Hiking the Rio Grande

Start of the Hike
The trail near Tingley Beach where The Dog and I started our hike.

I woke up this morning looking forward to the block of time scheduled on my calendar from 7:00 AM to 9:00 AM. I know, who the heck looks forward to anything at seven in the morning on a Saturday? Most people are still asleep or just waking up to their first cup of coffee around that time on a Saturday morning. I, on the other hand, had made sure I had dedicated time to pack up the dog and a small backpack early enough to beat the crowds on the trails skirting the east side of the Rio Grande.

These excursions into the Bosque are my escape from the riggers of day-to-day life. Limited technology, only the faintest sound of traffic in the distance, and quiet head space to explore those thoughts normally suppressed by the rush of daily existence. It is a peaceful place to find yourself in on a Saturday morning. I don’t take this time nearly enough.

The Dog was less than impressed with the early start to the day. She doesn’t get out enough to understand events like this should be a regular aspect of her life. However, she sat quietly as I put her vest, collar, and nose-guide on in preparation for our excursion. Obediently, she hopped in the front passenger seat of the car and began to shake. It was chilly this morning, but her shaking was simply from being put in the car (an experience she still isn’t fond of).

We drove the one mile distance in just a few minutes. Passing downtown’s multi-story buildings, the outskirts of the zoo, and the older parts of the Barelas Neighborhood. It was quiet and almost no traffic. The perfect start to the day.

We unloaded at Tingley Beach and headed off into the wild. It sounds childish, but despite the number of times I have hiked these trails, I still feel like an explorer far from civilization discovering new places in the world. It’s a freeing feeling to think that so few people (statistically speaking) have walked the same trails I have walked. The Dog led the way with enthusiasm as she smelled the scents of a hundred dogs who came before her, trying to cover all of them as quickly as possible – suffice to say, she failed.

 

With a brisk breeze and a rising sun, we headed north along the well-worn trails between the Rio Grande and The Paseo Del Bosque Trail. The cottonwood trees swayed back and forth, the river flowed just beyond the trees, and we hiked our way through a corridor used throughout history. It was very calming, almost meditative, as we passed the river viewing area just south of Central Avenue.

The quiet and centering feeling continued through our turnaround point at Interstate 40. It was only after we took a break, about a quarter of a mile south of the Interstate, on our way back to where we parked the car that we started to see more foot traffic. For the most part, the other trail users were polite and courteous – making sure their dogs were properly handled, moving to the side to allow us both to pass each other, and taking care to not overly disturb the surrounding vegetation off trail. However, it is important to note that many of the dog owners do not keep their dogs on leashes unless they see someone else on the trail. This can cause a canine confrontation calamity if you’re not paying attention.

Throughout the return trip, The Dog and I got to listen to the river, a wily woodpecker trying to force its way through a Cottonwood, and (presumably) the mating calls of geese and ducks. It was all very grounding for me personally and helps me appreciate the world we live in just a little bit more than I do on a daily basis. This is an experience people of all ages can enjoy.

All in all, The Dog and I walked a little over 5 miles at a leisurely pace in about 2 hours. I highly recommend that everyone takes some time to disconnect from the modern world and return to the nearly raw nature of a hiking area – even if the trails are improved and you’re not breaking brush to get where you’re going. I know I will be making sure to regularly block out time on my calendar (and in my head) to hike the trails in and around Albuquerque.

Where do you like to hike? What benefits do you get out of a quiet walk through nature? Do you take your dog(s) with you or prefer the company of bipeds? Tell us all about it in the comment section – don’t forget to like, follow, and share this post on your favorite social media site!

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Bataan 2018…The Day After – Part 4

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Eating green tea ice cream circa 2014 in Taiwan – I had already packed on 40 pounds of excess weight at this point.

