Potential Peril at every Turn – Traveling the Road to Hana

A few years ago, my husband and I spent a glorious week in Maui. We had many adventures while there, both on the land and on and in the sea. I am sharing an excerpt from my 50 Life Stories collection about our Maui trip. This excerpt, from Story #32, is about traveling the (treacherous) Road to Hana. If you’ve never been, the sixty plus mile Hana Highway takes its passengers around 620 mountain curves and across 59 bridges (most are old and one-lane). 😨

Some paths are supposed to be walked on, even encouraged, and others come with a warning. Our Road to Hana tour guide, Alex, considered the, “Warning – Stay off the Path” sign a suggestion, not anything to be taken seriously. We followed Alex, passed the sign that warned us to turn around.

“Oh, that’s just there to keep tourists safe,” Alex said, as he forged ahead.

“Wait!” “What are we?”

Alex didn’t hear or chose not to respond to my question. He was either going to lead us into the adventure of a lifetime or to our deaths. As I walked past the small wooden sign, my body, like a magnet, wanted to cling to the sign, before peeling myself away from the group, and running back to the safety of the van. I am not comfortable breaking the rules when those rules come with a DANGER warning. I did not want to be the dumb tourist who makes the evening news for, well, being a dumb tourist. The type of news that is tragic for a second, then the tone quickly turning to a “they deserved it” attitude after the newscaster explains how the area was clearly marked with a warning sign. I began to search my mind for proof that Alex was a credible driver who would not lead us into harm. He had brought us this far on the “death road,” as it is often called, he was incredibly knowledgeable about the island’s history and politics, and he was hired by a tour company. Surely, some vetting took place. I assumed. But … he was extremely late picking us up. So late, he was, that we thought our Road to Hana dreams had vanished.

Alex told us that most group tours start on the north side of the island and make their way south. He, on the other hand, preferred to go against the flow and start on the southern tip of the island and then spend the day traveling north. He planned on taking us through an area that rental cars were not allowed to travel across. For those who choose ignore the signs, they were traveling at their own peril.

“See,” I whispered to John. “If you drove, we wouldn’t get to see that section.”

My husband had wanted to drive our rental Jeep, but I insisted that we go with a tour guide – someone who knew the road. Then John would be able to relax and enjoy the ride. I am not sure how relaxing it is, ever, when you are the one usually in control of the wheels. But, my husband agreed, and I was making sure he heard a convincing argument for giving up the keys that morning.

Alex began talking as soon as we entered the van and did not stop talking for the next 13 hours. I suspect Alex, was talking before we got on the bus and probably kept talking long after we exited. Alex told us about the agriculture in the area, the politics, the local history, including his own. He also told us about fatalities that occurred on the road, even detailing one high profile plunge over the side of a steep cliff, as we were driving by the exact location. The deadly location came near the end of our journey, but the information revealed was no less terrifying. He told us the story of the popular Yoga reality stars, twin sisters, who plunged over the cliff after fighting in the car. The incident left one sister dead and the other charged with second-degree murder. I did not know who he was talking about and frankly, I could have lived without learning of the tragic history of that steep cliff just beyond the curve in the road. Even though we were nearing the end of our day together, we were still traveling across a dangerous one-lane road, where at any turn, we could have faced an oncoming vehicle and our own mortality. Every time we made it safely around a blind curve, I could breathe a little easier and my praying could pause, at least momentarily.

Despite Alex’s inability to stop talking, for even five minutes, he was a wealth of information, and our day would not have been the same, or as experiential, if just the two of us had ventured out on our own. He told us about the history of the old wooden bridges that connected the curvy road fifty-nine times, and he shared the location of a hidden church, a famous burial site, movie locations, waterfalls that fed into cool swimming pools, hidden beaches, and he enticed us to try strange fruit in the yard next to the church. He had safely and calmly maneuvered us past a potentially volatile situation when we had encountered a smaller vehicle head-on when rounding one of the many blind curves.

We were several hours into our Road to Hana venture, when Alex led the way down the trail to an unmarked destination. The only mishap that had happened by that point, was a falling plate and glass. Alex had skirted a little too close to the edge of the road, when the van caught a protruding tree branch. The unforgiving road did not allow for much room on either side of the van, including room for another vehicle. The shattering plate that followed the jolting thud caused each passenger to gasp.

