Leaving Espejo Beach the next day I found myself restless, I was looking forward to getting to Phantom Ranch in two days. In my heart, Phantom Ranch was a way for me to go home, a way for me to leave this trip and I was set on hiking out. I wanted to go home, I didn’t want to be in the Grand anymore and for those who know me well, the fact I wanted out of Grand Canyon meant I was not in a good place. I can’t remember a time ever on any trip when I truly wanted to leave the Grand, but, I did then. I didn’t like or enjoy the big group dynamic, or the production each day of packing up and setting up camp. I did not fit in, I did not connect with anyone. I was so very different than everyone. I missed simplicity and peace in the backcountry and that was not being found on this trip. As we made our way down the River, I started remembering all of the trips, summits and routes I had done out there.
We passed Tanner, which was the start of my very first packrafting trip not even a year prior. There in Tanner Rapid, I had flipped my boat, which was completely expected seeing as I had never been in a packraft before and that was the first rapid I had ever run. I remembered being terrified and intimidated by the force of the water. Passing Tanner and continuing down the River helped me work through that fear. I knew that I was more capable now and that the water and I were developing a pretty amazing relationship. I knew that the water’s power would always scare me, but, I was starting to let some of that fear go. My trip from Tanner to New Hance last year had sparked a new love for me and there I was on a full Grand Canyon river trip and despite all of the wonderful feelings, I still felt like I wanted to go home. It is hard to be out there with a group of strangers who you feel are so different than you, it is hard to put your idea of what a trip is supposed to be aside and adapt to a group dynamic that you feel is not good, not right. I was homesick and also walking through my grief, which of course did not help with feeling lonely. I felt stuck in a group that I did not connect with and it was a pretty overwhelming feeling.
Once we arrived at Rattlesnake, where we were camping, I hiked up towards Tabernacle, I had to get some breathing room. I had to just be there, in my favorite place, without anyone else, without all of the stuff at camp. I needed the Grand and me to have some time together. The ridge up to Tabernacle is awesome, slightly exposed, views every which way it is hard to chose where to look and what to take in. But, I needed that!! I needed the Canyon to overwhelm me with it’s beauty and peace, it’s magic. So I hiked until I wanted to just sit and watch the Grand. Watch the River turn, watch the birds play in the sky, and be still among it’s grandeur. There was no influence from the outside world, the music blaring from camp was not able to be heard, the quietness and peace was wonderful. Me and the Canyon and that was it, just the way I like it. Nothing else was needed, nothing. Time stood still and for those moments I was able to in a way recharge. I cried when my mind drifted to Martha and all that she was missing, all that we were missing without her here. I smiled when I imagined her sitting next to me and then laughed when I thought about Martha ever doing an adventure like this. Yeah right, Martha, she would have never ever done that, but, for some reason, I felt her there next to me, like a good friend, sitting there with me in total silence, soaking up the moment. Then, I cried again when I realized I had to go back to camp and was again reminded Martha was gone. I wiped the tears from my face and headed back to camp. To be continued….
We stayed at Hot Na Na beach our first evening, it was there that I came to dislike the production of raft trips. It is normal for rafters to carry so much crap, so many things that just seem so opposite of why I enjoy and crave the backcountry. We had tables, chairs, more dishes and cookware than I owned back home, coolers full of meals that required a lot of preparation and time. We had an excessive amount of stuff and unloading it at the end of the day and reloading it every morning and then dealing with it all at camp in so many ways I felt robbed us of just being there in the moment, of just taking it all in. I am a very simple person and I was not used to bringing modern day comforts into the backcountry. I was not used to having more than a backpack in the backcountry. I knew the very first evening that this trip was not my style and it bothered me. I remember feeling like, “can’t we just be here on this beach and enjoy it, enjoy the simplicity of where we are.” Why do we need all this crap? Why do we need constant music? “Isn’t the Grand enough by itself, why do these people feel like they need to add their own noise to it”?
After dinner and setting up camp, I remember lying in my tent realizing that this was going to be an extremely different experience for me, one that would test me in ways I never thought would occur in the backcountry. I would be tested in a social way- Could I deal with all of these strangers, with all of their personalities that were so far from mine. Could I deal with the daily and nightly music and chores that ripped me away from the actual experience of the Grand? Could I find a place in this group and on this trip? Could I make it to the end? I wasn’t sure!! Feeling all of this and then letting the idea of what I thought this trip would be die off made me feel lonely, like I did not fit in and to be perfectly honest, I didn’t fit in.
Day two started early, just as the new light appeared. It was cold out and I was not feeling like paddling my packraft. I rode in one of the bigger raft as we made our way down River from Hot Na Na to Nautiloid Beach. I felt so out of place all day. I was so out of my comfort zone being in a big group, until this trip I used to think 4 people in a group with me in the backcountry was a huge group. I preferred being alone or being with one other person. I started to feel the urge to plan on hiking out at Phantom Ranch. I knew Phantom Ranch was coming up and that it was a way out. A way home. I was so unsettled inside and I felt so lonely. I felt like, this is freaking GRAND CANYON, don’t you guys get it, don’t you see what I see, feel how I feel? It was so foreign to me to be in the Canyon with such a big group and have such a different manner of camping, setting up camp, etc.
