Every 18 Years . . .

When I was 18, a friend at work talked me into doing this bike ride that would take two days – 100 miles the first day and 50 miles the second day. The ride would begin in Houston, TX and end in Austin, TX. It was called the MS150 and at the time, we had to raise $150 to participate. Being a typical 18-year-old who recently graduated high school, I had other things on my mind besides training for this bike ride, but since I already had a sweet little Schwinn 10-speed bike that hadn’t seen much action, I was all in.

The only training I recall occurred with a single 10-mile bike ride from my house in Pasadena down to Sylvan Beach in La Porte and back. I remember it taking me an exhausting, wind-blowing hour each way, as I rode down Fairmont Parkway alongside all the busy traffic. I was beat when I finally rolled back into the driveway of our house. I had done this ride thinking it would be a breeze because I was used to running regularly, but I found out quickly that those two activities use entirely different muscles!

After that rude awakening to cycling, I managed to put off any more training rides until the big day in April when thousands of us showed up to participate. One thing that I do know is that I lost track of my work friend because he quit about 30 miles into the ride. All I remember about that first day was that I was either dead last or second to dead last and it was almost dark when I rounded that final corner. I was completely relieved when I saw a guy standing there in the dark waving me in. I was drunk with exhaustion.

Since it was a two day ride, there were multiple options for that first night which included camping, though I cannot even imagine what fresh hell that would have been. We finished the first 100 miles and ended in La Grange, TX which was and still is a typical small Texas town. At any rate, I was one of the lucky ones. My Grandma lived in a little blink of a town called Carmine which was about 20 miles away and all I knew was that a hot shower, soft bed and her pan-fried butter toast and homemade jelly was waiting for me.

The following morning, I was contemplating my options with quitting being at the top of the list, but that damn pride and my stubborn “I didn’t come to far to only come this far” mentality took that choice off the list. My Grandma got up and took me, my brother and his friend Scott back to the starting line and once we started moving, my muscles rallied and away we went. The weather was much less pleasant and after about an hour, we ran headlong into a blue northern. If you are unfamiliar with one of these weather hazards, let me see if I can find the words . . . yeah, just image the coldest wet wind blowing into you at 20-30 mile gusts while you are pedaling into it and that should do it.

After we finished our final 50 miles, my parents (my Mom and my #2 Dad) were there waiting for us. I have a photo of me and my brother’s friend at the finish line (see below) so I know at least the two of us finished it. My Dad’s boss had some sort of BBQ cook-off happening at the Austin fairgrounds and we were able to hitch a ride back to Houston with them rather than taking the chartered bus with the rest of the finishers. To say that I was completely traumatized by this bike ride can only be fully understood by the fact that I literally did not go near a bike again until I got this crazy idea that it would be fun to do this challenging ride again after an 18-year hiatus.

Apparently the statute of limitations for painful cycling memories is a lot like child birth. After awhile, you tell yourself that it wasn’t that bad when in reality it was that bad, but your brain has a very focused case of amnesia. This time around however, I did train. I also remember that I joined a corporate team without knowing a single soul, but I got a nice jersey out of it. I was dating a personal trainer at the time and he bought me a hybrid bike that would take me on trails as well as paved roads, but the world of cycling had seriously evolved in the past 18 years and that bike, while great to train on, was nowhere near qualified for my needs. I needed a road bike, or in this case, something lightweight with skinny tires.

It was right about this time that my #1 Dad, came to the rescue. When I was a kid, my Dad had his own bike shop and it was one of those things that he did through the years at various times when he needed the money. So when he surprised me a week before the race with a Trek road bike, I was ecstatic. Neither of us had a lot of money at that time, and I knew that the $200 he paid for it at a local pawn shop had cost him dearly so I was determined to make him proud.

Turns out that my little Trek was already vintage compared to all the other road bikes, but I didn’t care. Riding it was a breeze after training for months on a hybrid. By this time in my life, I had gotten married, became a mom, and ended up getting divorced. My Grandma had died a few years earlier, but her house stayed in the family which meant that I once again got to recover there after the first 100 miles of day one. My Mom and my son were at the house waiting for me when my Dad picked me up in La Grange where he now lived. What I didn’t know then was that it would be the last time that I saw him alive. A few months later, he unexpectedly had a severe heart attack and died alone in his home. He and my Mom had divorced when I was six years old, so our times together were few and far between. Now when I think of the MS150, I can’t help but think of him.

I can’t believe another 18 years has already gone by, but since I turned 54 last week, it’s time for me to do the MS150 again. Today, I live in Colorado and hardly anyone I talk to has ever even heard of the MS150. I think part of that is because they changed the name. Here, it’s called Bike MS: Colorado! They have options for a 60, 80 or 103 mile ride leaving from Westminster which is fairly close to where I live.

I’ve decided to do the 103 mile ride and since the last thing my Dad ever gave me was my vintage Trek, I’m going to ride it like it’s one of those $3,000 Specialized bikes that all the pros use these days. Cycling has become even more popular here than it ever was when I was in Texas, but now there’s a lot more elevation to handle. While I won’t be one of those crazy cyclists riding up Flagstaff mountain to train, I will find the flattest roads in between the winter snows and come June 24-25, I’ll jump on my wizened old Trek and make my Dad proud again; this time, from heaven.

If you want to sponsor me, my goal is to raise $400. My pledge page can be found here.

Me and my brother’s friend Scott when we finally made it to the finish line in April 1987.

Me crossing the finish line in April 2005.

Oops, I did it again . . .

Well, I haven’t actually done it again yet, but I am working on it as I write this. The “it” in this scenario is changing my name. If you’ve only known me for the past 22 years, you may not even know that I changed my name to Logynn B. Northrhip when my son was just a baby. At that time, I was still married and I was just diving into this concept of having a name, first and last, that is aligned with my birth path. It was something that my first Feng Shui instructor described as Feng Shui for your name, but which actually follows a distinct mathematical application that was discovered and is taught through the teachings of Alfred J. Parker. It is called the Kabalarian Philosophy.

A few months after I heard about balanced names, curiosity got the best of me and I had them analyze the name I was given at birth and the ensuing nickname that followed. Since I had just changed my maiden name from Barnes to Northrup, they analyzed both of those as well. The results were a mixed bag and neither was a solid match to my birth path. According to Kabalarian philosophy, our birth path is determined by our time and date of birth, and it reveals the “role we are meant to live and evolve through our lifetimes.”

I was so fascinated by the results described in that report that I had them create a “balanced” name report as well. They gave me a list of 30 new first names and 50 surnames that would support my birth path. I’m in the Air group, which has nothing to do with the fact that I am an Aquarius, which is also an Air sign. At that time, I was reluctant to give up the married name that I had so recently adopted from my husband. On some level, I thought keeping a version of his name would keep the peace between us. Instead of Northrup, I changed my last name to Northrhip. The fact that we got divorced about a year later, is proof enough that I should have just picked a brand new name from the beginning.

