Break me into bigger pieces, so some of me is home with you.

Posts tagged “travel

Love, the outlaw

Remember this post, when I said I was going to try to make this summer better than the last two?  The last two that included climbing to the roof of Africa and rafting the Grand Canyon?  I think, with Joanie as my partner in crime, we’ve succeeded in creating the best summer ever.

We rode our bikes a ton, and during 100 Miles of Nowhere, we rode well over 100 miles and raised more than 700 dollars for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association.  We made 6 trips back to Colorado to spend time with friends and family during weddings, reunions and adventures.  Our annual Utah trip to Crumbly Rock was a blast.  And then, something special happened at the beginning of August.

Judge for yourself…


Yup, that’s right!  I’m making an honest woman out of Joan.

We’re gettin’  hitched!

“When two people meet and fall in love, there is a certain rush of magic.

The bottom line is that people are never perfect, but love can be.  Loving makes love.

If love is the outlaw, the most any of us can do is sign on as its accomplice.

Love belongs to those willing to go to extremes for it.

True, most lovers don’t work hard enough at it or with enough imagination or generosity.

Who knows how to make love stay?  What we have to do is work like hell at making additional magic right from the start.  It’s hard work, especially when it seems superfluous or redundant, but if we can remember to do it, we greatly improve our chances of making love stay.

Now that I’m in love, I haven’t a clue.  Now that I’m in love, I’m completely stupid on the subject.

Love is the ultimate outlaw.  It just won’t adhere to any rules.”

-Excerpts from Tom Robbins’ Still Life with Woodpecker


…and it begins.

The summer of 2014 has officially begun for me.  I just got home from my last class of the spring semester, I’m not taking any summer classes, and we’ve started packing for our first road trippin’ adventure.

This milestone gave me the opportunity to reflect on my last couple of summers.  It was a nice trip down memory lane.  I’ve had some pretty incredible summers.  Monumental.  They’ve included travel to exotic locals, outdoor pursuits, laughter, joy, pain, tragedy, love, family, friends and so much more.  I’m so excited for this summer, and we’ve got some crazy cool plans for the coming months.

Taking a look back, 2012 gave me the opportunity to climb the highest peak in the continent of Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro, in an effort to raise money for the Cancer Climber organization (founded by my buddy Sean Swarner.)  I met the most amazing people and was humbled by the beauty and challenge of Africa.


At the summit: 19,304′ above sea level.


Approaching high camp, a.k.a. garbage camp.

Africa 056


Africa 234


Truly a life changing experience.  That summer was liberating, challenging and mind-blowing.  I also went skydiving, gallivanting with old friends and explored several 14ers in my backyard.

The summer of ’13 was similarly impressive.  I rafted the Grand Canyon.  Yes, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.  I spent 16 beautiful days with 16 beautiful people in one of the most amazing places on earth.  We hit the tongue and rode it straight (mostly!  Oops, Lava!) for over two weeks of laughter.  Thanks to LBK (Josh Kruger) for giving me the opportunity to take the trip.  It was another one for the books.


Head first into the spray!  Face shots for dayz.


Exploring the countless side canyons was a true highlight.


We live here right now?!?  COOL!!!

grand canyon 13 095_edited-1That’s why I come out here: nature.

So what does this summer hold for Joan and I?  Sooooo many things!!  Five trips back to Colorado, including a bachelor party (sorry Joan, I’ll be going solo for that!), the Dolores River Festival and 100 Miles of Nowhere, and a Rockies Reunion.  We get to enjoy our family in Colorado a couple of times and play with our nephews, siblings, parents, cuzes, etc.  We’re performing several times and teaching a three-week circus camp (Funtown Circus!) and exploring our new home in Flagstaff.  We’re leaving for a week long camping trip in the vast deserts of Utah tomorrow.  Life is good and summer is just beginning.  Here we go!


