Thursday, October 12, 2017

Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim to Rim

Chris spent months training for the Grand Canyon and dropped 30 lbs.

Fresh off the plane in Phoenix.  First stop, pancakes at Matt's Big Breakfast.

Still giddy and unaware of the challenges ahead!

 On our second day in Arizona, we all competed in a trail 5K.  This was my first race hoodie.

These guys rocked the hoodie!

I'm still battling my hamstring injury.  And so the girls walked the 10k.  The boys ran the entire distance.

Jim claimed a 3rd place award, and Chris ran an awesome race!

After the race in Flagstaff, we headed over the Grand Canyon to prepare for our adventures!

On Sunday morning, our alarm buzzed at 3:30 a.m.  This was my hiking wear to start the day.

 For the next 14 hours, we traveled from the south rim of the Grand Canyon to the north rim.

We took a rest day on Monday and relaxed on the north rim.

On Tuesday, we made the 14 hour hike back to the south rim.

My friend Claudia is one who holds many bucket lists.  She has almost completed her quest to run a half marathon or marathon in all 50 states.  Along with the races, she has other things she hopes to accomplish in this lifetime.  One is hiking rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon.

About a year ago, she asked us to join her on the trip. Young (sort of) and naive, we agreed to accompany her on this adventure.  I ran marathons, I thought.  A little hiking across the Grand Canyon will seem like a walk in the park, I imagined.  Would I even break a sweat, I wondered without a hint of humbleness.

In my cloudy thinking, I forgot about a couple of things:

1) The Grand Canyon is not flat.

2)  Hiking across the Grand Canyon takes time....a lot of it.

3)  Hikers in the Grand Canyon must carry a backpack roughly the same weight as a small child.

4)  Temperatures in some parts of the Grand Canyon rival the surface of the sun.

These things I would learn as I embarked upon our journey.

A few weeks ago, we landed in Phoenix.  A short car ride later, we arrived in Flagstaff.  For the first day, we toured around Flagstaff, eating, shopping, and having a grand old time.

Then the mood of the trip changed.

On our second night in Arizona, we traveled to the Grand Canyon and lodged in one of their hotels.  We ate our last meal (of sorts) and gleefully discussed the adventure that awaited us the next day: traveling from the south rim to the north rim in the span of a day.

Sunday morning, our alarm buzzed at 3:30 a.m.  We jolted out of bed, threw on layers of clothing and pulled on our backpacks.  By 4:30 a.m., we arrived at the Bright Angel trail head.

We walked in the dark for the first 90 minutes.  Headlamps illuminated our path, and we hugged the wall to avoid a dangerous misstep.  While we couldn't see the canyon, the stars were particularly bright and unobstructed.  Constellations were visible.  The moon made a path in the sky.

Around 6 a.m., the sun peeked over the canyon.  We witnessed the most spectacular display of sunset.  The sun's rays danced across the canyon.  It was like veil was lifted and the staring act was suddenly on stage.  We were in awe.

A few hours into the hike, we arrived at the Colorado River.  I imagined the Colorado River to be a clear, rushing presence in the bottom of the canyon.  Instead, the Colorado River was a murky, brown (almost dingy) looking body of water.  Despite its lackluster appearance, it symbolized to us that we had reached the bottom.  We had tackled a quarter of our journey and ventured into territory that was both foreign and spectacular to all of us.

The Phantom Ranch sits just about a mile off the Colorado River.  It is an oasis to hikers.  In the middle of lots of nothing, it houses a canteen complete with beverages and an array of food options.  We sat in the air-conditioned building and marveled at how exactly our cold Lipton Ice Teas arrived at the bottom of the canyon.

Thirty minutes later, we were back on our feet.  We had now arrived in what is known as the "box."  The box is the flat, bottom part of the canyon that seems to go on forever and traps heat.  Our hike started with temperatures in the 40s.  In the box, we faced 90 degree temperatures with full sun.

While the scenery was breathtaking, the conditions became brutal.  When we started our hike, our conversations were bubbly and giddy.  Now, our group grew quiet.  Mentally, I was focusing on reaching each camp ground along the way and celebrating the arrival of each milestone.

By 2:30 p.m., we started our incline.  Thank you Grand Canyon for starting us out slow.  For the next few miles, the terrain was rolling.  Then, just as our energy was waning, the Grand Canyon got real.  I would describe it as being on a step stair master for hours (in the heat).  The Colorado River sits at 2,400 ft. elevation.  The North Rim scales to 8,200 ft. elevation.  You do the math!

By 4:30 p.m., several members of our group were spent.  We had to rally and regain strength and momentum to hit the top.  The last two hours were a test to the power of the human spirit and the camaraderie of friends.

At 6:30 p.m, when the sun was about to dip below the canyon walls, we arrived at the north rim (25 miles later).  The feeling was euphoric.  We made it.  We preserved beyond what we could imagine.  But the celebration was tempered with the thought we had to do it again.

