Tales From the Trail

*My next few entries are straight out of my JMT trail journal. They are unscripted and raw, but exactly what I was feeling at the moment.

~A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. The plan backed by your action makes your dream come true.

As we rode the elevator down from my sons apartment in LA I could feel everything inside of me tingling. He and his fiancée would be driving me to San Bernardino to connect with two more of our group heading to Lonepine to start the JMT. My son, stood in the elevator staring at me. He said to me “Mom, I cannot believe you’re doing this! But then again I can!” He explained to me that within the last few weeks anyone with an ear to listen was hearing from him about this adventure I was about to embark on. He said his friends sat slack-jawed as he explained the journey I would make over the 230 mile John Muir Trail. He hugged me. Tight. And told me he was so incredibly proud of me for what I was doing. “You gotta have big dreams, Kid. Dreams that are so big they are frightening, but you dream them anyway.” They dropped me at a Starbucks in San Bernardino to meet the rest of my group. I tried not to make too much eye contact with my kids. I knew they were having a little anxiety over all of this. We quickly explained that the itinerary that we had given to the family was going to be off after the first day as we had decided to make a slight adjustment. I asked if he could call dad to let him know. We hugged quickly as tears choked out of my throat. And I threw my pack into the back of a SUV heading for Lone Pine.

We got to Lone Pine to pick up the golden ticket AKA our wilderness permit and to meet with our fourth hiker.  From the office where you obtain your permit you can see Mount Whitney in the background. There she was. Jagged, ruthless, uninviting but one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever laid my eyes on. She stood out, but how could she not, being the highest peak in the contiguous US? I whispered a silent prayer asking for an able body, to be able to stand on her summit in a few days.

That first night we were dropped off at Horseshoes Meadows after a farewell pizza and beer in Lone Pine. We made camp at Cottonwood Pass Trailhead. The night was already cool as we met some fellow JMTers. I slept like a rock and was so overwhelmed and grateful for the fact that I was finally out here. It’s been a long time coming.

Day 1. We broke camp pretty early. Made a quick cup of coffee and ate a packet of oatmeal. We packed up and hit the trail by 8:15. The elevation was tough as we made our way over Cottonwood Pass. It was only a 5-mile day as we left Horshoe Meadows a day early to acclimatize to the higher altitude. My skin was already seeing the affects of being at altitude and I feared already it may never regain its moisture. When we got to camp and I sat on the edge of the first lake I realized I have NEVER in my life seen a bluer sky! I decided before we left that although alpine lakes are freezing cold, I had to submerged into as many as possible. It’s all part of the journey and I knew I would regret it if not. So I did. Fully submerged into the first lake. Chicken Springs lake. I knew had I not jumped in my husband would’ve been horrified. All in!

Day 2. Still staying a bit ahead of schedule we hiked 10 miles today from Chicken Springs Lake to Rock Creek. When we arrived I went into the creek fully submerging and then sat and soaked my legs and feet. I am SO dry! We met a guy yesterday solo hiking and we leapfrogged with him for most of the day. He is 60 years old. Jim. He is hiking the PCT. 2500 miles. He started in April. (This was now Aug) His advice “keep going and never stop!” I thought a lot about his advice and how pertinent it was for not only hiking the JMT, PCT or any other through hike but also in life.

This meadow we are camping in is gorgeous. I had a couple of views today that stole my breath. I cried a few times as we hiked totally astounded by the beauty and splendor of God’s creation. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful that it has brought you to tears? I highly suggest it. The stream we are camping next to is so clear you can see the trout swimming below the surface. I took a bath and did laundry today. Completely overcome with joy and gratitude.

Day 3. We hiked out of Rock Creek today and rested at Crabtree Meadows. I was very “into the hike today” and kind of stayed back from the rest of my group. At Horshoe Meadows we took our boots off, ate and soaked our feet before continuing on to Guitar Lake. This was our staging of Mount Whitney. Guitar Lake is our basecamp at 11,500 feet. I felt pretty good with the elevation gain so far after the first day at Horshoe Meadows only suffering from severely dry skin and a slight dull headache. This country is so gorgeous! We had our first water crossing today leaving Rock Creek and again at Crabtree Meadows. The water was low. Low enough we did not have to remove our boots. Guitar Lake is devastatingly stunning. We were ALL ready to be done for the day. The terrain was steep and rocky with no shade along the entire day. We set up camp above the water, Mt Whitney at our front door. It’s daunting. Guitar lake is like being on the moon. Completely surrounded by rock. The only way we were able to pitch our tents was to hold the guylines down with small boulders. I sat and was grateful to watch such an extraordinary sunset. I thought about my guitar playing husband and how much he would love this place. I felt an ache in the depths of my stomach, missing him. But I knew I was only a few days in to an almost month long hike. I needed to find the strength to put that ache to the side and just, Be Here. To shut off any of the outside world and tune in to what God would be revealing to me.

