Desert Trip!

19 Tue, 2011 § 3 Comments

I am in need of simplicity.

[photo by David Finch]

To be honest, we live pretty simply; but there is something centering about the desert & a long camping trip — Dave & I have both been craving this!

We have all but been counting down the days to our upcoming Creek trip.

Indian Creek, Utah is one of our favorite climbing destinations

& where Dave & I exchanged our vows.  I have talked about The Creek before:

1.  Here is a glimpse of why Indian Creek is so cherished.  This camping trip differed from the usual & opened our eyes to a different perspective of IC.

2.  Many people find the desert boring; these people are crazy. 😉  I find a sense of peace in its austerity, & I always learn something about myself among it sparseness & resilience like I shared in this post.

I am sure I will have more to share after our Spring trip!


Do you find the desert beautiful?  Any camping trips planned?

Awakened to Her Beauty

9 Sun, 2011 § 8 Comments

When asked to describe the most beautiful place you have ever seen is, where comes to mind.  Likely it would not be your own backyard, or would it?  Where we grew up is usual, ordinary…there is nothing astonishing about it.

[David Finch]

In recent years, I have embraced a fresh perspective, like I am seeing it for the first time.  My new perspective has blossomed from uncovered passions [rocking climbing, backpacking, etc], which have led me back into the desert, as well as Dave’s openness in sharing what he sees through the lens.

On our drive from Utah over the holidays, we took a different route home.  We were awed by the range of landscape we passed: wavy, pink hills of sandstone contrasted by sheer, red-faced cliffs; pale, chalky petrified dunes gave way to looming, dark towers, more volcanic than desertesque…

While visiting over the holidays, our first afternoon in Emery was spent exploring just beyond the borders of my hometown.

Dave explored through his camera, capturing & creating amazing works of art.

[David Finch]

Dad & I hiked around a narrow wash.

He filled me in on stories of an ancient ruin of Native American artifacts hidden deep within this wash.  The desert conceals her beauty & memories well, but my eyes are more open to her secrets now.

I have always enjoyed the outdoors & “saw”  its beauty, but admittedly I was a bit stingy with my compliments to nature in my adolescence.  I loved green, lush, mountainous lands…& might have acknowledged beauty in the desert, especially in unusual rocks or a glowing sunset…but a countryside of this?

[David Finch]

Land spotted in jade, olive & lime is not just a field of tri-colored sage brush; it is expansion & space.  It is something to be cherished.  The sparseness & simplicity  of the desert is austere & alluring.

Raw.  Exposed.  Unrelenting.

Defiant.  Pure.  Beautiful.

Now I truly see it, revel in it & realize how beautiful my home is & how fortunate I was to grow up there…because of what it has taught me, continues to teach me & because I can continue to explore & relish in it.


Is your hometown ordinary or beautiful to you?

“Psychotic Girl”

6 Wed, 2010 § 4 Comments

Dear 200-pound gorilla or jerk pulling on the rock right after it rains,

Stop breaking holds off of my projects! as I am not of strong enough character to shrug it off or simply laugh as I fall on my butt [over & over & over] attempting previously “mastered” moves.

Sincerely & gratefully yours,



If you happened across me climbing on certain days, you might stop & ask why I climb at all.  You would first have to bring me out of my cursing stupor, & you may have to wait for the tears to subside before you would get an answer.  You thought I loved climbing; but this is clearly not someone doing something she loves.

Sunday, I was consumed by the fact some idiot had broken a hold had broken off of my project, making it at least one entire grade more difficult & altering the sequence — even if only slighty — stoutly.  This was more than a little frustrating, because I was ready for this climb.  As I walked up to it, I knew it was in the bag.  I would send it today, & it would mark my hardest problem sent to date.

Immediately something felt off: This isn’t how it starts, is it?  Had I really weakened this much?!  Several grunts, exasperated huffs & withheld screeches later, we spotted the broken slab of rock that used to be the starting hold & eventual key foot.

Well 1. that explains it; 2. now I cannot do it; 3. & it is all someone’s fault who is not me.  [Man, my ego is good at this.]

Too often, my frustration results in tantrum throwing & blame shifting rather than accepting & seeing something for what it is.

The hold broke.  Period.


No, it is gone.  That is it.


Nothing short of a miracle will cause its re-materialization, so no more useless tears.  Stop wasting energy cursing, complaining & making excuses.  It is what it is.  Just climb.

My most enjoyed climbing experiences are embraced playfully.  It is quite impossible to imagine this cursing girl before you sometimes laughs when she falls or as she is experimenting with unsure movements on the rock.  Though this is the approach I would love to adopt exclusively, sadly, it is currently the less common.

The level or grade of the climb or limit of my abilities has nothing to do with whether or not I will embrace it more joyfully.  My attitude & frame of mind only determine this.

Black Keys’ Psychotic Girl played over the iPod at one point in the day.  Though I have no clue what most of the lyrics say, the title felt painfully pointed.  I needed to get over my insanity & face reality.

When the day is just not going quite like you planned, take a break & reassess.

