The Path Traveled

As the end of the year draws near, I like many others, start to reflect over the events of the past year. The good, the bad, the ugly. This year, has superseded most years and brought me a lot of firsts.

At the beginning of 2015, I looked down a path that I could not see completely as it wound into the darkness of woods and ferns and birds.

It was with lots of thinking and over thinking, and planning and grasping at intuition that was being drowned out by sound and confusion that I made my way slowly (and in some cases — not cautiously) down the dirt road.

I packed up my little apartment and handed it off to a moving company. Then followed them a few days later in a fully packed SUV with my runt calico of 19 years (20 now). She spent the better part of 3 days bundled into a soft blanket in a small dog crate as I made my first of two solo roads trip to my new chosen home half way across the country.

phaelen_roadtripIt was the first time since I entered the Air Force that I chose to move into the unknown: no friends, no family, no certainty in which to fall back on. I chose to explore this path with no safety net using only my intuition for guidance.

My friends and family that I left back on the east coast were both perplexed and admiring of my current path. While they could not understand my decision to move half way across the country, I think they were a little jealous of my freedom and courage to do so.

This path I have chosen has been easy and difficult. There were times I was not sure I chose the correct road. I was alone, lost, hurting, and unsure of my inner thoughts. I refused to cave and I learned how to quiet my anxiety and move outside my comfort zone.

While I don’t think I’m in a sunny glen quite yet, I am positive that the trees are thinning out and letting the sun in.

I have found a great doctor who listened to me and I am finally getting healthier, stronger — I was almost convinced I would never be healthy again. Through my own due diligence to cure my thyroid disease, I have found a community of people with the same issues. Hypothyroid Mom was just the tip of the tree in moving me in the right direction. I started following one thin trail after another; it lead me to change my eating habits (giving up sugar — fructose specifically — has been a life changer for me). I Quit Sugar has literally made me better, confident, and full of energy.

As my body started to feel better and stronger, I conquered other issues. I have grown and settled back into the person I lost years ago as my thyroid played havoc with my body, mind, and spirit.

I am calmer and more focused at work. I have started to excel at my job again and it has lead to a more leadership role. I have found patience to teach people my job and the best practices.

I am putting focus on what I truly love — writing. Writing posts, writing short shorts (my friends call them poems — but that’s a debate for another time), writing short stories, writing just for the sake of seeing my thoughts on paper (or in this case — on the web). Some people even read them — who knew?

I have met a few people, who seem to have the same common interest I do. Coffee, biking, playing games on Friday night, or just in general — hanging out. They are turning out to be a great group of friends and the road is a little less scary, and a little less lonely.

With each mile I travel, I feel stronger. I can hear my inner voice a little clearer and while I still don’t know where this path will lead, I know that I chose the right one for me.

Every now and then, I can hear the clear sounds of a meadow ahead. Birds in the trees and water rippling in the stream. I am starting to enjoy the walk amoungst the trees instead of fearing the darkness between the tall redwoods.

I am enjoying this path and looking forward to the next fork in the road.

Ooooo look there’s a small trail over there — that’s 2016. That looks to be a really great path….



In my last post, Patience in Purgatory, I mentioned something called GeoCaching. I thought I’d take a moment and see if I couldn’t recruit a few of you to join our obsess — er,I mean our little game.


This crazy game was introduced to me by my uncle back in 2007.  All I did was ask if he wanted to join us for a family reunion and he asked for the coords (short for coordinates).  Now I read maps in the Air Force, but I never had a civilian ask me for coords. He explained that it was a scavenger hunt (world wide) where one could find various types of treasures in the woods and parking lots using something called GPS.

I went to the GeoCaching website and after trolling the pages for a couple of hours, I decided it was something I must go do. I loaded some coords in my car GPS and set it to walking mode. Next thing I know I’m tramping around the state park looking under brown leaves, holes in trees, and under rocks. A couple of frustrating hours later, I took my unwanted hitchhiking chiggers home.

After soaking my feet and scratching most of the night, I pulled on long pants, better socks, boots, and lathered in OFF and set out the next morning. I HAD to find that lock-n-lock Tupperware container in the woods. I must not be defeated by the scavenger hunt.

Morning brought me success and satisfaction. Enough that I found several more that day in the park. It was great, hiking and solving the riddles. After I got home and struggled my way through logging my first few finds, I trolled the pages some more. As luck would have it, there was something called a GeoPinic in a couple of weeks in that same park. (Notice how we start everything with Geo?)

I made a dish and joined a bunch of people I didn’t know, who were as obsessed with hiding and finding things in the woods, in the parking lots, and in well, in just about anywhere you can safely hide something for other people to find as I was. It was a great picnic and I made friends that to this day I still have in my life. We talk about more than geocaching, but not much more.

That little pot luck picnic has turned into a Mega Event. If you are ever in Newport News over labor day weekend, I suggest you check out the GCHR picnic. The people are fun, helpful, and great cachers.

It was at this picnic that I learned a car GPS was not going to get me very far. It wasn’t the GPS’s fault, it just was meant for getting from one place to another. It was not accurate enough to get you within a few feet of something that someone hid in the middle of a huge forest.

GeoCaching is a microcosm of life. The community is made up of all types of people, from all over the world, with different backgrounds and a multitude of reasons for caching. Some for fun, some for health reasons, some for socializing, and the list goes on and on. The caches range from easy light post skirts to hard climb up a mountain to snorkeling in the ocean. If someone can dream it up, it will be a container someone hid somewhere. There is even one on the Space Station!

