My Mountains Monday Memoirs: Healing Holidays Days 10 to 16

Well after starting NaBloMoPo15 yesterday with a mantra to write more meaningful and deeper posts I have lost my way already!  But it is Monday….so I will finish off My Mountains Monday Memoirs post from last week.  You won’t find anything deep in this post – just a recount of my healing holiday part 2 😉

(If you missed part 1, you can read about our first 9 days here)

Day 10.  Albuquerque (NM).  We thought we would be in Albuquerque as the worlds biggest hot air balloon festival would be going on because we found it difficult to find a campsite for that night.  But in reality we arrived about 2 hours too late.  The festival was over.  Booooo. Anyway, we headed off to the Petroglyph National Park (A petroglyph is a rock carved drawing) for a mini adventure.  We took a hike and viewed some incredible old rock carvings.  We tried to imagine what people were expressing when they carved them into the rock hundreds of years ago.  Here is one that looks like a stork carrying a baby – although it is actually a frog…but apparently the whole image may represent thankfulness for fertility or water.  Because, you know, these things are so similar (!??!! the sign told us this, I didn’t just make it up!).

The stork and the baby story originates from Europe so we know that this is meant to be a frog!

The stork and the baby story originates from Europe so we know that this is probably actually a frog!

We decided not to head into Albuquerque city centre but rather spend more time getting outdoors instead – at the petrified forest.

Day 11.  Petrified Forest, AZ.  We took a spectacular hike into the wilderness – i.e. there was no path.  You had to ask the park ranger for the ‘special’ instructions to do this hike.  So armed with the ‘map’, instructions and a compass (my iPhone because we forgot to bring ours!) we headed out into the wilderness to look for a giant petrified log that crossed a wash (a temporary river when it rains).

A 'wash' in the petrified forest wilderness

A ‘wash’ in the petrified forest wilderness – no paths to follow here!

I felt in my element here.  I was sooo happy.  No one else around.  No sounds of vehicles, very little wildlife except for lizards and ravens.

A lizard on a piece of petrified wood

A lizard on a piece of petrified wood

The petrified logs were incredible.  I had never seen anything like it.

Petrified wood in a valley

Petrified wood in a valley

It is very tempting to just pick up a piece of petrified wood and put it in your pocket, but of course that is illegal so we didn’t!

The different colours are caused by different minerals the wood absorbed a few million years ago

The different colours are caused by different minerals the wood absorbed a few million years ago

There was so much wood lying around, especially from the giant logs I could really imagine what the forest would once have looked millions of years ago when the dinosaurs roamed.  Now just a desert.  Apparently this is the most ‘driven’ through National Park in the US.  If you ever head this way, don’t just drive through it….get out and see it!  There are many natural surprises that lay hidden throughout the park.

Day 12.  Grand Canyon, South Rim, AZ.  This time around we had planned to arrive in the Grand Canyon in style by taking the Grand Canyon train!  Although, this did mean we only had 3 hours actually at the Canyon.  We managed just 3 miles of hiking, the canyon was cruelly teasing us.  BUT! this time we got to see the canyon in its finest.  Not a cloud in sight.  Once we escaped the crowds I was a happy bunny.

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For the return trip on the train we bought luxury parlour class tickets – it was fantastic!  A bit of a treat to ourselves because quite honestly it is a bit of a frivolity.  Our tickets gave us full roaming of the train, including the back porch of the train.  It was very cool being able to stand outside as the train was clickety-clacking along through the national park with the sunsetting.  By the way, at no point do you get to see the canyon from the train (the pictures on the website are totally misleading), but it was still a wonderful journey.  Our train was ‘robbed’ on the way back by cowboys – quite an amusing little bit of entertainment.

A wild west train robbery in action

A wild west train robbery in action – apparently a pretty casual affair.

To end the day we went back to our campsite to finish off with a little bit of relaxing Jacuzzi action.  Spoilt rotten.