Flash forward 20 years, and the reality of having such a strangely spelled last name is becoming a burden, and worse than that, it doesn’t feel like the right name for me anymore. Out of the blue a few weeks ago, I dug my balanced name report out of storage and read something that I hadn’t seen when I first went through this process.

“A complete change to one of the names recommended in the list above would be the best choice for you and create the greatest impact in your life. The main concern in an alternative spelling is that because it is close to your current name you will still link yourself to the influence and qualities of your current name.”

During a conversation with my friend at the Kabalarian headquarters in Canada, she said something that really resonated with me. She said, “after all this time Logynn, if you are still feeling unsettled in the name that you took, it might indeed be a good time to change it.” I thought about that for a long time.

Unsettled is the perfect word to describe the energy of the name Northrhip. It’s not like I didn’t give it a chance. I gave it 20 years worth of chances and it still doesn’t fit me. I’ve been trying to make that name fit me in the same way I tried in vain to make my last serious relationship work. Some things just aren’t meant to be and I know in my heart that the name Northrhip and I are meant to part ways.

When I pulled out my old report, there was only one name out of fifty that I had really liked and I had even practiced writing it all those years ago. The name is Ascher, and it turns out that after all this time, I am still really drawn to it. I shared my idea with a few friends and got their input. I kept coming back to that name so much that eventually, there wasn’t a question about whether I should change my name again. It was just a matter of when would I like to get started.

Just to be sure though, I decided to replace my current last name with Ascher on all my social media platforms. To my surprise, people noticed! I got more than a few confused inquiries from friends asking if I had gotten married, hacked or gone back to a never known maiden name. The answer to all of those of course is a resounding NO, but that is why I wanted to address it in this blog.

Over the next few weeks, I will be doing all the legal things required to make this change official and permanent and believe me, the list is long so trust that it is not something I would do if I didn’t believe that it was the best course of action for me and for my life. Go ahead, look it up. Changing your name when you aren’t getting married or divorced is not exactly an easy task. In fact, it is a study in governmental red tape and relentless details, but I am willing to follow all the necessary rules so that I can be in perfect harmony with the life purpose that is meant for me.

What was that old Army slogan from years ago? The one that was popular the first time I changed my name was, “Be All You Can Be”, and it still speaks to me after all this time. We get one life, and I intend to be all I can be for as long as I have left in this body and on this planet. If I am lucky, I will be able to legally rename myself Logynn Ascher by my 54th birthday. That means I have right at six months to get going. Stay tuned because life is about to get really fun and even more interesting than ever!

The Challenge of Injury Depression

Nothing will shift a person into depression in Colorado like an injury, and since Coloradoans tend to be extreme outdoor enthusiasts, (and rightly so), it stands to reason that the level of depression that descends when an injury takes someone out is unique to this place. Athletes here are nothing if not over-achievers and I would say that they are equally adept at epic injuries. I say this from experience as well as from observation. For the record, I don’t actually consider myself an athlete by Colorado standards, but I am typically a very outdoor active person sans injuries. Truthfully, the hardest part about living in Colorado is not being able to go outside and enjoy it. With an endless supply of outdoor activities from hiking, running, cycling, rock climbing, skiing & snowboarding to name a few, and an average of 300 sunny days a year, being sidelined from an injury is like a prison sentence.

Since moving here, I have slipped and torn my acl, mcl and medial meniscus with the latter requiring surgery, custom orthotics and endless hours of physical therapy. I’ve also gotten a mild concussion, severely sprained my ankle and had a two-year battle with debilitating Achilles tendonitis pain. When I first sat down to write about this, I was prompted by my own surprise that what I had been experiencing the past few years may have been a form of undiagnosed depression.

At the time though, I wasn’t consciously aware that I was depressed. I just thought that the “bitterness in my heart” at seeing other people achieve amazing feats of physical endurance hiking 14er after 14er, running mile after mile up mountains and doing every physical feat that I could not was the direct result of being in pain every time I attempted to do something that I loved. I felt like a complete failure because no matter what I did, I could not figure out the cause of the tendon pain, and neither could the army of physical therapists that I saw. During the course of my injuries, I gained a lot of weight and couldn’t fit into anything but yoga pants which only added to my feelings of hopelessness. I came home from work each night and turned on the tv, watching 3-4 hours every night. I slept all the time, and I had no real ambition because I was just desolate in my agony.

It wasn’t until I visited a new gynocologist to see about getting on hormone replacement therapy that a glimmer of hope appeared, but first I had to have a certain come-to-Jesus moment, when we are literally trying shake ourselves awake. My moment came during the obligatory weigh in that happens at all doctor appointments. I was shocked into silence and shame by the number on the scale. I weighed more than I had when I was pregnant, and I simply did not recognize myself anymore. Being depressed is a lot like screaming into the void, or screaming at yourself with the mute button on. As soon as I stepped on that scale, the mute button released and I could hear everything loud and clear. Once I let go of the judgement, I was able to shift into action. My doctor suggested I try an elimination diet that she had used herself called Whole30 and since I was out of options, I reached for it like a lifesaving buoy.

The next day, after downloading all the information I could find, I had my first cup of black, no sugar, no creamer, no nothing coffee. I almost gave up before I started, but it was imperative for me to begin with the most difficult task first. The only reason I drank coffee was for all the delicious coffee creamers, so black coffee or coffee mixed with plain, zero sugar almond milk became my new normal. I realized quickly that I had to establish a new relationship to food and it started by going cold turkey and cutting out all the dairy, grains, legumes, sugar and alcohol for 30 days.

A few weeks into it, a funny thing happened. I just sort of noticed that the pain was less in my Achilles tendons. This pushed me to continue and to learn as much as I could about my body, my food cravings and sensitivities. Once the pain faded, I started turning off the tv and finding new and fun workouts, I was able to start running again and hiking longer and more challenging trails. So far, I’ve lost half of the weight that I gained and my relationship to food has become less dysfunctional. Now, food is for energy and since my taste buds have been re-trained, I can taste the sweetness in things that I never noticed before. Seeing my body change and heal has been a powerful motivator, but feeling better and being able to enjoy Colorado in all of its glory is the greatest reward.

During my injury-induced depression, I started to wonder about the gifts that being sidelined can be. I have many friends and acquaintances who inspire me with their endless physical prowess, who have also recently been injured and forced to sit on the sidelines and heal. I do know that slowing down is not something that we usually do willingly. Life demands a certain amount of our undivided attention and taking time for ourselves feels almost selfish. Perhaps that is the gift. Perhaps having the unwelcome opportunity to sit still and observe is exactly what we need sometimes. One thing is certain, once the pain has vanished and we are able to resume the joys of doing what we love, we never take one single second for granted.