“It was just a plate,” a nervous and relieved voice said.

We let out a collective exhale.

Credibility and knowledge proven, why not follow Alex, the local, down the forbidden path? Alex led us into a dark cave. Magnificent. The cave was full of water. Interesting. Immediately, Alex laid his sunglasses, shoes, and keys on a rock and jumped in. He invited others to join him. Not surprising, no females from our group accepted his request, but three men did, including my husband.

“Wait! Are you serious? What are you doing?” My words floated across the musty air and trailed off, making no impact on the intended audience.  

For a tour driver who could not stop talking, he failed to talk about where they were headed, what to expect, or any other important safety tips before he led the brave, albeit dumb, group of loyal followers into the dark waters of the cave. As the men disappeared out of sight, the rest of us stood speechless and unsure of what to do next. We decided it best to scoop the many personal belongings that had been left behind in the unprotected cave, including our keys for safe passage home. Hopefully, Alex would make it out alive. I doubted an Uber driver would come to our rescue in that situation. Traveling the Road to Hana is for the adventurous thrill-seekers and not for those needing the conveniences of city life. With the belongings of others in our hands, those of us who chose not to submerge in the dark waters made our way out of the cave and down a tree-lined trail that led to a sparkling light-colored sandy beach. Paradise, except for this gnawing feeling that I might never see my husband alive again. I found a large piece of driftwood to perch myself on and waited. For how long, was yet be revealed. I sat in a spot that would give me a visual of the edge of what appeared to be where one might exit after swimming through the opening of the drowned cave, but I had no idea where they might resurface, so I sat waiting and watching. I found a credit card near my feet, with no apparent owner or bags nearby. No one came by looking for the card, while I sat vigilantly watching a possible cave exit.

Eventually the cave dwellers descended the path toward us. One of them, my husband, was not as happy to see me as I was him. He was angry that I took his flip flops, causing him to walk barefoot from the cave to the beach. I told him, we took their things, because we didn’t want to leave everything behind, and Alex was short on the specifics about their mysterious cave adventure.

Our group did some beach exploring, which included walking through a hollowed-out rock that revealed a perfectly framed ocean at the opening of the tunnel. We swam and enjoyed the sun until it was time to continue with our Road to Hana adventure.

After we were safely back in the van, Alex felt it the opportune time to tell us, “If anyone gets sick in the next couple of days, it might be from bacteria in the water, in the cave.”

“Nice of you to tell us, NOW, Alex” I said.

No one else responded or acknowledged Alex’s comment. Strange, but it wasn’t the first time my question was carried away in the tropical wind. If we survive the remainder of this ridiculous road, the adventurous trip might still get John through a tiny microbial that just entered a paper cut on his finger, while he was following fearless Alex into a dark and dank cave in Maui.

… Fortunately, their cave adventure is remembered as a highlight of the day (for my husband) instead of a news headline of the night (for the rest of us). We ended our memorable day at Ho’okipa Beach Park, watching sea turtles sleep and the sun set.

Thank you for stopping by and reading an excerpt from my Story #32. I am not sure I will travel the Road to Hana again, but I am so glad I didn’t let fear stop me. I am also grateful for our driver and tour guide, Alex. 🤟 😀 If you are facing a treacherous road, don’t quit, just find the right guide. 😏 Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Take Fifteen, then Tackle that Mountain

Tackle that mountain, I will,
but first let me rest.
Fifteen quiet clicks are all I need,
because I can’t climb feeling like this.
Exhausted thoughts and limbs
just need a brief escape,
and then those shoes with extra grip,
I will lace.
Lights off and eyes closed before
I begin my late afternoon ascent.
My body instantly melts into the mattress
and my mind, into the mysterious abyss.

Fifteen stretched into thirty.
Still too brief –
this siesta needs an encore.
A peaceful room records
automatic and rhythmic echoes –
inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale …
My body sinking deeper and deeper,
releasing all tension, increased
by this nonstop 21st century.
My mind floating freely,
far removed from this
earthly existence.
A screaming alarm,
I wanted to ignore
but I chose to respond –
uniting my mind and body
once more.
My heavy eyes I opened
and my heavy feet,
I placed on the floor.

