Down is optional. Up is mandatory.


Grand Canyon National Park South Kaibab TrailAll good things must come to an end. At least that’s what they say.

It’s been a difficult beginning to the year. No one tells you exactly how to handle unexpected unemployment. Though everyone does expect you to keep a positive front in public and on social media.

I’ve been keeping myself busy and afloat with a few freelance jobs – continuing the second year of a leadership program for young ranchers, writing a few industry columns and managing social media for brands. But it has still been difficult for me to adjust from being on the road 80% of the time last fall to almost zero this winter and spring.

I thrive on a schedule, managing tasks and deadlines keeps me on track. So to have that rug taken out from under me has taken an adjustment (not to say that I’m there yet).

Last week, the grass started growing too much under my feet, so I took advantage of the last-minute deal on a plane ticket and spent a few days in the desert of Arizona. Thank goodness I have stockpiled points from so much travel last year. I packed my bags, a few running clothes and some food, then headed out (with the tablet so I could continue working). Sometimes a person just needs literal room to think.

The first day was spent on the western side of the Tonto National Forest in Yavapai County. I love the Falcon Guides book series, which provides locations and details of numerous adventures across the country. (Worth the investment) This time I found my way on some forest service roads in ranch country near the Verde River for 10 miles of easy running. It was awesome to just be out there running and let my mind process all that came across.

Grand Canton National Park South Kaibab Trail

The next stop was my first visit to Flagstaff. This is a high-elevation mountain town adjacent to the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks. Downtown offers a number of food and drink options and is trying to hold on to its vintage charm.

Then I took my second visit to Grand Canyon National Park. Labor Day of last year, I ran on the North Rim, this round I visited the South Rim. The North Rim is definitely less accessible and my preferred of the two. I hiked the rim and dodged tourists, then hiked/ran a few miles on the South Kaibab Trail. It’s a fast decent, but the views down in the canyon are well worth it. Of course, going down means you must come back up. That’s when a storm started blowing in and I got a good sandblasting. But more importantly, I didn’t stop all the way up the final climb. Albeit a slow climb, I never stopped. #training

Of course, it’s on this trail where I saw the above sign…

Down is Optional. Up is Mandatory.

That resonates with me in more ways than one. Not only that long climb back out of the canyon but something I’m struggling with in work and life right now. I can easily let setbacks get me down, put me in a funk and leave me in a generally bad mood. It’s going back up that is the hard, but mandatory part.

If we let all that stuff get us down and don’t make an effort to find a way to climb back up, we’ll find ourselves lost in the canyon and that isn’t an option.

So I’ll keep reminding myself, no matter how short my patience becomes or how many times I am told No, I don’t want to find myself stuck in the canyon because it gets cold and lonely down there at night.

I realize that’s cheesy, but that’s what helps me sleep at night…

Back to my journey across Arizona… It ended up snowing that night and got a little chilly. But that’s 8,000 feet elevation in late March! I made it down the highway and found myself Standin’ on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona, and continued to have that song stuck in my head for the next 48 hours. And yes, it really is a sad little town. Bypassed by the interstate, downtown is only a remnant of what it once was in the 1970s, but the landmark is still something you have to stop and see. Fan of the Eagles or not.

Standin on the corner in Winslow Arizona

My next stop was back through the eastern side of the Tonto National Forest where I found more snow and an awesome drive. I used my free Arizona State Parks day pass (always stop at those tourist information spots for possible freebies!) at the Tonto Natural Bridge State Park. This landmark claims to be one of the largest travertine natural bridges and the park has a number of trails to explore the bridge and its caves from different angles. Be careful of the javelina wandering around. I ran into a few on the trail and didn’t want to stick around long enough to see how friendly they weren’t.

Arizona Tonto Natural Bridge State Park

And finally, you can’t go to Arizona and not enjoy a piece of the heat in the desert. So I wound up in Tempe (west side of Phoenix metro) for a day and ran a few miles around the campus of Arizona State University. Nothing like some time in an urban metro to remind me why I enjoy some space.

Finally, no matter how much I love to travel, it’s always nice to see those mountains on my final decent home.

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