Eccles Pass

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.

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.

The 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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Mount Audubon

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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Love is in the Air

Love is in the air

On 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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To the World Their Baby Never Existed

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, Baby Loss, MAD Hippies Life, Miller Harrell, Debbie Harrell, to the world their baby never existed

“They left the hospital, never to mention their baby again. Their tears were shed in private, and they had to bear the burden of their grief and their pain silently. To the world their baby never existed.”

In October Debbie and I went to a Remembrance Walk for our daughter Shira Rose. We had no idea what we were walking into or the experience we would have…we can’t even begin to express our gratitude for the support and love we have felt since, and during, the Remembrance Walk. It wasn’t until this year that we had even begun to “allow” ourselves to discuss Shira and do something after 33 years in her honor. We began writing, started our blog and talking [perhaps for the first time] with each other about our hidden feelings that had been kept at bay, deep within us, for so many years.

We went to the Remembrance Walk unprepared to grieve, to feel and to somehow be those young parents we were so many years ago who had just lost their daughter. It was all so surreal. Cheryl Haggard, co-founder of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, gave a speech that day which hit a special place within us, we couldn’t help but think to ourselves, “thank G-d we came.” Seeing Shira’s name on signs along the route, hearing her name read aloud and releasing a balloon to the heavens was like coming home. Our daughter has a name, she is our daughter, she lives on and will always be a part of us.

Our experience and story was recently shared on the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Facebook page

“Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Co-founder, Cheryl Haggard met Shira Rose’s parents, Miller and Debbie Harrell after speaking at the NILMDTS Remembrance Walk on October 3rd, 2015. Miller walked up to her and in a hushed tone, voice breaking, he simply said, ‘It’s been 33 years for us…

She had asked the audience to look around them that day.

‘Most likely the person standing next to you experienced the death of their precious baby recently. Within the past 5 to 10 years. They probably left the hospital with a beautiful care package lovingly assembled by other bereaved parents. And hopefully a photograph. Whether that photograph was taken by a professional photographer, a nurse or taken by the family themselves, they were encouraged to, and knew it was ok to create those memories of their baby. They left the hospital with empty arms and a broken heart, but they left with something tangible to remember their baby by. Something to hold onto. They have been told about or ‘googled’ support groups and resources nearest to them. They have shared their baby’s story with family and friends and possibly even the world through social medial. They have found acceptance and support by a beautiful community of bereaved parent’s online and right here, today.’

She then asked the audience to look around them again, and this time to look closer…

‘You could be standing next to a mother or a father whose baby died 20 or more years ago. They might be hesitant in telling you about their baby, because they were told it wasn’t appropriate to mention their baby. If you ask them questions, they might share with you their story of how they were never allowed or discouraged to hold or even see their baby. How they were told it wasn’t worth naming their child, and told to move on…try to have ‘another’ one. Forget about this one. They left the hospital, never to mention their baby again. Their tears were shed in private, and they had to bear the burden of their grief and their pain silently. To the world their baby never existed.’

That is, until now.

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep has given parents a safe place to share their baby. Share their story. And even share their photographs. Whether they were taken by themselves or taken by a professional. These parents have read our stories, and seen our photographs. Our babies have given their baby’s a face, and our stories have given these parents a voice. Some parents have given a name to their baby…and they are looking for ways to honor their baby’s memory.

Please share with us, especially, if you are a parent that has experienced a loss 20 or more years ago, your experience and how you think grieving and remembrance has changed between then and now. Was there a certain moment in time, when you decided enough was enough? How did you break the silence?”

Peace,

MAD

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Windows in the Cosmos

The loss of a child is heart wrenching. A personal hell that those who experience it suffer in silence and alone. And yet, there is healing, healing that comes from the unseen and hidden world. Windows in the Cosmos.

There are things in this world that go unseen, we were lucky enough to open our eyes and catch a glimpse of what was, what is and what possibilities are out there.

Windows in the Cosmos allow us to see clues, patterns and sometimes answers to what our souls constantly reach out to.

Science, religion and philosophy, to name a few, have only scratched the surface. Detoured by their damned determination to know it all and be right all the time has kept them at bay.

Sometimes it’s better to just stand still and take notice of the events that are unfolding around you. One never knows what they might miss in the midst of the busy ongoing world.

