Be a better human!

Tonight, I found out that my friend, Billy, who drove me to the Canadian border to start the Divide committed suicide right before Xmas. We weren’t that close of friends, but, it was his kindness and generosity that allowed me to get to the start of the Divide and then complete it. He was the beginning of my journey on the Divide. I am so sadden by this news. Life is so fragile. It hits home for me because I too struggle with depression and anxiety and I’ve been to that dark lonely place many times of wanting to end my life. In fact, after I lost my horse Hayduke in 2016, I attempted suicide and I woke up in the ICU on a ventilator. That wasn’t my first attempt either.

I am happy to be alive today, however, I know the secret deep struggle of depression and having suicidal thoughts. I know the storm clouds that suffocate you when you are at your lowest point. I know the feeling of wanting to disappear, to feel like a burden to others, to dislike yourself so much you feel it’s best that you aren’t around anymore, to feel exhausted by life, overwhelmed by life and to feel completely and utterly alone and drowning in pain, pain that’s just too deep and too difficult to talk about. I know that pain and that scary place and I’ve spent many days trapped in that place within myself. The struggle is always there, it never goes away, at least for me, it doesn’t. It’s a daily battle within yourself to get through the day, to cover up the saddest parts of who you are and to bravely face the world. It’s so hard. It’s so fucking hard sometimes! People are scared and or uncomfortable with the topics of depression and suicide so sometimes the conversations that need to happen, don’t.

The world can shut down the chance for honest conversations about true feelings and the reality that some of us face. Most people who struggle with depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts, do it in private and no one suspects it, but, we need to change that. We need to rid society of the stigma that all of this carries and we need to open up the channels of communication, understanding and love. You never know, maybe your kinda words to a total stranger or a simple phone call to someone you know will make all the difference in the world to them. You don’t ever truly know someone else’s struggles- so call your loved ones more, say hello to strangers, for God Sakes smile at strangers, give a stranger your extra dollar or two, listen more- listen with the intention to listen. Because of Billy I was able to have the adventure of a lifetime on the Divide and now as I sit here and write this I feel so god damn sad, I should have reached out earlier to take him up on his offer of going on an adventure or a trip, but, I didn’t. I didn’t know.

So, if you read this remember to check in on those you love, to create memories with them, to talk openly about things like mental health- even if it’s hard for you- talking and loving one another is the only thing that will change things. Hold on to your loved ones and encourage them to talk, write, adventure, whatever they need to do to honor themselves and to help them get through the day. This world needs more love and more open ears, more kindness and more true humanity. Mental health is so important to us all, to everyone whether you know them or not. We all need to be better humans to one another!!! In loving memory of Billy❤️

Hachita to the Mexican Border at Antelope Wells!

It was the morning of October 24th, today the Great Divide was coming to an end! I was leaving from the Bikers Hostel in Hachita and heading for the Mexican Border. I said goodbye to Jeff and packed up my bike for the last time. I remember trying to hold back my tears as I left Hachita and turned onto highway 81. I felt as though I was in a dream. Canada was now so far away and I had only 46-47 miles to the end!! THE END!!! The riding was great, easy, beautiful, perfect, fantastic. The miles seemed to fly by, the landscape was beautiful. The Hatchet Mountains were on both sides of me. The desert lands have always spoken to me on such an intimate level and I just loved the riding through such amazing land. Every so often Border Patrol would drive by me, but, other than that, there were no cars. It was me, my bike, the Chihuahua Desert and the lonely highway. My friend, Ruthanne was picking me up at the Mexican Border and I was excited to see her, but, I didn’t want the day to end. The riding was just so wonderful and enjoyable. I wanted to savor it, to ride that stretch forever because I felt after all of the hard days, here it was, a true perfect day. Everything was perfect- the sky, the riding, the temperature. It was all just so great.

Every few miles I would get off my bike, take a few pictures and start crying. I was so overcome with emotion. I was so damn proud of myself, so excited to be done, but at the same time, not excited to be done. I thought about my very first day leaving Canada with my shiny new bike, knowing absolutely nothing about bike packing and then I thought about everything that had happened since that day. I remembered everyone I had met, I remembered all of the hard moments and wonderful moments. And all of a sudden I was homesick for those places and memories. I was homesick for my story and memories on the Divide. I wanted to go back to some of those days, laugh a little harder with the friends I had made out there, stay a little longer in the towns I had resupplied in and I wanted to embrace it all more than I had. I already missed the Divide and it wasn’t truly over just yet, but, I wanted it back so badly. But, the miles kept going by, the land was so desolate and so intriguing. The tears kept falling, the memories of my journey kept racing through my head. My heart hurt, my journey was almost over. I wished I had had a partner to share all of that with. It was so hard alone, however, in the hardest moments out there, I learned so much about myself and what I am capable of, how strong I am. I was reminded of the best parts of myself and I was fortunate to learn so many new things about myself. When I reached the sign that said Mexican/US Border 2 miles, I lost it. I got off my bike and fell to the ground. I cried like a baby on the side of the highway next to my bike. After awhile I composed myself and called my friend, she was still far away. I sat there in that spot for a few hours waiting for my friend. I was happy to sit there because it meant my adventure would last a little bit longer and I could rewind the entire trip and just sit there in the desert with it all. The wind would blow hard into my eyes and the sun beat down on my skin, I didn’t care. I sat with my story of the Divide and it was one of the best times I have ever had. Those few hours seemed to allow me to get to a place where I was okay with it coming to an end.

