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Let’s See Now…..Where Was I

When the Covid lockdown came along in spring of 2020, I had no idea my life was going to see some changes. I was actually looking forward to some time off and opportunities to go hiking once the authorities realized fresh air was helpful in battling Covid. My leg was not completely healed from an injury months before, and I felt I could use the time for more therapy.

The one thing I was certain of in spring of 2020 was that I was going to be changing residences. By spending a lot more time at home, I was constantly being reminded of all the things that bothered me about that place, especially with all my annoying neighbors being home all the time too. Only two obstacles stood in my way. Every job I had lined up had cancelled, so I had no proof of income. Secondly, nobody would let me go in to see the places in person – only virtual visits were allowed.

With that in mind, I packed up almost everything I owned and put it in storage. I spent a fair amount of time eliminating things I no longer used by either selling, trashing, or finding a new home for those items. I thought (like many) that the pandemic would blow over in a few months, so I would just go hang out with family for a while. My mom had been asking me to visit for some time, so I spent the majority of my time off there. I had visions of traveling more, but with the west on fire much of the summer of 2020, I kept my driving to a minimum.

A few months off became many months off. Somewhere along the way I got a weird flu-like sickness I thought was Covid, but when I took a test, it said negative. When the vaccines came out in 2021, the second shot gave me the same weird symptoms I had months before, so I’m convinced I had it. My mother, now 88, had become less active and less independent. It was good timing that I was still available to help her out. Shortly into 2021, she had a hospital visit. This was a planned trip with several follow-up visits, but then there were more trips to the hospital. The last two trips were through the paramedics. During this time there were plenty of tests, but no answers. Shortly after my last post here, there was finally a test that had the answer. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late for any options for recovery. She passed within the month.

It then became my responsibility, along with my next closest brother, to handle her post-life details. My brother still had his same job in a different state, so his time to help was on a more limited basis. I was the one handling maintenance of her house and small possessions she had acquired through the years. After several months of cleaning house (literally and figuratively) it was time to get the house sold and back to my life. People were calling about upcoming work and I needed to find a place to live again.

When Covid first shut everything down, I thought there were going to be a lot of people hurting financially with higher numbers of housing foreclosures and lower rents when the dust settled. In fact, the opposite was true. Housing costs had jumped up and availability was scarce. Then I got a reality check when they started to ask about what I had been doing during the last year-and-a-half. Nobody was willing to sign a lease with me without recent paychecks. I even offered to pay the entire year up front, with no takers. My only option was to move into a weekly rental apartment, and the only place to find those are sketchy neighborhoods. Not only was I not unpacking my storage locker, I was now adding more possessions (like my computer and camera) into it.

Word got out to friends of friends that I was living in the hood, and about a month later I had an offer to move in with some people I knew vaguely. They were both smokers, but the place seemed large enough to be able to have my own space without the smell dominating. After a week or two, I noticed that boxes, backpacks, clothes, etc were all beginning to pick up the cigarette odor even though I was keeping my windows open and blocking off vents. Although the place was quiet and the roommates are great guys, I had proof of income at this point and resumed my housing search. I soon became aware of how competitive the market was and I was getting frustrated in my search and feeling like I had to be like a Black Friday shopper at Walmart if I wanted to get a new home.

Finally around the holidays I was able to move into a place of my own. Christmas actually felt like Christmas as I was opening up boxes I had packed up a year-and-a-half before and wondering what was inside. It has taken a while to go through my stuff, but that is behind me now. My patience paid off as I found a house that is comfortable, quiet and odor-free. While many people say that 2020 was a horrible year, I’m looking at 2021 as the year I don’t want to see again. Photography has been on hold for most of the time since last posting here. Last week I went out for the first time in a long time for a hike with photography in mind. A couple days ago I was able to get out for another hike, even though this was with my small on-the-go camera. Here are some shots from the last two trips, a year since my last post.

Midweek Monochrome 5-6-20

When I was about thirty years old, I thought I was in pretty good shape, as most thirty year-olds would.  Then, one day, I got a dose of reality.  I had an assignment to photograph a hiking trail further north.  The trail started at an elevation around a mile high and finished close to 6000 feet.  It was about as smooth and evenly graded trail that you could ask for.  I had a backpack full of camera gear and a tripod, but nothing I wasn’t used to carrying.  It didn’t matter, because this mountain had kicked my ass.

The following week, I was determined to get in better shape.  There were two nearby mountains in the city that had trails to the top and were fairly close-by.  I started with the easier of the two, and the first few times felt like an effort, but then got easier.  Soon, I was reaching the summit and didn’t feel I needed to rest.  I saw that some others were repeating the hike, so I started doing the same.  One day, I did it three times, and got comments from almost everybody I had lapped.  To me, this environment wasn’t real hiking, but it didn’t matter – I was building my endurance.  Afterwards, I concentrated my efforts to the other mountain, which turned out to be far more demanding.  This one even involved some upper body work, especially on the detour routes.  It took many times before I could make the summit without stopping.  After a few months, my endurance was vastly improved, and I started doing this hike twice.  A few months later, I started throwing on a backpack filled with forty pounds of weights.  People looked at me and asked, “Are you getting ready for a Grand Canyon hike?”