One of my greatest adventures was a couple years back when a friend of mine talked me into going to my first GeoWoodstock. We decided that we would drive there, from Virginia to Missouri and back. It was an awesome trip. We found some of the oldest active caches in the world, we grabbed a cache in each state we drove through (because there is a challenge to get at least 1 cache in each state), and, thanks to RoadSide America, we found a cache that was co-located with the World’s Largest baseball; and yes, we added another layer to it’s boulder like size in Indiana.

GeoTours is a new term that I was told about recently. Apparently, this is a spin off combination what we call puzzle caches and bling trails. These custom tours use geocaching to introduce you to new locations, like the Birth Place of Texas. The old fashion way was to search for caches you wanted to get in places you were going to visit anyway, plot them on the map and then head out on a road trip and collect the smilies. Some people, like we did, road trip through several states locating the oldest or coolest places (like Cadillac Ranch) or historic sites. They have been known to cache for several days through several states and put hundreds of miles on a vehicle to play this game.

I have a wish list of caches myself which is growing thanks to watching the adventures of other cachers road trips or chatting about challenges at meet and greet events. I want to get a cache in all 50 states (still in progress), get the oldest cache in the world: Mingo (check), a cache on top of a bluff in Big Bend where I need an off road vehicle (this has more to do with me wanting to drive a jeep on something other than a freeway (not checked)), a cache in Ireland, England and Italy (my favorite European spots (not checked,not checked, not checked)), and a water cache where I need to snorkel or dive for it (not checked).

I didn’t know where geocaching was going to lead me, but I have seen some amazing things on my geotrips. I have climb some boulders and semi safe cliffs and watched the sun and eagles, I have discovered American War cemeteries, and visited civil war monuments tucked away in little parks in the middle of the suburbs. I love this game as it gives me a destination when I don’t have one and I may just learn something about the country or state that I am in.

It’s never dull and always good for a laugh. So come join us using multi-billion dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods.

Patience in Purgatory

I’ve been a fairly healthy person most of my life. I am passionate about a few select things. I am stubborn. I like to go fast. These are facts, not conjecture not excuses, just basic facts about me.

A few years ago I was diagnosed with my first autoimmune disease. It hit me pretty hard as the reality of my health over the preceding years came into focus. I lost traction for a while, but biking helped me deal with it. I’ve loved biking since the first time I saw Greg LeMond racing in the Tour de France. For a short while, I dreamed of being the first woman to race in the Tour.

Purgatory rock bed

Purgatory rock bed

Recent issues have come up and it was with great irritation that I dropped my bike off at Pedal Power (awesome locally owned bike store in San Marcos). Two days before that I was told by my doctor to stop biking. Ok, not permanently, but for a short while — what ever short while means.  We agreed to a week. I should mentioned it lasted a day.

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

Flood Control Dam at Purgatory

It is not something I am OK with at this point in my life. I have struggled over the last couple of years with structure and consistency.  It is frustrating because my body is not responding as I expect it to. It is irritating because after a few months of consistent biking I am finally seeing improvement. Now, I am force to bring it to a screeching halt.

As I was venting to a personal trainer friend of mine earlier in the day, she asked me if it was worth it.  Was it worth riding through the pain to maintain my routine with the small possibility that it might impact me riding at all in the future?

I have to admit the logic in it all. It makes logical sense to stop, to let the back and hip heal. But hypothyroidism doesn’t care if I stop for a minute, a day, a week, or a month. It will slow down exponentially fast. What little ground I have gained with weight loss, stamina, persistence will slip away.

My first response is ride through the pain.

Let’s face it, I’m not a pro biker, I never have been despite my teenage dreams and I never will be. I don’t have what it takes mentally or physically to be a pro athlete. Biking through the pain will help me stay stable, mentally focused, and internally feel better, but in the long run it will not contribute to my overall health. While the back and hip are not part of the autoimmune disease, the pain is impacting my ability to concentrate at work, sleep at night, and be calm and relaxed.

So the day after ignoring doctors order not to ride, I forced myself to drop off my bike so I would not ride for a few days. It needed a few tweaks anyway.

Now the hard part comes. What do I do with the time I used to spend biking? What can I do to keep my metabolism up without doing more damage to the back and hip?

I was headed toward a marina to dwell on my sedentary state which had just been thrust upon me, when as I crossed over a bridge I notice a trail with some people and dogs running about. I made a u-turn and found myself at Purgatory Creek Park. Luckily my hiking shoes were in the back seat and I found my answer.

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Purgatory Creek Park San Marcos TX

Walking — I could take an nice easy thirty minute stroll through the park.

It is a nice little park with hard packed trails for walking or riding a mountain bike. I could do thirty minutes at an extraordinarily slow pace (which might kill me because I’m rabbit like not turtle like) so that I would not stress the back and hip on the small boulder like rocks, but hopefully trick my metabolism into thinking I was being very active. I could do this. Thirty minutes.

An hour and a half and 2 caches later (geocaching is fun — check it out), I was headed back home.

I would like to say I don’t hurt, but that would be a lie. I managed to walk 5 miles at a turtle’s pace, but entertained myself with the beautiful sunset views mom would have loved, and the hunt of caches. I day dreamed a little and came up with a couple great ideas for posts — this being one of them.

Overall, I feel mentally and emotionally better and my body doesn’t hurt as much as if I biked. So time will tell if I need to become a couch potato or if turtle is the way to go.

People actually eat these

People actually eat these