Wish his little blonde head peeping out between the two curtains that enclose his elevated nest in The Grizz, Hugo exclaims (twenty minutes prior to his morning alarm clock’s eruption), “Hurry we have to get ready for school!”
It’s Hugo’s first day of school, ever. The first of many firsts for him. The first of many goodbyes for us.
Thanks to our strategic camp at Lander’s City Park, we have a short and very scenic five-minute walk to school: we pass a sweet little property with bucolic creek and small foot bridge on one side and on the other, a real deal class A rockstar-style camper (diesel pusher) proudly displaying “Life is a Highway” on its backside.
Hugo has on his “special” school clothes (special because they are store-bought, not hand-me-downs, and they are stain-free- for now). He wears his special new “outdoor school shoes”- blue Stride-Rite velcros, wide to accommodate the Hefti hobbit feet. On his back he sports the gray “bug” pack we have used all these years. It’s been used for hiking, climbing, and even at some point, I believe sweet Bug pack was a diaper bag. Now it is Hugo’s school bag. Full circle.
Hugo has been talking about school for a very long time now. We’ve done our own school at home in New Mexico and Virginia but this is what he’s really been yearning for. And he is ready and full of hope and excitement for his world to grow a little bit. Today I think it grew a lot.
The morning sky was a little fuzzy as I looked up at it through my tears. A quick kiss goodbye and he’s off into his new world.
Our first goodbye.
Stéphane and I stand together, holding hands outside for a few moments. I can see Hugo’s little head through the classroom window, bobbing along with such confidence towards his coat hanger; getting himself ready for the school day like he’s been doing this his whole life.
After five years of just the three of us, every day, all day, today there was just two for a little bit.
The Heftis have landed in Lander, Wyoming! After much deliberation, soul-searching, school / town research, and early morning coffee chats poolside Chez Porthole Place (VA), we decided that this little town at the foot of the Wind River Mountains will be the best place for us. The fact that we have never been here does not deter us; we’ve moved to many places before sight-unseen, I guess it’s kind of our MO. But this move feels different, like it will be a more permanent one – we hope it will be. We are looking forward to setting down some roots.
Things we notice right away that make us feel at home:
Free RV dump / water fill-up for campers.
The majestic Wind River mountains rising up just beyond the edge of town.
“The wave” from nearly every driver.
Tevas, cowboys boots, messy hair, trucker hats, raggedy clothes, bikes, backpacks, dirty trucks, and lots of smiles.
Cliffs for climbing, trails for biking and running.
Carrying the physical contents of our lives, each carefully wrapped, strapped, and boxed, the UHaul growls to life, takes a final slow roll down Porthole Place, a left onto Mainsail, and from there West to Wyoming.
Stephane leaves in the early hours of the morning to begin ticking off the 2,000+ miles between Suffolk and Lander. Hugo and I stay behind to wrap up the loose ends – cleaning and loading down the truck with items for our transitional time: a few weeks in Michigan followed by the Wyoming Question Mark (can we find a house before we get to Wyoming? Will we get a rental? Live in a camper? What will it be like there? Do I pack warm or cold clothes or both? And most importantly, where are my cowboy boots?)
A few days later, also in those wee morning hours, I snug Hugo up in his nest in the backseat, give Dan and Jess tight hugs goodbye (see you soon hugs, not goodbye hugs), fire up the truck and point her North to Trombley Headquarters.
And just like that, our short but intense time in Virginia is done. This brief chapter brought us so much joy, camaraderie, excitement and hope for the future with our best friends.
After twelve hours on the road, Hugo the road-trip-warrior and I pull onto Lange Street and call it day. What a pleasure to be home after all this time.
Stephane successfully delivers our belongings to Wyoming and meets us in Michigan where we purchase our new home:
After many fun family gatherings, and a few projects completed on the Grizz and truck, we are ready to hit the road and discover what Wyoming is all about! A few more goodies from our visit to Michigan:
Yes, you do countless craft projects with Hugo, teach him how to climb, bike and swim, and show him the difference between a Phillips and a flat head. You tell him No more often than Yes. You hold him to a higher standard and you always back me up.
These things alone make you a fabulous father.
But on this Father’s Day, I want to shine a light on some of the things that you do for our family that might not be direct lessons for Hugo, but lessons nonetheless. You teach by your actions and he is watching you every step of the way.
You are a role model in so many ways for Hugo. Your passion for the outdoors has instilled in Hugo a love for climbing, mountain biking, swimming, and all things outdoors.
That time you backed the truck onto a field in the middle of urban Virginia so we could eat our subs on the tailgate and pretend we were out in the country. Because you knew I was missing that.
Hugo’s sweet-naturedness with the animal world is directly related to you. He watches with those big, silent eyes as you gently scoop up the latest spider that has lost its way inside, and he follows you out the door and watches as you send daddy longlegs on his way.
How many frogs has he helped you save from a watery grave, excitedly netting them from the pool and freeing them in the grass after a thunderstorm?
Just last September, after my brother Dan’s diagnosis.
You said, “let’s go”.
And you left your job and you packed us up, all of our things (all of those stairs).
You put Hugo and I on a plane and you drove our lives across the country.
Because you knew I needed to be there.
That time my “little” project turned into your enormous task and the most epic deck transformation of all time.
Plus the benches that open up so we could store pillows (because I asked).
All of those measurements.
All of those cuts.
All of the effort done UNDERNEATH that no one will see – all done right and beyond solid. Because you do it right. Always. Regardless if any is looking or not. It’s not for the praise. It’s for a job done to the best of your ability and done always with integrity.
Are these green-and-red squares burned into your eyes for the rest of time?
These Christmas-colored cubes represent to me all of your efforts to ensure the very best life for Hugo. They show your willingness to step out of your comfort zone, to sequester away for countless hours to study; to travel, to quarantine, to test; to do it all again and again.