20 years to forgiveness

If you had told me twenty years ago that I would be happily letting my former husband crash on my living room couch for a week so he could hang out with our son, I would have thought it completely inconceivable. I’ve been working on coming to grips with my divorce for a long, long time and I actually thought I had already purged all the sadness and potential regrets. It turns out though that saying you forgive someone, including yourself, is a very slow process. I feel like I have had every type of emotion possible during the course of our time apart, so I was wholly unprepared for the tears that sprung to my eyes after we hugged and he walked out the front door. Our son drove him to the airport so I had some time alone to process my emotions.

The interesting thing is that this is not the first time I’ve let him crash on my couch to spend time with our son, so the real curiosity is what is it about this time that feels so different? I didn’t suddenly fall back in love with him and I don’t have a secret desire to get back together. No, this is unlike anything I have experienced before. I am different, or rather, I am more different this time.

Way back when we were clashing and choosing to go our separate ways, I have this memory of the moment of no return. It is a now familiar reaction that I tend to express when I am full of rage and defiance and I know that no matter what, I am not going to back down. I knew in my heart that there was no way I could stay married to him and I also knew I would never be the same again. This memory popped back into my head during the past week and I let myself consider for a moment if I did the right thing. What if I had forgiven him and stayed married? Would it have been better for all of us? Would we have been able to survive the actions that were deal breakers for me then and now? People do it all the time, I know they do.

As I let myself consider this, I heard that small voice in my head reminding me of the truth that I knew before I even asked the question. The girl that I was back then would not have become the woman that I am today if I had not made the very hard decision that I made twenty years ago. I am literally not the same person and I mean that both figuratively and literally.

I was 30 years old when I became a mom and a few months after that, I had the opportunity to have laser surgery on my eyes. It was surreal to go from 20/600 to 20/15 within a few days, and the symbolic impact of seeing the world shift from unfocused to crystal clear was not lost on me. It was the ultimate perspective change that we seek in an inversion practice in yoga, but without any of the work. Big changes were moving through my life and I had no interest in stopping them.

Less than a year later, I started the process of becoming the version of me that I am today. When I was married, my name was Nikki. That sounds so strange to me now, and it is even more strange to share my old “secret” name with the world in this way. I changed my name with the help of a group in Canada that specializes in helping people reach their fullest potential through the energy of their name. I chose the name I wanted, but I had to decide on the last name. I could have picked something totally different, but I somehow knew that getting rid of my husband’s last name entirely would be the death blow to our marriage, so I opted for a more balanced spelling of his name instead. Clearly, it didn’t save my marriage, but it did save me, eventually.

For a long time, I kept that part of my history hidden. I worried that it would be difficult for people to accept me as Logynn if they knew I used to be Nikki. Of course my family and oldest friends had the most difficulty in accepting my new name, but a few years later, we moved to a new city and I stopped having to explain any of it. For all of my new friends, I was only Logynn and when they did learn of my former name, they couldn’t even imagine me using it.

When I stood in front of the judge and told her that I wanted my name to reflect balance and wholeness so that I could reach my full potential as a person, I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but on that day, I became Logynn B. Northrhip and said goodbye to Nikki Northrup. I also had no idea that within a little over a year, I would be standing in front of that same judge asking for a divorce. It took a while to shift gears and embrace the changes that were plowing the ground in all directions around me, changes that I instigated warily and then doggedly.

Today, I can spend time with my former husband and our son and relish the fact that we have somehow managed to see the best in each other after all these years. Watching him and our son together has healed this judgement and sadness and despair that I didn’t even know was lingering in my heart. I can honestly say that I love the person I am today and I know without a doubt that I would not be the me that I am today if I hadn’t gone through the fire of all that pain so many years ago. Today is the first day of the new moon in Cancer and according to @moonomens, it “begins a new chapter in our relationship with our past, our family and our emotions.” I feel you new moon, and thank you for being here right when I needed you. My past did indeed prepare me to be blessed.

The Best Worst Hike of My Life

Up until a year ago, I had never even heard of Conundrum Hot Springs, but once it showed up on my radar, I knew we were meant to be. The best thing about these hot springs is that they are still wild. What I mean by that is that they haven’t been boxed up and commercialized like so many others around Colorado. No, in order to experience Conundrum Hot Springs, one must hike close to 10 miles one way, cross several “bridges” with high water rushing under them and ford at least one river. It is not for everyone and that is precisely why I loved the idea of doing it.

One of many piles of avalanche debris that created obstacles on our path.

I knew that once we made it to this beautiful place, the solitude and views would make it worth the effort. The allure of being completely isolated and surrounded by mountains and nature had become my favorite addiction since moving back to my birth state. When I first imagined myself hiking to this glorious place, I did not consider any of the real life challenges that I might experience, I just knew that I had to do it. I knew the distance was something I could manage, and the elevation gain was within my reach, but I forgot that starting a hike at 8,800 feet elevation is much different than ending one at that height. I also didn’t consider the challenge of being loaded down with food, clothes, camping gear and snowshoes.

A river runs through it.

With so many mountains and trails to hike in Colorado, I had put this one on the back burner until a friend of mine got a coveted reservation and asked if I would hike it with her at the end of May. I naively jumped at the opportunity without hesitation. By the time our reservation date was on the horizon, I had already hiked over 40 miles for the month and my achilles tendons were thoroughly pissed off. I had been battling severe achilles tendonitis for over a year, and had finally figured out a way to alleviate the pain through lots of stretching, trigger point work and proper gait. I just hoped that I could maintain this balance after an already full month of hiking.

Our reservation was for Thursday, May 27 so we decided to go up the night before in order to get a good night’s sleep and an early start the next morning. We packed and unpacked our backpacks, attempting to keep the final weight under 30 pounds. The snowshoes seemed like an unnecessary burden, especially when we woke to bluebird skies and no snow in sight. We arrived at the trailhead just as the sun was beginning to light up the sky. There were only three vehicles in the lot and that included my friend’s Jeep. Where were the crowds I wondered silently. If you arrive to a trailhead in the Boulder area at 6:30am, you are lucky to find a parking space. I shrugged it off and we heaved our packs onto our backs and began our adventure. To my dismay, we barely rounded the corner when we hit the first pile of dead pine and aspen trees blocking our path. Undeterred, we gingerly walked through them and marched on.

