If it doesn’t spark joy

This too can spark joy.

Most everyone (in the world) has no doubt heard of the Marie Kondo Movement whereby if something doesn’t spark joy in your household, your life, your relationships, your id, your chakra, etc. that you let it go.

Since this isn’t a lifestyle blog, or a cleaning blog, or even a self help blog, I’m not going to talk about how I managed to throw out a few things in my garage. What I am going to talk about is how in my period of non-wildness, how I see things differently about those that are most assuredly still wild about the outdoors.

As most of you know, and I don’t even really like mentioning this because people DM me and tell me that I’m fishing for sympathy (thanks, btws…) but I almost died a couple Februaries ago. I suffered (and survived) a fist size blood clot in my lung which the doctors said was the largest they’d ever seen in a healthy person. I’ve cataloged here how I feel like a part of me died in that ICU and that I emerged from it a different person. Different meaning different and probably equal parts worse and better. I know that therapy could likely help me through this, but I’m at heart… very stubborn. “It is known.”

The point of this post though is that over time, I’ve grown to realize that so much of what I see is people trying to be someone they are not. In their photos, whether it be on a hike, at work, or wherever, they look hollow and empty. I admit that I am torn on a weekly basis about knowing if I need the outdoors to be whole or rather if I deprive myself from it if I’m better for the deprivation.

The people that I admire the most in the outdoors realm are those that I am certain are being who they truly are. #spon does not qualify. All that we (I) want is to love something because I love it, not because I have to (to get paid) and because I want to. Bereft of obligation, need to prove something to someone, and the need to be seen as just and right.

So what it is that sparks joy for me?

Scrabble. I love it. It mos def sparks joy. Bird watching. Yep. Grandpa absolutely likes watching birds, feeding birds, chronicling the birds I’ve seen. Baseball cards. I love reading about them, looking at prices, dreaming about buying ones that most people can’t afford to buy. My Auburn sports obsession. Final Four bayyybeeeeeee… My dogs. My kids. My family.

I’m a nerd. Deal.

You are not hiker. You are not camper. You are not backpacker. You are not climber. You are not mountain biker. You are… John, and Sally, and Gertrude, and Alice. The trap of becoming what we do is deep, dark and has no escape hatch if you fall too far into it. Be who you really are.

It sparks joy.

First Time Fat

I don’t look like this now

I’m fat.

So much for burying the lede, eh…  But seriously, I am overweight.  I won’t be appearing on Maury anytime soon for being morbidly obese, but it is true I am actually quite a bit overweight.  I’ve gone from about 185 to 217 pounds in about a year.  I first noticed it when my pants didn’t fit and when I struggled to tie my shoes.   When I really knew that I was truly overweight was when people stopped asking me if I was still hiking (obsessively) because they could obviously see that I wasn’t.

The irony of this is that since I was about 1 year old (I was apparently a very fat baby with just rolls and rolls of fat.  I’m told they were cute.  They aren’t now) I have been a rail.  I had a legendary metabolism and I could eat professional-eater level amounts of food without gaining a pound.  When I was in my 20s, I could literally eat 2 XL pizzas without stopping and gain NO weight.

But the purpose of writing this is because I’ve have had this written for weeks going on months but have never published it.  

This is the reason.  

I was too busy trying to hide who I am, what I looked like, from everyone.  And it really wasn’t totally because of social media and the electronic lives that we lead which are perfect and happy, and we all are content with our lives until we aren’t.  It was mostly because I was just embarrassed.  But also because up until now, I didn’t WANT to fix it.  And a large part of that is because I got tired of hearing people tell me that I needed to.   

The truth is that I don’t have to do anything.  Sure for health reasons it makes sense to lose weight/not be fat.  

But worse than any of this, I finally know what the mental strain is when you’re overweight.  I’m ashamed but I, as many kids of a ‘different time’ fat shamed people.  I remember bullying other kids for being fat and calling them fatso or ‘you fat slob’ etc.   I’ve wondered if maybe not trying to lose any weight was some sort of self punishment and atonement for all the bad that I did to overweight people as a 10 year old. 

I remember laughing when hearing women ask if this made me look fat only now to secretly look in the mirror as a MAN and see if these pants really do make ME look fat.  And it doesn’t feel good.  I know now why women ask this. 

The good news is that as my friends have told me, this can be fixed.  I have a plan, I have financial means to both workout and to eat healthy-ish .  I have to transfer my legendary willpower in some things now to food, which will be hard but I know that I can do it.    

