Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"I want to live your life!
- e-mail from an ultra running friend who shall remain anonymous



Since we began our on-line journals over two years ago, we've received many similar comments from running friends and others who have discovered our web site or see us at races around the country and marvel at how we are able travel for months at a time. Although we haven't perfected the lifestyle as well as Hans-Dieter Weisshaar and his wife Susi -- German citizens who spend most of the year traveling in their camper around the US and Mexico to ultra races -- we do enjoy hanging out in beautiful places for three, four, or five months at a time in our camper.

This kind of itinerate running-and-traveling lifestyle was our dream for many years, and we are very happy our plans worked out.

Note that I didn't say, "We are fortunate that we can live like this." We aren't "fortunate." That implies random luck. We worked hard and planned for this, and so can many other people. And you don't have to be wealthy to live this lifestyle. We certainly aren't.

Segment 17, Colorado Trail

Everyone makes choices in their lives from the day they are born. No one probably makes all the right choices, in retrospect, but planning ahead to later stages of your life when you're young can make a world of difference in your happiness when you're in your forties, fifties, and beyond. Think ahead and don't just consider what will make you happy NOW.

These are some of the ethics I learned in my family at an early age that helped me to retire at a relatively young age (50): Study hard and get good grades. Get a college education and/or post-graduate degree so you can understand what's going on in the world and have a satisfying career. Money isn't everything; do what you love. Work hard. Be frugal and invest in your future. Defer immediate gratification for things you want later on.

Too many people today want the newest cars, biggest houses, nicest furnishings and clothes, and live 'way beyond their means (i.e., in continual debt). There are various psychologically-loaded reasons for this. My best advice to those who want to retire early and don't have prospects of a large inheritance with which to do that is to follow some of the principles stated above.

Oh, and don't get divorced either. That can wreck your financial future even worse than acquiring too many possessions!

Entering Rio Grande National Forest land in Colorado Trail Segment 17

I don't claim to have made all the best decisions throughout my life but I have few regrets about my choices in the educational, career, and financial realms. The biggest mistake I've made financially was buying and selling homes (residences, not investments) too often. If I'd stayed in one place longer, I'd own my current house free and clear. But even that I don't really regret because the reasons for moving most of the times were sound and Jim and I are still able to enjoy our itinerate lifestyle even with a mortgage.

Don't just dream it, DO it! Whatever your dreams or goals, figure out what you need to do and make the changes necessary to reach them within a reasonable period of time.


Sometimes the barriers to reaching your goals have more to do with your own fears and/or a lack of self-confidence than they do with financial or other situational factors. I have this propensity to conjure up all sorts of fears at times, like before yesterday's long run, that occasionally prevent me from being all that I can be. You've probably done it sometimes in your life, too.

I've thought a lot about courage and dreams since meeting Erin a few days ago. I can't imagine the guts it takes for a young woman to strike out on her own with two mules to set a new record on the Continental Divide Trail. I'm totally intimidated by my own goal of running and walking the thing over a period of years, with Jim crewing for me, and that's a weenie way of doing the trail compared to Erin's way! Most of the CDT is even more remote than the Colorado Trail, there aren't waypoints to stick into your GPS, it's only 70% done (the rest is on roads), and it stretches over a whopping 3,100 miles at high altitude along America's backbone from the Mexican to the Canadian border.

An amazing challenge, the CDT.

I've already completed over two hundred miles of the CDT in Colorado where it coincides with the Colorado Trail and where I've run parts of it near Leadville (such as over Hope Pass). I'm hoping to do a few more miles of it while we're near Leadville but Jim's getting burned out driving to trail heads and needs to focus on LT100 the next four weeks. These rocky back roads are also tough on our aging truck. Maybe I'm using these things as excuses to not get out there and run more sections of the CDT on his off-days . . .  but they are valid reasons and I am a little nervous about getting totally lost in the wilderness.

Hence my joke in the last entry about wanting to be like Erin when I grow up. I don't know if I'll ever realize my goal of completing the Continental Divide Trail. It makes more sense for me to run the smoother, better marked, somewhat  less remote Pacific Crest Trail but it's even farther from our home in Virginia. Perhaps some summer(s) we can spend a couple months in Washington or Oregon doing ultra races there so I can run the PCT in those states. I'd also like to do northern and central California some day, but I'm not as interested in the desert parts of southern California or New Mexico on the CDT.

