Thanks for remembering and sharing this insanely majestic place with us. Sometimes it was hard to put these experiences into words, but on the following pages I do try.
Disclaimer: The following accounts should be considered as inspired by true events, but admittedly there are parts that stretch into the realm of fiction rather than objective truth.
Climbing in Canmore (Outskirts of the Canadian Rockies)
“I won’t go any higher, I’ll just traverse across the route,” I hollered down to my parents and friends who were all bunched up at the base of the immense rock wall I was clambering across. Traversing being a climbing term referring to moving horizontally across a route as opposed to vertically. “That way if I fall, I’ll likely just break a leg or two, instead of my neck.” Strangely, no one seemed relieved by this statement.
Having gone twice to Scotland, one would think that I would have check it off my bucket list and moved on. But this place of history and tragedy; charmed with a touch of mystery and superstition keeps drawing me back. I simply cannot get enough. And if I dare to say, when I’m there, I feel like I’m right at home. Continue reading →
The early morning light illuminated the ornate dining room of the Hotel Air Boss on the western edge of Istanbul. Sunlight streamed through the floor to ceiling windows and settled on pure white tablecloths and maroon chairs. A light rain brought the smell of soil and trees through an open window. Walking through the double-door entrance, the earthy smell greeted my nostrils as an assortment of dozens of different kinds of foods laid out on trays drew my eyes. As I approached the long self-service buffet table the smell of soil and rain was gradually replaced by the scent of fresh fruit, sizzling meat, and cheese. Continue reading →
My hiking buddies—Owen, Curtis, and Joey—scurry up and down slick hills, jump over small ravines and land precariously, their hands reaching for a hold in the cliffside. I take the trail more carefully, an instruction manual running in my mind. Foot here, sidestep there, grab that root for extra balance. I am a determined, but slow, hiker. Turkey Run poses quite the challenge for my right leg, weakened in a surgery long ago; I command my ankle to turn outward, but the nerves don’t fully connect with my brain, and I’m left staring down at an unmoving foot. Owen sees my dilemma and runs over to help me down the damp hillside that I’ve been struggling with. Water rushes past our ankles as we reach the trail floor. Continue reading →
It was just after sunrise when I left the campground bathroom and started back to our camp site. A few steps down the sidewalk I heard a loud exhalation. The sort that you expect from a horse. I froze in place and slowly looked in the direction the sound had come from. As I’d suspected a buffalo stood near me, close enough to touch, munching on the grass. Buffalo are a common sight in Yellowstone National Park, especially in the campgrounds. When we’d first arrived in Yellowstone, my partner’s foster dad, Greg, read the signs to Des and me, who are both visually impaired, that warned campers to stay clear of the buffalo. A few of the signs even said how many people are gored each year by the buffalo. Continue reading →
I have no idea where we are headed. Peering around the rugged roads as they ascend what appears to be a mountain, a trio of birds descends before us whilst the glimmering sun slowly rises behind us. I imagine that we are revisiting a childhood memory, and suddenly my blood pressure begins to elevate. “Get out,” I say to myself as the old man drives way too fast towards the crest. “Get the hell out,” I wish I could have said. Yet, curiosity trumps my irrational fear, for I know I have never been here. Perhaps my fear of the unknown is the reason I signed up for this – to confront memories that have cursed me into mental bondage. Continue reading →
This is my first time seeing the devastation up close. I’m struck by the view of Gatlinburg’s glitzy buildings through a rather convenient hole in the trees. Somehow, the tourist town is still going strong. I find myself staring at the large black swaths cutting across the Appalachian greenery across the valley. Fire scars.
My teammate Jenna, a petite blonde with a permanent smile, points to a towering stack of bricks before disappearing around the back of the van to grab Princess, our aptly named 441 Stihl chainsaw. “It’s so amazing that there was a structure here. The house across the street is mostly fine.”
Upon further inspection, yes. There is a foundation spanning the break of the treeline that I had missed while admiring the view of the smoky grey mist rolling across the opposite mountain. The tree line is dotted with black stumps. The trees that remain have fire damage spreading up their trunks. Oh. Continue reading →
Putting the sunglasses on the lobster was the best decision I made all day. John and Sarah, the pair of middle-aged Michiganders we’d been seated next to, started chuckling when they noticed what I’d done.
“Don’t say anything!” I begged, checking to see how far my mother was from the table. Sarah mimed zipping her lips, then cracked her own lobster open and went to work.
When my ma got back to the table, she laughed so hard she nearly dropped her plate. “How did you do that?” she asked, joining me at her seat along the long banquet tables set up to accommodate the hundred-odd cruise patrons joining us. I showed her the glasses’ temples, hooked behind the first pair of the lobster’s bright red legs, then took a couple pictures before tucking the shades away and tucking in. Continue reading →
In the early 1900s, when the European training routes iced over, a group of road cyclist challenged each other to stay fit by racing to the next town, but through the fields, over the fences, and across the iced-over streams. Over a century later, this sport is known world-wide as cyclocross. There are local races, national championships, and world championships, each course featuring different challenges, terrain, and conditions. They can consist of a combination of gravel, sand, grass, mud, and dirt, and every course has obstacles that 99% of individuals cannot ride and must dismount to run through instead. If you can ride it, you are allowed to do so, but for most individuals, certain obstacles pose such great a risk for costly crashes, that it is simply not worth it. The obstacles can consist of barriers (vertical wooden boards about two feet tall), stairs, a very steep, loose hill that is not ridable (called a run-up), or sand pits. Essentially, cyclocross is the obstacle racing of the bike world, where crashing is simply part of the sport. Continue reading →