Dan and Letting Go – KGUA #61

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For the September 20, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are told that So many people are free with their advice and say, “just let it go!” sounds like a buzz phrase. BUT, if you did “let something go, what would it be?”

Today was the day Hannah and I were supposed to be flying back from San Francisco to Boston after concluding our two weeks in California with three days with our friends, Scott and Tree, in Gualala, California (150 miles north of San Francisco).  We also had plans to meet up with KGUA’s own Peggy and Mark, the folks who have generously given us airtime to share our weekly freewriting. 

Alas, all does not go as planned.

One week before Hannah and I were to leave for hiking in Yosemite and Redwood National Parks, we cancelled our trip primarily because of the widespread wildfires throughout California. The Delta Variant of Covid contributed to our decision, too.

Did I/we make the right decision?  I believe so.  And the added benefit is that I let go of any second guessing of our decision.  I moved forward and planned a local road trip in Maine for three days. We’d drive the entire length of Route One, some 530 miles, from Kittery in the south to Fort Kent in the north.  I let go of judging and doubting our decision.

And then on our second day, we are pumped for the four-mile Coastal Trail along the cliffside at Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine. Soon, the trail began to deteriorate with steep, muddy, rooted descents followed by challenging climbs. In short order, the hike slipped into the “no fun” category. With that, we bailed.

Did we make the right decision not to complete the challenging loop trail that we had planned?  You bet.  In addition, I didn’t second guess our decision and put the doubts away in the closet and took the rehashing to the pantry

Letting go is not a fully formed behavior of mine. It will take practice and more practice for me not to fall back into the mythology of what might have been.

Words – 266

From the Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations of Wisdom, Perseverance, and The Art of Living by Ryan Holliday and Stephen Hanselman

When you set your mind to a task, do you always follow through? Don’t let yourself become a prisoner of that kind of determination. Conditions change. New facts come in. Circumstances arise. The point is not to have an iron will, but an adaptable will. Flexibility is its own kind of strength.

Route One from York to Quoddy Head is in fact much closer to the coast

Dan and His Example of Resilience – KGUA #60

For the September 13, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on Resilience: What’s Your Definition or Example of?”

Resilience personified

What if your voice was silenced? 

Imagine that you couldn’t be heard in a group.

Imagine that you couldn’t read to your grandchildren for more than five minutes.

Imagine being tired of not being heard so that you just choose to listen.

Imagine needing your spouse to finish your stories when speaking with others.

Imagine having to repeat everything.

Imagine playing pickleball or any sport and not being able to communicate with your partner or teammates.

Imagine people routinely saying to you when you speak, “What? Say that again.

Imagine when talking on the phone your voice sounds crackly to others.

Imagine you can’t speak up enough to talk to a friend across a room?

Imagine your humorous quip at just the right moment can’t be heard.

It’s not hard to imagine that you might just want to stay home and hide.

But Hannah hasn’t.

Twenty years ago Hannah found herself unable to project her voice and had trouble speaking words that started with an H or an S.  Diagnosed with spasmodic dysphonia, of which there is no cure, she has chosen to stay engaged with her world.

This voice disorder causes involuntary spasms in the muscles of her voice box or larynx, which in turn causes her voice to break and have a tight, strained or strangled sound. 

She works through reading with her grandsons.  She finishes more and more of her stories, albeit the shortened version.  She makes the phone calls when she must, though she prefers texting and emailing.

Still she can’t be heard in a group and appreciates her friends and family who give her the time to tell what’s on her mind.

As her husband, I have been witness to twenty years of her resilience personified. 

Words – 293

Dan’s Wednesday Quotes of the Week #41 – Will Rogers

Never slap a man who’s chewing tobacco.   

Never kick a cow chip on a hot day. 

The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it back into your pocket.   

There are three kinds of men: The ones that learn by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence and find out for themselves.

One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.   

Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment. 

Will Rogers, 1879-1935

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock with Their Grandson Owen (9) Part 3 of 3 – The President

After summiting Mount Monadnock, Owen, Molly, Tip, Hannah, and I approach the trailhead after a four mile rock climb in three and a half hours; we notice swarms of young woman and men just beginning their climb to the top. 

They look like first year students on a bonding climb as they begin university life.  Think back to starting out in college, if you were so fortunate. It can be a lonely and challenging transition from the cocoon of one’s hometown to the trials of dorm living and making friends.  Universities are now welcoming students into the college family by outdoor team building experiences.  

Could I ever have used such an experience back in the fall of 1966 when I entered the College of Wooster in Ohio!  Though I had core group of childhood friends growing up, the problem was I didn’t really know how to make friends.  My friends from Fair Lawn were just always around.  