Day 13.  Lake Mead and Hoover Dam (NV & AZ).  Mostly a day for driving, but at the end of the day we ended up at the Hoover dam.  Wow, I learned a lot about this dam!  We took the ‘full works’ tour of the dam and got to go inside the actual concrete dam itself.  An incredible piece of engineering.  I can understand why it is one of the seven engineering wonders of the world.

Hoover Dam - One of the 7 engineering wonders of the world

Hoover Dam – One of the 7 engineering wonders of the world

We ended up at Lake mead RV park with an amazing lakeside view.  Sadly this was our last night in Trippy 😦

Lake Mead Camping

Lake Mead Camping

Day 14 & 15.  Las Vegas baby! (NV).  We handed Trippy back first thing in the morning and took a taxi to our hotel, the SLS.  I had some Hilton points to use that I have collected over the last year so this was definitely a treat of a hotel.  By the way, it was sooooo good to be in a real bed!!!

We gambled a little on the slot machines and learned how to play ultimate poker (where you play poker against the dealer only).  We didn’t win big.  But Chris did win 2 half dollar coins with 2 flushes, which we will keep and not be spending!!  Half dollar coins are not commonly used any more, but it is possible to get half dollar coins to collect.  Unfortunately, neither of them were the Kennedy half dollar coins that are worth something.  But hey, it’s a novelty!

Our total sum winnings in Vegas...2 half dollar coins

Our total sum winnings in Vegas…2 half dollar coins

We decided to be a bit different and went to the mob museum…you could even buy a beer to take around the exhibits with you!  This was followed by a seafood buffet at the Freemont Casino.  It was totally over-the-top with Vegas cheese, but we decided to go cheap rather than fancy because we thought it would be a waste of money spending money on a buffet when we are not big eaters.  Chris was surprised at how much food I actually did pack away!  We were both ill with funny tummies almost immediately afterwards, not because of food poisoning, just from the sheer amount we ate!  We are clearly not well trained in buffet eating.

We treated ourselves to a dinner and show package.  We chose to see ‘Absinthe’ at Caesars Palace – a variety show in a small intimate circus tent (there were only 10 rows of people!).  It was comedy mixed with erotica, show dance girls and circus acts.  There was something for everyone!  It was excellent entertainment– not for the faint hearted or the straight laced!  There was absolutely no political correctness here!

All in all, Vegas was highly entertaining, but I don’t think I could spend more than 2 nights there.

Day 16.  Time to fly home.  Reflecting upon our epic adventure, it made me realise that there is definitely a whole lot of America we have yet to see and experience.  But most importantly, I came home refreshed and ready for whatever life wants to throw at me back in the real ‘non-vacay’ world.

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Bye Bye Grand Canyon! ’til we meet again…

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My Mountains Monday Memoirs: Healing Holidays Days 1 to 9

This is actually a very recent memory!  But there there were lots of mountains in this holiday and we pretty much remained at altitude as we spent the majority of it on the Colarado Plateau. So here we go….!

This holiday was never meant to be a healing holiday.  We had been planning this road trip for almost a year, we even delayed it from May to October because of the infertility treatment.  But we decided to bite the bullet and book it for whatever stage we were at.  We were cautious and kept things less adventurous and a little more comfortable just in case I was anywhere up to 5 months pregnant.  We didn’t imagine that we would be leaving for this holiday with a cloud of sadness over our heads.  But yet despite the sadness, this holiday came at a great time.  It has been a chance to reset and refocus.  I know not everyone can afford to take the time off work or even have the money to travel afar, but I highly recommend getting away somewhere, switching the phones off and avoiding the rest of the world to help heal the mind.

This road trip was always planned to be epic.  And it sure was!  Here is a brief run down of our adventure:

Day 1: Excitement sets in (NV).  Finished work early (Friday)!  Fly to Las Vegas, arrived late and stayed at nearby airport hotel.  Teased by the sights and sounds of Vegas!!!  There are even slot machines in the airport baggage terminal.  Do people really get that addicted?

Day 2: Trippy & Valley of Fire State Park (AZ).  Picked up our rental campervan – AKA Trippy!  Can you guess why we called her Trippy??!

