This past weekend I traveled from my home near Boulder, Colorado to the Colorado River in Boulder Canyon, on the Nevada / Arizona border just below Hoover Dam.

My cousin Tracy, an expert at cramming what normal people consider “vacations” into short weekends, planned this glorious outing a couple months back, and I happily accepted her invitation to come along! There were 9 of us altogether: family and friends from California, Nevada and Colorado. Tracy arranged our trip with Desert Adventures, who did a wonderful job transporting and orienting us for our journey. We split up into 2 canoes and 5 1-person kayaks. The canoes held most of our gear and thankfully none tipped over! Here’s a brief description of our journey, followed by a galleria of photos.

Day 1, Saturday: gathered at 8:15 just east of Boulder City, launched around 9, then traveled 4 miles down-river. The launch point is just below the Hoover Dam. We explored the Sauna Cave, hot springs in Gold Strike Canyon and also some spraying in to the river, etc. Reaching where we planned to camp around 1, we ate, set up camp, walked to a hot springs with waterfall just up the canyon, ate, hung out, ate, paddled, made s’mores, with most of us going to bed before the sun went down.

Day 2, Sunday: 7 miles. We awoke to find a mouse had drowned in a cup of water we’d left sitting out. We ate (but not the mouse), packed up and set out (before 7 I think it was), paddled and enjoyed the water until about 9:30, had brunch, paddled some more, some of us took a swim along the way, the wind kicked up in late morning and there was a hellish mile-or-so long slog heading south into strong winds from the south until our take-out point at Willow Beach, where we then ate lunch, napped, lounged etc. until our pick-up at 3.

Interesting things about the trip:

  • Something about being on the water makes you want to eat all the time. Which we did. Thank you Tracy for packing such good food for us all, we really appreciated it!!
  • Hot and Cold: The water in the river is 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which is pretty cold to bare skin. In contrast, there are hot springs flowing in to the river in numerous places, some of them pretty scalding, and the air temperature was above 90 F both afternoons.
  • I don’t know if it’s always like this, but it got windy both days near noon, from the south, the direction the river was taking us. I think it canceled the current and then some. This made paddling downstream feel like paddling up hill.
  • They tell you to pee in the water instead of on land. It is hard to feel comfortable doing this after years of conditioning.

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More photos on my Flickr.

P.S. Aside from the afternoon wind, this trip was delightful!

41 Years, 59 Miles   May 31st, 2011

Yesterday was my 41st birthday, so I biked 59 miles.

I got this crazy idea from my friend Burt, who, since turning 50, has set and followed a goal for himself: each birthday he runs 100 minus his age in years, in miles. So I thought, if he can do this as running, I will try it biking.

59 miles

59 miles

I left at 9 am and got back around 3. I decided to head west to Boulder and then north to re-explore some country roads I used to enjoy when I’d bike from my former house in north Boulder. I saw approximately 64 cows, 33 horses, a dozen random unidentified farm animals, 11 rabbits, 43 prairie dogs, 8 squirrels, 2 dead snakes, 1 snake skin, 2 dead birds, 159 live birds/ducks/geese. Around halfway I found myself in Longmont debating about where to get lunch and just standing there I somehow managed to fall off my bike, getting sidewalk rash on my knee and injuring my middle finger. (I’m hoping it’s not broken, if it turns out it is then there’ll be one more bird to speak of…) Anyhow, this is called “making memories“; it was Memorial Day, after all. I added these fresh right-side ailments to my already bruised right foot (where I dropped something on it Saturday) and sore right wrist (fell hard on it snowboarding last week).

A description of this ride would not be complete without mentioning the weather. At the start of the day there was fog and a cool mugginess, which turned to general cloudiness with hints of sunshine. Then when I was enjoying the beautiful but unsheltered St. Vrain Greenway Trail southeast of Longmont, somehow it started hailing and raining. Pea-sized hail falling at 45 degree angles eventually results in one or two hitting your face and this stings a little. I was glad to have a helmet. Heading south from there on County Line Road I noticed a bank of clouds black as night to the east. The image of a man suspended on his bike in the Wizard of Oz briefly came to mind. But, then the sun came out. However, I wished the hail would come back when the 30 mph winds kicked up. This meant my last 8 miles were entirely uphill even on the downhill, being sandblasted and tossed around unpredictably. I was glad to have a helmet.