The aspen were just starting to show the bright green of new leaves and were waving with excitement in the light breeze. A young moose hidden in their trunks stared silently at us as we walked by, a healthy distance from where he stood. We had read that the snow drifts would be bad further up the trail, but aside from giant piles of avalanche debris on our path, the trail and weather helped us forget what lay ahead. It was shocking to see so many rivers of broken trees laid low like dominos on the mountain tops around us. I tried not to think about the unleashed power that caused them.

This was my first backcamping trip since having a partial meniscectomy on my left knee the previous July. My knee had healed beautifully, but having that extra weight strapped to my back made me feel completely unbalanced. When we came to the first of three big river crossings, I was totally unprepared for the fear that washed over me. I felt a ball of anxiety form in the pit of my stomach. The bridge, if you want to call it that, was pretty high, had no rails and consisted of nothing more than two fat logs. It was hard to ignore the water crashing loudly underneath it. While my friend made it halfway across and then laid on her belly superman style for a photo op, I took little bitty granny steps and just tried not to look down. Just thinking about it makes my stomach lurch. We had to cross at least two more like this and they didn’t get any easier with repetition.

As we got further along, it became necessary to strap on the snowshoes for a bit, but then we would hit another avalanche pile and have to take them off again. It became clear that the snowshoes, though necessary, were going to really slow us down. They were also using muscles I hadn’t used in over a year and my hips kept cramping up. Between this and the increasing slushy and slippery snow, our pace dropped steadily. We started to leave the open trail behind and walked deeper into the forest where the snow was piled up in drifts over five feet high. The sunny day had created drifts that were crunchy on top and slushy underneath, the perfect recipe for post-holing.

It is hard to explain just how mentally draining it is to take one trusting step on the snow with success and then to take another step and fall up to your knees in it. Snowshoes are supposed to prevent this, but they didn’t. I started to worry about how this would impact my freshly healed knee. It was very jarring. Every step was different and held uncertainty. Sometimes I would fall onto my hands and knees into a soft spot on the snow; other times, I would fall completely backward like a stranded turtle. About every third fall, I would feel it in my knee. The thought of having to have another surgery or suffer another knee injury had my stomach in knots. I felt like I was going to throw up any minute.

The best room with a view.

As we slowly made our way through the snow and trees the dread increased. It was as if time had stopped. We kept struggling our way forward, but we weren’t making any real progress. We got to a low river crossing with a single, thin tree in place that didn’t quite reach the other side. This was to be the last big crossing, but by this point, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. Our hiking speed was down to half a mile per hour and we still had several miles to go. There was no way we could cross the river without walking in the ice cold water and getting our feet soaked. We sat on the river bank and considered our options. My friend offered the possibility of turning around and going back. I quickly rejected this option and started crying like a cranky infant. I didn’t know how we were going to have the energy to keep going, but I knew we hadn’t come that far to tuck tail and turn around, at least not on my watch!

Soaking in the healing waters of the hot springs.

For the trip across the cold river, I kept my snowshoes on and dug my trekking poles into the slippery rocks. Once we made it across the river, I kept thinking to myself, “it’s gonna get better; it has to get easier soon”. My friend was of another mindset altogether and her realism about our situation seemed dire. It felt like I was fighting both the elements and her perceived negativity. The forest eclipsed the sun so it seemed later than it actually was. Every so often, my friend would comment on the dangers that we were facing if we didn’t arrive soon. She really started to scare me as she spun a picture of doom that included us freezing to death before we made it to our campsite. I was annoyed but too tired to argue with her. I had to pause after every few steps to rest and it felt like a luxury we could not afford. We were cold, weak and uncomfortably numb.

Eventually, we came across a sign that said the the first campsites were up ahead of us, yet when we reached them, site after site was completely buried under snow. My friend was hiking a little ways ahead of me and would call back every so often that we were getting closer. I couldn’t really hear what she was saying. I was lost in the sound and sloshing rhythm of my snowshoes scraping the snow. The next time I heard her calling to me, there was something new in the sound of her voice. She sounded hopeful, and that gave me a fresh burst of energy. A few more steps and as I turned a corner, the snow was gone. It was like stepping into some sort of garden of Eden. Everywhere I looked was dark brown dirt with bright yellow flowers popping out of it. I was awe-struck. I took off my snowshoes, walked past an abandoned wooden shack and then the springs came into view. Actually, I saw two tents first, and then two men lounging in the springs.

The first clear spot I saw, I dropped anchor. As the reality sunk in that we had just hiked for 10 straight hours through the most rugged and challenging conditions of my life, I started sobbing loudly in relief. I didn’t even care that it wasn’t at our official campsite. I was not about to budge. My friend walked over to the hot springs and spoke to the two men there. I’m not actually sure what they talked about, but the bottom line was that they were friendly and they did not care where we camped.

As soon as we set up camp and laid all our wet things in the sun to dry, we got into the hot springs. The other campers had graciously allowed us to have them to ourselves and it was such a treat. As I stepped gingerly into the warm water the stress of the day dispersed and my body finally relaxed. The water was so clear! I was enchanted with all the bright green and turquoise rocks. It wasn’t deep so I walked along the sandy bottom with my hands as my legs floated out behind me. There were little bubbles streaming up out of the ground in several spots, and that’s where we found the hottest water. To say the view from the springs was spectacular does not do it justice. Looking out over the horizon the rugged trail looked benign. There was no indication of the challenges we had just traversed. None of that mattered anymore though. All I wanted was to savor the bliss, the silence and beauty and let the heat and healing sink into every cell in my body. That is when the speed of time resumed.

Before the sun went behind the mountain, my friend got out to cook her dinner. I lingered and allowed the buoyant water hold me up. I was also topless, but there was no fear or shame because we were utterly alone. It was both liberating and strange all at once. With some prodding from my friend, I reluctantly got out of the water, and started to prepare my own dinner. Even the healing waters of the springs couldn’t undo all the stress in my belly, so I nibbled at my food and finally gave up. I could not find the energy or desire to eat. Once the sun went behind the mountains, we crawled into the tent and let go of everything but sleep.

As is my usual custom, I woke up at 2 a.m. and had to pee. It was really, really cold, but my bladder was not about to let me sleep through the night. As I got out of the tent, the full moon was shining over head. I grabbed my phone, took a few photos and crawled back into my warm sleeping bag. How I wish I had allowed myself to walk the few feet to the hot springs and get in. How amazing it would have been to soak naked under the full moon in the dark silence of the night.

The full moon shining over the hot springs at 2 a.m.