This was our 'cosy' home for the last two weeks - AKA Trippy.

This was our ‘cosy’ home for our holiday AKA Trippy.

We were upgraded from the small campervan we originally booked – woohoo! When I say upgrade – I mean we got an extra two feet of storage space!  Which we were grateful for.  Trippy had a table and chairs in the back that converted into a queen size bed and took up the whole width of the van.  Cosy.  In the boot (trunk), Trippy had a sink, mini refrigerator and gas burner.  All that was left to do was sign our lives away on a dotted line and Trippy was ours for 13 days.  We were off to our first stop – the Valley of Fire.  It truly was like the valley had been set on fire, the rock was a beautiful orange/red in the midst of a green flat plateau.

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Over looking the valley of fire

Day 3:  Zion National Park (UT).  Change of time zone.  Travelling five states in 2 weeks that are in different time zones soon became confusing!

We hiked up Angel’s Landing – a challenging climb if you were to have vertigo.

We hiked and scrambled to the top of Angel's landing

We hiked and scrambled to the top of Angel’s landing

Some people turned around as their fear got the better of them.  Chris and I on the other hand love this kind of hike/scramble.  It is easy to tell why this park was called Zion.

If you have vertigo this is not a great hike for you!

If you have vertigo this is not a great hike for you!

The view from the top of Angel's landing

The view from the top of Angel’s landing

Day 4: Bryce Canyon (UT).  The weather turned and the rain came in.  Our first disappointment came when we got the phone call from the horse riding tour company that they had to cancel the pony trek.  We were gutted because this is something on our bucket list!  It is also not a good idea to be in the lower rim of the canyon due to the high risk of flash floods, so we didn’t hike too far down into the canyon either.

Bryce canyon and the Hoo Doos

Bryce canyon and the Hoo Doos

According to the native Americans the ‘hoodoos’ formed when a tribe who did bad things were turned into stone by Coyote.  We don’t know the exact story because the story can only be told during winter time (according to tradition – the park upholds this out of respect for the tradition) – we will just have to go back some day in the winter to find out!  Despite the disappointments it was one of the most unique and spectacular places I have ever been to.

Day 5: Grand Canyon North Rim (AZ).  The rain followed us, and the clouds too.  Our first sneak peak of the Grand Canyon was somewhat disappointing.

A view of Angel's point on the North Rim - it was pretty cloudy. There was a whole canyon hiding behind this!

A view of Angel’s point on the North Rim – it was pretty cloudy. There was a whole canyon hiding behind this!

We were teased by little breaks in the clouds, but we could not get an impression of its greatness.  We waited for three hours at one of the view points for the clouds to break.  All of a sudden there was sunshine and we ran to the view point!  It wasn’t completely clear, but we could see a bit further down in to the canyon.

Chris got a great shot with the canyon in the clouds

Chris got a great shot with the canyon in the clouds

So we gave up and checked into the campsite.  This was when I got the phone call from my clinic telling me I should be having weekly blood tests.  I felt a bit emotional after this call because it was the first time in days that I had really thought about what the future 9 months wasn’t going to be.

As there was a bar at the Canyon lodge we decided to hike the 1.5 miles from the campsite to the bar just as the sun was setting.  As we reached the lodge, we were blessed with the most incredible sunset as the clouds dissipated!  It was truly magical – great things come to those who wait came into mind!

Finally! This is what the Grand Canyon looks like!

Finally! This is what the Grand Canyon looks like!

After our first alcoholic beverage of the holiday – and my first drink in months we hiked in the dark back to Trippy.  Chris took some wonderful starlight photos from across the canyon.   Just as we made it back it started to tip it down with rain.  What an incredible day – full of highs and lows in emotions.

Day 6.  Horse Shoe Bend & the Antelope Slot Canyons (AZ).  Wow.  The drive from the Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona, was spectacular!  Along the way we stopped at the Colorado River Horse Shoe Bend.  It was busy with tourists, but we were able to sit down for about 30 minutes whilst we waited for the shadows to move out for Chris’s photoshoot he wanted to get.  We sat and people watched.  So many people literally took a picture and headed back to their car.  It made me sad that this amazing feat of nature was not really taken in for all it’s incredible glory.  But hey.  We can’t all be nature lovers right?!

