Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Final Summer Hike.

Today is the last day of summer.  Officially.  I'm not sure why I think each new season should be treated like a holiday.  I love the changes they bring.  Each one, even winter, my least favorite.  They signify a change for me.  A fresh start four times a year.  The last few days have continued to feel very summer like.  A few trees have leaves turning brilliant colors, but for the most part summer is still in the air.  Before the weather begins to turn crisp, I had one last thing on my summer bucket list.  Last weekend we took care of it.  It looked something like this...

Sitting atop a mountain peak after a kid-less hike with my guy.  

(It may have been summer in the valley, but it felt very much like winter at 8,914 ft)

Our relationship began in a dorm room but it flourished in the mountains.  As young college students we didn't have much money and what we did have most often was spent on cheap food and beer.  For entertainment we'd head to nearest trail and hike for hours.  Learning all about one another in the way being out in nature allows you to.  Sometimes it was a hike up to a peak, pushing ourselves to the top.  Sometimes with packs on our backs  with tents and dehydrated food for dinner so we could carry our adventures through the night.  I can't think of a better foundation to a relationship than hours spent in the mountains and on the trails.  Now, years later our world is full of distraction.  Kids, work, family, life, not to mention the constant distraction of technology...cell phones always beeping with text messages, social media notifications and phone calls.  Our opportunity to get away from all of this is simple...head back to where it began.  Once a summer we've tried to make sure we get in a hike, just the two of us.  Not only because we want a bigger challenge than our girls are ready for, but because it is us.  

Over the years we've slowly been making our way to each peak in the Bridger range.  They are the most prominent mountains in our valley...in view from anywhere in town.  There's something that I love about looking up at the top of a mountain and knowing I have stood there.  There's something about the perspective of seeing how small our town is when looking at it from above.  We've gone on a lot of gorgeous hikes that don't end at the top of a mountain, but I love the goal of seeing a peak and reaching the top of it.  For this hike we had our sights set on Baldy Mountain, the second lowest peak in the Bridger range, but one of the harder ones to get to.  Last summer we made our first attempt, but didn't allow ourselves enough daylight and didn't make it.  This year we headed out early.  The morning air still had a chill to it as we made our way to the popular M trail head which is the beginning.  Quickly after passing that popular destination the trail quieted down and we settled into our groove.  A mix of mindless chatter, deeper conversations and silence.  It's a nice balance.  The quiet giving each of us the opportunity to take in the peace you get from a solo hike balanced with the chance to talk without kid/phone/life interruptions.  Lunch was right before we made the final ascent to the peak, knowing the wind would be crazy at the top.  We found a place behind some rocks sheltered from the cold, re-fueled and then headed up, up, up.    

The final bit is my favorite.  You are so close.  Legs so tired, yet feeling strong from the  previous 5+ miles.  And then finally the top comes in sight, you drop your pack, catch your breath and take it in.  Not even bothered by anyone else up there because you know they feel the same high you do by reaching the top.  Taking in the views that surround you.  A whole new perspective of the world you live in day to day.  Adding all the layers you took off during the hike up because the fifty per mile wind is a bit much.  Breathing in deep.  Soaking it up.  Man, if I could just bottle the feeling of peace and calm I get sitting there.  

Staying up there for as long as we could take the wind and cold before retracing our steps back down where we had been moments before.  Warming up as we got out of the wind.  Turning around every so often to look at the peak once more and thinking, dang...cannot believe we were just up there...look how high it is!  Walking slowly down the steep and rocky trail, knowing it was going to be harder than going up...knees aching, toes crunched to the top of your boots.  The talk turns light on the way down, proud and pumped up from what was just done.  Deciding which brewery we should hit up on the way home for a celebratory beer.  Starting to get tired about halfway...knees really aching from all the down and knowing there was still a ways to go but there was no other choice.  That's the joy of hiking...sometimes it's hard...but always so good.  

