Backpacking in Northern Colorado’s Rawah Wilderness Day 3: The Depth

It was the morning I had been dreading. I knew it would be cold. Over the summer I had gotten so used to the heat it’s hard not to feel like a morning with temperatures near freezing would be an extremely uncomfortable shock to the body.

On days like this, it is hard not to wish to just stay in the tent until the sun comes out and has a chance to warm things up for a little bit.

Perhaps, had it not been the final day of the trip, with places to be the following day, this could have been a reasonable course of action. After all, while suffering is a part of life, there is no point in suffering just for the sake of suffering. Suffering needs to be done for some kind of reward, whether it be progress in life or the kind of beauty one beholds on a backpacking trip.

There will perhaps never be a situation in life that better demonstrates the value behind the concept of “layering” than the final downhill day of a backpacking trip. Layering was something I barely experienced growing up on Long Island where it was common to wake up on a winter’s morning with a temperature of 35°F (1°C) knowing the day will have a high temperature of 38°F (3°C). These final days backpacking, where we commonly descend around 1700 feet (500m) tend to follow the same pattern.

A cold start while descending down into dense forest, typically still wearing many layers.

They layers come off one by one, roughly every 45 minutes, followed by a kind of golden hour where the temperatures are ideal.

Since the hike is downhill, this is where typically a lot of progress is made. It also can be where we start to encounter other people more after days of solitude.

Then, typically by 11 A.M., it starts to feel a bit too warm.

Somewhere in here is where these experiences get the most introspective. At some point, everything that had previously occupied the mind goes away. All the food needed for the final miles of hiking has been eaten. All the water has been pumped. A further decent takes us away from landmarks such as alpine lakes and vistas of the mountain peaks. Two and a half days in nature had cleared the concerns of day to day life from our minds. All there is to do is walk the final few hours and get to the car.

I reflected on how much I had dreaded the cold morning on this trip. I reflected on how much I used to dread, in general, the thought of being in the wilderness with no option for shelter, not even a car to go to to potentially warm up or hide from wildlife.

In life we have tons of things we dread. People dread putting themselves out there, having difficult conversations, the less exciting work that has to be done and trying new things. Some people even dread leaving behind what they know they need to leave behind. However, in the end, we all get through these things, one way or another. We overcome the awkwardness of talking to new people when it needs to be done. We have that unpleasant conversation. We do that boring task and move on with our lives. Would our lives be better without these experiences? Maybe to a point. Still, it is hard to envision a life where there is nothing to dread… ever. It’s hard not to be doubtful that such a condition is even possible, given human nature. And, if it were to be possible, would this cause all things to lose meaning?

Backpacking in Northern Colorado’s Rawah Wilderness Day 2: Lakes and Moose

Day 2 was the day I was not necessarily looking forward to. Weather predictions indicated a strong possibility that conditions will be cold and rainy for much of the day. When it comes to outdoor activities, conditions matter. What is fun and pleasant one day can be unpleasant another. This is part of the reason it is hard for outdoor enthusiasts not to obsess over the weather.

The morning was a tease. About half an hour after the sunrise, the fog that had spread across the area the prior afternoon appeared to be dissipating.

Only for it to return.

Leaving the campsite was like stepping into the unknown. In the wilderness, there is no access to weather reports. With how much the weather can vary from place to place, from minute to minute in areas with this type of terrain, there was no way to know how this day would play out. There’s little choice but to embrace the unknown.

These trips always seem to bring up thoughts of the past. Of a time when it was much harder to know what to expect. Of a time when there was no internet, no television. A time when the morning newspaper, or some other form of transmitted information was the only information anyone would have to go about their days. This was a time when embracing the unknown was the only option.

Often, the only way to embrace the unknown safely is to be knowledgable and prepared. We knew not to get too close to the moose we saw only about a mile into the hike, also wandering through the fog.

As we climbed, up towards tree line, towards a pass known as Grassy Pass, we actually walked away from the fog.

For the entirety of the morning, it was likely that the valley where we had camped the previous night was still in thick fog.

When we reached the pass that whose natural features were consistent with its name around 10 A.M., it suddenly appeared as if our time in the fog was actually done.