All of us by this time have been given trail names. A trail name is given to you by fellow hikers either from your group or others that you meet along the trail. K was given the name Under Duck by a PCT hiker he met at Chicken Springs after she saw him fully submerged and swimming in the lake. K was given the name Double Duece for her reoccurring walks for her morning constitutional. J was given the name Tadpole. When filtering our water that afternoon in a shallow pond teaming with tadpoles, she kept saying her water tasted like tadpole. And I was deemed Urban Hilary for my characteristics of loving a great metropolitan downtown (city girl) but with the heart of sir Edmund Hillary.

We had decided on a sunrise summit of Mount Whitney. I was very happy because I had really hoped to do this. Our wake time would be 1 AM to summit by 6:00AM. We went to bed early. I tossed and turned with a lot of excitement and anticipation and a little anxiety if I were being honest. Tomorrow morning we would see the sunrise from the highest summit in the contiguous United States!

The Last Supper. Pizza and beer in Lonepine California

Food and anything with any smell into a Bearcan. Check. Check. And double check!

And off we go….

Camp at Horseshoe Meadows

Chicken Springs Lake

My first swim in Chicken Springs Lake

Laundry Day

Rock Creek camp

First water crossing. Low water. Easy peasy.

Heading into the Whitney zone

Setting up camp at Guitar Lake

Guitar Lake camp. Base of Mt Whitney

When on the surface of the moon….

Merry Everything and Happy Always

image3Who doesn’t love a fresh start?

As the clock rolled over into another new year, we were surrounded by love, laughter and friendship, good food and champagne. I took a brief moment, almost as if I was standing outside and looking in, to take it all in. I saw a lot of happiness. I saw a lot of joy! I heard conversations. Heard screams of cheer and saw fireworks. I always seem to get nostalgic and semimetal in the New Year. I have always loved talking and thinking about the past year. It’s lessons. It’s losses. It’s new and second chances. What great things happened, how far we’ve come and what we have to look forward t0.

The hubs and I had one last official date of the year on the 30th. In a restaurant full of people, I love that somehow it can still be only us. A hundred people swirling around us and it’s simply he and I. Alone. We talked about the incredible year we had. A BIG year! A graduate. A lot of travel. The sell of a house. A move. A new career move.

Starting it off we had our last baby child gradate high school. That in itself was huge! Empty-nesters.

You know when you’re just starting out and you’re building your family…that word seems like an eternity away and then one day you wake up, and you’re there. It. Goes. By. So. Quickly.

image6Over the years of our life, he and I have had dreams and goals. We’d talked often about life after our chicks were gone and out of the nest. I am grateful and thankful that we have remained a constant with one another. Best friends who have grown up and grown closer over the years of raising a family. Always putting God first, then one another, then our family. We will no longer have carpools, school calendars, dance recitals, swim meets, football games, gymnastics meets, ski club, co-op, homeschooling, trips to craft stores for projects, teacher meetings and the mountain of other actives that accumulate while raising kids. What would life be like when it’s not full of running errands and helping with homework? We dreamed, he and I. We always have. We made goals. We looked forward to the future, all the while LOVING the time raising our kids, but looking forward to that chance to become just a couple again, someday. Isn’t it fun to dream with your spouse? To reach in and pull out one another’s heart and examine it? As we stepped into 2016, we knew that time was upon us. We did it! We celebrated our success at raising the last of our three kids to adulthood.

