Tales From the Trail -Red’s Meadows

IMG_5634IMG_5620We traveled 11.75 miles this morning after breaking camp in 5-hours! We were a tad motivated to get to Red’s Meadows. As we hiked, we talked about the upcoming luxuries of SHOWERS. REAL FOOD. CELL SERVICE. Among many, one of the things this trail has lended me was to absolutely and constantly be thankful for the little things. As I paid the $15 for 15 minutes of clean water in an actual shower I considered people who do not have this option and how easy it is to take for granted. I couldn’t believe the MUD that rolled off of me and down the drain. Serious filth! Even though I was bathing daily in whatever body of water was available to us each evening, it just didn’t compare to a warm, clean, shower. How much this relates to Jesus! I would’ve paid $100 for this luxury. We laughed! Us girls. We all three went into the shower at the same time, finding three empty stalls and as we plopped our tokens into the coin operated machine and stepped in, we laughed! Hard! We stood under the rush of warm water and felt like pampered princesses and REALLY felt clean! We didn’t shave the entire trip. It was our pact. The feeling of wanting to now was SO incredibly overwhelming. It was part of the journey and being all in. We may be clean princesses but we are hairy! And so was our dude! His facial hair was reaching epic proportion! For me, this shower washed so much more than dirt away. It washed away my bad attitude from the days before, it washed away feelings of guilt over decisions I have made, expectation I’ve placed on myself and ones that have been put there by others, it washed away things I’ve been holding on to that needed desperately to be let go of, past hurts, pride issues, being judged, negative feelings, mistakes, times in my life that I fell apart, fear, the mess of the last year and the dirt of the past…..It all ran down the drain in a puddle.

Red’s Meadows is such a great place. Magical. The gathering place for all wanderers just outside of the beautiful Mammoth Lakes/Devil’s Postpile area. IMG_5630Full of wonderful, backpacking, happy people. It’s no wonder I loved it! (“My People” as my hubs refers to them) We quickly recognized some of our trail family. Those we’ve met along the way, and continue to see on the daily. Leap- frogging along, but always ending up camping alongside each night. Our Slovakian’s whom we met WAY back on Glen Pass; two buddies hiking together, one of them barefoot. Tony, our dreadlocked farmer, who gave up an organic farm to hike the JMT, and of course the sweet 50th-anniversary couple, Brooks and Rita. We all filtered in little by little to the showers, the Mule House Cafe (that had the BEST cheeseburgers, fries, and fruit pie on the planet, ON THE PLANET!) and little general store that held our resupply. Interestingly enough, none of us rushed for our resupply. We opted instead for a shower, food, beer and hanging in the sunshine talking with other hikers…. in that order. We met Sam, a guy from the UK who is hiking the PCT. He is 3 weeks from finishing his 6-month journey and even though I have suffered some pretty rotten things out on this trail, I yearn for the opportunity to hike the PCT at some point. I was a little jealous. We talked to 2 women hikers from Maine that were having issues with sleeping bags. They were freezing at night and were asking opinions from everyone about new sacks that they were considering purchasing in Mammoth Lakes. We met a group of 4 women hiking together that were sharing a jar of queso dip and chips from the store. HEAVEN! We listened to the stories of fun and laughter, of animals, of heartbreak, of spiritual journeys, of blisters and sprained ankles, of sleeping COLD, of favorite and least favorite passes, the stories of their journeys and what brought them out here in the first place. I was happy to see so many solo-female hikers, and Ladies of the JMT (all of us wearing our blue bandanas on our pack to signify who we were) I was fascinated by these people and their stories and just wanted to take it all in! Sometimes I thought; man we must have a screw loose to do this, to want this, to enjoy (to some extent) the suffering of almost a month in the wilderness. The isolation, being dirty, being in the complete silence, the remoteness…but then I realized…Nah, it’s passion. It’s passion that drives this and every. single. one. of. us.  has. a. story.

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This was some DANG good coffee!