Anyone who spends a lot of time in the mountains knows how much the weather can vary from place to place due to the complexities of the terrain. But, how often do we see it right in front of us? One side of this pass was still engulfed in fog while the other was basking in sunshine.

Places like this are some of the last places where we can truly embrace something quite human. Here, there is no way to know exactly what to expect.

To know what is going to happen at a specific spot, given the wind direction and every small-scale geographic and terrain feature is pretty much impossible. Each cloud represents a small scale current of wind, a moisture profile and subtle differences in the land with so many components it becomes more of a headache than it is worth to try to determine how every minute of every hour is to play out.

In a world where so many lives have become orderly and predictable, trips like this force us to embrace variety and surprise. They force us to release control. Perhaps, after decades of chasing after inventions and policies designed to enable us to track every development, predict and control outcomes, this is exactly what the world needs.

The defining feature of this section of the trip was alpine lakes.

We passed several of them as we descended into another valley, some close, some far away.

We set up camp at Lower Camp Lake.

And hiked up to Upper Camp Lake.

By the way, when backpacking, one of the greatest feelings is setting down your pack and hiking with nothing on your back. Backpacks weight quite a bit and it is a relief just to walk, or exist in general, without all that additional weight.

That afternoon I was back at the camp site, looking at trees full of pine cones and incorrectly speculating that there were families of birds in them.

In this moment, it suddenly dawned on me that the weather I had been experiencing all afternoon, along the Rawah and Camp creeks, at elevations of around 10,800 ft. (3300 m), was very likely better than the weather back in Denver. The sun was shining and the temperatures were actually quite pleasant. It felt like it was around 60°F (15°C), likely warmer than what was occurring in Denver. Out of the embrace of uncertainty can come some truly beautiful experiences. Sometimes things can work out for the best even when it feels like they might not.

That evening would end with another moose sighting.

Followed by a full moon whose light reflected along the lake.

A chill came into the air as the sun went down, but we still laughed. Some of the laughter was indeed at my expense for thinking that all those pine cones in that one tree were actually birds. Still, the laughter, shared experiences and embracing uncertainty made this experience truly human.

Backpacking in Northern Colorado’s Rawah Wilderness Day 1: Bracing for the Weather

The weather does not always cooperate. It does not always work out the way we hope it will to optimize our experiences. On the two days prior to this backpacking trip, the temperature reached 99°F (38°C) in Denver. During heat waves like this one, it is desirable to get up into the mountains.

However, the evening before the trip, a cold front came through, cooling temperatures at all elevations, and making the weather conditions a bit more variable in the mountains.

For the best possible combination of weather experiences, it would have been ideal for the heat wave to have lined up with the period of time we had already set aside for the trip, as opposed to the week before it. However, we can’t always get things like this to line up exactly with how we want them to. As long as we live in a world where we keep schedules and plan activities like this one around our other responsibilities (as opposed to just responding to conditions last minute) we will always have to contend with situations where things don’t line up as we had hoped.

The weather conditions were not even hazardous. It was actually pretty nice most of the day.

It was just not the ideal setup for us to have experienced a maximum amount of comfortable temperatures, something not worth getting too upset about. As has been the case with other backpacking trips, we were in a beautiful environment.

On this first day of the trip, while ascending along the West Branch trail, we unexpectedly encountered some large hoofed mammals, traveling alongside the few other hikers we encountered along the journey.

The Rawah wilderness is in the far northern part of Colorado. It’s part of the Southern Unit of the Medicine Bow- Routt National Forest. The northern part of this National Forest is in Wyoming.

The trail network here is generally well marked, which is reassuring on trips like these where going the wrong way can lead to some bad results.

After several miles on the West Branch Trail, we turned onto the Rawah Trail, to follow our loop. The trail began to ascend even faster.

When backpacking in this general region of the country, it is quite common for the first day to be the most challenging. Through the course of the day, we would climb a total of around 2,500 feet (760m). While climbing, we would first encounter a waterfall.

And finally got to where the surrounding mountain peaks began to appear.

Hikes in this region (Rocky Mountain National Park is actually only about 25 miles away) are generally full of alpine lakes. This one is no exception. Our final destination for the day was Twin Crater Lakes, two amazing alpine lakes tucked away in the mountains.

At this point the weather was actually close to perfect making for a pleasant afternoon.