Home and away…

“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)”

For best results, please have the following tune playing (loud) whilst reading this post…




Home is where I want to be
Pick me up and turn me round
I feel numb – burn with a weak heart
(So I) guess I must be having fun
The less we say about it the better
Make it up as we go along
Feet on the ground
Head in the sky
It’s ok I know nothing’s wrong . . nothing
Hi yo I got plenty of time
Hi yo you got light in your eyes
And you’re standing here beside me
I love the passing of time
Never for money
Always for love
Cover up say goodnight . . . say goodnight
Home – is where I want to be
But I guess I’m already there
I come home she lifted up her wings
Guess that this must be the place
I can’t tell one from another
Did I find you, or you find me?
There was a time Before we were born
If someone asks, this where I’ll be . . . where I’ll be
Hi yo We drift in and out
Hi yo sing into my mouth
Out of all those kinds of people
You got a face with a view
I’m just an animal looking for a home
Share the same space for a minute or two
And you love me till my heart stops
Love me till I’m dead
Eyes that light up, eyes look through you
Cover up the blank spots
Hit me on the head Ah ooh
Adventuring in a new home.  Exploring the love.

(Thanks, LJ, for the care package.  And obviously, I own zero rights to Talking Heads property and I’m broke so don’t sue me.)

Grand Canyon sunrise

Across the room, the shining red digits of the clock taunted my restlessness.

2:57 am

“Just close your eyes, the more you dwell on it the less you’ll sleep,” I told myself.  I drifted in and out of consciousness for what seemed like hours and gave myself permission to check the clock again.

3:12 am

Damn it.

On the other side of the bed I could sense a similar sleepless agitation from Joan. We tossed and turned for a while longer, with the optimistic hope that sleep would come and give us passage to a more reasonable hour of the morning. “Want to get up and catch the sunrise at the Canyon?” I asked sarcastically.

A long pause.

“Umm…yeah!  Let’s do it!”

We had already been planning on taking a day-trip to hike around the Grand Canyon.  Sure, we weren’t planning on leaving for another seven hours, but what the heck?  Neither of us was really getting any rest.  How cool would a sunrise at the 7th natural wonder of the world be?


Turns out, really cool.


Yes, I look incredibly smug in this picture.

We found an excellent perch away from the crowds and prepared ourselves for a breathtaking dawn.


We were started cold but knew the sun’s warmth would soon be upon us.


And in came the sunshine…


Sunshine!  Woohoo!!




The sun began to spread, showering the landscape in light.


As the the day began, so did our hike.


Signs warned of the dangers of heatstroke.


The trail crisscrossed and lead us down, down, down.


Cheerful morning hike!


A look back at where we started.


Walls all lined up.


Desert beauty.


Deadwood.  Ooooor live wood.


The return trip.  All uphill from here.


Adventures need good partners.  I’ve got the best.


The view from the top is much different from being down on the Colorado River.  This was my first trip to the rim of the big ditch, and Joan’s second (but first in adult life.)  In case I’m stating the obvious, it’s enormous.  Like, really, really big.  Friends, come and visit us and we’ll got check it out.  Seriously, it’s only 90 minutes from our house.  How crazy is that?

Here’s to making yourself feel small once in a while.  Cheers.

What I learned over Xmas break

Joan and I spent 17 days in Colorado over the holiday break, and during that time I was reminded of some basic life lessons. To share with you:

1. Hold your friends close and your family closer.
Often, those two categories are the same. Especially when growing up in a small town like Gunnison, friends become family. When challenges face a community, people come together. Tragedy provides a powerful reminder of just how important the people in our lives truly are. Hold them close and tight, and enjoy the good times.


2. Flexibility.
Living out of a suitcase is hard (but Joan and I already knew that.) Sometimes, it’s easier to let other people make the decisions and go with the flow.  This was particularly true when people began to get holiday flus and colds.  We have the most control over how we react to situations.  We can have influence on the events that are going to happen, but awareness of our responses and understanding the circumstances makes adapting to those events much, much easier.