The next day (Day 3) we were headed to Nankoweap, one of the coolest places in all of Grand Canyon. I knew that area well and I was excited to get back there. A few miles from Nautiloid Camp was a beach called, Martha’s Beach, this pulled at my heart strings and I felt that I had to stop there, even if just for a few minutes. This is when my grief started to creep into the trip. I remembered how my sister, Martha, was always my biggest fan and then I thought about how I really hadn’t processed her death. Logically, I knew she was gone. But, I had yet to allow myself to work through it, to truly feel it. I had written about the pain of losing her a million times, I had talked about it to those I loved, but, I had not walked through it. I had not felt it. So I did not care what the condition of Martha’s Beach was, I had to stop there.
I got in my packraft and headed down the River, trying to stay close to Matt one of the kayakers because he knew where Martha’s Beach was and I did not want to pass it. The first rapid of the day came- 36 mile rapid and I successfully ran it. I continued to try and stay close to Matt because I knew Martha’s Beach was coming up, after a few more miles of easy paddling Matt pointed it out to me, it was a small beach on River left, mostly washed away and not very welcoming. I did not care. I wanted to get out of my boat and stand on that beach. Allison who was in her ducky boat pulled over with me and kindly took my picture. Not because it was a stunning beach or a Grand Canyon must see, but, because it meant something to me. I wanted to stay there for awhile, but, I knew I only had a few minutes. I tried to think of what the right thing was for me to do there, but, I didn’t really know, so I just stood there, looking up at the Canyon walls that seemed to go up forever and I pictured Martha. I pictured her smile, I pictured all of the encouraging and supportive things she had told me and for a split second she was there right next to me on the Beach. I then smiled and got back into my boat.
The next handful of miles were pretty uneventful, until we got near President Harding rapid and I got a rundown about how to run it, I was told to make sure that I avoided the rock and the hole. I went for it, scared and still knowing absolutely nothing about water or how to read it. I had a successful run; I was relieved I stayed in my boat. Actually I was surprised I had stayed in my boat. As the day continued and River miles came and left, I began to get tired. Nanko rapid was to be our final rapid of the day, and it is a long rapid, not crazy big, but, long. Approaching Nanko rapid I began to feel really wiped out, we had paddled 18 miles and I was tired. I was also fighting back my grief. I setup for Nanko rapid, paddled into the first set of waves. I kept my boat up and fought through the water, until a little over half way in it and I gave in to my fatigue and flipped. My boat went one way and I went another. I then got into a bigger boat and stayed in it for the last few minutes of the day, until we arrived at Nankoweap Beach, where we were camping for the night. When we arrived, the sun was still shining and we all took solace in the remaining afternoon sun. Three days in now and we were at RM 54. To be continued…
It is early in the morning of January 12th, 2022, maybe 5:45 am. I am in my cold dew covered tent a few hundred feet from the Colorado River at Lees Ferry. As I crawl out of my tent, all I can see with my dull headlamp is my breath that is creating circles in the early light of the day. I struggle to stand up and leave my sleeping bag. But, the day has started and I must get up. I am filled with anticipation, excitement and anxiety about the next 21 days. Today, in just a few hours I will paddle away in my packraft from Lees Ferry and head into the Grand Canyon to run the length of the most magnificent and magical place on earth.
I am with a group of total strangers and I am already feeling homesick. I try to stuff my homesickness inside and prepare for the day ahead. The big rafts are rigged, my packraft is ready, the kayakers are ready, but, for some reason I do not feel ready. I feel scared. I feel lonely and yet, despite all of that, I also feel strong and consumed with my never ending desire for adventure. After our NPS ranger talk and packing up the final things from Lees Ferry I put my pretty little hot pink Alpacka packraft in the River and started to paddle. Matt, Zac and Ed were all kayaking and they had decades of experience. As for me, I had only ever run a single rapid in my packraft and I had flipped in it. Water terrified me, absolutely terrified me, especially, in the Grand and after flipping in Tanner during my first packrafting trip in 2021. I was happy to run flat water all day and when I decided to bring my packraft on this trip I assumed I would paddle it a few times, but, I had zero idea of what was to come and how over the next three weeks that little boat and I would really get to know one another. I had no idea how I would change along the miles on the River.