We set up camp at a beautiful site in the trees about 3/4 of a mile down the creek from the lakes.

Overall, the day was relatively balanced. We hiked a total of about 9 miles (14.3 km), but were able to set up have camp set up by mid afternoon.

This gave us the time we needed to do the typical camping activities like set up a fire, pump water from the stream and cook dinner before dark without having to feel in a hurry in any way. It also balanced out the day a bit, giving us time to just hand out and be in nature.

My thoughts also felt quite balanced, possibly as balanced as they had been for a long time. I am guessing this is due to a combination of being away from the constant distractions of every day life, not being rushed, having the hike be exhausting but not too exhausting and recently reducing my exposure to news and certain topics that were making me unhappy.

Then, around 4 pm, the weather turned. Suddenly the forest looked like a spooky meadow where anything and everything could emerge from and vanish into the trees, much like the baseball players in A Field of Dreams. This was especially true as day gradually descended into night.

It was damp. None of us knew if it was going to rain. Thinking about the potentially unpleasant conditions brought back a feeling that I tend to get on many of these types of trips. It reminds me to appreciate the shelter we often take for granted, our homes with heating and air conditioning. It’s only relatively recently in the course of human existence we have had this. For almost all of the history of humanity, how comfortable we felt, and how challenging life was depended so much more on things like weather conditions and the cycles of the sun and moon. While it does not sound fun to go back to a world where we have to work harder to meet our basic necessities, sometimes I wish more of us could live our lives in manners that are more connected to these things.

Utah- A Place Like Nowhere Else

Downtown Salt Lake City

Most of Utah’s population lives in a region referred to as the “Wasatch Front“, which is essentially the area from Ogden to Provo, including Salt Lake City, boxed out in red in the map below.

It’s a place I have not previously spent much time, as most of my prior Utah experience had centered around recreation destinations like Moab or Park City, or places I stop at on road trips. However, if you want to understand the culture of a place, it is usually good to visit where most people live.

My entire time in the Wasatch Front region of Utah, I felt this strange mix of feeling partially at home but partially kind of elsewhere. This is probably due to my suburban upbringing and current life in Colorado. Utah’s mountains are quite similar to the ones I visit all the time in Colorado.

Like where I live, the culture revolves quite a bit around hiking, with hikes to beautiful destinations like Stewart Falls.

And, because of the mountainous terrain, the weather can be variable, and the rainbows amazing.

Anywhere in this region, mountains can be seen in nearly all directions. It is also quite suburban. My basic assessment of the area is that it all feels as if they took Schamburg (a suburb of Chicago known for giant shopping malls, wide suburban roads, retail and restaurants) and dropped it into the middle of the mountains.

People will often try to approximate the culture of a place by considering some basic characteristics, such as region, demographics, political and religious affiliation. Utah’s political affiliation is pretty clear as it is a solidly Republican state. However, unlike in many other democracies, in the United States we only have two competitive parties. This makes how much you can truly tell about a place based on political affiliation pretty limited, mostly limited to certain “hot button” issues.

Utah is nothing like Alabama, and, as a New Yorker I learned early on that New York is very different from California.

What makes Utah more unique from nearly all other states is its religious affiliation.

Utah is the only state in the country that is majority Mormon. This gives the state a culture and a perspective that is unique from any other place, as some Christian groups don’t view them as Christian and see them as more different than, say, Catholics would view Protestants. This, and the state’s history, likely gives the place an interesting view of its place in the world.

It is customary for Mormons to go on missions when they are young. In Utah, it is common to hear “while I was on my mission” casually dropped into conversations. In these missions, many people travel to foreign lands and get exposed to other cultures.

As a result, there is much more exposure to other cultures here than one would typically associate with a “conservative” place. However, this exposure to other cultures and these types of experiences does not appear to have shifted the population in the direction of the post-modern sentiment that there is no absolute truth nor towards a nihilistic lack of pride in anything.

There may be limitations to my observations about the culture of Utah, given I was only here for a few days and primarily came to engage with my co-workers in a work setting.

However, it does feel like the people here are more confident and happier than most others I observe.

Hearing about some of these mission experiences it feels as if the Mormon population is well aware that, outside of Utah (and parts of Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada and Arizona), most people oppose what they believe in, some quite intensely. They’ve navigated being opposed and being hated in a manner that has strengthened their resolve in a manner that actually seems healthy.