I could see my friends truck in the distance. I was thrilled to see her. She and I agreed she’d drive to Antelope Wells at the US/Mexican Border and wait for me. It was time, it was time to finish. I got back on my bike and pedaled to Antelope Wells. I saw the sign (US/MEXICAN BORDER) and the gate and just like it was OVER! I got off my bike and set it down. I could barely breathe, I wanted to scream and cry and yell and fall over and just lose it as if I hadn’t done that enough that day 🙂 It was over! I did it. I rode my bike from Canada to Mexico. I bent down and hugged my bike, that bike had become way more than just a bike to me. My friend snapped some photos and we stayed there for awhile. I found it hard to leave. I didn’t want to leave. But I knew I had to. It was over. I really struggled with leaving though. I loaded my bike into my friend’s truck and jumped inside. It was time to go home. The Great Divide was over! Its such a bittersweet thing to finish big adventures and I am no stranger to that. But this one was so hard for me. It always takes awhile to process an accomplishment of this extent and to really learn what it meant and how it impacted your life. It is such a difficult thing to explain to others. In that sense these big adventures make you feel alone because only very few people understand them. I felt so many emotions that night- I felt pride, excitement, I felt strong, sad, and anxious about facing life back home. In only two hours, I was back in Arizona and the Divide started becoming only a memory.

Pueblo Pintado to Grants, NM on the Divide!

The morning was freezing; I was exhausted. I had gotten less than an hour of sleep the night before. I ate a quick breakfast and then left the Chaco Wash and rode back onto highway 197. I was praying the wind would leave me alone that day. The wind is usually not too bad in the morning hours, but, that isn’t the case every day and the wind was definitely waiting for me. I knew the 65 miles into Grants was going to be rough. I was too tired to fight it. My body was tired. My heart was tired. My brain was tired. Thank goodness the riding was easy, only a few minor little ups, but, most of it was smooth riding, except of course for the wind. I enjoyed the desert/New Mexican landscape that surrounded me. It made me long to be back in Arizona, back home. The random horses on the side of the highway made me smile, made my heart happy. There wasn’t much traffic, I felt pretty lonely that day, pretty broken and everything about my sister’s passing and my marriage came crashing onto me. As I rode, every mile seemed to toss something else at me, it would twist and turn my emotions and throw me into a state of deep sadness. I was struggling a lot emotionally during those miles and as the day continued the wind picked up, my inner frustrations picked up too. I was so irritated. At White Horse I turned left onto highway 509 towards the little community of Hospah. A few miles later this car drove up next to me and offered me water, I gladly accepted the offer. It turned out to be one of the guys I had met the day before at Chaco Wash and he lived nearby. We spent about 15 minutes talking before we went our separate ways.

I have probably said it before, but, I’ll say it again. I am so humbled and grateful for all of the random acts of kindness I was shown on my journey, it truly made a world of difference to me and it was those acts of kindness that got me through so many hard days out there. A bottle of water, a Coke, a smile, a candy bar or just stopping to talk to me, doesn’t sound like much, but, those moments with those strangers, those encounters are what kept me going. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to all of you. As I write this, it brings me to tears to remember all of the kind and amazing people that showed up on my hardest days, hardest moments and became a crucial part of my story because it gave me the strength to keep riding. In many ways the people I met are the most beautiful part of my story on the Divide. I was really homesick that day and my emotions were everywhere, being extremely fatigued didn’t help. I listened to music for the rest of the day, I had to get out of my own head and just focus on getting into Grants. Eventually, I could see Mt Taylor in the distance, it was a beautiful view, six miles later I turned onto highway 605. I stayed on that highway until I turned onto Route 66, (which really made me miss Flagstaff) and rode that for three miles into downtown Grants. I passed all of these cute stores and yummy looking restaurants, but, I was too tired to stop. I got a motel room, took a bath, ordered pizza and fell asleep. I slept well that night. I remember the next morning, the desire to quit and to go home started to become very intense. Very intense. I had had enough. I wanted to go home. I was done. I was tired of being alone, tired of being tired, tired of being gone, tired of exploring the depths of my own mind. Homesickness overcame me and it took everything I had to stay in Grants and decide to just take a day off and not go home. This is where the Divide really started to become a mental game for me. I didn’t quit though. To be continued!!