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With our “Slovakian’s” Igor (who hiked most of the trail barefoot and Jakob (Jakub)

We picked up our resupplies from the little general store and sifted through the contents. I dug….WAY down to the bottom for my note, but quickly saw that Greg had added a few other goodies to this bucket. A can of Pringle’s (oh sweet Jesus) about 5 lbs of Starburst, blister care items (first aid) and a few bottles of Fire Ball. That man knows exactly what I need even from thousands of miles away and not hearing from me in over 10 days! This would be our last resupply. My last note. The last little bit of correspondence until we finish this out. It excited me as much as it grieved me. It was bittersweet in several aspects and as happy as I was to be finishing up this incredibly, epic experience, I was deeply SO saddened at the same time.

My note to myself.

Paula,

Wild Mama, just because you cried today doesn’t make you weak, Allow the tears to come and wash your spirit clean. You’ve come a long way baby! You’re at Red’s Meadows. Reflect on where you have come from and where you’re heading. Continue to celebrate all that lies within you. God has created in you and adventurer, a lover of nature and of stars and extraordinary views. This is why you’re out here. Breathe it all in. You are stronger than you ever give yourself credit. Keep it up, badass warrior! Thanks be to God. Remember, you planned well and are ready for the next few days to the finish!IMG_1659

And from G.

Look at you, Lady! Wow! Bad-assery in its truest form. Your body is probably a little beat up and tired, but that’s ok. Better this than a lump on the couch. Embrace it all! You can make it this last stretch, dig in and remember, LOOK UP! Hopefully, you remember me at the end of this. I will be the guy standing with a cold beer, a super-soaker, and a razor. Ha-Ha! I love you, G

I roared with laughter as I read this. Along with his funny note, and myriad of additional goodies, he had packed the baggies of my re-packaged dehydrated meals (yes RE-PACKAGED because weight is EVERYTHING when it’s on your back) and had renamed a few for me, which brought some great laughter around our little Jet Boils as we cooked dinner at camp.IMG_5623

We had to say goodbye to Red’s Meadows  in the morning and start our way up Donahue Pass. It was hard leaving. We ate an AMAZING breakfast with WAAAAY too much coffee from a pot. Donahue is a big pass with 23-ish miles to the top. It’s long and gradual reaching 11,703 feet. We camped part way up around the Shadow Lake area. We had decided to bite this last section off in chunks. This was a gorgeous camp, with a waterfall right outside my tent door. (and for me, besides sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls rank HIGH up on the food chain of gorgeous-must-sees for me. I LOVE them) I climbed to the top of the falls and spent some alone time with God thanking Him for his creation, for His love for us through his creation. The beauty here and along this entire journey has been unsurpassed. I thanked Him for the opportunity of being out here, for His healing on my feet and body. I thanked Him for my hiking partners and keeping us all healthy (for the most part.) and safe. Out of the four of us, we had one common thread before going into this hike….our dude! K and I knew one another, but not to the depths that we did now. J and I met the day she, K and her hubs picked me up in San Bernardino to head to Lone Pine. Talk about really putting your faith into your hiking partners. So for us to make it this far with only a few small scrapes and bumps along the trail (so to say) I think I was in good company. I was so thankful for their underserved patience, and their inspiration, and kindness. I know we all had days where the raw emotion was high and we wanted to scream at one another, but in the end, we showed love, appreciation, devotion, fortitude, humility, mercy and grace. We showed friendship.  I was so grateful for that. Complete and utter favor in the most extreme conditions Their compassion was incredible. I know full well that some days, probably most days, I was deserving of NONE of it!

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That one day that J fell and K had to bandage her up with a Maxi-Pad!!

I took a deep breath as I climbed into my tent and into my mummy, the cascading sound of the falls outside the door making me dizzy with relaxation and tiredness. It had started to rain and we all retreated to our tents early. The daylight still lingered. I sat up and re-read the note from G and giggled. He has the greatest way of always making me and those around him laugh! He would love this spot. I cannot believe this journey is almost ending. I didn’t want it to. It had changed me in some pretty profound ways already. What would going home be like? What would matter to me that hadn’t before? What things would I cherish more and what would I no longer need or care to have? Would I want to go home and buy a Tiny House in the woods after living in Big Agnes for the past 3 1/2 weeks? What would I appreciate more and find unnecessary? What would food and water taste like? Different? Possibly. I do know the need to see my family was so colossal. To breathe them in deeply was all I wanted. That, and to lift and inhale the sweet, dirty, earthy, grass-smell of my puppy’s paws. (this is something her and I do several times a day) Those things that on a daily we become so accustomed to, that are so ordinary at times, that never will be again. They just can’t be.

