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March 12, 2023

EI: Moving Beyond Our Primal Instincts

We’ve been conditioned to believe that an IQ or intelligence quotient, is the sole determinate of an individuals performance in life. IQ is a number derived from a standardized intelligence test and is sometimes referred to as the measure of an individual’s rational mind. Private societies have been formed around this measurement of intellect. Score high enough and you’re part of the tribe! If you don’t make the grade, you remain on the outside looking in on this esteemed club. Well, there is something that can be said for being the outsider in that group. You in fact may be more successful at work and at play! Evidence now shows that IQ only accounts for a relatively small portion of that success, somewhere in the 10-25% range. Which makes perfect sense when you look out into a society where there are scores of highly intelligent people failing miserably in their personal and professional lives. That doesn’t have to be your destiny. A far better place to excel is in the area of EQ, or emotional quotient. This measures the level of an individual’s Emotional Intelligence (EI). It is best explained by the ability you possess to perceive, control, evaluate, and express your emotions, as well as your demonstration of empathy toward others. This emotional mind is the determining factor in how we conduct ourselves in interpersonal relationships and can be responsible for success or failure within those relationships. Considering that EI accounts for an amazing 75% (or more) of a person’s ability to succeed, many companies have begun giving applicants EI tests before hiring them while other companies have mandated EI training programs in the workplace. Unfortunately, it isn’t proper etiquette to hand out EI evaluations to prospective friends, so here are a few unique observable qualities which determine an individual’s EI that you should be on the look out for when embarking into a new relationship: The question remains, “Can emotional intelligence be taught?” Not unlike like IQ, studies suggest that EI can be taught and that emotions can be adapted if properly modeled and managed. If taught early in life, the results can lead to enhanced decision making skills and improved academic performance. Effectively, higher EI can lead to a higher IQ. A strategy known as social-emotional learning (SEL) revolves around the concept that emotional skills are critical to academic performance. In recent years, SEL has gained popularity due in part to social concerns involving school violence, teen suicide and bullying with a goal aimed to develop the psychological intelligence necessary to help children positively channel their emotions.  “Something we now know, from doing dozens of studies, is that emotions can either enhance or hinder your ability to learn…They affect our attention and our memory. If you’re very anxious about something, or agitated, how well can you focus on what’s being taught?” –Marc Brackett The good news is that even old dogs can learn new tricks! One important way to develop EI as an adult is by minimizing negative thought processes. When faced with challenges or an unpleasant situation, it’s important to take an extra moment use your rational brain for further exploration. The emotional brain will quickly create a link between the unpleasant situation you are facing and unrelated memories that stir negative emotions. Those negative emotions can quickly cascade into further unpleasant emotions and feelings, resulting in a downward spiral. It important to interrupt the negative thought process, remain positive and keep a healthy perspective to ensure a positive mood throughout the day. In order to change your perception, you must commit to a level of awareness that demonstrates knowledge of yourself and mastery of your emotions. Perhaps that is easier said than done. The emotional mind tends to kick into action more quickly than the rational mind. From a human developmental standpoint, it comprises an important part of our survival instinct. This survival instinct, a type of intuition, comes front and center when we need to quickly make decisions. Primal instinct is behind our innate ability to react to a new experience or dangerous situation in the interest of self-preservation. Although humans still possess most of the instincts of our primal ancestors, other instincts have been adapted and evolved which override the older reactions. In our decision making process individuals are more likely to react in primal ways only in extreme situations. Decidedly slower, the intellectual mind adds a layer of rational to the decision making process. In life threatening situations, the extra moment it takes to rationalize in place of reacting can impact us negatively and be the difference between life and death. Conversely, in a situation where the individual is filled with negative emotion or self-doubt, taking the extra moment to rationalize can have a positive impact on life as in the long run, emotional health impacts physical health. It has been estimated that over 80% of health problems are stress-related. Stress is experienced as a reaction to challenges we face that affect us emotionally. How we handle stress affects our overall quality of life. “If your emotional abilities aren’t in hand, if you don’t have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far.” –Daniel Goleman While both IQ and EQ are important, a healthy balance between the two is ideal. But for now, don’t stress if you are an outsider looking into that members only IQ club. You may actually go further in life as a member in the EQ club! Photo Credit: Carl Gandolfo Photography. Follow Carl @

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Finding Hope at the Bottom of Pandora’s Box.

