Running Away Was Not an Option

Miller and Debbie Harrell, Running Away Was Not an Option

MAD Hippies Life, Memories, Running Away Was Not an OptionKeepsakes, Family Photos, PolaroidsDid we both want to run at first sight? You bet ya! But it was too late. We both agree that we would have rather never met one another than be given a chance to walk away. Simply put, running away was not an option.

A recent conversation revealed another common feeling both of us had many years ago when we first met. Though perhaps somewhat counter to the way we were really feeling about each other then, and now, it spells out how deeply both of us feel for one another. Funny how we’ve been together 35 years and still keep learning new things about each other. A feeling we both share was that running away was not an option!

Was it love at first sight? Yes, and no. While we would both tell you, when we first met there was an immediate chemistry, we would also tell you it was the last thing on our minds.

Prior to our meeting we both felt a longing for something, yet unaware of what that something was but have come to realize it was a piece of one another’s soul. The honest side of the story that has come to the surface of late, neither one of us wanted to be in a relationship, nor were we looking for one. We were content to be alone, not wanting to partake in the often awkward human practice of dating or wanting to engage in the vulnerability of getting into a relationship.

As it were, and by a chance meeting, we did find one another and so began the history of us, MAD.

Did we both want to run at first sight? You bet ya! But it was too late. We both agree that we would have rather never met one another than be given a chance to walk away. Simply put, running away was not an option!

Over the years we have come to understand more fully what took place and how it would shape both of our lives, rather, shape our life together. You see, if either one of us were asked to talk about our fondest memory it would always contain “us” rather than a separate event apart from the other. It has always been us and will always be us when it comes to memories, time, togetherness, life.

Perhaps not for everyone, but given the chance, we would spend every breathing moment together. Unfortunately the bills have to be paid, and thus time is “stolen” from us during the work week. Needless to say a good data package with our smartphone provider is a must!

We do not need personal space. We don’t want separation in any form. Our memories, experiences and life together encompass all things from the mundane to the life altering. We would not want it any other way.

Looking back it has always been us. Looking forward it will always be us. When we are gone, our children, their childen and beyond will speak about us. The bottom line and truth about us from the beginning has been, MAD. Running away was not an option!

Peace,

MAD

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Hike to Nowhere

Hike to Nowhere, Rocky Mountain National ParkSometimes the best outdoor adventures have no goals, no expeditions to high mountain peaks and pristine alpine lakes. Sometimes the best adventures are found deep in the forest, off trail with only the sound of silence to reward you. Sometimes the best adventures are nothing more than a hike to nowhere.

We took a hike just such as this. With no goal in mind and no destination planned, the rule of the day was, just hike until it feels right. The trail had no real defining features. A well blended forest of alpine fir, lodgepole pine and aspen opening here and there with an occasional glimpse of snow-capped mountain peaks. A gentle rolling creek trickling alongside on our left fed by a high alpine lake in the far distance. Steep slopes rising to the right and dropping to the left, leaving just enough room for the trail and our unknown destination of a hike to nowhere.

We meandered our way up the canyon, stopping here and there, taking a non-aggressive pace and enjoying the quiet of nature.

At some point the trail turned away from the creek and headed uphill. We, on the other hand, did not. Following the creek, off the trail, we made our own way. Our trail to nowhere brought us to a small outcropping overlooking the creek, surrounded by dense woods and the perfect place to call it a day.

Hike to Nowhere, Trail FoodThere we were, all alone, despite the wildlife who possibly hadn’t seen humans for quite some time, if ever. We coexisted well with them and enjoyed each other’s company. For us, time didn’t exist.

While preparing lunch we looked up at a lone aspen tree that sat on the edge of the outcropping and were dumbstruck at our finding. Perfectly carved in its aging trunk, a peace emblem. Indeed, this was the spot we had been looking for. Perfect in so many ways, and yet, perhaps, unimpressive to anyone else.

Sometimes the best outdoor adventures have no goals, no expeditions to high mountain peaks and pristine alpine lakes. Sometimes the best adventures are found deep in the forest, off-trail, with only the sound of silence to reward you. Sometimes the best adventures are nothing more than a hike to nowhere.

