Taking the Summit and Going Within

Why am I doing this!! I asked as I searched for a path up the steep mountain slope. The fourteen thousand foot summit of Mt. Sneffels was only a 1.2 miles from the trail head, but it was scary steep and covered with loose rocks that seemed to give way as soon as you set foot on them.

It was anything but easy and I had similar thoughts the last time I climbed a fourteener. As I took a break, my mind politely reminded me that I’m on vacation. Several miles away, I had a large beautiful camp site next to a crystal clear mountain stream. I could be stretched out in my reclining camp chair napping peacefully in the sun.

Instead, I’m up here breathing hard, with a heavy pack and trying not to climb up and not slide the long way down. Geez, I could take it easier on myself, ya think???

After a while my pack began to annoy me. It seemed heavier with every step and it felt heavier than it should be. It only had two bottles of water, a bag of almonds, granola bars, first aid kit and a DLSR. Yet, it felt like I was carrying a week’s worth of supplies.

The summit loomed ahead and was close enough to not give up, but not close enough to just run up. Each step required a test for solid ground with my trekking poles. I made my way up in short increments and a few times found myself in a seemingly no win situation. I can’t step forward because there isn’t a solid step ahead. I can’t step backward because I’ll fall for sure.
Now I know what a cat feels like when it climbs a tree!

As I made my way up in short increments, I encountered fellow hikers returning from the summit. Each one had two things to say: 1) awesome view, worth the trip 2) it’s slick up there and I’m glad to be headed down.

After two hours I reached the top and enjoyed the amazing, breathtaking view composed of jagged peaks set against a blue sky. Some peaks looked like they were carved and others looked like they just fell into place. I could see forever in all directions and felt like I was on top of the world. The most memorable part of sitting on top was the incredible deafening sound of silence. It was clearing and yet a bit eerie at the same time.

When it came time to leave, I peered down that steep, rocky, slope and wondered how I’d get down without falling. I watched other hikers slide along on their butt, using their trekking poles to keep them from sliding too far.

Everyone that I had passed had dirty pants from sliding or falling on their butt. I was a bit determined to get off this mountain with clean clothes. After some closer than I’d like to slides, I managed to pick my way down that mountain without falling and stayed clean.

I totally agreed with all the hikers I’d met; I’m glad to be off that steep, rocky, feel like I’m going to fall anytime slope.

So why did I do that instead of napping at my peaceful camp? I admire Sir Edmund Hillary, but my answer is much more than “because it’s there”. For me, being on that mountain forces me to face my inner self and accomplish things I’d never otherwise do.

It’s about being in the moment, for better or worse, and moving out of that moment to the next one. It’s about looking at something that appears impossible and yet finding out it’s not. It’s where I find myself and what I’m truly capable of.

Now when I’m faced with “difficult” tasks or don’t know what to exactly what to do I remember that mountain climb. If I can successfully face those unknown obstacles, surely I can figure this out.

For me, that is the beauty of exploring and challenging myself. It’s way more than the interesting people I meet or the amazing scenery and photographs; it’s about finding what I can really do and that is the greatest journey.

Blue Ghost Fireflies

“There’s one” I whispered, as we watched the little bluish white light up the darkness in front of us. It disappeared, and a few seconds later another appeared. Then another, and another.

The dark forest would be lit up by these little lights that flew to and fro. It really did look like we were watching fairies.

It wasn’t fairies we were watching, but the rare Blue Ghost Firefly. I grew up playing with the flashing, yellow glow of fireflies and assumed they were all the same. Not quite…. The Blue Ghost fireflies are different for a variety of reasons, but the most obvious is their bluish white light. Hence the name, Blue Ghost.

This adventure was a night time tour that was led by a Blue Ghost firefly expert whom provided entertaining and tremendously detailed information about these little creatures. Several features delineate the Blue Ghost firefly from other species; such as lights that steadily glow instead of flash in sequence and both male AND female have lights. Our guide explained that they’re mostly found in the North Carolina, Tennessee areas because the forest floor is the perfect condition; damp, but not saturated.