Muddling through, I eventually made it through thanks to three relationships: the guys on the tennis team, my roommate Jim Francis, and the girl of my dreams, Hannah Kraai (pronounced CRY).

Looking to confirm my suspicion, I speak up to a gaggle of passing students, What kind of group is this?  They are students from Franklin Pierce University, not fifteen minutes away in nearby Rindge.  Upbeat and high-spirited, wave after wave of groups of ten to twenty happy kids chatter by.

As we get to the trailhead itself, we pass by the university vans that brought the students to this popular state park.  I then notice plastic-wrapped packages of 24 water bottles near a covered open air structure with four or five adults.  Buoyant from our successful climb to the top of the mountain, I shout out, Are you from Franklin Pierce?

When they reply in their affirmative, I add, looking to Owen, We have a member of the Class of 2031 for you!

Immediately, a welcoming man approaches and engages us in conversation. Guessing the man is from the campus Alumni Relations or some PR arm of the university, I nod yes when he says, Would you like to meet the president of the university?

And just like that President Kim Mooney comes over and greets Owen, Hannah, and me.

President Mooney, Dan, Hannah behind Owen

Whoa!  La presidenta.  It turns out Kim is the first female president of FPU and the first alum named president.  They navigated the Covid year successfully on campus and are here as part of 50-year tradition of FPU students climbing Mount Monadnock to start the school year.  And then we learn that upbeat man is her husband, Greg Walsh.

As we wrap up our conversation, Greg hands Owen a coin of friendship.  Walking to our picnic table for our lunch touched by their kindness, Owen poses with his first silver dollar.

Though Owen and his brother Max seem like future Sun Devils from Arizona State University – the Harvard of the West and my alma mater, who knows, maybe Owen will be a Raven from Franklin Pierce University!

PS I sent the blog to Kim this morning. She responded almost immediately.

Dear Dan,
On a morning when Greg and I have already shed tears thinking about the perfect fall weather morning  on 9/11 twenty years ago, your email filled our hearts. 
Our encounter with you, Hannah and Owen has stayed with us too. Thank you for memorializing it so vividly in your blog below. You captured the spirit of Franklin Pierce students so we’ll! 
Our best to you, Kim and Greg

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock with Their Grandson Owen (9) Part 2 of 3 – The Bend

Descending the White Cross Trail

As we continue our descent down the White Cross Trail from the Mount Monadnock peak, Molly, Tip, Owen, Hannah, and I come upon this branch, bent at childbirth as a sapling.

Owen carrying on the Rawding Tradition of Bent Tree Climbing

A young woman on the trail mentions that this branch was purposefully bent by Native Americans.  Intrigued, I did a little research.   By that I mean, I googled “bent trees as trail guides.”  I learned the following.

It seems Native American bent trees in the direction of a frequently visited destination such as a water source, campsite, or a safe river crossing. These were called Marker Trees.

Hardwoods, oaks, maples and elms were their trees of choice.  With the sapling staked down, the undamaged tree would continue to grow and new branches, not near the ground, would shoot upwards.  

In front of Owen from left to right are Molly, Hannah, Dan, and Tip on the last Sunday in August 2021

They go by other names: Trail Trees, Crooked Trees, Prayer Trees, Thong Trees. 

To be a trail tree, first of all, it must be old enough to have been alive when Native American tribes still lived in the area. The bend is about four or five feet off the ground. The bend is a sharp right angle. The tree then runs parallel the earth for a measure, and turns sharply up again, towards the sky.

Owen and his Pop

After the picture taking, we head to the trailhead after four miles of hiking/climbing over the past three and a half hours.

I use the Strava app to record my hiking, biking, and walking

And then we see masses of young’uns, late teens/early twenties, pass us by in gaggles of fifteen or twenty.

Heading to the summit

Part 3 concludes the Mount Monadnock blog with what we learned about these young folks and the impression a prospective future member of the Class of 2031 made.

Dan and Hannah Hike Mount Monadnock with Their Grandson Owen (9) Part 1 of 3 – The Climb

When our grandson Owen was seven, he hiked Mount Major in central New Hampshire with us.  (Click here for that blog. You’ll love the last two pictures of Owen.)  Almost immediately thereafter, we made plans for us all to climb the monster, Mount Monadnock in southwestern New Hampshire near his ninth birthday. A steady two mile climb of rocks, Mount Monadnock at 3,165′ is nearly 1,000′ higher than any other peak within 30 miles.

Meeting Owen and his parents, our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip, at the Monadnock Country Café in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, we witness Owen chowing down with the meat eaters omelet and gigantic blueberry pancakes that he shares with his dad.