December of 1982 was a trying time for us. In the midst of our own chaos of losing our daughter Shira, much less many factors around this soul wrenching time of our lives, there was a spectacular celestial event taking place we were not attune to. And, while we lived out our own personal hell, many watched in awe as a Super Blood Moon eclipsed fully before their eyes, unbeknownst to our situation.

Early this year, 2015, Debbie and I began a process of healing. Ironically, and perhaps sadly, it took us 33 years to get to this place. But here we are, slowly evolving and processing the most horrific experience of our lives, the loss of our daughter Shira.

In an interesting turn of events, last night we stood under the stars anxiously awaiting that same celestial event that happened so many years ago. Unfolding as it does, slowly before our eyes, along with the memories of our daughter, we anxiously awaited in awe of its beauty, but even more so, an energy of hope and cleansing. Perhaps we have come full circle, and after all, here we are, a bit older, a bit wiser and by and far, still together living life one experience at a time.

The intriguing notion here is not necessarily the Super Blood Moon eclipsing, although that is very cool, it’s more, so much more, it is a personal invitation for Debbie and I to not only experience something larger than life, but resonate with it, come to an understanding, heal and most notably, understand we are not alone in our loss.

Many don’t put much into astrology. We find it fascinating. We also tend to research things down to their very core and take notice of the obvious. The factors surrounding the event 33 years ago have once again surfaced. And, like it was then, we found ourselves dealing with the past without understanding that something else was at play here.

Way too many details to get into, needless to say, they are obvious to us, then and now, and we have taken them to heart and mind and feel the soul connection within ourselves and our daughter.

There are things in this world that go unseen, we were lucky enough to open our eyes and catch a glimpse of what was, what is and what possibilities are out there.

Peace,

MAD

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Lost Lake

Beautifully adorned, Lost Lake is a deep blue wonder surrounded by sub alpine trees that reach high into the sky.

The winter thaw is upon us, the creeks and rivers are running fast, the lakes are filling back up and the wildflowers are blooming like a fireworks display on the 4th of July. On the menu for today, four moose, three deer, a black bear and an amazing landscape! Hiking Lost Lake in Colorado is an adventure close to Denver full of wildlife, wildflowers and waterfalls.

Many people are coming out from their long hibernation, along with the bears, and heading up into the mountains to enjoy the cool mountain air, the incredible explosion of colors and trade in their skis and snowboards for hiking boots and backpacks.

Hiking Lost Lake is an old favorite which never lets us down when it comes to an abundance of wildlife, wildflowers and waterfalls. And once again, we were not disappointed as indeed we were witness to several moose, deer, a black bear and an amazing breathtaking landscape full of the life we’ve come to appreciate that springtime in the Colorado Rocky Mountains provides.

Nature’s air conditioner! Many of our hikes are broken into segments, not necessarily to stop and rest, although in the high country that is not such a bad idea! There are those places along the trail that pull you off the beaten path to explore rare opportunities to experience the wild and untamed landscape. When the snow melt begins in spring and the creeks begin filling, the rapids and waterfalls can be quite dramatic. Here, the Middle Boulder Creek bursts with an incredible volume of fast moving water creating a spectacular sight. The heavy mist fills the air and makes for a great spot to cool down. Exploring such a hidden gem is remarkable, while sitting and soaking up the roar is equally meditative.

As much as you might want to stay here, there is so much more to see when hiking Lost Lake. Though, a quick mental note to return again is always a good idea.

Moving on, the trail deepens into the sub alpine world as you climb higher and deeper into the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado. Snow capped peaks begin to emerge behind the tall pines and the trail resembles more of a creek than a footpath as the ever increasing evidence of snow melt overtakes the landscape. The land is alive and your curiosity begins to spark the imagination of what lies around the bend.

And just as the sun rises in the morning giving way to a vast array of colors in the sky, you turn the bend, rise over the ridge and find yourself witness to an incredible landscape that could only be compared to paradise on earth. Beautifully adorned, Lost Lake is a deep blue wonder surrounded by sub alpine trees that reach high into the sky. The cloudless morning sky is endless, rich and clear and the breeze is ever so slight though crisp and cool. All around, snow capped peaks beg to be summited.

A few backcountry campers, still in awe of their find, begin to emerge from their slumber to fill their lungs with the mountain air while the birds serenade us all with songs of the high country. It wasn’t that long ago we were dumbstruck by a waterfall, yet now that begins to fade as this new encounter has stopped us dead in our tracks. Mouths wide open and our souls leaping with joy, we are now witness to an awesome natural wonder. Yes, let’s build our dream cabin right here and never leave!

