By definition; a White Christmas is having at least one inch of snow. Statistically speaking, the chances of having a White Christmas is 60% or better over the Northern Rockies, the Northern Great Plains, the Great Lakes, and most of New England. If you live in the southern third of the country, your chances of seeing snow are less than 20%.


Living at an altitude of 4,000 feet, I looked to the town of Jacob Lake for a White Christmas. A scenic forty-minute drive to Jacob Lake would not only double my altitude, but also increase my chances of snow.

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Jacob Lake offered an escape from the desert heat in the summer and glowing aspens in the fall. I was hopeful Jacob Lake would complete the trifecta of my seasonal experience, by giving Shadow his first snow encounter and a white Christmas.


Before retiring to bed on Christmas Eve, I chatted with the perfect stranger and checked the weather forecast. The overnight temperatures were expected to drop below 30 degrees with a 50 percent chance of snow. I felt the odds were in my favor; White Christmas here we come!


On Christmas Day, a sleepy-eyed Shadow and I headed out to the kitchen to make the morning coffee. From the back window, I could see the clouds hovering over the cliffs. The temperature felt colder than usual; it was starting to feel like snow weather.


By mid-morning, the view from my front porch was nothing but grey clouds. A final weather check reported snow flurries on the Kaibab Plateau and up to four inches of snow at Jacob Lake. It was official; a White Christmas for Shadow!


Outfitted in snow gear, Min, Shadow, and I left Vermilion Cliffs bound for Jacob Lake. Ascending over 3,000 feet, we traded the desert valley floor for a snow storm in the Kaibab National Forest.


The snowy road conditions caught Shadow’s eye. He had never seen snow before, but it did pose the question: do dogs have an understanding of weather?


Shadow was not a fan of hiking in the rain, yet he had no problem swimming in the cold Colorado River. Would Shadow enjoy the fresh snow under his paws? Well, we were about to find out!


I am not sure who was more excited, Shadow, Min, or me!


Dressed in his Michael Jackson Thriller vest, Shadow galloped through the snow. Min and I took turns playing photographer, as we both wanted to capture Shadow’s first snow experience.





While Shadow continued to run himself ragged, thoughts of the perfect stranger ran through my mind. Had it only been one week since we said our goodbyes at Kingman Airport? Would you believe we had talked on the phone every day since? Call me selfish; it wasn’t enough! I needed to see her. I missed her company!


Even though I felt fortunate to be spending Christmas Day with my family; Min and Shadow, it felt incomplete. My special someone was a few thousand miles away and it was snowing. I wanted to share my White Christmas experience with her too.


With the snow continuing to fall at an inch an hour, Min and I decided to head back to Vermilion Cliffs. Neither one of us wanted to get stuck or stranded in the snow storm, although Shadow wouldn’t have minded. How do you tell this face it’s time to go home?


As Min headed to the car, Shadow and I enjoyed our final run in the snow. Shadow was a natural in this winter wonderland, and I could only hope for more snow opportunities in the New Year.


Perhaps Mother Nature could overnight a winter storm to Vermilion Cliffs. Ideally, she’d deliver several inches of snow to my desert front door. I wanted to experience a desert winter wonderland!



Walking back to the road, I had so many questions running through my head. I wondered if Shadow would remember the sensation of snow under his paws. Would Shadow and I get the opportunity to share some winter adventures together? When would I see the perfect stranger again? How would I spend my winter break? None of my questions required answers; I was content to let life happen.

Letting life happen is a lifestyle that dogs model for humans on a daily basis. A dog owns nothing; they live in the moment, yet they seldom seem dissatisfied. Companionship is their currency to happiness.


In recent years I’ve had friends tell me they are more likely to find companionship with a dog than with a human. It makes me wonder, has human companionship become such a foreign concept that we fear it as much as loneliness? Is it our lack of companionship that places the focus on consumerism at Christmas? Has Christmas become more about giving presents than offering our presence?


I returned home to a clouded in Vermilion Cliffs. With the temperature dropping, I grabbed a hot shower and heated up some homemade soup. I spent the rest of my day camped out on the porch. Yes, this was how I spent my Christmas.



“ At sunrise everything is luminous but not clear. It is those we live with and love and should know elude us. You can love completely without completely understanding.” Norm Maclean


With less than a few hours sleep between us, we gathered our gear and checked out of the “Brokeback Room”. Tired yet still cheerful, we hopped into the car and continued our drive along Route 66 bound for Highway 18. Ten miles west of Seligman the sunrise revealed a break in the storm and a light show that only Mother Nature could orchestrate.