Horse Shoe Bend in all its glorious colours

Horse Shoe Bend in all its glorious colours

Following the incredible drive we arrived at Page where we had booked a Native American tour guide into the Antelope Canyons.  The canyon itself was impressive.  We were hearded through quickly like sheep.  Our tour guide was informative, but the crowds made me sick.  Apparently there are many other slot canyons like this in the Native American reservations but this was only one of two open to the public…and it is incredibly popular, apparently over the last year or so business has been booming because of the internet.  It’s great that so many people want to appreciate it, but I worry about the conservation of it.

Chris took some beautiful shots of the formations

Chris took some beautiful shots of the formations

it's a guitar....

it’s a guitar….

Day 7.  Four Corners and Monument Valley (AZ, UT, CO & NM).  We spent most of the day on the road, but managed to stop at the four corners monument…

One limb in each of the four states - CO, UT, NM & AZ

One limb in each of the four states – CO, UT, NM & AZ

…put all four limbs in each state all at the same time!   We also visited Monument Valley which is where a lot of wild west movies have been filmed.  It was truly an outstanding park.

Monument valley - everything image you had of a wild western was shaped by this landscape

Monument valley – everything image you had of a wild western was shaped by this landscape

Sadly there was not enough time to do a hike to one of the ‘monument rocks’ and we couldn’t drive.

Day 8.  Mesa Verde National Park (CO).  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.  We managed to shake off the crowds, Mesa Verde was a lot quieter, there were no coach tours bugging me (I am completely selfish when it comes to enjoying nature – I want to enjoy it in peace and quiet without Japanese and Korean tourists shouting and selfy-ing everywhere I looked).  A lot of Mesa Verde had closed for the season, but we did get a tour round one of the more ‘adventurously located’ settlements of the cliff dwellers.  What struck me as really odd was that what we were looking at were rock dwellings that seemed to be from thousands of years ago.  But in reality, they were only 800 years old…it was amazing to compare the dwellings in Europe at that time and how different life was for the Puebloans (what I mean is how undeveloped they seemed compared to Europe).

Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde

Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde

Our tour around one cliff dwelling was a little 'adventurous' I was super impressed to see an 87 yr old lady climb this ladder successfully! Go Girl!

Our tour around one cliff dwelling was a little ‘adventurous’ I was super impressed to see an 87 yr old lady climb this ladder successfully! Go Girl!

We hung around the park to have dinner in our campervan and watched the sunset over the mountains.  Chris took some more amazing starlight pics.

Trippy under the star light at Mesa Verde

Trippy under the star light at Mesa Verde

Day 9.  Santa Fe (NM).  We weren’t really sure what there was to do in Santa Fe, we had a walking tour planned and knew we wanted to try some New Mexico cuisine.  We were surprised at the incredible art galleries here.  We also saw America’s ‘oldest church and building’ (considering we had just come from mesa Verde I am not sure they could claim the oldest building title).  I chose a mexican restaurant and was excited to be eating Mexican food that was actually spicy!  Where we live in Virginia the Mexican food has little spice to it and is covered in cheese – more Tex-Mex than Mexican.  So it was a real treat, and poor Chris ate it despite his ‘sweating’ from the spice.

America's oldest Bell in the Oldest Church - with whole bunch of Milagros (representing miracles) pinned into the wood

America’s oldest Bell in the Oldest Church – with whole bunch of Milagros (representing miracles) pinned into the wood

How lucky are we? Just 9 days in and it was already epic!   Days 10-16 to come next  week!

Mountain Lesson #8: Enjoy the journey.  Sure the infertility journey can be a long one, but sometimes you need to take a little diversionary break to feel the power of mother nature and help lift your mood to higher states of happiness.  Take a breath, take a rest, soak up the sun – let the beauty of the mountains reset you.

