Hike from the Heart

I hearted the sh*t out of this hike.

I hearted the sh*t out of this hike.

A few weeks ago, my bookshelf exploded.

Had you walked into my office, you would have seen a 32-year-old woman on her knees, desperately rummaging through a messy pile of unfolded trail maps and dog-eared hiking books.

I was trying to pull together my anniversary “gift” for Lou. And I only had 45 minutes before the guy got home from work.

Leather? Crystal? They can suck it. I give you the desert.

Leather? Crystal? They can suck it. I give you the desert.

Lou and I decided that instead of purchasing leather or crystal gifts for one another, we would celebrate our 3rd anniversary with a hike. This is a part of our strategic effort to form special experiences and sentimental memories together. This is also indicative of my many child-of-a-divorce hangups but, whatever. It’s worked pretty well so far.

So there I was, flipping through maps, failing to find any trails remotely resembling a heart (how about a hike shaped like a pickle instead?), and beginning to believe that I should abandon this whole idea.

Dear City of Scottsdale, Thanks for this. You've done well. (Brown's Mountain)

Dear City of Scottsdale, Thanks for this. You’ve done well. (Brown’s Mountain)

Then I found it. And I’ve never been so grateful for the City of Scottsdale.

Just a couple weeks prior, I attended Scottsdale’s Brown’s Ranch Trailhead Grand Opening Event in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve Northern Region. True to Scottsdale style, the trailhead is gorgeous, shiny, and well-equipped (running water and real bathrooms woo-hoo!). They even provide free, paper trail maps.

On this particular trail map, I found my “Hike from the Heart”. At 5.5 miles, the loop was the perfect length — time enough for solid conversation without hitting my six mile grumpy hour.

See that? Aw YEAH.

See that? Aw YEAH.

Because the City of Scottsdale is so generous, I had grabbed multiple maps at the Grand Opening. I quickly cut one up, traced the heart shape in red marker, then glue-sticked that sucker to the front of some other crummy card. It worked. On the morning of our anniversary, Lou thought I was a darling wife when I presented it to him.

Go me!

If you want to see photos, a trail map, and other details about the Hike from the Heart, check out my EveryTrail entry. If you want to know more about the area’s Brown’s Mountain Summit Trail or the Cholla Mountain Loop, click those links for write-ups from one of the best hiking blogs in AZ.

And, as usual, if you want the ultimate guide to Phoenix hiking, order my book, Take a Hike Phoenix.

Spousal Arguments and Lightning

The lookout. Our destination.

The lookout. Our destination.

“I am having the worst time on this hike!” I said a few weeks ago.

My voice was in that high-pitched place where ladies’ voices go right before they’re going to start sobbing. I was having the worst time because we were hiking at about 8,700 feet elevation in the middle of a Flagstaff, AZ monsoon shower on the Elden Lookout Trail.

This is the part where I sheepishly admit to making a dumb mistake with my hiking plans. I know better. I know that I shouldn’t hike in the afternoon in monsoon season in the Arizona high country. Because that’s how people get struck by lightning.

But when we entered the trail head late that morning, I didn’t mention any of this because I didn’t want to piss off my husband, Lou.

Just a few weeks prior, Lou and I got in an argument at the Grand Canyon. We got off to a late start on the Bright Angel Trail and though there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, I was already terrified that a lightning-filled monsoon storm would roll in and trap us mid-hike. Lou, who doesn’t share my chilling fear of indiscriminate sky swords that deliver pure death, was frustrated with my anxiety.

“If you’re not willing to take risks then we shouldn’t even leave the house!” he snapped.

For the next 2 1/2 miles into the canyon, we voiced our bitchy retorts and snippy comments between the brief moments when other hikers weren’t in earshot. Other hikers would pass, we’d both smile and say hello, then a few seconds later I’d hiss, “I’m just saayyying I don’t want to be rescued or DIE on a trail a month before my effing hiking book comes out!”

It’s a ridiculous way to have an argument with your spouse.

Even while arguing, we make a great team. Lou graciously snapped this photo of me mid-hike and mid-fight.

Even while arguing, we make a great team. Lou graciously snapped this photo of me mid-hike and mid-fight.

To top it off, we were missing some of the most spectacular views on planet. I finally convinced Lou to turn around just before we hit the 3-Mile rest house.

On the way out, I was wishing for clouds after just half a mile of climbing. It was early August and insanely hot in the canyon. We were soon dribbling water over each others heads. To hot and miserable to care what others thought of us, we made loud and gross moaning sounds as the cool water trickled down our backs. After we finally crawled our way off the scorching trail, we went on with our happy trip at the Grand Canyon with me repeating, “Yes, you were totally right.” throughout the remainder of our visit.

So when we hit the trail late on Mt. Elden in Flagstaff, I decided to shut up and climb.

Taking a break from the intense climbing.

