Wow, what a tough tax season! It’s hard to explain how rough it is on tax preparers when our government doesn’t finalize the rules in time for the IRS to get the forms completed.  Without tax forms, it’s pretty tough to file a tax return!  We survived, but I feel like some of the people in charge should be shoved over the edge of that fiscal cliff for such irresponsible handling of our financial future!  In any case, the following is a reprint from a newsletter dating back to 2005.  My beloved dog, Winston, was about 3 back then.  He’s now pushing 11 and is still as beautiful and kind as back then, albeit a bit older and slower.  Like me!

A lot of people ask me what I do after tax season.  Like most of the staff, I do have a habit of disappearing for awhile after the infamous April 15 deadline.  Actually, I have a tradition of being packed and ready to go and after the last extension of the day (or night – as the case may be) is prepared I get in my truck and light up the biggest cigar I can find and head out of town.  As far as the cigar goes… have you ever smoked one?  They are full of nicotine, a much needed fuel source for energy to keep me awake for the drive out of town, so the bigger the boom the better.  I consider it a safety measure on April 15.

In any case, the vacation timing is always the same, but it could be anything.  I’ve done many trips to the San Juan River to fly-fish in New Mexico.   Last year I took a week long canoe trip down the Green River by Canyonlands.  Those of you who have been around awhile will recall the triple hook my dog, Winston, swallowed on that trip, and that I lost the map within an hour of the launch of the canoes.

This year I headed out with Winston the evening of the 15th to do a little fishing and mountain biking for a few days in Salida and then to the ConojosRiver in South Central Colorado.  The goal was to be camping in the mountains above Salida sometime hopefully before daylight, but I got sidetracked by a hot springs near Buena Vista so it took me a couple of days to make it to Salida.  When I did get there, I went to rent a mountain bike at the local bike shop.  Have you ever experienced “angst”?  You know that feeling of, well, it’s hard to explain.  I guess it’s just that feeling that not all is well with the world, and what you’re doing isn’t bringing any inner peace.  I guess I was tired or maybe I just didn’t have a big enough cigar, but after looking at all the bikes, I decided maybe I was too tired to do much of a ride anyway.  So, I decided to go with the hot springs theme and headed down to New Mexico and soaked away the blues in the hot springs at Ojo Caliente.   Very nice. I had a good soak but the hot springs are a bit developed, and it wasn’t too long there before the “angst” set in again and it was time to find something a little less populated.

So I headed up to begin the fishing trip on the ConojosRiver.  Beautiful river in the middle of nowhere.  Perfect.  Perfect that is, until I got there and found that the upper river where I was going to backpack into was closed by the forest service so I couldn’t even reach the trail head.  The lower stretches were private except for the areas around the national forest campgrounds.  The campgrounds were, of course, closed because it’s not the tourist season yet.  More “angst”. So after a few hours of unsuccessfully trying to find a legal place to camp, I left.

I have a dear friend, SOL (also known as Christie), who lives in Durango.  We met on the Appalachian Trail back on the 98 adventure, thus the “trail name” of SOL.  SOL is short for Speed Of Light, which is what the Trail community named her for her hiking pace.  So I gave her a call and we had some wonderful days of hanging around in the sunshine and lingering over the campfire.  Short hikes, lots of sun and great conversations.  Ahhhh, the peace and the joy that had been crowded out of my busy life started ebbing back into the Soul.   Nice.

It’s always hard to leave a good time but it’s not a bad thing to leave one good adventure to join another.  By now the joy was rising in my heart.  I had prearranged to meet with a friend, Tamara (a past employee who some of you may know), back at Salida to do some fishing for the last weekend of the trip.  Of course, I had set a precedence of not doing anything that was planned so we ended up going to the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Have you ever sat around a campfire all night and then watched the sun rise over the mountains?  Times are seldom more peaceful than that!

If you go to the Sand Dunes, you will see the main visitor center and behind it, a big pile of sand with people crawling all over it.  It really reminded me of a giant ant pile.  Not my gig at all.  However, if you find the 4 wheel drive road beyond the tourist attraction, you can find some pretty awesome country.  It goes through the sandy areas where you have to keep your speed up to keep from sinking your vehicle and high centering on the sand.  Zoom!  It’s a pretty fun drive in all respects and the beauty is astounding.  It goes past the sand dunes into some classic beautiful mountain valleys.  Probably due to the spring runoff, the rivers you drive across go halfway up the door (be ready for wet floorboards) and it’s important to go slow so the water doesn’t wave up into the engine and cause a stall.  Very nice!  Just what the doctor ordered.

I found a place where a small stream flowed across the dunes.  It was about 5 inches deep with pockets of water up to 18 inches deep.  If you can imagine it, it’s about 30 feet wide lined with Cottonwood trees and the thriving life and beauty along the river that only water can provide.  To the west was a sand dune hundreds of feet high and went on to what seemed like forever as it rose from the stream.  To the east were beautiful snow capped mountains.  As I stood barefoot in the river I could feel the warmth of the sun on my bare back and shoulders.  The contrast of the cool, cool water on my feet and the glowing sunshine I felt on my back was as vastly varied as the snow capped mountains and the sandy dunes.

At the very moment I was putting this together in my head, Winston took off at full speed running down the river.  He just began running with wild abandon, ears flying in the breeze as he blasted down the river.  He ran about a half a mile at full speed not slowing down for the potholes in the sandy bottom.  He just crashed thru them stumbling when he hit a deep spot, regained his balance and never slowed a bit.  He crossed the river and ran back past me and continued up stream for another half mile loop.  As he went by I could see the wildness in his eyes.  Not madness, not chasing anything, but joy.  Pure joy.  It’s like a lap of victory after winning a national championship.  Running with every ounce of passion for the pure joy of being alive.  It’s a beautiful thing to see something you love enjoy life like that.

As I stood there in the river soaking it in and taking all around me to heart, I couldn’t tell you who was happier, him or me.

And THAT is what I do after tax season.