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My Mountains Monday Memoirs: Seneca Rocks

I almost forgot about Seneca Rocks, West Virginia…and yet they are the backdrop photo on my iPhone!  I forgot about it because rather than hiking Seneca Rocks, we climbed Seneca Rocks.  I really miss climbing.  So I must have put it to the back of my mind.  But that was until our recent road trip out to the Wild West where I reminded myself how insignificant the mountains on the East Coast truly are!!!

September 2013

It actually wasn’t that long ago that we climbed the spectacular Seneca Rocks out in West Virgina.  We took a long weekend and camped it out.  The days were warm and the nights were blinking chilly!  But we were blessed with some wonderful weather.

A view from the valley of Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

A view from the valley of Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Seneca has the highest ‘true’ peak on the east coast.  What this really means is that the peak is only reachable by climbing – you can’t just walk up it!  What else is really cool is that it is only reachable by ‘traditional’ climbing.  This type of climbing is where you place your own protection in the rock cracks using your own gear and rope as you climb….if you fall, then you are relying on your own ability to place the protection in a secure place, as well as relying on the rock remaining in place to save your life!  This means that in general you stick to climbing route grades that you feel confident climbing.

"All the gear, no idea!!!"  Just kidding...we know how to use this stuff.

“All the gear, no idea!!!” Just kidding…we know how to use this stuff.

Anyway before I get too carried away with talking about climbing!  Let me tell you that on this mountain I was brave.  Actually we were both brave.  BUT! The climbs we faced were highly exposed (i.e. the empty space below the climber that if the climber were to fall is a great (often psychologically) distance) and this creates great fear in most climbers!

Chris and I took turns to ‘lead’ (the climber who places the gear in the rock first, the second is the climber who follows and removes the gear the leader placed so nothing is left behind).  Leading is more often harder than seconding because the climber has to pick a route up the rock face.  It is actually like one giant puzzle, but on a rock face.

It was my turn to lead, all was going well until I reached a point where I needed to climb up and squeeze between two fallen boulders and ended up the other side (not before coming face to face with a huge unknown spider, I just don’t want to know what type of spider!).  Now I was unable to see Chris who was holding the other end of the rope…and Chris was unable to see me or the route I was planning on taking.

This was anything but ideal!

Is this my happy face?!?! (Photo not taken at the exact same time!!)

Is this my happy face?!?! (Photo not taken at the exact same time!!)

Climbing requires a lot of communication and it helps to have a visual on where your partner is, otherwise you rely on signals passed through the rope.  We had the basic signals down to an art, we work well as a team.  But signals that required me to say –

‘What the F#*%?? I can’t see where my next move is!’

…was not one we had practiced.  So I was shouting to Chris asking him where the route was supposed to go (according to the guide book).  All I could see above me was flaky, crumbly rock, and below me, an exposed drop so far down I knew it would be the end of me and potentially injure Chris if I was to fall at that point.  It was at this stage that I got the old climbers ‘Disco legs’ – my leg muscles were shaking, adrenaline pumping, my breathe quickened to the verge of hyperventilation.  There was no escape route… down climbing the way you came up is often harder than climbing up.

I was alone – and then a piece of rock came away from beneath my foot.  I screamed ‘BELOW’ just in case there were climbers below me.

Oh crap.

I was stuck. No way up, no way down.

Chris was only the other side of the two boulders, but he felt a million miles away.  He was trying to talk me out of my predicament.  Trying to get me to focus and solve the puzzle.

My heart was pounding.  I had to find a way up.  I could see the ledge above where I was supposed to be next: the safe point.  It felt like I was clinging on to the wall for hours – it probably was only 15 minutes of attempting multiple ways up, but it felt like an eternity.

I gave up, carefully squeezed back through between the two boulders to see Chris’s face again.  I was one hot sweaty mess!

