Typically I post on the Snuggle Diaries throughout the holiday season but this year I have decided to take December off. I have family flying in from my home town in December for their first-ever trip out west and I want to be fully immersed and present during their time here. I am also taking the month to focus on other adventures and personal journaling. Have no fear! The Snuggle Diaries will continue in January of the new year!
Until January, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite blog posts from 2019 along with a link to my book Mini Misadventures that has now been up on Amazon for almost a year!
I hope that you spend this holiday season surrounded by the people you love most or the places you love most and doing the things you enjoy best.
A few months ago I signed up for my first virtual run. For those of you who do not know what that is, allow me to explain. Often a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, etc. will give the option for participants to sign up for the race but are not required to toe the starting line. For instance, they can “sleep in” but still show support for the cause the race is supporting. Sometimes these races even provide a “virtual runner” a medal and souvenir t-shirt allowing the virtual runner to participate on their own time. Being one who enjoys running with others, I typically participate in person. However, I could not show up in person for the 3rd Annual Cades Cove Loop Lope and thus I registered as a virtual runner.
The Cades Cove Loop Lope is the only footrace that takes place inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so it is immediately special. I miss the Smoky Mountains greatly as Darwin and I would spend our vacation time there almost every year before we started to travel. Last year we spent several days in our beloved Gatlinburg, TN before starting our Blue Ridge Parkway Cycling Tour. Finding out that I could help support my first National Park love and run at the same time, seemed like a great idea.
This past Sunday morning was race day. I got up early before the sun was up and although on a different time zone, I tried to think of all the other runners doing the same. Waking early, layering up for the cold, dawning headlamps, and heading out to Cades Cove via bus. The race day excitement they all must have been feeling! The thought of being apart of a limited number of participants with permission to run in the park free from the worry of cars and tourists seemed so enticing to me. Not to mention the fact that each participant was running through history, SO COOL!!
These thoughts stayed with me as I started my run on the Arizona Trail, the complete opposite environment than my fellow runners in Cades Cove. Yet, although we were over a thousand miles apart, we were all still running together and helping to raise money for the continued preservation of a very special place. As I ran my three-miles I thought of the beautiful “smoke” of the Smoky Mountains, the historic cabins, the smell of damp fall leaves, the colors that surely surrounded the runners in the cove.
When I hit my three-mile mark the sun had fully risen. This run felt extra satisfying knowing that it was benefiting more than just me. I also felt I wasn’t just running by myself but at least 750 other people were on the other side of the United States doing the same. I know that some people may not participate after signing up for a virtual run sporting their medal or t-shirt regardless but I honored my commitment and it made my morning and run so much more meaningful. I felt connected to one of my most favorite places even though I’m so far away.
Sometimes I find it hard to write. I have nothing profound to say. No deeper thoughts or ponderings to share. No topics to discuss. I only have the simplest, softest, and dearest, moments that all build up.
Sometimes a picture will never do a scene justice.
Sometimes words are just not strong enough to take you there.
I often stay behind the camera, taking the moment in for only myself. I’m present at that time and in that space and it’s enough.
Sometimes it’s fleeting these snippets of time and sometimes their view lingers on.
And so I am filled with images and feelings of moments, times I know I could never explain, times I know will stay only mine; no significant words or tellings to share.
Some images and moments are not meant to be shared and that’s what makes them special. I have locked many away that I can come back to and visit forever only in my head. I hope that everyone at times does the same.
Sometimes it’s important to set the camera down and take it all in just for yourself.
(Me taking a picture of Darwin, taking a picture in Mesa Verde)
This past weekend a friend and I left Friday afternoon and drove about three hours to Cedar Mesa, Utah. The drive there was breathtaking passing by amazing red rock formations, through open land reaching out into infinity and driving in the shadows of tall towering buttes. We found a place to call home for the night only after exploring several dirt roads that seemed to lead on to nowhere while others just abruptly stopped. Once parked, we slept in the back of a truck under a bright starry sky.
In the morning we very slowly emerged from our bag and quilt and were greeted by frozen water bottles. Mine having not solidified until I attempted to move it aside and then instantly froze before my eyes. We eventually made our way to Bullet Canyon to try our hand at hiking into, thru, and out the other side of the canyon, making a full loop back to the truck. Let me go ahead and just say, I didn’t make the whole loop. Hiking in a dry water bed is not the easiest thing to do. I had to stop several times to dump sand out of my socks and trail runners (I forgot my dirt girls), and part of our day consisted of bushwhacking through tall weeds and brush. But for all this hard work I saw what many may only in pictures.
