Dear April,

I might be more sensitive to the elements than the average soul. Especially this time of year. April showers. Blustery winds whipping from any direction. Dust and pollen kicked up. Ominous to the north one day, storms brewing in the south the next.

As much as I love change, thrive in the unknown, I am so unsettled in Spring. Willing it to just be rainy or just be sunny – not both simultaneously. Mother Nature in her most fickle, indecisive whimsy. Shall I wear this white, snowy blanket? How about these purple crocus earrings? Does this mud make me look fat?

Especially because I know what’s around the corner: sunshine, warmth, river days, cold beers, tank tops, skinny dipping, running to peaks, sleeping under the stars. When summer gets so close I can taste it, something inside me gets furious with angst. Over being cold, over a tumultuous state of being and ready for coffee on the porch in the morning and cocktails in the fading daylight hours.

I’ll spend June, July, and August in a gluttonous stupor, feasting on the elements, getting to the high places, sucking the marrow out of every sun-soaked day. And then come September and October, my favorite. Time for festivals, sweaters, and fall’s dress rehearsal.

When the aspen change from green to burnt shades of gold, orange, and red, tickled by pleasant breezes, they quake in harmony with exactly where I want to be. For whatever reason, autumn is that season I feel the least stir crazy, the most content. Cup overflowing with summer memories, skin warm and tan from days spent exploring and playing, and a quietness and rest that just seem to take me forever to reach.

And just in time, November will bring some gray chill that’s kind of a downer but also exciting because I’ll be ready for snow then, and afternoons spent baking bread and cookies, evenings by the fireplace sipping wine and reading stories, shorter days for earlier bedtimes. Sleep. Hibernation. These things make sense by December.

Especially because December, January, and February mean more celebrations. Like the festivals of fall, there’s enough to toast to and days hopefully packed with frosty breath, blower powder, and cozy nights snuggled in the biscuit.

And then, the cold needs to go. Because by March, I’m feeling so dry, so pale, so tired of being cold that when April finally rolls around, I’m so over short days and so ready for summer and fall to kick back into gear, that I just have to scream literally into the wind: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, APRIL?!

If only I could learn to not wish away the moments in these precious days.

So bring it on, May. I’m determined to love you in your steady plodding towards wildflowers, flourishing hillsides, budding trees, and flowing streams. Meanwhile, April, I’ll use you for your opportunity to sit and reflect about what I know about the seasons. Thanks for being so unbearably awful that I’m finally inspired to write a post on this forsaken blog. Regardless of my gratitude, I hope you know I’ll never like you.

Love,

Joy

Short Life in Short Shorts

Nearly a month ago, a friend, Alex Newport-Berra, passed in the mountains. I felt compelled to write a bit about him.

Enjoy reading and living out his words: “May each pilot their own ship, and may your life’s passion be a wind to fill others’ sails.”

Click here to read the article.

Alex Newport-Berra, Erik Skaggs, Nick Martin and Ron Braselton

Alex Newport-Berra, Erik Skaggs, Nick Martin and Ron Braselton

 

What I Did Last Weekend

For work this weekend, Gary and I guided a group of fathers and their sons on a three-day backpacking trip to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. It happens to be the most physically demanding itinerary I’ve operated all summer (funny that I chose this one to carry the extra weight of my camera). But after getting a glimpse of the shots below, you’ll see why. Yosemite is breathtaking.