And you did it all for what we thought was going to be the best life for Hugo. And when the world changed and we changed trajectory, you took it all in stride, in good grace, and in love. You are the strongest, most steadfast man I have ever known.
You are an impeccable professional. Your work ethic, whether it be painting the backyard patio or stepping through your daily helicopter pre-flight, is unmatched.
You are Hugo’s shining light: showing him how to be a man, how to treat others and how to stand up for what is right. All you do, every day, he watches and soaks up like the little sponge that he is. I am so proud of the little boy that he is and excited to see the man he will become. You have made it all possible by just being you.
One of my pet peeves is when words are not spelled properly. My cousin Anthony always called me “cuz” and, to my horror, he SPELLED it that way too. After a while, when texting him or sending him notes, I would write it “cuz”, too. But only for him. I guess it was our special thing.
When Pete, Dan and I were children, Anthony spent many a day with us on Lange Street – eating pizza bagels, tumbling down the Slip ‘N Slide in the backyard, running around the neighborhood, and tagging along with mom on never-ending errands to Nino’s or whatnot. We’d build forts in the basement and sing along to The Little Mermaid. Anthony even got roped into Thanksgiving skits because the Trombley kids did skits. And Anthony grew up part Trombley.
Anthony loved family and always posted sweet old photos of us cousins and family. He always wanted to be one of the ones who got to break the wishbone at Thanksgiving. Anthony loved family gatherings – playing cards, Trivial Pursuit, watching the Tigers.
Anthony, damn Cuz.
You are gone now.
I still have the cover letter and resume that we worked on for the job opportunity with OnStar back in 2015. I read through them just this morning.
And that time, remember when you were so close to getting your life arranged in a way that you were excited about?! I remember, very vividly, pacing around Stephane’s and my little cabin in Maine and talking excitedly with you on the phone about a new chapter! You were working towards getting your driver’s license back, tying up legal loose ends, taking a class and getting licensed to sell real estate – you were focused and serious and I remember thinking, “is it going to happen this time??” I was so excited and hopeful for you.
Remember the day I got to spend with you at your mom’s when we were little? It stands out in my mind because we never went over to your place growing up – you always came to us.
Your house had an UPSTAIRS! I remember the sun coming through the window and lighting up the walls of your bedroom; all the toys you had in your closet; the colorful wooden toy chest. I remember climbing up on your bed and peering out the window to wonder at the little kingdom below: so many different squares of grass framed by the network of small sidewalks that went between the townhomes. Each townhouse had its own little square; some were tidier than others. There were clotheslines and those funny fabric bags that held the clothespins; plaid-woven lawn chairs and plastic tables. Each assigned to their own green square.
You had the micro machines garage – the one with the elevator and the twisty slide that the cars could go down. We played with our micro machines in your sun-dappled bedroom all day. Just next to the bathroom where you left this world. Just yesterday you left us.
I’m sorry your path in life made us strangers these last years. I always wished the best for you and hoped for you, even from afar.
When Hugo’s old enough to watch The Little Mermaid, I will smile and think of you and those golden years at 20817 Lange when life was just about forts, Disney songs, and micro machines.
Rest well, my wayward cousin – cuz – and be at peace.
After Stephane’s returned from a week-long shift at our old stomping grounds in Los Alamos, we packed up The Hungry Hippo (a.k.a our new pop-up camper) and took off for some outdoor family time.
We drove straight to Love Gap, a small crag in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. A very nice little guide, available here for those interested in checking it out:
Super easy approach but the climbing was not my favorite.
A fun escape to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Next time we’re hoping we can find some more peaceful camping but overall a great three-sport weekend and we’re always happy to find some mountain time, wherever we can.
The homes of Harbour Breeze Estates Phase I slowly dissolve behind the new green growth of Spring out back. Spiky-haired cardinals blaze red against leaves and grass; frogs and crickets sound off in the evenings and the mornings are filled with chirpy chatter. It’s Spring in Virginia.
The pool is unmasked, free to show her lovely, clear blueness. The boys picked out some flowers to add a color pop to the backyard: yellow African marigolds and pink azaleas. We’re recycling the tired umbrellas that were left with the house – the teal fabric is faded and thin and may not last the season, but working well enough for now.
Stephane dug up some teak treasures from the bowels of the CraigsList. As the umbrella, they too, were sun-worn and in need of some TLC. But Stephane worked his magic and voila!
My pet project has dragged on but I finally finished it today. It took some time to complete as I needed rain-soaked soil to get the work done. There’s rock beds around our entire home and encircling the pool area. At some point there was a dirt barrier between the rocks and grass that had over the years been overgrown with grass and weeds.
And then this thing called Easter happened…
In other news: the ice cream truck came to our neighborhood, Sephane and I were able to sneak away for a very fun mountain bike ride, and Hugo started gymnastics up again (he was going in Los Alamos and missed it so we found a local spot for him to attend).
When a warm and sunny mid-week weather window presented itself this past week, we did the obvious thing which was to pack up the camper and head for the hills (of Virginia). Actually mountains. We headed for the mountains of Virginia – specifically the Allegheny.
I’m still learning about the mountains out here. I know there’s the Blue Ridge and Shenendoah and Allegheny and Appalachian. I’m not sure if they are all part of the same system or their own thing or what, but I’ll figure it all out and report to you as I do.
What I can tell you about this trip is that we went to Elizabeth Furnace in the very tippy-top north of Virginia in the Allegheny Mountains. Here we were able to get in two very nice days of climbing, a little biking around camp, some hiking, and a killer (not-in-a-good-way) mountain bike ride (Stéphane).
Buying a house, sight-unseen in a place you do not know can have its challenges. But Stéphane and I had the best group of house rustlers we could ever ask for.