I recall going to see “The Book of Mormon” years ago. The play pokes fun at the church a bit and was written by people who are generally skeptical of organized religion.

In the playbill, the Mormon church placed an advertisement that literally said “You’ve seen the play, the book is better.” This told me that this is a community that can take a joke.

Ultimately, what we are all looking for is to be happy.

Sometimes our approaches to happiness can be misguided. We pursue things that actually make us more unhappy, like drugs and alcohol. Or, we can become too obsessed with things that only facilitate happiness, like money and good looks. The formula for happiness is complicated because there is no one formula. We all need something different in our lives to truly be happy. If someone appears to be happy, and they are not harming anyone, why hate? Hate is so much more exhausting than love.

How to Find Opportunity and Positivity in a Midlife Crisis

Photo via Pexels

For more articles like this, take a moment to explore the many experiences and adventures documented on The Action Story!

Your midlife crisis does not have to be a negative experience. When approached from a different perspective, a midlife crisis can feel more like an opportunity than a curse. This period of upheaval, transition, and reflection establishes the perfect foundation to make changes in your life to better align your actions with your present goals and values. Whether you’re dreaming of quitting the rat race and starting your own business or getting away from everything and traveling full-time, your midlife presents the perfect opportunity to make those dreams a reality!

Start Your Own Business

It’s not unusual to feel fed up with a long-held job by the time you reach your middle years. If you feel the need for a change after working the same job for a long time, consider starting your own company! You could work as a remote freelancer, sell handmade products online, or open a local business in your community. Do whatever interests you the most.

To give your new business the best shot at success, be sure to register your business with your state, open a separate business bank account, and establish an organized accounting system. You’ll also want to set up a solid invoicing process. Remember to include your payment terms in your invoice and, if possible, accept a variety of payment methods to encourage clients to pay promptly. You can use an online invoice generator to create professional-looking invoices with all the pertinent information your clients need. Just choose an invoice template that you like and customize it however you like!

Reconnect with Old Friends

A strong social support system can make your midlife crisis much easier to navigate. This is a great opportunity to expand your social circles by reconnecting with old friends from high school. If you’ve lost touch, you can use online search tools to track down people who went to school with you in the Denver area. Just type in the name of the person you want to find as well as their graduation date and the school they attended. Then, you’ll be able to send your classmate a message and start rekindling that old friendship.

Embark on a Transformative Trip

Traveling is a great way to turn a midlife crisis into a positive experience. By leaving your regular life behind for a little while and getting out of town, you can broaden your perspective and refocus on what really matters. According to Worldpackers, research shows that travel can trigger changes in your brain as you’re exposed to new sights, smells, languages, and ideas. Plan a transformational travel experience by being mindful of how you’re feeling and what you’re thinking throughout the stages of travel. For example, you might find that surrendering to the unknown elements of travel results in a heightened sense of confidence and independence.

Leave Your Comfort Zone

Traveling is an excellent practice in stepping out of your comfort zone, which is key in coping with rocky periods like a midlife crisis. Leaving your comfort zone can help you embrace the unknown and learn to accept change in all of its forms. And facing discomfort sets the stage for growth. If the idea of hopping on a plane and finding your way around an unfamiliar city is a little scary, just go with it! Accept that anxiety is your body’s natural response to uncertainty. The only way to get comfortable with novelty is to face it head-on, so book that trip and see where your adventure takes you.

No one really feels ready for the changes that come with a midlife crisis. The best thing you can do to cope during this tumultuous time is to embrace it rather than try to resist it. Use this period of upheaval to adopt positive habits, explore new places, rekindle old friendships, and pursue new professional passions. It’s finally time to focus on you!

Mount Antero with my Siberian Husky

The top of Mount Antero- 14,276 ft (4351.4 m)

To tackle Mount Antero, I spent the night in a hotel in Salida, a small town along the Arkansas River in Central Colorado known for summer fun. It’s within a short drive of the trailhead to several “14ers” (peaks 14,000 feet above sea level or higher). Salida’s probably best known for its water sports, with this stretch of the Arkansas River being one of the most common destinations for whitewater rafting.