We’ve all experienced the ecstasy of thinking were on the path to personal and professional success, only to have an obstacle drop into our journey and cause a major roadblock. What can you do when you unexpectedly hit a wall and find yourself staring into a seemingly dark empty box?  We know from Greek mythology the story of Pandora’s box.  According to the legend, Pandora was the first woman on Earth, created by Zeus. She was endowed by the Gods, graced with beauty, talent and eloquent speech. As a gift she was given a box which contained all the evils of the World and was ordered not to open it. However, her curiosity got the best of her and she lifted the lid. Suddenly, the contents of the entire box spilled out into her World…. or so Pandora thought.  The lesson regarding Pandora’s Box refers to getting yourself into a helpless situation, one in which you ultimately have very little control. But what happens when we are not the one opening the box? When obstacles we can’t control are placed in our path? The answer is one and the same: You just have to look closely through the darkness into the bottom of the box. There you will find Hope, just like Pandora found. Her box was not totally empty although it appeared to be at first. In situations such as these it is important to use positive energy to retain the inner belief that change can and will occur. Remain proactive in your own life and do not hesitate to reach out to people in your network. Remember that you are surrounded by good people who want to help. They just need to know that you need help.  What can you do if you have a friend or colleague who is experiencing doubt or hopelessness in a situation? While there is no one correct answer, there are many ways to lend a helping hand. The best form of support comes from offering your companionship. In doing so, it is important to listen and remaining nonjudgmental. Providing validation to the situation at hand will foster a sense of acceptance for the person in distress. Through personal acceptance, a balanced perspective can evidence itself more readily, leading to greatly effective problem solving strategies.  Offer your support without expectation. Helping your friend or colleague back onto a clear path will be the reward itself. In the words of Brian Tracy, “Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking ‘What’s in it for me?’  If you are on the receiving end of the support, be grateful but never be guilty. Most of us have been recipients of support in the workplace or at home and would be more than willing to pay it forward. In the end, put the lid back on the box, step around the obstacle blocking your path and continue forward on your journey to success. You might even find a few friendly faces walking along side of you.  Carl Gandolfo is a talented photographer specializing in beautiful landscape and wildlife images from his many travels around this country. For more information: Carl Gandolfo Photograpy

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Optimize Your Probability of Success

Success is commonly defined by the accomplishment of specific goals. While goal setting is important, it is critical that the process involve reasonable and realistic expectations. Goals provide purpose, direction and can lead us to push personal limits to attain a level of unprecedented accomplishment. However, setting goals can be as confusing as Grand Central Station in the middle of the Holiday season! People who are successful at setting and achieving their goals have the innate ability to understand their own capabilities within the context of the desired result.  “Think Big” is the new buzz word being shared by industry thought leaders and influencers throughout social media. Buying into this concept with blind ambition can actually lead to failed attempts at success. The brightest professionals can get caught up in the competitive trap where the pressure to achieve at unrealistic levels drains them of their energy. In sheer exhaustion, they abandon the goals and are left feeling like they failed.    Lets take a moment to understand how we sometimes undermine our personal success by setting unrealistic goals. Often, we are our biggest critic. The self doubt which looms in our minds after unsuccessful attempts at goal-accomplishment can lead to negativity and internal stress. This in turn causes us to be our own worst enemy. The vicious cycle which ensues revolving around culpability and shame is the number one reason why people repeatedly fail at attempts to be successful.  Then how best to set realistic goals which elevate success? The answer does not need to come from abandoning big dreams. Instead it is imperative to take these dreams and break them down into incremental, achievable goals. As each smaller goal is accomplished be sure to take time and basque in the pride of the achievement, pride which comes from properly acknowledging the individual success. In this way, you are able to turn the vicious cycle into a virtuous cycle. Commit yourself daily to work both smarter and harder through personal improvement. Surrounding yourself by like minded individuals with similar aspirations, you are able to leverage the existing collaborative power.  You can optimize the probability of success by developing an action plan which outlines smaller steps over a specific but reasonable time-frame. Remain positive and avoid the perception that smaller steps equals lessened expectations. A strategy which involves having multiple smaller achievements under your belt is one that is scalable to accomplishing larger goals, which ultimately leads to the assurance that next year will be better than your last!  Carl Gandolfo is a talented photographer specializing in beautiful landscape and wildlife images from his many travels around this country. For more information: Carl Gandolfo Photograpy

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Embrace the Disruption: Why Change Is Necessary.