The first set of rapids are – Badger and Soap. In my mind I could hear my friends telling me how running Badger and Soap rapids would be scary, especially, if I flipped and swam. Matt and Zac tried hard to give me advice about how to read the water and what the best lines would be through the riffles and rapids. Approaching Badger was hard for me, you could hear the roar of it. My heart sank, I was frozen with fear and anxiety. I wanted to get in a big raft, but, there I was in my packraft with these crazy experienced kayakers and the big rafts were a good distance behind us. I followed Matt into Badger rapid, it was a wild ride, I was so scared, but, I managed to stay in my boat. It was a real rush and I couldn’t believe that I had a successful run in it. Badger was the second rapid I had ever run and I stayed in my boat 🙂 I felt pretty proud of that. A few miles later the raging sounds of Soap rapid echoed up the Canyon. I ran Soap and ended up flipping and swimming it. I was instantly reminded why I was terrified of whitewater. Why I preferred flat water. Being bucked out of a small packraft and into a freezing powerful swarm of whitewater is intense- water forcing itself into your mouth, up your nose and swimming/floating through big waves is intimidating. It disorients you and it terrified me. However, at the very same time, another part of me was learning to love the power and rush of whitewater, I just didn’t know it then. I wasn’t able to self rescue during Soap, but, Matt and Zac assisted me in getting back in my boat. My drysuit was not sealed and I was now completely wet and cold. The adrenaline rush was exhausting and draining. I was again becoming homesick and just wanted to get to camp. We paddled on to Hot Na Na beach and setup camp for the night. What a hell of a first day it had been!
Tonight, I was walking back to my 4runner that was parked downtown. I let Zoroaster in and then walked to the back of my vehicle to get something out of it. A white truck pulled into the space behind me and proceeded to try and park. I waited for him to park before going into the trunk. He got very close to my bike rack on the back of my 4runner, I told him to please be careful and not hit my bike rack. He smiled at me, then drove right into my bike rack, breaking it, then reversed, then went forward again and hit my bike rack again. I told him he had just hit my bike rack, he heard me, his window was down. He began to call me a bitch, ask me, “what the fuck I wanted,” on and on he continued swearing at me and being scary aggressive. He then got out of his truck with his girlfriend, I told him that I was calling the police. He seemed to be intoxicated. He would not stop swearing at me while I was on the phone with 911, at one point he threw money at me and told me to fix my car. Even his girlfriend was trying to calm him down. He then drove off and told me what bar he was going to. A short time later, the police arrived and they did their report, they went over to get him at the bar he was at and cited him for criminal damage and disorderly conduct. Thankfully, a man sitting a way aways from my vehicle saw it all happen and gave a witness statement to the police. I will have to go to court and get restitution to pay for the damage.
But, the worst part is, that being put in that situation really impacted me emotionally, it brought me right back to the times where my ex husband David Beckley would threaten me, get drunk, call me a fucking cunt and a bitch, become violent, intimidate me, break my things, etc. The times when I would freeze and not know what to do or what to say. The situation tonight triggered all of those bad memories of the abuse from David and it took a huge physiological toll on me. I felt sick, I felt trapped, I had a headache, my heart rate went crazy and I couldn’t think clearly. I wanted to break down and cry, cry about all of the abuse from David, cry about all of the times he made me feel sad, scared, alone, worthless and less than human. Even months after divorcing him; I still very much live with the damage from what he did. I find it hard to protect myself, defend myself or believe in myself. I second guess myself on every decision. I don’t trust men. I am jumpy. I am hurt inside in ways that I am not sure I can or will recover from. The things David did to me were beyond cruel and tonight was a strong reminder that I have not processed the abuse. It was a reminder that the abuse still lives in my body, in my brain and it comes to life again whenever I am triggered. It is terrible, it makes me feel awful, it makes me feel weak. Weak because I can’t control the triggers, I can’t stand up to them- I give in to them. I am blindsided by them and they are so much more powerful than I am. They knock me over and just like that any progress I have made is gone. I remember so clearly the night David raped me. I remember all of the times he broke my things, drank, all of the name calling. I remember the day my little sister passed away and how he refused to come to the funeral with me, how evil he was to me in the days following my sister’s passing. I hold so much sadness and hurt from it all, from all of my time with David. I try to live each day and focus on the good parts of life, on my future and all, but, then I am right back at the bad moments and my life starts spinning in circles that make me so dizzy it seems impossible to get control of things again. Having a normal balance or routine seems impossible. I believe many other people deal with this sort of thing, with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other chronic stressors or issues. We need to talk about it more, we need to encourage others to share their stories, to talk, to work towards processing and healing because we all have hurts and we all need a little more compassion and love. I chose to write. To be open and raw. For me writing is therapeutic and calming. It helps regulate me. Hopefully from my words others will feel understood. I am aware the triggers will come and go. I am aware I have terrible days, bad days and good days. I only hope in time my depression, anxiety and triggers will ease up. That they will cease to control my life and fade away to become just a part of my life, but, not the entirety of it. I do my own personal work towards that. I immerse myself in the wild, in adventure, I stay away from most people, because I find peace just by myself. I know myself and what I need and I work hard to allow myself those things even when it makes “normal” life harder or even when I have to be different, live differently. I still try. It would be easy to call it quits and give up, that is a constant thought in my head, but, then I would just be letting my past win. It is a daily battle, a battle I never wanted, but, have to fight.