Typical Colorado weather? Probably. I do like the drama and variety… just not the wind!

In spite of little planning for this ride, I was at about 58 miles when I got back to my apartment so only had to do a little extra tooling around to reach 59. See my route.

I know what you’re thinking: this girl knows how to party on her birthday, huh?

Well, I do find life isn’t complete without both yin and yang. It so happened that someone I know was having a birthday party in the afternoon, at a stunning house in north Boulder with sweeping views, great food and drink, even a dancing violinist and various other activities. His birthday was actually last week but I thanked him graciously for having a party to celebrate. Then 2 of my good friends took me out to dinner + dessert for a bit more of a personal celebration. So I had an all-around great day!

Oh, and on my drive back home I added a coyote to my wildlife sightings. :)

Crazy, Isn’t It?   March 21st, 2011

I remember flying out to Ohio once for some business meetings. This was when I worked for health insurance giant WellPoint, aka Anthem. We were meeting about data migrations or reorganizations or something else typical for really large companies. In a private moment, one woman I worked with – she was heading up the project and superior to me but not my boss – shook her head and muttered, “Crazy, isn’t it?” And I thought to myself, “well, but you’re the one directly responsible for making it crazy. Do you not see this?”

When I find myself thinking how absurd something is I try to ask (1) well, what was it really that caused me to get here, and (2) what is the most appropriate solution to pull myself out?

As the opening paragraph suggests, oftentimes when we’re struck by something that we think is someone else’s fault, it can be illuminating to take a look at our predicament from another’s perspective. We might discover that it is in fact caused more from our own making than our rose-tinted glasses were telling us.

If that doesn’t lead to enlightenment, what gets you out it? Sometimes it’s an arduous process of unraveling what got you there in the first place. Or maybe you can see the most prudent and efficient thing to do is to simply let it run its course and accept the minor inconveniences that will litter the way. Still other times, when you’re faced with one craziness, the best solution may be to combat it with another. Call it audacity if you like, but in an insane world, sometimes it’s the sanest choice.

Things for me often come in 3’s, so I’ll offer up a third consideration to ponder:

Aren’t crazy things what make life interesting, for they add spice to our everyday droll existence? Wasn’t it almost ‘nice’ to have Charlie Sheen’s perceived breakdown as backdrop to the horrors of the tri-saster in Japan and the problems in Libya? On a more personal plain, we might complain about “chaos, drama queens, head games, attention seekers, trouble makers, liars and 2-faced people”, but then why do we spend so much time talking about them? What would we talk about otherwise? I suppose we’d spend more time discussing political process or the steps to financial security. People would likely laugh less. We would probably live longer though.

Circling back to how I started this post – I wonder if this woman was clued in at all to her role in manufacturing mayhem. I actually had a lot of respect for her, both before and after the comment. Part of me likes to think she was in fact quite aware and just being sarcastic, or maybe it was even a statement of satisfaction rather than an expression of frustration. But it’s interesting how some trivial little moment with someone you didn’t spend a lot of time with can really stick with you. Crazy, isn’t it?

Photo by Cobalt123

P.S. I’m still at over 70 unfinished blog posts and apparently practicing the LIFO method.

Japan’s Devastation   March 14th, 2011

Some headlines, facts, estimates and other phrases found online 4 days after the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Sad times. Help if you can. Be grateful for what you have.

Sendai Devastation. Photo by Beacon Radio.

Sendai Devastation

  • An 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami have crippled Japan
  • USGS upgraded to 9.0-magnitude, occurred on Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM at epicenter, 130 km (80 miles) E of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
  • In pictures: Mounting shock
  • The landscape of parts of Japan looks like the aftermath of World War Two

Lives

  • at least 10,000 people are believed to have died
  • “There was 30 minutes’ warning”
  • the wave sheared house after house off at the foundation, leaving only concrete bases and wood floors scoured eerily spotless by the rushing water
  • Japan Begins To Dig For Dead Amid Nuclear Crisis
  • 2,000 Bodies Found On Miyagi Coast
  • No one to rescue in Natori
  • Japanese finding more tsunami victims; survivors face deprivation
  • In Sendai, long lines of quiet desperation
  • “I don’t know if it’s good that I survived”
  • Body bags run short in ‘overwhelmed’ nation
  • 300,000 homeless bed down without electricity
  • Millions face a fourth night of fear following Friday’s quake, tsunami and resulting nuclear emergency
  • Freezing temperatures are expected to exacerbate the hardships for Japan’s quake survivors

