The First Carrot

A black bear in a tree reaches for a pine cone on the Mount Washburn Trail (South) in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming on October 1, 2011. Original: _MG_1238.cr2

The past few years at work have been productive but stressful and the last year in particular left me worn down and burned out. I hadn’t taken much vacation time but we either use-it-or-lose-it at the end of the year, so I was trying to decide if I should take most of the month of December off, or if I should take my normal fall hiking trip and then take a few weeks off at the end of the year. While the idea of a month away from work was very appealing, I decided to split up the vacation and take the hiking trip instead.

I realized that as a reaction to the stress I had settled into a funk and wasn’t getting things done that needed to be done. Needing either carrot or stick to get back on track, I settled on carrots with Yellowstone & the Tetons as Carrot Number One. Planning for the weeklong trip of hiking and photography forced me into action.

My contacts had long since run out and while I had been wearing my glasses instead, I prefer to photograph in contacts so I finally scheduled my overdue eye exam and got new contacts. And since it often rains during my fall hiking trips, I picked up some waterproof hiking shoes to replace my worn out pair, a small army of hiking socks to replace my threadbare contingent, and a couple pairs of waterproof gloves. All of which guaranteed a week of unusually hot and sunny weather during my week in Wyoming, but the wet weather gear has been put to good use ever since with the return of the rainy season to the Northwest.

Since I would be taking our much loved but aging Subaru Outback, I took her in for everything from routine maintenance to replacing a broken sensor and leaking head gasket and especially the broken cargo cover that left all my gear exposed to prying eyes. I also fired up iTunes to create some new CD mixes of recent music purchases to keep me entertained on the long drive.

Then there was an extra memory card and battery for my Canon 7D, which I’ve been meaning to order for a year or two, plus a portable hard drive for storage on the road. The hard drive was a much improved solution compared to the DVD’s I used to burn, the backups of the day’s pictures went much faster meaning I could get to sleep sooner. And while I didn’t need the new memory card for most of the trip, oh was I thankful to have it when I met this black bear eating pine cones on my way down from Mount Washburn. Yellowstone put on a show on my last day and I had taken a ton of pictures, and if not for the new card I would not have been able to photograph this wonderful creature during my last hours before heading for home. The extra card was also put to good use during my Christmas visits to Ridgefield.

There were other things too, like the car mount for the iPhone so that the little genius woman in the TomTom GPS app could guide me safely there and back again despite my notoriously poor sense of direction. Both the mount (from RAM Mounts) and the little woman worked wonderfully and the pair have kept me on the straight and narrow navigating Portland ever since.

All of which is a long way of saying that the hiking trip was not only great stress relief but also great motivation for getting things done large and small that have made life better ever since.

But I wasn’t quite finished with my carrots …

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