Cuba, NM to Pueblo Pintado on the Divide 💨 Holy Cannoli, Oh My Goodness, Heavens to Betsey, For Pete’s Sake, and Geez Louise 💨

After an enjoyable day off in the charming town of Cuba, I opted to take the paved alternate into Grants out of respect due to the closure of the reservations because of Covid. The first few miles out Cuba along highway 197 were perfect- the riding was so easy and fast and I hoped that it would be that way for all of the 46.6 miles into Pueblo Pintado/Chaco Wash. The sky was clear, blue, the temperature was a bit cold, but, made for great riding. The wind was non existent and so was the traffic for the most part. I felt so free and light and happy, in fact, I was listening to music and singing along to it; I was in a state of pure bliss. I was riding my bike through beautiful country, the miles came easy and fast and that feeling of being on a bike and everything being just right is something I cannot explain, its like being a little kid again, no worries, just the bike and you, the speed, the air and the road. Awesome!!! Wonderful! Bliss!! I stopped for a short break to eat and drink some water I knew it would be a quick ride judging from how fast I was riding, so I thought 🙂 When I got back on my bike, my nemesis appeared. THE WIND!!! Oh my goodness, the wind had come back to haunt me and rip away any enjoyment I was having that day. The miles turned into a slog, I was pedaling, but, it seemed as though I wasn’t moving, the force of the wind against my bike and my body zapped my energy. At one point I got off my bike because I was so exhausted from fighting the headwind, walking my bike was more efficient. The mental struggle along with the physical struggle of fighting a strong headwind on a bike is something I really hated. It was so frustrating, exhausting and made me feel so defeated. I had started the day in such an up beat mood and the wind just destroyed that. It made miles so hard, so miserable. There is no respite from the wind out there, you can’t run away from it unless of course you go inside. There I was my bike and I being pushed back each time I attempted to go forward. The wind throbbing against my face and ears started to give me a headache and I was pissed. I won’t lie, I hate wind!!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the afternoon began, I knew the final miles of the day were going to test everything I had and I was tempted to stop a car and ask for a ride. But I didn’t. I would ride for awhile and when the wind pulled me off my bike, I would walk my bike, this dance went on for a few hours until I could finally see Chaco Wash off to my right. Chaco Wash is a laundry mat on the border of the reservation that has a small convenient store and allows bikers to camp on the property. I made it. I rode up to the front door, laid my bike down and went inside. I had to get out of the wind. I was about to lose my mind. I had a few snacks and talked to the employees to get the down low on where I was allowed to pitch my tent. The manager told me to setup up camp near the old box car and that at 9pm the gates closed and would lock me inside the property until 7 am the next day. He explained to me the gates are a necessity to prevent exposure from the reservation and the known wild and dangerous happenings that sometimes occur. I spent the rest of the afternoon inside the laundry mat, talking to people, charging my phone, writing and occasionally going outside to check the status of the wind and say hi and love on my rez dog friends.

Watching the day come to an end I noticed the vibe at the Chaco Wash change, it became quieter, people started going home but it had un indescribable tone to it. Something I still can’t put my finger on. I waited until the wind let up to setup my tent. I bought a pizza at the store for dinner and stayed inside until close. It was cold, I crawled inside my sleeping bag and laid under the stars. I thought about so much that night. I was starting to feel a tad sacred, being locked inside this gate at this place and I started to freak myself out with my thoughts. Around 10 pm the caretaker, came over to my tent. We started talking and eventually went inside his trailer to continue our conversation because it was so cold outside. It was nice to have company and friendly conversation, but, I was tired and knew that I needed to sleep. After an hour, I went back to my tent to try and get some sleep. I didn’t sleep well that night, in fact, I barely slept, maybe 30 mins total. I couldn’t calm my mind enough to actually sleep. Around 630 am I got out of my bag, packed up and went over to the store for a morning hot chocolate and to wait for the gate to open. I was so wiped. My eyes were heavy, my head was foggy and my body was not up for riding the 68 miles into Grants. But, you know me and my stubbornness, I got on my bike and headed out of the gate and towards Grants.

To Cuba, NM I go- on the Divide!!