Like so many veterans, I left the Army and immediately stopped doing any form of physical training (PT). I began ingesting far more calories than my newly lethargic lifestyle could ever process and, as happens, started to pack on the pounds. Over the years, my weight and fitness level have yo-yo’d from fat and cardiac-event risk to slim and fit. During the valleys of fast food and little activity, I constantly sell myself on the idea that I am as good as I was in my mid-20’s running mile after mile everyday, packing rucks with 50+ pounds and walking until my feet bled, and being “tactically cool” as I cleared houses in Iraq wearing 90 pounds worth of gear and ammo. Unfortunately, despite my success selling myself on these ideas, the truth is much more grounding:

I am overweight, out of shape, and not as good as I once was.

The truth hurts and putting it out to the world in this way is very embarrassing for me. I have always prided myself on being disciplined and ready for whatever the world throws at me. However, with my inability to complete the full course of the Bataan Memorial Death March 2018 comes the realization that I have bought into my own lie, hook, line, and sinker.

Fortunately, it is not too late to turn this all around. It is possible that I will never be as good as I was as a young sergeant in Iraq, but I can be a whole lot better than I am today. My 2018 goals are geared towards my own improvement including physical fitness – not just weight loss, but physical ability to accomplish tasks that I currently struggle with or outright fail at. In line with this physical improvement is preparation for the 2019 Bataan Memorial Death March taking place on March 17, 2019.

Selfie - Bataan Memorial Death March 2018
A horrible selfie sometime around Mile 10 or 11

As I have written about my experiences at the Bataan Memorial Death March 2018 in Parts 1, 2, and 3 of “The Day After” series, my physical preparations were insufficient to complete the full route this year. I have two more physical challenges in 2018 as a part of my 2018 goals which do not include any “from the hip” entries I may have in other events that pop-up in the next 9 months. These events will help drive me to improve my physical capabilities and increase my chances of completing the 2019 Bataan memorial Death March 26.2 mile route.

My rough training plan for the 2019 Bataan Memorial Death March:

  1. Albuquerque “Run for the Zoo” 10k – May 6, 2018
    • I have 5 weeks to train for this event and will be detailing that adventure in future blog posts.
  2. The “Duke City Marathon” – October 21, 2018
    • I plan on finding a 3 to 4 month training plan to up my distance from 10k range to a full marathon and will be detailing this journey in future blog posts.
  3. 20-week Bataan Memorial Death March provided training plan
    • After an appropriate rest period following the Duke City Marathon, The Husband and I will follow the 20-week training plan provided by event organizers. I will be recording our experiences on this blog.
  4. Weekly Ruck Marches
    • I plan on utilizing the wonderful terrain in and around Albuquerque to ruck short to long distances with light to heavy weight at least one day a week throughout the year until I start the official Bataan training plan.
  5. Strength Training
    • Incorporated into all of my training plans for the above events will be regular strength training. This is something I have never been fond of (pick up heavy things and then put them back where I found them), but I am weaker today than I have ever been in my entire life. This is not something I am okay with and I am willing to take whatever steps are necessary to correct this problem.

Since the above points are my rough plan, I am sure I will provide more refined and tested training plans for each event in the future. Keep in mind, I am not a nutritionist, certified trainer, or other certified sports exercise professional so don’t follow my plans without first checking with a healthcare professional. I am willing to use trial and error to improve myself until I am in a position to consult with professionals.

I know this is going to be a very difficult road over the next year, but I am committed to fixing the problems I have created. I am glad I chose to share my own embarrassment with everyone who happens upon this blog because it provides me a higher sense of accountability (much like I had in the Army). It’s time to prove through hard work that none of us are stuck with our present situation!

Are you a veteran or do you know a veteran who let themselves go after leaving the service? Have you (or they) come back from that bad place? How did you (or they) do it? Any advice for me or the readers of this blog? Share in the comments below! Also, remember to follow this blog and like us on social media!

In-Flight Reset

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Albuquerque Rail Yards

I have been absent from my blog for the past two weeks as I thrust myself into an experiment to prove what I am doing has been positive. Essentially, I tested whether my lifestyle before this year was actually a bad thing. Initial results: it absolutely was bad for me.