Team Trombley performed daring trespassing maneuvers and random “cold knocks” on front doors; they took countless video walk-throughs and perfected the “slow creep” drive-by. Fearless leader/real estate agent Crystal, who weathered our wishy-washiness like the true professional that she is, guided the pack to victory.
We’d been sending Dan and Jess, mom and dad out on countless real estate excursions. We were searching for the right place but had no idea what we were really searching for. Initially, the criteria was: no HOA (so we could keep our camper), some land, somewhere quiet, but close enough to Dan and Jess. As we progressed through the search, we decided we wanted to be on the water with a dock in the backyard. We fell in love with a few homes but lost them because the real estate market out here is pretty crazy and competitive.
Home after home was crossed off the list: beautiful but too far away; too expensive; floors too creaky; too much road traffic; too small; no water; not enough land. But mostly, the words we heard on a daily basis were “under contract”, “under contract”, “under contract”.
It was early October and Casa Uva was about to go on the market for the week. In preparation, we tiptoed the fine line between sterile house (because we need to pack our stuff) and nicely staged home (so people can imagine themselves living in it). Boxes slowly filled, received a Sharpie label, and were then stacked neatly in the basement. Stéphane was getting ready for his epic week-long bike journey through the mountains of Colorado and Utah. And we were sending our Virginia Real Estate Crew on what felt like a daily wild goose chase.
Wednesday, October 7th, I was poking around on Google Maps in satellite mode, as I tend to do. I enjoy looking at the world as a bird would; searching for new trails to run on and wild lands to explore and camp. I zoomed in on Dan and Jess’s oddly-shaped neighborhood – it’s so easily-identifiable from above: the saggy little dipper hovering over a swath of green forest.
I looked at the homes in “the dipper” and noticed one with a pretty blue pool in the backyard. And I texted our group (Dan, Jess, and Stéphane):
The next day, Thursday, October 8th, the house with the pretty blue pool in the saggy dipper neighborhood five doors down from Dan comes on the market.
I kid you not.
On Friday, October 9th, we had a home.
When we started the Virginia house hunt, we had no clue what we wanted. When we finished it, we still didn’t know what we wanted. But The Big Man Upstairs, he knew what we needed.
We’ve been in our sweet little home for nearly two months now. Hugo loves having Uncle Dan and Aunt Jess just down the street (as do we) :). The neighborhood is quiet and filled with children, playgrounds and good people. There’s a Lidl down the street that sells Raclette cheese and a local brewery with the best Hazy IPA. Stéphane’s picking up a shift in Wyoming this week while Hugo and I hold down the fort.
Merry Christmas to all, wherever you may be this year!
Good night grippy rocks of Las Conchas, rising above the chattering East Fork creek. Thank you for all the fun climbs and social times; cold water rushing over bare feet, sweaty fingertips sliding off polished rock; flip flops clacking down the easy ramblin’ trail. One-armed push-ups on the footbridge; first leads.
Sleep tight, Las Conchas.
Good night San Antonio Hot Springs. I have lost count of the times we’ve hiked, biked, run, and driven that final, bumpy five-mile stretch to come see you. We will miss your warm pools, hail storms, quiet solitude (on a rare occasion) and (more often) camaraderie amongst fellow spring-visitors. Your hot waters soothed and views of the rock faces opposite you stoked curiosity and desire to explore; I swear we could have climbed them.
Sleep tight, San Antonio Hot Springs.
Good night Red Rock Arroyo. I will miss you more than any other place. You saw Hugo grow from a baby to a boy. You were witness to me leading way outside of my comfort zone; the giant rattlesnake, the making of many shadow creatures against our nightly cave campfire, night-time Yahtzee games; a Vick’s Peak attempt on Pete’s birthday (thwarted by the deep snow); the time Myra found the half-decomposed deer head and chewed on it nonstop (and the next time; we tried to hide it but she found it again). Every day filled with climbing in the sun (and sometimes wind) and enjoying the solitude of the New Mexican wilderness. Of all the places I’d like to go to “one last time” in New Mexico, it’d be here.
Sleep tight, Red Rock Arroyo.
Good night my sweet local trails. Thank you for providing me instant solitude, for always challenging, and for giving me the feeling of wildness, even while in town. What a pleasure to spend time sweating, falling, hurting, smiling, and pushing myself on your steepness. I even did it on a bike once or twice 🙂 Stéphane transformed himself on your trails, in more ways than one. Hugo learned to ride a bike during our time here, and came to love and hate your turns and climbs.
Sleep tight, Three Bears, and you too Cabra. Don’t let the bed bug bite, Pajarito Trail and Guaje Ridge.
Good Night Casa Uva, our Los Alamos gem of a home. You were a diamond in the rough, but Stéphane was able to polish you up. We leave you shiny, fresh, and ready for your new owners. You were a lot of work but you were fun. Thank you for the amazing views, for providing us a place to make memories, make laughter; to work hard, to play hard, and to raise our son for a few years.
Sleep tight, Casa Uva. Thank you for keeping us safe and warm and surrounding us with such natural beauty; for letting us transform you, for all of the enjoyment you provided. May your new owners enjoy your odd spaces and quirkiness just as much as we did.
Good night Erin & Randy and little Caylynn. Erin, I will miss our playground and wine dates, and Cowboy Breakfasts; I will miss your impromptu drive-bys on Sunday mornings; Sammies and brews at Boese, pizza and chill time at Casa Uva; games and chill time at your place.
Sleep tight Warrens. Enjoy your new digs, keep each other close, and know we are only ever just a phone call away. We love you.