After packing up my bike and filling up on water I left the campsite. I wish I could have said goodbye and thanked the hunters again, but, they were long gone and I needed to get going. I had 57 miles to ride. I remember getting on my bike and feeling a sense of strength and pride that morning. I felt proud I had made it that far a, I felt strong because I had overcome so many obstacles both emotionally and physically to get to that point. I felt excited to see my friend, Hallie, in Cuba and somehow just knowing I was going to see someone I knew gave me an immense amount of peace. Of relief. It gets lonely out there, it’s hard to be alone while embarking on something like the Great Divide, it’s hard to face what’s in the innermost corners of your mind and heart, it’s hard to look grief in the face and not allow it to consume you. Being in your own head is both extremely difficult and beautiful. It’s a roller coaster. It’s dark and light and messy. But what a wonderful chance it was for me to be able to walk through my own mind while being among so much beauty, challenge and adventure on the Divide. The riding was pretty easy that day, though the section descending Polvadera Mesa on FR 144 had rocks as big as microwaves and the going was pretty darn slow and rough. I had to walk my bike down parts of it because it was so rocky and I was positive I was going to get a flat. Oh man the rocks!! The damn rocks! Ugh! There was many turns that day, definitely had to pay attention so I didn’t take the wrong road. Right, left, stay straight, left, right again- lots of small ups and downs and winding sections. Once I rode onto FR 70 I could see the rim of Valle Grande Caldera and in the distance mountains rose into the sky. It was a beautiful and refreshing view after being in the trees and on rocky terrain for most of the day. I continued on FR 70 past some campsites and trailheads and eventually turned onto highway 126. Pavement was very welcoming after that section. I was happy to be able to ride fast and on smooth terrain for a bit. As I rode downhill on the pavement and out of Santa Fe National Forest I became super excited to get into Cuba and eat some good Mexican food. I was always hungry and always excited to eat 🙂 in fact, many nights, I laid in my tent and had food fantasies. As I pasted a few houses I had a dog run out and chase me, he almost bit me and it scared me to death. It’s hard to defend yourself while riding a bike especially on the side of a highway. But both the dog and I were okay, finally the dog ran back home.

I continued on highway 126 and then finally turned onto highway 550 into CUBA. I rode straight to McDonald’s and rode my bike through the drive thru. After I ate my chicken nuggets, I rode a mile out of town to Juicy Jitters, my friends place, we spent some time laughing and talking. We reminisced about the our days thru hiking the Arizona Trail and the friends we had made along that trail. What wonderful memories those were. As it got dark I returned to town and got a motel room and then rode my bike to the nearby Mexican restaurant and had another meal topped off with a pint of ice cream 🙂 yes, the amount of food I consumed out there was disgusting 🙂 but it was necessary! I slept very well that night and took the next day off to spend more time with my friend, to write and to just enjoy the part of the adventure off my bike. The divide wasn’t just about the time I spent on my bike, the adventure also included the time I spent off my bike in the small communities along the route. Those times are just as important to my story on the divide as the time on my bike was.

Abiquiu to Polvadera Mesa- Great Divide!

Turning onto CR 189 and heading onto Abiquiu Grant Lands was a bit nerve wrecking for me. I chose to follow the standard route despite my anxieties and worries about my safety. I rode through a neighborhood where I counted 4 red trucks. I was worried one of those trucks belonged to rhe guy that had been known to harass bikers- hold them up and rob them. I felt very alone, I felt very vulnerable. I questioned my decision to take the standard route over and over as I rode. I was scared. As I pedaled across Abiquiu Creek and rode up to a steep ridge which opened to amazing views I continued to feel scared and worried and unsure of the hours ahead. I reached a plateau about 5 miles in and enjoyed the beautiful views, the juniper trees and piñon. It reminded me of home in Arizona. I still was struggling to wrangle in my anxiety and focus on the riding. Every so often, I would turn around and check to see if there were any vehicles coming up behind me or any vehicle parked on the side roads or in the trees off the route. I turned off of CR 189 and onto FR 27. A few miles later I entered into Santa Fe National Forest, as I made more miles away from that neighborhood I started to feel a tad more safe, but, I still felt vulnerable. I kept praying I would run into other campers at the end of the day so I would not be alone that night. Around 10 miles into the day, I saw a truck and they stopped and talked to me, they were out hunting, it was opening day for the season. That made me so happy because I knew there were others out there, the likelihood of that guy bothering me was starting to become less of a concern. I entered into a canyon, the road was in decent shape and I began to descend for awhile. The riding was enjoyable and the weather was perfect. FR 27 started to get very rough, very uneven, very rocky and very hard to ride- I was beginning the climb up to the top of Polverda Mesa. The slick rock made riding difficult, but, it was nice to be in the tall trees of the forest- it was quiet and beautiful and though the miles were hard to ride, it seemed to go by fast. I continued to climb the volcanic road towards the sky. 12.5 miles after beginning the steep climb, I finally reached the top.