Despite it being a Wednesday evening, the town was quite lively. Salida also has some affordable pet friendly hotels and plenty of restaurants where you can eat on the patio with your dog.

While most people who climb 14ers camp near the trailhead, I decided to pay for a hotel, primarily because I chose to take only one day off for the trip. My energy was needed for the exhausting hike and the three hour drive back to Denver.

The morning temperatures in Salida were in the low to mid 50s, slightly warmer than the long term averages for August (47°F, 8°C) and also the warmest start to a 14er I’ve ever had.

Getting to Mount Antero involves following a road called Chalk Creek Drive. It’s accessed off highway 24 halfway between Buena VIsta and Salida. The road passes by the Princeton Hot Springs and the Chalk Cliffs, and provides access to both Mount Antero and Mount Princeton.

The most unique thing about this hike is that most of it follows a “Jeep Road”. In fact, some people were able to drive most of the way to the top

When done right, it is best to start a 14er quite early in the day, before sunrise, which makes the appearance of the sun one of the first exciting exhibitions of the hike.

14ers are challenging climbs. This one is no exception. The total vertical climb was about 4,500 feet (1350 m), and it starts getting challenging pretty much right away.

After about a mile, there is a flatter part. Then, around the 2.5 mile mark, we encountered the first area of major concern for anyone bringing a dog on the hike, an area completely covered by rocks.

This is something anyone hiking with their dog needs to keep an eye on. Dogs paws blister over time but dogs do not always prepare for this possibility. They need to be either given booties to protect their feet or guidance on how to minimize their exposure to rocks starting pretty early on in the hike.

The trail up Mount Antero approaches the peak from the West side, meaning it takes longer for hikers to experience the sun in the morning.

We would get to tree line by 8:30 and enter the sun only shortly thereafter. Once tree line is reached, this hike becomes nothing short of absolutely breathtaking.

When hiking with dogs, especially challenging hikes like this one in dry climates, it is essential to keep them hydrated. For this, I not only bring water for my dog, but also allow my dog to drink from flowing creeks.

The key here is to only allow your dogs to drink from creeks that are flowing. Standing water could lead to Giardia.

Like every other 14er I’ve done, Mount Antero has two features that will drive most people to exhaustion.

First, a steep ascent to the top of some kind of ridge.

Then, a scramble to the top, over rocks.

I had hiked over seven miles before getting to the final scramble. With the exhaustion, challenging scramble and high elevation, I needed to take quite a few breaks on this final ascent to the top. This is perfectly normal.

The top of this mountain feels like being on top of the world. Countless other peaks were below me.

So was the Arkansas River Valley, where Buena Vista and Salida are.

We spent about half an hour at the top, enjoying the views, a little bit of food and some conversations with other hikers.

And, the descent was also quite beautiful.

Overall, it was an amazing day, but like most things that are truly amazing, it had to be earned. It had to be earned through the lengthy drive, proper preparation and physical exhaustion involved in climbing this much.

By the time I reached the end of the journey I realized that what was earned goes far beyond what could be captured in these photos. Sure, the areas below tree line were peaceful and the areas above tree line had spectacular views. But, the experience was also about a state of mind.

Since it was a Thursday, the trail was relatively empty. The few people I encountered kind of represented humanity at its best. Nobody was arguing over whatever topics people seem to be angry and divided over at the time. Even though some people were on the mountain to hike, others to ride their Jeeps and ATVs and others to mine gold or aquamarine. A couple of the people I encountered even helped me out by giving me and my dog a ride down the final few miles of the mountain when I was concerned about blisters on her paws. They stopped and talked to people they encountered, picked up litter from the road and had nothing but the most positive conversations about nature, camping, travel and music. The experience made me wonder if this is a reality we can create in our day to day lives, so long as we focus on the right things and earn it.

How to Become a Digital Nomad With a Pet

Living the digital nomad lifestyle can be an amazing way to explore the world, but it can be challenging if you have a pet. While some places allow you to take your pets with you, these aren’t easy to find or maintain. If you want to pursue this lifestyle, here are some great tips for doing it with a pet in tow.

Save Money

When you become a digital nomad, you have the opportunity to travel the world and work from anywhere. But how do you save money when traveling? Use public transportation or walk/bike whenever possible. Avoiding driving helps you save on gas and car rental fees. Bring your own food, or cook cheap meals, such as noodles, in your rental property instead of eating out.