I finally made it into Pie Town about 20 minutes before dark. I stayed the night at the Toaster House, a place that welcomes hikers and bikers and provides showers, places to sleep and good memories for travelers. I met a few hikers there and we shared a night filled with good food, laughs, stories of our adventures and our lives. I appreciated that night so very much, since, I had spent most of the Divide alone, it was great to connect with other like minded people and share in one another’s adventures. I slept well that night. In the morning, we all made the short walk to the restaurant to eat pie. I filled up with pie and a huge breakfast. I struggled with what I should, should I stay the day and take a day off or should I get back on my bike and continue onwards. Around noon, I decided to pack up and head out. I filled up my water bladders, bought one more piece of pie, made sure my phone was charged, said goodbye to my new friends and climbed back onto the saddle of my bike.
I was very reluctant to take up my friend, Steve’s invitation for a packrafting trip in the Grand this past month. In fact, I tried almost everything to get out of it. I have an incredibly deep rooted fear of water. I hate it. I have had so many scary moments in water-being swept down stream in a cold Sierra Creek losing my trekking poles during my PCT thru hike, falling out of a raft on the Arkansas River in Colorado during a training class over a decade ago, and being always afraid of what was beneath me in the ocean and other bodies of water that I had been in during family vacations and such.
I was up the entire night before our trip was supposed to start, I didn’t sleep at all. This is a very common thing for me, I don’t sleep. I am too anxious to sleep and it does not matter how exhausted I am. I texted Steve around 6 am that morning and told him I couldn’t go into the Grand being sleep deprived, being anxious and all kinds of stressed like I had been for months leading up to that trip. He told me it was okay if I didn’t go and that he would be Flagstaff in a few hours if I changed my mind. I hadn’t even gotten my groceries for the trip, I needed to take Zoroaster to the dog sitter. I was a mess, I was exhausted, my eyes burned from the fatigue and my brain was all over the place. But, something inside of me forced me to run to the grocery store, take Zoroaster to the sitters and go on that trip. Steve and Kieran arrived at my house around 10 am and I loaded up my gear, not knowing that this very trip would change my life. We drove the two hours to Lipan Point on the South Rim, I met all of the other guys that were coming along (Dave, Donald, and Brian) They were all very nice and that made it easier to focus on rest of the day. We loaded the lose gear into our packs, we talked for a bit and within an hour or so we were all headed down the Tanner Trail. I could feel my body wanting to shut down, fall over, I was tired. So tired. My pack was extremely heavy, way heavier than I am used to carrying in the Grand. The Tanner Trail is beautiful, open views of the Canyon, rocky trail sections, jagged buttes, and views of many of the summits I have stood on top of. Each mile I felt more tired, more, wasted. By the time we reached the final mile or so I began to hallucinate, my footing was clumsy and my entire body was done. We arrived down on the beach before sunset which allowed for us to get our tents up and setup camp for the night before it was dark. I ate and made some small talk with the guys, but, I found myself tucked into my sleeping bag early. I was proud of myself for overcoming being sleep deprived and for going on the trip. I have unfortunately learned how to push myself physically and mentally when I am sleep deprived because that’s just how it is, I don’t sleep, but, I always desire these big adventures and physical challenges, so I have had to learn how to endure the torture of sleep deprivation and how to put it aside and get what I need to done. The stars that night were epic, they were like diamonds in the sky incased in canyon walls with the relaxing sound of the River echoing throughout the beach. It was paradise. It was perfect. It was everything I loved. I fell asleep and was able to get a few hours of solid sleep. In the morning it was cold, we waited until the sun warmed up the beach and then got ready to head out. The guys decided to put in at Tanner Rapids (River mile 69) to begin our trip. I had never been in a packraft before and I was fearful beyond my normal level of fear when I am doing dangerous things in the Grand. I am no stranger to dangerous activities(scrambling in the Grand, climbing, hiking off trail, etc), but, adding water to the picture made me feel so much more scared of the Grand, the place I so love. I felt so intimidated. I was so damn scared. I asked all the guys whether or not I should attempt to run Tanner Rapids, most said no way or sure, you’ll be fine. I hiked over to see the rapids and get the down low on how to nagivate them- come into the tongue and then paddle left I was told. I kept anxiously asking the guys what I should do and finally I made my decision. I was going in. I was going to paddle Tanner Rapids with absolutely no experience and extreme terror.