In my whole climbing career this was the first time I was genuinely scared for my life, our lives.  The heights usually give me a thrill of adrenaline, but I always climb within my limits so I rarely get truly scared.  This time, I thought I was climbing within my limits but instead, I found a surprise dead end – a dark scary (lonely) dead end.  Fortunately it was not literally a dead end!  (My mum is probably cursing me right now as she reads this 🙂 hehe ).

With a bit of patience and caution, we managed to down climb a little way and we then tried another route up.  With success this time!

Chris leading the easier route around.

Chris leading the easier route around.

The pinnalces were spectacular and wonderful to climb

The pinnacles were spectacular and wonderful to climb

Mountain Lesson # 6.  When you think everything is going just dandy, a dead end crops up unexpectedly on you.  It might be scary as crap.  You might feel alone.  But take a small step back from the shadows into the sunlight, turn around, take a deep breathe, and try again.  You’ll get there, it just might take you a little bit longer than you anticipated.

Mountain Lesson # 7.  Good communication in the mountains is crucial.  Practice, practice, practice so you both know what to do when things get a little hairy.

My Mountains Monday Memoirs: Highest Peak in Northern Ireland

The highest peak in Northern Ireland is called Slieve Donard.  I’m not sure it can truly be called a mountain at only 850m high; but it certainly is a commanding peak.  However, this beautiful ‘mountain’ has one of my favourite stories from My Mountains Memoirs…..

Not long after we wed, Chris and I went to visit our friends L & A in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  Knowing how much we love the mountains, L & A took us to the highest peak in Northern Ireland – Slieve Donard.  Honestly, I had never heard of it before that day.  But apparently it was a lovely walk and so off we hiked.  Chris, L, A and their adorable dog – Elvis (I love this dog :-)).

Actually, Chris and I have rarely hiked a mountain with other friends, we usually find ourselves venturing off alone together, so it was a really nice change to hike with them.

The walk up was long, gradual and pretty beside the Glen River – through woodlands of pine, oak and birch.

the way up through the trees

the way up through the trees

As we were climbing, Chris noticed that L was having a hard time with her back and her back-pack: so being a gentleman, he offered to relieve her of her heavy burden.  But L was not going to give up easily, and in fact was overly defensive.  Putting it down to her niceties, Chris thought nothing more of it.

L was determined not to let Chris carry her bag up the mountain!!

L was determined not to let Chris carry her bag up the mountain!!

Once we were out into the moorland, the path became rockier and steeper – and noticeably greyer.  There was no end in sight!  Chris suggested we should turn around.  Particularly with L’s back playing up.  But L & A convinced us to keep going – perhaps the mist would clear!  Perhaps it we would rise above the clouds once we got to the top!!  And so we carried on.  Despite the poor visibility and the ever chilling and biting wind, it still felt good to be going somewhere in the fresh air.

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Starting to get grey and misty – where is the summit??!!

We finally hit what is known as the Mourne Wall which sits within a saddle that leads to the final summit of Slieve Donard.  We could not see the summit.  But there were peeks of wonderful views back down the mountain and across the Irish Sea.  It is not often we get to climb a mountain with sea views!  And so we settled to not climb the peak and took a breather.

Almost near the summit, but it was clouded over :-( so this was the highest we went

Almost near the summit, but it was clouded over 😦 so this was the highest we went

L & A had got us this far, there was no reason to keep going to the clouded summit just to ‘bag it’ – we had got the view we had come for.

But then came the real surprise! L pulled out of her back pack a bottle of Moet & Chandon Champagne!  She had carried it all the way to the top, knowing this was one of our favourite places to be (at the top of a mountain!) as our wedding present.

Like you do - popping open the champers!

Like you do – popping open the champers!

Did I tell you my husband is classy?

Did I tell you my husband is classy?

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A wonderful gift to celebrate together

I cannot tell you how heart warmed I felt right then.  Yes it was freezing cold and the view was less than perfect, and we hadn’t quite reached the true peak!  But we were there with our friends and having a real good laugh – all those things we typically “seek” out of a mountain just simply didn’t matter.  Friendship and love is all that mattered.  Sounds cheesy, but this is what I remember the most.