On this morning I felt blessed that I operate in the currency of time. Time has no dollar value, you cannot buy stock in it, and your 401k will not harbor it. Time, either you have it or you don’t! To say I don’t have time to pull over and enjoy the beauty of a sunrise would be rather tragic. Even sadder, not being able to share Mother Nature’s light show with a fellow human being.

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Note to self – you know you have met someone special when they cosign your living in the now and want to capture it with you.

Initially, our plan was to be at Havasupai trailhead by 9am. Fortunately, our time frame was written in sand and not cement. The focus of this trip was about enjoying the freedom of time. Clarissa and I were both open to the possibilities of the day. If it meant delaying our hike by one day, the world would not come to an end; however, ten years ago my world would have!

In my 20’s, I feel I was incredibly rigid with time. I feel this rigidity robbed me of living, but then again maybe the rigidity was more a protective measure. Somehow holding time hostage empowered my low sense of self, yet in hindsight, it disabled my self-growth.

Do we willingly give up our freedom by clock managing the day away?

Does every aspect of our life have to be planned, scheduled, and structured?

Is our time really managed when our daily mantra begins with “I don’t have time?”

How do we even prioritize our time?

Have we become so disconnected that we have forgotten what our priorities are?

In my 30’s,  I had to redefine my relationship with time. Time was no longer a minute, an hour, a month or a year. Time had become an emotional connection to the nature of life and living. No longer would I be too busy to live, instead I would be living.


Leaving route 66 we turned north onto Indian Highway 18. We were now only 60 miles from the trailhead parking lot.


How long do you think it took us to drive 60 miles?

Three hours? Four hours? Six hours?

Try the entire day, yes that’s right, the entire day.


Initially, it was a gold-lit desert floor against a limbically driven sky that warranted so many stops and photo opportunities.


As we started to gain altitude it was the snow flurries that demanded our attention, followed by a brief encounter with the desert Grinch.



A few miles down the road we blamed our stopping and starting on the desert winter wonderland. Last night’s rain in Seligman had delivered a dumping of snow in the higher elevations.


My dreaming of a white Christmas had arrived two weeks early. I did not need a Christmas tree or a traditional dinner. I was perfectly content with Santa’s gift.


Santa delivered a new friendship wrapped in a picture perfect winterscape; however, he failed to include a pair of wire cutters.

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Have you ever found yourself and your womanhood caught on a barbed wire fence?

The slightest move could rob you of a lifetime of sexual pleasure, yet you remain hesitant to ask the perfect stranger for extraction assistance.


If this was a roadside accident the ‘jaws of life’ would be called in; however, fence side there was a definite need for the ‘claws of life’.


My interpretation of faith and trust was redefined during my extraction procedure. How do you trust someone who considers the ‘Operation Game’ as surgical training?


With only millimeters to spare, we both had to stop laughing at the severity of the situation and try to regain our composure.

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Like a seasoned bomb disposal officer, the perfect stranger strategically removed my girlhood from the barbed wire fence. They say laughter is the best medicine; however, I do not recommend it during delicate procedures. One simple sneeze could have sent me to a plastic surgeon’s office.


On this day, the morning of December 13, 2014, my girlhood was saved by the magic claw.

After the rescue, I think Clarissa was either considering a cigarette or perhaps wondering she could explain the fence procedure to her friends. Is it a simple, ‘Yes, I saved Sherpa’s labia today’, or was it just another day playing in the snow?


Either way, the experience fast tracked our friendship cementing a bond of trust for life.


As we continued our drive along Highway 18, we encountered deeper snow packs. Deeper snow packs meant additional play time and more photo opportunities.


Over the years friends have asked me why I prefer to travel in the off-season. My reason is very simple; no crowds! It’s a far more intimate experience when the only noise you hear is your camera’s shutter. Call me selfish, but I would rather not share this snowscape with a large group of people.


However, I would share it with the perfect stranger!


Sharing had undeniably been the underlying theme of our past 24 hours together. The only time we had alone time was in the bathroom. We shared our meals, hotel, transportation, and even my camera. Yes, I let the perfect stranger use my camera, the Fuji Hs Exr 50.


There is something rather sacred about witnessing someone’s passion in action. Clarissa was a natural with my camera. You can study the art of aperture and speed, but you cannot teach an eye. Either you have it or you don’t. Clarissa has the eye and the art!


As Clarissa was filming I wondered what the next few days would be like. It seemed we both flourished living in the now and embracing the unknown. Whatever Mother Nature threw our way I was confident we could handle it as a team. We were still 30 miles from the trailhead, yet there was no rush as we both knew we would be car camping in the parking lot. Overnight temperatures would be dropping below 15 degrees; it was going to be cold in the car.