Hike to Nowhere, Peace SignBirds singing, a gentle breeze winding its way through the trees and the creek running gently below us, we sat front row to a natural symphony while a flood of memories of our lives together danced through our heads.

Our hike to nowhere had indeed taken us to a very special place.

Peace,

MAD

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Adventure of a Lifetime – Hiking the Colorado Trail

Adventure of a Lifetime Hiking the Colorado Trail

Adventure of a Lifetime Hiking the Colorado TrailOur story is certainly not a fairy tale, doubtful such things exist. But, it is our story, our lives together and meaningful in so many ways. As we set out on our adventure of a lifetime, hiking the Colorado Trail, we will go forward together in all that we are. Celebrating our lives together, our children, grandchildren and days to come.

Life is an journey filled with highs, lows and endless mundane activities. When we met in high school back in 1982, Debbie and I had no idea the future that would unfold for both of us. An unwritten book of experiences that would soon bind us together as we grew older together throughout the years. In 2017 we’ll embark on an adventure of a lifetime, hiking the Colorado Trail, thru. On our month long 486 mile trek we will be taking with us the memories, love and devotion we share together. Not to mention the array of incredible backpacking gear that will serve as our lifeline on the trail.

Why are we doing this? Beyond our love for the outdoors and the Colorado Rocky Mountains, we are determined to stay strong and continue to be active as we move beyond our youth and now into mid-life. Never arguing the fact that we are both stubborn and headstrong, we have so much to live for as we celebrate our 35 years together.

Our story is certainly not a fairy tale, doubtful such things exist. But, it is our story, our lives together and meaningful in so many ways. As we set out on our adventure of a lifetime, hiking the Colorado Trail, we will go forward together in all that we are. Celebrating our lives together, our children, grandchildren and days to come.

Is there a theme to our hike? Awareness? You bet! If for nothing more, we’d love for our efforts to bring attention to the often hushed subject of stillbirth. A subject we both know all too well as our first daughter, Shira Rose, was born still. It is in her honor we will hike the Colorado Trail. As much, for the many other children who lived for only a short time. During their fragile and brief lives they experienced emotionally and physically. They dreamed and created memories. They knew love, the love of parents who so desperately wanted to hold them and watch them grow up.

We welcome you to follow along with us as we set out on our adventure of a lifetime to hike the Colorado Trail. We hope our efforts will encourage you somehow to live life to the fullest and find meaning and comfort in a sometimes hectic world. Get out there and take hold of your story!

In the days, weeks and months ahead we will continue to prepare ourselves for the Colorado Trail and share with you our progress, gear reviews, food choices and the like. Once we begin the hike itself we will update our blog and social media sites. We will be sure to take many photos and videos as we share the experience with you.

If you would like to support us, please consider donating to or volunteering at the following:

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep – “NILMDTS trains, educates, and mobilizes professional quality photographers to provide beautiful heirloom portraits to families facing the untimely death of an infant. We believe these images serve as an important step in the family’s healing process by honoring the child’s legacy.”

The Colorado Trail Foundation – “We care for The Colorado Trail. The Colorado Trail Foundation (CTF) is the organization that keeps the Trail in good condition. We organize the Volunteers who built The Colorado Trail and who continue to improve and maintain it.”

Peace,

MAD

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Two Places at the Same Time

Saint Vrain Mountain, Two Places at the Same Time

Sain Vrain Mountain Summit, Two Places at the Same TimeThe question begs to be asked, can you be in two places at the same time and still benefit from both? Absolutely! However, you need to know where such a place exists and then be able to get there.

Anyone who has a love for the outdoors in Colorado will tell you, the Indian Peaks Wilderness and Rocky Mountain National Park are two of the most iconic places to set out on an adventure in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. But, can you be in two places at the same time?

Both sharing a border, much less the jaw-dropping landscape they have each come to be known by, it is no wonder that at one time Enos Mills proposed both wilderness areas were on the table to be known as Rocky Mountain National Park. Suffice it to say, local mining interests put a hold on those plans and eventually the Indian Peaks, thankfully, were protected under their own wilderness boundaries.