“Its a dogs life” is a phrase that had it’s origin in the 16th century when dogs were expected to guard the home and surrounding community. Their lives were short due to the fact that they slept outside and were fed scraps of food. Life in those days for dogs was not good. It was far from the life of the present day canine friends we know and love. Today’s dogs are house pets. Well fed and groomed they sleep inside, often in our beds with us! They are treated better than they were centuries ago and live longer lives, indicating a big shift which involved embracing change. If someone now states that you have a “dogs life, it conjures up images of breakfast in bed, being pampered, laying around the house all day and in general living a good life. Change is not always a bad thing you see. Sometimes change can be downright necessary and great! How we adapt to change is a different story. In Darwin’s words, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” To put it in human perspective, change is necessary when people face a discrepancy between what is expected and what is actually happening. This is called disruption. In order to properly adjust to this change, new expectations must be formed to suit the current conditions. It takes time and energy for these adaptations to occur and it is best accomplished when your mind, body and spirit are in alignment. You must Mentally acknowledge the situation and best practice of response. You must deal with the Emotional components of change such as anxiety, despondency, happiness, elation, fear, relief, etc. Physically your body will deal with the effects of stress, which may evidence itself in the form of headaches, chest pain, rapid heartbeat, insomnia, tiredness, and nausea, to name a few.  For change to be beneficial, the people involved must possess sufficient energy to absorb and incorporate new behaviors and accompanying mindsets. This is referred to as the capacity necessary to absorb the disruption. There must also be resources available to implement the change. When the demand for change exceeds the ability to adapt, overload occurs. It often evidences itself in the form of dysfunctional behaviors. On a personal level this may equate to a breakdown in marital or parent-child relationships.  For an organization, staying relevant in today’s complex, dynamic and innovative marketplace requires new innovative, adaptive behaviors which embrace change. Change is important for any organization if they intend to retain their competitive edge and meet the needs of their steady customer base. To do otherwise would constitute failure. Organizations and people that embrace change, will weather the storms and make it through tough times. Those who are not resilient, will fail in the face of adversity.  Resiliency can be defined by the ability to effectively innovate, adapt and perform through a hardship. When stressed, resilient people and organizations may bounce back stronger instead of being hindered by their own inability to change. There are common characteristics of those that are resilient: So before you go grab the proverbial bone, jump on the couch and curl up under the blankets remember one important thing: The days you are most satisfied are not the days you laid around and accomplished nothing. They are the days you rose to the challenge and accomplished great things.  “When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back.” -Paulo Coelho  Change is the only constant in life. Embrace it! Photo credit: Daniela Balzano, multitalented folk artist and mother of two, resides in Guilford, Connecticut. She believes in kindness and compassion, eating chocolate at least once a day, and celebrating life through arts. Her work may be viewed at 

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Truth vs Lies: Success, Happiness and Money