I noticed a group of hunters camped off to my right. I walked right up to them and asked the first guy I saw if I could camp with them for the night? They didn’t even hesitate as they welcomed me into their camp and showed me where I could pitch my tent. The guys then left on their ATV to scout for their hunt the next morning. I setup my tent and went out for a short hike. I felt relieved that I was at the top and that I had stayed safe and was going to be safe all night long. I could feel my anxiety simmer down and my entire being seemed to shift into a calm place. The sky lit up with magnificent colors, the day was coming to an end. I crawled into my tent after cooking some food; right as it became dark, the guys returned to camp and offered me a hamburger and some drinks. I bundled up and joined them around the fire. The night air was cold. The guys built a fire, it was a welcomed addition to the evening. To me, fire is like primitive tv, it is mesmerizing and for some reason they always provide good vibes and good times. We ate, exchanged stories and embraced each others company for the night. They talked about their lives in New Mexico and how Covid was impacting their towns. We talked about my trip on the Divide and where I was from. They were externally generous and told me to take whatever I needed or wanted out of the cooler in the morning before I left camp. We stayed up for a few hours and then called it a night. Around 4 am the next morning the guys left camp, they were determined to get an elk. I was not getting up that early. I laid in my warm sleeping bag until about 7 am and then started my day. It is never fun to pack up in the early morning when it is freezing cold, but, it is part of the journey and the bitter cold against your body reminds you that you are alive. To Cuba, NM I go!!

The waves of grief!

The dictionary defines grief as- deep sorrow, especially that caused by someone’s death. It is said that there are 7 stages of grief- shock, denial, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some argue there are more of less stages. These stages are not linear in any way. They come and go, they tear at your heart, at your very existence, they beat you up, they paralyze you at times. They suffocate you.

In the first few months after losing Martha, I would have this dream almost every night. Martha and I were at our childhood home on Williamsburg Lane, we were in the back study together, she was a little girl again and in her nightgown and I was an adult, I was me today. She would smile and play, but, whenever I attempted to talk to her, she wouldn’t respond. It upset me. I would watch her play and smile in the dream. She had that cute little blonde bob haircut again and her innocent sweet smile with her teddy bear nightgown. She was adorable. Then, I would wake up and realize that she was gone and I would not be able to go back to sleep. I would just lay there and cry. I was so angry that she wouldn’t talk to me in the dream. After awhile, I started dreading sleep because I didn’t want to see her. It hurt too much. A few months later, the dream stopped and that upset me. I remember being alone on hikes or runs and screaming out loud to the universe, asking for the dream to return, it never did. I had moments in the woods where I would turn around to check on Zoroaster and I would see her standing there, clear as day. Then in a split second she was gone, it was though my brain was playing tricks on me. But I begged the universe for more moments like that for more dreams because I felt like maybe she was somehow checking in on me and I needed her. I needed my friend and sister back.

The morning she passed away, I was abruptly woken up at around 2:30 am. I couldn’t figure out what had woken me up. I tried to go back to sleep, but I couldn’t. I remember I took a bath and stayed up. Then around 11 am I got the news, Martha was gone!! I lost it. I cried out, I screamed so loud. I fell to the ground, I couldn’t even think straight. My world was shattered. Martha was gone??!? I knew right then that I had been woken up the moment she had passed away. I know it sounds insane, but, Martha and I were so close and connected. I couldn’t function or eat or even drive my car. I felt like I couldn’t breathe and I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t possible. That moment started the process of grief for me. The stages ebb and flow through me. The anger and depression stages are what I feel the most of the time.

My anger around her death is so incredibly deep and layered with an immense amount of emotion and questions that I’ll never know the answers to. I am so angry. I am angry at the person who was with her and didn’t call for help, instead he let her die alone on a cold floor. I am angry at the people who sold her the very thing that killed her. I am angry at my husband who blew me off that day and refused to come to the funeral with me. I am angry at myself for not calling her more and messaging her more. Maybe just one text or call from me would have changed what happened. I am angry at the entire situation. Finding a place for that anger seems impossible because it’s just so deeply rooted.

Then, on the other hand, the depression from grief, that comes across me as fast as a hurricane wind, it knocks me over. It makes every part of me ache. The deepness of the sadness is overwhelming. It’s indescribable. At times I feel like a zombie and I feel as though I just can’t take it. It’s too painful. It’s too much!!! I already struggle with depression and anxiety and her death and the grief surrounding it, makes me feel even more lost and sad. More defeated. I swirl around each stage of grief, never knowing which stage I’ll be in on any given day. Some days, I pass through multiple stages at the same time or within hours of each other. It’s a never ending process of hell. I hope through the years that it will ease up, but, how do you cover up such a big hole? How do you let that go? My brain knows she’s gone, but my there’s a part of it that cannot accept it and that’s the part that is still riding through grief and trying to find a way to be okay with what happened. Maybe I’ll get there one day.