The goal of our day was to see several different Anasazi ruins and pictographs within the canyon; of this we were successful. Two of the biggest locations we saw are fondly named Perfect Kiva Ruins and Jailhouse. The Perfect Kiva site required some slight rock scaling but was incredible to behold. We were even able to enter the kiva becoming completely immersed in a world that seems so distant from our current one. We felt the grooves left in the rock made by tool sharpening and gazed upon petrified corncobs and bits of pottery lying scattered around the structures. We pondered at the pictographs left from these ancient people and discussed our disdain for the current people who left behind their own markings.
From there we hiked a short amount further to the Jailhouse Ruin, having received its name from the ancient limbs still supporting vents and windows in structures built-in and along the canyon wall. Feeling too tired to continue fast enough to beat nightfall, we made our way back the way we came finding yet another ruin we had overlooked on the way in; it had been so perfectly built, it was completely hidden when coming from another direction. We both felt small as we immerged from such a large canyon and humbled by the life of the Anasazis.
The next day having parked in a different spot, we awoke to watch the sunrise above a place called Valley of the Gods. I couldn’t help but wonder how many times the Anasazis had done the same. Driving the rest of the way through the valley, the landscape was almost too much to take in. The gold and red rich hues of the buttes and land surrounding us was overwhelming. I will never be able to put into words what the valley made me feel.
On the way back on Sunday we visited the Wupatki National Monument. A protected area outside of Flagstaff, where we were able to visit the Wupatki Pueblo and many other smaller ruins. It was again amazing to me that people were capable of living and surviving in such a harsh environment. We discussed and compared the differences the environment made on how these ancient people lived compared to the Anasazi.
Reflecting on my weekend, I did do some hiking but I also learned a few basic survival skills if you will, from my friend. I learned more about ancient people who lived with much less than myself but in a way with much more too. I slept in the light of a full moon and awoke to the warm rays of the sun which I haven’t done in a while. I explored a canyon on a trail that tended to disappear; one not maintained by volunteers depending on my friend to guide the way via map and compass. Overall, this past weekend was full of new experiences and lessons starting a foundation of skills I hope to expand upon.
(Left to Right: Perfect Kiva, Pottery, Corncob, and Tools ((these were left out on a rock when we arrived)) Jailhouse from a distance ((notice the face towards the top?))
Hiking has a funny way of bringing people together; strangers become friends and friends become closer, families make memories to share years later, and lovers draw nearer to each other.
I think nature is indeed to blame for this having nothing to distract us from each other on a hike besides those of natural occurrence. On a hike of any length, the scenery demands nothing from us. We can relax and let our five senses do what they will.
I believe this is why it’s easy to get to know someone while hiking. What else is there to do but talk to each other as we travel along? Taking a long hike with someone can tell you a lot about them and I highly recommend hiking a few times with anyone you consider having a close relationship with.
I had the honor of hiking with two good friends to a magical place called Lockett Meadow and experienced first hand two strangers become friends. These two wonderful women in my life had only met the day before we arrived at the trailhead (me being the connector friend if you will). They each represented two different parts of me; one represented my life and experiences in Albuquerque, NM and the other my traveling adventures and life in Flagstaff, AZ. I was incredibly excited for them to meet feeling deep down they would be fast friends and I was right. Joined by the love of nature, fall, and a good hike, we headed out together down a trail leading us through a grove of molting yellow Aspens.
The hike was maybe about six miles and I savored every minute. I was able to share a hobby I loved with two of my friends, watching and listening as they chatted and became friends with each other; my cup was overflowing. By the time our hike came to an end, they had shared contact information and we extended our time together with a celebratory coffee back in town.
We all have such limited time in the world, I think it should be shared with people we enjoy being with, in ways that uplift and inspire us as much as possible. For me, friends are special people and the woods, my special place. I’m so grateful to have shared in both.
When You Find My Body: The Disappearance of Geraldine Largay On The Appalachian Trail
Written by D. Dauphinee
How I Came Across This Book:
I had previously heard that this book was in the works and of course, had heard about the tragedy of Geraldine “Inchworm” Largay having myself hiked the Appalachian Trail and specifically stayed at the shelter Largay was last photographed at. I had forgotten about the book until an email came in from the Appalachian Trail Association (ATC) advertising it for sale. By the time I asked my good trail dad Roub about it, he had already read it and sent it out my way.