The good news is that happiness and success are not age or gender dependent. Male or female, you are never too old or too young to achieve them both in your life (personal or professional). The same principal holds true for money. The world is full of happy people, successful people, money moguls- young and old. We hear the words: money, happiness, success and assume they must all be tied together like bows on a pretty package sitting under the Christmas tree. The truth behind the complicated interaction of these three variables involves how we define happiness, measure success and value money.  The link between money and happiness has been the topic of ongoing global academic debate for years. Time and again, research shows that money has little to do with overall happiness.  Happy moments tied to money are exhilarating in the short term. The happiness paradox, as it is known, exposes a truth: that as peoples incomes rise, so do their aspirations. More wealth creates more want. When incomes fluctuate or fall, the aspirations often times do not. Happy moments morph into unhappy moments. While on the surface it appears that people with higher incomes are happier than those struggling day to day to get by, surprisingly when you dig deeper and get beyond what it appears to be vs what it really is, this does not always hold true. Additional research has found that when measuring overall happiness, what matters more than earning a big dollar income is how the money is spent. The good feeling derived from spending money on material goods leads to fleeting happy moments. In direct contrast, the feeling you get reliving the memory of a life enriching experience or helping people in need will becoming a bigger part of what defines your core values and will reinforce internal happiness. So it is safe to say that spending money on life experiences or for the greater good (vs money spent on tangible items for oneself) will leave a lasting positive impact on your life. While there is no doubt that money can make life easier on some levels, we have seen how it complicates life on many other levels. More money does not lead to more happiness. Certainly we know that money won’t guarantee either happiness or success.  From a young age we are taught that success is measured by achieving traditional milestones. These can include but are not limited to: getting good grades in school, being accepted into a perceived great college, a prestigious career in a notable company, earning a 6 figure salary, having a certain amount of money in the bank, living in a big house in an exclusive neighborhood, marrying the right person, driving an expensive car. It extends to having talented well behaved and high achieving children, who excel scholastically and athletically, owning a pedigree dog, etc. The list is endless. Its enough to make the shakers and movers feel unsuccessful. The truth is that none of these things are an indicator of real success. Let looks at how the notable thought leaders and influencers defined success: It is apparent that neither one of the definitions are tied into attaining popularity or prosperity through the achievement of traditional milestones. Conversely, both definitions reflect internal satisfaction with the person you have worked to become. Ultimately how success is defined will be the major factor in the overall happiness equation. It is important to examine the goals you set and achieve including their timelines, and how they tie into the traditional definition of success in this fast paced modern world, where immediate gratification is expected. You may be left asking, “How then is Happiness defined and how does it relate to money and success?”. Happy moments when traditional success is achieved is not to be confused with happiness. True happiness at its core is much larger, deeper, more fundamental and ties into a personal value system. It is not related to setting or achieving goals. It reflects a state of mind that allows you to appreciate the moment, it provides purpose and honors your core values. Research has proven that happy people have a higher level of confidence, optimism and energy. They are driven to undertake new goals that reinforce positive emotions and happiness which ultimately leads to a feeling of being successful. Additionally, happy people are more likely than their peers to foster fulfilling marriages and relationships, earn higher incomes, exhibit superior work performance, be committed to a cause, be involved in their communities and see the importance of a heathy lifestyle. Happy people use their strengths to meet challenges faced in the workplace and at home with optimism, gratitude and kindness combined with hard-work, while remaining focused on the purpose. In the lie we have been led to believe, the equation is unbalanced. The premise that making money leads to success which ultimately leads to happiness is false and part of a vicious cycle. The truth lies in years of research and is the direct opposite of what has been passed down for generations. We now know that it is happiness which leads to success, which then leads to the ability to earn more money, which can be used to enrich one’s life and the lives of others who are rising up from behind. A positive cycle. You’ve heard the lies and now know the truth. Life is a circle of choice. Who you are and what you bring into your circle continuously comes back around to you. Choose carefully! Photo credit: Daniela Balzano, multitalented folk artist and mother of two, resides in Guilford, Connecticut. She believes in kindness and compassion, eating chocolate at least once a day, and celebrating life through arts. Her work may be viewed at 

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Service is the Rent We Pay for Living.

When opportunity comes knocking, its a good idea to open the door and welcome it right into your life! Last year one such opportunity showed up on my doorstep. I was asked to participate in a dental mission organized by a friend who happens to be an instructor of Dental Hygiene at a Technical College in Pennsylvania. For years Rhonda has organized dental service trips to impoverished countries. Working in partnership with organizations here and abroad, she and a group of dedicated student-technicians serve elementary school aged children who otherwise would not receive care. They have provided education, cleanings, fluoride treatments and dental sealants to hundreds, if not thousands of children. It had been my desire for years to one day take part in a mission trip but personal obligations always seemed to make it difficult to follow through. In the winter of 2016 Rhonda and I were both in attendance at a local event. Asking where her group was headed this coming year she didn’t skip a beat. “We are going to the Dominican Republic! Why don’t you join us?” Pausing I asked, “What value could I possibly provide? I have no formal training in dental hygiene and I don’t speak Spanish!” The fact remains that in years of work with organizations on numerous committees focused on charitable efforts throughout the United States, I had never participated in a service project outside of this country.   “I will be bringing a group of female students between the ages of 18 and 22 overseas to work with children in very poor communities throughout the Dominican Republic. Some of these young ladies have never been out of the United States. Some of them have never traveled by plane. Some of them have never even been out of Pennsylvania. They have no idea what to expect.”   The truth be told, neither did I. “I could use someone with your skills who can help me stay organized and focused as we deliver a suite of preventative dental services in an unpredictable work environment.” She went on to explain, “We will be bringing along our own equipment, supplies and setting up mini clinics in hot classrooms by putting desks together to use as exam tables while making do with what we can carry and not much else.” She laughed and with her great big signature smile said, “Doesn’t that sound fun?”   It made sense. It would take more than technical help to make it run seamlessly. The smoother it ran, the more children they could serve. Although in that moment, it didn’t really sound like very much fun, nor did it seem to be the best use of my skills. But the old childhood adage echoed in my brain. What you put into the lives of others, comes back into your own. “It would be invaluable if you came along to help me lead this group of young women who will undoubtably experience varying degrees of angst and trepidation about being so far away in rural areas of a foreign place which lacks many of the modern conveniences we take for granted here in our country.” Supporting young women’s ambitions, encouraging their participation, empowering their confidence through service, and keeping them on track by helping them set goals and work toward achieving them. Now she had my attention. But what she said next hit me in the heart. “Most importantly, when you’re not doing all of the above, you could act as the Hugger in Chief for all the young children who will be anxiously awaiting their turn in line.” That was it. I am a great Hugger. SOLD! Next stop, infectious disease doctor for shots to combat malaria, typhoid, hepatitis A&B, cholera, yellow fever, rabies, and influenza. Let the fun begin! What unfolded during those eight days in the Dominican Republic was nothing short of magical. Our group branched out into Santo Domingo, Las Terranes and surrounding regions scattered throughout the DR. To make a difference in the lives of young children who would not otherwise have access to dental care and see the smiles on their faces was heartwarming. To set up an impromptu makeshift clinic in the dirt alleyway of a small community of one room huts void of electricity and running water was surreal. To aid in the administration of extemporaneous dental care to adults who had never seen a dentist is inexplicable. To work alongside a seasoned dental professional and longtime friend was energizing. To mentor and lead a group of selfless, motivated young ladies as they embarked upon their first service mission was a reward in and of itself. I am forever grateful that Rhonda saw a purpose for my participation in this particular trip.  There was not a dry eye in our group as we boarded a plane 8 days later back to the US feeling very fulfilled albeit exhausted. You could hear the quiet chatter before the ladies drifted off to sleep. They spoke of how helping others made them feel good inside; how they felt empowered. Excitedly, they made plans to return and serve again in the near future. Many agreed that it was the best experience of their life. I knew my own mission had only just begun, sensing the return would be part of a bigger plan and not the least bit worried about figuring it out. In the months to come, the plan would evidence itself.  April, 2018. The one month countdown for a return to the DR begins with Rhonda and a new group of students. Most unexpectedly, a call came from Jose Bourget, President of the *Fundación Mahatma Gandhi, **ACES’ partner in the DR. He presented a forum to utilize my skills as a coach along with experience as a motivational speaker to address a group of Dominican women in Las Terranes; women of varied sectors representing government agencies, professional groups and private organizations. We discussed a presentation focused on the holistic development of women and their vision of leadership in their community. A special presentation (which would utilize an interpreter) for women who have broken through the barriers in a culture where traditionally

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The Superstition Mountains – The Men, The Myths, The Legends