The next morning, it was literally freezing. My wet shoes and shoelaces had frozen solid. I made a mental note to untie wet laces before going to sleep in freezing temps for any future trips. Looking back, I realize I could have just put them in the springs to melt the ice. Not sure why I didn’t think of that until now. Clearly the previous day’s events had zapped my brain cells more than I thought. I could feel a sense of deep dread at the prospect of going back through the snow in snowshoes. My entire body ached. There was no point in hoping for a luxuriously slow morning and a second swim in the heated springs. The cold weather had frozen the slushy snow from the day before, but the untethered sun was already shining and we had precious little time to hike back over the snow before it melted again. We were packed and on our way back down the mountain by 7:30 with barely a wave goodbye to the mystical springs.

No bridge, no problem.

The hike back became a moving meditation. I started chanting a mantra to the Hindu god Ganesh, the remover of obstacles. It seemed completely appropriate, and it helped clear my mind. Om Gam Ganapati Namaha. Om Gam Ganapati Namaha. On and on I chanted it, sometimes out loud, sometimes silently. It worked. My achilles never started to hurt and we made it through the snowy forest without the snowshoes. Leaving early proved to be the correct choice.

Photo by Maria Pertile.

By this point, we still had seven more miles of solid hiking ahead and the fatigue from the previous day returned. I started thinking of different songs to occupy my mind. It became a sort of game. There was Steady As She Goes, by the Raconteurs, then “Just keep hiking, just keep hiking” a la Dory style from the Disney film Finding Nemo. I knew one verse of “She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes”, but my friend knew all of them. I swear if anyone had heard us as we headed back down the mountain, they would have thought we were completely mental. We did in fact, finally start running into people heading up. We tried to warn them about what lay ahead, but they, like us, were on a mission and our warnings went unheeded.

We got to the river that almost derailed us the day before and discovered that the snow melt had washed away the thin tree that had been our partial bridge. There was really no choice but to get really comfortable with cold, wet feet again. I didn’t really care because my shoes were still wet from the night before. The water current was strong, but I dug in with my trekking poles and finally made it across. When we emerged from the trees, the sun was beating down on us and the piles of avalanche debris was even harder the second time because we knew they coming. Everything looked so different on the way back. It didn’t even seem like the same trail in some places. We were putting mile after mile between us and the springs when we rounded a familiar looking corner. I was expecting to see the original pile of debris, but to my surprise, a path had recently been cut through it with fresh chain saw marks on the tree trunks flanking us.

As soon as we got to the trailhead sign, we turned off our trackers. We had hiked a total of 20 miles and 2,848 feet of elevation gain. The unexpected detours we made over the debris piles had added to our total. Even though we started an hour later and didn’t have to use our snowshoes, it took the majority of the day to hike back. This was extreme hiking. In fact, it was gut-wrenching, anxiety-fueled hiking, and it was simultaneously the best and worst hike of my entire life.

I wanted to write about this sooner, but it has really taken me months to process it. When something big like this happens, it is easy to talk yourself out of your experience and downplay the hard stuff. Over the summer, I read other reviews from hikers who came after us. They were oblivious to the challenges that we faced because the trail had changed. It was no longer covered by dead trees and snow. It had completely reinvented itself.

Just as the trail changed, I felt changed. I didn’t notice it right away. The shift was subtle, but undeniable. It’s like John Muir once said, “and into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” Every hike and quest I complete helps me recover a part of myself and my soul that was suppressed somewhere along the way. And once I return home, I have to decide which pieces to keep and which to release because “returning home is the most difficult part of long-distant hiking. You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits.” (Cindy Ross, author and triple crown hiker) The puzzle pieces of my old life are being replaced with new ones colored by every post hole, injury, sunrise and scent of warmed pines, and I can’t wait to see each new piece.

One of the many outstanding views along the way to the hot springs.

The New Number Rabbit Hole

I tried. I was willing to jump through a seemingly endless obstacle course of challenges put forth by my former cell phone provider to keep my old number until it all became too much. I’ve had that number for over 12 years. It was basically my longest (and healthiest) relationship to date; but just as the transition was about to be complete, I was told that there was one more special unlocking code that was required. Unfortunately, in order to get that code, I would have to visit the other provider in person again because their automated system had me in a hell loop.

If I hadn’t already been attempting to make this transition for a week, I probably would have done it. I was already on my third trip to one store or another to get this done. I had gone to the other provider to pay off my phone (this debt was basically the unsigned contract that I didn’t realize I had until it was too late). I specifically asked if there were any special codes I would need to change providers. The clerk gave me what he thought I needed. The next day, I went to visit my new provider, but just as freedom was in sight, I was told that I had to request a “network unlocking” from the other company. That process would then take another 24 hours.

After the allotted delay, I came back and again, was almost free when I learned that the port-out pin and my account number were still not enough. I needed a “network” account number, but when we called the other company they suddenly didn’t recognize my phone or account number and did their best impression of Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”

That’s when I lost it. I was literally almost in tears when I offered up a formerly unheard of solution; what if I just changed my phone number? The men behind the counter looked at me with disbelief. They cautiously suggested that this option could grant me my freedom more quickly. Ok, fine, I said, “let’s do it”. Within minutes, it was done. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. Instead of pushing my desire upstream, I let go. I shifted and let change flow toward the path of least resistance.

When they told me my new number, it sounded so strange: 720-653-6710. I instantly didn’t like it. I tried to think back to the time that I gave up my Houston number and switched to an Austin number. Had it felt like this then too? I couldn’t remember. I’ve been living in Colorado for over three years now, and since I have no intention of ever returning to Texas (sorry Mom), perhaps it was time to make this change.

As I was driving home, I started to think of all the people I would need to personally call or text to let them know my new number, but what about the people I’d like to forget? Suddenly, a new number didn’t sound like such a bad thing. It’s not like I have a ton of people to forget, or that they ever call. It’s just that a new number brings a breath of fresh air in a sense. It is a clean break. It’s kinda like the ultimate Feng Shui space clearing for our phone. Of course, the real work of changing all my business pages, website, social media links, business cards, etc., remain, but that is not a difficult task, just tedious.

Is it ironic that Mercury Retrograde is on the horizon yet again? The fact that Mercury, the planet of communication, is about to go retrograde and my most direct path for communicating has just changed, is not lost on me. On one hand, this makes me nervous, but it is also a little bit exciting. Getting a new number is giving me a chance for a fresh start and a new beginning that I didn’t know I needed, and I’m here for it.

PS: My new number is 720-653-6710. : )

Diving back into dating

I had such high hopes.  A few weeks ago, I set aside my abundant skepticism around what passes for dating in this day and age, and decided to reactivate my profile on a popular dating app. I keep calling it dating, but seriously, what we do now is not dating, and I am not even talking about how the Covid pandemic has impacted it. I’ve been around long enough to remember what dating was like before cell phones and texting and sexting and dating apps. I was just getting into the dating scene when meeting people through a website became all the rage. I’m not here to knock dating apps. I know a lot of people who have met their lifelong partner in this way, so I know it is possible. I am just oversharing about my own personal experiences in some hope that it will suddenly start to make sense.