Food is always a nice distraction.

On really active days — like climbing trips when we need fuel but do not want to waste a lot of time/energy digesting — whole, light foods are ideal, like this French Lentil & Honeycrisp Salad with a splash of bragg’s Raw Apple-Cider Vinegar.

Or these cute little…tomatoes?

Nope.  Plums from Farmer’s Market.  Delicious & fun as they “pop” in your mouth.

During your “break”, keep in mind that even if you did not realize you woke up on the wrong side of the bed but later in the day realize you are totally on the wrong side,

Start Over.

It is absolutely okay to call a redo; actually it is encouraged — especially by all who have had to deal with you up to this point in the day.

After a short, midday siesta, I was revived & ready for my redo.

First, by encouraging Dave’s attempts on his project.

Then back to face mine, with hopefully clearer perspective & attitude.  Absolved of pre-conceived notions of failure & ready to simply see it for what it was, I could only send, right?

Not exactly, but I did work out the “new” sequence until my skin & fingers cried No More!  More importantly, I finally allowed myself to enjoy the climb.  What is life but this moment?  If I cannot embrace & enjoy now — what is — then there is nothing else.

There are few things as rewarding as giving your all…then willing just a little bit more…leaving the crag raw, bloody & completely spent…defeated not by my mind or ego…but simply my body’s [pain ;)] threshold…& the magnitude of the rock.

Oh, I guess there was one more reward:

~Sweet Potato Pie~

& a moment to enjoy the openness of the salt pan.


An epiphany I once realized “on-the-mat” was establishing my intention for the day, activity, etc before beginning.  This is an idea I am still processing & determining how to incorporate into climbing.  It seems uncomplicated enough: I simply need to take a moment before climbing & establish my mood & the tone for the experience.

Has anyone ever integrated a similar approach?  Please share!

Letting the Wind Go

30 Fri, 2010 § 6 Comments

“Love flowers best in openness & freedom.”

~Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

There is something austere & beautiful about the sparseness & simplicity of the desert.  A stillness exists here unmatched by any place I have yet visited; the life that triumphs the desert’s harshness stands out bold & defiant.  I always learn something about myself among this resilience.  Sometimes – often – it is something I do not like admitting & deeply wish to change.


We have just begun preparing dinner.  There is a welcome, even if only subtle, breeze.  The slight relief it has offered from the scorching heat of the day abruptly ceases.  Suddenly, a huge opposing gust rages through camp.  The one-up digs in for a losing battle as I rush to grab a pole begging to be torn from the dirt.  It lifts like a kite…& I watch twenty-two pages of collected yoga practices scatter in every direction.  Dave rushes to my aid, & we quickly disassemble the one-up & take chase.

The wind is continuously shifting; just as I have a page in sight & determine its path, it immediately vanishes.  I run after them like a child chasing butterflies.  Uh, lie.  I chase these gems of wisdom & self-discovery…these corridors to fleeting nirvana…with tears lining my eyes & a pitiful whine,  “but they make me happy”, being carried off by the wind along with my pages…all the while cursing the wind.  What purpose does it even serve anyway?  Honestly, amidst my frustration, I could not credit the wind one redeeming act — I had completely forgotten the relief it offered only minutes earlier.

Why the tears?  Why over these pages?

Yoga has become a place where I can escape – I can curl into its warmth, stretch into its expansion – my inadequacy does not exist here.  Not because I “excel”, but because it is something I have learned – am still learning – to embrace playfully without judgment.  But playfully without attachment?  Without ownership?  Apparently not.  Why did I feel I needed these pages to embrace my practice?  Was it my own insecurities?  Was I letting my sense of inadequacy creep in?  A need for identity?  While knowledgeable guidance is fundamentally valuable, do I need someone else to define my practice?  Do I need to define my practice?

We managed to gather a handful.  Of course my favorites were without their mate or still missing completely.

Broken.  Defeated.  I accepted my losses…bitterly…still clinging to a twinge of naive hope we would see Play Leads the Way [which includes a favorite pose, Lord of the Dance, I hope to master someday] waving frantically from a net of sage the next morning.

Dave & I collected other items the wind had thrown: plates, books, chairs, sunglasses, hats, etc.  Eisley insisted on helping scour for chips – we could not keep her away – she was even looking the next day. 😀  Dave finally had to crush them.  We took down what didn’t stand a chance against the furry & tethered the rest.  We looked at each other through furious, indecisive gusts of wind, smirked & asked “now what?”

We gave in.  We could not stop the wind.  It had claimed what it would have.  So we walked.  I teased about my absurd attachment to these papers, we toyed again with the idea of packing up, but instead, we simply walked.

Dave took photos at the overlook as I flowed through a favorite playful practice.  We embraced what the moment still offered, enhanced by the charm of the sun setting.  The wind was still a rye, but we were enjoying ourselves; & I had let go.

During the walk back to camp, we recovered four more pages, completing all but two sequences [most of which were found by Dave].  His final find that evening?  He smiled at me as he read “Play Leads the Way”.