After we collected our thoughts and got passed the awe of what hiking Lost Lake has to offer, we began exploring around and above. It is really quite amazing, while you can keep close to the shoreline, equally fun is to climb high above and look back down for a new perspective. Soaking up such a view not only gives you and bigger and much grander understanding of the landscape, but offers views that would otherwise never be seen. Alas, our time here was growing short, though not short on experience. We took one last good look around and chose the long way back out to the main trail.

Peace,

MAD

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Living in the Moment Where Memories are Made

Living in the Moment When Memories are Made

Living in the Moment Where Memories are Made

OK, maybe I didn’t have some earth shattering headline news event, but around here life happens, it unfolds minute by minute, and every memory is precious to us. Those silly little moments we have that don’t really mean much to most people, if at all, become our greatest life events. Why? Because it’s life, it’s our relationship unfolding one minute at a time, our memories being held close to our hearts about events that only matter to us.

Events that we can look back on years later and still laugh, still smile at one another, still feel the emotion of the moment all over again and continue living in the moment when memories are made, our memories.

Being mindful of our experiences within our relationship is paramount.

Perhaps this is the reason we live day to day, moment by moment, embracing everything as if today were all that we get. Life is short and fragile, take hold of each moment and keep it close. Indeed, all of the [stuff] that you’re supposed to do to make the technicalities of living day to day won’t matter, but all of those memories that we made, embraced and lived in will.

Every day we get up is another opportunity to run head on into living in the moment when memories are made. Without even knowing it, you sit back, soak in the precious space in time, laugh a little, smile a little and embrace a soul warming moment that you know will stick with you forever.

That being said, I had a few realizations this morning that will stick with me, with us, forever. I know it happened, it was real. I felt it. Then I shared it with Debbie and I saw the same reaction in her.

What a precious time for us both to live in the moment when memories are made.

1) Debbie thanked me for watching Anne [with an “E”] of Green Gables, I’m not sure why, I realized I love watching it [and all of the so called romantic comedies that we’ve seen over the years, and now own].

2) I had to laugh at myself when I realized [after questioning Debbie] that it was me that put the toilet paper roll on backwards. Sure, it’s subjective…our tissue rolls over the top!

3) Debbie and I have really been together for 33ish years! We were putting together a photo/video thing of us through the years and it just hit me, again.

Enjoy life! Laugh, love and live in the moment when memories are made.

Peace,

Miller

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How We Made it 30 years: A Letter From My Husband

how to make a marriage last

It seems that everyone else knows the secret to making marriages last—everyone except for us.

It seems that speculation abounds as to which relationships and marriages will last for any length of time, and for how long.

Everyone has ideas about what it takes to have lasting lifelong love, and what should and should not be taking place in a couple’s life for a relationship to be healthy.

But, what does it take to keep love and a marriage strong?

Now, I know there are a plethora of helpful books, articles and blogs written that discuss just this topic. I should know—I have been reading these since the beginning of our marriage. Well before that, if I’m being honest.

Countless references, I couldn’t even begin to guess how many, from every angle and perspective—religious, spiritual, psychological—and from couples that want to share how they made it to 10, 15, 20, or however many years. I have really appreciated all that they had to say, and I still read them, but from a very different perspective—one where I look to see if we live or have applied any of the suggestions they have made.

It’s dizzying to keep up with it all.

Yu know how it goes…the proper way of conducting yourself during the dating phase, best types of premarital counseling, making sure to stay in shape, always looking your best, saying I love you, not going to bed angry, having date nights, keeping sex alive, developing your own interests, having time apart to miss each other, learning each other’s love languages and so many other dos and don’ts.

Some of these things we’ve done and some we haven’t, and I know that some would definitely not work for us and that we understand some concepts entirely differently than another couple who reads them.

As I sit here, 30 years into a marriage with a man that I adore and love more than I adequately know how to put into words, I can’t honestly give an answer as to how we have been together all these years. All I know is that I love him with every fiber of my being: body, soul and spirit!

Love is more important to me than anything else that this world has to offer, it will be all that will matter to me in the end.

I asked my husband the same question: How have we been married 30 years after marrying so young? His response brought me to my knees, though I’m not sure it provided any clear answers. I’ll let you be the judge.

Click here to read the letter my husband wrote in response [published on Elephant Journal]

Peace,

MAD

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