Colorado Trail Segment 16, above

We'll see. Stay tuned for the next few years! <grin>


One of my original stated purposes when I began the AT journal in early 2005 was to serve as an inspiration for others who had dreams of hiking or running the Appalachian Trail -- or aspirations for any other sort of big goal, like pursuing an education, changing careers, learning a new skill, etc. Letters from readers confirm that what Jim and I are doing is indeed a source of inspiration (and education, and comedy . . .) to them.

Jim and I need occasional doses of inspiration from other people, too. As you already know, I'm fond of quotes, especially motivational ones. They make me think, and dream even bigger dreams.

I'd like to share this poem that I found on an Appalachian Trail internet hikers' list several years ago. The person who submitted it doesn't know the author. It usually makes the rounds of offices and the internet at the beginning of the year, but I think it's appropriate at ANY time of the year -- or at any point in your life.

If ever there were a time to dare,
to make a difference,
to embark on something worth doing,
it is now.
Not for some grand cause, necessarily,
but for something that tugs at your heart,
something that is your aspiration,
something that is your dream.

You owe it to yourself to make each day here count.
Have fun.
Dig deep.

Dream big.

Know, though, that things worth doing
seldom come easy.
There will be good days
and there will be bad days.
There will be times when
you want to turn around,
pack it up,
call it quits.

Those times tell you
that you are pushing yourself,
that you are not afraid to learn by trying.


Because with an idea,
and the right tools,
you can do great things.
Let your instincts,
your intellect,
and your heart
guide you.


Believe in the incredible power
of all the things that will
cross your path this year.

The start of something new
brings the hope of something great.
Anything is possible.
There is only one you,
and you will pass this way once.

Do it right.


Yesterday we arrived at the National Forest Service campground at Clear Creek Reservoir, better known to Leadville race participants as "Winfield Road." The reservoir is very low right now and the end nearest the campground makes a fine estuary for egrets and other waterfowl. It's a beautiful area we enjoyed for two weeks last summer before moving closer to town. That's our plan again this year, too.

This is a good springboard for training on Hope Pass and for me to check out the new Colorado Trail re-route on either side of the road. The CT work crew camp is on one side of this large campground (photo of their tents and campers below) so we'll have a great opportunity to thank two or three different groups of volunteers while we're here. (Each work group comes for a week.) We both know how strenuous the work is to build new trails and maintain existing ones and we want them to know how much their efforts are appreciated.

Hmm . . . maybe they'd like a couple bottles of Virginia wine!

I'm happily taking a rest day or two or three. I'm pretty tired from the two strenuous runs I've had this week and will probably do another tough one tomorrow or Sunday (Hope Pass), making for a very high-mileage week for me.

Even though Jim brought books and magazines to read in his spare time this summer, he can't sit still very long. He has to be out on the trail, running errands in town, getting water, fixing something that's broken (nothing lately, thank goodness!), whatever -- he just can't sit around the camper like I can. Today he's acclimating in the high mining area above Leadville, about 2,000 feet higher up than our campground. But he can stand that only so long, too. (Listening to Neal Boortz on the radio up there in the morning makes the time go more easily for him, though.)

I like my "down" time in the campground between exhausting athletic endeavors just fine. There are fascinating mountain views from our camper windows. I love watching the cloud patterns, whether the sky is blue or threatening a storm:

I enjoy my magazines and books (currently Walter Isaacson's tome on Benjamin Franklin, a guy I woulda liked for his emphasis on frugality and industry), reading e-mail, writing, tinkering with photos, scrap booking, doing other creative and artistic things, walking the dogs around the campground, taking an occasional nap . . .

. . . and watching the large group of 70-somethings from Texas practice Tai Chi in the mornings and fly their model planes in the sky above the sagebrush surrounding the campground (not to be confused with another large group of Texans in our campground at South Mineral Creek -- Texans love cool Colorado summers!).

I find it much easier to be a Type B person when we're camping than I do at home, although I'm still trying to be less frenetic and "anal" in all aspects of my life. I'm a work in progress, and I'm working on Jim to be more relaxed, too (that's a tough job).

Next entry: Jim's training for the Leadville Trail 100-miler, including photos from Hope Pass and a  flooded Lake Creek. Courage definitely required.

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil