Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tues, June 26, 2012: Trevor, Abducted!

I have noticed a "strangeness" about my balcony for a while now.  It tickled the back of my mind incessantly, drawing me to the window to look out.  The only thought my brain would formulate was how clean and big my balcony looked... until yesterday.

Yesterday, I looked out and realized that the cleanness and bigness of the balcony was due to a rather large feature missing on it: Trevor, my bike! (Episode here).  I started freaking out.  How long had it been missing?  My brain was tickling me with the strangeness of my balcony for a while, it seemed, before I realized what it was trying to tell me.  I felt so violated that someone actually climbed up onto my balcony, part of my apartment, and stole my bike!

I called my insurance company to see if my renter's insurance would cover the theft, but they have a deductible that is as much as I originally paid for my bike 3 years ago.  The woman I spoke with suggested two things: first, to file a police report, and second, to search for my bike on Craig's List.

I browsed Craig's List first, and.... found a posting for what looked exactly like my bike.  My stomach turned to see my bike listed on some stranger's internet posting.  There are some specific features about my bike that made me 99.99% certain that this one was mine.  I called the police and an officer stopped by and took my report.  While she was at my house, I showed her the Craig's List posting but she didn't say or do anything about it.  I wanted to be like, "Lady!  Don't you care?!  This is my flippin bike!!!".

I emailed the Craig's List poster and received a call back.  It turns out that the poster was a pawn shop, Golden Pawn up in Black Hawk, Colorado.  I begged the woman not to sell my bike and told her I'd be up there later in the afternoon to come get it.  I explained that it was stolen from me and that I would appreciate if the owner of the shop would consider lowering the price.  She said she would call him to see what she could do.

When I arrived, I felt so relieved to see Trevor sitting there, propped up next to the register area.  Whoever stole him didn't take very good care of him, and his handlebars were filthy and he had some new scratches on his frame.  The woman came out and was "so sorry", but the owner was insisting on $200 since that's supposedly how much was paid for the bike. (I don't believe this... why would the owner sell it for what he paid for it?).  I tried talking her down for quite some time, but I couldn't prove to her that this was my bike, or that it was stolen, so there wasn't really much I felt I could do.  I finally actually got on my bike, looked up at her and said, "Look at this.  Do you see that it's still perfectly adjusted to fit me?"  She got this weird look on her face, kind of a wry half-smile, and I think that's the thing that finally convinced her that perhaps this bike DID belong to me.

She called the owner again and got him to reduce the price to $150.  I was split on this, and extremely tempted to just load the bike into my car and be done with it.  Half of me was fuming angry that my bike was stolen, and here was this pawn shop trying to make money off of it rather than apologizing and just giving it back to me.  The other half of me realized, though, that it wasn't their fault that they purchased stolen merchandise.  The woman at the shop had explained to me that when someone brings something in to pawn, they have to provide a valid ID and sign a statement saying if the item belonged to them and how long they have owned it.

The side that was overwhelmed by this injustice brought tears to my eyes, but the rational side pulled out my debit card and consented to pay the money so I could have the honor of loading my bike into my car and driving him home again.

This pawn shop did something interesting, that I did not expect.  Apparently they list the name of the individual who brought in the item right on the price tag for the item.  When she pointed this out to me, I immediately took a photograph of it.  On my way home, I called the police again to tell the detective that I found my bike.  The officer on the phone advised me to come down to the station and give a statement, so I rolled down the mountains and back to Denver.  When I walked into the station, the officer asked me if I was the woman who called earlier.  I was like "Ah... maybe?", as I had no idea how many women had called earlier or what he was referring to.  So he elaborated, "Are you the woman who recovered your own bike?" I loved that he used that word, "recovered", as it sounded way more awesome and detective-like than what I felt had actually happened that day.  I grinned and said, "Yes, I got my bike back!"

I made sure to include the name of the man on the price tag in my statement.  I can't believe that he was foolish enough to steal my bike, then bring it to a pawn shop where he had to produce an ID.  I can only imagine that he NEVER thought I'd look in Black Hawk, which is about an hour or an hour and a half west of where I live.  And I never would have looked in Black Hawk, had it not been for that Craig's List posting and the perfect picture of Trevor that showed some features that let me know it was him.