Good night, Regeles. Here’s to our fun getaways- ice climbs in Lake City, and skiing and snow fun in Pagosa Springs; dinners and a few date nights! Laura, thank you for welcoming Hugo into your home and giving him fun-filled days with you and your boys. Oh, and that damned, beloved drift bike – it’s got about 1000 more miles on it since you gifted it to him; the hit of the neighborhood here :).
Sleep tight, Regeles. We’ll be seeing ya down the road, I do not doubt. Take good care in the meantime. Much love.
Good night, my dear Holmses. Such a short but sweet time we had together. We were so engrossed with sharing stories of our sailing adventures and mishaps that we never paused to take a photo together! So I’ll leave a blank space below and fill it in with a photograph from the first adventure we will take together – will it be a Caribbean charter? An adventure in the Swiss Alps? Let’s find out …!
Sleep tight, dear friends.
Good Night Tom and Pam. Who would have thought that a saucy Cajun and his pretty redhead wife would end up our Los Alamos besties? Countless games of euchre; Tomahawk steaks, Clyde Maes, muffulettas, fondues, and many other wonderful meals shared together. Bike rides, travel slide shows, morning window-waves, endless conversations and stories.
Sleep tight, friends. We look forward to our next meal shared together, wherever that may be. And Tom, I do believe that you and I left the stage as the Reigning Euchre Champions.
Good Night Classic Family: Keith, Rachel, Nikki, Kevin. Good Night Ivan, Geoff, Danielle. Good Night Jason – keep them safe. Good night Patrick. Keep working hard, staying safe, and being the good people that we know and love.
Sleep tight, crew. May our paths meet again one day.
Good Night Los Alamos, parting is such sweet sorrow. For now, we head off to the next adventure and close the chapter on our time in northern New Mexico. We will forever hold dear our friends, memories, and times spent in this special place.
At the shrill little “ding” which was Stéphane’s night pilot texting to let him know he was officially off for the day, I hopped on my mountain biked and zoomed off for a quick ride on the trails before dark descended. Up Camino Uva, across the open space by the baseball fields, through the stables (go slow so you don’t spook the horses), and on to one of my favorite fast, flowy trails – all the way to the end of Kwage Mesa. I was able to catch the sun setting on the Sangre de Cristos at the overlook: oranges, purples and greens mixing with the growing shadows.
My heart was heavy this evening and my thoughts were filled with my Aunt Sheryl who was in the hospital. My childhood memories of her include a boisterous, lively, short, spiky-haired woman and Randy (“Randawg”), her husband – a quiet, mellow, craft beer-loving hippie type. They lived on the west side of the state so we didn’t see them or their two daughters, my cousins Genna and April, all that often. My phone rang showing “Home” calling – perhaps mom has some news to share about Aunt Sheryl. But the battery on the phone died before I could answer so my questions had to be stowed away for the ride home.
That evening as I rode home, I said a prayer for Aunt Sheryl and Randy and Genna and April. It made me sad that I couldn’t even remember the names of Genna’s children. I had never met them. It was getting dark as I passed the baseball fields. Every ten feet or so, the sidewalk was lit up by small concrete lanterns. It brought up a memory of when we first moved to Los Alamos and were looking for a home. We’d driven up onto North Mesa and by the house that would eventually be ours; it was evening, the little concrete lanterns shone cheerily and I thought, “I want to live here”.
And now we are leaving our small mountain community for the next adventure.
Hello and goodbye, little concrete lanterns.
That was yesterday evening.
This afternoon, “Home” lights up on my cell phone and I think I already know what I’m going to hear. It’s mom and she tells me Aunt Sheryl passed away just an hour ago. Just an hour ago Hugo and I were playing with his stuffed animals on his “big boy bed”. Just an hour ago Stéphane was out on a flight – his last in Los Alamos. Just an hour ago Dan and Jess were at the gym. So much can change in so short a time.
My heart hurts for Randy, Genna, and April. It hurts for Aunt Sheryl’s siblings: my dad, Uncle Mike, Aunt Sharon, and Aunt Shelley.
Siblings can be a mixed bag. Maybe you grow up together but you grow apart as adults. Maybe you never liked each other as children and the sentiment continues on through life. I don’t know the relationship Aunt Sheryl had with her siblings but I know the relationship I have with mine. I would do anything for Dan or Pete. Not even a question.
So as we pack boxes and make plans for our move to Virginia, I am happy and hopeful and excited about the time that we will get to spend with my brother Dan and with Jess. We’re going to grill meats and swim and laugh and play cards and workout; I’m going to make Dan babysit Hugo and teach him the rules of football. We’re going to work hard, study hard (Stéphane), play hard (Hugo), and adventure all around Virginia. It’s a new backyard and we’ve got some fun playmates to explore with.
So here’s to siblings: may you have them and may you love them. Give yours a call tonight, just ’cause.
Both Stéphane and my little brother Dan share the same birthday, August 20th. I love that these two amazing men in my life share this day but also that they share a wonderful friendship. It makes my heart glad. So here’s to my sweet Bug-Zilla and Daniel-son- happy birthday!!
Chama, New Mexico is a tiny little town in Northern New Mexico that we had never really seen until this past trip. We always drove just up to Chama, then turned left, stopped at the gas station for gasoline fill-up and propane top-off, and continued on to Colorado.
This time, we turned right.
And we discovered a quaint, train-themed downtown (Chama’s claim to fame is the Cumbres & Toltec scenic train tour), and beyond, absolutely stunning low mountain, cliff bands, aspens, and lush green everywhere. What a beautiful area!
The goal for this trip was to ride with our neighbor Lee and his girlfriend Kiersten on different sections of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Lee’s “Covid Project” is to ride the entire length of the CDT in Northern New Mexico, one section at a time, from where the trail crosses into New Mexico from Colorado on down to our home town of Los Alamos.
