Autumn outing

Getting out of the house and into nature, I notice a letting go of anything I’m preoccupied with. I feel like it is a sort of mental and spiritual deep cleaning, pushing out the superfluous, reconnecting to the essential.

Doing a yoga pose or two during these moments of re-connection is invigorating, somehow more special and meaningful than doing yoga at home or in a studio. Watching my sweetie strike a pose always makes me proud of him. On this lovely autumn outing, Chad held his crow pose – on an uneven rock, overlooking a slope going down to the river – for much longer than usual. Nature can sometimes be an amazing source of support. So can knowing that if you fall, it’s really going to hurt this time.

I started out on our hike getting wildly excited about the resin-loaded pinon pines, and keeping my eye out for medicinal plants. My excitement for fresh pine nuts was overtaken when I began to contemplate a dead ponderosa pine. I looked to it first as a support for a yoga pose, then became overwhelmed by emotion at the remains of this plant-being. Even though the tree was dead, it felt like its spirit was still there. I suppose that when you open yourself up for a conversation with nature, you can’t always know which part of it will speak.

Mountain Yoga

It was time for another adventure, and since our previous hike had been in a desert location, I suggested we go to the mountains this time. On a previous trip we’d driven around Elk Horn Loop and I’d told Kristina that I wanted to come back to one particular part of the loop – the Pole Creek area. My first thought was to take her south of the road to the see the stream, but then I decided it would be fun to hike on the north side, where I hadn’t hiked before, so it would be a new place to explore for both of us.

Shortly after we started hiking we saw a couple of old dead pine trees, which we both found intriguing. Along with being pretty, dead trees are great wildlife habitat and are an important part of the ecosystem. Nearby were some curvy aspens, and Kristina mimicked their curves with curvy yoga poses.

Moving on I noticed an overturned rock and explained to Kristina that it was evidence of a foraging bear. Like dead old dead pines and curvy aspens, and Kristina doing yoga, evidence of bears makes me happy. As we hiked along, though, I also saw some things that make me unhappy – stumps, cow pies, and an unauthorized ATV trail that looked like it was never going to end (Kristina patiently listens when I grumble about things like that). The ATV’s had ridden on what appeared to be an old logging road – and the berms that were supposed to stop traffic seemed to be nothing more than fun-hills for the riders.

We stopped and did some yoga in an area dominated by aspens and then, when it was time to move on, I asked Kristina if it was okay with her if we left the draw we were in – to get away from the ATV trail – and hiked up onto the ridge to the east of us. She concurred, and up we went.

When we got to the top of the ridge there was a pretty little aspen stand surrounded by open sagebrush meadow, and I noticed old bear claw marks on one of the trees and showed Kristina. The view from the ridge was spectacular, and Kristina commented that the lighting and fall colors made the area look like New England.

As we hiked to the south I was amazed at the beautiful combination of the trees on the horizon silhouetted against a cloudy sky. I held back while Kristina hiked ahead and became part of the silhouette, and after taking some photos I hiked up and joined her at the point where the ridge drops off into the valley below. There’s a beautiful rock outcrop that makes a great vantage point from which to view the surrounding countryside, and is also a great place for wild yoga poses.

After enjoying the evening light from our vantage point we scrambled down the east side of the ridge to the Elkhorn Loop road. We paused for a tree-pose, and then enjoyed the view of aspens silhouetted in front of a beautiful sunset. We hiked the rest of the way back to the vehicle and drove away feeling happy and refreshed.

Read Kristina’s take on this adventure

Bear Hike At Pole Creek Canyon

For our latest weekly adventure, Chad took me up to a place called Pole Creek Canyon.  We started our hike off-trail through some lovely Aspen forest, Chad pointing out bear claw marks on trees, and rocks overturned by bears looking for ants. Being pretty new to this type of hiking, that is, hiking in territory occupied by large carnivores, the bear info didn’t exactly make me feel relaxed.

Chad let me pick our direction so I took us toward a clearing, where we found a dirt road. We decided to follow the road (recently used by ATV’s, much to Chad’s dismay) through more Aspen forest. We kept waiting for the road to end, but it didn’t so we decided to leave the path and clamber up a hill, following a rocky path blazed by cattle (cow pie, anyone?).

As I emerged onto the top of the hill a beautiful vista opened up. I stood and looked around me, realizing that the mountains in every direction were all wild country. I noticed a recurrent theme to these hikes – my concern about being off trail in wild animal land would be washed away again and again by the beauty of the landscapes. I thought about the bear signs we’d seen and realized that even if there were, most certainly, bear in this area, there weren’t many and our chances of running into any were small. However, this didn’t stop me from considering my emergency bear encounter plan: sing opera, really loud.

After hanging out to do some yoga poses and take some photos on our little summit, we started walking back in the direction of our car. Chad noticed some interesting rocks, and then something even more interesting: seashell fossils in some limestone. Whoa Nelly! This was exciting stuff for me, my first wild fossil, out here in the middle of nowhere. There were actually 3 little shells in the rock. It’s mind-blowing to think of the passage of time, that this area was an ocean or inland sea millions of years ago, and that these little signs of that past epoch were still up here on this hill, revealed by ancient erosion, but untouched. And putting it into context like that, my bear fears became very, very small.

Read Chad’s chronicle of our hike and see his amazing photos.

Hike to Larva Lake

One of the ways Chad and I like to keep our relationship strong and let ourselves relax is by going on some type of adventure once a week. Chad took me up to another of his favorite spots in the Uintah Mountains. We hiked through the Ashley National Forest on our way to a small glacial lake called Larva Lake. On the way there were a lot of cut trees from timber sales which made us both frown. But once we got out of the logging area, the terrain became interesting – lots of big pink rocks and boulders, signs of the glacial past of the area. We stopped to nibble on tiny little huckleberries that packed a mighty big punch of flavor. When we got to the lake we found a fallen log to do some yoga poses on. I nearly fell in, but managed to regain my balance at the last second. The change in altitude really got to me up here – going from 5000-ish feet to 10,000-ish in a couple of hours is new for me, and just sounds pretty unbelievable anyway. The lovely glacial lake was well worth the trip.