It was strange and amazing having him home last night, and I took out a cloth and wiped down all the dirt and grime that the uncaring thief had let accumulate on him.  There was that 0.01% doubt, though, nagging in the back of my mind that perhaps this wasn't my bike.  Yes, it had the exact same baskets on the pedals, and the same Bell light on the back, and it was exactly the right size to be my bike, and the same weird shaped scratch on the frame, and it had the same gel cushion seat that I bought at REI in Grand Junction on the way out to Moab, but... that doubt was still there. Then, I noticed the way the gel seat was tied to the back reflector, and that little doubt disappeared like a puff of smoke.  That was EXACTLY how I had tied the extra string of my gel seat to my reflector.

It's Trevor.

I'm disappointed that I had to pay in order to recover him, but that disappointment is tiny in the face of how awesome everything turned out.  I mean, seriously: who has their bike stolen, randomly looks on Craig's List, actually finds their bike, and has the opportunity to recover it?  I feel extremely fortunate, especially since the pawn shop said that he was brought in to them in mid-May.  I find it kind of amusing that I had such a cow over a stolen bike that I didn't even notice was missing for over a month (in my defense, my balcony extends past the doorway and my bike was not visible from the apartment unless I walked right up to the door and looked to the side).  The funny thing is, though, that the Craig's List posting only just went up on June 23rd... so if I had noticed that Trevor was missing much sooner than yesterday, I would not have been able to find him online.  Had I realized he was gone in mid-May, I might have given up searching for him by now.  I am extremely grateful to the universe for the fact that I didn't realize it any sooner, because realizing that he was gone yesterday lead to me having him back and safe at home all in the same day.  I think it's exactly how it was supposed to be.

I get the feeling that Trevor is letting me know that he'd like to have some more adventures.  :)  I asked him if he'd let me have them with him, instead of getting stolen, and he seemed content with that.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sun, June 24, 2012: Many Mountains, Part 2

Jen was successful at getting us up at 4:30, and I found myself surprisingly awake despite the horribly early hour.  It actually felt... good to be up that early.  I hadn't been feeling well the previous day, but that seemed to be better and I felt nervous but excited to see the mountain.

We waited until about 5:30 before heading up to the parking lot, as we were meeting two women coming from town at 6am.  Looking back, I wish we had started heading up the mountain at 4:30 as we would have avoided some of the heat!

We arrived just in time to see the sun starting to spill into the valley between Mt. Evans (the tall peak on the left) and Mt. Bierstadt (the tall peak on the right).  You can see the "sawtooth" ridge connecting Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt.  (There is a kind of "peak" within the sawtooth ridge, but that's not a mountain).

 Kaylee was ready to go too!

 Bonnie and I started off at about 6:15, as we were ready to go and didn't feel like waiting anymore.  The other ladies ended up starting shortly after, around 6:30.  The first part of the hike is spent among some shrubby willows, growing around the swampy creek that divides the parking lot from the mountains.
 It was a beautiful morning, cool in the shade, with no wind to speak of even as we ascended the peak.

The higher we hiked, the harder it became, and Bonnie walked on ahead as I needed to stop for more breaks to catch my breath.  Kaylee capered around each time we stopped, ever energetic, wanting to say hi to everyone and sniff every single atom of the earth around her.
 Looking back down the trail:

 There were beautiful flowers thriving where the willows could no longer grow.

 The other ladies caught up to me as I was taking a break, and ended up passing me.  Jen stayed with me for a while, that's her hands on the right side of this photo. :)
 This is the last picture I took...
...because as we were climbing and climbing, I couldn't stop thinking of all the reasons I did not want to be there at that moment, having that experience.  My body hurt, I was hot, and I was tired of being the butt of the group, among other things.  I started feeling really upset, which made me want to start crying, which absolutely destroyed my ability to breathe as I was already breathing pretty hard to get the oxygen my body needed out of that thin air.  I freaked out and shouted for my friends to help me because I couldn't breathe.  Of course, the mountain was totally crowded, it being a very hot Sunday morning: the perfect kind for the athletically inclined types of the city to head up into the mountains to conquer the stone behemoths.  So my friends headed down to help me, and so did some really annoying people I wished would just leave me alone.

I was so embarrassed.  (And the people who stopped to help were, of course, not at all annoying and it was kind of them to care.  That was embarrassed me thinking they were annoying).

I was, of course, fine, and apparently needed to learn the lesson that crying because I no longer wanted to be hiking a 14er, while in the middle of hiking the 14er, is a TERRIBLE IDEA!  If anyone has ever learned anything from reading this blog, I hope this is the lesson that you take away.  I would like to spare everyone in the world from having the experience of screaming that you can't breathe in the middle of a mountain full of people.