Monday, we relaxed on the north rim.  The north rim is the shyer of the two sides.  It is pure and unblemished, largely shielded from the masses of tourist.  We spent our hours lounging in the Grand Canyon lodge.  We snagged a leather sofa that had the best views of the canyon and literally didn't move for hours.  Other lodge guests would make conversation from time to time.  We met a lovely woman from Australia who has visited every square inch of America.  

Another gentleman in a wheelchair made pleasant conversation with our group.  After listening to our adventures, he voiced his desire to join in our hiking, but noted his physical limitations.

This conversation stuck with me when we embarked on our hike back to the south rim the next day.

While so many things about this hike were challenging, it was equal part amazing.  And I couldn't help be grateful that we were able to have this experience.

A park ranger said only 5% of park visitors walk into the Grand Canyon (and only 1% hikes more than 1 1/2 miles).  

We gazed at things within the canyon that few have witnessed.  Waterfalls trickle through rocky crevices.  A trail named Devil's Corkscrew winds around the cliffs and offers the most spectacular feast for the eye.  The Colorado River (while brown) is majestic and commanding.

We instantly felt a camaraderie with the other hikers we encountered along the way.  When we passed fellow hikers, we exchanged hometowns and stories. We were well past pleasantries, and more like like-minded good friends embarking on the same journey.

The best part of the adventures was that it was accomplished with my husband and good friends.  Doing rim to rim to rim is not a solitary achievement, but a communal feat that brought our group a deeper sense of friendship and a greater sense of delight.  

Would I recommend hiking rim to rim to rim?  Yes, but know the wonderful experience and views can only be experienced with a dose of perseverance and pain (which is always true for the best things in life).

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Move Completed: Welcome Home

I just dusted off my keyboard and sat down to blog....finally.  To say life's been busy would be an understatement.  We've gone through a major life change (a move) while still managing regular life responsibilities (laundry still needs to be done and dishes still need to be washed) and special life moments (fall parades, a vacation, and such).

One of the special life moments was chaperoning Collin's field trip to the zoo.  As one with older kids, I know how fleeting the time is to attend a field trip.  

Special moments, always, when I have alone time with a son.

This cat must have been terrified.  Cooper loved on him (hard).

Another special moment was the annual Fall Festival Parade.

It was even more terrific to watch Caleb march along the parade route with the Marching Eagles.

I may be a tad biased, but I really think he's the most handsome trumpet player that band has ever seen!

Then there was the family photo session.

Getting four boys to wear church clothes (on a non-church day) AND smile is no easy feat.

Wish we had six sets of eyes open, but I love that I am sitting amid this handsome crew.

Memaw and Papa with their grandkids.

Birthday celebrations are always special.  Anytime with my running friends makes me smile.  Loved celebrating Kara's birthday.

Soccer games, football games, and other activities filled in the other (many) hours.

But this was our most momentous moment.  The house that we called home for 12 years sold to a new family.

And this became our new address.

I was working on dinner in my new kitchen.  While I was peeling potatoes and slicing carrots, a fly (hopefully just one) kept circling. No amount of swatting or movement seemed to discourage this pesky fellow.  He wanted to be my apprentice, and he made his eagerness to be involved in the process known.

This fly made me laugh.

You see, another fly (I don't think it was the same one) kept me company in my old house.  He also liked to swirl around my kitchen and made me curse his very being.  The moments when he became especially troublesome, I would think about how our new house would not have this fly.  I couldn't wait to move from our old house and rid ourselves of my fly nemesis.

You see, moving houses didn't solve my fly problem.

In the week since we've been into our new house, I've realized changing mailing addresses doesn't rid a home of problems that may have plagued a family in a prior location.

A towel rack still seems like a superfluous item.  (Why place a wet towel on a rack when a perfectly nice floor will do!)

Computer games will always seem more interesting than just about anything else (books can't compete!).

Bickering still happens.

Dirty dishes still land in the sink when the dishwasher is 2 inches away.

So one may question why we would go through the expense and hassle of a move when everything seemingly stays the same.

Because while many things have stayed the same, other things have changed.

We now live on 2 acres of property.  Trees line our driveway (a driveway in which we can break a sweat walking to the mailbox).  A makeshift fire pit is nestled in the backyard with an unobstructed view of farm fields.  The boys can play football, baseball, tag without running into one single neighbor's property.

A few days ago, Cooper and a friend were wandering around the yard.  In between a few pine trees, they discovered a patch of Earth hidden behind branches and away from the watchful gaze of parents and brothers.  They immediately claimed it as their fort and made elaborate plans for the happenings within that space.

As I watched them gleefully run around the grass while hatching their adventures, I knew exactly why we moved to this new home.

Let the adventures begin.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Move for the Woods

On Eclipse day, this guy was battling a virus and home from school.  It worked out for him, as he had more time to gaze at the eclipse from his backyard!

The Woods are on the move.  Literally.  After 12 years in our home, we are moving.....across the street.  For some, this may seem odd.  To us, this seems just right.

For the last year, we've been praying about our home.  Our house had arrived at the point where money was needed to renovate and repair.  In my heart, I wanted to live on land.  I had dreams of my four sons running around in any endless field of grass (our grass) with trees aplenty.  (Of course, in this vision the boys are all getting along perfectly, and I have my feet up without a care in the world.  Can any house promise that?)

