOLLAR. What.

Anyway, we spent the next four days in and around Monterey, including the Aquarium, back to San Francisco, and Big Sur. California was chillier than we were expecting.

Big Sur

After we departed, it was on to Joshua Tree, of which I have scant photographic evidence. Basically, it was hot, we climbed some and hiked once, napped in the afternoons, and were ready to be back home.

Highlight of J Tree: this desert tortoise crawled out from under the boulder I was sit-starting, quite surprising but very cool.

Also notable from J Tree: the coyotes in our camp (like, growling right outside our tents) the first night. No pictures of that.

Last camp of the Grand Adventure.

Sunrise, driving out of J Tree on our way home.

We made it back to CO Springs from J tree in one day – that’s over 1,000 miles, kids – and it was actually a pretty good drive. We got back at midnight exactly, chatted with their parents for a while, then crashed. Oh and I showered. Glorious shower!

So that’s it, Grand Adventure May 2013. It’s too bad my camera crapped out, this would have been a much longer and higher photo quality post if it hadn’t. Ah well, c’est la vie.

Sorry this took me so long to get up, I kept procrastinating by being in more mountains.

peace love and ‘venturin!
bec