I suited up, we got all the rafts ready. Steve went down to be ready to play safety and I went with the other guys to put our rafts in. I got in my packraft and started paddling, my fear began to increase, my anxiety was raging. After a few minutes we all headed towards the tongue of the Rapids, I remember looking back at Brian and asking if I could get out. I was terrified. There was no turning back. I could hear the Rapids screaming in front of me. I was told to follow Kieran and I did. I paddled up and over a few big Rapids, clenching my paddle for dear life. I was so scared, but it was so exhilarating, so exciting, then all of a sudden another rapid hit the side of my packraft and I went overboard in the Colorado River, swimming, being bashed into rocks and bouncing up and down in the water. I was terrified, but, I did what I was told to, I held onto my paddle and did not let it go. I saw my boat float away and after a few minutes when I could finally see the Canyon walls around me and I knew that I wasn’t going to drown, I actually became amazed at how beautiful the view was from the River. How even though I was terrified, I felt a sort of peace I had never felt before in the Canyon. You probably wouldn’t have thought that was what I was experiencing because of all the little girl, horror movie screaming that I was doing 🙂 I handed my paddle to Kieran when he paddled near me and attempted to crawl in his boat. But, Donald came by and I grabbed his tow strap on his boat and I was towed to the shore on the North side. I remember getting out of the water and just releasing everything and every emotion I had from that swim. I was cold. I was terrified, but strangely calm at the same time. Donald left me there on the shore and went to get my packraft so he could tow me back to Tanner Beach where everyone else was. When I was finally alone sitting there on the rocks and looking at the beauty around me, I started to cry, I wanted to call my parents. I remembered why I hated water and how powerful it was. How scared it made me. Donald came back and towed me across to Tanner Beach and then we all took a break. After about 30 minutes, we packed up our rafts and headed towards Unkar. The water for the rest of the day wasn’t crazy like Tanner Rapids, there was some “riffles” but I stayed in my boat and enjoyed the views. I felt so humbled, so small- I was a speck in the Colorado River at the bottom of the most Grand place on earth. Everywhere I looked there was wonder, beauty, magic. I could see summits that I had climbed from a different view, I remembered all of the moments that I had spent in the Canyon, moments that encompassed every emotion and challenge, moments now gone that are only etched in my heart. I had a smile the entire day. I was like a little girl on Christmas morning, it was overwhelming. It was a completely different perspective of the Grand. A perspective I fell in love with that very day. I was hooked. I was stoked. I was terrified as hell, but at the same time, I was so intrigued and happy. I knew then, that packrafting was in my life to stay. We arrived at Unkar and set up camp, we hiked up to see the ruins and as we made our way back to camp the sunset turned gold, the glow on the Canyon walls was magnificent. The views couldn’t have been more magical. We ate dinner, laughed, talked about life, ate more food, and prepared for a cold rainy night. The sky turned dark, the stars faded away, the temps dropped and it eventually started to rain. I slept alright that night- between the pidder patter of rain and the sound of the River it was a beautiful concert of sound. In the morning, we were all slow to get going, the sun seemed as though it would never come out. It was freaking cold. We could see the snow on the rim and then it started to snow on us 🙂 Yay, snow on a River trip 🙂 It didn’t last too long and though it didn’t really ever warm up, we had to get going. We had to paddle to Hance, our destination for the night. We got into our boats and head down the River. The wind found us and began to challenge us and make every single paddle harder. I was just worried about falling out again and not knowing what was ahead on the River. I became better at paddling that day, I started to find my groove. I was so cold though and so was everyone else. The wind made the cold worse, but, the views, oh my goodness, the views. Not even the coldest day could take away the amazement of that place. I was mostly smiles and a little bit of shivering. We decided to pull over and warm up at 75 mile canyon. We needed to warm up and eat something and assess the rest of the day because of the cold weather. We pulled our boats onto shore, we left our gear tied to the boats and found a nice break spot to eat and put warm clothes on. We then decided to not paddle the Rapids there and instead portage our boats down River.
After an hour or so we began to find the motivation to portage our boats down the beach and then we headed back to our boats to start the tiring process. My boat was gone!!! GONE! NOT THERE! I asked Brian if he knew where my boat was, he said that he thought Steve had carried it down the beach for me. So I started hiking down the beach and ran into Steve. I asked him if he had portaged my boat down the beach, he said no he hadn’t. My loaded boat was officially missing. We all kinda freaked out and ran up and down the beach thinking maybe it got stuck in the rocks somewhere. I felt terrible, I had lost the boat Steve let me use. We were all looking for it when Donald noticed it was up River tipped upside down. The wind had taken my fully loaded boat and blown it up River. Thank goodness I had strapped my life vest to my pack on the boat. Donald kindly paddled up River to recover my boat, everything was perfectly attached to it still, just all wet. When my damn boat finally came back we all portaged our gear and boats down River. We were all exhausted and cold and stressed from the events. But, without events such as that, the adventure isn’t complete. We then hiked up 75 mile and enjoyed the twists and turns of the walls and the beauty that trapped us down in there. Everywhere you looked you could climb or explore, you could get lost within its slots and live down there forever, if you wanted to 🙂 After our hike, it was time to get back into our cold wet boats, at least we had all of our boats now 🙂 it was around 2 more miles of paddling before we reached Hance beach. The water was calm and the wind came in and out. The sun began to set above Hance Beach lighting up the summits of the towering temples with the last of the daylight. The day was coming to an end, we filtered water, we dried everything out, we ate, we laughed, we talked about future goals and Grand dreams. We talked about how we were dreading the 6.5 mile hike up to the Rim with our heavy packs. We talked about our trip, about the memories we had created in only a few days, memories with strangers, who were now friends. We talked about what a wonderful life it is to be lost in the Grand, to be able to adventure and live life to the fullest. We ate more food and then all headed to bed. The wind echoed for awhile on the beach, the cool air and the Canyon vibes put me to sleep. What a day it had been.
