A Warm Summers Day

The dog fought me for my foot space. My partner lay beside me snoring. The pale morning light turned the blinds a rosy pink color. I turned over to see the blurry clock 12 feet away… 6:54am. Sigh…

I rolled over and kicked one leg out from under the covers. The air was cool, both from the AC and ceiling fan. Gandaulf lay horizontal across the end of the bed having little fits as he dreamed whatever dogs dream about. I listened to the crickets and birds from my iPads white noise app that I’ve listened to every night for over 5 years. I slid out of bed and made my way upstairs.

The day was splendidly blue and cloudless. The shadows grew shorter and exposed the vibrant greens of the aspens. I rubbed my eyes and went about making coffee. I opened the back door to free the stagnant night air and let in the cool morning. Coffee ready and I moved to the deck to begin my morning.

Welcome to July and a new start to my life.

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I sat on the edge of my chair and pulled the foot stool closer and crossed my legs, turned on some meditation music and began to breathe. With each breath I could feel a wave of calm come over me. I noticed all the tiny butterflies, the chickadees playing in the woods, the lazy lizards basking in the sun, warming their bodies from the night chill. The world around me felt a little more alive than I had noticed previously.

This is it. This is my new morning ritual. A daily awakening of the mind, body and spirit. It’s only one tool in my otherwise empty coping tool box. It’s about me and has to be. I’ve been down this road before. I know what needs to be done.

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I am beginning a new path of spiritual and mental healing. All that I took for granted, all I assumed would just be there, was gone but now is coming back and more real than ever. Like riding a bike, once I began to quiet my mind and began practicing meditation again, the peace began to flood back into me little waves at a time.

Zen on the River

The day started out cloudy with a slight hint of rain floating on the soft breezes. We went about our morning ritual of making coffee and playing with the dog around camp. The day was planned out to the very last detail. We were to blow up the raft, set up camp, get together food for lunch on the river, and get on the river by noon. The coolness of the morning made all these tasks easy and time flew by.

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Our rig is set up so that two women can load and unload our 14 foot Hyside raft, with frame attached, onto the roof of our trailer. There is a winch attached to the tongue of the trailer with a long, flat strap and hook. This extends over the trailers roof and to the back where we then hook it to the raft. One of us guides the raft and retrieval of the strap while the other helps the raft up and onto the rollers on the roof.  It is quite ingenious and we have done it hundreds of times. The guys are always amazed when they watch us heave the big blue boat from the river and up onto the trailer at the take out.

Chris was going to be trying something that we had never done before. Normally this trip requires two vehicles to shuttle the bus and trailer to the take out, then a ride back to the top and a short hike down to the river. Over the last months, she has been training to ride her bike from take out to put in. This is a nine and a half mile ride, most of which is uphill. Neither of us had a doubt, that we were willing to give any acknowledgment to, that she and her bike could make the return trip.

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We left camp at 11:00 and made the 5 minute drive to the boat ramp. Being a Saturday morning and school out, the ramp was a zoo. There were people in their own worlds rigging their rafts right on the ramp, others who don’t know how to back up a trailer, skeewampus all over the ramp. My task was to thread this maze of boats and trailers and get down the ramp without taking anyone out, as quickly as possible. No problem, even with the van and trailer. Five minutes later Gandaulf and I were on the river moving down to a quieter beach to wait for Chris.

Once free of the mayhem of the ramp, screaming children and bumper boats, the true serenity of this canyon can be absorbed. The shear red cliff walls shoot up from the cold green river. Majestic Douglas firs cling to their small purchase of land, soaring up to the brilliant blue sky. Poison ivy clings to the banks as well as red and yellow willows. Today the colors are a bit muted with the cloud cover but the grandure cannot be stolen nor the enormity of the canyon.

I set up the raft, put together one fishing pole and played with Gandaulf until Chris arrived. The skies broke loose a few times with little spritzes of cool rain, enough for me to breakout the rain poncho and long sleeve guide shirt. I spoke with the creator for a moment and asked that this day not be a total washout, not to get hailed on, and mostly not get a huge thunderstorm. We shoved off and began our float.

 

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It has been two weeks since I came to grips with my depression. Two weeks since I had to face the reality that something in my life just wasn’t right. Those two weeks have been spent  contemplating my life. I have been enjoying time to work on the van and planning for a spiritual and mental reboot of my life. I have worked only as needed, reducing the stress in my daily life to a more managable level. I have been tapping into my creative juices with design and build on the van and writing. I can feel the anguish and anger subsiding, perhaps with both the time and the little blue pill I swallow every morning so I can be “normal”. It is travel and being in the great outdoors though, that feeds my soul…the disconnect from the outside world…the silence.

This float will be a great escape.

There is a certain rhythm that you get into when at the oars of a boat. The water moving under the boat, the ripples around the rocks, the current as it flows down the path of least resistance. The sound of the Canyon Wren’s shrill calls, the walls of the red rock canyon kissing the sky, the verdant greens and yellows of the foliage, all combine in this harsh high desert environment to form a beauty that comes out of the struggle to just survive in this canyon. The cold green water that flows out of the depths of the resevoir gives the very life that can survive here hope. Off the front of the boat, the gental rhythm of the flyfishing line gracefully floating back and forth and lighting down on the surface of the water trying to entice the rise of a fish. The sound of the oars as they cut through the surface of the water. All this becomes a mantra for the day ahead.

Today, I found myself in a particularly strong bond with this environment. I found myself “one” with the rhythms of the canyon. I could feel the river’s flow and the calmness that it has as it moves through the channel it has carved over a millenium. I can feel the power and strength of the giant fir trees as they become the skyscrapers of the natural world around me. Each oar stroke makes me part of the waters life. I found that I was in a trance like state that was so calming it was bliss. Not only could I read this river but I had become part of it. I felt as if this canyon and all its life forces were welcoming me, holding me in it’s comforting arms and making me stronger and gentiler. It was food for my soul and Zen on the river.

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Island Life: Days 3-5

There’s something to say about island life. It’s kicked back pace. Long hours of scraping out a living… or doing absolutely nothing but digging your toes in the sand and sucking up some rays. That soon can growing quite boring, at least for Chris and I.

Day three started quite early. We had to catch the 7am ferry back to Belize City in order to catch a taxi and get to our meeting place by 8:30. Of course all of this is in Island time which means, a fifteen minute of error has come to be expected.

We had a golf cart taxi waiting for us at 6:30am. Chris was getting off at the Amore Cafe for some coffee and I was to go the rest of the way with our backpacks, check our luggage and wait for Chris. I began to worry when it was 6:55 and Chris was still no where in sight. There are times when that fifteen minutes comes in handy. She finally showed after walking all the way to The Split and realizing she had missed the docks somehow.

The ferry ride was uneventful, we gathered our backpacks and a taxi and met up with our group, with plenty of time to spare. We soon found out that the group had just come off the Glover’s Reef trip and were now known as the double atollers. For once it appeared we wouldn’t be the oldest in the group… as a matter of fact the group was an average of 55 years old, all professionals, all trying to get to a place in their lives where they can “retire”. We were on the perfect trip!

Most of the third day was spent on boats, getting from one island to another at the furthest eastern land mass in Belize. Arriving at our tent camp on the small island of Half Moon Caye, we were broken into our groups, the double atollers and the newbies… Our tents assigned and lunch served, our day could finally begin…nine hours after we awoke.

Impressions of Half Moon Caye:

Unlike many islands were have been on, these Belizeans care about the cleanliness of their little piece of sand. There was very little garbage littering the sandy white beaches and the windward side of the island, that would normally collect what the tides bring in was also devoid of all ocean trash. This is the rest spot for divers of The Blue Hole. This is also the furthest Belizean outpost for The Autobahn Society. They patrol the waters of The Blue Hole for illegal fisherman, help educate the visitors to this island and keep this turtle hatchery pristine.

Half Moon Caye is also a bird sanctuary. There are nesting colonies of Red Footed Boobies, Frigate Birds and Osprey. There are three predominant species of lizards and an exorbitant amount of Hermit Crabs. The camp actually uses the crabs as a form of composting. All the food scraps are put into a bin and the hermit crabs swarm the pile and become a moving, crunching mass of bioengineering, turning these piles into nothing overnight. Remember anything we create (trash wise) on this island must be disposed of, either by burning, hauled off on boats, or organically disposed of.