“When we are established in non-attachment, the nature & purpose of existence are understood.”

~The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

By letting go, the entire tone & mood of our evening changed.  It is useless to cling — there are very few things we have ultimate control over — yet we have a choice regarding the attitude we embrace.  “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me & 90% how I react to it” [Charles R. Swindoll].

Life in the desert is met by some of the harshest obstacles acting against it, yet the cactus does not whine, make excuses, cling to illusions of becoming a fern nor grow bitter.  It accepts the moment, uses whatever resources it is given, embraces the freedom of its sparse surroundings & blossoms into what it is meant to be.

Mind your mind; let everything else follow.


As we made our final departure the next morning, Dave asked me to please adjust the side mirror.  As I reached out the window for the corner of the mirror, a sheet of white waved from the brush just beyond.


The View On Top

29 Thu, 2010 § 6 Comments

“This is what I desire most; to be able to sit with you & watch the shifting shadows cross a cliff face of sandstone.”

It was in Indian Creek that Dave & I realized the love we shared for the desert — & for each other — & we knew we would spend our lives together experiencing this kind of beauty & adventure.  It seemed only fitting we marry here with bands of red cliffs looming overhead as witnesses.  For us, the heart of Indian Creek has always been in the canyon…at the base of 300-foot sandstone cliffs…admiring the sheer faces & clean lines [cracks].

For us, Indian Creek is not just rock climbing; it is crack climbing.  It is perfecting tape gloves & hand jams; consenting to gobies, scars & blood.  It is sweat, tears, feeding off the desert’s calm & facing fears.  Fulfillment & success are equated to falling into our sleeping bags at the end of the day…exhausted.

What does a typical Creek day look like?

[Take a deep breath now…& GO]: I’m awake just before the sun bundling up in layers, trying to wash the sleepiness from my eyes; I let Eisley out of her bed, do some quick yoga to warm up; Dave’s up, scanning the climbing guide for our daily agenda & preping required gear while I prepare a simple breakfast [usually oatmeal & yogurt], hot chocolate & tea, still trying to warm up…pause…just long enough to admire the sun spilling over the horizon into full view…eat, quickly clean up, jump in the FJ, aim for the crag, always at least second — if not the first group – at the base; finally, climb until our muscles, joints, skin, nerves, all-of-the-above fail.  [& breathe]

So what happens when you take the familiar, with its established meaning, intimacy & expectations, step back & peel off the layers?  What does it look like naked, raw & fresh without our agenda?

I’m still up before the sun letting Eisley out.  It’s a bit chilly, so we walk.  At the point of a drop off, I find a perfect stone platform to watch the gold & orange expansion of the soon-to-be-sun shooting across the horizon.  I let Eis wander within eyesight, while I practice sun salutations & warrior poses with the rising sun.  I sprint back to camp overcome by the desire to share this with Dave.  We bike down the dirt road looking for other sunrise photo ops.  Eventually we walk to the rim to experience the morning view.

These same walls are normally met by our anxious ambitions to get up close & personal; this time, we admire their beauty & magnitude from above…from a distance.

We spend our days practicing yoga; biking till the road ends, then hiking till we discover a new path, then walking until it’s been too long since Eisley’s last drinking puddle 🙂  Rather than concerning ourselves over what will be quick & effortless over the fire — & take up less space than the climbing gear — we savor “gourmet” camp meals [Salmon with Blackberry Sauce, Chickpea Burgers, Eggs & Bacon, etc]; we even enjoy actual lunches rather than bars & snacks hastily consumed between pitches.  We sleep under the full moon on cots.  We borrow my parents’ one-up!?!  Partake of midday siestas?!  Have we gone soft??  We read & write; we enjoy music as well as the stillness.  We love just being in the desert & just being with one another.

Our trip wasn’t always this sunny, light-hearted view; we were initially welcomed by tall bolts breaking through the sky not nearly far enough away.  Among the grey, drizzling sky & massive gusts of wind, we found what appeared to be an ideal campsite & waited out the storm.  Dave entertained me on his ukulele with John Williamson’s “Home Among the Gum Trees” & tried to teach me the Maori Kamate Haka…with little luck :P.  We became immersed in our own little world & cannot tell you when exactly the rain ceased.

The wind never really eased up that night…& after a coyote sauntered to within 15 yards of camp [my primary concern regarded Eisley; I could claim sole concern, but coyotes have always creeped me out], we seriously contemplated packing up & heading to more familiar pastures down in the canyon.  The point of our venture was to experience the less familiar though, so we committed to give it until morning.

Our faith rewarded.

We will not be giving up our typical climbing-centered/active camping trips any time soon; however we did gain much from loosening our grasps & letting go of an agenda.  It is ok for us to bend even how we enjoy recreational activities: rather than baha-ing downhill on mountain bikes at god-knows-what-speed [Dave, not me], we can also be more moderate & playful with our approach.  We do not always have to dig in so deep; we can relax, welcome flexibility & leave room for spontaneity.  Let life happen…& enjoy.


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