Somewhere around the switchback area of the final picture above is where I turned around and decided that I just didn't want to be having this experience anymore.  Looking back, I wish that I had stayed.  There was still a ways to go, maybe a mile? maybe an hour or 2 more of hiking till I reached the top?  I really think that all I needed to do was sit down, calm down, and give myself a pep talk.  Instead, I made the impulsive decision to escape the situation as quickly as I could (which was not quickly at all... I'd hiked so far up the mountain, it took me a while to hike back even with it being downhill!).

Or maybe turning around was the right thing to do.  My body certainly wasn't enjoying itself, and my brain wasn't having a whole lot of fun either.  And after all, what's the point of going through an experience like that if it's not even enjoyable on some level?

I think that at this point in my life, I just didn't have any pep talks left to offer myself.  I've been dealing with some of the most difficult struggles of my life these past 6 months, and am still dealing with many things, though some of them have started winding down or coming to a close (FINALLY!).  I feel like I have too many "mountains" in my life to climb already, without adding this actual excessively ginormous hunk of rock to the many challenges I am already working to overcome.  In that moment, I had no pep talk for, "Hey, chillax, let's just mosey up this giant hunk of rock here, mkay?"

So I turned around, embarrassed and angry at myself and my body, sad that I disappointed Kaylee and feeling like I didn't want to be having that experience anymore.  I drove home exhausted, showered, and laid down on my living room floor for a 2 hour nap.  I was so mad that sweeping declarations kept slashing themselves across my brain: "I'm never doing a 14er again!", "I'm never hiking with my friends again!", "I don't want to do anything outside ever again!".

Of course, these were not rational thoughts and I certainly hope that they are false.  I'd like to try Bierstadt again and I think I could do it, especially if I was alone and not trying to keep up with anybody else.  I find that many things in life are easier for me when I attempt them by myself, because I have no option but to be strong and to succeed.  Hiking Grays Peak with my friends worked for me, 3 years ago, because they were slower hikers, like me.  Maybe I just need more slow friends. :)  The friends I attempted Bierstadt with are not at all slow, which is fine and good for them, but doesn't make me feel at all good about myself or the experience I have when I do something physical with them.  (See: Conundrum Hot Springs).  I feel like I spend the entire time trying to keep up, or catch up, and I don't even get to see the world around me or enjoy the experience that I'm having.

For me, being out in nature isn't about being fast.  It's not a physical experience for me in the sense of feeling the rush of conquering a difficult physical challenge.  It's a physical experience for me mostly in the sense that my body is able to bring me to a place I would otherwise have never experienced.  My body is part of the experience only in that it is a vehicle for my mind, my senses, and my soul.  I don't want to walk fast.  I want to walk slow.  I want to stop and look at the flowers and take in the views and look at the textures of the grass and the shape of the path.  I want to stop and breathe.

I think that I would like to try approaching this mountain again, sometime.  I'd like to embrace it on a cool morning, preferably a random Tuesday where the trail isn't clogged by the hundreds of other people ascending the peak.  Just me and Kaylee and the world around us, with nothing to keep up with but my own desire to see what's around the next bend or over the next ridge.  I do still want to see that view. :)

Sat, June 23, 2012: Many Mountains, Part 1

A while back, my friends and I made plans to hike Mt. Bierstadt, which would be their first 14er and my second (the first being Grays Peak 3 years ago).  I was excited to attempt this, but really nervous: when I hiked Grays, I was really active and in some of the best shape I've been in my life.  Lately, I have been much less active, but figured it would just take me all day to climb the mountain, and I was ok with that.

We camped at a random site along Guanella Pass, hoping that by staying in the area we'd make it there early enough to find a place in the parking lot.
The campsite was undeveloped, which meant we didn't have any conveniences like water or bathrooms available.  It also meant that it was undeveloped, and covered with beautiful trees and rocks and flowers.
This stump was visible out the door of my tent.
Home away from home!
There were little paths connecting separate campsites throughout the area, but we had them all to ourselves.
There were strawberry plants blossoming everywhere!
Just to the east of my little campsite was an aspen grove filled with columbine flowers.

These flowers are so beautiful and delicate-looking that I have a hard time believing they could thrive in such a rocky, hard place as Colorado.

Kaylee, of course, was along with me, and I was really excited for her to do her first 14er.  She was SO DIRTY!
Aspen grove near my campsite:
There were so many flowers, everywhere.  That is one of my very favorite things about Colorado.
Relaxing and reading before bed. :)
Jen promised to wake us up at 4:30 in the morning so we would be able to get to the mountain and find parking.  While waking up this early always sounds like a terrible idea to me, it made sense.  Not only could the parking situation be a major issue at Bierstadt, but the weather was going to be awful that day.  Down in the prairie, they were predicting temperatures of 100 degrees or higher.  Hiking up a mountain is hard enough without baking in the heat, too.  I hoped we'd be able to get most of the hiking behind us before it really started warming up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sat, June 9 to Sun, June 10: White Ranch, the Place to Be!