We also met a father-son duo on the trail. On day two they stopped by camp and to chat and we discovered that Chris (dad) and son (Bowe) lived in Marly, Switzerland – twenty minutes from where Stéphane grew up!! They now live in Taos and we hope to meet up with them again for some climbing adventures soon. What a small world.
A photo catch-up of life so far in 2020. Camping, climbing, trail running; more mountain biking than usual as Stéphane is preparing for a seven-day mountain biking trip through the mountains from Durango, CO to Moab, UT this September. Hugo has been spending lots of time on his bike and in his book nook (we are drowning in books, but that is one thing on which I will always spoil him). Happy Data continues happily and busily, as do Casa Uva projects and other future plans. Life is good!
The plan was to do something a little out-of-the-box (for us) for my fortieth birthday. January 30th this year just so happened to fall on Stéphane’s week off, and so we were exploring options further afield and different from the norm to ring in the big 4-0. Options were Copper Canyon, Mexico and Cochese, AZ for a longer-than-normal climbing trip. After discovering that Copper Canyon might not be the safest and Cochese is a pretty long drive and pretty similar experience to what we do every other week, we decided on an all-inclusive resort down in Mexico because … why not?
Myra began her life in the shady dirt yard of an old, run-down house on the side of Highway 50, en route to the Black Canyon. Just across from the Old West Museum.
It was the spring of 2010 in Montrose, Colorado.
As I was walking out of Murdoch’s, the local farm store (not sure what I was doing at Murdoch’s), I saw an advertisement for Labrador Retriever puppies; I remember it caught my eye as I breezed past. I thought about it for one second, then stopped, turned around, tore off one of the paper nubs with the address and stuffed it in my shorts pocket.
A teenage boy brought me into the yard where I was surrounded by a tangle of small yellow and black labs. They were all sharp teeth and claws, soft ears, and little puppy growls as they played with and climbed over each other. One caught my eye and I grabbed her and set her aside to play with. I wanted to be sure she was the one, so I asked the boy if I could bring a friend back…but if we return her to her litter, how would we know which one she is? The boy ran into the house and brought out his sister’s nail polish. He painted one of my puppy’s tiny, sharp nails a bright pink. That’s how we would know her.
I brought my friend Jon back with me for an expert opinion (he said yes), handed the boy some cash, and took the puppy with the pink nail home to South 6th Street.
And that is the story of how Myra came to be my dog.
Myra came into my life in the Springtime. Ten years and many trails, mountains, rivers, road trips, snowfields, and climbing trips later, she took her leave, also in the Springtime.
Myra was my work companion, my trail-running partner, my shadow. The first few years she topped mountains with me, logged endless miles on the trails with me, followed me on camping trips and lounged in the 6th Street living room on the purple carpet. It was always me and Myra.
And then this Swiss guy came into my life.
Myra decided that he could join the pack.
From that day on, she became more and more Stephane’s dog. He shaved her in the summers to keep her cool, trimmed her nails, poured over dog food ingredients to ensure she had the best ratio of fats to proteins; always made sure she was clean, fed, and happy.
And Myra loved him. Dearly.
Myra was the best-mannered, sweetest, gentlest soul. As she accepted and loved Stephane, so she did with Hugo, although it took her a little bit to figure out just what he was when we brought him home one afternoon.
And just like that, there were four of us.
Easy-going and long-suffering, Myra took her new role of bodyguard and canine baby-companion in stride, as she took everything else.
Myra-girl, you left us abruptly one morning at camp. We weren’t ready for you to go, my sweet girl. You still had some more miles left to go on those trails, and Hugo hadn’t snuck nearly enough food your way.
Mighty Myra, our hearts are so heavy. My feet are like lead on the trails and sometimes I still look back to see if you’re there. I still wait for the thump-thump-thump of your tail as you greet me in the early mornings. I still listen for your eager cry as we pack the camper (you could never be patient on those days, waiting and hoping to “make the cut” into the truck; you always did).
Myra-Bear, Thank you for being our sweet, gentle, turbo, silly girl all these years. Thank you for following us endlessly, tirelessly, and uncomplainingly: all over the country, up mountains, down canyons, through rivers; for navigating new parts of life with us. Thank you for waiting patiently for us to return from long trips. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories.
I’m finding less and less of your hair around the house these days, sweet girl.
I used to cringe at the endless piles of yellow hair floating around.
This year we celebrated a day early, on Wednesday, so Jess and Bradley could join us. Stéphane prepared a feast! Turkey with stuffing; mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, macaroni and cheese, green beans- it was amazing! Our neighbors and good friends Tom and Pam also joined us; we all had a lovely day together.
The following week, it was time to search for this year’s Christmas tree. Stéphane picked up the tree tag + map in town and we headed out of town to search for the perfect tree.
After hauling our treasure home, we spent the evening untangling lights while Christmas tunes crooned through the speakers, sipping on mulled wine from heavy ceramic mugs, searching for ornament hooks, and laughing as Hugo places yet another ornament on the same branch.
Merry Christmas to all! Enjoy this lovely, wintery month; smile to strangers (they most always smile back), stress less (who cares if you burned the pie), and put yourself on pause to really be in the moment with those you love.
For this trip, it was a toss-up between ice climbing in Silverton or rock climbing at The Promised Land. Since we have the rest of the winter ahead of us and the warm days of Fall are dwindling, we were excited that the gang was up for rock.
The Gruffalo is packed and I’m madly tying up loose ends at work so we can get on the road and escape south, away from the snow. A half an inch of the powdery stuff fell in Los Alamos Thursday morning, so we were more than enthusiastic about driving down the hill and heading south to warmer weather and our favorite climbing spot, Red Rock Arroyo.
