Thursday, March 24, 2011


Close your eyes and i'll close mine

Good night sleep tight

Now the sun turns out his light

Good night sleep tight

Dream sweet dreams for me

Dream sweet dreams for you.

Good night good night everybody

Everybody everywhere Good night.

The Beatles

You belong among the wildflowers

You belong somewhere close to me

Far away from your trouble and worries

You belong somewhere you feel free

You belong somewhere you feel free

Tom Petty

After spending the last 3 years of my life writing about and sharing my life I feel like now is the perfect time for me to take a creative break from blogging. It has been a wildly fun and productive run. I just need some time to push further along my journey. And I need to do that without worrying about being funny or trying to find new ways to say the same old things. So, I am going to take a break from writing. Hopefully, it will be short and I will realize I miss this form of communication. I can't promise it will be because I just dont know. I don't like that some of my friends choose to think reading my blog is communicating with me. I miss talking to those people about my life and their's. The really good news is I am very easy to keep in touch with. My email is I am active on facebook and I am happy to talk on the phone. You can email me for that :)

If you are interested in Fitness Ridge and are looking for my details about the program look in February and March 2010, October and November 2010, and February 2011.

A quick note of thanks to everyone who read any of my blogs. What started small picked up a little unexpected steam along the way. A giant thank you for laughing and riding along with me. A very special thank you to those of you that took the time to comment. I always looked to see if people thought enough of the blog to post a comment and those comments would serve as an affirmation to me that my time was appreciated.

Have a wonderful summer. I am excited as always for the warm weather. I have tickets in hand for Sara Bareilles, Jimmy Buffet, and Jackson Browne already. I am so looking forward to volleyball. And I even have a couple of 5K's lined up for April.

Peace, Love and happy travels until we meet again...... Keep Running on Empty, Jim

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Ridge wrap-up

The dogs on Main Street howl
'cause they understand
If I could take one moment into my hands
Mister I ain't a boy, no I'm a man
And I believe in a promised land

Bruce Springsteen

Let me start by saying that this was one of the best, if not the best, of all my trips to the Ridge. It was fun, so productive, and invigorating. I pushed my knee and it responded fabulously. I climbed heights that were unimaginable to me when I started this program. I got pushed by my friends to go faster and harder than ever before. I learned to relax and and enjoy my surroundings. I didn't have a triathlon or a film crew changing my program. I felt like I could do things that I haven't done since back in my college days. No complaints :)

So let's tie up some loose ends before I settle in for some serious basketball watching, because it's March and that to me means a plethora of exciting passionate basketball. The food just keeps getting better. This is a yummy Caesar Salad Pizza. There's so many more options if you don't like what they are serving. The kitchen staff is amazing and works to make sure you get everything you need and want. They cut apples and oranges to take on the hike with you. It's been such a transformation in the dining room that I can't say enough about it.

I had a lot of fun on this trip. Played pool volleyball, spent a rainy morning playing racquetball in town, and remembered that exercise can be fun and doesn't by any stretch have to be on a treadmill in a gym.
My hikes were simply great this trip. Saddle, Camelback, Hidden Pinyon, Johnson's Arch, and Jenny's Canyon. Beautiful, hard, sweaty, and humbling. I just never thought I would be someone who looked forward to conquering new hills. Saddle was so hard, but I wanted to prove that I could do all that they offered. I look back on my first 3 trips over 18 months where I never ventured off road and laugh at what I missed out on. There is no feeling like standing on the summit of a great mountain, surrounded by loving friends, and realizing you climbed it. I was never that guy. But this place makes me that guy. This picture is the pond from Butch Cassidy, and it actually had water in it for the first time on one of my trips.
There are certain classes I don't really like to take. I find some of them really hard. In others I feel completely uncoordinated. But then I look around the class and I realize I'm no different from anyone else there. We all have our fears and though we try to mask those fears many times by exuding confidence we still worry about what others will think about how we look or how we don't fit in. That's all self doubting crap. No one cares, you try the best you can. You laugh, you sweat, and when it's over you smile.

The ridge has changed. I see bigger people coming for longer stays. Do me a favor no matter how big you are, no matter how much it hurts or how embarrassed you are by how hard things are for you compared to others, get on a van every morning. Have them take you somewhere. Spend those two and a half hours moving around. Take a few more steps than you did the day before. If you don't you are cheating yourself. I really wish they would make everyone get on the vans but they don't. So make it your number one priority to do that. It changes your life, and you are only short changing yourself if you don't. I would have chosen to stay back, pretended to get a good workout in, but nothing had the effect that going out and walking the stop sign hike repeatedly did for me. If you are coming and afraid; that is so understandable. We all are, but you took the hardest step when signing up, keep taking those steps. You can't have Paige looking over your shoulder all the time. Well I guess you can if you stand below her fathead picture on the wall :)

One of the more surreal moments for me was coming off Saddle completely exhausted, and a lady not at the ridge, telling me she read my blog. So a shout-out to Theresa from Washington, who came back to St George on her own, wearing her polar watch to make sure she was burning the calories she burned on the program and hiking her butt up stop sign everyday. There's hikes everywhere, teams to play on and friends that want to help. take advantage of it. The Ridge is a bubble but you have to live in the real world. If you are going to book a stay here book for as many weeks as you think you need, but 4 weeks is optimal. If you want to stay 12 make plans to go home every four weeks and start to adapt. The most successful campers are those that cherish their time at the Ridge but make it work at home. And after four weeks you lose some of that cherishing your time there.The program is hard I will not lie about that. Your body gets tired, your mind wanders, and you need outside life. There seems to be diminishing returns after 4 weeks without a freshening of some sorts.

So in short. This place is awesome. The people in the program inspire you beyond what you could ever imagine. It's life changing. None of us are perfect and I am further away than most, but you will have perfect, jaw-dropping days here, and you will believe in yourself. And there is no greater feeling than leaving the self loathing behind and embracing life again. It's vacation time for me and the blog. Hopefully we earned it. Peace, Love and buzzer beaters, James

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

What goes up must come down

Give a little bit
Give a little bit of your love to me
I'll give a little bit of my love for you
Now's the time that we need to share
So find yourself, we're on our way back home


Before I begin part two of my Saddle trip I need to take some time to talk about my hiking partners. I really had the heart and soul of Fitness Ridge with me on this hike. Paige is the fitness director. She often has to play the bad cop at the Ridge which is really against her nature. She has a heart ten times the size of her body. She has made the program at the ridge what it is today. She took the groundwork that had been laid and put her spin on it. From the hikes to the classes every aspect of the ridge is better because of her. I love her to death.

Renee is the head of the Ridge marketing department. She doesn't have a ton of interaction with the guests on a daily basis, but each of them owe her for making this program accessible and visible to them. She works to bring contestants from the show to the ridge, had done so much to put this program in the national spotlight, and even got a shy boy from Wisconsin to confess many life sins on national TV to help others learn about the power of this program. I am so happy that she and I have become such good friends
Trevor is the head of the reservations department. The first interaction most everyone has with the ridge is with his department. He solves problems, makes the guests laugh, and smile with his calorie challenge, and has increased the professionalism of his office beyond what I ever imagined after my first trip here. He has become a dear friend of mine.
The last member of the Ridge staff to join us on the hike was Eric. As the general manager of this place his hours are long, his duties endless, and his demands encompassing. He is all of these peoples boss and the jobs they do is a complete reflection of the leadership he provides. I can't imagine this place without him and truly hope the owners appreciate all he does to make their resort all that it is. He is one of my best friends in the world and I treasure any time we spend together. If it wasn't for Eric my first trip here may very well have been my last. I could never thank him enough for all he has done for me and every camper that walks through the door here.

