Friday, May 31, 2019

Money and memories

As I ate dinner with B., I observed her furtively.  Only a year older than me and recently retired, she seemed really happy.  She even looked younger.   Was it possible I'd be able to manage an early retirement too? (That being said, I'm going to have to, at least from my current job: they kick you out at 57).

As we talked, though, I became uncomfortably aware that she had a lot more money than me in her retirement accounts.  Some of that could be explained by my having to give my ex-husband money when we parted ways; also she made $40,000 a year more than I do in base salary. 

She seemed puzzled and asked about my fire overtime.  Some years we make a lot; some we don't.  "Where did it go?" she asked.  I  had to think about it.

While I currently contribute a lot to retirement and have other savings, I felt like I should probably have more, given a few good overtime years.  I don't live an extravagant lifestyle.  But then something occurred to me. 

I know where some of it went.  It went to:

New Zealand
Costa Rica
And many destinations in the United States.

I can't be mad about that.  Maybe I'll have to forego some things in retirement.  But I would never give up those memories.  It was all worth it.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Where are you, Amanda?

***update: She has just been found alive, injured in the forest!!!***

On May 8, Amanda Eller woke up in the paradise of Maui.  She was meditating when her boyfriend left for work.  She drove to a small store and bought a few items for a Mother's Day package, then went to the post office to mail it.  Then she vanished.

Amanda's car was found at a popular forest reserve.  Her wallet, phone, and backpack were in her car, with her key hidden under a tire.  Her running shoes were missing.  It looked like she had gone for a trail run, like she had several times before.

Searchers have been scouring the forest.  They have used infrared from aircraft, drones, and tracking dogs.  Depending on which report you read, the dogs either lost her scent in the parking lot or a short distance into the woods.  There was no sign of a struggle anywhere.

I've run solo all over the world.  To me, always having to be in a group would take the joy out of it.  Bad things can happen in the forest, just like everywhere.  You can fall, get lost, meet an ill-intentioned stranger.  But we can't be afraid to live life.

It's been a long time, but I'm hoping she is out there somewhere, trying to get back home, and will be found soon.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

"You'll be safe with me"

For the first time since my helicopter accident in 2003, I was feeling nervous as I put my helmet on and got ready to get in.  Two recent fatal accidents doing the same mission we were about to do had me feeling a little rattled.  The flight profile was just above the treetops, without room to recover if something went wrong.  Still, feeling like this was unlike me, and I pondered it while the pilot approached.

I've known him since 2006, and he is one of the calmest, nicest, and competent people I know.  Everyone likes him.  Instead of staying quiet like I normally would, I admitted that I was feeling kind of nervous following the most recent accident.

The pilot looked at me.  "You'll be safe with me," he said matter-of-factly.

In the three days since that day, I've been thinking about the people who make me feel safe.  There's a couple of them I would follow blindly into any fire, knowing I would always come out unscathed, no matter what happened.  There's a few people who I would trust to drive me through a blizzard or tornado, and just one or two I whom I could tell anything without judgement.  People like these are like islands in an ocean of those who hurt us, leave us, or are just indifferent.  People like these are a blessing.  Are you one of them?

"You'll be safe with me," he said.

And I was.

Thursday, May 9, 2019


Things that sound like compliments on the hiking trail but really aren't:

"I hope I can still hike like that when I'm your age."

"When I'm older I want to be like you."

"I hope I'm half as active as you when I'm your age."

"She looks great/is really fit for her age."

If you like to hike, run or really any kind of outdoor activity, if you haven't heard this yet, you're probably too young.  You will.

On the surface these sound like flattering statements, and in reality they are usually meant that way.  Maybe it's just me, but it comes across more like, "You're old, but you do okay for your age."

There are plenty of places I feel old.  In places where as a young woman I would be noticed, now I'm invisible.  When I'm around a bunch of millennials.  When I try a new sport and see little kids zipping around having no problems.  When I look at social media and see the wanderbabes and wanderbros,  standing at vistas, hair flowing and in perfect attire, declaring that they could never sit at a desk and that they quit their jobs to travel the world.  These moments are many.  But not on the trail.

I don't feel old on the trail.  Yes, sometimes I have aches and pains, but so do the younger people I hike with.  Being in the wilderness is one place I can escape the cult of youth, and society's stereotypes of how we should look and behave to continue to be valid.  If I didn't know, when I'm out there I wouldn't know how old I am.  I feel like the 21 year old me.

The next time you find yourself saying a statement like one above, try and switch it up.  Say, instead, "You're a fast hiker." "You guys seem really fit." "Let's hike together sometime."  Or don't say any of those things.  Talk about the lake we are looking at, or the clouds in the sky, or the flowers and the reasons you're out there.  Trust us, we know we are older than you, and we know we are good hikers: after all, we just reeled you in on the switchbacks.

Let's leave age behind.  It's everywhere else.  Let's all be the same on the trail.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Run on, Jerika

Jerika went out for a run in February, 2018.  She never came home.

She was 24, and had had some troubles in her life, but was overcoming them.  Running helped, and she loved to run long distances.  That day she headed through town and into a canyon.  Phone pings tracked her in some places; she was seen on park wildlife cameras.  People looked, but there were no other signs of her.

There were theories.  Foul play, of course.  Animal attack.   An accident.  Nobody really thought she ran away from her life: she left everything at home except her phone.  Where was she?

Two weeks ago, a man hiking in a rugged ravine saw something and looked closer.  It wasn't abandoned clothing as he first thought.   He had found Jerika.  After over a year, she could finally be brought home.

No cause of death has been released yet, but she was found with broken bones in her leg.  It appears that she may have simply slipped and tumbled into the ravine.

I followed her story since she disappeared.  I kept checking for updates, hoping that somehow she would be found okay, even though I knew that was unlikely.  As an often solo  runner, I'm well aware of the dangers.  They don't scare me onto the treadmill or make me run with a posse.  The joy of running alone on trails is worth it for me.

I like to think that Jerika was happy as she ran along the deserted canyon trail.  She was young and fit and could run for hours.  I hope the end was swift.  I imagine her, still running, with that big smile she wears in most of her pictures.  Run on, Jerika, and be free.