So here I was, smack in the middle of Mercury Retrograde, (I do not recommend this in the least!) attempting to connect with cute guys via catchy one-liners and a mixture of photos (theirs and mine) and turn that into something that lasts longer than a handful of messages. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to make this conclusion on so little information? It’s kindof like being invited to walk into a restaurant, sit down with a complete stranger and make small talk about them and yourself. It would go something like this,

“Hey how are you (insert name you barely remember)? I see you are eating food. I like food too! Wow, we have so much in common. ”

I know I am exaggerating things a bit, but really I’m not that far off. Dating, like everything on social media, is like a promotional event. We only talk about our good qualities, we downplay reality and insist upon quick intimacy when that hasn’t even had a chance to develop yet.

Let’s take for example, a guy that I’ve been “chatting” with for a few weeks. He had all the qualities that I find attractive. His children were all grown up, he had his own business, a great smile and an inviting sense of humor. He was tall, in my age range, had a cute dog and was obviously single. So far so good and so many boxes checked. For some reason though, planning a phone call, a short hike in nature or meeting in person for a cup of coffee seemed unusually difficult.

On one hand, he asked when we could meet and in the next breath (text), he mentioned that he was completely unavailable for a week. One of the things that I’ve discovered about dating is that there is a certain momentum that happens. There’s mutual interest, texting, a possible phone call, etc., and then at some point in the very near future, there needs to be an in-person introduction. Some people are very charismatic onscreen and then very shy or aloof in person. It is nice to find these things out before we invest too much of our emotional bank account on them. When the phone call or in person invitation doesn’t happen, the energy starts to wane, and that is what was happening in this example.

So here we are, two weeks invested into getting to know this person, and we finally make plans to have a phone call. Isn’t that just the funniest thing you ever heard? We have to make a date to talk on the phone. What the hell is happening to us as a culture? Sorry, tangent. Anyway, we had chosen a range of possible days when both of us could manage this overwhelming task, since committing to a specific hour was just too restrictive. I had forgotten about an online class I had that night, so when he did call, I couldn’t talk. He was very understanding and we made plans to try again after my class.

Since we both had iPhones, he wanted to have a FaceTime phone call. I wasn’t super excited about this because while I wanted to look my best I also wanted to take off all my work clothes, makeup and put my hair in a ponytail. When we finally did get on a call, I was happy to see that he looked as good on screen as in his photos which is not always the case. However, a few minutes into it, his face freezes and the internet shuts down, along with our call. I called right back, but he doesn’t pick up. Then he texts me that we should try again the next day because he is suddenly working on some report that needs his full attention, even though he was completely available a few minutes earlier.

To say I was a little tweaked by this response is an understatement. I had to have an emergency phone call with one of my best girlfriends for advice on how to respond. I tend to be overly honest in these instances, so I had to reign myself in a bit. In all her wisdom, she advised me to play it cool and nonchalant. Apparently that worked, because he FaceTimed me the next morning before I had even started to get ready for work. To give you a visual, I had smudged eyeliner on one eye and not the other, my hair had that smashed pillow look about it and I was still in my pj’s which means I was sans-bra. I’m not used to FaceTime calls so I picked up the call before I realized it had video and by then there was nowhere to hide!

In spite of all this, we had a nice conversation and I was smitten by his warmth and engaging personality. A few minutes after we ended the call, and completely out of the blue, he sends me a message saying, “Morning sex is so intimate . . . ” I’m like FUCK! please don’t be THAT guy, but it’s too late. He is that guy. I know exactly what he is doing, and I am not playing, not because I disagree, but because this is the equivalent of being back at that restaurant table with a stranger, taking a sip of coffee and saying, ‘You know, morning sex is my favorite’, just to see how he reacts. And that is exactly what this guy was doing. I’ve seen it before. I’ve experienced it before and I know how it ends. Once again though, I took the high road and side stepped his statement with my own truth, that all sex can be intimate with the right person. That’s when he decided to man-splain it to me since I clearly wasn’t getting it. He says,

“I was coming from the standpoint [that] sex feels different at various points throughout the day. Morning sex “to me” is so comfy and raw.”

Here’s the thing. I am not denying that sex is a really wonderful thing or that I miss it dearly, but I find it incredibly offensive when a man starts talking to me about this before we’ve even met and especially before we’ve had a chance to build any sort of connection. And just to be clear, in my early days of dating, I fell right into the rhythm of talking about sex before meeting a guy and you know what? When we did finally meet, I realized that I was physically attracted to his words, but not to him.

The really depressing part of all this is that I was really attracted to this guy on many levels. But here we are, early on a Saturday morning, and after all that talk about sex, all I hear is crickets from him. The modern day dating term for this is called “ghosting”. I start to question myself. Did I say something wrong? Or maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe he wasn’t being transparent with his intentions. Even though he said he wanted to “love on a level very few can imagine”(his words), maybe what he really wanted was someone to rev him up without all the effort of actually dating. Either way, I am chalking this one up as another example of what I do not want. I know it is the contrast that helps us redefine how we want to experience life, but dammit I feel like I’ve had enough contrast for a lifetime. I feel like Charlotte in one of my favorite scenes from Sex in the City when she says, “Where is he? I’ve been dating since I was 15, I’m exhausted!” I feel you Charlotte. I feel you.

This is Logynn Northrhip, reporting to you live from the dating trenches of Colorado. Back to you Trevor.

I am the light of the soul

The landscape of yoga has changed a lot lately, by no fault of its own. By the time these changes began to manifest, I had already been on track to become a “retired” yoga teacher. After a solid 12 years of teaching yoga non-stop, I was so burnt out that I just stopped cold turkey. That was almost three years ago.

A lot of yoga teachers focus their classes around calling their poses by their official Sanskrit names and some weave Patanjali’s teachings into their flows. I know a handful of Sanskrit words and I don’t do yoga because of the eight limbs of yoga. I do yoga because it makes me smile. It makes me feel confident. It challenges me and humbles me and keeps me grounded and centered. For me, there is nothing better than the feeling I get when a sequence of poses emerge to sync perfectly with the music, as if they were made for one another. I know that this is not the “right” reason to like yoga or even to teach it, but it is my why.

When I was in teacher training with Shiva Rea in Venice Beach, CA, I was introduced to this image of a wave-like flow that builds as the heat builds and as the body wakes. Classes don’t start with a backbend. They build to a backbend. Everything about the time on the mat is about peeling away the layers of stuck energy, of emotions held in muscles, of stagnation. It’s about choosing a peak pose and wrapping the class around it.

