Tales From the Trail -The Mess of Healing-Donahue Pass

Everyone needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. ~John Muir

IMG_5693Marie Lakes Junction. 2.67 miles from the top of Donahue Pass. This pass is long. 23-miles. And we have been climbing for 2 days already. We will go up and over the pass in the morning. We are camped next to a gorgeous creek with the pass in view. I climbed to the highest point of an outcropping of rock that I could find at camp and picked up limited reception on my cell. I called G. He and Finn (our pooch) are in Bend, OR, making their way to Yosemite to retrieve their weary hiker. I cannot believe we are almost done with this journey. It makes my heart ache.

We woke early and were really pushing and surging ahead today at a pretty quick IMG_2205speed. It was a lot of switchbacks and granite. A lot of work. J tripped and pulled her calf which slowed our pace a little. K and I went ahead and found some great campsites. It was earlier than we would have usually stopped, around 1:30, but it allowed for the day to become a little unscripted. I always know when things don’t go as planned there is a HIGHER plan. I sat on a flat rock out near the water, bathed in sunlight. I was praying and thanking God for this journey. This adventure. The able body I have to be able to complete the things I love. The passions that drive me. His passions. I thanked Him for WHO I AM and the person he’s created in me. I marveled at the fact that as I looked up, even the pines and the mountains stretch their way up towards the Heavens. Even they are in praise! I was lying there in the silence, listening, God really started to speak to my heart. “Your walls Paula! It’s really time to fully allow me to break them down.” I sat bolt upright! Years of not knowing how to love and be loved flooded me. I have always held people at a distance. That’s what hurt and betrayal do to you. I know this. That’s a part of me that is broken. My past had taught me that trust was something that cannot be easily given and once broken so terribly hard to repair. I was really never taught, unconditional love. Or maybe just never felt it. Laying there in that moment, in the wilderness, I felt a deep, cemented-on-layer, strip away. It pealed right off and fell to the ground. And oh it hurt! I knew this was a point of complete rawness. Complete vulnerability. I don’t trust people because they constantly let you down. What a HUGE fault of mine. What chances have I missed because of this? Even with my incredibly, amazing husband, who has shown me nothing but complete unconditional, true, passionate, deep, love, respect, and adoration I think in my mind I’ve felt there has always been that chance of him trampling my heart. I am not sure that I have ever truly let love completely in. And that is tragic. It was time. It was like a veil being lifted. I sat out on the rocks for a long time. I cried, I laughed and I cried again. God had to take me into the wilderness, in the silence, in the deepest canyons and highest mountains to peel me down, to allow me to see and feel and realize and taste the incredible love all around me. His love is so vast and so wide and so deep. To allow me to see how my past has shaped me, but for it to be used as GOOD! I have walked some pretty desperate and terrible roads and its ok. In fact, it’s amazing, because God brought me through. There is no other answer than that! He strengthened me and gave me a story to share. Not to be ashamed about. Not to dwell about or continue to feel hurt by, but to thrive out of, to show His goodness and his love and his miracles. That no matter the past, He is the present and the future. And He is so good and so faithful and so giving and SO full of healing!FullSizeRender

My relationships with people will never be the same now. They can’t be. I am a lover…but MAN has that grown ten-fold. I don’t hold back. I LOVE with the most extreme passion. Truly! I am not afraid to let love in and even risk the possibility of being hurt. I think to NOT would be the hugest tragedy of all. I’m not willing to allow the fear of being let down, stepped on or not being someone’s cup of tea ruin what could be an extraordinary relationship. Hurt and emotion are the consequence of loving. It’s so worth the risk!IMG_5696

Our last days on the trail were some of the best. Coming into Lyell Canyon in the Yosemite Valley was incredible. I longed to see even a glimpse of a bear, which never happened. We saw Tony, our dread-locked farmer pass us by only to meet back up at the end of our journey. We saw Igor’s bare feet in the dust of the trail but never saw our Euro’s until we were sitting at breakfast after meeting our loved ones. What a sight for sore eyes my husband was as he stood in the middle of the campground as we came off the trail. Clean, with his giant, loving smile, and heart outside of his chest laid open right on his shirt. Me, filthy and ragged and exposed. Bruised, uncovered and stripped of a lot of baggage.
We all came together for a last breakfast. My hubs had, as promised, met us with a cooler full of COLD beer. It was early morning, but our trail family (all of them) and our real-life families all shared in a SALUD to a journey complete!


It was hard leaving the trail. I feel a connection to these friends like no other. I love what being out there taught me about them and myself. I don’t think you can share in that sort of journey and not be completely connected and changed by the people around you.IMG_2195

K, your complete and utter will to succeed at this journey astounded me. You battled, failed equipment, the cold, broken laces and poles but never a broken spirit. You would grind out the day no matter how hard it was and finish in the evening laughing. Your determination and inspiration were incredible. Your fortitude and steadfastness is a huge testament to the type of person you are. You gave me the motivation to continue. You are one of the strongest women I know. You have such an incredible presence about you. Your friendship in cherished!

IMG_5703J, woman you are so tough. You could’ve allowed your falls and injuries to side-line you, but you just kept on. You were such a caretaker and source of reason for our group. Your sweet disposition combined with a kick-ass attitude was infectious. I loved your jokes, your singing and the games you initiated to help keep our minds off of the mire of the trail on those days when we all felt defeated. I learned a lot from you. You are so smart. The day we lost you out there my gut was hollow, I was worried, but I knew you are resourceful and smart and not one to go down without a fight. The Cheech lighter was the BOMB! Thanks for that and the gift of getting to know you.

K, our rooster in a flock of hens. Your desires and passions run deep. You’re a great coach and a greater friend. You withstood a lot from this group and I commend you for that. You are determined and so sold-out dedicated to everything you put your mind to. I know we had days of butting heads and I loved the challenge. I loved more the grace you extended to me. Your honesty and friendship mean the world to me. There aren’t a lot of people who can speak the truth and not be afraid. You’re kind and bold and persistent but have such a tender heart. Your willingness to be solid in your thoughts but show mercy when needed is an amazing quality. Thanks for not pushing me over a cliff when I really needed to be. And thanks for pushing me over the cliff when I needed it most.

IMG_2202I have loved reading through my journals of the JMT. It made me laugh out loud and become completely overcome with emotion at times. This trip stripped me down to bare bones and built me right back up. I am happy for the sheer blessing of this trip, for friends with the same passions, for a supportive family even when they are nervous or unsure of my outrageous decisions. For a husband that SO gets me, encourages the utter crazy in me and loves me to the pit of my being no matter the flaws and dirt and decay. The fact that you applaud and spur-on every hair-brained wild desire that I have in life and rally around me says so much about the man you are! God blessed me with such an incredible partner in life! I am so thankful that you’re the water that feeds the soil of my reckless, wild heart! I love that I felt through the adversity, I was reintroduced to myself. That we all chose to seek out the seed of triumph in the adversity along the way. I am grateful for the friends and family that encouraged us, prayed for us, thought about us, and checked in on us when they could. I am even more grateful for those who allowed me to come home a changed person and loved me all the same. Knowing my scars and my battles. My weaknesses and my strengths. Loving the soul of who I am and allowing me the true GIFT of loving you so deeply and so generously.IMG_2207
Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees. ~T Monso 

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One of my FAVORITE pics from the entire trip. At the top of Donahue Pass. Job well done my friends!

*Start my JMT journey with me 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

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