My first thoughts going into the book were only my preconceived notions on what had happened to Largay. Ultimately I had a lot of questions. I thought back to my night at Poplar Ridge Shelter in Maine discussing Largay with Darwin and a few other hikers. I remembered hearing she had wandered off the trail looking for water. This didn’t make sense at the time seeing the water source directly in front of the shelter. I also remember discussing the rumor that she had gotten lost when wandering off-the trail to relieve herself. I couldn’t understand at the time how this could happen either, seeing that the woods were so dense in the area. I also couldn’t imagine getting too far off-trail due to the complexity of navigating through the area without a pack on let alone with one on as it was rumored Largay had done.
Long story short, I had a lot of questions and misinformation on what exactly happened to Largay. Even after reading this book, there are still a lot of questions that will never have answers but I do feel that I have a better understanding of what most likely happened and why.
This book was one of those that was a little hard to read but in a good way. Even if your not familiar with the Largay’s disappearance, you know the book doesn’t end exactly well by the title alone. That’s why I found it a little hard to read. You know the outcome and it hurts to learn a more personal perspective of Largay and of those parties involved in her search when no matter the efforts, she isn’t found alive.
If you are looking for the gory details of Largary’s last days and her journal entries, you’re going to be disappointed. The author D. Dauphinee presents Largary’s plight in a very tasteful way. He presents her story factually and that although tragic, leaves the reader room to learn and question their own preparedness when entering the woods for any reason. Dauphinee is good at not pointing fingers of blame at one individual or agency but does discuss the finger-pointing that did occur during the search and other conspiracy theories surrounding Largay’s disappearance.
Dauphinee having experience on a Search and Rescue Team does not waste time on what he would or would have not done differently either. Instead, he focuses the book on Largay; who she was, the people that felt deeply connected to her, and those who never met her but spent hours, days, months, and years looking for her.
The interviews and information Dauphinee presents on those who were involved with Largay’s search or that were questioned for further information regarding her personally provides an almost three-sixty perspective on the entire situation. Although specific information on Largay’s personal thoughts and actions can only be pieced together, Dauphinee presents a very logical and relatable scenario for what Largay was most likely going through.
I found this book to be incredibly well put together. I have also been left questioning how prepared beyond just my gear, that I truly am when I enter the wilderness. Largay was lost and found before I ever hiked the AT, but I knew about her before, and I feel like I have a better understanding of her now. The sense of knowledge or even arrogance I felt before reading When You Find My Body, makes me feel ashamed.
The research and studies Dauphinee provides through the books puts the reader’s arrogance into check. It can be easy to judge Largay at first and point out all the things that you the reader would have done differently, but Dauphinee with experience backed up with studies and real-life examples, shows why a lost person may act a certain way, even perhaps run away from their would-be rescuers. This overall will make the reader really question themselves.
After reading, I recognize I need further education on survival skills. I do however feel I have a better understanding of search and rescue. My perception of such operations was limited, however, now having read Dauphinee’s book I feel like I have a better grasp at the stress, planning, organization, dedication, and heartache that comes with involvement on a search and rescue team that I had never thought of before.
Overall, this book is a recommended read. Dauphinee presents Largary’s story in a way that is unaccusing and respectful, allowing the reader to learn, which I feel is exactly what Largary would have wanted. Regardless of your experience in backpacking or hiking, I think anyone would benefit from reading When You Find My Body.
(DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS! THIS MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS AND BUY SOMETHING, I RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION AT NO EXTRA COST TO YOU. THIS HELPS SUPPORTS DARWIN’S YOUTUBE CHANNEL AND ALLOWS US TO CONTINUE TO MAKE CONTENT VIA THE SNUGGLE DIARIES! THANK YOU FOR THE SUPPORT!)
This past weekend was centered around the Arizona Trail (AZT). On Saturday I walked on the trail following it into Buffalo Park. Once there, I spent a good chunk of time helping out at Arizona Trail Day. I was assigned to help work at the merchandise booth selling hats, bandanas, socks, mugs, guides, etc. etc. etc.
I chatted it up with hikers, cyclists, volunteers, and those who just happened upon the event, all sharing in the love and excitement surrounding this one trail (and of course buying a few things to help support it)!
Sunday, I woke early and headed out to a section of the AZT where I met several other people. There under the arms of Aspens, we gathered to learn about trail assessment and management. With a very knowledgeable trail steward as our instructor, we then put our teachings into practice and worked on an area of the AZT needing water runoffs, to insure the trail was not flooded out during monsoons.
At the end of the day already feeling sore, I reviewed my weekend and was left feeling not a loss of time or energy spent, but a feeling of contentment and satisfaction. I had spent my weekend around incredible people, learning a small part of what it takes to make and sustain a trail. There are so many pieces of the long-distance trail puzzle that have to come together to make it complete. I was and am, in awe.