For the Love of a Horse- The Story of Hayduke and I

It was a extremely hot day in July of 2016 down in Supai, a village located in the Grand Canyon, the home to the Havasupai Tribe. The sun was burning my skin, the heat was giving me a headache and as I walked pass a home; I saw him. A beautiful dark brown horse lying down in the dirt in the front yard, his legs stretched out, his body covered in sweat, he appeared lifeless, but, he was not 🙂 As I looked a little further through the wire fence I saw that his hooves were in terrible shape, his hip bones protruding through his sweaty and dirty body, his ribs so visible he looked like a skeleton. His spirit gone, his heart weary and lonely and it was then that I knew, that horse was going to be mine. I was going to get him out of there, come hell or high water, that horse was mine.

On this trip; I wasn’t down there guiding, rather I was down there to gather information and pictures of the abuse that haunted the canyon, the abuse that became the reason I quit my job. I left Supai a day later, with the knowledge that getting him out of that place would take awhile, it might not happen at all and he might not make the hike out, but, I was going to try. After all, I promised him that I would get him out.

I was no stranger to Suapi, or the Tribe, up until the 4th of June, 2016; I was a backpacking guide, taking people down to camp at Havasupai Falls. After finding out more information about the tribal wrangler our company used to haul our camping gear up and down the canyon; I quit my job, no longer was I going to keep my mouth shut about the horrific animal abuse that took place in that canyon, no longer was I going to accept what all the other guides and people did, I was not going to accept the answer of, “that is just the way it is.” NO, it was time to stand up, yell at the top of my lungs and tell everyone I knew about the truth of that deceptively beautiful place. I spoke to the Channel 12 news, created a page on FB to advocate for the animals and told everyone I knew. The attention began to grow and the pressure was felt by the Tribe. While all the attention was being brought to the abuse I worked everyday to get him out, every night, I dreamt of him. I was ready at anytime to go, hike down and get my horse, bring him out, take him to Flagstaff and rehab him, love him, and begin my journey with him. On July 26th,2016; I was at Best Buy and I got the text, “come get your horse”, it was around 6pm. I packed my backpack with everything I would need for an 8 mile hike down to the village and a hike back out not knowing how long it was going to take. My heart was screaming in happiness, I was getting my horse, I was on my way to rescue him and man, that was an awesome feeling. Wade drove my car, I couldn’t drive, I felt high, I was too excited to focus on driving the 3.5 hrs. We arrived at the Hilltop around 11:30pm and headed down the trail to Supai in the dark. We reached the village around 3am and were excited to get him around 630 am, but things did not happen the way I had hoped. When I arrived at the owner’s house, my horse was gone, I was terrified that something had happened to him. I knocked on the door and was told that my horse and his owner had left the village hours ago.
I started running. I had not had anything to eat, nor had I slept and none of that mattered. All that mattered was that I needed to get to my horse. I had made a promise to save him and so I ran my heart out, crying, praying he would actually be at the Hilltop. I ran 8 miles up, arriving around 940am at the Hilltop, he was there, my heart relieved to see him. I met up with the owner, he had run him up the canyon, riding him for a mile and a half. I had to keep my cool though I wanted to smack him and yell at him for what he had done to my horse and so many others, but I knew I just needed to get my horse and paid him $250 like we had agreed on. I will never forget the second he took his lead rope off and walked off.

There I was, in the hot sun, alone for the first time with my horse. MY HORSE!!!!! I was told by his owner he did not like people, but judging from the way he nuzzled right into me as I attached my lead rope to his old halter, I knew that wasn’t true. I had a HORSE!! I was excited, nervous, scared, worried, tired, hungry, but, I was content and I could see relief in his eyes. Well, I had a HORSE now, so of course he needed a name. I named him Hayduke, in honor of Edward Abbey’s writing and passion for the Southwest. So, now I had a HORSE and he had a name. We sat together at the Hilltop in the heat for almost 7 hours, his feet looked like paddles, his body like a skeleton, but I knew he was a fighter, I knew that he knew that I saved him and was going to get him out of there. We spent a few hours together hunkering down under the outhouse looking down into the canyon where he had been living, a place he was never going to see again.

Hayduke was transported to Flagstaff and taken to a wonderful place, that first night in Flagstaff was filled with a ton of commotion and unknowns. I watched as the farrier trimmed his feet, as the first set of abscesses appeared in his feet. It was bad, his feet were in bad shape. I remember feeling like a zombie, so tired both emotionally and physically and worried beyond words about this amazing creature that I had rescued and instantly fallen in love with. The next day, Hayduke’s first day in Flagstaff he ate and ate and ate and ate, and he seemed calm and happy. He seemed as though he felt safe.