Call them what you will, Rocky Mountain National Park, Indian Peaks Wilderness, Roosevelt, Arapaho or Routt National Forests. The fact remains for anyone who has ever explored within their boundaries, this is a land of immense imagination filled with wildlife, clear running streams, dense forests and high alpine peaks where snow can linger all year long.

The question begs to be asked, can you be in two places at the same time and still benefit from both? Absolutely! However, you need to know where such a place exists and then be able to get there.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Two Places at the Same TimeNestled in a high meadow, perhaps overlooked for the popularity of Estes Park and neighboring Rocky Mountain National Park, sits the little known mountain “village” of Allenspark in the shadow of a well kept secret.

While many will make the trek to RMNP and the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, few will find their way to the small trailhead for Mount Saint Vrain nestled deep in the woods behind the small town of Allenspark, Colorado. There you will find a small parking area with no real distinguishing attributes for the dense forests. One must begin a rather unforgiving and relentless climb from here, climbing up and above the timberline on a quiet, though demanding, hike.

Once above it all, the answer to the question, can you be in two places at one time, becomes quite obvious. Absolutely. But, be prepared to pick your jaw up from off the ground. While one can see amazing beauty in both Rocky Mountain National Park and the Indian Peaks Wilderness, the old saying, “can you see the forest for the trees” applies. It’s one thing to be among these iconic wilderness areas, while it is a whole different experience to see them both in their grand expanse, first hand and at the same time.

The trail to Mount Saint Vrain might be strenuous, but the reward far outweighs the effort as you climb above the dense forests and find yourself standing in an alpine saddle surrounded by, perhaps, one of the most incredible views one could dream of. But don’t stop there, exploring further in this area will only spark the imagination further, deepening one’s appreciation for the great outdoors, the Colorado Rocky Mountains and an alpine environment seldom experienced.

Being in two places at the same time is not always something we want to do, but in cases such as this, you will not want to leave.

Peace,

MAD

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Backpacking Eccles Pass

Backpacking Eccles Pass, Eagle's Nest Wilderness, White River National ForestBack at camp, we carried out our duty to do nothing. Breakfast and the inevitable to follow, a walk in the woods with a small shovel. Funny how mundane tasks in the city become something of an art form in the high country. Backpacking Eccles Pass will always remain an experience to remember.

What a beautiful late summer outing, backpacking Eccles Pass. Heading up into the Gore Mountain Range near Frisco, Colorado can be some what of an uphill battle, especially with a full backpack. Though, once out of the gulch the trail levels into picturesque meadows surrounded by mountain peaks. Simply put, the hike up is lush and quiet. Aspen groves give way to mixed pine woods with fresh running streams and a much more laid-back environment versus the hustle and bustle of city life.

Arriving in the high valley, you’ll find open meadows thinning out to rugged peaks and big open skies. Wildflowers abound here, while gentle creeks flow from snowmelt high above bring life giving waters to the valley below. There’s room for everyone and everything here, that is, man, nature and wildlife enjoy the pristine unmaintained landscape of the beautiful Eagle’s Nest Wilderness, just the way it should remain.

We camped just below Eccles Pass, somewhere around 11,500′, out of touch and out of time with nowhere to go, no place to be, relaxing and allowing the natural flow of things to overtake our minds. A room with a view, if you will, positioning our tent to face west at the mountain range, prime for sunset and sunrise and a hopeful moose having dinner among the reeds.

Backpacking Eccles Pass, Marmot Tent, Backpacking TentThe nights were quiet, so much so you could hear a mouse chewing on a pine cone fifty yards away. Shadows danced all around the meadow under an almost full moon. We were alone with only nature as our cohabitant. We would drift in and out of sleep with anticipation of first light and exploring further.

“What was that?”

“A bear”

“What!?”

“A rabid moose”

“What?!!”