3. You can’t do everything…
My, what grand plans I had! I’ll back country ski with Jordan and Lani, we’ll hang out with John and Jackie in Denver, we’ll check out Ft. Collins as a possible next home base. Oh, let’s go to CB for New Years, too! These are all plans we had that didn’t quite pan out. High hopes fell short this time.

4. …But you can do a lot.
We got to see our nephews, go to the zoo with little ones, skied Crested Butte, Monarch and cross-country, saw TONS of friends, spent time with family, saw an incredibly creative dance show (directed by one of Joan’s old friends, ascendanceproject), stayed up till 12:02 New Years Eve and plenty more. We make our to-do lists long and difficult to complete but we fill those lists with great things, so those items we do get to check off are just as sweet.  Quality and quantity.

5. Bringing joy is the best.
We had a top secret plan in the works for several months and executed it masterfully. Thanks to many individuals, one of Joan’s long-time dance friends received an aerial dance cube as a surprise present. And she flipped! It was so much fun to bring her out, blindfolded, and surprise her with this dance apparatus. Jess is going to have so much fun getting to know this piece of equipment and it was super cool to be a part of the gift giving.

cube jess joan

6. Home is where we are.
Crested Butte, Gunnison, parts of the front range, and Flagstaff all represent a little bit of home to us. Wherever we were, we were able to enjoy it. Yes, we do keep all our possessions here in Flaggy-boy, but we still feel very connected with other places as well. With that said, Flagstaff has been a great home to us, and we were glad to get back after a long road trip.

What lessons did you learn over the holidays?


Day 4: Barranco to Barafu

Day 4

If an apprehensive vibe was felt on the first day of the hike, on the start of this day the nervousness was palpable.  We knew we were waking up to the most physically demanding effort of the trip: First, we’d be faced with a climb up the Barranco Wall, a pitch that rises straight out of camp and gains 1,000 feet before you’ve even started to digest your breakfast.  After that, the day becomes a long approach to high camp, dipping into the Karanga Valley for a spell and then soaring to 15,000′.  Once arrive at camp, we’d be treated to a quick meal and a three hour nap before setting of on our midnight summit bid.



Climbing the Barranco Wall is very similar to Colorado’s Wetterhorn Peak: some exposure, a few hands and feet moves, but mostly fun stair-step type climbing.  I’d consider it the most difficult climbing of the trek, if altitude was eliminated.  Nothing more than easy class three makes it clear why so many people attempt this mountain each year.

Kyle, looking back from where we came.  This was a really enjoyable section of climbing.

The porters impressed us further on this section, carrying tons of weight on old shoes and taking the most difficult path in order to get around us slow gringos.  They’re amazing people.


Arriving at the top of the wall, we were blown away by the view of the peak.  It was right there, in front of us, in all it’s majesty.  Mt. Kilimanjaro, 19,341′ above sea level.  And we were climbing it.


Boom.  Thar she blows.

For the rest of the day, Kili loomed large above our heads.  We dipped into the Karanga Valley shortly.  Sean and I lamented the lack of a ladder bridge spanning the valley, which would have cut two hours and several hundred vertical feet off the day.  Those Westerners sure can dream




..and regaining lost footage.

Topping out above Karanga Valley put us at Karanga Camp aka “Dirty Camp”.  Because it’s gross.  Lot’s of people get sick here, Sean said, and for this reason we made a quick lunch stop and kept moving.  Onward and upward.


A quick break in the clouds to refuel.


We were working towards a ridge that seemed to get further and further away as time went on.  I started to believe it was a mirage, but we finally crested it.


Dropping down the backside, we could see our work laid out in front of us.  Camp was up on the next ridge, and we knew there was only one way to get there.  Keep climbing.


Cairns on the final pitch.


After a long a tiring day we reached camp.  We knew there were just a few short hours remaining before we’d have to get up and put in a solid physical effort once more, so each team member set to the task of making final summit preparations.

