Day 1,699 – Thankful for My Least Favorite Hike in the UP

One more night of total disconnection before I head back to reality at some point tomorrow.  The sounds of nature from outside my hammock are so tranquil I’m struggling to keep my eyes open as I type.  Birds are singing several peaceful songs.  There’s a stream making a perfect babbling sound.  The entire soundscape sounds like heaven.

Our hike today was significantly less eventful than yesterday’s.  No crazy surprises, no unexpected mileage, and largely downhill.  The muddy trails were brutal at times, more of a slog in a big than a hike.  The hike today was scenic at times, but largely meh.  Of all the hikes and trails we’ve done in the UP this was almost certainly my least favorite. 

…and that’s why I’m grateful did it today.  Crazy, right?  Here’s the skinny…

If there’s a ranking of any sort there will always be a most favorite and there will always be a least favorite.  It’s simple logic, right?  It doesn’t mean the least is bad, there is still something to appreciate about it.  The hike today had some very cool rock formations, a wonderfully calm lake, and a spring seemingly appearing out of nowhere.  It was peaceful and chill, just not my favorite.

How awesome that I have had enough hikes in the UP that I can claim to have a least favorite?  It means I’ve had the opportunity to experience some pretty awesome hikes as well.  When I have a hike like today’s it reminds me to pause and think back to all the hikes in the past.  What made them unique?  Why did I appreciate them so much?  So many memories came back while hiking today.

Today’s hike may not have been my favorite but that didn’t stop me from appreciating or enjoying it any less. 

Thanks!!!

Not from today obviously but from a short hike that was more of a favorite than today’s hike. Interestingly, I took no pictures today 😦

Day 1,698 – Thankful for the Hike, the Suffering In a Noble Cause, and So Much Natural Beauty

As I type this I’m laying in my camping hammock at the side of scenic lake.  There’s no one besides us around the lake.  Totally secluded with the next campsites well over half a mile away.  The sounds of the frogs and crickets surround In a wildly loud  cacophony.  There’s a cool breeze starting to blow in off the small lake just below Government Peak inside Porcupine Mountains State Park.

The hike here was interesting to say the least.  Let’s get the tough part out of the way.  According to the online resource I used our hike was only supposed to be 8.5 miles or so.  By the time we got to our camp it was well over 10 miles.  Throw in a crazy muddy trail and there were times when it was tough going.  I’m laying here exhausted, with a leg bandaged up due to some type of poisonous plant, and feeling completely run down.  It reminds dad me of the days when I’d have 15+ mile training runs.  All that said, it was worth every single step, no question.

The hike today was all I could ever ask for out of a hike.  Atop giant stone cliffs.  Crossing tranquil rivers and streams.  Entire swathes of woods covered in a vibrant emerald green.  Waterfalls around many corners all with their own personalities and intricacies.  Just to add to a view that didn’t seem like it could get any better – a bald eagle soared and played in the wind as looked across the scenic valley.

There are definitely some things about hiking and backpacking that aren’t cool on the surface.  As I type there’s a hum of mosquitoes surrounding my bug screen frantically searching for a secret entrance.  My body is sore.  My leg is feeling pretty hot.  There’s a lot there I could focus on… if I chose to in a negative light.

Here’s the deal, many of the best experiences in life are found on the other side of suffering.  While it Is uncomfortable in the moment those are the times when we’re being tested, we’re being forged and tempered.  At any time we could stop as it is all self imposed, but the suffering is what brings the more profound joy out of an experience. 

Laying here tonight knowing I put in over 11miles with a 45ish pound pack on while taking on almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain has me feeling pretty proud of myself… and at the same time wondering how much further I could’ve gone.  The suffering increase the joy, increases the appetite for future growth, and pushes us past what we felt is possible. 

Today the suffering brought my views and memories which will burn in my brain for my entire life.  I’ve seen more beauty than I’d otherwise see in nature.  I found more joy in living.  Today I’ve lived completely.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,697 – Thankful for Reminders of How Small the World Is

I was waiting for our order to be finished at a Culver’s in northern Wisconsin. Out of corner of my eye I caught a glance of someone whom I seemed to recognize. With masks on it is a little more difficult to be sure, but I could’ve swore it was Dad’s past pastor.

