The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

It is eerily empty here in the Red Rocks boondock. The gang all pulled out this morning bound for Kodachrome, while I am headed east to cross a couple more national parks off my never-ending task master, my Bucket List. But without a list, I lose track of my desires. And without desires, there is no expansion, no growth. Right?

There they go, one by one down the hill...sniff

There they go, one by one down the hill…sniff

Only the Winnie remains...

Only the Winnie remains…

The standard by which all other boondocks will be measured.

The standard by which all other boondocks will be measured.

The campground that has been my “landing strip” for the past week is now empty. It will forever hold the memory in my personal history book as my first boondock after retirement, and the first page in the next chapter of my life. I take some time to walk around the campground after the others have left. It feels like an empty movie set now. Void of energy. The wind is blowing up some ghostly-looking swirls of red dust around me. I want to leave and I don’t want to leave. I seem to be lacking focus, but I guess that is to be expected after leaving a job of 24 years.

The Upper part of Lower Spring Canyon, near Chimney Rock trail head

The Upper part of Lower Spring Canyon, near Chimney Rock trail head



Yesterday, I did a solo hike in the other side of Spring Canyon. After having made it two thirds of the way in, I wanted to see what I had missed on the other side. The rest of the gang had done this part of the canyon prior to my arrival, so while they all went in to fill and dump tanks, I “filed a flight plan” with Debbie. “If I am not back by dark, I’ll be in Spring Canyon.” Her response is comforting. “I’ll come looking before dark!”

I realize mid-day is not the best time for photographs, but the walls of this canyon are so vivid from the sun’s reflection off the red rocks that it looks like my eyeballs are bleeding! The others have promised a visual feast, and they did not exaggerate. I have the entire canyon all to myself as I wander through these hallowed walls for almost four hours, marveling at the beauty of nature’s impermanent sculpture garden against the stark architectural angles of the canyon walls. I am filled with awe to have such a place all to myself.IMG_1422



I have always enjoyed solo hiking. Since I am not focused on keeping pace with others, I spend more time reflecting, basking, and pondering quotes like Emerson’s “Adapt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.” Instead of thoughts focused on whether or not I will be able to keep up, whether I can make it up the hill, following butts and boot heels in front of me, I relax more. I see more of the vegetation along the path, the rock formations, the topography that unfolds in front of me. I hear more of the clicking of insects and melodic birdsong. And I embrace the sound of my own labored breath in the silence, rather than worry that others will perceive it as struggle.IMG_1425



But hiking with “the gang” has given me new insight into the joy that can come from hiking with people who share my same lust for adventure and exploration. Particularly those with a higher skill level than me, as I have always wished for a group of friends who would inspire me to “take it up a notch.” Doing things like scrambling over boulders, fording streams, all at once I am a kid again, back down on the farm, following in my big brother’s footsteps. Doing crazy stuff like “base jumping” out of the second floor barn door with my Barbie parasol as a parachute. Tunneling through my Dad’s wheat fields like a maze. Flying over terraces on my bicycle. It feels like being a kid again, not something I have done much of over the past 30 years.

This photo reminds me of a big block of chocolate.  ;-)

This photo reminds me of a big block of chocolate. 😉

IMG_1436IMG_1442So as with everything in life, it’s a tradeoff. Surrendering one’s ego to always be at the back of the pack, in exchange for the thrill of exploration? Giving up intimate immersion in the solitude of nature to enjoy the laughs from an adrenalin rush? Dealing with the group dynamic in order to go places I wouldn’t have the nerve to go alone? Is it possible to have the best of both worlds? I don’t know, but I sure would like to try…

“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ~ Anais Nin

23 thoughts on “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

  1. I think you just did have some of both worlds. And many more opportunities await.

    Retirement is a glorious time of free choice and adventure. And for you the adventure has started with a bang.

    It’s been fun following you and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next…


  2. That truly was an outstanding boondocking site. It was so gorgeous out there. Spring Canyon was our favorite hike in the Capitol Reef area, and you’ve captured its beauty with the photos. Jim and I just stood and gawked at some of the rocks.

  3. The best of both worlds can be had! I think you’ve hit the nail on the head about the group dynamic versus the pleasures of solitude. There is a benefit to each type of experience and being able to have each when you desire or need it is one of the keys to happiness I believe. Fantastic photos! That is the side of Spring Canyon that Hans and I hiked.

  4. I haven’t decided which part of Spring Canyon I liked best. It is a lovely hike from either end, each side a completely different experience, and more of an expedition on the lower end having to ford the river to get into it. As you know I tend to go off alone when we do group hikes, and I enjoy that as much as walking and talking with others. It’s nice to have both options. You know how to find us and you can join us again any time!

  5. Ii would define what you have as true freedom. Free to explore whatever you want at whatever pace you choose. Enjoy your time in this chapter of life. Oh, and please continue to share with voyers like me! Safe travels, my friend!

  6. Once again you’ve provided a smorgasbord of visual delight. No need to chose a favorite when there are so many competing for top billing. Enjoy your transition and keep sharing beautiful places with the rest of us!

