Losing myself, finding life

When I’m looking forward to an activity, meeting, etc., it’s not difficult to get motivated. My first hike date was no exception as I woke up feeling well-rested, enthusiastic, and ready for a refreshing summer trek with teammates.

I should provide the back story on why I’m writing this article. In mid-2013, I had the privilege of helping create the City of Montrose’s Office of Business and Tourism (OBT). I’ve been immensely fortunate to be surrounded by a superior group of staff, industry colleagues, partners, and contributors and while we’ve all worked together to develop the Visit Montrose program the truth is I hadn’t experienced much of what OBT was marketing. Feeling as though I was a bit of an imposter, I decided to dedicate time to become more familiar with the recreational opportunities we so enthusiastically share and volunteered to literally “walk the talk” by kicking things off with a hike.

The team for my inaugural hike met up at the Backstreet Bagel Company around eight am; we weren’t about to rush this day and had agreed on approaching it in a casual and relaxed way. Having already had breakfast, we grabbed coffee and sandwiches and hit the road. I’d picked up a bottle of wine the night before; it was chilled and resting comfortably on ice as we made the drive up to our hiking destination – Dominguez Canyon. I figured the libation would be a welcome reprieve when the time came for us to enjoy our sandwiches along the trail.

The drive from Montrose was an easy traffic-free and scenery-laden 40 minutes and allowed time for Kelly and me to talk. It would have been better if Melissa could have ridden with us, but she thought it best to drive separately with Hildegard. Kelly is our marketing manager, Melissa an avid “outdoorsperson” and frequent contributor to this guide (look for her articles later in this guide), and Hildegard Von Bingen, Melissa’s visiting well-behaved and pedigreed German Shepherd fur niece who was also experiencing her very first desert hike.

Big Dominguez Canyon is located in the Dominguez-Escalante National Conservation Area and Dominguez Canyon Wilderness Area. (There’s a Little Dominguez Canyon too!) The namesake trail into the canyon is suited for a relatively non-challenging flat hike and about a seven mile round trip to see the rock art panels and waterfalls. It’s an easy to moderate footpath without significant elevation gain or drop that Melissa told me is referred to as an “out and back” hike.

When we hiked in late May, it wasn’t too hot, the cacti were blooming, and the waterfalls running. Folks also come to spot bighorn sheep and go back in time as they check out petroglyphs and rock shelters left behind by progenitors. (The first habitation of the rock shelter dates back many thousands of years.) Amid walking the trail, being with the team, saying hello to fellow hikers, and admiring the variety of color and landscape, I felt alive, tranquil, and content. I knew of the myriad reasons people hike, but now it was personal and that which is personal becomes real.

There were many things going on and I had plenty of external and internal sensory stimulation. I went back and forth between staying socially engaged while retreating into my head for contemplation. As we passed a set of petroglyphs and trudged up a rock face attempting to get close to a waterfall, I noticed the heat waves shimmering in the distance and went into my philosophical place. It was easy to imagine those who had walked this very area before us — whether human or animal. What secrets did this place hold and what could we learn? I was wondering silently when I almost tripped over Hildegard who appeared to be worried that I was lagging behind. Luckily, I didn’t and joined Kelly and Melissa who by this time were admiring a waterfall.

One step after another we walked. While immersed in this rugged and beautiful landscape, I was reminded that our public lands are in a delicate state and considered the nexus between public land use and mindful and ethical visitors. Careless behavior can upset this natural balance and destroy ubiquitous beauty and life. I speculated about the opportunities to explain why we ask that dogs be responsive to their owner’s commands, the basis behind packing it in and out and burying human waste, and why we ought not to pick wildflowers.

Even a flat trail can be exhausting, especially at mile-high altitude. The Colorado sun is intense and requires one to be well-hydrated and otherwise protected from its life-giving and potentially life-taking rays. As we plodded along, I felt good knowing the sweat that was causing my shirt to stick to my body was for good reason and couldn’t help but smile every time Hildegard chose to walk with me and then cross in front without warning.

I was envious of her as she took every opportunity to jump into the snow-melt swollen Gunnison River. The best I could do was grab the drink tube to my water bladder.Nonetheless, I was out and moving, and it felt really good.

But not all the time. I’d be lying if I said there weren’t times when I was thinking, oh this sucks, why did I sign up?; although, there were more times when I thought
this is really fun, time’s flying, and I’m with wonderful company — especially when we stopped and sat under a huge boulder to eat our sandwiches, talk, and drink cold wine. (Yes, while maybe unorthodox, it was worth hauling.) Afterward, we all wanted to take a nap, but thanks to my dedicated team, we marched on. It was mid-afternoon when we returned to our cars and were greeted by a cooler of ice cold water and frozen chocolate covered cherries. Hildegard was happy too as she lay toying with ice cubes in the shade created by the open tailgate.

Our hike offered much of what I’m guessing is the enticement for most hikers: inspiration caused by color, sound, touch, or smell, rich camaraderie and conversation, and the ability to be alone together, lost in imagination. The day and the experience were enough to hook me. Am I an avid hiker now? Not quite. Although, I look forward to the next ones — going solo on some and inviting company on others and then writing about them on the Montrose Lifestyle blog that is set to launch in early 2018. The thing that made the day a success really had less to do with the trail. For me, it was about the support I had that ensured I was prepared for a fun and safe experience. To that end, I thank Jennifer our guest services manager who plotted the itinerary, Steve from the Great Outdoors Company who took time to patiently educate and gear me up, and to Melissa, Kelly, and Hildegard who provided insight, information, and guidance throughout the day.

When I finally got home early evening, my feet were screaming for me to get off of them. I stumbled into the shower, rinsed off and hobbled into bed. All I remember
is that once horizontal, I was out until the morning. It was one of the best rejuvenating sleeps I’d had in a long time and a worthwhile reward for a day well-spent.
However, unlike the beginning of this story where I was full of energy, my feet weren’t ready to head out so I hung out at home and tended to other