Ready to dig in!

Suitably fueled, at 820A we pull into the gate at the Monadnock State Park to hear the attendant ask if we have a reservation. What!  We have no idea we need a reservation.  We hiked here two years ago and didn’t need a reservation; we just had to arrive early enough to get a parking spot. Driving two hours, then breakfasting for an hour to be turned away at the last minute would be heartbreaking, cruel beyond belief.  Well, that might be a little hyperbole. We are told that so many people hike this mountain that hikers forge new paths into the woods to circumvent slower hikers. Fortunately, he said today there was room for hikers without reservations.  Phew.  Lesson learned! Check our hikes online first.

The trail begins
A steady Freddy climb

On an overcast morning at 60F at the trailhead, we opt for the steeper White Dot Trail to the summit and will return via the longer but less precipitous White Cross Trail.  Immediately we are steadily climbing over the stone-filled trail with cross-wise logs and later granite blocks laid into the mountain-side that make for an easier assent.

Keeping up with the adults with his usual sunny disposition, Owen scampers over and around rocks; we all take the stone slopes switchback-style to take the steep out of our climb.  Alternatingly, we take off our long sleeve shirts, then add them back on when the clouds come in and the temperature drops.

It seems like a clear morning, but…

Within a 500 yards of the top, clouds envelop us such that we can’t see the peak.  The trail of white dots clearly painted on the stones makes us confident we are on the way to the summit.

Once atop Mount Monadnock with limited visibility and stronger winds, we huddle behind a rock wall for granola bars, salted almonds, raisins, and water.  Our time in the chilly, cloud-covered summit is short as Molly soon leads us down the less steep and more meandering White Cross Trail.

As we make our way to the trailhead, three college kids are passing us on their way to the summit.  Hopefully reading their buoyant nature correctly, with a wide smile I say, “Well somebody slept in this morning,” as they see us with Owen.   I ask you, what percentage of people would take my good-natured, light-hearted ribbing in the fun-loving spirit that it was intended and how many would react defensively and swat back with sarcasm, head-shaking or pissiness? 

Well, not these three guys!  They smiled and said you got us.  Funny, some 45 minutes later the same three guys, absolutely cruising, pass us after being to the summit.  Still smiling, they add to the positive vibe of the many other folks on the trail knowing how lucky we all are to be here today. 

And then we see the bend in the trail.  Part two describes this unusual bend. 

For more information on the trails of Mount Monadnock State Park, see the map below.

The White Dot Trail is to the right and the White Cross Trail to the left. I use the Strava app to document my hikes. (Thank you, Will Rothermel)

Dan and Hannah, the Delta Variant, and the Wildfires in California – September 2021

Yesterday morning (September 1, 2021) Hannah and I were preparing for our Saturday departure to LAX for two weeks of friends and hiking in California.  I’d just set up pickleball with our Santa Barbara friends, Bill and Claudia, while the confirmation of our Air B&B lodging in Mariposa, at the gateway to Yosemite National Park, had arrived.

Yesterday afternoon everything changed.  The straws of not traveling to California became too many.  (Sort of straw vote!)  The Delta Variant of Covid and the wildfires outweighed the excitement of our Golden State fortnight adventure.

Straw One, so much had changed since I made our Delta Airlines reservations in March of 2021.  The vaccine was readily available and returning to our active lives, sooner than later, seemed like a given.  First the Delta Variant, and then the wildfires.

Straw Two, Tuesday we learned that all national forests were to be closed in California so that meant hiking into the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara was out.

Straw Three, already the Caldor Fire blocked our drive from Yosemite to South Lake Tahoe; ten thousand people have been evacuated from the area.

Straw Four, with the wildfires still out of control, we were looking at the possibility of Yosemite closing, having to hike with masks, and breathing intolerable smoke.

Yosemite NP is to the south of the Caldor Fire

Straw Five, the realization that getting to the McArthur Burney Falls in northern California may be impossible and if we did, we’d likely see a trickle of water due to the historic twenty year drought in the West.

Straw Six, vaccinated folks like us are getting Covid, which was an unknown development this past March. 

There was just too much hanging over our heads to make it the 75th birthday national parks vacation that I was hoping for.  True, I’m just 73, but you get the point. Covid has made many of us wanting to travel now before the next pandemic or climate catastrophe.  Yes, climate change is real.

So how much money did we lose?

We don’t pay for our 15-day $1276 Enterprise rental car until we actually get the car.  Cancelled with no charge.

All the motels we signed up for allow us to cancel until the last day or two.  No charge.

The $315 two-night Air B&B in Mariposa for our September 9 and 10 stay had a full refund policy if we cancelled by September 4.  No charge.