There’s just one problem with being a yoga teacher “full time” and giving everything to our students. It takes a herculean effort to include yourself in that healing practice. At the end of a full day of classes, there is rarely anything left for ourselves. Our needs get shoved to the back burner until they are totally forgotten. The sheer physical and mental drain of holding space for everyone but yourself is a sacrifice that gets more and more difficult to maintain.

Tonight I came home from work, and before I had a chance to put it off, I rolled out my yoga mat, and turned on one of my old playlists, the ones that I created when I was still buying each song and painstakingly placing them together. That’s my secret actually. I create the playlist first and then I add the poses. That way, the flow is never the same. It is always dancing with the music.

It should come as no surprise that I love to dance. Growing up, I went out dancing to all the alternative music of the 80’s that is just as timeless today, 40 years later, as it was when it first appeared. Is it possible to do yoga to Depeche Mode, Erasure, New Order and OMD? Roger that. As the opportunities to go clubbing evaporated with my youth, yoga stepped in and showed me a new way to move my body. My memories of sweaty nights spent dancing with strangers on Austin’s 6th street or Houston’s Richmond Avenue, were replaced with sweaty yoga classes to music that awakened something inside of me that I didn’t know was there.

Yoga by itself doesn’t do it for me. Yoga + music is the muse that ignites my personal creativity. Yoga is so much more than warrior one sweeping into humble warrior or triangle pose lifting off into half moon. The breath, the movement and the music all work together to tear down the walls that we build around our hearts and minds. Yoga is the great equalizer. When you walk into a room full of students, everyone is equal. There are no obvious lawyers or doctors or high powered executives. It’s a rubber mat, a physical body and a willingness to be vulnerable among strangers. Tears often flow as the walls come down and it is fucking beautiful.

I feel like all my repressed anger and resentment toward yoga got expressed through a silent fight that we never actually had. I let myself forget how much we loved each other, and we just stopped communicating; but tonight, something happened. As my body started to move, it remembered that love. The music awakened my body’s muscle memory of affection for this practice. The poses are the same no matter what name they are called. They are ancient, they are powerful and they are forgiving.

I may not ever teach again, or I might; who knows. As long as I get to keep teaching myself, me and yoga will be okay. We may argue, we may disagree, but we will always be there for each other. My relationship with yoga is strong, and it is the only one that I know will never leave me. Yoga isn’t going to cheat on me or break my heart. It isn’t going to lie to me or deceive me in any way. Yoga is the most honest and loving partner I could ever desire. It may break my heart wide open, but it won’t ever hurt me.

I am the light of the soul I am bountiful. I am beautiful. I am bliss, I am I am. * I am that I am. (This post inspired by the music of Sarab Deva singing this song.)

The 52 hikes that changed me

Fifty-two hikes; one for every week of the year. Something about keeping track of them appealed to me. I had moved to Colorado two years earlier and had slowly been learning how to navigate the trails, the elevation and the beauty of my new home. I had joined several hiking groups and had been hiking as often as possible, but I wasn’t keeping track of them. This challenge had a sense of purpose to it, so I plunked down my $12, downloaded their spreadsheet and looked forward to January 1st, when I would be allowed to begin.

As it turned out, Colorado was experiencing a true Indian summer for the month of January and I completed a whooping 12 hikes before the “real” winter weather arrived. My birthday was in February and I received the best gift a girl on a hiking mission could ask for, an America the Beautiful Annual Parks Pass. I am very lucky to live a mere 45 miles away from the majestic Rocky Mountain National Park and I could not wait to start exploring it. Between the 355 miles of trails at RMNP and the 155 miles of trails that make up the Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), I had plenty to keep me busy.

By the middle of March, I had already put a sizable dent in my hiking goal, 24 to be exact, but on the morning of March 21, that was all about to change. It started out as any other post-snowstorm day with bluebird skies and over two feet of fresh snow. My friend Maria and I got up early to re-visit a favorite trail called Green Mountain West. One of the little known facts about hiking in Colorado is that the best hiking happens in the winter. There are less people on the trials and the mountains look even more beautiful when they are covered in snow.

I had my spikes on, but accidentally left my poles in the car. We made it to the top quickly and could not stop marveling at the beauty of the snow-covered tree branches and hoarfrost. Growing up in Texas, snow was an infrequent occurrence, so the beauty of a snowy mountain still makes me feel like an excited kid. We stayed up at the top longer than usual, soaking up the sun, enjoying a little picnic and taking happy photos. As we headed down, I began to wish I had gone back to the car to retrieve my trekking poles. The sun was starting to melt the snow and other hikers were packing it down creating slick spots of ice. I am usually the biggest advocate for wearing spikes, and yet I had taken mine off early in the hike and had forgotten to put them back on.

I was only a few steps down when I let a guy pass me. He was fearless and basically skied down the slippery spots. Maybe I was overly worried about the snowy rocks or maybe there was some death ice hiding under the snow. All I know is that one minute I was slowly stepping down and the next moment, I was on my back, sliding down the mountain. The moment I slipped, I felt my leg turn in an unnatural direction and heard my left knee pop. I hugged my knee to my chest and for a few seconds, I just laid there, unsure what to do.

We were over two miles away from the trailhead and the narrow trail was still stacked with fresh snow, making it impossible to slide or crawl down. With no cell service, and no way to get down on my own, I started to panic. Maria was doing her best to help, but neither of us had a cell signal and the short winter day was getting colder. I started shivering uncontrollably, one of the first signs of hypothermia. Thankfully, another group of hikers came along, and they did have service so they let us call 911 with their phone.

Before that day, I had never heard of the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group. Today, I will never forget them. In less than an hour, they hiked the two miles up the mountain to reach me, created a pulley system and slowly rolled me down the hill on a makeshift one-wheeled stretcher. I was embarrassed to be such a burden, especially to these complete strangers, whom I later discovered were all volunteers. I don’t remember any of their names, but I remember the kindness in their eyes as they patiently plowed through the snow to take me to safety. I am in awe of them and forever grateful for their service.

Needless to say, the next six weeks, I did zero hikes. An MRI showed three partial tears in the acl, mcl and medial meniscus. The next few months were a blur. I saw a total of three different orthopedic doctors and started physical therapy, but I was still in pain. In spite of this, I kept hiking. My hikes became significantly shorter and easier, but I discovered that if I kept my knee brace on tight, used my poles and chose low elevation trails, I could still hike. It was the only thing that kept me going.

By this point, I had completed 41 hikes, but I knew that if I wanted to be able to get back to hiking 14ers and long distance backpacking trips, surgery was my only option. I needed a meniscectomy to trim the torn portion of my medial meniscus. Recovery time for this type of surgery is typically six weeks, but my doctor told me I would be able to start hiking sooner if I was willing to let my knee heal. Sitting on the couch for two weeks watching the walrus face on my knee shrink was excruciating, but it was worth it.