I couldn’t tell for sure so I started to head out towards the door, but just as quick I felt compelled to find out for sure. Sure enough it was! We had a nice conversation and it was awesome to talk with him and his wife again.

A couple of hours later we started a little small talk with a woman in our parking lot. Within a couple of minutes we realized we’d rented one of our all time favorite VRBOs from her daughter! We shot the bull and caught up on their move to a new house and how successful their rental properties have been. It was pretty cool!

Funny how small the world is, isn’t? Connections like this remind me of so many moments when someone we know crosses paths out of the blue. The smile, the connection, and the sense of community are amazing.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,696 – Thankful for GIFs

While the topic of my blog tonight may not be the most deep I’ve ever had , but it is perfect for today!

During the work day my brain was thoroughly wrapped around half a dozen projects all at once. Deadlines moved up, things taking longer than expected, very interesting thoughts brought up, and so on and so on. For the most part all good, just mentally exhausting.

I paused for a moment to take a deep breath. After shaking my head for a second I grabbed my phone and checked my texts. Out of the blue a handful of my friends had texted about our upcoming get together now that we’re all vaccinated. It was exactly what I needed to reset my brain to move forward with my day.

There was only one way to respond fittingly to the strong of texts… a few GIFs back to back to back. Next thing I knew there were GIFs flying all over the place!

One that always makes me laugh is a one of Chris Farley and Adam Sandler. In no time someone threw it out there and I was laughing.

After a few laughs I went right back to work and was texting a teammate as we resolved a problem. Once it was resolved he sent me the following GIF to celebrate. For clarity, he and my other group of friends have never met. He and I hadn’t mentioned GIFs, especially the specific one he sent. The one he sent:

Perfect!

Sometimes a picture is worth way more than a thousand words. GIFs remind me of that daily.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,695 – Thankful for Thought Provoking Questions and Phyllis & Anne

Today I had an awesome meeting with my writing coach and editor. This was our first time talking through the specifics of my first draft. Just knowing that they’d both read it in its entirety was wild in a way I can’t really describe. They both did a fantastic job of walking me through the process and helped me feel both comfortable and confident quickly.

After a few notes my editor asked a very deep and thought provoking question. It was one so good that I couldn’t help but pause and breathe. I knew there would be questions, but I wasn’t assuming there would be one so intensely on point. My brain felt stretched by the question… in an awesome way.

Last night at yoga Nick mentioned that by pushing ourselves to and just past the edge of what we feel is possible is where we make progress. A couple of weeks ago I thanked our deacon for his homily as it made me feel very uncomfortable in a very positive and thought provoking way. In moments of extreme discomfort we have the opportunity to find growth. Her question pushed me in a similar way.

I opened myself up completely to the question and went with it. My mind and heart let loose the first waves of answers they came up with. As my mind kept moving forward the answers that came out were quite surprising. The question led to more questions… to more answers… to more questions… and so on. It was pretty sweet!

The excellent questions really helped me to hone in on a few of the ideas I really wanted to get across in the story but I hadn’t been able put into words. Heck, some of the thoughts were still somewhat hidden within other writings and ideas. in some ways Phyllis and Anne were like paleontologists digging up fossils and the questions were the picks to help expose the bone. After one single question I was realizing just how grateful I am for their expertise and help.

Progress towards a dream was made and their help and thought provoking questions are already helping to show my dream into a significantly improved version of what I thought possible. I’m very thankful for their help and insights today.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,694 – Thankful for Remembering the Power of Solitude and Focus

While driving to Eau Claire this morning I was excited to start an audiobook I’d just picked up. As soon as I started driving down my street and went through the mental checklist of my upcoming day. In short order I realized that there was more I needed to think through on a specific challenge today. For half a second I sat paralyzed, torn between my desire to start my new book (a biography of Red Cloud) and focusing energy and thought on a time sensitive project. That half second passed and I left the radio off.