Days later my legs are still sore.  All the hiking we do throughout the summer doesn't prepare you for a longer steep one like this.  The aches are beautiful reminders of the adventure we had.  I don't mind it one bit, it's a reminder that they are strong.  Strong enough to push you up to the top of a mountain and back down again.  This was a very good way to wrap up the last weekend of summer.  Now it's time for things to turn cozy.  Things like pumpkin bread, nature walks to check out the fall colors and preserving vegetables from the garden.  Things like quiet weekends at home after full weeks of school.  Fresh starts for a new season.  Welcome Fall.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Farewell Summer Vacation.

It feels as if the last few weeks of summer slipped right through our fingertips.  One moment we were in full vacation mode...bike picnics and swimming pools, and the next it's all back packs and school supplies.  In an instant our routines shifted.  No more late summer nights...they've been replaced with early bedtimes.  Part of this makes me sad.  I love the carefree nature of schedule free summers.  I love seeing the girls become each others best friends during these three months because they play together morning til night.  I like seeing them smile and laugh with no cares in the world.  After just the supply drop off at school, days before it actually began, I saw Ava withdraw.  It didn't last long, soon her happy smile came back, but for about an hour she closed up.  Guarding herself after being back at school.  These are the things that bum me out.  That and of course no longer having my girls to hang with.  Even if it's just running errands I like having them around.  I am not the mom who was high-fiving everyone on the first day of school cheering that they were back (Not that I'm judging...she's a single mom of four plus a student herself she deserves all the high-fives and cheers).  However, I know the change in routine is good.  The fresh start of the upcoming season is what we all need.  It can't all be freezer pop stands and lounging in the hammock.  In fact I know we need the change to catch our breath from trying to cram all things summer in.  There's no more concern of we need to go camp one more time, we need to take the paddleboard out on one last float, we need to squeeze in one more trip to the pool.  It's time to take a breath and enjoy September and the coming of fall.  To let the summer fun become memories and move on to the next.  I'm not quite ready to let it go.  I will miss...

Hikes to mountain lakes-

Of course we will hike throughout the winter.  Scramble up ice and snow covered trails in the cool fresh air.  But it is simply not the same as a summer hike with the sun beating on your shoulders and a hot puppy jumping in the cold lake at the end.  

Music in the Mountains and farmer's markets-

Our community comes alive in during the warm months.  There is no lack of things to do after work and since there are no such thing as bedtimes in the summer we can go without care.  Packing up dinner and heading to Big Sky to listen to live music became a Thursday night favorite.  Searching for ice cream and fresh veggies at the Farmer's Market another.  I love these things that only come around a few months of the year.  As the weather turns we will spend more time tucked inside our home.  I enjoy this coziness a ton, but will miss the long evenings spent outside as long as the sun was out. 

Ice cream, ice cream and more ice cream.

Summertime is a free pass when it comes to ice cream.  We made more trips than I can count to the new ice cream truck downtown.  Middle of the day, after dinner...anytime seemed like appropriate ice cream time.  And, because they have a flavor called Cup-o-Joe with Heath bits in it, I was all about it.  Yum.  

Wearing swimsuits all day-

If there's water involved, we are all in.  A good majority of our activities revolved around finding some way to get in the water.  One of my favorite weekends this summer was camping at our favorite lake...when swimsuits were worn for two full days.  The water is calming to me and makes our little fish so happy.  Throw in some mountains and we're golden. 

Now we shift.  We trade our flip flops for closed toed shoes.  We are here...

Third and fifth graders.  It will be Ava's last year at elementary school.  When did that happen?!  I swear I was just one of those crying kindergarten parents snapping photos while trying to conceal the tears under big sunglasses.  I always say it's bitter sweet...bitter because it goes all too fast and sweet because seeing them grow more independent each year is such a privilege.  I always feel a little lost the first couple days of this new routine.  I feel lonely on a run after a summer of having the girls with me on the trail.  I may be alone but I always have them with me...

Searching and adding heart rocks to the pile since they aren't there to do it with me.  

Farewell summer.  Thank you for another beautiful season.  I am filled with gratitude for the sunshine we got, the warm air, the time in the mountains.  

Welcome September...we're ready for ya.