Taking a break from the intense climbing.

We saw the clouds rolling in when we neared the lookout tower (our turn-around spot). We pushed ahead, made a quick tour of the structure, then hauled ass down the trail. Then the rain started. Our strategy was to descend as quick as possible and the minute we heard thunder, we’d take cover and wait out the lightning storm (this is what the experts recommend).

I was convinced that I wouldn’t hear any thunder because I’d be too busy getting hit by lightning and turning into a dead person. Or worse, I’d be too busy becoming a widow.

After 30 minutes of repeatedly imagining my husband’s tragic death while trying not to slip on the slick trail, my high-pitched, lady-about-to-lose-it voice burst out of me. Lou gave me a reassuring hug and we pushed on.

Ten minutes later, the skies cleared and I was a carefree little hiker.

“We won’t do this again,” Lou said. I assumed he was finally beginning to share my fear of lightning. Then he said, “we won’t do this again because I never, ever want you to have a crappy time. Especially when we’re on a hike.”

I win.

Don't worry. We're still crazy about each other.

Don’t worry. We’re still crazy about each other.

Check out photos, gps information, and other details of  the Mt. Elden on my Everytrail.com siteThe Mt. Elden Trail in Flagstaff, AZ is featured as an option my upcoming book, Take a Hike Phoenix, which hits bookstores November 19th and is now available for pre-order at barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com.

Pita Jungle Tears

Who knew a falafel pita would stir such emotion?

Who knew a felafel pita would stir such emotion?

This is a story about how Pita Jungle made me cry in my cubicle.

I had a lunchtime meeting so I asked Lou to grab me some Mediterranean food (the benefit of working in the same office with your sweet husband). With my order in hand, he and a friend scooted out to Pita Jungle.

I was disappointed. I don’t like Pita Jungle as much as the little pita place around the corner.

That’s okay. I thought. His friend probably wanted to go to Pita Jungle so he could ogle the under-21 female wait staff. Haha, what a dog.

I was smirking in my cubicle. Then I imagined Lou would probably ogle as well.

Suddenly, I saw red. My eyes stung as I pictured the short skirts and lack of bra-wearing that always seems to happen at Pita Jungle.

What was this? I never think this way!

Then I felt embarrassed, ashamed, and utterly confused. My emotions were out of control. I felt like a little kid. I was in elementary school, crying in the middle of class for no reason.

Lucky for me, I’m now armed with higher levels of reasoning.

It’s because we recently stopped using birth control. I’m not currently knocked up, but I might be soon. And then I’ll be a mom. And that means he won’t like me. Especially if the scales tip more to “mom” than “wife”, I’ll lose him.

This is a very vulgar and misguided interpretation of what happened to my parents. It’s humiliating to admit that I experienced any of these feelings. But, clearly, this unfair formula became one of those hard-wired laws in my silly emotional being. I just hadn’t undone the equation yet.

During the drive home later that day (yes, we are the annoying couple that carpools to work), I sheepishly told Lou what happened. (Oh, I skipped the part in this story where I sent him a nasty text, shortly followed by the “I’m CRAZY” apologetic text.) He was, of course, understanding and reassuring as always.

Then, poof, it was all gone. I’m totally fine now.

Maybe that’s part of being a grown up. If you think hard enough, you can usually figure out why you’re crying, share it with a trusted partner, and probably never feel that way again. Children can’t do that.

I’ll have to remember this when my future kid cries for no reason. Poor little future kid…what a rough gig.

Knock, Knock…

©iStockphoto.com/Raycat

Who’s there?
©iStockphoto.com/Raycat

I just spent the last two hours researching sex on the internet.

Lou and I have been married for 2 1/2 years. I’m turning 32 in July. So I guess it’s time to get knocked up.

Now that we’ve started this discussion in earnest and set some dates for doctor appointments, I’ve been struggling with the urge to write about it.

As a side note, I wish I would just not write about it. But if I could keep myself from it, I probably wouldn’t be able to call myself a writer. As it is, I’ll write about it and deal with the stresses that come along with this exposure.

What if people from work read this and are disappointed? Why do I feel like pregnancy is a betrayal to my employer?

What if I can’t get pregnant? What if this blog turns into a depressing journal of my infertility-related mourning?

If I post this blog, do I have to keep blogging about every step of this pregnancy thing? Am I being tacky?

And, as usual, writing about myself means I’ll invite everyone to witness the less-than-pleasant sides of my personality. As an example, I’m already feeling bitter about the whole thing.

I assume a good future-mom would never feel bitterness. A good future-mom would softly mention her intentions to a few close friends. And when she spoke of it, she’d gently grin, brush her abdomen with her hand, and be magically bathed in morning light. Her soft-spoken announcement would be private, beautiful,  and (in my opinion) hideously vaginal.