Stay Safe

When you’re a digital nomad, it’s crucial to stay safe while you’re traveling. Ensure your pet’s vaccinations are current, have them microchipped, and have your pet wear a collar with identification information on them at all times to make reuniting with them easier in case they gets lost. Bring along some extra ID tags in case one goes missing. Consider bringing some plastic bags in case of accidents, and don’t forget to bring a leash if needed.

Find Houses That Are Pet and Tech-Friendly

When you’re looking for a place to live as a digital nomad, it’s essential to find somewhere that’s pet and tech-friendly. Luckily, there are resources to help you find the perfect place. Companies such as BringFido have compiled lists of rental properties that allow pets and have Wi-Fi. Sites such as Facebook also allow people to post if they need a pet sitter while traveling or on vacation.

Communicate With Clients When Traveling

If you’re planning on working while traveling, ensure you have a solid internet connection. You don’t want your clients to be unable to get in touch with you because you’re in an area with bad or no service. Bring a portable Wi-Fi device to plug into your computer in case you can’t find free public Wi-Fi in the area.

Suggestions for Finding Work as a Remote Worker

There are many ways to find work as a remote worker. Use job search engines, such as Indeed or FlexJobs. As remote work has become more common recently, more job postings, even on more traditional job boards and places like LinkedIn, are indicating they are 100% remote or have the option of being remote. Some have found good remote jobs by contacting companies directly, and inquiring about remote work opportunities. You can also network with other remote workers and ask for referrals. Between online work, odd jobs, and freelance gigs, plenty of opportunities are available for remote work.

Keep Your Pet Healthy

Ensure your pet stays healthy when you travel by getting regular checkups, administering flea and tick preventives, and keeping necessary medications current. Depending on where you’re traveling, protecting your pets might mean visiting different veterinarians in each state. Consider signing up for pet insurance in Florida since it’s more affordable. When shopping for a policy, in addition to the price, consider nationwide coverage and provider reputation.

Enjoy Your Adventure

If you want to become a digital nomad, it’s possible to do so even with a pet. With these tips, you can support yourself while traveling and enjoy your adventure with your furry friend. Visit Jaye Travel Blog, based in Denver, to learn about the world through travel experiences.

Image via Pexels

Making the Right Decisions

On any storm chase, there is kind of an unspoken goal to see a tornado. However, the vast majority of all chase days do not result in a tornado sighting. Even those who run paid storm chasing tours cannot guarantee a tornado sighting for a weeklong tour. Additionally, resource limitations, which is increasingly the case in the era of $5 gas, can play a factor. Just because a storm is occurring somewhere, at some time, does not necessarily mean a group of chasers has the time and money to get to that storm.

On Tuesday June 7th choices needed to be made regarding where to target and what storms to pursue.

First, a decision had to be made between pursuing faster moving storms across Nebraska and the far northeast corner of Colorado, and slower moving and potentially more discrete (and therefore easier to track and see) storms further south. As is the case with nearly all chase days, other decision points would occur throughout the day. These included what storms to follow, what roads to take, what angle to look at them from and even how long to stand in the middle of an empty highway taking photos.

In a way, storm chasing is all about making decisions. Perhaps the primary education value of storm chase courses is not observing the atmosphere, but in decision making experience.

On June 7th, every decision we made was the “right” decision. Or, at least we certainly didn’t make any “wrong” decisions, as has been the case with other chases. We went for the storms further south as there was more moisture there. We followed this one storm that seemed to maintain a steady state for several hours. We saw it from a few different angles.

We saw a few dust devils.

And, on several occasions, the storm looked like it was almost going to produce a tornado.

In fact, it’s still disputed as to whether or not a tornado actually occurred, as tornadoes were reported with this storm.

Chasing in this part of the country has its advantages and disadvantages. With wide open spaces and typically drier air, it is possible to see things much further away. However, the road network is quite sparse, and sometimes the only safe option is to view storms from a bit farther away. Therefore, we will never really know if we saw a tornado on June 7th.

Tornadoes are verified by their damage and where we were there was really nothing to damage (perhaps the reason for the sparse road network).