The air on the island is thick with salt, humidity and birds. It’s like a kite festival with thirty or fourth birds souring on the ocean breezes…silently swooping and diving, gliding effortlessly. On the windward side the breezes keep the humidity to a manageable level, although everything is soaked and wet in the mornings. The further you get away from the ocean breezes, the humidity gets quite unbearable and the turquoise blue lagoon becomes very inviting.

The frigate birds have huge thin wings and forked tail. They glide stealthy on the wind and watch for the boobies or osprey to catch a fish. In a second, the frigates go into action, diving in long swoops, weaving and turning gracefully in the air as they begin their assault on the fish bearing sea bird. They grab hold of the fish, lock talons and spiral towards earth. Eventually they hit the water or until one of the seabirds releases and flies off to hunt again.

At night the hermit crabs come out by the hundreds. The path ways from area to area become a seething river of these creatures. It kinda creeps you out at night when your flashlight accentuates the size of these crabs when walking to the restroom or shower. It reminds me of some alien organism out to snatch you in your sleep and carry you off. With no real predators on the island they thrive!

Most every activity has been centered around water. There is something calming about water. Whether submersed in it or floating on top, it has a magic over me that rocks to my soul. It can be gentle and calm or a raging surf. It has the ability to shape and reshape with little that can stand in its way. I feel fortunate to be able to see below its surface to its undersea world of bright colors. The fragile world that hangs in the balance yet is abundant with life.

 

 

 

 

When it Rains…It Pours: Belize day six

We knew that it was too good to last. So far our vacation has been perfect. Perfect weather, perfect food and drink and perfect group out here on Half Moon Caye. Our last night was full of dancing, drinking and sharing tales. We watched the sunset at the beach just outside of camp while partying with all our new friends. We took pictures and shared email addresses then went back to camp where the guides performed native Garafuna drumming, song and dance. We all danced the night away and had a lovely prepared meal (no shortage of those). Then off to bed.

The sun began to wake up the day as a big ball of pink in the morning sky. A cloud bank began to roll in and by breakfast the storm had arrived. We all ran out to our tents and secured the rain flaps. Within 5 minutes the rain began. First a little drizzle, then the lightening and thunder accompanied the sheets of rain. Now we are all sitting in the mess hall watching the rain, hoping the boat coming to get us today actually will leave Belize City and make the 2-3 hour trip across open water. I personally would be happy if the boat was unable to come.

Chris and I recounted our trip so far. Chris said that this island adventure reminded her of summer camp. There was always activities to sign up for each day, an applause after each meal, educational moments and of course glamping. So now every time I think of the last five days I smile and think “adult summer camp”.

You Better Belize it! Day One and Two (cause they all kinda blended together)

We just couldn’t pass up this trip. About two months ago we received and email from Delta Airlines about a reduced mileage fare to anywhere in Central or South America. For a measly 14,000 Miles we could get round trip tickets to Belize. Of course the travel had to be completed within a certain time frame… but who cares! Normal price on a round trip ticket to Belize…65,000 Miles! We scrambled for an hour trying to find just the right times and figure out what we would do, where we would stay and whatnot. By the time we settled on our dates, the price had doubled but was still an awesome deal. So here I sit on Caye Caulker, a little earthy crunchy island where the mode of transportation is bicycles, golf cart or old fashioned walking.

 

There is always a catch though. The redeye leaving at 1am arriving in Belize at 11am same day. It’s not too bad until you hit that wall. When nothing makes sense, you search for words to form a complete sentence. When every fiber of your being says stop, lie down and go to sleep. It’s similar to jet lag but more akin to an all night party that leaves you craving your bed all the next day.

 

We went kinda budget. Our first hotel was a little place called The Barefoot Belize. It’s a brightly colored arrangement of 12 little cabanas and rooms. Nothing to elaborate. There is AC, which if you plan on sleeping at night, is a must have. There’s a nice big, comfortable bed, a shower with good supply of hot water and pressure to enjoy it, a small kitchenette and full island sized fridge for keeping those delicious Belikin beers icy cold.

What hits you first is the humidity. It was tough to breathe at first. My lungs felt as if they were trying to breathe in water instead of air. You break out in a sweat where you didn’t even know you could sweat. We donned our backpacks and headed through the airport, breezed through customs and caught a taxi to the water.