The last of our group wasn't a ridge member, but another guest. My dear friend Lisa, has been so successful in the year I have known her. She pushes me to to go harder and faster on the treadmill. She has the ability to make those around her feel better about themselves. She is selfless to an extreme and has raised three wonderful, intelligent and beautiful girls. She has done 3 triathlons in the last year and has signed up for 4 races in the next 6 weeks. She is a shining example of everything that is great about the ridge. And I only cussed her a few times for inspiring me to do this hike :)
I was really happy when I got to the top. It was challenging beyond what I had thought it would be. But I was unprepared for the downhill. I like to climb, I hate to come down. Momentum is a funny thing. It's great when you are playing a sport, it really sucks when you are travelling down a steep decline. I have done enough downhill to be anywhere near comfortable doing it. I'm afraid I will lose control of my momentum and just keep heading out of control. And one thing you don't want to be on a mountain with drop offs is out of control. So I went slow, I mean really slow. I imagine it takes most people 15 minutes to do the down part of the original hill. It took me 3 times that long. I got shaky once, slipped one other time but I made it thankfully down in one piece.

So after making it down on to relatively flat ground we began the trek out of the canyon. I was spent and Paige didn't sugarcoat it for me. She said I'm not going to lie we still have a long way to go. It was basically like I was starting an entire new hike after spending two plus hours going up and down. I will say that what I had seen so far was beautiful. Recent rains and snow melts had left many pools of water. There were small strange bugs in all the water. Speaking of water I was well through my water, through most of Lisa's water and starting in on Trevor's water. My normal hiking water allotment was about 25% of what I needed on this hike. I no longer had any feeling of accomplishment. I had one feeling coursing through my body and that was simply. Please let this end soon. I felt bad that I had slowed everyone else down. I was slightly embarrassed that saddle was kicking my ass. But as I looked towards my friends I only felt compassion and support and encouragement. I kept going.

Just over 3 hours in we came to the back part of Fern Gully. I have never hiked Fern Gully but I have sure heard other campers bitch about this hike and they all say one word....SAND. This was now deep sand we were walking though and we had over a mile of it in front of us. I like the beach, we all know I like the sand in my toes when playing volleyball. I didn't love this sand in any way. I was starting to feel those same feelings that I have seen bring the tears out in many newbies. Sort of what was I doing thinking I could do this. But we kept going and suddenly the sand was ending and we were heading into territory I was familiar with. I remember the feeling I had doing the triathlon when I knew for the first time I was going to finish it. I knew for the first time since I started climbing that I was going to make it back to the cars. We hiked out the hidden pinyon trail that I had hiked many times before. We found ourselves finally on the stop sign path and only a quarter mile from home. Relief. The first thing I saw was a lady I had never seen before wearing a biggest loser hat. So after 4+ hours of hiking so much sweat, self doubt and loathing, the first words I hear are, "I know you, I read your blog" And there you have it, I sometimes forget that what I do has an impact on others and I am reminded of that as I finish the hardest thing I have ever done.

I was asked what I felt by my hikers and at that moment the word that came to mind was humbled. Humbled that this mountain reminded me that I have so far to go, humbled that I could do this, humbled that I have amazing, patient friends that shared this with me, and humbled that I continue to receive the gift of love that Fitness Ridge has been for me. There wasn't a sense of accomplishment as I headed home, there was a sense of relief. But as the days have gotten away from the actual hike I do feel a sense of accomplishment. That was one bad-ass hike, and I did it. I don't have any plans to do it again anytime soon, but you better believe I have plans to find a new challenge. I hope you enjoyed the story of Saddle. I only have a few days left in Utah and I am content that this trip has been my best ever for so many reasons. To my hiking partners... a gigantic thank you and so much love. You have changed me and I appreciate it more than I can say. Peace, love and amazing friends, Jim

Monday, March 7, 2011

Saddle Up,,,,,and Up,,,,and Up

Ooo you make me live
Whenever this world is cruel to me
I got you to help me forgive
Ooo you make me live now honey
Ooo you make me live