Our chase would end with a close encounter with some pretty large hail.

Of all the things I gazed my eyes upon in the sky on June 7th, I was perhaps the most mesmerized by this optical feature that I cannot even classify.

I had never seen anything exactly like this before. It is a combination of colors that can never be replicated, as it is the result of the specific angle at which the sun’s rays hit the atmosphere, water droplets and clouds. It reminds me some form of obscure artwork that one cannot possibly gaze upon without wondering as to the mental state the artist was in at the time of its production. I struggled to look away as the colors slowly morphed.

For some, this day would be characterized as a “success”, given the cool optical features, large hail and dust devils. For others, it is a “failure” as we could not verify a tornado sighting, nor do we feel like we got a really cool tornado photo or video. However, focusing on whether or not we can technically claim we saw a tornado or classifying the endeavor as a “success” or “failure” is not nearly as important as being happy about the process and making the right choices.

Although the most noteworthy events in life are clearly in the category of wild successes or embarrassing failures, most things we attempt in life don’t really fit neatly into one category or the other. There are businesses that make money but lose sight of their original purpose. There are parties that are sort of fun but missing something. There are diet and exercise programs that produce some results but not quite what was initially desired. Some people even reject the paradigm of viewing everything as success or failure, a win or a loss. The key point that this particular storm chase demonstrates is that for all of us to succeed in life, we need to focus more on the actions we take and less on the results. If you go out there, keep taking chances, keep making smart choices and keep learning, the result you are hoping to get will eventually come.

Four Days Without the Internet

I am starting to grow tired of the internet. Every day feels like the same thing. The same feeling of rejection when I’m reminded of the social experiences people are having that I am not involved in. The same feeling of aggravation and isolation around people’s responses to current events. The same feeling of fear around societal trends and possible future events. And, perhaps most importantly, the same stale feeling around yet another hour in front of a screen, typically sitting down at home, consuming content that is all too similar to the content I had consumed the last hour I spent online.

As you can see, even before this, I spent less time on my phone than most

In the context of most of the world in 2022, going four days without the internet sounds extreme. We do everything online. We’ve spent the last two decades congratulating ourselves for making things more efficient by moving them online. However, I am not so sure this is a good thing. David Byrne famously pointed out five years ago that all of our new technologies have one thing in common. From online shopping to robots and those self-scanners at the grocery store, they all eliminate points where humans would have previously interacted with one another. This is one of the primary factors that lead to a loneliness epidemic being declared even before it the pandemic came and made it far worse.

My theory was that if I spent less time online, and distanced myself particularly from news and social media, I would be a lot happier. After all, I knew that there are people out there that care about me. I know there are people that see things the way I see them. The whole world has not descended into finger pointing and panic, and there are tons of great new experiences to be had if I just look around me. I just had to stop letting the internet tell me what to think about.

The very first thing I noticed was noticing more things.

I spent time observing trees, clouds, storms and all the things that we often forget to look at when our minds are occupied.

Soon, I became lost in thought.

Behavior analysts will often point out that if someone wants to move away from an undesirable behavior, like smoking or excessive hand washing, it is far easier to do so if the behavior is replaced with a new behavior. I sincerely believe this to be true, but I removed the internet from my life rather abruptly without selecting alternate activities. There was not always a suitable alternate activity, no matter how much I enjoyed this book!

So, in order to stick to my pledge, I ended up spending time just in my own thought. While at first my thought processes went to all of the things that had been frustrating me, soon I ran out of things to think about on that topic. This is where we all have the potential to tap into our creative sides.

It feels like we were more creative before we became constantly distracted by smart phones. Just the idea of people tapping back into this side of themselves and coming up with all sort of ideas gave me chills.

By the time I returned home, I was happier. But, as is the case any time people go on vacation, I did not know whether I was happier because of my hiatus from the internet, from not reading the news or being on social media, or if I was happier because I had just spent the weekend out of town with friends. This is something it would take all week for me to figure out.

After returning to Denver, I felt like I was still observing more than before.

And I had some pleasant conversations with the people I encountered.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to reconsider what our relationship with the internet should be. From increasingly using LinkedIn to network and find jobs to the use of QR code scanners for menus at restaurants, societal trends seem to pulling us closer to the internet, having it become more and more a central part of our lives. But, is this what we want? Is it what we need right now?