I made a few gear alterations and ate as much food as I could muster on an exhausted stomach.  Terry told us she would not be accompanying us during the summit attempt as her health issues had gained the upper-hand.  It was tough to learn our entire group wasn’t going to make it up to the top, but so it goes in mountain climbing.  I deeply respect her decision and applaud her for having the strength to call it quits.  More often than not, that’s harder than going on.

Sean took the opportunity to make a few people smile and break up the seriousness of the atmosphere by donning “Big Sexy”: a ridiculous outfit consisting of a red onesy (complete with trap door butt) and Soviet-style mad bomber hat.

I made sure to think about the reason I was up on the mountain.  Survivors.  I thought about friends.  I thought about family members.  I thought about those who didn’t survive.  Most of all, I thought about my goal for the trip: to give just one current cancer patient something to look forward to.  To let one patient know that he could do this some day.  I hope I reached that goal.

I went to bed thinking about the climbs I’ve done in my life.  Some were more difficult than others.  I knew this one would be like nothing else.

Day 3: Shira camp to Barranco

Day 3

The goal for the day was aclimitization.  We’d begin from Shira camp at ~12,000′ and climb up to the Lava Tower just below Arrow Glacier at an altitude of 16,000′.  After reaching the high point, we’d descend back down to and camp at 12,500′.  Woohoo, elevation!

It was a cold morning but quickly warmed up as we climbed towards the Tower.


It certainly wasn’t t-shirt weather, but it wasn’t too bad.

The trail was very gradual and pretty smooth.  It was interesting to see how the elevation played with my fitness.

Just as we reached the Lava Tower, the wind kicked up and blew the high clouds off of Uhuru Peak (the high point on Kilimanjaro).  We got a great view of the Arrow Glacier route and the immense magnitude of the summit we were attempting to gain.


With Lava Tower as the high point, we had a nice long descent to get to camp.  Some of our hikers discovered how difficult hiking downhill can be.  We moved slowly.

I took in the sights…


…enjoyed the unusual fawna…



…and thought about the task before us.



We camped at the Baranco Huts, knowing the next day we’d have to face the storied Baranco Wall, a thousand vertical foot pitch that rises dramatically out of the valley floor.  I couldn’t wait.

Day 2: Macheme to Shira camp

Day 2

We awoke to Gasper, our server, knocking on the nylon of our tent.  Groggily, I unzipped the door.

“Coffee or tea?” he asked, holding a tray with an assortment of morning beverages.

What a way to wake up.

Kyle, my tent-mate (and all around cool guy, check out his long-term cause at and I sat in our tent in disbelief about where we were and what we were doing.  “Oh, just having a cup of coffee in my tent on Kilimanjaro. What are you doing today?”  It was time to pack up and get moving for our second effort of the trip.  Our mission today was to reach Shira Camp at around 12,000 ft.

Breakfast was served.  Each morning we could count on porridge, fruit and sausage (and every once in a while, eggs.)  The sausage was actually hot dogs and the porridge was akin to watered down Malt-o-Meal, but I ate ever last bit I could stomach.  Your body works a lot differently at high elevations, and I had discovered how much fuel mine needed each day.

The morning began in a dense, lush rain forest setting but quickly transitioned into more barren  moorlands.  Like, really quickly.  Like, in four steps.  The contrast between the previous ecosystem and the point to which we ascended was stark.  In a matter of feet it seemed that all had dried out and the thick vegetation was replaced with rocks and alpine grasses.  This section rose very quickly and we found ourselves on steep, switchbacking terrain.

Up, up, up we went, through the mist and out of the clouds.

Soon the sun was shining and we took a break for lunch.  A hot meal was waiting for us, prepared by Double D and Gasper.

Recharged and refreshed, we hit the trail again.  The terrain had leveled out a bit and we faced an ascending traverse to reach camp.  The hiking was a bit of connect-the-dots through boulders, finding the best line and stepping from rock to rock.  It was a fun change from the previous steep climbing.