“An alligator…”

The next morning we would wander, aimlessly, exploring fields of wildflowers, cool running streams and eventually up to Eccles Pass for the view of a lifetime. From our vantage point the whole landscape disappeared into further untouched lands waiting to be explored. Trails winding in and out and over further mountain passes. If only we had more supplies we could just walk on in any direction letting our imaginations lead the way.

Back at camp, we carried out our duty to do nothing. Breakfast and the inevitable to follow, a walk in the woods with a small shovel. Funny how mundane tasks in the city become something of an art form in the high country. Backpacking Eccles Pass will always remain an experience to remember.

Does a bear sh*t in the woods? I know we do! Finding that “spot” where you need to relieve yourself can be tricky at times. You obviously don’t want an audience, hell, we don’t even want a chipmunk watching, nor do you want someone to find your, well, you just don’t want someone finding “it.” Privacy, secrecy and no mosquitoes coming up behind you is what it’s all about.

“How deep should I make the hole?”

“I don’t know, how full of sh*t are you?”

After breaking camp, we fueled up, loaded up and began our decent back to city life. How we would love to just stay and never go back. Backpacking Eccles Pass, much less anyplace in the Colorado High Country, just seems to sit well with us. We always feel at home and as if the weight of the world and all its frustrations just lift off of us. Perhaps one day we’ll just take that one last look behind us as we disappear into the wilderness for good.

Peace,

MAD

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The Mountain Fought Back

The Mountain Fought Back

Lack of sleep and a 3,000′ ascent with the wind blowing in your face is not an idealistic adventure. But, in our defense, we’re stubborn. Mt Audubon is still a nemesis to us, always fighting us as we make our way to its summit, yet somehow, the relationship we share with the mountain seems to work. As expected, the mountain fought back.

We were overly eager to get back in the Colorado high country after having taken a week off from hiking. We set the goal of heading to one of our all-time favorite areas, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, to pay a visit to a nemesis of ours, Mt Audubon which sits at 13,223′ above sea level.

The trail is fairly aggressive, up hill all the way and mostly above treeline. Seems every time we attempt this strenuous alpine adventure the mountain always finds a way to fight back! This outing would not be an exception to that rule.

Once again, we had a fight on our hands. Our plan was a three in the morning wake-up call. Somewhere between seven the night before and two the next morning we were able to get about two or three hours of sleep. We’re blaming that on the full moon.

For some unknown reason, we got ourselves up and out the door and were on the trail by 4:30 in the morning. Headlamps on, bear spray in hand and a less than desirable caffeine level we wandered off into the dark woods awaiting the first light of day.

Amazingly, we broke treeline just as the sun came over the horizon. Wow, what a sight. We began to awaken with the dark now giving way to light.

The night before our hike we looked up the weather for the region and summit of Mt Audubon one last time. Mild temperatures, little to no wind and clear skies were in our favor. Anyone who knows mountain weather will feel our pain on what came next. As we approached the cutoff for the trail that lead to the summit, the wind came vigorously down off the peak and hit us smack in the face! Little to no wind? It would stay this way throughout the duration of our hike, well, until we got back down anyway. We’ve grown to understand that Mt Audubon also has a sense of humor.

Still somewhat half asleep we opted to bypass the summit trail and head off into an area we had never explored. Off trail exploration is something of a comedy act with us, we’re always surprised at our findings as much what those findings lead to. We followed the Beaver Creek trail for about a mile and then headed for a ridgeline to get a view down into the valley where Upper and Lower Coney Lakes sit.

It wasn’t long and we found ourselves navigating a snow field, scree and thick alpine scrub brush. And we thought we were alone! Once again we were looking at each other with that awkward stare of, “what now?” We were surrounded by bear scat and had just about wandered into a den when we found ourselves in quick retreat!

The conversation went something like this, “What’s that? Bear scat. It’s everywhere. (twig snaps followed by grunting sounds from bush) Was that you? No. We need to go…now!”

Back on the trail and laughing at ourselves, we did an about-face and made our way back towards Mt Audubon. Little sleep, certainly not enough coffee, and now full of adrenaline, we were deliriously hiking along. “Hey, you know what, the summit really isn’t that far and we’ve dealt with the wind before.” What is far? It was an additional two miles and another 2,000′ to the summit!