You're the first one
When things turn out bad
You know I'll never be lonely
You're my only one
And I love the things
I really love the things that you do
You're my best friend
I'm happy at home
You're my best friend

Mix in a perfectly wonderful early spring day, 5 friends whom I love dearly, the most challenging, difficult hike imagineable, a ton of sweat, lots of laughs, quite a few regrets, more fear, spectacular views and scenery, and one guy trying desperately to keep up, not fall off a cliff, prove a thing or two about himself to himself and others, and you have my Friday hike. Saddle was a special hike that I wanted to do and asked if Eric would join me. We added Paige, Lisa, Renee, and Trevor to our group and headed out to the back of Tuacahn to start the ascent.

Now when I was on the hike Thursday I had asked whether Saddle was comparable to Camelback and the guide said yes it was similar. That was the first lie. Saddle turned out to make Camelback look like you were walking to the mailbox to get the mail. We dropped a car off across Snow Canyon Park and then drove the 4 miles over to Tuacahn to the start of the hike. Well except for Paige, she dropped her car off early and just jogged the 4 miles over.

We arrived on the trailhead at about 8:15 and I got my first look at what lie ahead. It was a daunting presence to say the least. The Stop Sign hike gains 1,000 feet of elevation in around 4 miles. This hike gains it in about 1 mile. The terrain didn't look very friendly either. Boulders, loose sand, serious dropoffs and lots of climbing. The fastest time I have ever heard anyone going top to bottom on this climb is 34 minutes. I had a feeling that number wasn't going to be in any sort of jeopardy. I had offered up the suggestion of this hike to a few of my friends coming in. We had settled on this date and I knew it meant I would have to hike everyday to get myself ready for it. And while I felt like I had done quite a lot and feel really good I wasn't ready for this hike.

Did I mention this baby was up and up. I put my hands on more rocks than I have ever done hiking. I needed to boost my ass up all hike long. Even with really long legs that I could use to get high on many of the rocks I still found myself staring up trying to figure a workable path. And when I wasn't looking up I was looking down at my feet. There were areas when you would be climbing rocks in sand. Trying to get higher while holding on and then listening as the sand and pebbles you displaced tumbled a few hundred feet down into the ravine. This was not like anything I had experienced before.

If you look way in the back in some of these pictures you can see where we started. The slight bits of civilization on the sunline were the start of this trail. I was about an hour into the hike. Seriously huffing and puffing, sweat dripping off me, and thinking this up part is about the hardest thing I have ever done. There's no turning back either. You keep going or you pitch a tent. We got passed by the advanced hiking group that was also doing this hike. I wasn't bewildered by being passed, I was actually happy because as they went up the mountain in front of me I could see that I wasn't that far from the top.

The scenery was really breathtaking and my photographer who had done this hike the previous week was all too happy to snap away pictures. I will give her massive kudos for this cool shot through the rocks. In fact she did a magnificent job of capturing me going up this hill. The photos dont really tell the story of the steepness but I promise you it was STEEP

About 1.5 hours into this I reached the summit of Saddle, I didn't feel triumphant, I felt relieved. Everyone said that the climb up is the hard part of this hike. This was lie number 2. It was hard, really hard, but we were just getting started. And like they say what goes up has to come down. And Jimbo had sort of forgotten this part when he was thinking about this hike. I am going to save the rest of this hike for tomorrow's blog. I still really can't believe that I did this. I got asked half way up the hill if I regretted my decision to do this hike. My answer was no, I regretted ever stepping foot in Utah 3 years ago. I was, of course, joking; stepping foot in Utah is easily one of the greatest moments of my life. The feeling I got when finishing this hike was another. At no time during this hike did I regret doing it. There were plenty of times where I wished we were done. But quit or not do this? That thought never crossed my mind.