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Start my JMT journey from the beginning HERE 

Tales From the Trail -Wash Your Spirit Clean- Muir, Seldon and Silver Pass

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Hooray! We made it up and over Muir Pass! We sat and marveled inside the Muir Hut for quite some time. It’s a great gathering place for hikers and we talked to people hiking the PCT and JMT from all over the world. The trail will be a cake walk from here. HA! We still, despite my desire, haven’t seen any bears. I am hoping as we get closer to Yosemite that we will.

fullsizerenderI had so many conversations with God today. Layers continue to peel that I hope to share, but honestly, some are SO personal, so intimate that I’m not sure it would be entirely appropriate for a blog. I acknowledged and allowed God full control in healing some pretty deep-rooted hurts in me. One thing I know, I need to be more discerning with people and my tribe. Years and years of feeling that I didn’t measure up when I was younger and feeling the need to people please always opens me up to relationships that I really should be more discriminatory about. I have learned to be better, but every-so-often I get unexpectedly involved. I love too hard and oftentimes can get caught up in a little too much drama, too much stress, too much emotion, and crisis. I am natural “fixer” I want to fix the problem, fix the outcome, fix a saddened friend, fix, fix, fix, to the point of exhaustion. That’s a by-product of the constant need to feel that I was enough in my younger years. Sometimes wanting to help and fix is a great quality to have but I can also become a magnet for the passive aggressive. As God rolled this out for me and I saw the scenarios play out in my mind, I realized He is the only fixer. “Send them my way,” He whispered. I only need to be praying daily, and allow their burdens to become his. That’s it! I cannot “be” a better friend than that! Of course I’ve known this, but sometimes God needs to really give me another nudge.  Before this trip, I had a conversation with someone, who had shared that they felt I wasn’t being a good friend to them. I love the honest, real conversations I can have with the people I love. I only look for authenticity. Transparency. I don’t shy away from difficult conversations and in fact encourage them because I feel like they grow you. Communication is key in all relationships and when you love someone you cannot be closed off to the difficult and messy. Speak the hard things in love and ask for discernment. You’re always better on the other side. You learn things about yourself that maybe you don’t see and learn things about others as well. How can you have an honest, pure, genuine relationship without it? I appreciated the freedom as they spoke to me, but I immediately wanted to fix the situation. To be better. To do better. God showed me that sometimes that’s just impossible. My best is my best is my best, and sometimes it isn’t about me. I can only be the person and friend I am capable of being, that He created me to be and sometimes that’s not going to cut it for some. What I know is that is perfectly ok. I am completely incapable of filling the void sometimes. Does that sting? Yes! As a recovering people-pleaser, that can bite, but I cannot fix everything. I cannot fix broken family members, heal broken/unloving marriages, joyless relationships, un-met dreams, hurt from abuse, hurt from abandonment, the deep, sadness from a lack of feeling unloved, bitter minds, unforgiveness or feelings of feeling less-than. That’s where God steps in for those who are willing. That’s why HE is God and we are human. WE NEED HIM! He is the balm that heals what’s broken in all of us. He steps in and fills the cracks, fills the holes and fills the soul. He does what I am completely incapable of doing.

Many miles passed today and mile after mile I felt like I was coming undone. Unravelling. God was so real and so present everywhere as we camped at Evolution Lake, my second favorite of the trail. The way the sunset bounced off the walls of this canyon onto the water was so spectacular! It was like a painting. I marveled as reds turned to pinks and purples then greens and blues, at the way the mountains took shape under the water as if they were admiring themselves in the reflection and as the stars appeared how hugely magnificent they were. They shot out, bold in the black sky, so close as they reached out their light towards the earth putting on a show to all those laying below to see.