When traveling in Belize… you have a choice of traveling to the islands by ferry or small puddle jumper plane. Each will get you where you want to go… just the difference in cost and time needs to be decided. The plane is $179 each way, for two, and takes about 15 minutes. The ferry takes about 45 minutes and the round trip cost is $56 for two. Unless you’re late for an important date, the ferry will get you there safe and sound.

A couple things to point out out on the Belizean island of Caye Caulker. #1 – there are no real swimming beaches #2 – there is every kind of adventure to be had from here #3 – this is an adventure island and a cheaper version of Ambergris Caye, which everyone has heard of.

There is a huge disparity in Hotel pricing here. There is also a huge difference in what you get. The place we chose was about $110/ night all in, $227 for our two nights. This is on the lower end of the spectrum. Further from town, we are talking a 2-4 minute walk all the way to the middle of town, or a 1-2 minute bike ride (you can’t ride you bike on the beaches but you can walk all the way along the beach). Our hotel, like many more, has a private pier with some handmade beach lounges. The “beach towel” they give you is an old bath towel they retired, stitched up the holes and called it a beach towel. What’s true is none of this matters on an island. Roll with it. We are so spoiled! You can ride down to the distribution center, over by the islands generators and buy a case of Belkin Beer for $12… and it’s 6.5%! See… it’s not all bad!

The Baja California Sur Adventure

The nicest thing about coming to The Baja is the closeness and direct flights available from Salt Lake. In less than four hours, you can be digging your toes into the warm sand, sipping a salt rimmed margarita and watching the waves.

It’s pretty easy to get Gandaulf into Mexico so he gets to vacation with us. He’s such a great traveler. He steals everyone’s heart and I never tire hearing people taking his picture or listen to them comment on how cute he is. He just prances on in his service jacket, ears pinned back, taking care of his mom, always alert. When we get to the beach, it’s all about the ball.

We got to Baja on Sunday. It’s a quick little battery recharge vacation. We spend the day bouncing from the waves to the pool and back again. We found the quaintest little Hotel in Cabo Pulmo called VidaSoul. It’s quite literally in the middle of nowhere. It’s about an hour drive across the east cape of The Baja. The drive itself is part of the adventure. The directions consist of a few pictures and some approximate mileages of where to turn. It was quite easy to get off track, or miss a turn because in the desert, things are in a constant state of change. A windy day can push a pile of sand to the other side of a turn and the picture may not look like what is actually there now.

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We ended up in the city dump, literally, and I had to use my best Spanish to try to get directions from an old Mexican guy who apparently works there. We missed one of the turns because it no longer looked like the picture or a sign was missing. We made our way back to the correct road and were off again.

The road was a sand wash for the most part and the closer we got to the arroyo it was evident that storms from the past summer had washed out huge sections of the surrounding area. Coming over the rise we could see the hotel was an oasis sitting atop a sand dune and visible from almost anywhere. It’s white and grey exterior poised high atop a pile of sand with the arroyo about 400 yards away. It is right on the beach and very private.

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They call this place The Crossroads. It’s origin was a dream of an expat and her son. This monolith came about from a small shack on the beach with a thatched roof. The owners son designed the whole Hotel with not a detail missed. All the cement was mixed by hand. It took nine years to complete. It has a grand staircase that goes down to a uniquely designed pool which is quite literally a hole dug in the beach. It is surrounded by sand, a few beach lounges and some material strung between some poles for shade. The pool has a bar in the center. In order to get to the bar, the bartender must wade out to the pit in the center. The bridge idea never materialized.

From the pool and the restaurant you can gaze out across the water and watch the whales spouting and playing. You can watch the Mexican hand fishers in their little skiffs. You can take in the crashing waves and the sea breezes. The staff is very attentive and your glass is always topped off, a fresh bottle of water, or a little something from the restaurant. Whatever it was we ordered it never disappointed.

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Chris and I just don’t like the crowds or touristy areas much anymore so VidaSoul was the perfect getaway. Being in the middle of nowhere, they have made a concerted effort to use solar power and keep it eco friendly. They do have a generator that runs most all night in order to keep the AC on and give its guests a comfortable night sleep.

The rooms are quite spacious. VidaSoul offers meal plans that help offset the meal costs. The portion sizes are huge. The bartender makes the best margaritas. The food was fresh and delicious and the drink pours were more than fair. We aren’t in Utah baby! We would highly recommend a visit to this oasis if traveling the road around the coastline of the east cape.