My walrus knee!

Those first few hikes after my surgery were scary. I wasn’t sure if I should be doing any of it, but I simply could not stay away. My inner need to explore was stronger than my fear. One of my favorite hikes during this recovery time was at The Great Sand Dunes. Armed with my trekking poles and an unstoppable determination, I arrived early, intent on watching the sun rise from the highest dune I could reach.

Hiking on sand is challenging regardless when both knees are healthy, so I went extra slow in order to be safe. Every time I looked up at the mountain of sand in front of me, I would begin doubt myself. That’s when I decided to keep my gaze low and directly in front of me, taking one small step at a time. Before I knew it, I was looking out over a vast sea of sand, and when I looked down, I could hardly believe how far I had come. It was higher than I ever expected I could go and it felt amazing. It was the first of many small victories.

Each day that followed, resulted in a little more healing and a little more hiking. Fall was in full bloom and I was able to witness it with longer and more difficult hikes. Some hikes began in the darkness before dawn and some were guided by the light of a full moon. Six months after my injury, I completed my 52nd hike, and it was a giant load off of my shoulders.

I arrived early at RMNP in order to beat the timed-entry reservations in place because of Covid. It was still pitch dark and I had chosen to hike alone for my final hike of the challenge. I kept waiting for daylight, but it was slow to come so I finally just put on my headlamp and started toward Bierdstat Lake. It was cold, but the aspen were waving their golden leaves in support and I was rewarded with an extraordinary sunrise rising over the clouds. When I made it to the lake, there was no one else in sight. It was one of those rare moments that I had come to cherish on this journey. I sat down on a rock to rest and watch the sun shine touch the mountain tops. A very tame duck came up to welcome me and look for handouts. We sat there together in the cold and the quiet, enjoying the brief silence.

I’ve been looking through all the hundreds of photos that I took during my hikes and I love how they take me back there in an instant. I got to hike to so many beautiful places, and with all the bizarre things that have already happened this year, I feel lucky that I got to see them at all. Between this injury, Covid and the massive fires that damaged trails I only recently discovered, the world is nothing like it was when I began this journey. I had no idea so much would or could change in such a short amount of time.

The people I have met along the way have been an extra added bonus. I’ve made new friends, I’ve reconnected with old ones and I’ve met strangers who share this deep love for nature. I know this experience, this injury and healing from it has changed me. When I began, I knew I could do it, I just didn’t expect so many obstacles to appear on my path.

My challenge to anyone reading these words is this. If you can walk among the pine trees and smell the clean cool air of the mountains, then do it. Take the photos, all 4,000 of them if need be. You can always delete them, but you can’t re-capture a missed moment in time. Hike the hikes, lose the sleep and watch the sun rise and set. Hike a 14er, backpack alone, hike in the dark or just challenge yourself to do the things that scare you.. You never know who will be inspired by your strength and your example. By following your own passions, you give others permission to follow theirs.

Hikes 1 – 8
Hikes 9 – 17
Hikes 18 – 26
Hikes 27 – 35
Hikes 36 – 44
Hikes 45 – 52

The Ironic Vegan

It seems like I’ve had a chip on my shoulder about vegans for way too long.  All it took was one militant vegan I met at a party years ago to make me defensive every time the topic came up, and from that point forward, I judged all vegans for being vegans as much as they judged me for not being one.  I say this even though I once spent 7 years as a vegetarian, and then just as gleefully, embraced the polar opposite. The truth is, I have always had a conflict around food.  I grew up in a typical American household where meat was served regularly, so I didn’t really appreciate it.  When I was a senior in high school, I decided that eating red meat was the devil, but I never stopped to consider the deeper implications of this lifestyle on our planet.

Until recently, my biggest complaint about vegans was their complete and total intolerance of anyone who wasn’t a vegan.  That all changed when I read a post on Instagram by a famous climber named Alex Honnold, who it turns out is also a vegan.  He basically asked his fellow vegans to lay off of their intolerant judgement of non-vegans, and give them credit for the times when they are able to cut back on their meat consumption.  His words had a huge impact on me, and they helped me open my mind to eating this way.

“. . .  My last mini rant is reserved for vegans who are all up on their high horse and poo poo other folks’ good efforts – it’s better for someone to eat meat once a week than to eat it every day.  It shouldn’t be a test of ideological purity.  Diet is a spectrum and it’s better to do less harm than more.” – Alex Honnold

About this same time, my brother made some major life changes and one of them was a new found love for all things vegan.  I rolled my eyes through the phone as he went on and on about all the benefits and how his aches and pains had faded with this new way of eating.  I was loathe to admit that my own body was constantly in pain, though I could never discover the source.  Even after a 12-year career teaching yoga my muscles and joints always ached.

I became curious about this way of eating, while simultaneously being alarmed by the thought of giving up cheese and my beloved coffee creamer.  During the previous year, I had given up gluten so I was basically eating a mostly keto diet and I easily lost 35 lbs.  I managed to maintain this for awhile, but it became more and more difficult for me to justify all the bacon and cheese that I was eating daily.  It wasn’t until Covid-19 hit that I started to seriously reconsider my eating habits.  When I heard the President promoting the meat industry while ignoring all the workers who were testing positive for Covid because they were required to work side by side without enough protective gear, that was it for me.  I went vegan, cold turkey (pun intended).

I’m not going to say I’ve been perfect at eating this way.  I am still struggling to find a good vegan coffee creamer while slowly using up all the other products I have on hand that were sourced by animals.  The surprising thing is that there are so many alternatives, and now I have a reason to explore them.  I started this journey on June 2, and since then, I’ve lost 9 lbs. without even trying, and the pervasive brain fog that I didn’t even know I had until it was gone, has totally disappeared.  Suddenly, I’m eating more fruits and vegetables that ever before and I feel like this toxic spell that food had on me has finally lost its power.

I will say that being a gluten free vegan is a little more challenging than anticipated, especially when so many of the vegan “meats” are made with wheat gluten, but living in a progressive place like Boulder definitely helps.  If you want to start eating an alternative diet, Boulder is THE place to do it.  It is so refreshing to have so many options, and to be surrounded by people that speak my new food language.

Aside from the health benefits, I am learning more and more about how much better this way of eating is for our planet, and the animals.  The amount of deceit and corruption that keeps major corporations and non-profits quiet is enough for me.  In a country where we still have our freedom, it is abundantly clear to me that the only way to truly defy authority, and maintain our hard won freedom, is to be willing to step away from the status quo and do the thing that they never anticipated.  I’ve always felt a little bit rebellious, but I never realized that choosing to eat a plant-based diet was the way to do it, until it was.