Early this week I had to travel to New Jersey for work which broke the routine I have been following since the beginning of the year. This lapse in commitment on my part led to the aforementioned experiment. I started to leave the television on for hours on end, my diet went to shit, and I haven’t been to the gym in a week. My energy plummeted, attitude suffered, and motivation evaporated. I found myself wasting hour after hour doing nothing of importance – I passed from relaxation into laziness.

All of this helps to highlight the fact that new habits and commitments to improving yourself are fragile. It doesn’t take much to backslide into your old ways and, if you’re not careful, stay there.

I did not set out to test my resolve nor did I anticipate such a fast return to my toxic habits of the past. Fortunately, I have been able to identify what is happening and fix the problem.

Today has been a more productive day (outside of the office) than any in the past two weeks. I am in the process of an in-flight reset to ensure I don’t lose all of my gains this year and push through this barrier as quickly as possible. To help with this, I am doing the following:

  1. Calendar Organization – I am blocking time out using my personal Google Calendar to help keep me on track each day. This is not granular enough to result in notification fatigue, but pings me with general guidance as to what I should be doing.
  2. Writing – This is helped by my calendar, but keeping this blog and my personal Dailies in mind at all times. Writing has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts and vent my frustrations before they negatively impact my day-to-day. This year is highly focused on building this habit and skillset.
  3. Three Goals Per Day – I use this technique at work to ensure I stay focused on what is important. I may complete 100 tasks in a day, but it only truly matters if I complete all 3 of my primary goals I set out with at the beginning of each day. These goals can be as small “go to the gym” or “write a Daily” anything that I want to make progress on in a particular day.

This post will likely read as a bit scattered. There is a simple reason for this: it is. I needed to jump start my writing and this post is what I came up with. I hope you get something out of it like I did.

What do you do to get back on track after a stumble? Are there any things you do to make every day a productive day? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

Oh the History I’ve Seen

In pursuit of accomplishing my goals for the year, I took a little walk around downtown Albuquerque. I took a quick look at the building my dad worked in during the ’80s and ’90s, looked at the playground equipment they are installing on the Plaza, and a historic placard affixed to the Galleria building. It got me thinking about how things change in so few years while still triggering memories of otherwise forgotten times.

I, like everyone else, cannot foresee the future so the title of this post is a bit of an assumption. The optimist in me says I am still less than halfway through the total number of years I will be alive. However, as I have learned in the first 34 years, there is no guarantee this will end up being true. Morbid, right? I like to think of it as more practical than pessimistic.

Thinking in these terms reminds me to be thankful for the time I have had and to live each day with purpose. I don’t buy into the concept of “living each day as if it were my last” since this would inevitably lead to some bad decisions worth avoiding. Living with purpose means a majority of my actions are driving towards identified goals and objectives. My Goals for 2018 have been documented on this blog and I am working on a new page for my Bucket List (so check back often to see it). This is how I guide my actions in a purposeful manner, I recommend a similar approach for everyone!

Today is my 34th birthday (as mentioned in the post immediately prior to this one) and I want to take a moment to reflect on my life thus far. I have not followed a “normal” or “safe” path through life. Many people would look at the overview of my life and say, “wow, that sounds <insert exciting adjective>”. For me, it has merely been my life.

Here are some of the historic moments that influenced my life:

