Share Your Favorite Summer Memories
By Heather Clisby on June 21, 2011
BlogHer Original Post
Happy Solstice, dear bloggers. Summer's arrival launches a season when fashion means sparkly flip-flops, the blender stays out and adventures pile up, right? As Section Editor for this here Life category, which includes travel, I'm making a request. Being the naturally curious and expressive people that bloggers are, we get outside eventually, right? Tell me about it. No, really. Tell me.
I invite you to post a favorite travel summer travel tale - the one that brought enlightenment, hilarity, a new friend or a fresh perspective. Maybe it was spiritual, or maybe it was purely visual but either way, you came home a little different. These tales do not need an exotic backdrop - backyard adventures do occur, y'know.
To get the ball rolling, I'll start with my own tale, which is not so much of an adventure as it is a stunning memory that I love revisiting - an intense snapshot burned into my brain forever. The quick episode was so simple and yet, I remain eternally grateful for its' random appearance.
Before the economic shitstorm made life more sedate, I maintained a summer tradition of joining these fine folks on an annual river canoe trip. Living in Colorado, "Get outside and move!" is a state-wide mandate and these trips made me feel smart, adventurous and especially tan. Also, I paddled and partied with loads of cool people, many of whom I fell madly in love with.
First, understand this: I got me a serious hard-on for trains. Johnny Cash actually wrote his 1970 song, "I've Got a Thing About Trains" for me, specifically. True story.
My office wall boasts a Union Pacific 2011 Calendar giving me a glorious new train photo every month - heavenly. My friend's husband, Donny, works for UP and knew I would squeal with delight upon receiving it; I did not disappoint him. One year, I even opted to take Amtrak's California Zephyr to the BlogHer Convention - Denver to Chicago - instead of the usual plane. Smartest decision EVER.
Back in May 2007, I was on a Gunnison River trip, launching out of Grand Junction, Colorado. Our days were spent paddling through majestic canyons that made my mouth hang open with such awe, I didn't even mind all the bugs flying in and choking my throat. Paddling downstream, I felt completely dwarfed by high walls of red sandstone and shale, much of them covered in some mysterious black soot-y stuff called "desert varnish." (Geologist have no idea what it is or what causes it but it is gorgeous.)
The feeling is prehistoric and, in fact, much of the geology dates back to the dinosaur age making one feel small and quite temporary. Huge cottonwood trees stand on the numerous river bends and blue herons, hawks and eagles fly above. To borrow some appropriate Boulder bro-speak, it is epic.
At night, we camped in Dominguez Canyon, which is loaded with hieroglyphics, Flinstonian landscapes and waterfalls. Normally, I'm a sleep hog and can pull down 10 hrs. of delicious unconsciousness, no problem. On this trip, I was always the last the bed and the first to rise - simply too excited by my surroundings, you see.
Late one full moon night, while chewing the fat with our river guide, Jim, I noticed a dim white shadow on the canyon walls. "What's that?" I asked Jim. He turned to look, then turned back to me with a giant grin.
"Heather," he said, flatly. "You know what that is." But I didn't, I really didn't. I just kept staring at that ghostly circle in the full moon light, my brain hazy from smoke and drink, trying to make sense of it. Jim was also my paddle partner that trip and had already learned about my train crush.
"Think about it, girl," he prodded. "What is one of your favorite things?" This made my brain spin even harder….Sex? Drugs? Cheese? I just couldn't see how these were related to this strange apparition. The dim light cast on the massive canyon wall grew brighter and bigger until I thought perhaps a feature film might be presented. (I love movies too.)
Then, that delightful old world sound of moving steel starting creeping into the background and then it hit me: TRAIN A 'COMIN!
I lept off the overturned canoe and nearly pissed myself with anticipation. In that massive canyon cathedral, alongside the Gunnison River glistening and gurgling in the moonlight, came that long Union Pacific train ripping through the midnight silence. What an unforgettable sight! All that noise and light filling that huge natural church with powerful vibrations.
I'm pretty sure I jumped up and down and squealed a lot. There may have even been a "Wheee!" or "Yay!" in there too. Jim laughed so hard at my glee that he fell off the canoe and rolled around in the dirt, clutching his belly. Already, I knew the story would be re-told at breakfast.
That night, I (eventually) put my filthy feet in the sleeping bag and finally passed out with a huge grin on my face, not unlike an over-sugared toddler finally hitting a wall. What a glorious scene. I felt like the luckiest dirty woman on earth - a marvelous feeling.
Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence?
Then for God's sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.
--excerpt of "The Call of the Wild" by Robert Service
BlogHer Contributing Editor, Animal & Wildlife Concerns; Section Editor, LIFE; Proprietor, ClizBiz