The next morning we stopped at MTR (Muir Trail Ranch) for our resupply. What fun place! We loved all of the hiker buckets, 5-gallon buckets FULL of items that hikers have left behind or didn’t need anymore. They lined the bench and were labeled according to what was inside. Sunscreens, books, MRE’s, oatmeal, peanut butter/Nutella, oils and spices, granola bars, tuna. You name it, it was there for the taking. Like Christmas morning gifts. As I looked through them and gave some of my own resupply for the cause I was SO tempted to take the FULL jar of Nutella. Seriously? An entirely, full, unopened jar! I still wish I would’ve, but pack weight is everything, and a full jar of Nutella, c’mon, really? I battled that one out for a good 30 minutes as we refilled our bear cans with our cache that we had mailed in the weeks before. I still hadn’t had that much of an appetite and had ALOT to get rid of. Maybe the Nutella would make the cut… I opted for a few extra packets of Justin’s Peanut butter. Much smarter! And quite frankly for me; dip anything in peanut butter and I’ll eat it!

At this point of our hike, I was starting to feel like a fish out of water. Hiking styles vary by person, and on a hike this long you learn to adapt to your crew. I am much more lenient, savor nature, beauty, sounds, breathe and smell the air, taste, swim in lakes, waterfalls, and streams, dunk in the natural hot springs type of hiker. “Chase the butterfly!” I stop, take pictures and am captivated by God’s blessing of this gorgeous Earth. I get completely emerged and caught up in the beauty, I rarely keep to an agenda, other than getting to camp by nightfall. I knew God was working on my patience, my willingness to bend for others, my capacity and compliance to endure and yield to others plans, especially when in a group. I was grateful for that but had a few times that I felt a little joyless. Things happen while you’re on a through hike. People get tired, they get overheated, things break, they’re hungry, dehydrated, muscles hurt and frustrations on this particular day were at an all-time high. What a valuable lesson to all of us, that things, OFTEN if EVER go the way they are planned on a trip like this. You bend and lean in, and adapt and go with the flow. You have to, or you break. Even so, just being out here, doing this, living this dream that has been nestled in my heart since…forever, was amazing. I was grateful! I was grateful for all of it. The hard days, the tiredness, the lessons, the leaning into the uncomfortable. I was completely thankful for friends doing life together through the good and bad and in the end loving one another enough to pass the bumps in the road. I was grateful for a husband that appreciates our together dreams as well as the wild dreams of his crazy wife. I was grateful that he encouraged this! Applauds my wild! Inspired me, prayed for me, and talked sense into me on my lowest of days. After feeling a sense of mutiny and revolt on my “natural carefree hiking-self” this night, I cried in my tent reading my resupply card. Which…was a THANK YOU card.

-Paula (to myself) Aug 22, 2016

Be thankful and grateful for the place you are TODAY! You’re at MTR. Easy? No! Worth it? YES! You’re a strong and courageous woman. Keep remembering to look up and out at God’s unbelievable creation! ~I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high. O Lord, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the Heavens. Ps 7:17-18:1 Amen. Happy Trails Paula

And from G

-My PJ, Where you are right now, STOP, sit down if possible and be still. Now imagine one of those kisses we do where we breathe in that deep breath. Close your eyes and do that now. Breathe in this amazing world and life God has given us. Exhale, deep and full. Open your eyes and kiss the beautiful sky. Enjoy the journey and all that it is. Love, G xoxo

I popped out of my tent to talk to my camp partner K and told her I was sorry. Sorry if I was quiet the entire day. Sorry if I seemed out of sorts, but also that I recognized I was like I said, a fish out of water on this hike. I read her the Thank You note, she cried.fullsizerender

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Put a cape on a woman and she will SOUR (K with her pack cover on that made her look like Super Woman)