Radiation

  • The fuel rods in all three of the most troubled Japanese nuclear reactors appear to be melting
  • A third explosion in four days rocked the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant
  • Engineer: Nuclear Plant Not Designed To Withstand Quakes/Tsunamis
  • 17 U.S. Military Personnel Test Positive For Radiation
  • German Airline Screening Japanese Flights For Radiation
  • Germany, Switzerland Suspend Nuclear Plant Approvals
  • Japan accident dims odds of U.S. nuclear revival
  • Ultimate impact of damage to Japan nuclear reactors still unknown
  • Chernobyl Outcome Unlikely
  • Risk of radiation reaching U.S. said to be remote
  • According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there are no signs of fuel melting at Japan’s nuclear plant
  • Fearmongers go into their own meltdown: ..the Western media’s obsession with what is happening there is seriously overblown and reveals more about us and our fears than it does about the reality on the ground in Japan.

Earth

  • the most powerful measured seismic event in Japan’s history
  • the fifth most powerful to hit the world in the past century
  • more than 160 aftershocks in the first 24 hours — 141 measuring 5.0-magnitude or more
  • preceded by a series of large foreshocks over the previous two days, 4 earthquakes greater than magnitude 6
  • the quake caused a rift 19 miles below the sea floor that stretched about 250 miles long and 100 miles wide
    tectonic plates slipped 59 feet (18 meters)
  • coastlines moved up to 8 feet
  • the quake also shifted the earth’s axis by 4 inches, shortened the day by 1.6 microseconds, and sank Japan downward (by about two feet?)
  • some waves reached six miles (10 kilometers) inland
  • 30-foot walls of water
  • the tsunami’s waves necessitated life-saving evacuations as far away as Chile

Details:
USGS | CNN | Huffington Post | BBC | MSNBC | LA Times | New York Times | Washington Post | Yahoo | The Australian | Fox News | Seattle Times | CNET

Insomnia   January 11th, 2011

I haven’t slept well since early October. I know a lot of people experience insomnia at some point in their lives and it can take different forms. My brand of it goes something like this: when I get tired, I can usually fall asleep, but I wake up within just a few hours, and then I can’t fall back asleep. There have been times I’ve woken up feeling fresh and like I’ve had a decent night’s sleep; then I looked at the clock and discovered that only an hour had passed. Other times, I’m just not tired until 2 or 3 am; then I sleep, only to wake up around 6 am. If I go to sleep at a reasonable hour, I usually wake up around 3 or 4 am. Once or twice a week I find I need a 3-hour afternoon nap, and if I can indulge in it I usually wake up at nightfall feeling refreshed, inspired and creative.

In spite of all this, I’m not as tired as I’d expect to be, and in general I feel more alert than I’ve felt in a long time. I drove 14 1/2 hours in one day on my recent vacation and felt great through all of it in spite of having had only a few hours’ sleep the night before. Maybe I’m just at a point in my life when I don’t need as much sleep?

I did worry earlier on about the REM sleep I must be missing, and what that might be doing to me. At one point just after Thanksgiving I did a pair of crazy things that I thought might help me sleep again. It didn’t turn out well and I realize I probably shouldn’t have done them, but strangely I don’t really regret those decisions… although I don’t like to think about whether I’d do them all over again. In any event, I think I was looking in the wrong place to find my sleep again. But then maybe I didn’t know the right place to look.

How to cure insomnia? Is there a cure for my insomnia? Perhaps not, maybe it just has to run its course. I suppose I could try drugs or work on improving my sleep hygiene like my doctor suggested. Truthfully, I’ve grown to like sleeping odd hours and not sleeping a whole lot, as I’m not a real big fan of routine. My professional situation doesn’t stand in the way of this right now, either; I’m not working, but I’m working on eventually working, in my own time… and I’ve found I kind of like doing something productive well into the wee hours of the night.

I suppose this sporadic sleeping can’t go on forever, though (nothing does; but, that’s another blog post). Perhaps it will just gradually resolve itself. Probably as soon as I do start working or otherwise wanting to be more productive, I will suddenly need lots of sleep again. Or I suppose I could try what my doctor told me. Maybe I will someday.