In the morning, we packed up pretty early and got ready for the hike out-4,000 plus feet of climbing in 6.5 miles with ridiculously heavy packs. The going was slow up the New Hance, we all had a rough go getting to the top. The hike isn’t usually hard, but with the added weight of packrafting gear it made it more challenging. I brought 5 liters of water and was out around mile 4. We stopped around 1.5-2 miles from the top and feasted on the rest of our food. It was like a Thanksgiving dinner- tortillas, avocado, apple, candy, bell pepper, hummus and pretzels, gum, chocolate, peanut butter- that gave us all a little bit of a boost. I took a million breaks along the way up, always being impressed with where I was, what I could see. Even though I had seen it many times before on that very same trail, it never get old, the shadows, the colors, the feeling is new each and every time I see it because I am different each and every time I see it, different because of my experiences in the Grand, because every experience in that magical place changes me, inspires me, makes me see the world and life differently. It is a true blessing. It is all the magic I have ever needed in my life. It is all of my dreams and all of my aspirations. It is my heaven. It is the greatest gift I have in this world. As we got closer to the Rim the trail became snow and the warmth of the day faded off. I was pretty wiped when Donald and I got to the top. Steve was there waiting for us. Steve and Donald went to get the other car which was at Lipan Point and I waited for Kieran, Dave and Brian to finish the hike. I sat there alone on the rim next to the road on my pack, looking at the yardsale of gear around me, thinking about what I had just done, what I had overcome, the fears that I faced dead on, what I had learned and what I had almost missed out on because I was nervous and scared. I was so proud of myself for making the trip, handling a terrifying experience with grace and pushing through it. For learning something totally new and scary for me. And then, my mind and my heart filled up with ideas for future trips, of what raft I would buy, of when I could be back on the River. I started to miss the River, I started to miss the views and perspective of being on the River. Then, my hunger and fatigue kicked in and I became really cold. I changed out of my wet sweaty clothes and put warm clothes on. A few minutes later I heard Kieran cheering as they arrived at the top. Kieran, Dave and Brian were out and everyone was safe, that’s always the main goal of any trip. We ate pizza outside of the Park and then headed home, filled with inspiration for adventure, new friendships and a handful of great memories. This trip was a big deal for me, I cannot tell you how many opportunities I have refused because of my anxiety, because of my worries. I have kept myself from many things because of my struggles with anxiety and I am so glad I did not do that this time. Another wonderfully, crazy and perfect adventure in the books.
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❤️
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.
David Isaiah Beckley was my husband, he lied about loving me, he never honored his vows, he drank way too much, he became violent and cruel on so many occasions to me and towards others. His attorney threatened to sue me for defamation recently for writing about the abuse I faced while being with him. David blamed me for everything, he stonewalled me. If I made a mistake, he would completely ignore me-go to his mom’s house, not help with money, not see or talk to me- sometimes this went on for weeks or months at a time. He stonewalled each and every attempt I made at talking about things, trying to work things out or communicate. He lied about everything-going to therapy, his relationships with other women, being sorry for hurting me, getting sober and caring about me. It was all lies.
David raped me in November of 2018 at our apartment. He was drunk. When I attempted to speak to him about it he called me a slut, ignored me or told me I was a liar. He claims he doesn’t remember raping me even though he sent me a text message a few months before the assault, threatening to rape me and sent me texts after apologizing for and admitting it. I felt so lonely and sad. I tried to convince myself it didn’t happen or that it was okay. I told myself to be quiet about it, to protect him from legal trouble, to just deal with it. To just act like it never happened. That did not work out so well. It created deep craters of pain, anger and resentment inside of me. It began to break apart who I was.
I began to believe all the names he called me. I began to believe everything really was my fault. If only I wasn’t in a pissy mood, then he wouldn’t have called me a fucking bitch, or a cunt, he wouldn’t have ignored me for days. If I wasn’t a fucking bitch then he would have come to my sisters funeral with me. I must be controlling to ask him to come get his dog and I who are stranded after work instead of run with his buddy, he’s, right, that was controlling. How could I expect that? I was as bitch. How could I think he’d come see me when I am sick and help me instead of going paragliding? That was so controlling of me, thats what I would tell myself after he yelled at me or called me names. I began to feel as though reasonable requests were wrong and I was in the wrong to expect my husband to put me first or to ever be there for me. Like he said the day my sister died, I was on my own and I needed to leave him out of it. He wanted to be left alone and only be my husband when he wanted to be, otherwise, I was alone. The abuse challenged everything I believed about marriage and it left me feeling so bad about myself. Whatever little self esteem I did have, was gone. He would say to me, “If you were normal, I wouldn’t be violent.” I started to feel like the problem was me and me alone.