Some people will say that this is for attention.  It’s not.  It’s a motivating tool and frankly I wanted to prove to myself that I could shatter some foolish notion that I was truly leading the perfectly crafted electronic life.  I’m not.  

So I ask all of you to hold me accountable.  Give me tough love if you see me eating In-N-Out.  Tell me to swap my doughnut for some kale.  Tell me that 1 spoon of sugar in my coffee is better than two.   

But don’t try and take away my Pop-Tarts, that’s a bridge too far.

Arizona Hiking Retrospectives: Bartlett Lake

Water in Arizona!

As it turns out, one of my favorite things to do in Arizona didn’t have anything to do with hiking at all!  Not long after I got over my near death experience, this was one of the first trips that I made.  I drove to Bartlett Lake and just took pictures, walked out on the docks and generally just enjoyed the sights and sounds.

It is a beautiful place.  I’ve taken my kayaks out there a couple times as well.

I really can’t walk on water, it just looks that way.

Let me know if you’ve taken trips that don’t involve much hiking that you enjoyed just as much as your super cool hikes!

Typical scenery at Bartlett…

Arizona Hiking Retrospectives: Kendrick Peak

At the summit of Kendrick Peak

WAY back in 2015 my friend Michael and I climbed Kendrick Peak.  Kendrick Peak is the twelfth tallest mountain in Arizona and was one of my favorite Arizona hikes.  You have incredible views of the San Francisco Peaks (Humphreys Peak), Bill Williams Mountain in Williams, and the various cinder cones in the area.

The hike is about nine miles and constituted about 2700 feet of accumulated elevation gain (AEG).

Fire watch cabin

At the time, this was the highest that I had ever been, elevation wise.  Although I have not climbed Humphreys Peak yet, after this hike I had gotten to 11,500 feet on a different hike in this area.  I found that unlike my hiking partner that day, I didn’t really struggle with the elevation much and barely noticed the thin air.  There is no rhyme or reason to this as I had only been living in Arizona for a few months at the time that I did this hike.

Typical views on the way up Kendrick Peak

Screen Shot 2018-05-04 at 7.28.57 AM
The route is never steep, but it is relentless. Most AZ hikers can accomplish this climb.

The Mostly Triumphant Return of Hiking Jason

IMG_1820 copy“Been on any cool hikes lately”   

‘Not really.’  ——-Me.

“That’s a shame… that’s WHO YOU ARE…”  —— Unnamed coworker

“Hey, remember that 18-mile hike you did when you said your back hurt… I looked at your track and you rode with someone the last half mile on the jeep road.  You’re a fraud, and I’m going to tell everyone…You never deserved to be in Backpacker”  —–Prominent guy in the Phoenix hiking community


I hiked today for the first time in a LONG time.  It felt good, familiar yet also foreign.  I realized oddly, that I missed the smells and the sounds alot more than I missed the sights.  My lungs were fine, one of my ankles hurt a little bit and my back hurt from the weight of the 3 gallons of water that I always take in my Camelbak, mostly out of habit.  But otherwise I was fine.

But what have I been doing for a year…

I wish I could say that I’ve been writing the next great American novel, have been in some foreign country building a water source for underprivileged children, or having founded a successful non-profit.

But I can’t.  The truth is, I’ve been doing whatever I wanted to do, which mainly has consisted of spending time at home with my family, watching sports and doing my other nerdly hobbies.

For months, I beat myself up about it…  Still do/did.  But I also realized that unlike the trails and the mountains, my family won’t always be here.  My son’s already left for college and my daughter’s about to be in the eleventh grade.  My dogs that I play with almost constantly will one day die.

But the trails will always be there.  The fact is… they don’t miss you.  They also don’t really call you.  We are called to them from within and for the last year, I just didn’t want to do it.  Hiking became work.  Work became obsession.  Accomplishments meant little because no matter what I accomplished, it wasn’t as good as someone else.  My hills and mountains weren’t the Rockies, or the Cascades, or Nepal, or insert whatever other cool place that you can imagine or have lusted over. Instead of going to Iceland to hike glaciers, I got up every morning at 5:25 and went to work.

I also became jealous and envious over time.  But not of the pretty pictures, not of the hikes, and not even of the places that my friends were going, but of their desire.  Because I didn’t have any.  None.

Truthfully, what I did have was fear.  Not of snakes or animals, but fear that I’d never have any desire to hike or go outside again.