We got to camp and were treated to beautifully wispy clouds, rolling over the lower peaks.

As the sun set, we prepared for the next day.


It’s good to be on a mountain.

Day 1: Machame Gate to Machame camp

Day 1

There was plenty of nervous energy in the air when we awoke on Day 1.  We didn’t really know what to expect, but thought we had our bases covered.  Sean had checked our gear out the day before.  Some climbers had it totally dialed, others were planning on carrying a pretty hefty load, but Sean helped ensure everyone had what they needed.


We had met our guides the night before and were excited to see them again. was the agency we went through and I recommend them completely and without hesitation.  “A1” the entire way.

The bus was loaded with our gear and then our nervous bodies.  The trail head sat an hours drive from Moshi town.  As the pavement turned to dirt and the desert shifted to rain forest, casual conversation was struck up with the friendly Canadians hitching a ride.  Sean’s story is endlessly impressive, but he would never tell it without a little prying.  Luckily, mom was along to spin the yarn.  I reflected on how much this guy has done as she sat and chatted up the Canucks.  I felt more and more honored to have the opportunity to do this with the Cancer Climber Association.


Tanzania is a pretty cool country, for a number of reasons.  One reason that sticks out to me is that they require all Kili climbers to be accompanied by a guide (and usually a number of porters.)  We were no exception.  Upon arrival at the Machame Gate, our porter bags were unloaded and weighed.

(Yes, dear reader, a porter carried my stuff.  A porter will carry your stuff, too, if you ever do this mountain.  I hope that doesn’t shatter the majestic image I’ve built up to this point.  During the day, we all carried day packs with essential items.  Food, water, extra clothes.  Pretty basic.  I brought a super light CAMP pack and hardly felt the weight most days.  I’d be strolling along in my own little contemplative world when a porter would blaze past me, an enormous back pack strapped on his shoulders and an even bigger burlap sack balancing on his head.  He’d be dressed in worn out dress shoes and sweat pants.  And he’d be singing.)

Once the weigh in was completed, we snapped a few typical trail head shots and began our trek.

Pole, pole.

Mt. Kilimanjaro is not a fast hike.  The motto on the mountain, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, is “pole, pole” which translates to “slowly.”  Guides will constantly remind you to slow down.  While I live in Colorado and did my best to get in a good amount of high altitude training, I trusted their expert opinion and never balked at the slow pace.  It paid dividends later.

The section from Machame Gate to Machame camp was pretty smooth and pedestrian.  We stopped for a nice boxed lunch, but other than that moved pretty consistantly and arrived at Machame camp at 10,170′ in about five hours.


Our camp site gave us a beautiful and intimidating view of our ultimate goal.  Kilimanjaro looms large in the distance, no matter where you might be.  It stalks you.  Only one thing to do: keep climbing.

Cancer Climber 2012 Kilimanjaro Expedition – Pictures

Highlights from the 2012 Cancer Climber Kilimajaro Expedition.

Jambo Bwana!
Habari gani
Mzuri Sana
Hakuna Matata …

Tembea pole pole
Hakuna matata
Utafika salama
Hakuna matata
Kunywa maji mengi
Hakuna matata

Jambo: Greetings

Bwana: Respectful address

Habari gani: How are you?

Mzuri sana: Very fine

Wageni, mwakaribishwa: Foreigners, You are welcome

Hakuna matata: There are no worries

Tembea pole pole: Walk slow, slow

Utafika salama: Come safe

Kunywa maji mengi: Drink plenty of water

Our guides would break into songs and echo calls when you’d least expect it.  It served as a big morale booster to call back their cries of “Koochie koochie!”, “Jip jip jip!”, “pop pop pop!”, and “daron daron daron!”  It also let them know how gassed we were.

“Man, when you lose your laugh, you lose your footing.”

-Ken Kesey, One Flew Over The Cuokoo’s Nest