Our trip mascot, the raven, with Half Dome in the background

Our trip mascot, the raven, with Half Dome in the background

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Raven in dead pine with Cloud's Rest in the distance

Raven in dead pine with Cloud’s Rest in the left distance

Approaching Cloud's Rest - Mount Clark in the left distance

Approaching Cloud’s Rest – Mount Clark in the left distance

These unique rustic iron signs mark the way on every trail in Yosemite

These unique rustic iron signs mark the way on every trail in Yosemite

Looking back East/Northeast from Cloud's Rest

Ascending Cloud's Rest

Ascending Cloud’s Rest

 

Ascent up Cloud's Rest with Half Dome in the background

Ascent up Cloud’s Rest with Half Dome in the background

Exposure found on the way to Cloud's Rest summit

Exposure found on the way to Cloud’s Rest summit

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Raven and Mount Clark on summit of Cloud's Rest

Raven and Mount Clark on summit of Cloud’s Rest

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Descent from Cloud's Rest

Descent from Cloud’s Rest

Resting

Resting

Hiking to Half Dome the next day started at 5 am under a full moon

Hiking to Half Dome the next day started at 5 am under a full moon

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First light on Half Dome

First light on Half Dome

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Smoke in the distance from Dark Hole fire that's been burning nearly a month now

Smoke in the distance from Dark Hole fire that’s been burning nearly a month now

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The sons at base of the cables

The sons (Maxx, Matt and Josh) at base of the cables

Fathers and sons start the crazy steep climb to the top of Half Dome - can't believe the NPS let's visitors to the park do  this

Fathers and sons start the crazy steep climb to the top of Half Dome – can’t believe the NPS let’s visitors to the park do this (note that the dad’s are in the back…)

Looking back without letting go of the cables - slick granite smoothed from thousands of climbers is super sketchy

Looking back without letting go of the cables – slick granite smoothed from thousands of climbers is super sketchy

Me and the boys - left to right: Maxx, Gregg, Josh, David, Brad, Gary (guide) and Matt

Summit! Joyy and the boyys – left to right: Maxx, Gregg, Josh, David, Brad, Gary (guide) and Matt

Where's Joy? Look for stick white legs draped over 4,000 feet of air from the end of the King's Chair

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Where’s Joy? (Hint: look for stick white legs draped over 4,000 feet of air from the end of the King’s Chair)

Looking back up Tenaya Canyon

Looking back up Tenaya Canyon

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The Stats:

Hiked 5 to 12 miles each day for three days with elevation gains from 800 to 2,700 feet a day and elevation losses from 800 to 4,000 feet a day

Cloud’s Rest summit elevation – 9,900ish

Half Dome summit elevation – 8,800ish

So ends a perfect weekend. Till the next…

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Nick in Awesome Places

Since he’s always posting photos of me because he’s the one who usually carries a phone, I’m happy to share a few moments I’ve captured this summer of Nick in Awesome Places doing semi-rad things. Wish I had one of those fancy iPhone cameras. Droid doesn’t do these scenes justice. Oh well. Enjoy!

Nick at Observation Point , Zion

Nick at Observation Point , Zion National Park

Nick guiding folks, Bryce National Park

Nick guiding folks, Bryce National Park

Nick using his awesome Z-poles to point out a rock that looks like a golden retriever. We call it Charlie Rock.

Nick using his awesome Z-poles to point out a rock that looks like a golden retriever – we call it Charlie Rock

Nick below El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

Nick below El Capitan, Yosemite National Park

The remains of Nick's secret breakfast I found in the car one morning

The remains of Nick’s secret breakfast I found in the car one morning

Nick's not-just-tea beverage during World Cup Final - Silverton, CO

Nick’s not-just-tea beverage during World Cup Final – Silverton, CO

Nick running plateaus, Yosemite National Park

Nick running plateaus, Yosemite National Park

Nick skyrunning with Half Dome in background, Yosemite National Park

Nick skyrunning with Half Dome in background, Yosemite National Park

Nick pondering vastness, Sequoia National Park

Nick pondering vastness, Sequoia National Park

Nick about to set up first rappel in Spry Canyon, Zion National Park

Nick celebrating finding Spry Canyon, Zion National Park

Gosh darn it, I love this guy.

‘Tis the Season to be Avi Savvy

The Durango Telegraph latest issue featuring....

The Durango Telegraph latest issue featuring….

