Thursday, August 28, 2014

Yogi Magee Expeditions goes to Telluride

Telluride, Colorado. Ever since I saw pictures of this town in a wedding magazine 5 years ago I’ve been drawn to this town. It’s where I wanted to get married but couldn’t due to logistics and cost. The first time I ever stepped foot in the town in fact was about two years after I’d first been drawn to the place. We had gone to Ouray for the annual ice climbing festival and decided to take a side trip to Telluride to cross country ski and have lunch. I remember being enchanted by the unpretentious houses, the endless piles of snow and the cross country ski trail that ran along the river. My friends had a dog with them which we were able to take up the free gondola into mountain village and we walked around the base of the mountain while I sipped a chai from the steaming bean. I wouldn’t be back to Telluride until a year ago when again, we visited as a side trip from the Black Canyons of Gunnison National Forest. Telluride was in the off season so a lot of shops were closed and the gondola wasn’t running. It was almost a ghost town but I was still in love with the place. Seeing the mountains at the end of town, blocking it in and making it the box canyon it is just makes the town feel safe to me. I know Black Bear pass runs down the mountain from Silverton but it’s a very difficult one way only road and it feels as if Telluride is the end of the line there. The town ends at Bridal Veil and Ingram Falls and there’s nowhere to go but up. A little piece of my heart has always been here and somehow it feels like home.
first time in the T-ride
a few years later with miss charlotte

Seven months ago an idea came to me. The yoga studio I teach at has run several retreats, a few of which I have been on but I’ve never had the opportunity to teach at one. Somehow I had it in my head that because I’d never been asked as a teacher on any of their retreats that I wasn’t good enough. I watched as other teachers had their turn in the spotlights and I waited hoping my turn would be next. I realized I placed a lot of stock in my value as a teacher on not being asked to join in and I felt like perhaps my turn would never come. So I decided I needed to put myself out there and see what would happen. Why couldn’t I lead my own retreat?

 Anyone that knows me knows I have a passion for hiking. I’ve summited 34 of Colorado’s 58 14,000 foot peaks and I consider hiking one of my greatest strengths. I’ve taken people up their first 14ers, I’ve organized camping trips for myself and large groups of my friends. I wanted to combine my passion for teaching yoga with hiking in a way that was affordable and accessible to a smaller group of people. This retreat I had in mind would challenge people’s minds as well as their bodies and it wouldn’t be for someone who wasn’t adventurous in heart. This retreat would be about everyone staying in one spot with me, their guide and mentor…someone who was accessible and who could be trusted. I didn’t want a disconnect from the group from one another or from me I wanted us to all be in this together. Seven months ago I dreamed a vision of what this retreat would be and all roads led to Telluride. Telluride had to be the place…the home…the beginning and the end.

Honestly I had no idea if my plan was crazy or not. To take a friend on a hike was one thing, to teach a yoga class was another. To take strangers on a journey on and off their mat was a new challenge entirely and how could I be sure I was ready? I had a lot of interest at first but no definite commitments. So I promoted and I networked, I bought ads on social media and I talked about the retreat to anyone who would listen. I had one person sign up…then two. I rented a space for 14 so I needed at least 3 just to put a deposit down. There were moments where I thought perhaps I’d have to cancel because I didn’t have enough out of pocket to cover the rest of the house in case no one else signed up.

But, like the famous quote from Field of Dreams says, if you build it they will come.