With full bellies, we finished our drive south. Forgetting to top off with gas in Socorro, we discovered a hole-in-the-wall “truck stop” to fuel up and made it to our beloved Red Rock Arroyo just before sunset. It’s such a good feeling pulling into Luna Park Campground: we are always the only ones and get to set up camp in our regular spot, kick back, and enjoythe quiet and solitude.
Here’s to the man who always makes everything happen – even when the babysitter is 20 minutes out and you need another bike tube to make the epic five-year anniversary bike-to-dinner date happen. There is no obstacle too big, no problem too small for this guy. Love you to the moon and back, Bug!
Every eleven days, the closets of Casa Uva spew forth cams, climbing ropes and quick draws; Nalgene bottles of every color are rounded up, cleaned, and filled. Crusty campfire jackets re-emerge from the depths and canvas bags are haphazardly stuffed with non-frigo essentials like spaghetti, pretzels, dried fruit, and bars.
Stéphane parks The Gruffalo out front the day before so we can outfit her with fresh sheets, stock up the TP, stuff the gear and clothes, fill the fridge, and top off the H2O and propane.
Thursday morning – the eleventh day of being home – is a flurry of activity of different kinds. Hugo is out and about with his babysitter, Anna, tromping around on one of the local in-town trails, singing a song at the library or looking at scorpions at the nature center; Stéphane is “closing up” the house and I’ve been up since Five cranking out some work for clients before I shut down for the day and we hit the road.
Eleventh-Day-Thursdays crescendo at noon at which point Stéphane pulls us away from the curb; I kick my feet up on the dash and Hugo’s in the back with Richard Scarry.
Our last two trips were polar opposites: the first a snowy, loud, extrovert extravaganza of a trip north to the San Juan mountains; the second a warm, quiet, adventure south for some climbing at one of our favorite spots.
Part I (snow):
We head north to the Western Slope (CO) to meet up with Tom & Melisa for a weekend of snow, machines, lots of friends, and, unfortunately, three ER visits. Hugo and I make the five-mile snowmobile ride down Little Cimmaron to The Chamberlain Cabin.
A beautiful ride in. Sheep Mountain in the center, and fresh tracks beyond.
Melisa, Tom, Hugo, and myself. A pause on the ride in to make sure the trailers are secure.
About forty minutes later, we make it to the cabin, which is absolutely buried.
The long process of digging out the cabin begins with digging out the shed so we can get to more shovels.
We moved a lot of snow.
Time to play in the snow!
Sledding, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and snow-mobiling were the activities for the weekend.
Stéphane catching some air on the snow bike.
The next day the Front-Rangers arrive at the trailhead. Lots of littles, gear, food, clothes, and supplies are shuttled into the cabin.
Hugo enjoyed playing with the other little people.
Long story short, there was some mayhem, some blood, and three of the group ended up at the ER. A broken nose and handful of stitches later, all is well and we have more photos for Tom’s Wall of Pain and some good stories to swap around the campfire.
Family shot in front of the cabin.
I drive the girls and Hugo back out (SLOWLY).
Part II (sun):
We just returned from our favorite climbing spot in New Mexico: Red Rock Arroyo. Warm temps, lots of climbing and relaxing and family time.
The short hike to “The Harry Potter Climbs”
Taking a break from climbing for a reading session with the Hug-ster.
I’ve been able to lead a number of climbs here, which is awesome!
Harmonica session in “the cave”.
Baby Swiss on a Triscuit. Hugo making it look like it’s filet mignon.
Stéphane putting up a burly route on the “second tier”
Books at camp.
Dinner around the campfire.
Jamb session with daddy.
Stéphane rapping down from “the second tier” climb.
Shot from “the second tier”. Apache Kid Wilderness and beyond.
Hugo surprised us by power hiking / running up the super steep hill near camp – all the way to the top!
Stinky, grubby, and rested. Back to home and work and responsibilities…until The Eleventh Day comes again…
We do this drive a lot- cruising through the dry, desert landscape of northern New Mexico heading north to go play. Sometimes we stray only as far as Tres Piedras, camping amongst the pines and climbing towards the sky. Sometimes we cross the border to enjoy the solitude and smorgasbord of routes that Colorado’s San Luis Valley offers up. More often than not we keep going until we cut the engine at Hotel Chamberlain in Montrose. But today we are taking a new direction: heading west into the San Juan Mountains, past my favorite little mining town of Creede, and onwards to the lovely little town of Lake City, Colorado.
It’s a four and-a-half hour drive through some beautiful country complete with craggy rock formations and trails zig-zagging up and up forever, making me just itch to go run them and see what’s on the other side. Hugo’s happily alternating between his truck sticker book and staring outside at the cows and countryside, and alerting us of the occasional “digger” (i.e., anything with big wheels that is yellow).
Desert turns to alpine turns to snow and ice, and we find ourselves at Lake City and decide to check out the ice park first thing.
So an ice park is “farmed ice”, meaning it is created in the winter by spraying water in the right conditions on the right kind of terrain so that ice forms.
As opposed to “wild” or “backcountry ice”, pictured here, which is basically just waterfalls that freeze in the winter. Here’s Stéphane at Horsetail Falls outside Ouray back in 2012.
One of the rare times we are adventuring sans camper: our cute little cabin rental for the weekend.
Brother Alan, Tom, and Stéphane at the ice park. Beautiful, crisp day for some ice climbing!
Playing in the snow. The green IKEA bucket proves itself to be worth its weight in gold yet again.
Stéphane leading upwards on a beautiful ramp of ice.
Hugo hangs for hours, enjoying the snow and his red car.
This is what it looks like after someone leads a route on ice – there are ice screws that the climber screws into the ice on his way up. He clips the rope into the screw/beaner combo in order to keep himself safe if he falls.
One of the nights we have cheese fondue evening with freshly-baked bread and some yummy fondue cheese. It was really good to catch up with our friends Rene and Belinda- Swiss natives who left their country many moons ago to settle in Lake City.
