“At sunrise, everything is luminous but not clear” Norman Maclean


“Happy Birthday Min”, was my morning greeting, as we headed out to capture his birthday sunrise.


We both felt incredibly blessed to wake up to this jaw dropping view along this remote section of the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.


Many of my friends have asked me over the years what is the difference between camping in a national forest as opposed to a national park. My answer is rather simple, FREEDOM!


National forests are less restrictive. There is no entrance fee, and camping is permitted anywhere. Granted there are no facilities, not even a porta potti, however if you are willing to camp this remote peeing outside should not be a problem.

DSCF1689 (2)

Once the sun was completely up, we headed back to camp for a late breakfast.


It was a refreshing change having this birthday base camp without a set agenda. There was no daily hiking mile quotas, no worrying about having to find a water source, and no daily breaking down of camp. If we needed additional supplies, it was a simple walk to the car.



After breakfast Min and I walked the 200 yards to the Locust Point parking lot, where we met an ultra runner named Paul. Paul, a fellow generation X’er, left his mainstream career for a simpler life. In a blog recently I talked about the Generation X experience and the unfulfilled expectations of our parents.


I feel our generation has become rather adaptable, in harsh economic times we have found ways to reinvent ourselves. Perhaps we are a new breed of Generation X’ers. For lack of a better term, I now refer to us as Generation X-Y (WHY).


Generation X-Y questions the idea of working just to pay bills. We do not crave the 3000 sq ft home that somehow became the new normal. We prefer to LIVE, and work second. We do not fit into the D.I.N.K. category, double income no kids, which seemed to grow in popularity in the late 80’s. S.I.N.K., single income no kids, might be more fitting. It was refreshing to meet Paul, a like minded individual who valued TIME.

I feel generation X-WHY operates in the currency of time. Time is one thing most of us can not afford, yet we seem to value it more once we find ourselves facing our own mortality. While mainstream media has normalized consumerism, I wish the living more and needing less community made everyday headlines. Living simpler does not necessarily mean having a tiny house on wheels. It means one is willing to cut expenses, change careers if necessary, in order to pursue the passions one might normally wait to explore upon retirement. The question remains, why do we wait to LIVE MORE?


After saying goodbye to Paul, Min, Shadow and I headed out for a hike. This would be Shadow’s first forest hike above 7500 ft.


I am not sure who appreciates the outdoors more, Shadow or me. Min being the great father he is,  made sure he pointed out all the major landmarks to Shadow.


Leaving the rim, we continued along the trail leading us through ponderosa pine and forests of aspen.


I wondered what Shadow was thinking as we ventured further into the forest.

Snapshot 2 (11-20-2014 9-15 PM) (2)

Was this just another hike for him, or was he like his mama, where the trail offered an escape from identity?

DSCF1805 (2)

As a child, I had no sense of identity. I understood that I possessed distinctive characteristics that created a unique self; however as an adopted child having no sense of my personal history created more of a dent in my I-dent-ity.


Even now as 43 yr old woman, I still feel like an egg that hatched and at times feel like I’m visiting the planet, as opposed to a participating Planetarian. The beauty of being on trail is assuming the identity of a nobody. In the wilderness I have no history, there are no facades, and there is no past or future. In many ways, I guess you could say I am exploring the mystery of presence.


Undoubtedly hiking has become an active meditation for me. Being on trail frees me from space and time. As a colleague once said, “Leigh, it sounds like mindless walking”. I think my friend Muk (Pacific Crest Trail Thru Hiker 2013) best explained mindless walking as “float walking.”


Hiking has always offered me a form of elemental therapy. Over the years I have found quietude, equanimity, peacefulness, and self-possession on trail.

DSCF2037 (2)

Imagine if physicians prescribed elemental exposure as a routine RX. Call me weird, however, I feel reconnecting with Mother Nature can remedy disconnection with oneself.


On the return leg of our hike, Shadow decided to sprint himself lame. Shadow might blame it on his first encounter with a deer, while I hold Shadow’s love of running and his curiosity culpable.

Snapshot 1 (11-20-2014 9-15 PM) (2)

Either way, as soon as we arrived at camp Shadow put himself to bed.


It was official; Shadow was out of action for the rest of the afternoon.


Just before sunset Shadow, Min and I headed over to the point to honor the ending of his birthday. Sunrises for me have always been about acknowledging the possibilities of a new day, while sunsets tend to serve as reminders of self-reflection and gratitude.


On this day I was grateful that my best friend of 17 years still holds the same passion for life as he did when we first met. The key to our friendship you may ask; I feel like we gave each other our childhoods back. Imagine being on an eternal play date with someone? I can only hope we both find this quality in our future love interests and at some point our spouses.


S0806085 (2)

As the sun painted the sky orange red we headed back to camp. The temperature had dropped into the low 40’s, the coldest temperature I had experienced all summer. Tonight it would be chicken noodle soup and yet another night to test out my new Alps four season tent.



This year for my best friend’s birthday I wanted to do something BIG! Big, not by consumer standards; however, BIG as in a remote location with a million dollar view. Forget the fancy dinner, expensive gifts, or even the elaborate surprise birthday party. I wanted BIG when it came to Min pitching his birthday hammock.