We spent about an hour enjoying the peaceful forest and the light show. Most everyone was quiet, even the kids, and enjoyed the opportunity to peer into a different world.

BlueGhost fireflies are mainly visible in May/June and watching them light up the forest was an experience I won’t soon forget. Nature is always amazing, day and night.

For everything you ever wanted to know about Blue Ghost fireflies but were afraid to ask, go here:

Trailer hitch install on 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander

The 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander has the factory roof bars but lifting mountain bikes up there was going to be tedious.  We decided a trailer hitch was the next best option. A trailer hitch can accomodate a variety of bike racks as well as a small camp trailer.  On my 4Runner the trailer hitch is like a second bumper. For the Outlander I wanted something less conspicuous.

An email to the folks at etrailer.com confirmed that this hitch would be hidden from view and work well for our needs. Hidden Hitch Trailer Hitch Receiver with Drawbar – Custom Fit – Class I – 1-1/4″ # 60824.

The instructions are very clear, which is a refreshing change. It’s really only a 30 minute install with basic tools. Here’s what you need to do, complete with pictures.

First off, remove the two tie downs on the passenger and driver’s side. They are held in place by three 14 mm bolts. Two horizontally attach to the frame and one vertically on the side of the tie down. Remove the vertical one first and then tackle the two easy to reach ones. Just remember that gravity will take over so don’t lay directly under the tie downs! Safety goggles are a must because of the dirt that falls off.

Next I did a test fit of the hitch and found the heat shield on the passenger side needed to be trimmed. The instructions said so, but I wanted to verify first. I used a pair of garden snips to trim the thin metal away. Trim enough so you can see all 3 bolt holes and then beyond so you can maneuver the hitch into place. I filed the newly cut edges and applied duct tape so I wouldn’t cut myself while working in there.

Now it’s just a matter of lifting the hitch into place and bolting it down. You need two people or at least a floor jack to do this. Fortunately, I had help so I could hold it while she bolted it in.

Don’t tighten all the bolts yet!! Crawl out, look at the hitch and make sure it’s centered. A few gentle taps with your fist will move it either direction. Once centered, now bolt everything down securely.

The last bolt above the muffler was the most difficult because I had to fully hand tighten it before there was enough room for my ratchet and socket. Aside from that, it was an easy install and looks great.

Tools required: socket set, tin snips or similar, safety goggles (of course!), and a floor jack if working by yourself. Two people make it much easier so grab a friend.

It was truly only a 30 minute install and you can barely tell the hitch is there. The Outlander is now ready for a bike rack or small trailer.

Dragonfly or Decepticon?

I took this picture yesterday at Hawk’s Bluff in Jensen Beach, Florida. I’ve photographed dragonflies before, but none that looked artificial like this. Maybe it’s because of the nuclear power plant 10 miles away….If you know what it is, feel free to comment.


I Love Dirt Roads!

There’s just something irresistable about a dirt road!!  Every time I see one, I want to explore it. Where does it go? What wildlife will I see? What trails will it connect with? All the possibilities!!

Whether I’m in a well equipped SUV, rental car, or mountain bike, I’ll go exploring. Oregon, Utah, North Carolina, or even Florida, there’s always something unique to see.

Recently I was biking in a state park and skipped the bike trails in favor of the forest roads. They were gated, but a mountain bike can go most anywhere. Plus I volunteer there so I know most of the rangers. It was one of the best rides! I saw parts of the park that the general public never sees.

Thanks to the road, I didn’t destroy any of the vegetation or leave any lasting impressions. I kept exploring to the point, I got a little lost.  In my quest to find my way home,I saw camping areas, rivers, and places I’d only heard about. It was great!!!

So next time you see a dirt road, take the time to check it out. You may find a fish camp at the end, beautiful flowers, deer, connecting trails, tall trees, shimmering lakes, or just a beautiful meadow.  You never know what you’ll see, which is whats so great about dirt roads.