The article: ‘Tis the Season to be Avi Savvy

The story behind the Top Story: 

In February, Nick and I moved to Durango. The day we rolled into our new lives, local skier 23-year-old Peter Carver was buried in an avalanche. Over the next week, we unpacked our lives and watched the community surround the Carver family. Not knowing anyone, we attended the memorial service the following weekend, which confirmed what we’d hoped to find upon moving here. Hundreds of people crammed into the Discovery Museum, hugging, crying, and laughing out the grief. Slideshows, speeches, and even a marching band filled the evening with an outflow of sympathy and celebration over the life of a kid who lived and loved large.

At one point, one of the speakers at the event said, “If you want community, Durango, look around.” We did and then looked at each other. Our unvoiced expressions agreed: we should stay here for awhile. 

In response to this profound experience, I wrote a letter to the editors of Durango’s two local newspapers entitled Durango Community Delivers. The letter addressed the silver-lining of  this tragedy and was published in both papers. It ended up leading to a number of connections for us in the community throughout the year. We even used Peter’s dad’s brewery, Carver’s, for our ‘rehearsal dinner’ locale the night before our wedding.

Nine months later, Nick, now the marketing manager at local outdoor gear shop, Pine Needle Mountaineering, is in charge of promoting a benefit for the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) on December 4th. He asked me if I could see if one of the papers in town would be keen on an article featuring the CAIC. I wrote two queries: one to Durango’s weekly publication, the Telegraph, and the other to the legendary Herald, one of the only daily newspapers in the country that is still used for the classifieds.

I first wrote the Telegraph, considering it’d be ideal for the article to run for a week. Secondly, I copied the wording and switched references about the Telegraph to fit phrasing appropriate for the Herald. Or so I thought.

Immediately after sending my pitch to the editor of the Herald, I got an email back with the response, “Ms. Martin, I do not work for the Telegraph.” That was it. My heart skipped a beat as I looked over the email I’d sent him. And there it was. I told him “…I’m proposing an article be featured in the Telegraph…” Oops.

I quickly wrote him back, apologizing for the embarrassing oversight and sent him a fresh pitch. No dice. I still haven’t heard back from him.

No word back from the Telegraph either. Great. I’m the worst writer on the planet.

Five days later, Nick and I are heading to Wolf Creek for our first ski turns of the season. I get an email from the editor of the Telegraph. She’s game for me to write the article. 1,000-2,000 words. Could I get it to them by the next morning? She understood if I couldn’t swing it.

Couldn’t swing it? She clearly didn’t know who she was talking to. I wrote her back and told her I was in. We continued on to Wolf Creek Pass and skied under blue skies in deep powder, played with our new avalanche equipment, and then drove back to Durango.  I spent the early evening making phone calls for interviews, including a conversation with Peter Carver’s mom, Karen. The next four hours, I wrote and read aloud drafts to my live-in editor, who patiently listened and critiqued and eventually fell asleep.

The next morning, I fired off my first full-length article ever and held my breath. After checking my email incessantly, waiting to hear if the piece was received well, Nick and I packed up skis and headed for Coal Bank Pass. No email connection for the rest of the afternoon. When we got back to the car, I checked. Boom. She said, “Well done.” The article is a go.

And so here it is, the Top Story even – live, floating around town now and sitting on the tables around the coffee shop I’m in right now.

Road Trip Summer 2014: The Deux-rango

Looking for next years’ summer road trip inspiration? Grab a companion and a six-pack of Tecate in a can to plan this epic vacation boasting folkloric potential for history buffs, curious-minded logophiles, or adventure enthusiasts who’ve done everything and are looking for something that’s not even chronicled on the world wide web.