(The Run-Off I Helped Dig…It Was Super Hard Work For Such A Small Thing!)
I have breathed in thin air or a lack of air really, hiking up to over 12,000 feet.
I felt the burn in my calves as I followed behind a friend, navigating a steep trail of lava rock above the tree line.
My throat turned to sandpaper as I attempted to take in air while talking and laughing high above the trees.
A buzz of oxygen-filled my body as I descended back down from Mount Humphreys and a rush of energy returned to my limbs.
Upon returning from this steep hike, I succumbed to a nap. My body challenged and energy used up by the end.
The next day I attempted to recover from my hike with a ride on forest service roads and trail. My calves were still tender but willing to pedal.
My arms openly accepted the continuous impact and jolts of riding over rock and root; traveling from the wheel, to the handlebar, to arms.
I felt the slap of mud hit my skin shooting up from the wheels of my bike and was chilled by the rain shower that fell from a darkening sky. The cool wind reaching down into my bones.
Still seeking more from the outdoors, the following day I yet again ventured out. This time on foot. I urged my body to follow a trail under pines and high grasses; the rustling of the grass in the wind my music.
I felt the dirt and rock adjust to my weight as my trail runners hit each patch.
When I was finished, my legs were tinted with dust, streaked with routes of sweat. I carried the dust with me most of the day.
From both of these adventures, I was left changed. I felt I had experienced a cleansing of mental and physical states and yet after my body felt sore, used. I’m so grateful to have a body that is willing and usable; to be able to venture about in a playground full of trees and meadows. I’m so glad I can still find the joy in a rain shower and mud splatter, dirt and sweat. A childlike urning to play outside and not caring how unkempt this leaves me, keeps me wanting more even though my body doesn’t recover as easily.
Last weekend, I had planned a small five-mile run with a friend. Now, this was coming off a week of mostly hiking and not a lot of trail running but I was feeling optimistic about my abilities. The friend that I agreed to run with is in way better shape than me but again, I was feeling confident that I could hack it. I, of course, was wrong but not necessarily because of my lack of abilities, more for my lack of smart decisions.
So for you the reader to avoid making the same very stupid mistakes I did before going on a trail run with a friend who you know your already gonna have to push hard to keep up with…I have written the following bad decisions that resulted in a really bad trail run.
Bad Decision #1: Eating two delicious green chili chicken tacos the night before said run.
Bad Decision #2: Washing those two tacos down with an equally tasty beer and refraining from backing up the beer with water.
Bad Decision #3: This one arose the next morning when the green chili worked its magic on my GI tract. This one is a bad decision as I ignored this as a warning sign of what was to come.
Bad Decision #4: Insisting that I only needed caffeine before said run and still refraining from drinking water even after experiencing the effects Bad Decision #3.
Bad Decision #5: Not eating a little something after Bad Decision #3.
Bad Decision #6: Not being honest with myself or my friend that I was feeling a little “less than fresh” before hitting the trail.
Bad Decision #7: Not having water with me during the run.
Bad Decision #8: Ignoring the deflated feeling in my body a mile into the trail run.
Bad Decision #9: Pushing off the fact I had to stop constantly throughout the run to actually breathe convincing myself it was just that I couldn’t run and talk at the same time.
Bad Decision #10: Not turning around when I started feeling a little dizzy from the heat.
By the time we had returned to our starting point and ending at four and a half miles, I was completely wasted. My friend who had no idea I was feeling as bad as I was, was trying to talk to me before heading back to her car. I really couldn’t tell you what she was talking about as all I could hear was the loud ringing in my ears (another huge red flag I was not okay). By the time we parted ways, I felt the dizzy feeling again and the sudden bodily urge to puke and vacate my bowels at the same time.
An hour later after sipping on some water, eating a little, and sitting directly in front of a fan I was feeling a little more normal. The stupidity of my situation was clear to me only then as I lay on a cold hard floor, I was dehydrated and showing signs of heat exhaustion. How stupid could I have been? I knew better, but to save face in front of my friend (who because she is my friend would have been totally understanding if I would have walked the whole time or even just canceled) I set myself up for a dangerous situation.
Morals of this Story:Even those who have experience with an activity of some sort can still make stupid mistakes and be extremely stubborn about those mistakes. No matter what your experience level in something, ALWAYS listen to your instincts and your body. And, if you’re adventuring with a friend and you’re not feeling up to the challenge tell them! They are your friend and will understand!
(A Picture Taken On Park Of The Trail We Were On, Just Not The Same Day…)