David has a very unhealthy dynamic with his mom, he lives with her and always returns to her house when he cannot handle things, its like his castle, where he is protected and no one can touch him or talk to him, even his wife. His mom has him locked up so tight there, that once he’s there, you cannot get him out of there. The morning my sister died, his mother called my father’s office and demanded proof my sister was dead. Of course this would upset anyone, seeing as this is abnormal and hurtful behavior. When I expressed to his mother how awful what she did was, of course, David took her side. How dare I talk to his mom like that? Absolutely zero acknowledge of what she did, it was all my fault and I was in the wrong. David constantly deals with his mom’s drinking and erratic behaviors when she is drunk. It’s a terrible scene and it only serves to encourage his drinking and abusive behavior. She rattles off insults to him when she is drunk, she does crazy things to him and others and she protects David’s poor behaviors at any cost. Some days I would be welcomed into the house with David and other days I wouldn’t be and I would have to sit in his truck outside and wait for him. I never knew when I was welcomed or when I was hated. It was insane. David never stood up for me or for our marriage and he allowed his parents to treat me as though I was less than human. I began to feel so lost and worthless because that’s how he treated me.
I am not looking for sympathy or anything else, I’m just releasing it all off of my heart and in doing so I hope I can start to heal and maybe help others find their courage to leave. I’ve spent long enough feeling broken and sad. I wish I could say that I didn’t love him anymore, but, that would be a lie.
Below is a document off of my phone notes app citing the abuse I faced, the names he called me, the things he did to me. I began documenting it in 2018 as a record for myself to try and give me the courage to leave. I didn’t leave then, but, I did recently.
Dumb Cunt Crazy Weird Bitch Horrible person Says Why would anyone want me Tells me I have little girl wants and ideas He says I make him do what he does, it’s my fault Says he can’t do anything without drinking Says that I am Psycho Ugly Fat Slut Insecure Needy Piece of shit Liar Fuck you Psycho Go fuck someone else I hate you Tells me that i make him drink Calls me a pussy when I say that I’m scared of him when he drinks and how he talks to me Pathetic Stupid Tells me to just get over it when I tell him something that bothers me or hurts me
My anxiety is so bad, I can’t sleep or eat and my nights and days are miserable. I’m filled w so much shame being w him. I’m not perfect, but he’s awful when he drinks, 10 beers tonight, says it’s not a big deal it’s just beer.
He tells our intimate business and issues to everyone. I’m not safe confiding in him
He humiliates me in front of other friends when they are over at our place
He mocks me and laughs at me
Tells me he wants to take care of me and that it’s okay that I’m not working right now, then throws it in my face and uses it against me. He shames me all the time
I tell him to be quiet late at night so our neighbors don’t hear us and he tells me to shut the fuck up or says fuck you
Said he’s so angry he wants to hurt me He says I am deeply disturbed and I’ll probably kill him in his sleep. When I ask him if he thinks he’s disturbed, he says no!
He patronizes me He laughs at me He doesn’t show me he cares, blows me off when I want to talk, says leave me the fuck alone. He says he cares but doesn’t really show me.
Records me Slams bedroom door at night waking up and screaming it’s so fn hot.
Sexually assaulted me, have video recording
He makes me feel uneasy and anxious, I cant bring up any issues with him! He will ignore me, blame me, or attack me.
He said that Everyone in my family knew I was a pos. He called me a Fat ass Threatens to leave all the time When I tell him he is acting crazy, he says you haven’t seen crazy yet. Grabs my jacket and gets in my face
Fat fuck Grabbed my hair and hit my head against the cabinet at my parents house Left and got drunk and came back to my parents house Called me a worthless pos Never wants to talk and tells me to just get over it Condescends me all the time Points his finger in my face Tells me to look at him, fn look at me Said this isn’t bad yet, I’m not cutting your throat or something Says I shouldn’t listen to his mom when she tells me that he isn’t like his dad
12/7/18 Called me a Cunt, psycho Says He’s w me because he feels sorry for me Says we should break up that he doesn’t want me Contradicts everything he says, I don’t know what to believe Hurt Zoroaster Thursday night out on a walk and then attacked me verbally about it when I calmed Zoroaster down after he ran into my arms because he was scared Blame shifting Ignoring me Silent treatment Name calling Making me seem unstable to his family so I look like the bad one Not apologizing for things Says sex w me is not good Dismissing my feelings and thoughts Always is “tired” when I want to talk
Said I have no self respect because I stay with him
I am not allowed to ask him questions or he’ll attack me
Left me at the movie theater, blamed me for having to spend money to get home from the theater and the movie tickets.
I’m the shittest girlfriend I’m selfish Tonight we took a drive out near Faye Canyon and he was drinking, he was driving crazy, carelessly. He says it doesn’t matter because we are on a dirt road. He slid almost hitting a tree. It scared me so much, I got out of his truck and walked all the way home, while he drove alongside of me most of the way saying mean things and taunting me.
Then he said I was a pussy because I got scared when he almost hit a tree
He Grabbed my sides under my chest and pushed me against the wall in between the bedroom and bathroom doors, left red marks on my skin, in pics!