  7. Enjoy your blog. I have wondered about so many things that you have written about. I have followed several blogs for a lot of years and know as much about them as I know about my relatives. In fact, I talk about you and others as though you are close friends. But alas I must just be a reader as my health does not let me travel now. But I can live through you and the other generous bloggers out there. Thank you for all the time you put in blogging. I look forward to following you many years.

  8. You have presented such a mirror for my thoughts and feelings today. It is so wonderful that you were able to meet up with people who both welcome you, include you, challenge you AND give you the space you need. YUP….THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS!

  9. I loved the lone flower in the midst of all the awesomely beautiful canyon shots in this prose description of your journey. As a metaphor it is a great representation of what you are thinking of and experiencing right now. You have lived in the boxes of your choosing and now box free you are determining the length, breadth and depth of the new box which shall be of your own design and making. Thank you for sharing both your visual and verbal exploration of that design.
    peace and keep sharing.

  10. I would think it will be very difficult to match that boondocking spot. Those red rocks just make everything glow.

    We loved Spring Canyon and were all alone when we hiked it. Every turn was a new photo. I recognize many of your photos:)

    I do believe you worked well with the best of both worlds. Groups or company is fine for some hiking. But we, also, prefer hiking alone. As you stated we can catch our breath when we need to, rest when we want, go at our speed, etc. But it is fun to have friends along, too.

    I would have loved to see you jump out of the second floor barn door with your Barbie parasol!! I bet that was a sight:)

  11. You’ll never get it done, and you can’t get it wrong! I have lapsed in my reading, and now I MUST go back to learn more about your retirement.

    I spent ten invigorating days with several invigorating women! Now I’m up in Datil with myself.

  12. What a gorgeous gorgeous place. Your photographs are breathtaking. This is a hike I missed due to the forced shortening of our stay in Capitol Reef. Now I feel like grieving over it. Love your quotes from two of my favorite authors. I would say that you and I have the exact same hiking style and the exact same dilemma with regard to groups and solos. I hear you loud and clear. If we are alike in other ways, you will spend up to 6 mos easing your way into how you want your life to be now that it is all your own choice, every second of it. Joy abounds!! Retirement is the absolute best.

  13. Each of your blogs is a treasure, and I look forward to your magnificent photos, which are outstanding, and your easy-read prose. The reading is something that just absolutely flows from thought to thought with such easy transition. It is like not actually having to read the words; they just sort of infuse into my brain effortlessly. Does that make any sense?

    Virtual hugs,


  14. Tina — Thanks so much. I can’t wait to see what I come up with next either, but more because I feel like I am flying blind!

    Allison — I agree, it was definitely a beautiful find, yet so wonderfully “under publicized!”

    Lisa — I am still working on that delicate balance, unlocking your “key to happiness,” but I agree!

    Gayle — I am so grateful we got to experience both sides, because as you said, they were such different experiences! Looking forward to the next hike with you!

    Reta — Thanks my friend. Yes, it does indeed feel “free.” I am sure you feel some of that too after retiring. I hope Pat gets to join you soon!

    T — Thanks so much for your nice comment, and for following the blog!

    John — Yes, thank goodness I don’t have to pick a favorite, because it would be impossible amongst all this beauty!

    Barbara — Thanks so much for the kind comment! It made me laugh. Yes, I have often found myself talking about bloggers as if they were my friends, and fortunately for me, some of them have become friends in real life! What a bonus! I am sorry for your health issues, but sending thoughts for good health your way!

    Contessa — My friend….hugs back to you! I am behind on reading again. Going to catch up with you today on a rainy Sunday.

    Karen — Yes, you know first hand that “space,” right? A real treasure…

    CJ — Thanks for the nice comment, and for following along!

    Allen — Your comments are always so uplifting to me. Thanks to you and Deede for your support!

    Noelle — Thanks for the comment. I am using a little Canon S110 Point and Shoot.

    Susan — Yes, your state is very enticing!

    Pam — You and John definitely have the best of both worlds too! Very fortunate to find kindred spirits, which means you get to do the more “alone” type hikes without the risk of being solo. And I don’t think I jumped out of that window more than once. LOL!

    Roxanne — Girlfriend, I love someone who speaks the same language! 😉 I trust you and yourself are enjoying the evolution of your desires up in Datil…

    Corinne — Thanks for the comment! Yes, I just wanted to shave off a bite. haha!

    Nina — You and Paul have been on my mind a lot lately. I am missing the beach, missing the lighthouses, and missing sharing vino with you two!

    Sherry — I have a feeling you and I are alike in ways we haven’t even discovered yet! I just have that feeling…

    Ava — Thanks so much for following the blog. It was the blogs of others that kept me going when I was in the final stretch toward retirement, so I hope mine provides some inspiration for those who are on the same path!

    Judie — That is one of the nicest comments EVER! This particular post just kind of “poured out of my heart” without much thought, so it makes me feel so good to know that they “infused” with the same ease as they flowed. Thanks so much for your support!

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