Hugo practicing his technical fondue skills.
Hugo gets his first guitar lesson from Uncle Tom.
Rene and Belinda teach us how to dance to Swiss folk music.
Another blue sky sunshine day! Today was much warmer and less windy than the first day.
Fun in the tub.
Man, I haven’t done this in a while and I am already pumped!!
It is super rare for Stéphane and I to get to climb together these days, so this was pretty special!
Hugo goofing off while mommy and daddy climb.
Amazing ice formations. Stéphane calls this one “the beard”.
T-Rex wants to swing the ice axe!
Beers, gourmet brats and deviled eggs at the Lake City Brewery. The brewery is right next to the ice park (GREAT placement) and has tasty beers and grub.
He only wears sunglasses inside.
Shenanigans back at the cabin.
It was really great to catch up with Rene and Belinda again. We hope to see them again soon.
Aunt Melisa shows Hugo how.
Love birds 🙂
An awesomely fun trip to Lake City! We’ll be back soon! (and yes, I know that Hugo needs sunglasses) 🙂
By five-fifteen Hugo’s morning milk has been warmed and set quietly at the top of the stairs – just outside his bedroom door – ready forthe six-thirty wake-up-pee-and-back-to-sleep call.By five-twenty the office is warm and cozy, lit softly by the glow from the paper IKEA lamp, and buzzing with the soothing hum of the heater. Tea is piping hot, computer is awoken, screens burst to life, and work begins.At least three solid hours of blissful quiet- the most productive of my day.
Except not today. Today the internet goes down. So today there will be no work.
And today just so happens to be babysitter day.
So today, Stéphane and I climb some ice. Long overdue and not epic in any way, but wonderful in the way first dates are because it is awkward (total rookie rope tangle), new (it has been so long since we’ve climbed ice together), giddy (just the two of us!), and just plain freakin’ fantastic.
So here’s to internet outages: may they occur more often and when we least expect, and may they allow us moments to reconnect to ourselves, each other, and to those things that give real meaning to our lives.
Browsing through our photos from this past year, I am amazed by all of the things we have been able to do! From hosting family and friends at home base Casa Uva to traveling to Switzerland and Detroit to see family; this year we’ve tackled major (and minor) home improvements, sneaked away for countless climbing trips, and logged some quality time running in the mountains (me). At home we juggled time between working, playing cars with Hugo, and crashing in the den at night, just Stéphane and I, catching up on our favorite shows.
I would also like to mention that we spent six months of this year potty training Hugo. I am VERY proud to say that our little guy is fully potty trained as of 2 years old (this past October).
We are thankful to have careers that we are passionate about and that those careers allow us the time and flexibility to play in the outdoors as much as we do. We work really hard so that we can play really hard. Life is good. Cheers to another year of adventures, family/friend times, climbing trips, and hard work. We are blessed to have our amazing families and circle of friends in our lives. Bring it on, 2019!
December was a busy month for the Heftis! In between working, house projects, and fun card nights with Tom and Pam (our super fun Cocktail Generation* neighbors down the street), we managed to sneak away for a week to Detroit, chop down our first family Christmas Tree up in the Jemez Mountains, and find time for a short climbing trip to one of our favorite New Mexico hideouts.
We started the month out with a short but wonderful trip back to my homeland, Detroit, MI, to catch up with familia. This was Hugo’s first set of flights where he got his very own seat (and we had to pay for him this time around – wallet says “ouch”).
Santa Fe > Denver > Detroit. We have made a habit of stopping at the New Belgium pub in Denver on our way to and from wherever we are to-ing and from-ing. It’s a great pit-stop and BONUS: high chairs (Hugo tends to actually sit in his chair when he’s up high) and a couch (also for Hugo). Easy button when traveling.
It doesn’t get any better than being home for the holidays. We laughed, drank, and chatted the afternoon away at Founder’s Brewery downtown, just behind the Masonic Temple. Such a fun spot and the best company ever.
Bud Light, Euchre, and Grams is my partner – life is good! Oh, and there’s a Bud Light tower on the table. This is most definitely a Trombley gathering.
Just the best memories ever at this table in this little kitchen.
A visit to the Newmans to meet Sebastien!!! Such a sweet little guy and we enjoyed the afternoon and evening chatting it up and eating some amazing Italian food Chez Newman. Merci beaucoup, Newmans!
Hugo got to try his hand at bowling for the very first time while mom, Betty, and Grams were at their weekly bowling league. Hugo’s very first bowling score (with bumpers and help from the dragon ramp) was a 55!
Post-bowling gifts, drinks, good catching-up time, food, and laughter @ The Boat Works. Hugo enjoying some “Kristal snuggles” from Aunt Kristal.
A week of work, some travel south and we find ourselves back at our favorite hideaway, Red Rock Arroyo, for three days of some awesome climbs and very summery temps (in the 60s!).
Getting ready for my first of 3 full and 2 half leads of the trip. This was the most I’ve lead ever! Getting more comfortable in my head on the sharp end. It was also a pleasure to see how well Hugo hung out on his own, playing with Myra and his toys while we climbed.
Topped out on my third lead of the trip. Feeling strong!!
Stéphane, of course, leads all the hard routes and is super strong, comfortable, and confident on the rock. I’m always so proud of him.
Climbing our butts off while Hugo takes a nap in the camper. This photo illustrates why we love this place: we are climbing right above where I am standing and look how close the camper is – easy button when it comes to climbing and kiddos.
Lots of textures.
Hugo wants to spend the night with Myra. Except Hugo’s a little too big for Myra’s digs. He loves his “Mya” dog.
Full moon at camp
On the way back home, we stopped in Albuquerque at the Bio Park for the River Of Lights.