Delta gave us e-credit for our plane tickets that we can use on another Delta flight if we make reservations by December 31, 2022.

Money was never the issue, the possibility of hiking with masks, breathing nasty wildfire smoke and closed trails were ultimately the key straws that has us postpone our two weeks in California.

California, we are not giving up on you!  Winter 2022!

Dan Has A Pearl of Wisdom for His Grandchildren – KGUA #59

For the August 30, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite on What pearl of wisdom do you have for us?

Front row from left to right – Owen (9), Max (7), Brooks (3) Back row – Charlotte (1) and her identical twin sister Reese (1) or Reese and Charlotte

My pearl is for our grandchildren, Owen, Max, Brooks, Reese, and Charlotte,

It comes from Davy Crockett, the King of the Wild Frontier.

I’ll begin with a truth about your parents that you might not know. 

I’ve seen your parents in action.  They’re good, I mean really good.  They are involved parents and love being your mom and dad.  Truth be told, they are exhausted by nightfall.  But it’s a good exhausted!

They are doing what they can so others will want to be around you. They want you to be thoughtful, confident without being arrogant; that you also listen and think of others.  They want to instill in you a passion for life and being responsible stewards of our planet. 

Notice I said nothing about your grades or your SAT scores.  Rather, they encourage you to ask questions and regularly they validate your feelings.  I told you they are good.

Fess Parker, the Davy Crockett of my youth

They are pretty cool, but they don’t get it right all the time.  Who does?  Certainly not your grandparents.  You’ll disagree with them on a regular basis.  But cut them some slack; bless their hearts, they are knocking themselves out for you.

Here’s a biggie.  They don’t expect or want you to be perfect.  They aren’t.  They get that messing up is part of being a kid; fact is, it’s also a part of being an adult.  They want you to learn to own your mistakes not make excuses.  A sincere “I’m sorry” goes along way.  Take your lumps and the consequences without whining.  Despite how much fun a good whine can be.

So, no need to be perfect; swing for the fences and know that truth of Davy Crockett’s words – Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.    

Words – 257

Dan and Hannah Hike Our American Southwest – Sedona, Arizona (May 2010 Archives #3)

Is there a prettier name for a town than Sedona?  I think not.  As Arizona residents at the time of the birth of our first child Molly, Hannah and I never seriously considered Sedona for her first name.  Did we drop the ball?  I think not. Molly is a beautiful name.

Driving to Sedona today, I wonder if we did.   Like Montana and Dakota, Sedona suggests a strong individual, an unbridled spirit, the West personified.  Who wouldn’t want such a daughter?   Informed later of our musings, Molly said thank you, thank you for not naming me Sedona.  Another bit of unintended karma along our parenting trail.

Through the heavily forested Oak Creek Canyon, we meander down two lane route 89A to Sedona, just an hour’s drive south from Flagstaff.  Passing two of the more popular shorter hikes in the area, one at the West Fork Oak Creek Trail and the other at Slide Rock State Park, we take the rotary just south of town heading down Showalter Road to the parking area for the Mund’s Wagon hike.  Paying five dollars by credit card to park, we love supporting America’s state parks.

Beginning late morning, we head out under blue skies with very little shade.  Following brilliant red sandstone cairns (stacked rocks, in this instance encased in wire mesh cylinders), our trail is nicely marked and easy to follow.  A well-marked trail with other hikers allows me to relax and enjoy myself, unconcerned about getting lost.  Wondering if one is on the trail or not can ruin the best of hikes.

After talking with a returning, agreeable twenty-something hiker, we politely decline his offer of multi-grain energy bars.  It doesn’t take us ten seconds to realize that we just blew it in a big way! We broke the Third Commandment of the Trail – Accept offers of food and water appreciatively.   We hikers are one, inseparable.   We need to do all we can to support and honor each other.

Crossing the dry riverbed repeatedly, we find the modest elevation gain easy to handle.  Ninety minutes later we arrive at a beautiful outcropping at Merry-Go-Round Rock with panoramic views of Bear Wallow Canyon River Valley.  

In stones, Will you marry me? greet us from a Romeo to his Juliet or perhaps a Juliet to her Romeo or even a Thelma to her Louise or… Ah, the mysteries of the trail.  Heading back to the trailhead, we find pools of cool water to soothe our boot weary feet.  

Resting on a rock, I think of the wanderlust legacy bestowed on me by my own Mom and Dad.  Forty-five years ago, they took their three East Coast kids West in a woody station wagon, where I learned that the wilderness world beyond New Jersey was not such a dangerous place; my adventurous spirit was born.

Thank you, Mom and Dad.