Unscrambling Your Brain on a Mountain Trail

November 8, 2012
A summer vacation report, an inspirational mountain woman, and a stubborn mule.

Mono Pass

I am sliding back into writing for the blog again after several months absence. Of course, you may not have known that I wasn’t writing current posts because I had written what newspaper commentators call “green” material, because they are always fresh. And my assistant, Renee, made certain the pre-written posts were uploaded twice a week.

Since I’ve returned, I wrote the two posts last week on choosing goals and will write a number of current posts as the mood strikes me, like this one today. But then, as I did in the summer, there will be several that I will have written ahead of time.

You see, now that my fourth book — How to Love a Perfectionist Without Going Crazy — is almost ready for Kindle and a PDF version on Support4Change, I want to focus on a revision of Letting Go of Our Adult Children: When What We Do is Never Enough.

If I am to follow the advice I wrote about last week in Setting Goals and Making Choices and Reduce Stress With a Nothing Day, I know that writing two blog posts a week together with a revised book will be more than I can handle. Therefore, I am getting a number of future posts ready and you should be able to return twice a week for more pieces by me — and sometimes by guests.

In case you are interested, here is my report of what I did this summer.

My Report of “What I Did This Summer”

In June my youngest daughter come to visit with her two children. A few days after she arrived, my husband and I went to Portland with two of our grandchildren on a Road Scholar [Elderhostel] Program called “Grandparents and Grandchildren: Sharing a Common Love of Animals.”

When we returned, my daughter stayed for another month and did a yeoman’s job of cleaning out the garage and making meals. Playing with granddaughters while someone is making your dinner is the kind of visit I heartily recommend.

Over the next couple months, almost all our children and grandchildren came to visit. I was kept busy playing games with them and going to lots of the places in Southern California that tourists like to see. However, we didn’t go to Disneyland, where crowds make a mockery of being in the “happiest place on earth.” Waiting forty-five minutes for a 5 minute ride is for a younger generation.

One of the neat things we did with one of our older grandkids was to take him to a Road Scholar program called “Hollywood Film School” in Los Angeles. He wants to be in the entertainment business and this was a chance for him to get a glimpse of what he needs to do to make that possible — and for me to get some tips for when I make more videos.

Then the last of family activities was a family reunion of my husband’s four brothers and their wives in Oceanside, down near San Diego, the end of September. The house was on a lagoon and quiet, except for an occasional train.

A Mountain Woman Worth Her Weight in Beef Jerky

Now I’d like to tell you about a front page article titled “A High Sierra State of Mind” in the Los Angeles Times on Oct. 26, 2012 (so you know this post is pretty fresh). It tells the story of a self-reliant woman who sounds like someone I’d like to meet. It reminded me of a mule and a book. I’ll tell you about the mule below and about the book in the next post.

Mary Breckenridge had been a cook on commercial High Sierra trips for a number of years when, a dozen years ago, she began taking solitary trips into the mountains every September. Now, at 64, with arthritis and other problems, she wonders if she can make her annual trek by herself.

The picture accompanying the article caught my attention with its panorama view of Mono Pass and high country similar to many places I’ve gone backpacking when I was still able to backpack. The picture at the top of this post is one I took on a mule ride in 2004. (I’ll tell you more about that below.)

When Mary describes mornings when there was ice scenes were described, I also remember mornings when I awoke to ice in the water bucket. I’m glad I wasn’t alone and that my husband was a gem who brought me hot chocolate before I got out of the tent. It’s a neat way to greet the world.

In any case, I found the article interesting for several reasons.

A Reminder of How to Capture a Moment in Time

What she discovered on her first trip alone — and all those that followed — was focus. She uses the trips to counter feeling “scrambled in the brain” — by truly experiencing being where she is, a technique we can all use in the pace of life today.

The article said:

Someone once told Mary that the way to hold a moment in your mind forever is to list at least three things you can see, three you can hear, smell, feel.

She rides Surprise [her horse] beneath cliffs scuff-marked by ancient glaciers, adding to her lists: Her favorite flower — shooting stars — just past bloom. A jagged ridgeline, the smell of dust and horse sweat and butterscotch pines. Her skin prickled by sun, the shade of her hat on her face. Surprise’s breathing. Silence.

She hangs back.

“Being alone in the scenery, you get a sense of being a very small but very important part of everything around you,” she says.

My own experience tells me she is right on. The times I remember in the mountains are the times when I immersed my senses in everything around me. Today I can call upon those memories in a heart beat.

A Reminder of Bruno, a Yosemite Mule With a Stubborn Streak

In 2004 my husband and I had a great adventure visiting five High Sierra Camps via mule. It sounded perfect in planning.

Bruno the Mule

Our clothes and personal gear would be carried by the mules, at night we would stay in a tent, hot breakfast and dinner would be served family style in the mess hall, lunch would be packed for the trail, and all we had to do would be to enjoy the scenery.