Mountain Lesson #4: Your dearest friends will keep you going in spite of the fog of it all; they will cheer you on and help you see beyond the wall you face in front of you.

Mountain Lesson #5:  Every so often you need to let your friends come with you on your journey up that mountain…living life with a wall around just the two of you is not always fun.  Sometimes, there is unknown, unseen fun on the other side of that wall!!!

L has been a poorly bunny recently, so I just want to say to her –  We are thinking of you my lovely and hope you feel much better soon.  Big hugs and kisses XXXX

Read my previous Mountain Monday Memoirs blog posts…here….

My Mountains Monday Memoirs: The Dolomites

How does one describe the Dolomites?  These incredible mountains are unlike any other in the world.  A picture barely paints a thousand words in this case, but here is one anyway.

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They are located in the North East of Italy, and so naturally I attempted to learn some basic Italian before we started our three week adventure.  Little did I know that actually they predominantly speak Ladin (unique to the area), German then Italian. Fail!

After 6 months of being deployed in Afghanistan this holiday was our treat to ourselves.  It was going to be epic.  And it was.  But I won’t tell you about the whole holiday because I could be here forever, but I want to tell you about one particular mountain trek.

As we packed our bags for the four day wilderness* hike Chris asked me how well I had slept.  So I told him about my dream, it was vivid – Several unknown males asked to marry me, one after the after, I kept telling them no, I did not want to marry them!  Apparently I forgot to tell Chris that the reason I didn’t want to marry them was because I had someone else on my mind to marry, Chris, of course!  But apparently although I assumed this was a given, Chris thought in his mind that I just didn’t want to get married.  Period. Full Stop.

Thinking nothing of telling my dream to Chris, we jumped in the car with our two friends we were travelling with and drove up the windy roads to our start point.  Our friends wished us goodbye as they had other plans to see Lake Garda and stay in the warm sunshine.  After a whole lot of faffing around we finally got onto the gondola to take us half way up the mountain.  As we found ourselves in the peace and quiet in the silence of the alpine pastures, half way up Chris asked me a strange question about the meaning of life.  I brushed him off because we had an adventure ahead of us and I wasn’t in the mood!  Once we were up the top of the gondola, Chris was faffing.  And I mean FAFFING.  I was getting a little irritated because we were running a bit behind schedule and we had a refugio dinner to get to about 15 miles away!!!

5 minutes into our hike, we were still in the green alpine pastures, but really the views were spectacular as they were in dolomites.  Chris took his bag off his back and started faffing around, again.  I was mildly irritated, but Chris called me over to say he had haribo in his bag.  Now I was really mad because that meant for the last 4 days he had hidden it from me!! OK I am not that fickle, but really Haribo is one of my favourite bads.  When I came over he pulled out a ring box with a jelly haribo ring in it.   “Ummmmm are you kidding me??” were the first words out of my mouth.  Apparently, I should have said “Yes, Chris I would love to marry you!” – well I don’t know these things!  It’s not like I have had men proposing to me left right and centre to practice my response (except for in my dreams the previous night!!).

The ring Chris Proposed with - yes it is haribo!

The ring Chris Proposed with – yes it is haribo!

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The ring Chris Proposed with - yes it is haribo!

The ring Chris Proposed with – yes it is haribo!

Of course, you know the story, because Chris is my husband now.  But let me ask you this…would you say “no” to a man you were just about to spend 4 days hiking in the wilderness with??!  Could have been a bit awkward.  Just kidding, I said yes and meant it.  Chris was very nervous I was actually going to turn him down based off my dream.

It was weird being engaged and not being able to tell anyone about it until we could find some phone reception!  But the mountains are good for the soul.  The four days helped give us time to think things through on our terms.  It was a complete surprise to me, although some people had suggested that Chris might propose on this romantic holiday to Italy, but I thought it would be too cliché and obvious that I thought nothing of it.  How wrong was I?

Yes, this mountain was memorable, not just because of its beauty, but because it was one of the best days of my life.