Oren Arnold, American journalist and novelist once said, “Don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.” The Old West, about which Arnold penned 80 books, is like a mother-lode of tantalizing tales, folk lore and legends.  Perhaps the most intriguing Western tale perpetuated through the generations is the Legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.  The story takes place more than a century ago in Central Arizona’s Tonto National Forest within the 160,000 acres of brutal Arizona desert known as the Superstition Mountains.  The ‘Supes’ as they are referred by AZ locals, are aptly named. Home to popular myths, strange mysteries and mystical phenomena, many remain unexplained.  Its history dates back 9,000 years.  Long before the American Frontiersmen, mountain men, prospectors and cowboys came in search of pelts and gold, these mountains were home to the Apache Indians.  The Apaches considered the highest peak to be sacred ground and home to their Thunder God.  In the late sixteenth century Spanish Conquistadors from the Mexico arrived in search of gold. Rumors had circulated that “Seven Cities of Cibola” (Gold) were located hundreds of miles to the north scattered across the desert. Determined to find gold, the Spaniards in their insatiable quest for riches showed complete and utter disregard for the Apaches’ beliefs.  This led to the Natives’ claim that their God of Thunder would seek revenge upon the explorers.  Seemingly, revenge befell them.  As the explorers began to disappear one by one, their bodies were turning up lifeless.  The Conquistadors fled the mountains in haste. Upon their departure they named the highest mountain along the ridge-line ‘Monte Superstition’. The Legend of Jacob Waltz Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides 2 distinct definitions for the word Legend.  The first definition is: a story from the past that is believed by many people but cannot be proved to be true. This is the story of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. Jacob Waltz was a German immigrant who arrived in the USA in 1839. A prospector for gold, he professed to have found the location of the world’s richest gold mine hidden somewhere within the Superstition Mountains. Documents show that Waltz lived in the Territory of Arizona between 1863-1891 traveling between his home in Phoenix and an undisclosed location in the Eastern Mountains.  Upon his deathbed, Waltz was said to have made a confession to his acquaintance Julia Thomas which provided clues to the location of the gold mine. Thomas’s own search for the gold upon old Jake’s passing proved unsuccessful.  She capitalized on the opportunity by printing and selling crude hand drawn treasure maps containing details of the final ramblings of Jacob Waltz. Long before the first tourist set foot in Arizona, the story of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine became a part of pioneer history.  A story rooted in misinformation, fraudulent maps and wild imagination is the basis by which millions of dollars have been lost to unscrupulous promotors by avaricious investors. With the promise of a stash worth a couple million dollars in modern day valuation, it has lured thousands of treasure hunters eager to decipher the Dutchman’s clues and riddles leading to the secret location within the mountains. Since 1891 there have been over 130 unsubstantiated claims of finding the gold.  More surprisingly there have been just as many deaths (with some estimates being as high as 600) associated with treasure seekers in the cursed mountains.  In more recent years, a Colorado man’s body was discovered 3 years after he set out to find the lost gold.  That finding came on the heels of the discovery of the remains of 3 Utah men also on a quest to find the Lost Dutchman’s Mine. Are these mountains cursed?  Many believe so. To this day Jacob Waltz’s gold mine remains a mystery.  Like any great legend and without any real proof, we want to believe the story and hope that one day some lucky seeker will find their fortune. But while we sit and ponder the story’s validity, I will share with you another Legend of the Superstition Mountains which is no myth.  It is a fact, based 100% in truth. The Legend of Jim Greentree The Merriam- Webster dictionary’s second definition of the word Legend is: a famous or important person who is known for doing something extremely well. This is the story of a man known to many hikers in the Superstition Mountains as FlatIron Jim.   Located within the Lost Dutchman’s State Park (yes, Jacob Waltz has a park named after him) is the trailhead to the Siphon Draw Trail.  Known as one of the top 10 hikes in the state of AZ, it is both epic and dangerous as it leads you on a climb towards the towering cliffs overlooking the rugged Superstition Mountain range. Just over 6 miles in length, gaining 2745 feet of elevation up to a prominent protruding rock formation known as the FlatIron, the hike is unforgiving especially in the heat of the summer sun. According to one Arizona Park Ranger, “It’s the hardest hike in the Valley. Once you get past the basin area there’s no designated trail. It’s a five to eight-hour hike for avid hikers and your last mile is pretty much a vertical climb over rocks and boulders 2 to 10 feet tall.” I can attest to this statement! It is no joke and definitely not a hike to be undertaken by the unprepared. The day I hiked Flatiron, I witnessed THREE helicopter rescues within the span of 5 hours, later providing my video footage to the rangers upon request. In 2019, a group of 44 hikers from Kansas were rescued off of the trail in one night!  Many hikers are not so lucky and meet their demise right there on the mountain. Most recently just after midnight on January 24, 2022, a young hiker fell to his death from the top of Flatiron. On that same day that I personally conquered the mountain, I had the unique opportunity to

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Foray to Granite Park Chalet

