“He yawned like a black bear coming out of hibernation” Dennis Vickers


In true Shadow style, he acknowledged the beginning of a new day by saying, “Ahhh!” Ah, was also my sentiment upon the realization that we would be breaking down base camp after breakfast.


As Shadow and I moseyed around camp, the sound of my third grade teacher’s words echoed through my head. “All good things must come to an end,” was my teacher’s way of announcing that our recess was over. As a kid, I thought the message in this statement was rather strange. Why must good things come to an end? If something is good why not sustain it? Is it possible to find ways to incorporate “good things” that have no end? What if we focused on creating beginnings that evolved into lifetime adventures?


Min’s birthday along the Rainbow Rim definitely qualified as part of our lifetime adventure series. Sadly though, it was time to pack up our camp and head back to Vermilion Cliffs.


I can be rather anal with my gear at times, everything has its place and is stored in different colored stuff sacks. In my world, this system makes breaking down camp more efficient and all my gear can be accounted for. In my early hiking days, I was the one with scattered gear around the house, it made prepping for trips rather time consuming. Something had to give, I got organized.


After loading up the ca,r we headed back to Locust Point for a final goodbye. Over the years I have carried a few different flags while backpacking. It originally started with an Australian flag, followed by a rainbow flag, then most recently a smiley face flag.


For as long as I can remember, I’ve always considered happiness to be a human right. Perhaps this belief stemmed from my unhappiness growing up in an addictive family. To be raised in an addictive family, meant living in a constant state of chaos. In many ways, it’s like spending your childhood playing in a park riddled with land mines. Negotiating land mines tends to place your focus on surviving.Thriving seemed very unrealistic when simply getting through my day felt like a full-time job. With that said, even though I did not thrive, I do feel this state of chaos developed my skills of resiliency. Every day I was developing problem-solving skills that helped separate myself from the black and white thinking within our four walls. Maybe it was my hyper vigilant sense of resiliency that sought out escapism in order to find happiness. Escapism as a young girl was found through contemporary 80’s music.


Music gave words to feelings and thoughts I could not express. While some limbically driven songs taught me how to feel, other song lyrics validated my reality. In the late 80s, John Farnham and Danielle Gaha recorded a hit song in Australia called “Communication”.

This was the first song I had ever heard that addressed addiction in Australia. I vividly remember going to the record store to the buy the 7-inch single


Imagine some twenty years later you realize that Danielle Gaha is sitting in your studio as a guest on your radio show.

Danielle was part of the musical group “THE SONGBIRDS”, that featured singer Erica Canales and Latin Grammy award winner Gaby Moreno.

I can honestly say music created the escapism that I needed in order to experience the feeling of happiness growing up.


At times I feel our understanding of happiness might be similar to our definition of the American dream. Perhaps defining happiness and the American Dream can seem as elusive as achieving it. It varies for everyone, there is no simple definitive answer. I think we are all familiar with words that suggest happiness like blissful, cheerful, content, pleased, satisfied, carefree etc. However, if Happiness is a human right  I think we need to be more specific.

Could the active ingredients to being happy include: being healthy, being harmonious, being humble and humanizing?

Martin Seligman, the author of Authentic Happiness, describes happiness as having three parts: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. Pleasure is the “feel good” part of happiness. Engagement refers to living a “good life” of work, family, friends, and hobbies. Meaning refers to using our strengths to contribute to a larger purpose. Seligman says that all three are important, but that of the three, engagement and meaning make the most difference to living a happy life. It would to safe to say we left Locust Point drowning in what  Martin Seligman describes as “Authentic Happiness.”


As we headed down Highway 22, I made a point of stopping at the meadow that had caught my eye a few days prior.


Shadow had the right idea, he headed straight for the flowers.


For over an hour Min, Shadow and I played and filmed amongst the flowers in the meadow. We all wanted to stay another night, however, Min had to be at work in the afternoon.


After taking our final round of photos, we walked the dirt road back to the car. 


Min’s birthday was over for another year, however I think  “Into The Wild” author Christopher McCandless best described our journey, “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”





“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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.