Of course, we were told to get in a little horseback riding before the trip to get ourselves in shape. We did. The only part of our plans that we overlooked was the part that involved mules, rather than horses, specifically the innocent-looking Bruno to which I was assigned.

For six days we went on many steep up-and-down trails in mountains, more steep than we’d expected. In fact, four women from South Carolina were in our group of eight, and all were experienced horsewomen and/or owned horses. They had been down the Grand Canyon on mule and said this was the worst trail they’d ever been on. Of course, mules, being what they are, were far more sure-footed than the horses ridden by the husband and wife wranglers who lead us through the wilderness. But it took a lot of energy to stay upright and keep my mule from browsing along the way.

Since a mule has more muscles in his neck that I have in my whole body on a good day, pulling his head up once he started eating was impossible. The trick was to jerk the reigns just before he put his head down. But we also were told to give our mules lots of reign while going up or down because that made it easier for the mule to keep his balance. It also allowed the mule’s head to be closer to the ground, which was closer to grass. With little distance to move toward it since the reign was slack, he did more grazing than he would have with a better horsewoman. Mulewoman? And Bruno didn’t give a fig if he brushed past a tree and scrapped my knee or even took off my kneecap. Just another tourist. Just another load to bear.

My husband’s mule, Angus, was extremely skittish and Bob, who admits he’s no horseman/muleman, walked about half the way, which could be more than ten miles. At the end of every day we would take a nap before dinner in our cabin. There being no electricity, there wasn’t much else to do anyway and reading in bed wore out batteries.

Was the scenery great? Absolutely.

Was it an adventure? You bet your life.

Would we do it again? Not on your life.

At least not until they invent a guaranteed anti-aging technique. Such trips are for much younger people, or at least older folks in better shape than we are. My inability to get Bruno to pay attention to my wishes taught me all the humility I need right now.

The Next Post Will be Wild

The newspaper article and my memories of the Sierras remind me of Wild, a book I am reading to a blind friend of mine. It is about a woman who takes a solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, a trail that runs from the California border to Canada (though she does miss some segments).

In fact, I think I’ll make the next post about the book. I highly recommend it if for nothing else than her descriptions of what it feels like to walk those mountain trails by yourself. She definitely got her brains unscrambled as she healed some parts of her past and became more acquainted with who she was.


Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


Diversity of Church Architecture Around the World

June 4, 2012
Discover the great diversity of architectural styles in places of worship.


Expand Your Horizons and Enrich Your Life

When you learn something new, share it with your friends and loved ones. Not only will it give you something to talk about, it will enrich all of your lives.


While looking at the photorealistic paintings for Who Wants a Picture of Dirty Dishes?, I discovered that the Bored Panda website has a number of fascinating photos. That’s where I came across 50 Most Extraordinary Churches of the  World.

Church built into rock

I wished the collection had included more than Christian churches, for temples and mosques would expand out ideas for how we (at least meaning architects) think buildings of worship are meant to look. However, the variety of styles was absolutely amazing.

It was hard to choose one picture to illustrate this post, but I thought this very ancient church, built into a rock centuries ago, would do as well as some much more modern edifices. In our trip to France last September, we road down the Seine, rather than this canal, so didn’t see this. However, we did see several churches that were very impressive. [Read the paragraphs below the picture.]

According to the notation under this picture:

“This is the chapel of St-Gildas, which sits upon the bank of the Canal du Blavet in Brittany, France. Built like a stone barn into the base of a bare rocky cliff, this was once a holy place of the Druids. Gildas appears to have travelled widely throughout the Celtic world of Corwall, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. He arrived in Brittany in about AD 540 and is said to have preached Christianity to the people from a rough pulpit, now contained within the chapel.” [From Cruising French Waterways by Hugh McKnight p.150)

I wished the collection of churches would have included Joan of Arc Church in Rouen, France. What struck me as special about that church is that it was built after the Second World War in the tradition used in many old churches by giving the building the shape of an upturned boat.

For me, the best was the inside, where you could see stained glass windows that date from the Renaissance (1520-1530). They had been saved in 1944 from the bombing of the nearby ancient Saint Vincent’s church and buried in the ground. Now they create a pattern of scenes arranged in a way that feels feel as though they were meant for the 20th century.

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Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


How a Hunter Changed My Mind

June 3, 2011
Opening your eyes to a new point of view requires willingness to listen and to see things from another person’s perspective.


Brief Note: Have you been checking out the Love Your Life Summit? It formally started yesterday and there is still time to view excellent interviews with some people who know a lot about becoming successful in adding love into your daily life.


On Saturday we returned from ten days in Montana to celebrate the wedding of our oldest grandson and now I want to share an experience from that trip in a different way than I usually do. I’m turning the illustration of the picture I took into a puzzle.

When you click on the arrow, it will take you to the Jigzone website, where you can solve it easily, since I have chosen the 20-piece classic cut. Or you can make it more difficult by going up to 247 piece triangles, in which case you are either super smart or have way too much time on your hands.