August 21st 2014 marked the launch of Yogi Magee Expeditions Retreat in Telluride. Having 12 women arrive from all over Colorado and cities outside our state was a huge moment for me. The day before everyone arrived I sat at the Floradora, the same restaurant I’d visited on my first trip to Telluride, and marveled at what I had created. Women were coming to my retreat to explore, be inspired, practice yoga and challenge themselves physically and mentally. I honestly could not have asked for a better group of women. From my assistant Stephanie to the 12 personalities…it seemed everyone got along like they had always known one another. There was rain and cold and the weather forced us inside for yoga more than I would have liked and yet they all kept smiling. Some had injuries and others suffered from the altitude on the first hike but they all persevered. We had moments of meditation and quiet and we had moments of laughter in the hot tub with glasses of wine after a long day. None had been to Telluride and I saw them witness the magic of the small former mining town just as I had many years ago. They were in awe of the mountains and the Via Ferrata. They took pictures of the wildflowers and played in the waterfalls. I saw these women meditate, journal, make connections with new people, try new restaurants, be by themselves and explore and grow strong in their practice and hiking. I know the hikes we did were not easy for some of them but all of them made it to Blue Lake which was the apex of our journey. I took a wrong turn on the trail and got us off track about 15 minutes but they never lost their faith in me or the journey. In fact one of the girls turned to me and said in that moment, “Even if we don’t make it to the lake…it’s OK.” And at that moment I realized it really was because I was, and we were all, exactly where we were supposed to be.


Most times after a trip is over I am sad to leave. I have depression when a vacation comes to an end because I want to live in that moment of happiness forever. This trip was different. It was so fulfilling in so many ways that when it ended I wasn’t sad to say good-bye. We ended our trip with yoga on top of Telluride Mountain after taking the gondola I had first taken so many years ago and the moment was perfect. The clouds were starting to part, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a breeze in the sky while we practiced yoga. When we meditated at the end I could hear the buzz of the bees, the chirping of birds and the quiet breathing of those 12 women around me. Our time together had come to an end but it didn’t really feel like the end to me. When we opened our eyes it felt like a new beginning in which anything from there on out was possible. Just as the clouds and fog lifted from the mountains, so too it lifted from each of us and there was nothing but blue skies to come. I know in that moment I felt stronger, lighter and happier than I had in a long time. There was no sadness in my heart…only happiness for the next chapter.

In hindsight the universe provided exactly what I had needed. Had I been asked to teach at another retreat I don’t know if I would have ever thought to put something like this together. I wouldn’t have had the courage to go out on my own and design a retreat that was truly a labor of love from my heart. To share my passion and teachings of yoga is a gift but to be able to guide people on a trail in the great wide open is my dharma. I loved being the guide and leader for the weekend and having people trust me so they could enjoy the beauty of Colorado around them. Telluride is now a piece of their story and hearts as much as it is in mine and that makes it all worth it to me.

A few years ago I said I would never hike the same 14er twice. I firmly believed that once you hiked a mountain once there was no point in doing it again. Last year I hiked Bierstadt in the winter with my husband and it was a totally different experience than hiking it in the summer alone. The mountain that I had known had changed because I had changed. The terrain was the same yet different with every step as I approached each switchback with new eyes and a different stronger body. Some people might be content with doing things only once and never again because in reality they don’t want to admit that the only constant in life is change. I will be back to Telluride and it will be different because I’ll be different. The hikes will be different because the land and weather will change. We’ll climb new heights, practice new asanas and meet new friends in one of the most amazing towns I’ve ever known.

I cannot wait to return to Telluride for a retreat in 2015.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Five years of Marriage

A few weeks ago my husband and I celebrated our five year anniversary. When I measure the time in years it doesn’t seem like that much has passed. If I measured it in months, weeks or minutes it might seem a lot longer. What I remember of our time being married however, isn’t the days themselves it’s the way we’ve filled them. We’ve traveled across the world from Thailand to ride elephants to snorkel with sting rays in Belize. We’ve rented, we’ve bought and we’ve sold houses and acquired and thrown away belongings in-between. We’ve had a cat die and adopted a new one, quit jobs and started new ones. Our friends have come and gone and we’ve gained almost as much as we’ve lost over the past years. We had a daughter named Charlotte and it changed everything from how early we go to bed to how we spend our weekends. Life is the same as it ever was and yet different. Everything and nothing has changed in the same time.


