Welcome to Dulceland
You Must Be This \__/ Tall To Ride
Keep Hands and Feet Outside the Vehicle and Moving at ALL Times
Absolutely Stand Up and Throw Hands in the Air While Ride is in Motion
Warning: Ride may start 15 minutes later than scheduled
Me, “hi, I’m Dulce.” Anyone else, “wow! What a pretty name!” Me, “thank you.” Anyone else, “Dulce, hmmm… Do you know that means sweet in Spanish?” Me, “so I’ve heard.” Anyone else, “and are you? Sweet?” Me, “as the apple pie ice cream I just made…”
It Had to Start Somewhere
Other kids were born in a hospital, I was born on a commune in the middle of Washington state. My dad takes credit for keeping my mom moving during labor by dancing with her. If she stops, the labor stops and there is no me. I like me, so I’m glad they danced and it all worked out OK. Why was my very pregnant mom living on a commune in the middle of Washington state? Because my parents were hippies. Like, married on the rim of the Grand Canyon at sunrise hippies. Fruit picking, migrant working hippies. There’s a charming story about me, still in diapers, and a tree filled with ripe cherries. Let’s just say I ate a lot of cherries. Whole cherries. I’m pretty sure every boyfriend I’ve ever had has heard that story. Thanks, dad…
Basically, I was destined to be an outdoor girl. Both my dad and mom were outdoorsy and spent a lot of time climbing, hiking, and rafting. I learned how to hike by playing “puppy dog”; running down the trail on all fours barking, following dog commands like “sit, stay and come”, following my parents. I spent summers with my beloved grandparents outside of Roswell, NM. I had a horse to ride, chickens to toss scorpions to, a rooster to run away from and an extra house filled with books and boxes of booty left behind by my aunts and uncles. The worst time of day was when it got too hot to be outside (at least, too hot according to my grandma, and what grandma says…). I wanted to stay out, but was made to go inside, into the air-conditioning, for my own good. Hundred degree plus weather be dammed, I wanted to explore and PLAY! Yeah, I still have that stubborn streak, though I have learned to respect the heat and enjoy a good siesta.
There are some other famous (infamous) family stories around me, like the time my mom sacrificed herself by falling into a large cactus rather than pitching me out of the pack I was riding in while hiking up Half Dome. A best as I can tell, she picked cactus spines out of her hands and legs for a couple of decades from that. Or the time my dad and I went car camping on the coldest night the Pecos wilderness had ever experienced (OK, that might be a tiny exaggeration, but it was very cold). Everything not within five feet of the fire froze solid in under twenty minutes. The cheese froze. I repeat, THE CHEESE FROZE!! Not the cheese! Side note; frozen cheese is hard to eat. We could have gotten back in the car and driven anywhere else, but we didn’t, because that’s not what my dad would do. We just bundled up and toughed it out. We survived. We lived to tell the tale many times over. So now, when it’s minus 20 and snowing with a gentle 40mph breeze, but the horses still need to be fed, I can cope. Don’t get me wrong, I hate winter, but I survive. Probably because I’m too stubborn to do otherwise. Maybe.
