Updated: Aug 4, 2020
January 10th, 2020
In many ways, moving from December 31st to January 1st makes little difference in the larger scheme of things. For most of us, the holidays symbolize the passing of time as the year we thought we were in seemingly evaporates before our eyes, or is driven away to (or maybe by?) the music of the same Christmas tunes sung to quicker beats in unfamiliar voices. All the while, the end of the year is echoed, and at the same time confirmed, by similarly perplexed family members and co-workers sighing ‘it’s already Christmas’ and ‘I can’t believe it’s almost *insert year here*.’
I’m not here to philosophize on the passing of time or the significance of the cultural holidays to mark that passing. Besides, it’s January (again), so we’ve made it into the new year--no turning back now! But the turning of a new year inevitably inspires in us a need to look back, assess all that we accomplished or did not accomplish in the past year as a way of looking forward. We are a culture that values progress--that female angelic figure of John Gast’s painting American Progress guiding imperialists across time and space. We want our future selves to be and do better than our past selves.
Resolutions? I prefer goals to resolutions, since the idea of a ‘New Year's Resolution’ is too frequently associated with a dissatisfaction with our appearances or physical selves. As someone with a chronic illness that involves daily pain throughout my body that’s more-or-less out of my control, I’d rather not spend the month of January thinking about conforming to cultural body standards unless that means making a change that will have a positive impact on my daily pain and fatigue levels.
Instead, as we're forced to acknowledge the passing of time, I think January should be for setting goals to do more of the good things from the year before (and maybe some good things that didn’t come to fruition in the previous 365 days)!
Here are my outdoor goals for 2020. These goals are all about doing more of what I enjoyed in 2019, and adding in hopes for adventures that did not transpire last year. As with anything, the goals are also conscious of any current or possible limitations I may experience with Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS).
Get Outdoors More in My Neighborhood
The first step to being more active is simply getting outdoors more. For me and my AS, even a short walk outside can loosen up my back and hips, which helps reduce pain. Lucky for me, I live within walking distance of some great trails along the Rio Grande. This year, I will commit to getting outdoors more, not just for those day or weekend hiking trips planned in advance, but also on days where there isn’t time to drive out of the city. On those spur-of-the-moment occasions, I need to be better about throwing on my hiking boots, sliding the harnesses on the dogs, and hitting the city trails!
Plan National Park & Monument Trips
In 2019, I was fortunate enough to get to visit several National Parks and Monuments. Before the beginning of the summer, Stacia and I, along with our mothers and sister, road-tripped to Las Vegas via the Grand Canyon National Park. While our time there was limited by the nature of the trip, we were still able to do some short walks to take in the indescribable majesty of the Grand Canyon.
Stacia and I also made a weekend trip up to Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, and a day trip to El Malpais National Conservation Area. But I’m acutely aware of the wealth of National Parks and Monuments available to us residents of the American Southwest and want to visit more!
On my list for potential visits this year: Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, the newly minted White Sand Dunes National Park in New Mexico, Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, and Devil’s Tower National Monument in South Dakota.
Do More Mountain Camping
I’ve been on a relatively dry spell for camping trips, partially due to the lack of comfortable gear for sleeping, as explained in my previous post. So, maybe this goal should just say ‘do more camping!’ But I absolutely love camping in the mountains, waking up to the sun rising over a not-so-distant peak, a cold water creek flowing nearby.
In New Mexico, mountains abound. There seem to be some spectacular campgrounds in the Carson, Lincoln, and Santa Fe National Forests, as well as several State Parks in the North-Central and Southern regions of the state. Hyde Memorial State Park just outside of Santa Fe in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains has lots of camping options and even a few yurts to rent, though dogs are not allowed in the yurts so they’re not for me!
Find Trails Friendly to Older Dogs
My American Bulldog Texie is getting old, or at least her body is. She has arthritis that mostly affects the paws and wrists of her front legs, often leaving her limping after a hike. While she’s only 6 ½ years old, the arthritis is causing bony growths above her knuckles. A vet recently told me that bulldogs like her carry 80% of their weight with their front legs because they’re so thick and beefy in the chest area.
Despite the arthritis, Texie still acts like a puppy on the trail and is simply not capable of taking it easy. As I’ve said in Hiking with Dogs, for most hikes, we just have to leave Texie home. Texie has such an expressive face that it really breaks our hearts to leave her home, so this year it will be worth-while to search out some trails where Texie can get out, sniff, get some exercise, but limit the impact the trail has on her joints.
To accomplish this goal, I’ll have to find trails that are relatively flat (so no mountain hikes for Texie), maybe with softer surfaces than stone (though sand gets too hot in the summer for dog paws), and with a running stream or river (Texie can get lots of exercise simply jumping in and out of the water!).
Plan a Camping Trip with Family
As a kid, my family would always travel up to North Conway in New Hampshire for a week-long camping trip on the Saco River in the White Mountains. The camping trips were always an adventure filled with canoe trips down the river, hikes in the mountains, days on the beach, and plenty of time to simply sit out and enjoy the company of family and friends around the campfire.
For years, Stacia and I have been talking about meeting family somewhere for a camping trip. Since we don’t have family in the Southwest, a perfect family camping trip would involve a lengthy drive for us and for whoever meets us. Maybe I could convince others to meet us at a National Park or Monument somewhere and cover two goals with one trip!
Discover Areas for Rockhounding
Ever since I read that dinosaur remains were discovered in the Ojito Wilderness in New Mexico (see my post Finding the Seismosaurus Trail), I’ve tried to become more aware of the world around me--that is, the ground and rock around me.
Out at Ojito, we’ve found numerous interesting pieces of rock, including small pieces of agates and a geode. Stacia even bought me a book about rockhounding and another about the rocks of New Mexico so that I may study and attempt to identify what we’re seeing on the trail.
This upcoming year, I’d like to explore more areas with likely agates or other interesting bits of rock. Fossils, too, can be found in any landscape that, at some point in its history, was low-lying. Finding a fossil would be pretty amazing too, but it’s important to know and remember what you can and cannot take off of public lands!
Well those are my Outdoor goals for 2020. What sort of adventures are on your list? Where will the new year take you?