I was asked to write a blog on what makes a marriage last five years. I thought on this for a few weeks. I’m not perfect so my marriage will never be and I believe marriage is a choice you make every day. When I thought about my marriage and my husband and about the reoccurring theme that’s popped up in my life lately the only word that comes to mind is patience.

Patience, to me, is the key to a sustainable relationship.

The same weekend of our anniversary a few friends and I went back to hike Mt. of the Holy Cross. It was a 14er I had previously written about not being able to summit due to weather and time constraints. One of my hiking companions was attempting this as her first 14er and it was not an easy beginner climb for her. None of the 14ers are easy mountains to hike but this one was 12 miles roundtrip in length, had swarms of mosquitos everywhere and 5,600 feet of elevation gain. Her struggle became my struggle as I guided her to the top and back down. It’s hard to watch someone have difficulty with something that has become so second nature to yourself. I feel the same way when I have beginners in my yoga class. I want them to enjoy the asanas and the message and the feeling they get from pushing themselves beyond what they think is their limit. Yet beginners require patience from me and from themselves in order to continue to learn and grow. It’s a relationship of trust and understanding. There’s a lot of give and take to teaching anyone a skill that you are still mastering yourself. I can tell you that the three of us hiking learned a lot about patience that day and how it extends beyond yourself and to those around you. There were times when I am sure we all wanted to give up on ourselves and each other but we never considered that an option. You can’t just quit hiking a mountain because it gets hard especially once you’re so far into it that turning around isn’t really any better an option than marching ahead. To cultivate patience in a situation that challenges every fiber of your being is to allow the ego to step aside and lead with your heart.

My friends and I ultimately summited Mt. of the Holy Cross that Saturday much in the same way my husband and I reached our five year milestone. There was struggle, there was excitement, and there was hard word and ultimately reward for continuing on the path. Patience for each other as we walked the same path together yet experiencing different emotions along the way. When I reach the summit of a mountain it’s reaching a goal and a milestone for me and I’m temporarily happy yet I know the journey isn’t over yet. There are still many more mountains to climb and much more to learn along the way. Patience is what allows me to continue to bring new people to the wilderness and open their eyes to the beauty of the mountains and it’s what’s reinforced the journey that is marriage.

Ultimately Chad is my ideal partner on and off the mountain. There are times when he’s ahead and he has to have the patience to wait for me to catch up and there are times when I’m in the lead. There have been obstacles in the path and both of us have gotten the other lost thinking the direction we were headed was best. Sometimes on our journey we’ve taken breaks when the struggle proves to be too much; other times we move so quickly we barely take in the outside world. Unfortunately in marriage there is no map of where you are supposed to go or any reports on how the terrain will be along the way. It’s mostly, what we call in mountain speak – bush wacking which is a fancy name for creating your own path when there is none. Patience is how we survive when we think we are otherwise lost. Chad and I don’t need to see any people on our path to know we’re heading the way that’s right for us because in the end that is all that really matters. Like any companion we have our share of arguments as well as times of love. We cheer each other on and we know when to give tough love. Chad is the partner who keeps me safe while allowing me to find my own way. There’s a freedom that comes with being patient with one another. You surrender the ego and to the journey and really just hope for the best that all this effort will eventually lead you to where you want to be.

Ultimately a good marriage is like a good hiking partner (and if you are lucky like me they are one in the same). It’s a relationship with someone you trust, someone you can spend large amounts of time alone with and someone who pushes you to be the best version of yourself. Marriage is sometimes letting the other person take the lead even if they aren’t the expert and allowing them to struggle and grow alongside you. Just when you think the journey is over you find out it’s really just beginning and there are many more adventures and experiences you have yet to discover. Marriage isn’t for everyone…after all some people enjoy walking the path alone. Yet I can say from my experience its far better knowing someone is waiting ahead for me, than wandering the forest alone.