The adventure took root in a bar in Bozeman, Montana Sept, 2019.  I wound up there after a hiking expedition outside of Melrose, about 4 hours north-west of town.  Weather in the mountains can be unpredictable in late September and impending snow had forced my return to the comforts of civilization.  Having holed up in a cabin along Canyon Creek for days on end, there were miles of trails at my disposal.  Trails leading to glacial lakes brimming with trout, through ponderosa pine forests full of wildlife, across meadows of wildflowers and ruins of ghost towns left abandoned long after the mines in the Pioneer Mountains closed.  With no cell service, computers or television, it was easy to get lost in the simplicity that the wilderness provides. For a while, life in the mountains was good.  But as the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end”. Waking up to a sky full of grey altostratus clouds with snow evident on Black Lion Mountain, no formal weather forecast was necessary to know that in a few short hours a major snowstorm would be underway and the only road leading in or out of the area would be impassable. The time had come to pack up and head to safer ground. Bozeman seemed like a good choice. A modern day boomtown, finding affordable available lodging in Bozeman was a real challenge.  A hot shower and a fresh cooked meal was my top priority that evening so I cozied up to a nice seat at the bar of The Club Tavern and Grill, ordered up some soup and began to contemplate my options. The gentleman sitting next to me struck up an immediate conversation.  It wasn’t long before we were comparing notes and exchanging adventure stories, casting aside the old wives tale which warns against talking to strangers in bars. He was a seasoned hiker so upon learning about my most recent exploits in the East Pioneers he recommended I look into Glacier National Park’s Chalets.  “You’re going to love it!”, he said with much certainty then quickly added this little tidbit, “Make note of the date and time that reservations become available; the rooms sell out in minutes”.  Well, that definitely caught my attention. It must be a heck of a place.  I thanked him, paid my bill and left to check into my room for the night.  I had yet to make it as far north as Glacier National Park(GNP) although it was a high priority on my bucket list of hiking destinations. Having been a passionate summer backpacker during my college years, exploring the National Parks made a lasting impression on my life.  I was finally at a point in time where I could strap my pack back on and hit the trails. This conversation proved to be the best excuse to move GNP to the top of the list. I was intrigued by what he had to say about the Chalets and I’m always up for a challenge.  So began my quest to secure a place and hike the famed backcountry of GNP in the summer of 2020 -a park which boasts 360 degree views of rugged mountains and some of our countries last remaining glaciers.  It turns out that getting there would be a feat much easier said than done. There was no way to predict what was looming on the horizon for our country in the year to come. The Crown of the Continent First order of business, learn all you can about the park, about the Chalets specifically but most importantly about the intricacies of the reservation system if I was going to have a fighting chance of making this work out. How fortunate we are to live in a time of Google!  Seemingly, everything I needed to know was only a click away.  The park’s first chapter is a story which has its roots in the great Westward Expansion of the United States in the 19th Century and of the economic opportunities provided by the growth of the railroads.  It brings Teddy Roosevelt, the gold rush, and the Great Northern Railway front and center. Who doesn’t love a good tale about the Wild West! The Crown of the Continent, as it is known, had its beginnings in 1910 when President William Howard Taft signed a bill establishing Glacier as the country’s 10th national park.  The area had been the domain of 3 Native American tribes.  The Blackfeet Indians controlled the prairies east of the mountains with the Salish and Kootenai Indians living in the forested western side, all hunting and living off the land which proved bountiful in every way.  Clear mountain streams were stocked with fish; thousands of bison roamed the prairies; grizzly bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose and elk among others called the majestic mountains their home. Treaties and agreements during the late 1800s changed those dynamics (that’s a history lesson best saved for another day).  Covering 1,012,837 acres, its northern boundary ends at the Canadian border where Glacier National Park meets Waterton Lakes National Park. Together they form a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as The Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. Upon the park’s establishment in 1910, new visitor accommodations began dotting the landscape. Many were built by the Great Northern Railway(GNR) with the intention of enabling visitors to journey through the park following established trail routes.  These routes were curated with accommodations spaced a day’s horse ride apart. The GNR oversaw the development of 3 large hotels/lodges, 9 chalets and a couple of tent villages.  Today the lodges and hotels are still in operation but the tent villages are long gone. The chalets were built to provide comfortable but rustic accommodations for visitors traveling into the backcountry by horseback, carriage, or boat. Hiking, or “tramping” as it was called, was promoted as an inexpensive option as the GNR tried to expand its reach to attract hiking and mountaineering groups.  I don’t think they could have ever imagined the record-breaking

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