During our year long search and prayer, door after door closed.  In fact the ways the doors closed would be the great topic for a future blog post.  We said if by the start of school "our house" didn't appear, we'd feel confident that God wanted us to stay in our current home.

A week before school, a house opened up across from our neighborhood.  In house size, it is smaller than our current home.  But the land outsizes our current lot.  We've grown by two acres.  And there is a front porch that wraps around the home and offers views of the seemingly endless grass (and the boys playing happily...right).  The best part is the neighbor friends are just minutes away.  Hopefully they will jump across the road and keep us all company.  The minute we walked into this home, we knew this was the home that God had provided.  So glad we waited!

A few days ago, we accepted an offer on our home!  For the next few weeks, we'll be occupied with fun stuff like inspections, appraisals, and mortgage agreements.  My hope is that I continue to blog even when the time seems crunched.  (Look for a future blog outlining our journey to our new home and God's hand in the process.)

If you don't see a blog post for a few days, please don't think I forgot about this electronic journal (therapy).  I just might be busy for the moment, until I'm situated on that front porch watching my boys....getting along.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

First Injury

Sweet friend Nicole drives the ship.

Running friends celebrating grieving our kids return to school with a lake day.

One of the best presents ever.  My friend Nicole gave this to me to cheer me up after the injury.  It's a framed picture of our Runner's World article and photo.

Caleb gave me a crash course on marching band on the football field.   My takeaway: it's harder than it looks.

The perk to having a Dad who is a Doctor is that when croup hits in the middle of the night, you know who will take good care of you.

I sat on the crinkled exam table, a foreign position for me.  Certainly, I never envisioned stepping into the role of patient.  For 27 years, I have run without ache or injury.  I imagined that an injury would hit someday.  But I thought that someday would be about the time I was handed an AARP card.

Friends, there is a reason 40 year olds don't waterski.  Our rapidly aging bodies aren't meant to balance, swerve, and jerk like those half our ages.  I learned that lesson the hard way.

When the doctor arrived in the room, I outlined the accident and pointed to my throbbing hip and bum.  He stretched; I yelped.  He frowned; I wanted to cry.  In a soft tone, he uttered the bad news.  

"A hamstring strain or tear," he affirmed.

An X-ray followed with an MRI two days later.

While I'm awaiting the results, he told me the best case scenario (six weeks off running and PT) and the worst case (surgery and 20 weeks off running).

I tried about a million ways to get permission to run, but technically not run.

"What about the elliptical?" I asked the doctor.

He shook his head and said "no."

"How about the weightless treadmill?"

Same response.

"What about stairs?"

No change.

"Jogging in place?"

"Thinking about running?"

Every question was met with the same answer.  Running or anything similar to running was done, for awhile.

I asked my friend Nicole what I should do with my free time while I wasn't running.

"You should blog and write," she replied.

And so I am using my time to write.......about running.  

It's the next best thing.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

New Freshman Son

Yes, these three neighbors are all middle schoolers.  (Although neighbor Stephen's height leads one to think otherwise.) 

Every year, I think "This is the year where Cooper will take the stellar first day picture."  His fifth grade shot was just as goofy as last year.

 Neighbor Ryan did what I thought was humanly impossible to do.  He convinced Connor to "dress up" on his first day of school.  Sometimes peer pressure isn't so bad.

My new 7th grader.

3rd grader

I think Chris was clutching Collin especially hard in this photo because we just didn't want to see him go back to school.

My new freshman.

When the boys were little, a silver-haired lady often sized up my crew and uttered, "Time goes so fast.  Enjoy every minute!"  Inevitably, these comments were tossed out while one son was engaged in a massive fit at Target.  Because those words were said during a not-so-precious moment, I internally disputed her words.  I wanted nothing more than for time to in fact speed along.

I couldn't wait to get past the potty training years, the sleepless nights, the soiled diapers and bedsheets, the weighty diaper bags, and the endless baby food bottles.

But somehow all of these things came and went. In a blink.  And somehow I ended up with a child who is months away from a learner's permit, battling acne and facial hair, and entering high school.

Now I plead for time to slow down.

Our oldest son had a rough start in the world.  To say he was a "pistol" would be an understatement.  I wore the skin off my knees with all the prayers I shot up for this son.  What I learned is that our prayers don't have expiration dates.  The prayers I so desperately prayed while he was in the height of his "energetic, determined state" came to fruition as a teen.

Now he can discuss North Korea, Kurt Vonnegut, stem cells, and Pokemon.  He makes witty comebacks and thoughtful responses.  If he sees the kitchen a wreck, he'll pitch in on the clean up....really!  We enjoy watching him blossom into his own person.  And he's transformed into all of these lovely things within four years of leaving our nest.

Time slow down.

I'm vowing to be intentionally present in his life for the next four years.  I don't want to wish away the inevitable teen angst and school-related rigors.  I know when you wish away time, it happens.  Then, you wish it would come back.