My mind and body shaky and unsure;
I took one step, then another,
then another,
then another …
Breathtaking splendor in all directions
soon made me forget
about my weighty hesitation.
My mind now alert,
grateful to be walking this path.
Thankful, it was, to have abandoned sleep
and to have settled back in
to a body that likes to resist.

Walking alone for stretches at a time.
I completely lost sight of you.
Isolation, except for the tiny figures I see
in a boat or a canoe.

We started our walk together,
but you quickly disappeared.
Slow steps –
too much to capture
through my lens.
Quick steps-
Eager you were
to keep up your pace.

Maybe I should keep up,
maybe the sun will set
and alone at the top I will be,
maybe there is a mountain lion
tracking my speed,
maybe, waiting and watching,
she crouches behind me.
Maybe I should just breathe
and enjoy the crunching of the rocks
beneath my feet
and the sound of the solo flyer,
flying higher than any peak.

I am so glad I didn’t let rest
steal my afternoon,
because if I had kept sleeping,
look at all my mind and body
would have missed.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem about hiking on what would have otherwise been a lazy afternoon. I am so glad I laced up my shoes and made it to the top! I caught up with my husband, who took this shot. 😏 I hope you have tackled your own mountains this week and that your climb has energized you. ❤️ Have an inspired weekend! Michele

50 Life Stories Update: I am working on Story 46. When I complete this one, only four more to go. I am so close! 😊 50LifeStories.com

Pictures 1-9: Taken while hiking Yavapai Point Trail, Lake Pleasant, Peoria, Arizona

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

A Body that Transcends

Her body holds secrets
that I can only hear
if I sink into the liquid,
and let her draw me near,
as her ancient wisdom
soothes, washes, and transcends
time, thought, and truths.
In the murkiness, I suspend
my frame and my beliefs
about what is and what should be
and simply allow her body
to support and carry me.
Just breathe, there is nothing to fear.
She carries and protects the secrets
of all that is, was, and will be,
surely, she can do the same for me.

Gliding Across Glass

I learned at any early age that what first appears as an insurmountable and tortuous task, can turn into one of my greatest joys. I learned this when I was about eight years old and I was faced with learning something that seemed impossible to master. The seemingly impossible task required me to submerge in cold dark lake water, struggle with a life jacket that was riding above my ears, keep my feet in skies that pointed in every direction except the desired one – toward the throttling boat, and wrap my small fingers around the bouncing handles found at the end of a long rope. I needed to manage these tasks while bobbing alone, far from the safety of our boat. Each failed attempt to stand up on those skies meant I had to watch our boat, driven by my father, pass my way without stopping. A castaway, unable to call for help, I once again watched the long white tail trailing behind our boat approach my outstretched arms. My task was to grab the rope, before the boat circled behind me. If I missed grabbing my lifeline, the boat idled while I swam awkwardly to the end of the tail. Handles secure, the boat would continue its journey, back to where it began, and the stretched long rope created a taut straight line from me to them. Not only did the tight rope create the shortest distance between me and my family, it reduced the slack that can cause a sudden jolt and probable tumble after the propulsion catches up with the paused skier.

Another failed attempt and a rope burn around my pointer finger would surely land me a seat in the dry warm boat. Sadly, it did not. Apparently, my pleading and tears were drowned by the waves. My father would not let me back in the boat until I stood up on those skies. I knew those words carried weight, and I would need to lift my own out of the water if I wanted to feel dry land again.

I yelled, “Hit it,” as I had been instructed to do and finally, sitting back, my posture secure, determined, I was able to hold on to the split handles long enough to allow the engine to pull me up and out of the water. I did it! I can still feel the wind on my face, and the sound of the water splashing off me, as the motor’s speed instantly changed me from a floating fish form back into an upright mammal, only now, I did what primates are not naturally designed to do; I was gliding across water.  