I will leave you with some summit pictures. I don't think when I started this adventure 3 years ago I ever imagined I would be doing a climb like this. It took 18 months before I even attempted any off-road hikes and now I have completed the toughest hike they offer. Not bad for the non-hiking, barely walking, slob who showed up here in 2008. This place is magic for sure, but the people and friends I have met here are 100 times more magic. Peace Love, Hearts and Stars, Jim

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Tonight I'll be on that hill 'cause I can't stop
I'll be on that hill with everything I got
Lives on the line where dreams are found and lost
I'll be there on time and I'll pay the cost
For wanting things that can only be found
In the darkness on the edge of town

Bruce Springsteen

Thursday I went on a hike called Camelback. I really like this hike. I have done it once before a little over a year ago. It was my first challenging hike I ever did. It has all of the elements you look for in a hike. Some climbing, some scrambling on the rocks, some sandy washes, water, and just fabulous views. You take a van about 25 minutes away from campus into the Gunlock area. We took a really big, fun group including some Camelback virgins. There were also 4 really fast hikers who did the more remote and challenging areas of this climb. One thing I really love about the new hiking program is that they always take enough guides so that the group can split into 3 sections. One fast, one moderate, and one shall we say "not as fast."

The payoff on this hike is the two really cool things on the summit of the mountain. The first is the Vortex. It is a very steep, winding, tornado like hole in the mountain. It had a nice pool of water at the bottom for anyone who got in a little deep. It is intimidating and scary but you have got to go in. And by "got to" I certainly don't mean they make you or there is any pressure from others to do it; what I mean is you want the full experience you do the vortex. I think 2 of my group ventured in :)

The second payoff is the two humps on top of the mountain that give Camelback its name. Now being in the no so fast group and taking some extra time to coerce some newbies to keep going up, we were well behind the alloted hike time when we got to the humps. My guide, Matt, who was fabulous, informed
us at the base of the hump that the hike was over. Not so fast my friend. My first time up I hadn't ventured up the hump and I will be damned if I was passing it up this time.

He informed me that I was making the decision against his better judgement. Like not all that much I do in Utah isn't against someone's better judgement? Usually mine. He asked me to make two promises. Not to fall and to promise that we would pick up the pace on the way back. I said I certainly I have no intention of falling, but I'm not promising anything about the pace home.
The first step on to the hump is about 4.5 feet up. So a little leg swinging, and a slight ass grab and push and I was on the hump. It was steep, and high, and falling would have really sucked. But it wasn't about falling, it was, like most things at the ridge, about taking yourself to new heights, So I proudly climbed to the top, raised my hands to the sky, and proclaimed myself the King of the F-ing world.

Then it occurred to me. How in the hell am I getting down off of this thing? I backed down part, flipped over and crab walked a little, and finally put my butt on the rock and kind of awkwardly slid down the rest of it. I'm not going to lie, I was excited and happy to have done it. We meandered our way back to the van, resting when necessary and wrapping up the hike in a dawdling 3 hours and 10 minutes. Or basically around the same time as the fast group was coming out of their stretch class back at the ridge.

So here is how long the self proclaimed king of the F-ing World felt like the king. On the way out we were passed on the trail by a group of 53 seniors on a field trip from their retirement community. One of them asked, " This is an 1.5 hour hike correct?" I slumped my head and replied. Each way for me ma'am. And any shred of king feelings I dragged off that mountain were about to truly be humbled the following day. Saddle Hike awaited me and it was going to bring me to my proverbial knees. But more on that next time... Peace, Love and Humps, Jim

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Three Ponds

Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it's a magic number.

Schoolhouse Rock

I went on a hike today called Three Ponds. I kinda know what a pond looks like. I didn't see anything that remotely looked like a pond. I didn't see anything that even looked like a puddle. I did see a whole lot of sand, a whole lot of rocks, some hills, a few cliffs and one really cool, really tight slot cave. I went on a hike today with six first week women and myself. One first weeker lasted about 25 steps before she said, "this is not for me" There was no judgement and no discussion, she went back to the van and was returned to camp. The other 5 women and myself trod onward.