For the entire distance I drove in silence. No background noise, no music, just the sound of the road under my tires. I watched my environment only as much as necessary to drive safely. My mind was focused on the task at hand. After a while of mentally manipulating the scenario I happened upon an almost perfect solution. The next several minutes were then spent on working through the solution and role playing it in my mind.

After feeling confident in my response I then moved on to another topic in the same methodical way, and then on to another. When I felt my thoughts starting to drift a little I caught myself as if my car had hit the rumble strips. In no time I shook the other line of thoughts from my head and went back to the task at hand.

By the time my 90 minutes of driving were up I’d worked through more than I thought I’d be able to in a day, let alone such a short period of time. What really caught my attention was the space my mind had to breathe with a combination of solitude and focus. It felt amazing!

It took quite a bit of energy to stay focused like that, but everything in life takes practice. I’ll certainly continue to focus on growing this practice to help my brain attain the space it needs for optimal performance.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,693 – Thankful for Forced Quiet/Rest Time, Perfect Soccer Weather, and the Nonstop Engine of Youth

Taking time to fully relax and chill doesn’t always come naturally to me. I like staying busy and find that I enjoy time working and creating and being active. Pausing to do nothing kind of drives me bonkers. I still remember a time in Hawaii while in a action when a friend told me I had to quit pacing and relax, my nervous energy was making her anxious. There I was in paradise and in a perfect spot to chill, but my body and mind just weren’t ready to.

Cue a soccer weekend! Spending time in Madison with Gavin this weekend has involved much bonus time to sit still. With the first of our backpacking trips coming up I know I should be resting my legs a bit so they’re fresh. Left to my own devices I’d find an excuse to be exercising them today, probably hiking.

The forced rest / quiet time has been a very positive experience for me over the past 24-ish hours and I can feel my stress levels drop and my stillness increase. It feels pretty awesome… in small doses 😉

Talk about perfect soccer weather! The sun is out but not unbearable. There’s a calm breeze blowing. There are just enough clouds to break up a little sun. The weather is great. It smells like freshly cut grass. Long story short, it’s perfect soccer weather.

While typing this I am sitting alone in my car with the windows down. The boys already had their first game and are warming up for their second game. Earring them home and laugh while kicking the balls around has me smiling. They aren’t laying back or sitting down exhausted, they’re right back at it and full of energy. How awesome that they are enjoying the nonstop engine of youth.

Thanks!!!

Day 1,692 – Thankful for Reminders of Valuable Life Lessons – Slow Erosion & Planning Ahead

Over the past week there’ve been a few moments in which something happened which sparked a deep understanding of lessons I’ve learned in the past. Seeing the situations from afar it was easy to to do the obvious and question how they happened without being taken care of immediately. In a matter of minutes I developed a sick feeling in the pit of my gut. I’ve fallen victim to the same mistakes.

Life is a trail, each step a lesson, each turn an opportunity to choose how to move forward.

Today I’m grateful for these difficult situations as they are reminders and guideposts for me for future behavior and strategy.

One lesson I was reminded of was how quickly, and insidiously the erosion of a great culture can occur. When culture and values are not focused on, encouraged, and enforced the actions of a team can quickly slide. Small and simple behaviors can have a tremendous impact – for better or worse. A busy day that results in an area not being cleaned may not seem like a big deal in of itself, but if it is not quickly corrected the next day will see less cleaning and more waste will pile up. At a certain point the task of cleaning becomes so daunting that it is completely skipped, and then the entire operation becomes a garbage bin.

Small actions can quickly add up and erode a culture. How many times have I looked away instead of taking action? How often do I take a shortcut instead of taking the time to fix the situation? Should I focus on our values more to keep them at the forefront and the standard operating process of our culture? So much to consider and think on.

When looking several steps and months ahead I know I can get my best work done. I’ve got more options, more flexibility, and more possible solutions to challenges I won’t know about until the end date gets closer. If I pause, think through the end goal, start way earlier than I feel like I should, and set a plan in place with a forgiving timeline I am more assured of success.

This lesson was embedded into my thought process again recently as I saw the problematic side of winging it and over committing. There are less solutions. The challenges that come up are more difficult. The work needed adds up to significantly ore than would have been needed with planning.