I wanted nothing more in those moments of failed ski starts to crawl back into the boat. I am glad I did not get my way. Learning to water ski as a young person gave me the greatest gifts of my childhood and allowed me to experience profound freedom and joy. I have many fond memories of skiing across Arizona lakes: the revved engine when I yelled, “hit it,” feeling the spray from my ski as I leaned closer to the water, the freedom of gliding across the water, the friendly hellos from other boaters as they noticed the small slalom skier passing by, skiing alongside my brother, watching my parents ski, the pop of the vibrating red flag when a skier went down, the smacking sound made when the waves and the boat crashed into each other, and skiing through canyons that amplified sight and sound.

I enjoyed gliding across a smooth glass-top lake, that could be found on a quiet and calm weekday. Gliding across glass was an exhilarating experience, both the feel of the smooth water under my ski, and the look of the surface as I cut across. Calm water was a gift, but I did not mind a few waves now and then to add interest and challenge. My two-ski start was quickly replaced with a slalom ski that allowed me to maneuver outside of the wake, from right to left, and left to right. I learned how to ride the ridge of the wake as it propelled me outside of its boundaries, and I became skilled at leaning sideways, close to the water before leaning back and jetting across the wake to do the same on the other side. My difficult ski start was replaced with the strength and skills that allowed me to balance gracefully on one ski and stay on top of the water for longer periods. I also learned how to motion to go faster, which I often did during my adventurous youth. My ski moments were not completely void of fear – I did experience it from time to time. Fear surfaced if a large boat sped by, because that meant large waves would follow, or if I sat too long bobbing alone in the water before our boat made its way back to me. My family worked well as a team during these moments. My mom or dad drove the boat, and one of us was always on the lookout for a downed skier, flag ready. The last time I skied, my daughter, who was young at the time, saw me fall and somersault across the water. When I climbed back in the boat she was upset and crying; she was worried about her mom. I was fine, not even a scratch. I was better than fine.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem about the transcendent power of swimming in a body of water and my story about learning to water ski. I hope that you are finding joy and adventure in your own life. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimal viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post.

Picture 1: View from a boat, Saguaro Lake, Arizona Picture 2: Lake Pleasant, Arizona Picture 3: Lake Pleasant, Arizona Picture 4: One of 27 replica lighthouses along Lake Havasu, Lake Havasu City, Arizona

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

In Balance and Beauty, I want to Believe

Symmetry and perfect vision are writing themes that began my year –

represented by four numbers that appeared, when 2019 rang a final chime.

Four numbers, marking a new decade, that I have written several times.

I write the first two familiar digits, then my fingers hesitate.

Holding my pen, or resting on keys, my fingers wait.

Waiting for a signal for the number that should come next …

concentration complete, I can now duplicate the pair.

Did my fingers stutter, did I accidentally repeat?

No, these are the numbers, two zero two zero, twenty twenty –  

a balanced beginning, simplistically revealing harmonious things.

I ponder that this balanced theme may be just a dream –

a fabrication of my mind.

My desired theme, may actually be

a mislabeled container that doesn’t reveal what is inside.

“Numbers never lie,” or so they say, but these digits

are deceptive; they made me want to believe.

That our 365 days, plus one leap,

would be a path of perfect vision and symmetry.

But I only need to click on the remote, or open a feed,

and see that these themes do not exist in everyone’s reality.

Blurred vision and imbalance are what I see,

when missiles are launched at the enemy,

and fires rage as residents and animals attempt to flee.

Marking the year, the passing of seasons,

the balanced digits are only that, not a universal theme.

If perfect balance was achieved, what a blessing it would be,

but for now, my paradigm exists only in the land of make-believe.

Realizing that balance can never survive,

when the goal is to destroy or devour,

as powerful governments, and raging fires try.

I walked away from my keyboard and my screens,

and set out to find another model of symmetry.

Delighted, I found it under me, around me, and above me.

Nature restored my hope in symmetry, if not humanity.

I stood in awe of her grandeur, her balanced harmony.

Diverse plants and animals coexisting, taking only what they need.

Not caring about the passing of a year, or an attached theme.

Nature – symmetry beautifully designed,

if we leave her alone and allow her to thrive.