Introducing the Deux-rango, a 1,064-mile road trip that begins in Durango, Colorado, and ends in its’ namesake city, Durango, Mexico. On your way to the birthplace of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, pass through Truth and Consequences, New Mexico, and eventually the US/Mexican border at El Paso/Ciudad Juarez. Keep heading south through the city of Chihuahua, Mexico, before arriving in the heavily forested mountains of the Sierra Madre and the town of Durango, Mexico. Please note: this trip is not limited to carbon-emitting automobiles. If you’re feeling super brave, opt to go by bus, hitching, walking, biking, or any combination of transportation. Remember, this has never been done before so there are all sorts of records to be set.

There are more similarities between the Durango’s than you might think.

  • These two mountain towns both rest just over 6,500 feet above sea level.
  • Durango, Mexico, is almost directly south of Durango, Colorado, which is just three-degrees more westerly.
  • The Durango’s each have a history steeped in both the silver mining and western movie industries.
  • As well, both feature the glorious natural playgrounds of mountains, canyons, and deserts.
  • You can find world-class mountain biking trails and UFO landing sites in and within 50-miles of each.
  • Both Durango’s are named after Durango, Spain, where Francisco de Ibarra (colonizer of Durango, Mexico) was born. Durango comes from the Basque word “Urango” meaning “water town.”
  • Delicious green chili accompanies dishes in both towns, though it is unconfirmed whether Durango, Mexico, has a green chili to rival the Durango Diner’s green chili. Probably.

And of course a few differences:

  • The 17,000 dwellers of Durango, Colorado, are referred to as Durangoans or Durangotangs, whereas the 1.7 million residents of the Mexican town would each be called duranguense.
  • Durangotangs are predominantly English-speaking, and Duranguense speak fluent Spanish.
  • Durango, Mexico, is about 300-years older than Durango, Colorado, which was founded in 1881 by a railroad company who dreamed of connecting the two towns together someday.
  • The Mexican-Durango flag boasts two wolves and a tall tree. Durango, Colorado, doesn’t have a flag but instead has a city symbol that consists of a pine tree, steam engine and mountain.
  • Durango, Colorado, has a motto: “Open Spaces and Familiar Faces.” Durango, Mexico, is simply known as the Land of the Scorpions.

Deux-rango Rules:

  1. The trip officially starts in Durango, Colorado, and officially ends in Durango, Mexico. It doesn’t count if you pick up the road in Albuquerque and end in Mazatlan.

What to pack:

  • atlas
  • flip-flops
  • passport
  • headlamp
  • camera
  • iodine pills or water filter
  • reliable way to listen to tunes or an open-mind to mariachi radio
  • travel coffee mug
  • weapon

Tips:

  • Plan your trip around the Feria Nacional, an annual festival taking place in July that celebrates Durango, Mexico’s agricultural roots. Don your western duds for charreada (rodeo) and duranguense music and food.
  • The morning of your departure, eat breakfast at Durango Diner so you can fairly sample the green chili for comparison when you arrive in Durango, Mexico.
  • Stop at Trader Joe’s in Albuquerque to stock up on cheap, delicious road snacks like sinfully delectable trail mixes, dangerously edible cookies, and turkey jerky.
  • Throughout your travels, use caution, seat-belts, sunscreen, helmets, wisdom, and any other safety tools at hand.
  • Practice Spanish before you go.
  • Research desert plant and animal life or take someone with you who can explain such things. It takes imagination and knowledge to appreciate this harsh landscape – especially for a thousand miles. Or two, if you return the way you came.
  • Carry extra gasoline, patch kits for bikes, and adequate outdoor gear for long nights should you get lost or unexpectedly chased whilst in the desert.
  • Watch as many Mexican and Western films as you can between now and then – I suggest Blow, The Mexican, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, Rango (even though they show saguaro cacti where they don’t exist), and anything with John Wayne, who owned a ranch in Durango, Mexico.

So with that info, you’re good to get started in the planning process. Remember to go lightly, highly aware of your surroundings at all times, and with a big smile – this’ll get you anywhere you want – maybe that universal rule applies in Mexico. Buena suerta, amigos!