One of the plans was to sell our big house and downsize. After all….we would both rather collect memories, not things. Travel more and not be tied down to a house that is way too large for two. Not to mention maintenance; lawn care, snow removal. Not our thing. We’ve always thought there are better ways to spend our time. Mission accomplished. The move was tumultuous to say the least. The binging and purging was taking way longer for us than expected. We both felt as if while we were paring our house down, we were paring our life down. Letting go of “things” was so refreshing and it allowed for evaluation of every single aspect of our life.

image1After my JMT trip, I had already come back a changed person (more when I continue that post) I came back ready for change, ready to purge…everything. I had lived 3-weeks out of a tent and backpack. I had nothing but time to process unwanted garbage out of my life. When I returned I had a new focus and new zest for life, that when shared with the hubs, motivated him just the same. He didn’t need to be out in the wilderness to catch everything I was getting at. Taking 6 days to drive the coast after that trip was the best debrief I could’ve asked for. I shared my journaling with him and it came as NO SURPRISE that he and I were both on the same page. LET IT GO!! A fresh start was about to take place. The move….well, it was just the icing on the cake. It sealed the deal that everything we had talked and dreamed about all these years, was about to break free and come to fulfillment.

Our words for last year were Patience and Prepare. Every year instead of resolutions, we wait and listen for ONE WORD. Isn’t it just like our God to give us those two words? Patience and Prepare. WOW! Our ENTIRE year was lived out and based on the fulfillment of those words. I learned patience like I’ve never had before. Through all of my training and racing last year, through injury and sickness, I HAD to be patient with myself, with my body, with my health. Hiking days on end for long hours in the Sierras instills patience like I’ve never encountered. Selling a house…pushes it to the brink. But I knew that God had prepared me/us for all of it.

During the process of moving, we took the advice of those friends who have gone through the same thing. The ones who have dreamed big and had those dreams become reality, some selling their homes to travel and live by RV, some selling and moving different states to chase the sun and some who sold homes to live their dream of living on a boat. Talk about having to purge! We loved the encouragement. Loved the inspiration! The purging became so much more to us than getting rid of our stuff. I literally became clearing out EVERYTHING we felt was holing us back, holding us down, holding us hostage. Baggage. The trunks dragging behind that were getting too heavy to haul. Bad, unhealthy relationships, bills, toxic unauthentic people in our lives, old unforgiveness, walls that were built over time, that needed climbed over or broken down, unhealthy eating and drinking, missed workouts and missed opportunities, resentments. You name it, it was flushed out. God worked on our hearts as a couple and individually. He guided and showed us the way. And when it was done…..we felt a whole new sense of freedom. We felt …. Light. And as 2016 slipped away and 2017 came flowing in God whispered my word for the year: Intention. Be intentional.image2

image4Living with intention to me means, to live with purpose. To continue to foster the REAL in me, verses what people want of me. Live deliberately. Instead of thinking “I don’t have time” really evaluate if it is a priority, and move on from there. And if it’s not, to not allow guilt of any kind creep in. I want my actions to speak more than my voice. I want to be intentional with friends, giving them the undivided attention they deserve while we are together. I want to surround myself with people on fire for life. I want to be intentional in my food choices, my exercise, and the time spent doing the things I love: traveling with my hubs and soaking in salt water. I want things in my home to have a use and a meaning, not just “because its shiny” I want to wake up each morning with my aim focused to my Creator, to listen to what He has in store for me. I want to be a magnet for miracles and notice them everywhere, every day. I want to continue to notice the beauty and abundance that’s all around me. I want to dig deeper and deeper into the Word of God. I want to be intentional in my relationship with my hubs, honoring and respecting him everyday and being acutely aware to his needs and interests and fanning those in him. I want to believe good things are happening everyday. I want to be intentional to giving, to doing everything with a good heart and expecting nothing in return. I want to inspire others in my walk with God. I want to watch less TV and be outdoors more. I want to drink more water. I don’t want to “settle” for anything, realizing life is short and fleeting. I want to NOTICE more. I want to journal and pray more. I want to serve more and be aware of others needs. Spend time with those I adore.image5 I want to take more risks and love fiercely, even if others can’t return that love. I want to let go and let God, knowing I cannot control the uncontrollable. I want to soak in the knowledge that each day starts with new grace and fresh mercy.

This journey into a new year will be radical. Exciting and challenging! I already know it will be filled with more joy than we will know how to contain. Join me in raising a glass, to your ONE word, to your resolutions, to your new year, new you, new career, new marriage, new baby, new chapter or maybe even a whole new book. Get excited!  Flip the page.Processed with VSCOcam with p2 preset