Thank you for stopping by and reading my poem about seeking balance, beauty, and symmetry. I hope that you are finding balance and beauty in your world.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to read my words and glance at my photos. For optimal viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Picture 1: Agave Plant, Desert Botanical Garden Picture 2: Charred tree, Havasu Riviera State Park, Arizona Picture 3: Saguaro Skeleton, Desert Botanical Garden Picture 4: Palo Verde, Desert Botanical Garden Picture 5: Small Barrel Cactus, Desert Botanical Garden Picture 6: Hiking Calderwood Butte Trail, Peoria, Arizona

Copyright © 2020 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Nonstop Rain, the Mighty Rogue River, and a Swimming Bald Eagle

Relentless rain transformed the park near my home into a lake.

I haven’t left my city all week and yet I feel as though I have been transported to another location, as I have watched the dry Sonoran Desert turn into an expansive wet landscape. A magical transformation, that has also been treacherous for many, with streets and homes flooding. The greater Phoenix area just saw three days of relentless rain. Quite a change for us considering we haven’t had significant rain in 270 days. Our 72-hour downpour that, in some places, delivered six months of our annual rainfall (average 4-8 inches), now feels like a distant memory with the sun drying streets, yards, and parks.

I enjoyed every drop of it. Maybe I can, because it is such a rare occurrence for us living in the Southwest. While out taking photos of our neighborhood park that was transformed into a lake, I closed my eyes and for a moment I imagined that I was in Oregon, walking through my daughter’s neighborhood and enjoying the cool breeze, an abundance of water, and the fresh crisp air that was enveloping me.

Feeling as though I had been transported to the Pacific Northwest, I was reminded of another magical misty moment that occurred when we were traveling seventy-five miles down the mighty Rogue River. My family and I spent the day on a speed boat tour. We saw some sights that can only be experienced in the wild and a few that we may never stumble upon again. Our knowledgeable captain and guide educated us on the history of the river and the wildlife in the area – life found in the river, on the land, and in the air. We saw osprey and bald eagle nests, deer swimming to the opposite shore, breathtaking channels, and whitewater rafters and kayakers.

Many wonders to behold in all directions, but two sightings captivated us, and they revealed the incredible natural cycle of life in the wild. The first sighting happened traveling downstream. Our captain noticed something odd floating near the shore. He slowed the jets and moved closer to the bobbing object. Closeness revealed both the size and identity of the object. The object was a deceased bald eagle that was floating with its fierce face pointing down and its massive wings stretched and lifeless. A sad moan rippled through the passengers as each realized what our captain had found. I did not take pictures. My response was to mourn, not take pictures of the loss of this magnificent creature. We waited by the shore while our captain radioed his findings to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials. Following protocol, the feathered creature would be examined to determine the cause of death, which hopefully did not involve intentional harm. Eventually we left the eagle, and continued downriver, bringing some sadness with us, and an appreciation for the fragile existence of those living in the wild.

Our second memorable sighting happened on our return voyage, travelling upstream. Once again, our observant captain noticed something floating in the water, and once again he slowed his jets to not frighten what lay in the distance. The object was another bald eagle, except this eagle was fully alive. It was swimming! Every passenger jumped up and ran to the edge of the boat to catch a glimpse of the swimming eagle. We watched in awe as the animal looked back at us and then carried on with its business, which was to bring its prey out of the water. The scene unfolded quickly, but I managed to capture some video that you can view below (scroll to bottom of blog for four videos). The captain told us that the bird would swim to the shore, eat, and then after drying off its wings, which might take some time, fly away. The captain was right on all accounts, except for the, taking some time to dry off its wings, comment. The eagle flew off quickly, leaving us unprepared to capture the moment, but it was glorious all the same, because the memory of that moment is etched in my mind.  

Bald eagle drying its wings. Sadly a plastic cup sits behind.

Balcony View Above the Rogue River

Flowing water below, streaming cars above.

Permeable liquid and solid steel,

both flowing fast and changing with each glance.

One shares union with divinity and carries secrets from the past.

The other was forged with modern hands and unlike the timeless river, will not last.

Diamond jewels appear along the crest, then twinkle and vanish.

