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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