Of course - Chris had chosen a real ring too! He's not that stupid :-)

Of course – Chris had chosen a real ring too! He’s not that stupid 🙂

Mountain Lesson Number 3:  Always expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything.

*Wilderness in this case mean travelling from refugio to refugio – a kind of mountain hostel.

Introducing: My Mountains – Monday Memoirs – Scotland

Mondays – I think most of us could say that this day of the week can be likened to a mountain.  But I LOVE mountains.  Chris loves mountains too.  We like climbing mountains (although we haven’t done much of that this year), although climbing mountains is hard work – there is great reward once you get up there though (most of the time!).  So I thought I would write a regular post that reminisces on some of our quality mountain days and reflect upon my pudding club hunt; and what better day to write it on than a Monday.  Plus the post title alliterates (…got to love a bit of alliteration!).  Introducing….My mountains – Monday Memoirs.

The Highlands, Scotland 2010

Hogmanay in bonny Scotland (i.e. New Years eve in beautiful Scotland).  We planned an escape from the more traditional New Years Eve parties – i.e. get pissed/sloshed/leathered/smashed/plastered/hammered/wasted/trolleyed/spannered/wankered/battered/badgered/bladdered/fecked/lashed/legless/ming-monged/mullered/ratted/shit-faced/tanked/trashed/wrecked or put more simply – drunk.  Yes, us Brits have many words to describe getting drunk!  We decided to head off into the Scottish Highlands to see the new year in with a bit of peace and quiet.

After a night of Scottish dancing (a ceilidh) fuelled by haggis, neeps and tatties, we woke up bright and early on New Years Day.  Not a hangover to be seen.  We took to the hills with not a person in sight.  It was bliss.  We were spoilt to have the hills to ourselves.  Our hike started off in the boggy marshes.  There was no path to be found and we were pretty much hiking off our compasses at this point.  After about 20 minutes we finally saw a sign, we were heading in the right direction at least!

It was a hard grog up the hillside in the tall marshy grass.  But we had some fun along the way, and we took a timer photo that turned out to be one of my favourite pictures of us both – it is my screen saver and people always comment on it.

One of my favourite all time pics.

One of my favourite all time pics of us both.

We had passed the steepest point, about half way up the mountain and so we took a breather – I had to strip down a layer I was so hot….I  took off my glasses placed them on a rock beside me so I could pull my fleece over my head.  And this was the last time my glasses were ever seen on my head (this very photo!!!).

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The last time my glasses were ever seen on my head

When we reached the top of the mountain, it was beautiful, but windy and very very cold, I told Chris we had to keep going before my face froze off.  We took one quick picture and started to head off down the other side of the mountain. We had planned a circular route around rather than go back down the same way we came up.

Got to keep yourself warm somehow out there in the wilderness!

Got to keep yourself warm somehow out there in the wilderness!

Half way down the other side of the mountain I realised I no longer had my glasses with me.  FAIL!!!!  It was only because of the photo above that we figured that I must have left them on the rock when I stripped down a layer.  As you can see from the photo at the top, it was starting to get quite dark.  Chris offered to run back up the mountain and get them, but that seemed quite dangerous considering the lack of other people around and the impending darkness.

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The moment I realised the glasses were not on my face.

So we stuck to our route, and I was annoyed at myself for a long time – they were quite new glasses as well.  For months afterwards I kept an eye out in the ‘outdoors’ magazines in the ‘lost articles’ section just in case someone had found them.  But alas.  They were gone forever.

So here are the first of my mountain lessons from this trip that help me think about infertility and overcoming the mountains we face.

Mountain Lesson #1.  Don’t let the bogs get you down or put you off your course.  When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.  We almost turned back after 15 minutes of bogging it…so glad we didn’t in the end!

Mountain Lesson #2.  Sometimes things just get lost, it will make you mad and eventually sad.  But losing Chris in a ditch somewhere and probably calling out mountain rescue along the way would have not been worth the loss of my glasses.  I made a decision that was safer in the end.  He was willing to put himself out there for me – love can make you blind to danger!