MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 313

Words and Photos from: Lauren "Yardsale" Jones

They call me Yardsale. 

An obligatory trail name gifted to me due to the ridiculous mess I make at camp with my clothing strewn about on branches, logs, and tent nevertheless with constant respect to Leave No Trace practices. As a Colorado resident, Yardsale also shows up when I partake in our winter snow sports & frozen water activities too. A hot mess on those slopes, no doubt. Kinda a hot mess on the trail, too, yet the good kind, the kind you may wanna stop and chat with maybe or the kind you might see a little of yourself in too.  

The other description of Yardsale speaks deeply to my experience thru hiking the Colorado Trail in the pandemic summer of 2020. Like a true yard sale, the trail taught me to stop carrying the things I thought I knew. Thru hiking taught me to put those things down, let them go, release them. I literally "walked off" those things I thought I knew. I "yardsaled" those things I thought I knew.  

This meant willfully surrendering what I thought were cherished parts of me meant to be kept and held onto, and instead to let go of them and bravely welcome in new versions, fresh models, updated adaptions, and modern features that serve me better. Even "gifting" those things to others who need them more or need them right at that perfect moment when I no longer do is the spot-on usage of Yardsale as my namesake. 

Letting go and trekking 486 miles solo (mostly) was my chosen yardsale due to six unsuccessful, debilitating, and devastating years of striving to make a family with my husband. With gleeful hearts and sometimes ridiculous-to-keep-alive-positive attitudes, we embarked on various failed fertility treatments (acupuncture, functional medicine, nutritionist, reiki, prescription drugs, supplements, lotions, potions, and thousands of dollars). Then one big and massively expensive and hopeful failed IVF (our gift to ourselves for my 40th birthday with friends and family financially backing us up and learning on Xmas's eve that 'she' didn't stick). Ugh, the enormity of the grief! We wailed raw, animalistic tears that day. The turmoil of striving to achieve what we assumed would be easy yet failed broke our hearts.

We quit the whole treatment thing in January of 2020 and put our hearts and heads together to embark on a rejuvenation journey. We got back to us and enjoyed Colorado landscapes via hiking and various outdoor activities. We got healthy again, minus the shots of hormones to the belly, butt, or thigh. We drank martinis when we wanted to, soaked in hot springs at a whim, over consumed on wine and food filled with preservatives, and were once again reminded that sex is so very fun. So many daily pleasures confined away when trying to conceive, we immersed ourselves back into them. My husband and I decided to get back to the real 'US' again. The 'us' without all that infertility noise, heartache, loss, or grief. We rediscovered joy.

One chilly January day, he picked me up from my work office and presented me with a brown gift bag from our favorite local bookstore. Inside was The Colorado Trail Guidebook. "What?! How did you know?!" I asked with tears welling up. He said: "I just did," with tears welling in his eyes too.  

I needed something BIG for my 40th year on this planet, and if becoming a mother wasn't it, I needed to know that my body wasn't broken, that my spirit was still intact. I was going to thru hike the Colorado Trail as a memorial of the last 40 days of my 40th year, literally hiking out on my 41st birthday. 

My husband agreed to play "air traffic control" and ended up starting it with me, joined me for small weekend stints as a resupply guy, and ended it with me. He also single-handedly: raised our newly adopted puppy (Journey – a namesake so poignant for our petite family status), cared for our dying pet rabbit (Rabs), negotiated with an old cat (Pinot, who became diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died one month after I finished the trail), managed nine chickens (with six of them as infant chicks and four growing up as roosters that we were not legally able to have at our home) AND worked his full-time job (which is wine sales and the pandemic made it clear that wine is a mandatory commodity).  

Needless to say, he's a warrior all on his own.

That January, my therapist signed off on the FMLA paperwork that work needed to agree to my 'Brave Sabbatical' away (fifty days total, 40 on trail, and ten to recover and transition back into real-life – sort of). Aspiring thru hiker, here I come! 

Then March 2020 happened. 

