Sweet Freedom Is Half A Swimsuit

Social media is weird, right? It’s a good news channel, where we trumpet our awards, our medals, our adorable kids and cute dogs, our romances, our adventures and the results of a quiz that tells us what food we would be…if we were food instead of humans.

I don’t take those quizzes. But I’m hoping against hope I’d be bacon.

It’s this vehicle, though, that allows me to discover new, amazing places – inspiring a need to visit a specific trail or a certain creek based on photos I see and stories I read – Aravaipa Canyon being one of them.

But, especially with certain channels that tout adventure and discovery, it’s hard to know what’s real. Is the water really that blue in that one spot? Really? Is it?

Is the grass really that vibrant? Did you really unzip your tent on the edge of a cliff, overlooking a shimmering lake at 10,000 feet as the sun rises in the perfectly-centered distance?

How’s your hair look so good? Aren’t your bare feet cold? And why are they in such great shape after hiking a no-doubt difficult ascent to score this little slice of perfection? My feet would be wrecked, and I’d be okay with it.

I say all this at the risk of being viewed as someone who is being critical of photos and places that have inspired me to give things a try. Totally not. If anything, I’m just trying to keep it real. Trying to clean the lens, I guess.

Like this.

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There’s a lot that can’t be seen here. Volumes. There is survival. And love. Self-doubt, empowerment and recovery.

There’s a girl who is softer than she wants to be in her mid-section, who constantly earns new bruises from her linebacker-like dog or some nutty collision on a trail or during a race, who is probably getting hungry from an adventure that included a little detour, and someone who worries that (as I’m looking for a new job) a potential new employer might think twice because I’m so freely exposing my…back.

My back. The horror.

This little oasis, this spot – known as Fossil Creek – is a gem. It’s hidden. It requires the navigation of a winding and terribly bumpy mountain road, planning to score a permit, minimalism to actually enjoy the hike, and a personal freedom to just do whatever it is you want yourself to do in that special place. Because you earned your moment there.

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For some people, it’s a cannonball, after much contemplation, from the edge of the waterfall above. For others, it’s exploring the depths of these pools that Ron so perfectly equated to “swimming in bottled water.”

It’s that clear. And it sprouts right out of the desert.

I just wanted to see what it looked like. To feel the water, to try to judge its depth by sight only to realize its clarity made that almost impossible. To try something fun and free and…fun.

I know I said that twice. But, I laughed a lot. Especially when I was holding half my suit above the water, when fish kept nibbling at my feet, igniting an involuntary spaz attack on my part. When a couple hikers walked by, and I went underwater, only to have to duck again when they walked past a second time.

It was just kind of a perfect spot. A perfect day. A perfect hike. A perfect swim.

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A perfect collection of minutes where nothing was more real than us and where we were. Where the things below the surface didn’t get any time on stage, where life’s headaches and heartbreaks were seemingly a galaxy away, and where the idea of finding a new job cemented itself as an exhilarating opportunity to plant new roots.

There’s just kind of nothing more real than everything in the photos from that day.

Muscles I’ve earned. Insecurities I carry. A sense of adventure I try to responsibly oblige and tame. The colors, the storm that rolled in as we hiked out, and the collective applause strangers would offer others as someone finally decided, after a lengthy one-person meeting from a perch above the water, to jump.

Those are the things that require that we explore. Not the carefully-crafted photo. While a photo on Instagram or Facebook or some other site may light a fire of burning curiosity, it can’t ever give you the moments – the kiss, the freedom, the chill of the water, the colors and the humanity of a place.

You only get that by going. And stripping everything else away.