Today, my announcement is made via the low-brow blogosphere. And as I blab about a decision that’s supposed to be private, I will express my disgusting fears of stretch marks, big nipples, constipation, weird underwear, the surefire compromise to my career, and the reality that my vag is going to literally rip open.

In all moments when I’m lacking grace, I rely on the advice of other women. Today, I must remember my mother’s words from a few years ago:

“It’s not fun. But at least you get to bring home a cute little baby afterward.”

Goal for this week: Start taking a multivitamin.

Update: Just to be clear, I’m not pregnant. We’re researching and arranging the preparations necessary to become pregnant. Just want to be 100% clear on that, thanks.

Lucky Girl

This will be easy!

This weekend, we planned a 6-mile loop around Little Granite Mountain in Prescott, AZ. Due to poor instructions, we back-tracked and had to restart, which added 1/2 mile to our day’s total. No big deal.

As we abandoned the first leg of the trail to hook into the 2nd part of our loop, we discovered that this loop seriously sucked. The trail was overgrown with massive thickets of chest-high thorny bushes. As the branches snagged our clothing and scratched our bare legs, we ran into two women on horseback.

“This trail gets really rough,” said one of the middle-aged horse ladies, “hikers don’t usually come around here.”

So we turned back…adding 1 more wasted mile.

Once we returned to the original trail, we decided to continue to Vista Point, located on top of Granite Mountain.

“The map says it’s 4.1 miles total,” I said. I knew I could handle that.

After the first mile of climbing, however, I turned into a little monster. At this point, I had already hiked 5 miles and we weren’t at the top. Not even close.

I was pissed.

“Okay, you’ve got to start talking about something to keep my  mind off my misery,” I told Lou.

“What do you want to talk about?” Lou innocently asked.

“I don’t KNOW!” I snapped.

The conversation ended. But I kept complaining as I realized that the map indicated one-way mileage, not the trail’s total. With our wasted backtracking and the improvised commitment to complete this Granite Mountain Vista Point trail, I estimated we’d be close to 10 miles by the end of the day.

“GodDAMMIT!” I blurted, out of the blue.

“Just take a minute and look where we are,” Lou said as he gestured toward the incredible scenery before us.

“I GET IT!”

Whatever.

Poor Lou. I repeatedly apologized later, of course.

“I think you handled it really well,” he said. “We just have to accept that, during this process, we’ll each have a moment where we’ve just had it. You pushed through and finished. I’m proud of you.”

This actually happened. Lou is actually this good to me.

I can’t believe my luck.

Dream Lou

By Alpha TangoBravo Adam Baker on flickr Creative Commons.

Terrible creatures can ruin a good night’s sleep.

I’ve always had vivid dreams and nightmares.

Since I met Lou, my general sense of safety has changed. I feel more secure and the nightmares have subsided.

But, every once in a while, a bad dream worms its way into my slumber.

I had one last week. It was about Lou.

In the dream, we were still married. But he was distant.

No matter how hard I tried to engage him, he resisted conversation. And when I mentioned the palpable shift in our connection, he only rolled his eyes. With increasing anxiety and devastation, my attempts to reach him escalated. I was sobbing and begging. But my desperation only made him recoil in disgust.

He was done with me. And there was no getting him back.

In real life, my alarm clock chimed and I could feel Lou next to me.

We were both half asleep when I rolled over and mumbled, “You love me and you still want to be married to me, right?”

“Yes!” he said. “And I’ll never, ever leave you ever.”

I didn’t have to explain the details. I’ve had dreams like these since we first started dating.

“Dream Lou is a real dick,” Lou always says.

Yes, he is.

But real Lou is the best.

Four Years Ago Today

If our relationship was a human, it would look like this. Our relationship would be able to count to ten, begin to distinguish fantasy from reality, and accurately identify at least four colors.

Four years ago today, I walked into a bar all by myself and met my husband.

Yes, yes, I know I’ve told this story about a million times. If you haven’t read about the magical, whimsical, gives-me-goose-bumps way that I met my Lou, read it here.

We’ve been talking about our four years together quite a bit recently. I don’t think I need to blog about how happy we are (if you want proof, read this, this, this or this).

I realize that four years isn’t an eternity. But, it’s the longest time either of us have been consistently thrilled to be in the same relationship.

I keep saying, “Four years…we’ve been together as long as high school lasts!”

Here are some other things we can expect in a four-year time-span:

The Olympics

Human ability to count to ten

FIFA World Cup

Bamboo canes reach maturity

United States Presidential Term

Leap Year

Total solar eclipse

Quidditch World Cup

A hair strand’s maximum life expectancy

And, in another four years, (unless one of us tragically dies in a car accident or plane crash [please, please, universe, please don’t let this happen!!!!]) you can expect Lou and I to be happy, in love, and closer than ever.

Lou, I love ya, babe! Thanks for giving me the happiest four years of my entire life!