The Vet came out on his second day and gave him an exam, did blood work, etc. Again his feet were a concern and we began a daily process of soaking, medicating, wrapping his feet to help open and drain his abscesses. Hayduke moved from that first place to a ranch in Flagstaff where I spent hours everyday trying to heal his feet and allow him to eat as much as he wanted. He also received an excessive amount of love, he probably was so sick of the kisses and hugs, but he got him, everyday. His story began to touch others, so many were rooting for him. I became aware of how generous, kind and loving the horse community is as well as random people. I was nurturing this wonderful creature back to health. He ate and ate and somedays that is all he did 🙂 he became my best friend so quickly and my love for him grew daily. I woke up everyday excited to drive out and spend my days with him, it was as though the rest of the world stopped and it was just Hayduke and I. He was gaining weight, getting some of his spunk back, but his feet, his feet were not improving.

On August 15th 2016, the vet came out to the ranch, Hayduke had been lying down and I could tell his pain was immense. The vet opened a deep abscess that bleed like crazy, he preformed a series of X-rays and I could see it in the Vet’s eyes that Hayduke was in trouble.
Hayduke was taken into the hospital that night and put on IV meds, had medical wraps on his feet and received medical care around the clock. I spent my days lying in his stall with him, most of the day, he would lie down next to me, put his head in my lap against my chest and just sit there. It was like magic, but, I knew in my heart that he was sick and that no amount of love was going to fix this. After four days in the hospital it became apparent on X-ray and by watching him that his pain was not going to be manageable, he was suffering and the abuse and neglect he had faced could not be reversed. It was time to say goodbye, time to allow him to rest and be at peace. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was a cold rainy day, I knew I had to say goodbye. The Vet told me that I did not have to stay, but, there was no way I was going to leave him alone. It was about 430 in the afternoon, I led Hayduke outside his stall and behind the office. The Vet explained how the process worked, I hated it, I was so angry and heartbroken, but I could not let him suffer any longer. The vet make a braid for me from Hayduke’s tail and handed it to me. He gave Hayduke the first injection, in a few minutes it caused him to collapse to the ground, I remember screaming out, crying my brains out. I felt so sad, so hurt, so fucking mad, so fucking mad. Hayduke now laid on the ground, his beautiful body right in front of me. I went to his head, started loving on him, the second injection went in and he faded like he was going under for surgery. I told Hayduke that I loved him, that I was sorry. And then, the last one, the vet whispered a few seconds later, he has no heart beat. I wanted to throw up, I wanted to run down to Supai and yell at his former owner. I wanted my Hayduke back. I wanted his silky nose to nuzzle my face, I wanted a story with him. But in a matter of minutes that was all gone. I felt like I had failed him. I felt so broken so lonely. I had three weeks with Hayduke and in that short period of time, I feel like I had a lifetime. A lifetime filled with love, hope, smiles, life lessons and compassion, for what else is there in life?
Hayduke is now in my heart forever, that is where is was always meant to be. He taught me so much, much more than I ever expected to learn. He loved me and I loved him and though I wish he was still here, I know that my job in all of this was to get him out of suffering and to send him to heaven knowing love. I could have never prepared myself for what Hayduke brought to my life. Out of all of my adventures, this one truly changed me. I am humbled to have been a part of Hayduke’s life. I am honored to have been there as his friend at the end. I am grateful to so many people- Scott and Terry Small, Kathy Oliver, Christine Griffin, Don and Marci Walters, Ruthann Penn, Dr Shane Dennis, Colleen and Dan Larrabee, ATGNIphotoworks, all my horsey friends on Facebook- too may to list, but thank you to everyone who donated, gave their advice, support, friended me to help, assisted Hayduke and I in anyway. Thank you for holding some of Hayduke in all of your hearts.

In loving memory of George W Hayduke, the horse from Supai

Leaving Abiquiu or not leaving Abiquiu on the Great Divide!

I had been so exhausted and defeated in the days leading up to Abiqui. I enjoyed a day off at the Abiqui Inn- a neat little respite from the long days on the Divide. A few weeks prior while I was in Colorado; I had been informed about a man who lived outside of Abiquiu who was holding bikers up at gunpoint and robbing them, it had been on my mind ever since learning about it. It had created an immense amount of anxiety and fear in me and I was leaning towards taking an alternate route to avoid that area. I spoke with locals and other bikers who for the most part knew nothing about that guy. After, a nice day off, my plan was to head out. I went to the restaurant to eat breakfast and was seated next to this guy who was also eating alone. He looked like a movie star, he had this sleek, kind and handsome look to him. At some point, we struck up a conversation, we talked about my trip and a little bit about who we each were and where we were from. I have no idea how the topic of losing my sister Martha came up, but somehow it did. He was so easy to talk to and I guess I was in dire need of releasing some of my grief. Grief is a constant ebb and flow of emotion. I hadn’t really been addressing my grief on my ride thus far. More so, I had been hiding it, pretending it wasn’t real and trying to ignore it. I mean, I was on my bike, I couldn’t ride at all or make any miles if all I did was cry and let my grief out. I had to stifle it and put it away. But, grief isn’t just tears, sometimes it shows up in the form of just needing one more day off on a big bike ride, or being extra anxious or lonely or feeling “off.” That morning it knocked me over and consumed me. He began to talk about his own losses and grief and what his process had been. The more we talked, the more both of us started to tear up. There we were two grown strangers crying at breakfast. It was one of the most therapeutic experiences of my life. I then told him I had planned to leave that morning and about my concerns about what I had heard about that guy harassing bikers. He could tell I was struggling with myself to continue riding. He said to me, “you don’t have to ask permission for another day off.” You can take it. He offered to take me into Espanola so I could get to a real store. I told him I’d let him know in a few hours. After, I finished my breakfast and exchanged contact information with him I left the restaurant and noticed that there was horses in the back of the property.