Ancient rocks below are not moving, but changing all the same.

A verdant duck glides close to the water’s surface,

its evolved eyes searching and skimming.

A butterfly descends in an effortless tumble, guided by the invisible wind.

The arms of trees reach for each other, waving to the giver-of-life below.

The trees speak in a language that only the quiet among us can truly know.

The cool breeze carries seeds, leaves, and stories from the ages.

A moment suspended above The Mighty Rogue River,

offers a glimpse into the unceasing flow of creation.

Thank you to the life-giver and soul-nourisher – water. Thank you for giving us life and for enriching our lives.

I hope that my Saturday posts bring you a spark of inspiration at the end of your week and the beginning of your weekend, or whenever you choose to read my words. As I write this post, late Friday afternoon, I am so grateful to do so. I am wrapping up a week of annoying and frustrating life stuff, nothing serious, but the type of scenarios that make you want to pull your hair out, scream, punch, or all of the above. I am grateful that the week’s frustrations were resolved yesterday evening and now, what a blessing it is to take a moment and focus on that which inspires me, lifts me up, and brings me joy. It is my desire that some, or all of that extends to you.  

Photo taken at Kartchner Caverns State Park 20-year anniversary (11/16)

If you are reading my words early Saturday morning (MST), I will be beating the sunrise and climbing Sunrise Mountain while working as a trail host at the Copper Hills “4 Peak Challenge” Hike (#CH4Peak). Please send me and the hikers and trail runners good vibes as we make our way up the mountain.

If you are receiving my blog through email, thank you for taking the time to follow my blog. For optimum viewing, consider going directly to the web @ https://myinspiredlife.org/blog-feed/ for each post. However you choose to look at my posts and pictures, thank you! Have an inspired weekend! Michele

Hawaii interview update: The inspiring family of five who recently moved to Hawaii are very busy getting settled and, well, being a family of five. I hope to complete their interview and story soon.

© 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.

Adventurous Arizona Athlete and Teacher Inspires Others

Emily Gerlick finds adventure, tranquility, and breathtaking moments while increasing her physical endurance and belief in herself.

I have had the privilege of following inspiring athlete, Emily Gerlick, for a few years now on social media after meeting her at work over four years ago. I have looked at dozens of beautiful photographs of Emily running in picturesque scenes in several states, including Arizona, Colorado, and Utah and have often wondered how she makes it to so many remote locations, while also maintaining a busy teaching and coaching schedule. I am in awe and I am inspired by her, and I know I am not alone. Emily’s photographs reveal more than colorful landscapes in hidden valleys, they reveal dedication, desire, determination, and talent. Her photographs of running through the woods, or standing over crystal-clear lakes, or gazing at mountain vistas also do more than momentarily entertain, they beckon the viewer to get out, get moving, and get exploring.

From the moment I met Emily, I was immediately drawn to her independent nature and her compassionate teaching style, but as it often goes, it is difficult to truly get to know another teacher in the confines of the workday, when their classroom is across campus. I sought out an interview with Emily because she recently made a professional move, leaving our mutual school in Glendale, Arizona and accepting a position over 140 miles north, in Flagstaff, Arizona. Changing jobs and relocating can be a terrifying proposition; her story may help or motivate others who might be considering doing the same. Emily has also continued to push herself with her fitness goals and her results are incredible and motivating. I have learned several details about Emily during our interview that further add to my admiration and I am thrilled to share her story. I also learned to not wait so long to get to know someone who I admire from afar.

Running in nature is “soothing and meditative.”

Who is Emily?

Emily is from a Wonder Lake, Illinois, a small-town northwest of Chicago. She went to high school in Woodstock, Illinois. Arizona is her home now, but she misses the downtown square, the mom and pop restaurants, and lighting of the Christmas tree, which she described as being beautifully lit.

Not surprising Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid. As someone who is working on adding more play to her life, I love that Emily continues to allow her inner child to play, run, and explore. As a child she loved to do those activities barefoot – in the summertime of course. She has fond memories of being three years old and watching bonfires in her family garden, during changing seasons. She would sit and watch as long as she could, until the cold became too much, and then she would race her dad, fifty yards, back to their house. She learned discipline as a young gymnast and ballerina. As an eight-year-old, she fell in love with softball and would continue playing through middle school, high school, and eventually at the University of Iowa. Softball is also one of the sports Emily has coached, passing on her love of the game to aspiring players.  

