Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Playing in the Park

Two and a half weeks between leaving my job in Utah and starting a new job in Georgia provided time for a New Mexico jaunt.
Meadows with flowing streams. 
Less than 24 hours after teaching my last field trip, Jan and I set out for two nights in the San Pedro Parks Wilderness. A place I’d visited once before for a Leave No Trace Trainer course back in 2012. The "parks" are open grassy areas. No swingsets or monkey bars though. Just quiet expansiveness.
Joining the CDT for a while.
Gentle terrain greeted us. Much of the area is above 10,000 feet but it wasn't steep. A perfect a transition into vacation mode. The busyness of packing up and saying goodbye had me wound up. Mentally, I was still double-checking my work to-do lists. I was reeling from separating from my friends, coworkers, and students. Why must I always feel such deep emotion upon moving?
Butterfly friends.
We climbed to a few so-called high points shown on the map. This one even had a cairn marking it, even though it’s just a little hill. Still, it was fun to stand about on top of something.
Marking some sort of high point.
Easy hiking meant the mind was free to wander. I kept thinking about my students. I never imagined they would mean so much to me. One first grader at the beginning of the year would throw himself down on the ground and refuse to move and make me want to quit. He motivated me to be a better teacher. I learned how to listen to him and give him more challenging assignments. Eventually, he’d run up to me to give me hugs and say, “Your favorite student is here!” My last day, he was scheduled for another (more fun) club with another teacher. Yet, he insisted on joining my tutoring group. It was hard to hold back my tears. I still am blown away that I would find a way to connect with young people that at first seemed so out of reach. Working with kids was not something I ever expected to do with my life, but I am grateful that I found this experience and it has changed me. Will my new job feel as meaningful? Will it be as challenging and heart-wrenching and make me feel so alive?

Rain and grauple finally shook me from my introspective mood.

Bit of mud.
 Jan and I huddled up our first night in her tent to discuss our route.
We wanted to hike a giant figure 8 route through the wilderness. However, when we got to our supposed junction the morning of the second day, we couldn't find the connecting trail. Finally, we found the decrepit sign for our intended trail, but it turned out to be completely unmaintained and obliterated. We walked up and down the slope, searching for any sign a trail. Nothing. At. All. Should we go cross-country? Should we turn around, retrace our steps, and take the known way back?

“Let’s give cross-country a try for 5 minutes,” said Jan.

Nine hours later, we emerged onto another trail. A full day of route-finding had us exhausted but also exhilerated. We'd seen no cut-logs or recognizable trail tread. Instead, we'd made our own way.
What we did most of our second day... what I call gymnastics. Sort of like playing on a jungle gym.
A part that had more rock hopping.
It wasn't all uphill.
But the part that was uphill was steep and had the most downed trees. Of course.
Venturing into the hole in the rock.
Which turned out to be a cave with a stream flowing through it.
Is it graffiti or a historical inscription if it is from the 1930's and written with beautiful penmanship?
Discovering a hidden cave and finding signatures on trees from the 1930’s made it all worthwhile for me. Plus, I love the full mind-body engagement of navigating pick-up-sticks for hours on end. It feels like playing on the jungle gym with my students during recess. When everything else slips away, and there is nothing but the here and now. Which is all that is needed.


  1. Those historic markings (if they're 50 years old or more) are called arborglyphs!

    1. What a lovely name for these old signatures. They were quite beautiful and it was interesting to discover some located far from existing (modern) trails.

    2. Thanks for the new word. https://www.treehugger.com/culture/archeologists-study-the-worlds-oldest-tree-carvings.html

  2. Thank you for getting this post up. It makes me smile and smile and giggle and laugh and wonder about our craziness. Just 5 minutes . . . that phrase will now be a forever moment. The known vs the unknown will always be what gets me to take chances.

    You were an awesome navigator! I need to spend more time perfecting this skill. Most important when you have a fab teammate and friend, it makes these challenges seem more like adventure.

    This is going to be another forever memory!

    1. Aww thanks Jan!

      "Just 5 minutes" is my new motto for any difficult situiation.

      Thanks for your willingness to go cross-country so I had the opportunity to do navigation, which of course you know I love to do. Happy to escape trails and venture out.