Thursday this week
He was so nice at Bashas though he was very drunk. Started to verbally abuse me when we got home- lazy fat fuck, selfish. Took my phone from me, pushed me twice. Left. I called police. Then he said he almost ran into my 4runner and that he didn’t feel bad for putting his hands on me. Ignored me all Friday
12/15/18 Continues to ignore me, but said via text that I have never done anything for him and that I am selfish. Said he can’t be around me because it’s not safe, he’s the one who drinks and is abusive. Ignores the fact that Zoroaster needs food. And ignores me even though he knows it hurts me. Amazing still no apology for pushing me or what he did! It’s nuts!! Came home super drunk after driving across town and had a breakdown crying for hours. Told me he was gay!
12/22 Said he wanted to Light me on fire Moron Fat ass Lazy I am a witch Kicked me, but then said, he didn’t and if he had I’d be in the hospital Worthless Said I was Entitled Ignored me Got very drunk (13 beers) Said I’ve no work ethic Told me my family wouldn’t care if I died Asked me how far I wanted to walk tonight, then said, I won’t kick you out of the truck here 🙂 like it was funny Told me I was so messed up, so fucked up he said this while he was driving completely intoxicated and emotionally abusing me and I was sitting in his truck trying not to say the wrong thing, being quiet! He says he isn’t fd up and has no issues.
He said I was lazy and bitches about me not working, when he convinced me not to because he said he wanted to take care of me, now he shamed me for his choice
Mocked my suicide attempt and said it Fd up my brain.
Very loud and drunk late at night and I am worried about the neighbors complaining, he says fuck the neighbors and continues to play his loud music on his phone.
Said he’d like to light me on fire
Bitch Got in my face and yelled at me demanded I apologize for something I didn’t do Drinking nonstop On his phone nonstop when we are trying to play a game together- stood up got in my face and dumped the scrabble board over Grabbed my leg while demanding an apology Stupid
Tried to set boundaries with him and tell him how mean he was being, how much he was hurting me- he laughed at me, told me to get the fuck out of our apartment, get the fuck out of his face even though I was sitting on the bed, he said that my fat ass should leave him. That I suck! He’s beyond terrible! It’s hell living w him!
Choked me and told me to leave our apartment- neck is red- there are pics of my neck, after he choked me I was shaking and crying because I was so scared, he said to stop acting like a child, stop shaking. I am an adult and this is life. My throat and neck hurt
12/24 Didn’t apologize for choking me, he said he didn’t when I told him what he did. Spent the day without me, said he didn’t want to be around me because I suck. Said he had to go get me a stupid gift My neck still feels very sore I hate you Don’t want to be w you Rather be In jail than w you I wouldn’t be violent if you were normal Said he isn’t paying rent anymore
7/2019 Blew me off when my sister died Fucking cunt Bitch Ignores me Breaks each and every promise since we got married Terrible husband Attacks me verbally and psychically all the time Blames me for everything I’m fn psycho for wanting him to come to Martha’s funeral w me Never once asked me how I was when my sister died Didn’t even come over and be w me when I found out, blew me off and said I was on my own Drinking again Says he’ll fix my car but doesn’t Financial abuse, promises to help me w money then attacks me and says I should ask my dad for money. wastes money and lies about it so we don’t have money for a place or important things. Uses my credit card but doesn’t help pay for it Told me to quit my job and not go to fire, said he’d take care of me but then mocks me and is mean to me about not working. Says I’m worthless and lazy and too good to work Makes fun of my depression Told me to quit Mick’s and focus on getting side work then he won’t go do bids Won’t give me access to his bank info or money
Refused to come to the ER on 6/30/19 said I was lying and then came after few hours and was so so mean to me Gas lights me Ignores me, I can’t ever rely on him or trust him He’s not ever there for me Was terrible to me when Martha died, completely blew me off and refused to come to the funeral w me His crazy mom called my dads office and demanded a pic of Martha’s dead body Called me a Fn slut Called me a fn Cunt, worthless, ugly and fat Punched me bruised my arm Punched my car by gas tank dented it Drinking so much and saying awful things to me Mocked and laughed at me when I try to talk about when he sexually assaulted me. Tell me to get out of his fn truck and if I pass out he doesn’t care he’ll run me over Blows me off for Xmas Blows me off for new year’s Lies to me about drinking Blows Zoroaster and I off when we need help so he can run w a friend, Zoroaster and I walk the highway home. Blows off our anniversary Blows off Valentine’s Day Calls me terrible names, mocks me, makes me feel so alone and of no value Refuses to talk to me Says he hopes I get Coronavirus and throws a gallon of water at me bruising my lower back.
Pushed me and hurt my neck while I was walking away from his truck. Called me names Blew off another pregnancy Drinking and ignoring me Lying to me about work Lying to me about go to counseling I setup Beckleys Tree service and David blew it off. David broke every promise and marriage vow. Always said he wanted to work things out, but, never DID anything to make that happen, all talk. Blamed everything on me
I Filed divorce 6-16-20 Called me psycho Said he didn’t love me Said he hated me Told me to get the fuck out of his life