Seldon Pass- We got caught in a thunderstorm. Tons of rain and hail coming down. We broke out our rain gear and pack covers and hunkered down for a while, not being able to get over the pass due to lightning. The last thing we wanted was to be atop a 10, 898 pass with lightning overhead. Once we realized that the rain and hail weren’t going to let up, we continued on. We still weren’t in danger of the top at this point. We had the opportunity to meet the sweetest couple while taking our little rain break. It was their 50th (yes, FIFTIETH) wedding anniversary. They told us that they were meant to hike the entire JMT in 1969, just 3 years after they were married. There was record snowfall in the Sierras that year and they had to postpone their hike. Well, like life sometimes does, it takes a turn and gets in the way of the best-laid plans. She explained that careers, kids, moving, houses, PTA, soccer games, gymnastics, football, swim meets, diving headfirst into family life, etc took precedence. What an incredible story of never giving up on a dream that they made as newlyweds. They FINALLY made it! A little later than expected, by 40-some years, but they kept their dream alive, and made it happen. I hiked with that story floating around in my head all day. It made me miss my hubs, as we are big dreamers and have been since we met. I cannot wait to kiss that man straight on the mouth when I see him!fullsizerender

img_55848-23-16 Made it up and over Silver Pass. Eleven passes in 17 days. Silver seemed easy for some reason. Maybe because it’s a shorty at just 10,754 ft. Or maybe it’s because we are on track to reach Red’s Meadows in 2 days. We camped at Duck Creek and as my pasta Primavera cooks my mouth is watering for a cheeseburger at Red’s. We got to camp early enough today to do laundry. ALL of it, including my night clothes. Thank goodness. PeeEw!

Start my JMT journey from the beginning HERE

Tales From the Trail -Amazing Grace

We got up early to head up Glen Pass. We summited and it took forever to descend the other side. What a pass! I must have said this 50 times while going up and over this pass. Covered in fist-sized chunks of granite rock, it was unrelenting. I thought about how this pass would compare if you were on a southbound or SOBO hike because this downhill side was merciless. Glen ended up being the pass that was most difficult for me.

img_5222Of course after waking in the morning, I had decided to continue on the hike. As I laid in my mummy sack the night before, I prayed and I listened. I laid it out there “God, if you want me to continue, allow that to be so. Bring healing on my feet and renew my desire to continue” I smiled remembering the great send-offs that I had with family and friends.Their encouraging words to me. They swirled around in my head. They were so motivating, so soothing, so inspiring. I knew I had lots of people praying for me, for us, every single day. For our safety and our well-being. I felt a sense of refilling when I woke up. My feet were still sore, but they felt that they were taking a turn for the better. Even the blisters that had popped up didn’t feel as sore covered in blister band-aids (Y’all, these things are AMAZING!) There were so many things God was waiting to flood me with on this journey and I knew this morning when I wok up I needed to continue.fullsizerenderimg_5223

I need to side-bar right here for just a second to tell you the power of prayer is so far-reaching, profound and real. What I did not know at the time, was the night before, after being able to talk to Greg on Kearsarge Pass, he was with our worship team at rehearsal, they always take time as a group to pray for one another and the needs of those around us. He explained the situation with my feet and as a group, they prayed for me. Of course I did not know this, but know now beyond a shadow of a doubt, THIS is why I was able to get up the next morning and continue on this hike. What a testimony of God’s healing, and his love. His promises and his mercy, grace and provision. I am SO thankful for those friends that prayed, daily for us.fullsizerender

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We camped at Woods Creek after descending Glen Pass. It’s a gorgeous area with a stream and a beautiful suspension bridge right out in the middle of the JMT/PCT. We soaked our legs, and filtered water. This was starting to become routine and we joked about “our nightly chores” Get to camp, set up our tents, have a snack, roll out our beds, filter water, wash our clothes in the creek, bathe in the same creek, eat dinner, laugh a lot, talk about the day, yoga, howl as the sun went down…and to bed! Most nights we were in bed by 7pm. Trail time changes your sleep patterns and hiking in the 90 degree heat all day at altitude takes a lot out of you. We slept when the sun went down and rose when it came up. img_5237

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Found a little trickle of water to filter.