  1. September 11, 2001 –  This date has defined the part of my generation born in the 1980s. Many of us joined the military and served our country in response to the attacks that occurred on this day. It will likely be regarded by historians as the defining moment of the 21st century – at least, until the next high-profile, conflict initiating event in the world.
  2. The Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – In response to the attacks on 9/11/2001, the United States, under the leadership of President George W. Bush, declared war against Afghanistan (the home of the Taliban government that provided safe haven to Al Qaeda, the group responsible for the attacks) and, later, Iraq.
  3. Revelations of the False Pretenses for Declaring War on Iraq – This was not a defining moment necessarily, but it opened the eyes of a patriotic generation. The guise of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and affiliation (or complacency) with Al Qaeda were burned down years into a war that I participated in.
  4. The Election of the First Black President – The election of President Barack Hussein Obama (and his subsequent reelection) shocked the world for all the wrong reasons. He was a freshman congressman with limited national experience, but a wealth of good judgement and a high intelligence in conjunction with a charming personality and great rhetoric led to his historic win over John McCain, a Vietnam Veteran, POW, and seasoned political figure.
  5. The Great Recession – Right about the time I was booted out of the Army (for being gay), the US economy crashed causing high unemployment and a lack of opportunities for the masses. It took years for this to be corrected (and some would say we are still working on pulling ourselves up) but shone a light on the house of cards that was the housing market – similar to the .com bubble that burst in 1999 and 2000.
  6. The Technology Revolution – Many will say this revolution started prior to my birth, but it sure culminated from the 1990s to present. Smart phones, augmented reality, virtual reality, genetic engineering, leaps and bounds of forward momentum on personal computing devices, wearable smart tech, social media platforms, online existence, etc. all came to fruition in the past 15 years. It has truly been an incredible time to be alive.
  7. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Put in Place and Subsequently Repealed (a little too late) – This is more of a personal historic moment for me given the impact on my life that DADT ended up playing. I was a part of the thousands of Army personnel discharged under this policy. It took away one of the lives I thought I was supposed to have – serving in an Army that I would have gladly given my life for many times over.

Obviously, I could go on and on listing the historic moments that happened in my life so far, but those are the ones that stand out to me while I write this post. I think it says a lot about me that these are the items that highlight themselves. Conflict and challenge, loss and love, evolution of the way we live.

My goals this year are my purpose through my 34th year of life. I will work everyday to accomplish or surpass these goals.

What historic events do you remember being influential in your life? Did these events guide you down an unexpected path? Do you think you have seen your last major historical event?

Rinconada Canyon's end

A Spur of the Moment Walk Through History…

I have lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the past 6 years – having returned to the Land of Enchantment after a 12 year hiatus – and have been doing a disservice to myself ever since. On only a handful of occasions, I have packed a backpack and laced up the hiking boots to tackle an easy to intermediate trail within 20 miles of the city. Most of my focus has been the Embudo Trail in Cibola National Forest along the westside of the Sandia Mountains which act as the eastern border of Albuquerque. The trail connects with a system of trails that lead to the Crest (one of my goals this year) and is challenging while providing beautiful panoramic views of the city.

However, on the opposite side of the city is the smaller (but not small) Petroglyph National Monument. When people think of the West Side of Albuquerque, they immediately conjure images of cookie-cutter sub-divisions, new construction, and wide open expanses of desert. Many of us who live on the east side of the river (you know, real Albuquerque) do our best to not make the journey to the West Side without good reason. Well, I found out today that Petroglyph National Monument is a damn good reason!

I was out doing a favor for a friend who lives on the West Side and decided to stop in at one of the shorter trails known as Rinconada Canyon. This is a short 2.2 mile loop which features over 300 petroglyphs ranging in age from 3,000 to 300 years old. The canyon is quiet despite having higher than I normally enjoy foot traffic. On a cool winter day like today, the wind howls through the canyon, smacking you in the face as you venture in and propelling you out at the halfway point.

There are educational placards dotting the first half of the trail, but you don’t need these to understand the historical significance of this imagery. Whether it was the ancient Pueblo people marking trade routes or Spaniards documenting their presence in the canyon with their sheep, the fact that these images still exist today is awe inspiring. We now live in a world of digital imprints and documentation – however, the nature of this digital storage is that it will decay much faster than a stone or piece of wood thus being lost forever. In 100 years, this blog will likely have left no permanent impact; it will be a blink in the history of mankind and forgotten without prejudice.

If you find yourself in Albuquerque, on the West Side of the river, plug Rinconda Canyon into your phone’s navigation app and take a break from the modern world. Take your time on the trail and think about the lives that the people who left their mark on the landscape led. Can we, despite our technology and modern conveniences, learn anything from these people? Will you make such an impact on the world?

Where have you been recently that made you stop and wonder about the world we live in today? Share your experiences in the comments!