In pondering this it reminded me of times when I gave myself less time than needed. I pushed hard towards a goal without enough time because I failed to fully prepare and build a timeline. My goals have failed because I didn’t provide the resources needed at the very beginning to get off on the right track. No one to blame but myself for the failure, frustration, and wasted energy. What projects and tasks do I have ahead of me that I haven’t given the appropriate time to? Where should I pause, breathe, re-group, and plan in order to be successful?

Both of these lessons and several others have unfolded in front of me this week. As I watch them, internalize them, and learn from them I’m reminded of an even more important and bigger picture lesson… attain distance and look at my life as if I was a third party. What advice would I give myself? When seeing the challenges of others I must remember to not be smug and grateful for not having the issue, rather I must remind myself I’ve made the same mistake and now have a wildly value opportunity… what can I learn from this?

Thanks!!!

Day 1,691 – Thankful for Being an Introvert Enjoying Interaction with Others

One of the benefits of being fully vaccinated has been the increased comfort in meeting in real life instead of just virtually. Today has included many instances of had previously been known as “normal” interactions. Sure, they weren’t perfectly normal and involved masks and thermometers, but they all really started to feel like normal again.

There was an early morning donut run for a client courtesy of a teammate of mine. We got to meet the new addition to the family of another teammate. Another client meeting later in the morning felt so much more genuine thanks to being in person. Heading out drinks with some friends of ours was the first time Becky and I had done that since the pandemic really got rolling. So many laughs, smiles, and interaction.

As an introvert there are some benefits to the increased solitude from social distancing. That said, I am grateful for an increased level of interpersonal interaction, just as I’m sure an extrovert is thankful for the occasional moments of quiet.

The best part? I had quiet time with Becky on our run. I had time with Becky while we focused on packing and re-packing our backpacks. I had time chilling with Becky while we were out with friends. I had time making new memories and joking with her (for reals, is this not the smallest drumstick ever???).

I grateful for the time with her. We’ve been running seemingly constantly for a while and having time to the two of us felt great today.

A day of interaction, something even an introvert like me can be thankful for once in a while 😉

Thanks!!!

Day 1,690 – Thankful for Marathon Training and Benefits of Blogging – Stumbling Onto Great Pics

Steve and I knocked out one of our last early morning training hikes before our upcoming trip. While we were trading notes about gear, packing, and so on we kicked up a couple of deer. After a while we got on the topic of what type of training plan we should have for next week. My gut instinct was to hit it even harder and hike more miles on Tuesday and Thursday mornings with more weight to make sure I was as prepared as possible.. even though we would be hiking for reals on the very next day.

I’m grateful for lessons I learned from training for my first marathon, especially how to train during the last week or two. When training for a long distance run there’s always the same desire to run hard right up until the day of the event to make sure I’ve maximized my training time. This thought is total garbage and completely wrong. By running strong until the race my body would be beaten up and exhausted. If I take the last week to relax my legs have the opportunity to relax, refresh, and recharge. This lesson is a perfect example of how sometimes I must remember to go slow to go fast.

For my first marathon there was a two week cool down. The penultimate week saw me drop my miles by almost 50% and the final week about half of that. What’s funny is that even though I should have relished the thought of taking a break I couldn’t help but feel like I was losing fitness. I felt like I was trapped and climbing the walls. It felt so wildly wrong that I confirmed the strategy with more than a handful of other resources to confirm it was correct. But it worked. It worked so well that I successfully completed the full 26.2 miles.

After remembering how great it felt to finish my marathons even though it felt awkward I knew I needed to heed the lessons learned to help with hiking. Next week will be a much reduced mileage and weight week in order to help me be as ready as possible for the end of next week. All the hard work is already done. I started early and got myself into the shape I wanted to get into. Now it is time to rest and trust the process.

While prepping for my blog I knew I wanted to find a race pic to attach. When I attempted to find the one I wanted I instead stumbled into some hysterical pics of a random-fish weekend night downtown with friends. I was literally chuckling to myself while I paused to cruise through all of them and re-live those memories. How cool that I stumbled into another benefit of blogging tonight.

Thanks!!!