I wanted BIG, as in walking only a few hundred yards to inhale a sunset.


Big, as in all the reading and researching still could not prepare Min for the mind-blowing views from our base camp.


Big as in, “Good Morning, this is where I slept last night.”


This year for Min’s big birthday my focus was finding a location that offered altitude, proximity, color, and inclusivity.

Altitude –  I needed to find some relief from the 100-degree desert temperatures we had been experiencing. Shadow also needed cooler ground temperatures so his paws would not burn while hiking. Slot canyon adventures were out of the question as Min’s birthday was in the middle of monsoon season.


S0178454 (2)

Flash floods are common during monsoon season.

S0312034 (2)

It’s just not wise to risk your safety when there are other hiking options.

S0333037 (2)

Proximity –  With only four days of adventure time, the idea of squandering an entire day due to driving did not sound appealing. In my mind, it felt borderline wasteful. Ideally, I wanted to find a location within 90 minutes of Vermilion Cliffs.

Color – It was important to find some green. The past six months had been vermilion, sand, and stone.


It felt like an eternity since we felt soft grass under our feet, and trees, how I missed the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. With that said, I did live by a forest of prehistoric boulders.

S0361036 (2)

Inclusivity – Since becoming a dog owner, my hiking options have become more limited. Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails in national parks; however, they are welcome on BLM and forest service lands. Even though I live within a few hours of Zion National Park, taking Shadow there is not a possibility if I want to hike.


Shadow is used to having this kind of hiking freedom at Paria Canyon.


So in order to enjoy a family friendly hiking birthday experience, I needed to find a location that would welcome Shadow.


Within 90 minutes of my home, I found the winner.


Kaibab National Forest’s “Rainbow Rim Trail” not only fulfilled my listed criteria, it offered more than I could ever imagine. In the middle of flash flood season, we would be spending three days in the trees above 8000ft, with a base camp at Locust Point.


S0861138 (2)

On a late August morning Min, Shadow and I left the red sand in search of trees and cooler temperatures.


Within 45 minutes we had doubled our altitude, and noticed a 25-degree temperature drop. It was wildflowers that inspired our first stop along 89A, a few miles shy of Jacob Lake.



Joy would be the understatement of the year in describing Shadow’s wildflower encounter.


It’s the simple things; like appreciating roadside wildflowers, that makes both Shadow and Min special.


As we drove into Jacob Lake we headed south onto the North Rim Parkway SR 67.


Along this stretch of road lie the trees we had been yearning for. Green, green and more green. I had almost forgotten what trees looked like.


Our next stop was Jacob Lake Fire Tower. The 80-foot tower was completed in 1934.This is one of the few places I would not be comfortable taking Shadow. The stairs were very steep, and the chance of Shadow injuring himself was not worth the risk. So it was decided both Min and I would solo up the tower, while the other person kept an eye on Shadow.


Like a dutiful dog Shadow stood guard ensuring our safety.

Snapshot 2 (11-10-2014 10-20 AM)


After ascending 80 feet worth of stairs, I found myself entering the tower through a trap door in the floor. This view is the reason why you must stop at the Jacob Lake fire tower.


The second reason for visiting the tower is to have a chat with Mark, the tower watchman. Imagine spending several months a year working in an office like this?


Mark is a local Fredonian, not to mention a walking encyclopedia regarding northern Arizona and southern Utah history. Mark admits his job at times can be a very lonely one; however, he feels the views tend to make up for his lack of daily human interaction.


I am not sure who is more exposed, the forest or the fire tower guard. Perhaps such exposure is what makes mother nature so vulnerable to manmade and natural disasters, and for Mark, being confined to a small glass house exposes his humanity.


I never thought I would find myself discussing my love life or lack of for that matter, with a fire tower guard. I am sure Mark never imagined discussing his history with disordered eating. Yet, it seems once again, wide open spaces encourage human connection. I wonder if it’s our willingness to connect that seems to psychologically shrink the vast open miles between communities.


As I descended the fire tower, I reminded Mark the birthday boy was on his way up for a visit.


I knew Min would really appreciate a fire tower visit with Mark. Two hours into the visit I had to remind Min of our time factor.  It was now late afternoon, in order to make camp before dark, we needed to move on.



Leaving the fire tower, we continued south on the ever so green, North Rim Parkway.


Shadow had not played on soft grass since his puppy park days in Fresno. His paws had become so accustomed to hiking on abrasive sand and gravel washes. I am sure this felt like heaven to his feet!



I am sure if Shadow had his way we would have been camping here for three days.


As we crossed the road and headed back to the car, I promised Shadow we would return to this patch of green paradise.

DSCF1597 - Copy

Leaving SR 67, we headed west on highway 22, bound for the Locust Point. This stretch of the road was mainly dirt and gravel, yet it was surprisingly smooth. I made a mental note of the meadow on either side of the road. I wanted to stop here on the way home. It was so beautiful!


We arrived at Locust Point just after sunset.


We barely had enough time to set up camp; however, we went to bed knowing we had the point to ourselves.

DSCF1934 - Copy