As we continued our drive along Highway 18 this photo kept surfacing in my mind. Who was this free-spirited joyous breath of fresh air?


By birth, her name is Clarissa. Regarding her spirit, I see her as Joy. Joy, the feeling of great pleasure and happiness. Joy, because it radiates off her and rubs off onto me.



“It was lit up like a PRIDE event yet it felt like Christmas”


Strolling through the rainbow lit town of Prescott, I wondered what local event had generated such community support.


I’d been so focused preparing for this trip that I had forgotten it was the month of December, it was officially Santa season. The downtown colored lights made two lesbians feel very welcomed, even the religious Santa was happy to see us. Santa’s wife Mrs. Clause, or perhaps Mrs. Cause, as her motives were faith-based, was very excited and willing to take our picture with her husband.


I really don’t remember the last time I had my photo taken with Santa. As a kid, I always felt rather silly having my photo taken with a fat bearded man who somehow became the face of Jesus’s birthday. Could Santa have been one of the wise men? The wise men traveled far and wide in order to bring gifts to Jesus, as did Santa with me as a child.

Easter was even more confusing for me. Imagine praying to a hanging dead man on your church wall, only to commemorate his death with a white rabbit delivering chocolate eggs. I vividly remember asking my catholic church Sunday school teacher if rabbits were present at Jesus’s crucifixion. Her answer was not helpful to a curious mind. Shaming instead of explaining seemed to be the conditioned authoritative response when it came to my endless questioning about the church. I would later learn from a fellow student that the rabbits and eggs were symbolic of “new life”. My uncle hunted rabbits on his farm, did this mean he was anti-Christ?

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Mrs Clause made sure we did not leave Prescott empty-handed. With a religious brochure titled “The Real Santa” in one hand and a bag of gold coin chocolates in the other, Clarissa and I left the town square with a lasting impression of Prescott.


Prescott for me is a town with a strong sense of community. Residents seemed mindful of others and there was no sense of impatience or tension due to crowd gathering in the town square. After having spent the past nine months in a remote outpost town, Prescott was rather harmonious, my dream urban reintegration experience.


As we headed out to Seligman, I felt grateful that Clarissa’s flight had been redirected to Prescott. The few hours we spent wandering around town made me feel less awkward. I was still recovering from the reality that I was incapable of greeting her with eye contact at the airport. Even more embarrassing, she noticed and mirrored it back to me.

Imagine driving and internally celebrating the fact you can now look at the perfect stranger for a few sacred seconds?

Would you feel exposed and somewhat naked knowing your co-pilot is a body language expert?

For the next eight days, your middle name is “Busted”, and you simply don’t care.

Every head bow, smirk, smile, and body position will be noted and cataloged for future reference in the vault, more commonly known as the perfect stranger’s brain.


As we pulled into Stagecoach Hotel 66, I realized we spent the entire drive bonding through music. I have always felt one should play to their strengths when feeling vulnerable. My strength has always been music. Sometimes one can find comfort rapping and entertaining your co-pilot to House Of Pain’s, “Jump Around”. So here’s to two women, car karaoke, and the feeling of being naked while fully clothed.



Hotel check-ins and registrations are either very formal or rather funny. Forced formalities in chain motels feel very fake to me hence why I appreciate the personality and down to earthness of family owned lodges. On this rainy registration night, our experience was funny, informal, and rather entertaining. Imagine two giggling women doing Belinda Carlisle impressions as the poor male attendant tried to process our check in.


There was instant laughter from the peanut gallery when the attendant asked if we wanted to upgrade to a themed room. Prior to our arrival Clarissa and I had both insisted upon pre-booking a non-themed, non-smoking room, that offered two beds. The Stagecoach 66 website had given us the impression that themed rooms housed only one bed. Did the attendant pick up on our chemistry or was he just hopeful that perhaps he was checking in two playful lesbians? In honor of Heath and Jake, we upgraded to the “Brokeback Suite” as it accommodated us with two beds.



For the next three hours, we went through the Perfect Strangers gear and prepared her pack.

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Since the early planning of this trip, Clarissa had referred to me as her Sherpa, primarily because I had given her clothing and gear requirements. The word proud comes to mind when Clarissa unzipped her pack and revealed all her new adventure wear.


The Perfect Stranger had made sure she obtained everything on the list. From this day forth Clarissa would be a poster child for Columbia’s Omni-Heat line, not to mention we were now both Keen hiking boot twins.



As the rain continued to pour outside, I reminded us both we could be looking at a snowy drive in the morning. We were both excited about possible snow, yet both knew the weather could be a game changer.