Exactly one year ago, I was getting my bags packed in preparation for a two-week adventure out west. Now that I think about it, that's probably not true. Knowing me, I'd been mostly packed for a week already. It's more likely that I was already packed and was quietly freaking out about the fact that I was about to get on airplanes. Traveling agitates me. Determined to travel light I was bringing just the essentials. Jeans. A couple of t-shirts. Running sneakers. A warm layer. Art supplies. A camera. An empty journal.
The journey began on April 7th, 2016 when I flew from Burlington to Phoenix. Actually, the journey began when my daughter Hannah went to Tucson two years prior to do an internship with Kate and Ted at the Land with No Name (http://www.thelandwithnoname.net). But that's her story to tell.
What I can tell you is that being in Arizona and surrounded by the art and beauty of the place inspired Hannah to reach out to many of my friends and relatives and ask them secretly to help send me on this amazing western adventure. She presented me with the trip on my birthday, and for 8 months I looked forward to it, imagined it, planned for it, dreamed of it. One year ago tonight, I was about to launch.
In Sedona I hiked on my own through stunning beauty from sun-up to sun-down for two days. Rusty red sand and rock formations that don't make sense. The huge sky. Endless trails. The occasional worry of running into a mountain lion. The bigger worry of not having time to fit it all in. Take a New Englander and send her west in April and you begin to understand the delicious draw of a western sun and the thirsty pale skin which can barely handle it. It was all I could do to not hike naked.
In the fascinating city of Tucson I met up with Kate and Ted — the coolest, most charming and intriguing artists and best tour guides this rural Vermonter could hope for. They are working hard to piece together a life that is rich with artistic pursuits and interesting human connections. Southwest desert flowers were just budding when I arrived and in full bloom on the day I left. I saw rattlesnake, horned toad, saguaro, prickly pear, ocotillo, and The Dusty Chaps — quite possibly the most eclectic collection of musicians and storytellers all on stage at one time. I was fortunate enough to stay in Kate's studio on Convent Ave., surrounded by inspiring art, architecture, and history. The neighborhood is quiet, sweet and beautiful — a humbly renovated Mexican community that has kept all the best parts of its original culture, architecture, and aesthetics.
In Colorado I had a mixture of snowy and sunny adventures with EB & Grace, Jenny, and my fabulous hiking companion Ruby the Dog. This time of year the bark of a ponderosa smells exactly like a butterscotch candy, and crickets — a sound I associate with August in Vermont — were everywhere. I was reminded that April in Colorado can mean 2 feet of snow followed by sun so strong it burns your skin in an hour. A 24-hour period in Colorado requires gallons of water. Boulder is the athletic capital of the world — hikers, runners, bikers, triathletes, endurance and mountain runners, and champion micro beer drinkers. Pure inspiration and humility from the minute the sun breaks through the steam rising from my coffee cup until many hours later when having sucked every morsel from the day, I watch it dip below the horizon through the bottom of my pint glass. Living in Boulder is living. Reconnecting with friends and with my fun, happy, positive self filled me with gratitude.
A typical day looked something like this: Wake up. Drink damn good coffee. Go for a run. Plan a hike. Pack up and head out. Photograph everything. Make some art. Go for another hike. Make some more art. Eat really good Mexican food. Taste local beer. Sleep. Repeat. In short, I spent 17 days squeezing every drop out of the day and living the wise words of my dear old dad: You're never too old for a happy childhood.