White Ranch Open Space Park is definitely one of my most-visited and favorite places in Colorado. (For past trips, see here and here and here and here and here!).  My friends wanted to go camping this weekend, and I was all in for the first camping trip of the season!  I really wanted to head down to the Sand Dunes, since I haven't been able to hike up them yet, but that seemed like too long a trip for everyone.

I asked Kaylee to carry some Very Important Things on her first backpacking trip, like her dog food and a box of matches.  She was very responsible!
We executed the mile-long hike in to the campsites under some HOT sun.  This meadow is the very first part of the hike, and the sun baked us the whole way.
The sight of this little reservoir is always a little strange as it's a fairly new addition to the prairie landscape.
Downtown and North Table Mountain:
There are some little buildings near the main parking lot that look like ranch buildings.  They have a ton of horse trailers and stables, but I never see any horses there.  This is the view back up toward the ranch.
As always, the flowers were beautiful. :)

It was extremely hazy out.  I'm not sure if it was from dust or forest fires (we're having some of those already, it's been an extremely hot and dry season so far).  I could barely make out Pike's Peak in this direction, but it didn't come out at all in the photograph.
It seems that in Colorado, I'm always hiking either in an aspen grove or in endless stretches of ponderosas.  There aren't many aspen groves at White Ranch. :)
We arrived at the campsite, and I promptly heaved my backpack onto the picnic table and proceeded to unfasten the 800 straps and buckles that keep me secured into the thing.  It felt so amazing to have the hot, dry air flowing over my back (no seriously, it did!).  I set Kaylee up with her long camping leash, but she seemed pretty distressed every time I walked away.  I'm not sure what the deal was, but she was obviously feeling protective of me and tried to bark or growl at everyone who walked past.
The view from under the one gloriously shady spot on our campsite:
This is summer bliss.
I alternated between reading and just putting my book down in awe of sitting outside in nature for so long.  I miss having a backyard and being able to spend time outside, though spending time outside in the city is very different from being outside in this massive open space.  The sounds of the insects and the breeze rustling the grasses and the trees, the birds flying high overhead and soaring right past me... I am such a country person.  I love places where nature is untamed, and it felt so wonderful to have nothing to do but enjoy relaxing outside.
There was a fire pit on our site, but due to the hot and dry weather there was a fire ban so we couldn't roast marshmellows.  Awww!

There was this one rock over on the corner of the campsite that seemed to be a perfect fairy home.  There were tiny flowers and plants sprouting all over it, and its surface was colorful with lichen.

Everyone arrived in their own time, and the arrival of my friends who have children definitely livened things up around the site!
A perfect daisy in the pine needles:

We climbed on the big rocks with the kids, and I realized you could see downtown Denver from our site.
See it? :)

This funny little tree was literally growing out of a crack in the rocks.
It was kind of hazy and half-overcast for part of the day, but then the sun came out with a mission: illumination.

Kaylee was happy that everyone was there.  My friends were kind enough to take her in when I traveled to New Orleans, and now she LOVES THEM!
I like finding funny faces on random things that aren't supposed to have faces.  I love this bench face!
One of the reasons that my friend selected our campsite, aside from it being available, is the view.
It's so strange to feel like you're way up in the wilderness, but be able to practically see where you live way down there.
It's peaceful, though, and I love the feeling.  The city looks so pretty from far away, all lit up in the darkness.
That night, the wind absolutely raged.  It whipped up the hillside and through the trees and bashed itself against my tent, shaking it so I woke up many times during the night afraid that it would collapse.  I love the wind.  I love it when it rages and I love it when it whispers, and I wondered if the weather would change the next day.

The wind did indeed bring change, and the air was chilly for most of the morning.  It was a refreshing contrast!  We headed out fairly early-ish, so that we wouldn't be hiking in the heat of the afternoon.  My friends' son chose to walk with me and hold my hand, and wanted to "beat" everyone back to the car.
We talked about bears and lions and all the insects and plants that we saw along the path, and I thought to myself how much I enjoy his little mind. :)  We did end up "beating" everyone to the cars, which made him very glad, and I felt very glad that I wasn't so physically exhausted this trip.  I think sometimes the heat just really wears me out.  Instead of worn out, though, I felt refreshed and re-centered and happy to be alive.