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Your Fears Erased Here Daily   December 20th, 2010

Put this phrase on an enormous chalkboard at an event attended by tens of thousands of people and see what happens. That’s what someone did back in 2006 at Burning Man festival.

Neat idea, huh? A lot of people like the airing-your-fears-out-in-public aspect, but I thought it would work even better to do this on a whiteboard in my closet where no one else can see, ‘cause the worst fears are often far too embarrassing or personal to share.

So, a little over a week ago I started doing just that, and things were going along as expected. But a few days later, I found myself staring at it one night, and I couldn’t think of anything to write. Then again the following morning, I still couldn’t think of anything to write. I wasn’t sure if this had anything to do with just getting into the habit of putting this stuff down, but, it was a great feeling nonetheless.

I did eventually come up with something by nightfall, a healthy fear that I know I can actually do something about:

Fear of JavaScript

Since then I’ve recovered more fears, both the healthy and unhealthy kind (though I would argue that you need both to really be healthy), along with an (I think) irrational one that sort of came out of left field. I guess irrational ones can be useful too – it served as a reminder that maybe I should think more carefully about being so openly exuberant, lest I be misunderstood.

Anyway, I guess this means I’m back to normal now.

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Breathing New Life   November 11th, 2010

I’m finally getting settled in my new apartment after a week or so of moving. It’s one of those big multi-unit places with all the amenities, and it’s brand-spanking new to boot. Too new, almost: my address is not even on Google Maps nor in many organizations’ databases yet, so I’m having trouble changing it and ordering stuff online. The place is named Prana, supposedly this is Sanskrit for ‘life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath’… sounds more like Boulder than Lafayette, but in any event it feels like a good place to reboot one’s life. When I say the name of course people are more likely to think of the omnivorous South American jungle fish that is rumored to end lives rather than positive new beginnings.

I picked Halloween to start moving. I guess I figured that since I wasn’t participating in any spooky activities this year that embarking on my transition from an 8 year relationship would be an appropriately scary thing to do on this day. I decided to just keep packing/loading/unloading my pickup truck over the next week or two until I was done. At first I speculated that it would take me about 10 trips driving over. Then upon reconsidering the mountain of boxes and things accumulating, I thought, well, maybe more like 20. But I was underestimating the carrying capacity of my Tacoma, and my original estimate was pretty close. Unloading was fun, only 38 steps up to my 3rd floor apartment. After a few of these climbs in succession in mile-high air while straining under heavy loads I was left gasping for breath and questioning my insanity.

There’s still some odds and ends to go but here’s the stats and some fun facts:

  • 9 full truckloads
  • about 120 schleps up the stairs
  • I was amazed to calculate that this is only about a half-mile in elevation gain. I’ve done so much more than this backpacking, but I can attest that it really is much easier carrying things strapped to your back than cantilevering them out in front of you with your arms.
  • Lifesaver: the back brace I purchased at RiteAid on the first day
  • Worst moment: after a week of this I was shattered and needed a few days off
  • Best moments: the view from the top – from the Flatirons north to Long’s Peak and beyond
  • Most challenging: wrestling an entertainment center and a queen size mattress (albeit not at the same time) up the 2 flights of stairs
  • Surprise: the black widow spider I found clinging to a lane float in the pool… these gals loved to periodically colonize the garage in California but I never saw one in Colorado before
  • Most relaxing: soaking in the hot tub after a few rough days of moving
  • Little moment of pride: successfully backing my truck into the tight garage for the first time, at 3 am on a Saturday morning no less
  • Big moment of pride: I moved everything myself. Girl Power!

Honestly… do I really think I need this much stuff? Too many hobbies? (probably) Pack rat? (maybe a little) Bit of both? (undoubtedly) But, I did throw out and/or not keep a lot of stuff. And this small apartment actually isn’t looking too cluttered (except maybe the walk-in closet). Plus there’s a pile of leftover furniture to sell or give away back at the house. Nevertheless I think I may still have some more work worth doing on the letting-go department.

As it turned out, moving was really good exercise. And strangely every now and then I do find myself using one of those things I’ve been lugging around from place to place but haven’t used in over 10 years.

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