Skip a bit, brother Maynard
“One!… Two!… Five! No, three sir. Three!…”
Eventually my mom gave up the hippy culture to become a doctor. Of course, doctor is a bit of an understatement. In truth, she became one of the leading research physicians in infectious diseases in the world. “Bugs and drugs”. Her lecture in infectious diarrhea, which included tossing out pudding packs to audience members, became the stuff of legend. I’m like 99 percent certain she was asked to give this talk at every Trop Med conference for years. Remember hantavirus? Her lab is the one who created the 24hr turnaround test that could tell you if you had the virus before you died from it. Kind of a big deal. But I digress…
During this time, I moved to Wyoming, moved back home to get me an edjumacation thingy, then moved back to Wyoming to finish my higher ed (or at least go far enough to call it a good effort). I had loved playing in the dirt as a kid and marveled at the thought of getting paid to do it as an adult. Plus, Indiana Jones was pretty darn cool (yes, my first dog was named “Indy”). I also learned about the fine sport of three day eventing, where you convince a horse that’s fit enough to gallop around a field jumping solid jumps that are fixed to the ground to also show a willingness to submit to making mundane patterns in an arena (dressage) and then doing dressage over jumps (show jumping). If anyone out there is considering taking up three day eventing, be warned! It’s a terrific, terrifying activity filled with the highest of highs (like when you and your horse are one, galloping full tilt around a cross country course and you both see the spot to the jump, flying through the air together as an unstoppable, polished machine), but also the lowest of lows (like when your equine partner decides they’d be better off going it alone and leaves you laying in a ditch in the rain and mud while they run away to go munch hay with their buddies back at the barn). Oh, and then there’s the old truthful joke, “how do you make a small fortune in the horse business? Start with a large fortune.”
Horses have been a lifelong passion of mine. I get kind of depressed when I don’t get to ride. I absolutely loved being a field archaeologist; outside in some cool places getting paid to look for cool stuff. And I was good at it! Alas, it’s hard being a field archaeologist AND a horse girl… it’s hard to ride consistently when you’re working in remote locations ten days at a time. Hence why I’m now a bartender (or at least I play one) in Centennial. I don’t get to work outside, but I do have daytime to go play and I’ve gotten to know a lot of really cool people over the years. There is a huge community rooting for me, both back home and around the country. I’ve literally had people tell me I’m an inspiration to be going out thru hiking the PCT. They can’t do the hike themselves (for any number of reasons), but they can experience it through me! And that’s something that makes me smile, gives me purpose.
Get on with it!
But back to my mom, because she’s the reason I’m where I’m at right now. And not just because she gave birth to me… At some point in her career, she decided to retire. After pursuing a life of leisure for at least ten minutes, she became bored and started hunting around for some way to use her skills. This is when she discovered New Zealand needed doctors, which was convenient, being as she was a doctor with a lot of time on her hands. As an aside, New Zealand is an awesome country and I thoroughly recommend going if you have the chance. They love everything outdoors over there, plus wine, good food and an occasional hobbit.
I have been lucky enough to visit my mom several times since she moved across the pond. Her sisters were fond of visiting as well. NZ is kind of known for its hiking trails, and you can believe we’ve done a good number of them. I think this really inspired my mom to try her hand at the crown jewels of long distance hiking. When she put word out she was making an attempt at a trail this year, I gladly agreed to hike with her. While I wasn’t particularly interested in doing the entire AT, I agreed to do a section. My aunt was also interested in hiking with her. We all sat down to a rare lunch together last summer (it was the first I’d seen my mom since covid had happened) and decided to hike the PCT this year instead of the AT. I have long wanted to do the PCT. When I was younger, riding it horseback seemed perfect. Now days I see the challenge in that, so I’ll settle for hiking it.
Once the PCT was agreed on, we all shuffled our lives around to make it happen. We’ve watched YouTube videos, read books and blogs, and bought all the stuff. We got a pretty good permit date and planned, then planned, then made some more plans, then made some last minute plans, and even those are now changing as needed. We watched the snow reports with awe. If we make it, this will be a year of legend. If we make it. But I have high hopes for us.
We all have a stubborn streak, tenacity some might say. My mom and her sisters call themselves “The Tough Old Broads”, and they do live up to their moniker. They are tough, and smart, and witty, and humble. I have long looked up to them in awe, and now we get to spend six months (give or take) doing this crazy thing. People ask, why am I hiking? There are a lot of answers, but in truth, I’m doing it because I can. We don’t get to take it with us when we go, so I’m going to die broke but with a lot of good memories. Plus, if I manage to hike the whole PCT, my mom and aunts said I get to join their ranks as a TOB myself! What could be more rewarding than that?! 😉 Cheers!
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