By the way, can you tell if this is a typical, semi-irregular, or irregular elk? Do you even know what those terms mean?  (The answer is at the end.)
Click to Mix and Solve

The picture was taken at the Elk Foundation exhibit in Missoula, Montana, last Saturday. We had a couple hours to kill before needing to return the rental car and catch our plane. So one of the places we decided to see was the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation exhibit.

It was a most interesting experience for me that began when we started to see a short film on elk. We had expected a typical nature movie about the life of elk, how long they live, their habits, etc. Instead, it extolled the value of hunting these majestic animals. Since I’m not a hunting enthusiast, I was put off by the movie and walked out to the lobby, where I got into a conversation with a hunter.

What he said completely changed my perspective. He spoke of the majesty of the animals and how hunting is needed to cull the herds and keep them healthy. With too many elk, their range becomes unsustainable. It is necessary to kill some of them in some way.

Also, as I thought about it, I’ve had venison, which is quite good tasting, and decided that perhaps this is a more authentic approach to eating meat. Buying a roast at the grocery store is a sanitized approach. We don’t see the slaughterhouse. We don’t see the steer being killed. With hunting for food, the hunter is intimately involved in putting meat on the table.

Of course, I am opposed to the useless slaughter of animals just for fun, which I realize is one reason many people are against hunting. But now I realize that keeping the environment healthy for animals is a reasonable approach to wildlife and habitat conservation.

What experience have you had in which a casual encounter with a stranger caused you to change your mind?

ANSWER: The more symmetrical an elks antlers are, the more regular he is.

Did you enjoy this post?
Here are a some related posts from this blog, and articles from the Support4Change website:


How Has Travel Enriched Your Relationships?

June 21, 2010
Read how a trip to Machu Picchu is enjoyed by a couple who has learned how to travel well together.

As I started to type in the date on this post, I was shocked when I realized that it IS June 21. ALREADY. The first day of summer wasn’t supposed to arrive until Wednesday so that I would have time to send cards for my son’s anniversary. Darn. Life is moving too fast for me to keep track of all I need to keep track of. But then, it’s not so slow that it drags.

In any case, as I begin this post, YouTube is uploading a video I just completed on the trip we took to Machu Picchu, which was part of our 50th wedding celebration. In addition to videos I made earlier of our trip to South America — Impressions of the Galapagos Islands and How to Visit Quito — I will include the new video below to show you that people in long-term relationships can survive the trials that travel sometimes brings. By this time we’ve learned how to give to the other person when that is needed on a vacation, and when to ask for something we need.

On our vacations we have very few arguments (though I won’t say that in the past we’ve always seen eye-to-eye on what to do), but we’ve managed to balance some of what he wants (trains and dams) and what I want (museums and gardens). Of course, it helps if you both want to go to a special place, like Machu Picchu. And I can tell you that in this trip to the “Lost City of the Incas,” 7,970 ft above sea level, I needed his help and he liked having me along. Now I have four new travel rules if we go back there again:

  1. Don’t fall as you get off the plane in Cuzco and twist your ankle.
  2. Go anyway.
  3. If you do need help, bring walking sticks. (While there were signs that walking sticks weren’t allowed, our guide said that when you really need them, they don’t mind. They just don’t want people, meaning children, to use them to damage the ruins. I wouldn’t have made it without them in the thin air.)
  4. Bring your husband (or other suitable substitute). It gives you someone to help boost you up the higher steps and to share the memories with when you return.

When you watch the video below, imagine what it would be like to visit there with someone you love. Then ask yourself this question:

How do I allow travel to enrich my relationships?

Hope you enjoy this video as much as I’ve enjoyed making it.

Enrich Your Life By Traveling to Ecuador

May 3, 2010
In this short video, enjoy a visit to Quito, Ecuador, the highest legal capital in the world, with suggestions for making it a memorable trip.

Although I hoped to write for the blog more often last week, I didn’t because I was busy switching articles from the old blog format to this one. That meant a lot of changing fonts and other corrections as I went from one to the other. However, I’ll be through with the transfers soon enough and should have another original post by tomorrow or Wednesday.

In the meantime, if you’d like to see another example of the progress I’m making from my self-taught Vegas Movie Studio program, here is one from the three days we spent in Quito, Ecuador, over Christmas. It’s less than three minutes and may give you ideas for planning a trip for yourself. And if you’ve been to Ecuador, I’ll love to hear of your own experience.

Incidentally, when you come to the end, you will notice that it says “To enrich your life and your relationships, visit Support4Change.com.” I decided to make use of the “billboard” space available in the video to remind family, friends, and others who may see it on YouTube, about the site.

Besides, you may notice that the new subheading for the blog is “Enriching Your Life, Enriching Your Relationships.” This seems to better fit the goal I have for the Support4Change website as well.