Stubborn, determined or just insane, we made our way up. Loose scree and talus fields are no fun when you are half-asleep. The debate is still out on the actual amount of oxygen at 13,000′ and we are still not sure what grumbled at us earlier. Suffice it to say, we had another incredible day in the Colorado high country and can’t wait to go again.

The views (see video below) were amazing to say the least. What followed as we made or way back to the trailhead can only be described as a sad, yet graceful, fall off the mountain. We must have appeared drunk.

Lack of sleep and a 3,000′ ascent with the wind blowing in your face is not an idealistic adventure. Mt Audubon is still a nemesis to us, always fighting us as we make our way to its summit, yet somehow, the relationship we share with the mountain seems to work. As expected, the mountain fought back.

Peace,

MAD

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4th of July Fireworks

As the snow melts away and reveals the high tundra, wildflowers come to life and explode in their own spectacle of colors. Reds, blues, yellows, purples and a multitude of colors splash themselves against the backdrop of snow covered peaks making for quite the scenery only found on postcards. 4th of July fireworks are not only found in the city!

It’s that time of year again. The long winter’s nap has all but faded into a distant memory. Trees and grasses are green again and the wildflowers have bloomed in their vast array of colors. Picnics, barbecues and gatherings surround 4th of July fireworks as summertime is now in full swing.

Why would we disturb natural tranquility for mass explosions and such a spectacle of light over the 4th of July? Patriotism, family fun and good old fashioned America no doubt.

If that’s not necessarily your thing, you are in luck. The back country of the Colorado Rocky Mountains offer up their own holiday cheer with just as much color, and far less commotion. Just as the Wilderness Act of 1964 says, “…outstanding opportunities for solitude…”

As the snow melts away and reveals the high tundra, wildflowers come to life and explode in their own spectacle of colors. Reds, blues, yellows, purples and a multitude of colors splash themselves against the backdrop of snow covered peaks making for quite the scenery only found on postcards. The 4th of July fireworks are not only found in the city!

If the noise and busyness are getting to you while so many are gathered together in the city for the 4th of July fireworks, try heading to the mountains for a calmer, more intimate and serene experience this year. There is no lack of wow factor and you just might find yourself relaxing a bit. A sunrise, early morning hike and a nap in the afternoon by a cool running stream might be just what the doctor ordered!

Our top 3 hiking trails near Denver to see wildflowers:

  1. Lake Isabelle & Isabelle Glacier
  2. Arapaho Glacier & South Arapaho Peak
  3. Heart Lake & Rogers Pass

Peace,

MAD

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Summer Breeze

Summer BreezeAn almost perfect moment in time, a cool summer breeze, listening to music and watching nature unfold into another day.

It’s 5:00 in the morning, the airport is still and a gentle morning summer breeze is rolling through. Sitting outside, in what normally is an extremely hostile environment, feels calm and serene. Perched atop a piece of aircraft servicing equipment, watching the drama of night and day play out, the early morning light begins to overtake the dark and create amazingly rich colors across the sky.

I sit, iPod on, earbuds in, the Rush album Signals drifting through my ears, all coordinating in a seemingly remarkable multi-dimensional composition of sound and nature in such an unlikely place. The song “The Weapon (Part II Of Fear)” sparks the imagination and gives way to the enchanting violins of the next song “Losing It” that dances with the sunrise. I’ve often enjoyed the silence of headphones (now days earbuds) that shut out the world and allows for no interference where my imagination is left to wander.

An almost perfect moment in time, a cool summer breeze, listening to music and watching nature unfold into another day. I say, almost perfect. Despite being at work, and most noticeably, wishing Debbie was here with me to experience what I’m seeing and feeling, I take what I can get to pass the time of being someplace I don’t want to be. Some days you just want to quit the rat race and run to the mountains. Who created this mess we call life anyway?