During the happy hour timeframe on the first Friday of March 2020, I picked up a phone call from my mom. "It happened again," she sobbed. In between her tears, she informed me that my beautiful 37-year-old cousin (mother to a brand new three-month-old porky son and six-year-old sassy daughter with an adoring husband) took her own life. The grief and loss came back. Devastating heartbreak, sorrow, and shock followed. You see, my family had already experienced the traumatic suicide of my 12-year-old brother twenty-five years earlier. Now both my father and my uncle had lost a child to suicide. Are you kidding me?! Oy, the Joneses. What is with us?

One week later, the world shut down in an epic pandemic.

Social, racial, gender, and environmental justice ensued.

July 8th, my Colorado Trail thru-hike start date, loomed. Lockdown neighborhood urban hiking commenced. Family member 'houseparty-ing' began weekly. Cousin compassion filled listening ear lending was inaugurated. Grief was felt heavy in our lungs. To the point where we thought we had COVID yet didn't. 

We still aspired just with heavier hearts. 

Flash forward to the multitude of lessons the trail and thru hiking teaches those chosen by destiny. Trail lessons that become life lessons, metaphors, spiritual connections, and profound healing. Sentimental messages of inspiration and motivation do too. Sentiments like proving to infertility that I'm not broken or proving to those with suicidal ideation that the climbs, those mountains we face, those big steps in front of us are only temporary. Those moments of despair do indeed pass.

There is always respite when you come back down. The sentiment that we can do hard things. That we are brave. That water is a ceremony, and it is life. The sentiment that the mindset of lack, scarcity, fret, or worry is unnecessary–the trail always provides. Being a warrior–not a worrier–is the truth! The sentiment that, like a true Yardsale, we have moments in life where it feels good to let go of our stuff, let things be re-homed, gift away what used to be important, and feel good about releasing the old. The sentiment that today, I no longer feel the need to be on top of mountains. I'm okay in the valleys, the meadows, and lower elevations–metaphorically, I'm good with where I'm at right now. I don't need to climb up. I may have divorced hope many moons ago though I'm still aspiring. It's the smiles, not miles.

My 41st year began with a feeling of renewed sense of self (I basically felt like an entirely new person). I no longer rush, stress, over-think, over-schedule, worry, fret, or feel antsy. Instead, I trust the "trail," our life process. I move slower. I sit more often and put my feet up. We are still aspiring parents and I, an aspiring mama, yet without the feeling of lack or urgency (we are currently on a waitlist for adoption and also enjoy manifesting that we still may have a surprise some month!).

I deeply love the trail, the trail life, thru hiking culture, our state (grateful to call Colorado home), and I've added another layer to my onion of identity that will forever remain with me.

We are still aspiring parents. We are still Team Yardsale. We still do hard things. We still do brave. We are still 'Journey-ing'. Still smiling despite the miles. Fret, worry, and anticipation are still not necessary. Water is still an excuse for a ceremony. Nothing and no one is taken for granted. This year (2021), the trail was so much wetter than last year; water sources exist that didn't before, and colorful, happy mushrooms adorn the landscape. The skies were socked in with so much wildfire smoke. I've personally apologized on behalf of Colorado for the conditions this year's thru hiking class grappled with. Being a Trail Angel and providing Trail Magic has been my 'give back to the CT' during the summer of 2021. My trail-versary gift to other aspiring adventuring souls.

No matter how this reaches today, may the yard sale in you feel at peace and may the journey of your hearts feel comfort, and may you aspire to the utmost of your greatest dreams. You do brave. You are a warrior. We are not broken. Our mountains are only temporary. Take a moment, soak your feet, eat that snack; food is fuel. Your body and the trail provide. Trust it, trust it all. See you (and your kids) outside!

When not on the trails of Colorado, dreaming of trails in other states or exploring her post-trail lessons, Yardsale can be found on her urban petite farm homesteading with her almost 2-year-old pup, aging rabbit, four chickens and her husband. By day, Yardsale serves professionally as a school counselor, educator & trainer for the state of Colorado. She dabbles in horticultural therapy, permaculture principles for gardening, officiating weddings, hosting kitchen dance parties, saying ‘yes’ to boat adventures and is currently an aspiring author and aspiring mama. You can find her on Insta in two places – a new writing focused account @stillaspiringjourney + the original @sol_y_luna_soilpluslove.