“No, just preparing for life.”

Somewhere along the way in those years, I also started doing something I hated in high school.  Jogging.  Much like my hiking routine, this started quite pathetically.  The block I lived on was exactly one mile around according to my odometer.  It felt like five.  Eventually, I made it around the block without stopping.  Then twice, then thrice.  I ran in some 5k’s and a couple 10k’s.  The running built up different muscles and endurance than the hiking.  I never once set foot in a gym, but I was as close to being a professional athlete as anyone might get.

About a year later, I was asked to photograph a story on mountain biking in the mountains of eastern Arizona.  There were two men who joined me there.  One was a professional mountain bike racer.  The other was his best friend, riding partner, and writer for the story.  I had gone to a local bike shop and rented what was probably a $300 bike, they both had titanium framed bikes costing about ten times that much.

The elevation was about 9000′ above sea level. One morning we headed out for the trails, and for whatever reason, I was the lead bike.  The trail started up a moderate hill, and after several minutes, I heard them talking, but all I heard was my name and the word fast.  I really thought I was holding them back, so I stood up on the pedals, and proceeded a little faster.  There was a loud collective moaning behind me.  I stopped and turned around and repeated what I heard and thought.  “No”  they replied,  “We were trying to figure out how someone who has never mountain biked, and riding a pos bike, could be making us work this hard to stay even!”

Shortly after that trip, I purchased a mountain a mountain bike, which I have not really used like it was intended.  I like uphill rides, but would ride the brakes most of the way downhill.  Even before YouTube existed with its plethora of bike ride fails, I knew this law of physics:

Speed + Gravity = Pain

I once had a dog that could run at forty mph.  I knew taking him on a ‘walk’ was not what he needed, so a lot of my bike riding experience was taking him through the neighborhood.  Fortunately, we had some open spaces and dirt paths, so the bike was perfect for this situation.

Fast forward a few decades to my situation a couple months ago.  As I started physical therapy, they put me on a stationary bike.  I couldn’t operate it as it was, so they had me pedaling from a chair at the back of the bike.  It wasn’t until about week four that I was on the proper seat.  Another couple weeks and I was back on the real thing.  Yes, I still own that same bike.

About the photograph.

I now live in a neighborhood that is mostly flat.  No dirt roads.  No dog.  Although most would prefer a street bike to a mountain bike, I look at it differently.  The tread of my bike offers more resistance, providing a better workout.  I deliberately lower the air pressure for even more resistance.  I have discovered during this quarantine, that empty parking garages make great hills for a workout.  On one early morning ride, I took a different route and came across this garage of a building that was closed.  There were a couple cars in the bottom level, so I had a feeling I might attract some attention.  Up near the top level, the sun was streaming in and created long shadows.  I took this with my iPhone because I had a feeling I wouldn’t have the opportunity again.  Sure enough, as I reached the bottom, security was there asking me to kindly leave.  That’s ok, I know of several other garages where I can still ride.  With stay-at-home restrictions probably coming to an end soon, my bike rides will likely become a little less adventurous.

The Path To Recovery

About a half year ago, I suffered a severe leg injury which kept me from being outdoors with my camera.  A couple weeks of being mostly bedridden and using crutches to get around eventually gave way to being able to do some work and the start of physical therapy.  My physical therapist was hesitant about me hiking at first, so my first couple trails were relatively flat.  No backpack filled with tripods or cameras either, just a phone.  Earlier this year, I finally made a hike with all the gear on a trail that had more difficulty involved.  I could feel the difference of the terrain versus just being in therapy.  I can’t imagine how long I would have been out if I wasn’t taking care of myself before this accident, and now that we’re all being asked to stay home, I realize I need to keep moving more than ever.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, reflection, hiking, fine art, landscape photography

While many National Parks and other recreational areas have closed, there are some which remain open.  These may not be the desired locations which attract social media throngs, but those who’ve seen my work know I don’t really go there anyway.  The first location (above) was after some areas had shut down, making this a more crowded parking lot than usual.  Despite that, I had very few people on the trail I was on, and getting here requires a scramble, so I enjoyed the place to myself.

That area has since become off limits, as has the next spot, on a hike taken in March.  While this area starts on a popular trail, it soon takes off to an old trail, which quickly fades and becomes a scrambling route.  Again, social distancing didn’t apply here because there were no other groups.

waterfall, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunowaterfall, nevada, desert, creekdesert, nevada, hiking, red rock canyon, Steve Bruno

One of the remaining open trails has plenty of open space to absorb a higher number of hikers keeping distance between them.  Leaving the trail and boulder hopping the creek also provides more privacy and the best views.

water, red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, Steve Brunored rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, hiking, fine art

Higher up, this canyon becomes more rugged and takes on different characteristics.  While most would have a different opinion on what constitutes a waterfall, I’m going to state that this is southern Nevada’s largest waterfall.  It had been raining earlier, but only a light amount, and had been snowing above.  This probably won’t be noticeable at this size, but there are small streams of water coming down on almost all the canyon walls in this scene.  While the wall to the left is the most obvious, the water can be seen in many spots when standing here (and on my computer screen in full size).  Waterfall or not, I like how this one came out.

red rock canyon, nevada, las vegas, rain, hiking, fine art

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