I immediately walked over there and had another big release of grief. Horses are extremely therapeutic and it was exactly what I needed at the moment. The way they smell, the way they feel, the way they can reflect and comfort you without even knowing you, without any questions asked is such a special gift. I stayed there for a while and then decided to walk back to my room. I was so tired and now, I was emotionally exhausted. Grief wears you out. It drains you. It’s so hard. I ended up texting my new friend and he picked me up and drove me into town to Walmart and Dairy Queen. It was awesome and relaxing. I was so glad I had not ridden off that morning. I wasn’t ready to leave and that was okay. I had a kind escort for the day and a cool Kermit Car to ride in.

My new friend and his awesome ride 🙂

After we returned to the inn, he offered to take me on his motorcycle up Polvadera Mesa where that guy I was worried about had been known to be. He said it might help to see some of the route and if I did indeed decide to take the alternate then at least I wouldn’t miss some of the beautiful views of the actual route. The ride was amazing, it’s so special out there, so beautiful- the desert, the mountains, the rock, the sky- man, it’s all so indescribably beautiful. It was nearing the end of the day and I knew that in the morning I was leaving. I had to chose the actual route or the alternate. I got back to my room right at dinner time and said goodbye to my friend. It had been a very healing day for me. Though, I still felt sad, uneasy, and anxious. I knew that I had to start allowing my grief to surface more. That I shouldn’t be scared of it or try to ignore it. That it was okay to be a mess, to be vulnerable and lonely and sad even when I was on a big adventure, being a badass or trying to be a badass. It was okay to be just me and to be just where I was with my grief. The next morning, I packed up and rode to the general store. It was either turn left and head up to Polvodera Mesa on the actual route or go straight and take the alternate. I started riding and for some reason turned left onto the actual route. I surprised myself with that decision. But, I was not going to let some guy scare me off the route…

Anxious fingers and cold rock!

Today, I went climbing, it’s been a LONG time since I’ve felt as though I can even put my harness on. For the past few years, climbing has been attached to so many negative emotions for me that even when I tried, it was as though my body didn’t understand how to move on the rock. Mostly, it was that my anxiety was out of control and my confidence had been beaten down. I have many memories from the past of being on rock- just me- my body- the air- the sky- and the rock I was attached to. In those perfect moments I felt free, alive, grounded and a deep feeling of bliss. The movement of ones body on rock is like a dance- a puzzle- a wonderful platform for challenge and growth. I have missed that feeling. I have allowed my anxiety and depression to stifle the very things I’ve needed to stay healthy and grounded- it’s a daily battle and struggle of an internal mess you know will always be there. No matter what. For me, anxiety and depression have created a barrier between me and the world and most importantly the very things I need. Being anxious all the time feels terrible and it’s exhausting, because your body and mind aren’t working together, they are fighting. Depression for me is like being locked in a dark closet alone and you can hear the happy world going on right outside the door, but, no matter how hard you try, it seems as though you just can’t open that door and walk out. You feel trapped, anxious, alone, like no one understands and even if they could, you couldn’t explain it. It’s extremely isolating and it tears all the good parts of you, it decreases your self esteem and thus, keeping you even more alone and isolated. I don’t usually talk much about these struggles or the struggles with my medical conditions because I don’t want to bring people down or whine or seem weak. But, I think we need to talk about these kind of things because otherwise they become too daunting and overwhelming, and they slowly destroy you. I have days when I’m not too depressed or anxious, but, those kind of days are very rare. The norm for me is to be anxious and depressed. Being on rock today, something clicked inside of me. I totally sucked today. I was scared to be so high up, I felt anxious, I felt like an idiot because I was in such poor climbing shape, but, I also felt happy and excited for more days on rock, more days of learning to control my anxiety so that I can build back what I miss about climbing. So that I can get back to the zen part of climbing and embrace the challenge and grounding impact is has on me. I will always struggle with many things, but, I am going to make a better effort to stop ignoring and keeping myself from the things I need. Hopefully, I can continue to remember who I am and what I need and what I love. I hope everyone is able to do that for themselves, because we all need to.