We were packed up and left Woods Creek over the suspension bridge by 6:30am. We had 7.7 miles of climbing ahead of us to the top of Pinchot Pass. Pinchot was long with so many variations in landscape. Reds turned into grays along the way. The terrain was volcanic and Mars-like. We stopped to filter water in a spring (really just a trickle of water) before descending. We had decided that we would stop for a break and lunch at Lake Marjorie. Descending these passes would split us up a bit. Each of us descended at our own pace. We usually always stayed within eye-shot of one another, but the switchbacks along this pass didn’t afford that. K, K and I stopped at Lake Majorie and waited for J. And waited. And waited. We started to get a little concerned as we knew she wasn’t that far behind. She was nursing an injury from a few days prior and had a hard time descending due to the pounding it takes on your body. We made a plan. K would stay put at Lake Marjori, she could be a lookout along the trail lakeside and K would walk back up the pass, I would walk down looking out for J. With the steepness of the terrain it’s so easy to turn an ankle or even worse, slip off the edge. We were really concerned for her safety. We came back together and not one of us had seen her. We asked hikers along the trail if they had seen her, giving a full description of our lost hiker in either direction and no one had seen her. We saw a SAR helo flying overhead to where we were sitting, which made things much worse, but we tried to not allow fear to take root. We quickly made a plan; we knew J was smart, she’s been  hiker and this was not her first rodeo. She knows what to do in situations where we would get separated. We were however concerned about her injury and the steepness of our decent. Even the most experienced hikers can fall. We decided that K and I would hike out to South Forks Kings River together (our next campsite) and K would stay put at Lake Marjori. We decided that if we got to SFKR and she wasn’t there, we would radio SAR to start a search for her. We were pretty concerned as K an I hiked at break-neck speeds to SFKR. You cannot imagine the joy that enveloped us when we got to camp, and heard her calling out to us! She had somehow passed us on the trail as we were sitting at the lake. Thanks be to God is all I could say. Thanks be to God! We had a girls night at camp this night. SFKR is an amazing site. A wide river flows over flat rocks that fill bathtub-like pools. We were surrounded by pack horses and a mule train. The river is swift and camping next to it, with it’s sound, lulled us right to sleep after dinner.

The next morning after K joined us, we hiked out of South Forks Kings River and headed over Mather Pass. My feet seem to be healing better as I have changed up some of my routine in caring for them. No more soaking my feet at lunchtime and puting them back into my boots! We all felt like the hike was getting easier as we knew we must be finally getting our trail legs. Mather was still exhausting! It greeted us at the top with it’s gorgeous views at 12,100 feet.I wore my iPod most of the time today, just needing to drown out some noise in my head. img_5284

We camped at Palisades Lake. My most favorite of any camp on the entire trail. It’s surrounded by mountain peaks that stretch out to the sky and we all swam in the crystal clear blue waters. I could’ve stayed here for days and cannot wait to come back to this spot. It’s for us NOBO hikers, the ledge to the Golden Staircase, which we would be descending tomorrow. I felt so much of God’s presence with me today. Being out in nature and the silence of the wilderness allows for a lot of time to listen. One thing that I was hearing loud and clear was “small space, big world” I knew it was relating to the fact that G and I had decided to sell our house and downsize this year. We were ready to un-clutter and unburden our lives of “stuff” and “space” and live smaller, greener, healthier lives. We were excited to have our small space in this big world. We knew in doing so it would free up so much more time for us to be doing the things we love. Traveling more, spending less time taking care of “house stuff” devoting time to missions and music, running and yoga and just being more present and intentional with what’s important. We’ve both just felt that we don’t want to be boggled down as much to lend ourselves to whatever God has in store for us. img_5298

When we left Palisades in the morning, I was feeling so good and refreshed! We descended the Golden Staircase, which is about 600-billion (maybe not quite that many) granite stairs chiseled into the side of the mountain. We hiked 13 miles today and part way up Muir Pass before we stopped to camp. When we stopped for the night K let us know we were at 119.11 miles in, just over half way!

Passes we’ve covered so far:

Cottonwood 11,140, Guyout 10,900, Whitney 14,505, Forrester 13,160, Kearsarge 10,750 times two (up and over for resupply and back) Glen 11,926, Pinchot 12,050, Mather 12,100