After a week of reflection on this experience I started to ask myself why I’m happier. What am I trying to escape? Am I trying to escape people? Or am I trying to escape a certain behavior pattern that the internet and particularly social media seems to encourage? Am I fed up with the way people interact over social media? Or am I fed up with the way people interact in general? And, is the way we interact in general a reflection of how social media has changed us over the past two decades?

Sometimes an experiment like this one, meant to answer a question, only leads to more questions. But, sometimes, despite what we all learn when we study science, if we experiment with something and it leads to a positive result, like being happier, maybe we need to stop obsessing over the reasons why and just be happy with the result.

Frisco, One of My Favorite Mountain Towns, from a New Perspective

Downtown Frisco, CO May 23, 2022

There are many ways we travel and many reasons we travel. In retrospect, it seems rather silly that when I was a child, people used to lump all travel into two categories; business and leisure. Leisure travel, previously defined as anything other than travel for work, can take on many forms. We travel to visit friends and family. We travel to see specific destinations. We travel for specific activities. Having lived in the Midwest for a lot of year, I am more than familiar with travel to escape the winter and other bad weather.

The great thing about all these modes of travel is that it is possible to visit the same place many times and have completely different experiences.

Frisco is unique in that it is situated near many of Colorado’s best ski resorts.

Yet, unlike Breckenridge or Vail, the town is not the site of a ski resort. Therefore, winter in Frisco is active but not in the same way these ski resort towns are. Still, there are a lot of people out and about. It is easily the most active time of the year in Frisco (except, maybe when a major snowstorm closes the highways).

Summer also tends to be active. The area is a great place to escape the summer heat and take part in activities like enjoying the mountains from the seat of a bicycle.

The morning of May 23, 2022, for perhaps the first time ever, I saw Frisco extremely quiet.

There was nobody walking around. The experience reminded me of the few times I would wake up before 8 A.M. on a Sunday while living in Chicago. It was the only time I saw a city that was always crowded and noisy quiet and calm. This place was quiet and calm because the activities that drew visitors all weekend had come to an end while the weather had yet to improve enough for many of the outdoor activities that draw summer visitors. There were low clouds.

Fog, and even a little bit of snow.

It was enough to make Frisco quiet, even when the sun would peak out for a little bit.

It was even enough to make the typically even busier Breckenridge feel rather calm.

The conversations were different too. People I would encounter around town were not reflexively asking questions like “where are you in town from” and “how long are you here.” Instead, I was asked to identify a bird and about trail conditions. In a way, I was seeing the place the way the “locals” see it. Still, it made me wonder….

  • Do locals only get to act like locals, in the open like this, a few months out of the year, in between seasons?
  • Or is there a secret set of places they go during the more active seasons, particularly from December through early April?
  • What’s it like growing up in a place like this, not knowing that most people don’t live places constantly crawling with tourists?

On this trip, I also got to see more of Frisco. Most of my previous trips to Frisco primarily involve being on Main Street.

It is the face of the town. But, on this trip I spent a little bit of time in some of the other, more residential areas of town.

I saw where the creek flows between houses.

I even saw where they were in the process of building a new recreational trail.

Frisco is one of those towns with hiking trails right on the edge of town. Residents and visitors alike can just walk up to a hiking trail and climb a mountain. I did this twice during my off-season visit to Frisco. On the other side of I-70, there is the North Tenmile Trail, a hike that follows the Tenmile Creek into the Eagles Nest Wilderness.

There is the far steeper hike up Mount Royal on the south side of town.

This mountain is impossible to miss. It is quite likely that for most, the idea of hiking up this mountain feels quite intimidating. The hike is steep right from the start and is steep the whole way.

However, it leads to amazing overlooks of I-70, the Tenmile Canyon (just west of Frisco) and a whole new perspective on the town of Frisco.

On previous visits to Frisco, I experienced Frisco how tourists experience it. I saw the bus to the ski resorts. I heard conversations about vacations, time shares, flights and favorite slopes, shops and restaurants. This May, nearly a decade after discovering this town, I finally experienced it more like a local, slowing down a bit and adjusting for things that almost never happen during the busy season, like restaurants being closed on Mondays and Tuesdays and full days without any activities.