The music continues and I wonder, does anyone even see the sunrise anymore? Are we all just so damn busy to realize the natural world and what we really are? The lyrics linger as the dark fades to light and another day begins…

 “Some are born to move the world
To live their fantasies
But most of us just dream about
The things we’d like to be
Sadder still to watch it die
Than never to have known it
For you, the blind who once could see
The bell tolls for thee…”

Peace,

MAD

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Love is in the Air

Love is in the air

Love is in the airOn Valentine’s Day love is in the air, Letters Say Words Too Honest To Be Spoken. “In their senior year, the young couple eloped — then came back to school to finish the year. Letters, they say, help express feelings that can be difficult to say out loud.”

We were interviewed on CPR by Michael de Yoanna for a Valentine’s Day piece on the radio show Colorado Matters. Indeed, love is in the air! He asked us to share our story and some memories for the show. You can listen to the interview and read excerpts from the show here, Letters Say Words Too Honest To Be Spoken

Peace,

MAD

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Divine Destiny or Happenstance

Macro Photography

Divine destiny or Happenstance

Was it divine destiny or happenstance? Could it have been just a chance meeting of two young kids who found solace in each other’s presence?

OK, so here we go again. Valentines Day is back and it’s time to tell that special someone how much they mean to you. Sure, it’s a silly money making campaign that millions indulge in every year. But hey, why not, winter is slowly exiting, spring is around the bend and we could all use a little fire in our hearts, right? Hell, it helps the economy too, and who doesn’t love a good economic stronghold!

Not that we ever go out of our way to celebrate this love-fest, as certainly everyone should be telling the love of their lives on any given day how much they love them. Besides, this might just be the right moment you’ve been looking for to take that relationship to the next level. Go for it!

For us, after 34ish years, the fire still burns hot. It’s crazy, every day, month and year that passes, we just seem to grow, better yet, meld together all the more. The picture above is of our wedding bands, the lettering is in Hebrew, “Ani L’dodi V’dodi Li” which in English states, I am My Beloved’s and My Beloved is Mine.

That being said, this year for Valentines Day we’ll be honoring each other not with candy, flowers or even a good strong Russian Imperial Stout, but by looking back at all the little details of our lives together.

It’s quite strange once you put your mind to it, but there really are a plethora of tiny little intricacies that got us to where we are today. Take any one of them away and things could be quite different around here. Scary thought!

Was it divine destiny or happenstance? Could it have been just a chance meeting of two young kids who found solace in each other’s presence?

That’s where the details come in. The details of divine destiny, happenstance and chance meetings all woven together to bring two love-struck teenagers into one place at the same time where lives would be altered, love would explode and the energy of it all would catapult us into the future to arrive at such a place as this.

Who really knows how it happens. We’re just glad it did. Maybe we read too much into it, maybe not. We’ve certainly experienced the following.

  1. It is said of twin flames and soul mates that they find that time just seems to stand still. That goes two ways, when we’re together it’s just us, the world disappears and we get lost in each other. When we’re apart, we cannot wait to be together again.
  2. When we first met, it was odd, we didn’t have those uncomfortable feelings and awkward moments new couples go through, it just felt normal and comfortable like we’d done this before.
  3. We share everything in common. It is as if both of us could just switch places and be comfortable in the other’s place.
  4. Our experiences and values were seemingly the same. We wonder at times how we didn’t meet sooner.
  5. We accepted each other at face value, day one and continue to do so to this day.
  6. To that point, and mostly because of that point, we helped each other mature and grow over the years. Complementing each other’s weaknesses and strengths.
  7. Lastly [to keep the list short], no matter what we’ve come up against in life, struggles inside and out of our relationship, we continue to desire to be together to the nth degree.

Taking this to an even deeper level, as we tend to enjoy reading about the more mysterious and mystical side of life, we found many intriguing details of our personal selves that complement each other in some fascinating ways. From a metaphysical, kabbalistic, religious, numerological, physical, astrological, physiological, logical and illogical standpoint, there are many signs that we have discovered over the years that tell us we are indeed meant to be together.

Was it divine destiny or happenstance? Yes, and perhaps a few other things. One thing is for sure, we both agree we found our other half and became one.

Peace,

MAD

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