But one thing that I have learned in a year is that what we do is not who we are, and its not what we are meant for.  Although I don’t really understand why, people tell me that I inspire them.  But as some have told me its not what I do (or in this case did) its how I care about them, tell them that I am proud of them, tell them that in many cases that I love them for who they are, and not for what they do.

Today, I still hiked over 3 miles per hour, which I suppose is probably because of my long legs.  I stopped and watched a javelina make its way down into a wash.  I took a ton of pictures for a three mile hike.  Basically, I did it my way.  I hiked for myself, and for nobody else.





Stewart Mountain(s)

20161029_094836View of Peaks 2961 and 2931

This past October, I climbed Stewart Mountain, Peak 2961 and Peak 2931. If you’re familiar with Phoenix, these peaks overlook Saguaro Lake and yield wonderful views of Four Peaks. These are my favorite type of mountains, loose pea gravel … (sarcasm)

I had arrived at the trailhead (pull off) before daybreak and used my headlamp for the first half mile or so.  Being October, I didn’t worry too terribly much about snakes (I rarely do) and saw none.  It was unseasonably warm, however maybe I should have!

But I made it first up 2961, down, then over to Stewart Mountain then over to 2931. 2931 marked what had been a long string for me of the shortest mountain being the hardest. It seemed the steepest and had the loosest scree.   These are mountains that you will not find another soul on.  Ever.  There is no trail whatsoever and there really are not any cairns either.  These are fairly safe mountains that are good for a Phoenician to introduce themselves to route finding and off trail adventure.

View of Four Peaks (and Browns Peak at far left, the County HP)

The ~1 mile boulder hopping chute down between Peaks 2961 and 2931 held a first for me. I could feel a rock I was standing on slightly vibrating from I believe a rattlesnake or two (possibly a den) below it. I looked, but never saw them and kept moving. The smooth granite boulders in the wash/draw/chute are particularly slippery and my hiking shoes were getting low on tread so that was fun. 

All in all, a great day.

20161029_082218Summit View from atop Stewart looking at the Superstition Mountains (r) and Weaver’s Needle (l)


stewart routeThe route

Hike Statistics:

3.73 miles
1819 ft AEG (Accumulated Elevation Gain)
1145 ft of actual gain
3:39 elapsed time

Trailhead coordinates:    33.588, -111.542
Vehicle needed: Passenger car is fine.  I parked off of a paved road, N. Bush Hwy.
Water sources: none 
Nearby peaks to bag:  Three in one day isn’t enough?  🙂
Permits: None


stewart profile



Governor’s Peak

20161209_090752My first glimpse of the backside of Governor’s Peak (center right near the yellow cliff bands is a false summit)

With daytime highs still around 110 here in Phoenix (Hell Portal, AZ), you’d think I was nuts to be getting the itch for peakbagging season… but dewpoints and nighttime temperatures here in the desert are finally starting to creep downward.  I’ve already begun to mentally prepare for this coming season.  

So with that said, I thought I’d highlight some of my favorite peaks that I bagged last season.   And Governor’s Peak was certainly one of them.  

I began my hike by parking along Castle Hot Springs Rd. which at this point is unpaved and fairly graded.  You will have to cross a dry creek bed which the road goes over but unless it’s wet you should be fine.  I parked basically between Casa Rosa (a group of houses where desert rats live) and the actual Castle Hot Springs Resort.  Believe it or not, this resort which in the 1930s SURELY was in the middle of nowhere, and currently is only slightly less in the middle of nowhere, entertained guests such as the Rockefellers. Of note is that this is where John F. Kennedy was taken to recuperate from his wounds on PT-109 in World War II.

20161209_094518Castle Hot Springs Resort

The hike itself (route below) is fairly nondescript except the views when you enter Four Tanks Canyon are pretty epic.

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 9.02.36 PMThe route
20161209_100105Views on the way up just above Four Tanks Canyon
20161209_100725Summit Views

Hike Statistics:

6.40 miles
1951 ft AEG (Accumulated Elevation Gain)
1358 ft of actual gain
3:28 elapsed time

Trailhead coordinates:    33.965, -112.343
Vehicle needed: Passenger car would be OK
Water sources: none (possible that water could be in Four Tanks Canyon, but for a 3.5 hour hike I’d just take 2-3L)
Nearby peaks to bag:  Salvation Peak is approximately .5 miles NE but much more difficult and getting to it from Governor’s would be interesting to say the least.
Permits: None


Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 9.46.02 PM