I’m cold and there’s too many people 🙂
Joyeux Anniversaire, Papi!!!!
$10 gets you an orange tree sticker and a map! We head out into the Jemez Mountains to find our very special first Hefti family Christmas tree!
And we found it!! Except you can’t really see it – it’s behind us. But it’s perfect and we love it. Big thanks to Tom and Pam for coming out with us and helping us track down the perfect tree!
Here’s a better picture of it – our tree!
She’s all dressed up for the holidays.
Opening presents on Christmas Eve. This is a special one because it’s from our V. We love our V.
Hugo received a workstation from Tante Silvia et Nani et Nani – merci beaucoup!! Now he can work on projects right next to daddy.
T-Rex puppet from Aunt Lorry and Uncle Kev. His favorite gift of all. We went for a Christmas afternoon hike and who came along? T-Rex, of course. Who’s he napping with right now? Give you one guess…
Hefti family tradition – Fondue Chinoise!
Baking cookies with daddy.
So now you are caught up on all things Hefti in December. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and hope you have been able to relax and enjoy time with your families this holiday season. Cheers to closing out 2018 and to lots of adventures, hard work and play in 2019. We are looking forward to all of the guests we will have next year, to all of the place we’ll go, to spending time snuggling together in the den, to playing cards in the living room, to regular, boring workdays, to exciting, fun travel days – to it all.
Life is good.
Much Love & Merry Christmas,
Stéphane, Sara, Hugo & Myra-dog
*Cocktail Generation – those who lived in the era when cocktails had a minimum of three ingredients (i.e., NO gin and tonic, vodka / OJ, etc.).
Our tribe used to gather in Indian Creek, Utah to celebrate Thanksgiving in the time before the secret of this amazing place became widespread knowledge among climbers. Before the trailheads of The Creek were choked with Sprinter vans and its quiet nights shattered by generators to power all-night parties, we enjoyed a quieter kind of celebration here.
It was called “Creeksgiving”.
Mid-November every year, Tom would start the digital conversation with talk of weather and logistics, food lists and time frames. Some of us would head out earlier, climbing towers on our way out; others later, just in time for the food and company. Regardless of when we’d show up at camp, we all made that turn onto UT-211: the turn that took us out of cell service and into The Creek; and we’d all breathe a sigh of relief knowing that we’d entered the world of real-life, face-to-face conversations, beautiful sandstone cracks for days, music around the campfire, dirt under our fingernails, grease on our faces, and smoke in our hair.
These days the secret is out and Indian Creek is overrun. And so these days our tribe meets elsewhere: a place equally beautiful but still quiet and serene. We still get dirt in our fingernails and smoke in our hair. We still get our face-to-face conversations and music around the campfire and amazing climbing. Ray brings the meat and size-six cams; the rest of us fill the gaps with pies and side dishes. Tom brings the spiced cider and jalapeño poppers (there’s usually always a day-wrecker in the bunch). There’s a bottle or three of tequila to pass around the fire at night, a musical ensemble including guitars, banjos, harmonicas, and the flute. Evan wears his safety glasses around the fire and someone inevitably falls in the fire while pallet-dancing.
Our tribe is architects, engineers, pilots, programmers, lawyers, children, a rowdy toddler (guess who); our tribe is athletes, mothers, friends, brothers, sisters, fathers, uncles, aunts (Hugo has so many uncles and aunts, and we love it).
Our tribe is strong.
Our tribe is love.
We are thankful.
Driving into camp we passed many cows. Needless to say, Hugo was enthralled.
The gang up at Mangy Crag. This photo taken just before Hugo fell into a cactus and screamed bloody murder. (!!)
The kiddie section of the crag – we were able to find a nice, fairly flat spot for Hugo and Anna.
A cloudy, colorful sunset.
Digging into the Thanksgiving feast.
Daddy and son relaxing around the campfire.
Stéphane showing off his new Army of Darkness tee (and his fabulous muscles) – back off ladies, he’s all mine!!!!
Giving Hugo a joy-ride around camp.
The tribe around the fire at night.
The many side dishes warming up in the coals.
Hugo enjoyed clambering around on the low rocks surrounding our camp.
He LOVES his yellow car (and rolling his eyes; I did not teach him that one, neither did Stéphane…)
Jamming with daddy.
Melisa cruising Brown Sugar
He loves making faces.
Me starting up Pelvic Floor.
A musical evening. Hugo is enchanted by Sarah’s flute.
The gang at the base of Brown Sugar.
Tom cracks a smile belaying Stéphane. The weather finally warmed enough for us to clamber up to Brown Sugar for a quick lap.
This week we took a quick road trip to St. George, Utah so Stéphane could attend his company’s safety conference. We were able to multi-task and squeeze in some nice (albeit hot) trad climbs, enjoyed a couple of cush days at a hotel, and explored a bit of SW Utah.
As I write this, Hugo is napping on the bottom bunk of the Gruffalo. I’ve got my feet up, drinking a Rogue Honey Kolsh and being rocked ever-so-slightly by the multitude of passing HOV’s at Sand Hollow State Park (there’s an ATV rally here today). Stéphane’s across the lake back up in the hills somewhere learning about wilderness survival (while I’m surviving just fine in our luxurious little box on wheels).
This afternoon Hugo and I enjoyed the feeling of red Utah sand between our toes, waved our wands towards the unbrokenly-blue sky, and indulged in some mac n cheese.
Happy Friday to all.
Life is good ❤️
Stéphane leads a beautiful crack climb. Short approach and overlooking the city of St. George. And a super fun climb 🙂
Little Hugo at the crag.
No, those are not sea shells. They are yogurt-covered raisins.
Diggin daddy’s old BD hat.
We were able to get two climbs for the price of one lead! So nice to tape up and climb some crack again!!