Emily enjoyed playing outside as a kid.

Emily feels the influence of growing up with four seasons (something native desert dwellers cannot relate to). Illinois winters gave her grit and those long cold winters also gave her an appreciation for spring and summer. She is both an athlete and a fan – supporting the Bulls, Bears, and Cubs. She remembers watching Michael Jordan play with the Bulls and considers him to be an inspiration for her and her athletics.  

Who Inspires Emily?

Emily is inspired by her parents.

She said, “They both worked so hard to give my sister and I the best life they could. They worked hard and showed up at all of our events that we both participated in.”

Her students with special needs also inspire her, “… to be a better human. They have so much courage and work so hard and still have time to smile and laugh.” She thinks of, “them often when … out on the trail.”

Making the Moves

University of Iowa to Arizona

Emily fell in love with Arizona while competing against Arizona State University every spring. She completed a strength and conditioning internship with ASU the summer before her senior year, then moved to Arizona after graduating from college. Arizona surprises her most by the abundant places to explore and the beauty in the state. She mentioned one of my favorite spots, the Mogollon Rim.

She stated that she has “… not even covered half of the cool spots to hike, explore, and camp” in Arizona. Based on her posts, I would say she is covering more of the state than most. Although the Illinois cold gray winters gave her grit, she doesn’t miss having to shovel snow, however, the endless summer days in Phoenix, that never cool down, even after the sun disappears from the horizon, require their own form of grit.   

Phoenix, Arizona to Flagstaff, Arizona

Emily’s most recent move – the one that prompted this interview request – was her move from Phoenix, where she had lived for thirteen years, to Flagstaff. For those who are not familiar with Arizona’s geography, the two locations are distinctly different, and an example of the diversity in the state. Her desire for new adventures, new career and personal challenges, and the abundance of trails, motivated her to head north. Landing a job in an area she has always loved and leaving the security of the known for the unknown, demonstrate Emily’s ability to trust and believe. Two additional qualities I admire in this adventurous athlete.

She has faced the challenges of starting over, but her risk to leave the familiar is paying off. She is meeting new people, settling into her new job, learning new running trails, and she is loving the small town feel of Flagstaff. A feel that reminds her of home, in a place that is starting to feel like home.    

Blazing a Trail

Emily’s first trail running experience was a seven-mile trail at the White Tank Mountain Regional Park, in Buckeye, Arizona, in 2008. She was hooked! Her trail running began with hiking and running with friends. She loves the reward of seeing beautiful views after a climb. Her Instagram followers also love those views! Running in nature, and surrounding herself with natural beauty, gives Emily an immediate release from everything else going on in her life. Trail running has also given her ways to cope with the intense struggles of anxiety and depression.

She loves her supportive, and ever expanding, trail running community and she loves sharing her trail running and outdoor adventures with friends and family. Through her sharing, she has, “met some pretty amazing humans.” I would add that through her sharing people have seen beautiful hidden corners of several states. It is Emily’s hope, and my belief, that her running and sharing will inspire others to get out and find their own adventures.

If I haven’t yet mentioned, Emily is also humble, but I am happy to share that she qualified for the 2020 Boston Marathon. She believes it will be her last road marathon. As her interviewer and someone who has seen her push forward and grow, I am not convinced it will be her last.

Emily’s Top Five Reasons to Hit the Trails

  • Repetitive movement is soothing and meditative
  • Fresh air to the lungs
  • Connecting with earth
  • Seeing amazing feats of nature
  • Sitting in a cold creek listening to the sound of rushing water

Emily’s adventurous spirit, beautiful photographs, and willingness to take risks, both professionally and on the trails, inspire me to get up, get moving, and go beyond my comfort, which “is where life begins.”

For your own weekly dose of visual inspiration, follow Emily @ em_run_teach_love

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Copyright © 2019 Michele Lee Sefton. All Rights Reserved.