I really, really enjoy hiking with new first weekers. Especially on their first off road climbing hike. Whether they come from the big city or a small town, most have never done anything remotely like hiking the red rocks. They are scared and intimidated. I like to reassure them that all will be okay. And I figure if I can do this hike, really anyone can.

No first off road hike is without tears and this one had its share but one thing that always happens is when it is done there are a lot of smiling faces, and a lot of people saying my family would never believe that I did this.

Slot caves are not for the claustrophobic. They aren't very wide. Walking sideways I pretty much had my belly rubbing one wall and my butt the other. It was my first time in this cave and I am always really happy to find new things in Snow Canyon

I am going with a different group tomorrow on a hike I have done before and loved. The hike is Camelback. And Friday I will be for the first time ever hiking Saddle. Somewhat excited, somewhat terrified. Should be a fun two days. Sorry this blog is short but I need some rest for these next two days. Peace, Love, and Happiness, Jim

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Last Week

You just call out my name,
and you know wherever I am
I'll come running, oh yeah baby
to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall,
all you have to do is call
and I'll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah.
You've got a friend.

Carole King

My second week was really one of my favorite weeks here ever, great old friends, fabulous new friends, fun hikes, being pushed harder in classes, and doing things I haven't done since hurting my knee. I have only put ice on my knee once. I'm back :) and just in time for volleyball that starts
in one short month. Here is my new friend Cheryl from California who rocked it all week in my hiking group.

We did a hike called Santa Clara Riverbed. It was actually a fun, scenic, and arduous hike. As I made my way back I was happy to find a hill leading to the bluff where the vans were parked. It wasn't along the same path we came in on and we were supposed to go out on. I saw bulldozer tracks on this road and remembered there was a bulldozer next to the parking lot. Now Momma Trudeau didn't raise no dummy... And despite what the hiking guides may lead you to believe I know the shortest way back to the vans is really a straight line not a winding walking path. I was the first one back to the vans, and then got a phone call from the guide wondering where I was :)

It wouldn't be a Saturday night at the ridge without graduation and some fun activity. This week was my favorite...karaoke. And it wouldn't be karaoke without a duet with my best friend in Utah, Eric. After singing 'You're the one that I want' by ONJ and John Travolta we broke out the Sonny and Cher classic 'I Got You Babe.' I also sang 'Build Me Up Buttercup' and 'You've Got a Friend' I am really excited for March Madness and our Eric and I's annual trip to Vegas for four days of basketball bacchanalia.

Graduation on Saturday night is really interesting. People stand up and tell a little about their week and everyone looks so different, dressed up and not sweaty and in gym clothes. People are really happy and I think it is mostly due to the success most of them have had. Me, I'm damn happy that I can wake up the following morning and not have to hike or go to the gym. Working out 6 days a week is borderline too much, working out 7 days is not healthy and you are really encouraged to spend the day relaxing. I don't need any encouragement.

Grabbed a picture with the super friendly, super mom, and super wife of my great friend Eric. Amie who has been nice enough to include me in family dinners and birthday parties made a special guest appearance at Karaoke.

Betsey and Mark hanging out after Karaoke. One old friend and one new friend. Mark did something this week I have never seen before at the ridge. Fully clothed and following a bike ride he rode the bike right into the pool. One thing you don't expect before you arrive for the first time is all the fun you experience at the ridge. This place is hard work, painful, emotional, but it is really really fun.

And you want to know how it is easy to tell that it is fun and worthwhile. Here is a picture of 11 of us that were here these exact weeks last year.

Back to work for another week. Back to hiking, pool classes, 1200 calories, kick-boxing, running on the treadmill, and fun.

I needed to put another picture of Nancy on the blog. She is the queen of the reservation office. She works magic to get people in here. They are currently booking well into the summer here. And on the off chance you are booking here. Make sure you ask for her and make sure you tell her you like the blog :) As always... Peace, Love, and Fun, Jim