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….

Starting to Goal-Dream


I do not do New Years resolutions.  I just don’t and never have.  I guess maybe I have always missed the point, or have felt like I do not want to set myself up to fail.  Statistics are staggering on how many make resolutions and do not follow through.  The optimist in me, of course, is overjoyed at the ones that do their best at carrying them out and succeed.  I guess it seems silly to me to make these grand decisions instead of micro-decisions throughout the year.  I mean, we all change, everyday….so why not make mini decisions throughout your changing, daily life?  Why not adapt and learn as life carries you?

I do, however, set goals.  This happens year round, so I don’t necessarily feel that it is a “resolution” and being that it is now January 13th, I’ve kind of missed the window of opportunity in making them resolutions.  My goals change.  They change often and they make up a myriad of different situations.  As I sit and assess this coming year race wise, I have no choice but to make goals.  Which races to enter, how to train, do I change running shoes (again) how do I become faster, eat cleaner, and manage my time well during the training season?  Do I get a new bike, or is the one I have going to carry me through this race season (she’s a great bike)Unknown-2

Unknown-1Speaking of training….I am one week out from “officially” starting the training for my third Ironman.  Wow!  It’s exciting!  It makes me get these butterflies in my stomach like I am about to jump off of a cliff.  That feeling of exhilaration and nausea.  The sweaty palms, the tingly fingers.  I will be doing a 27-week training plan for this race.  I am hopeful that the cross-training that a triathlon provides through varying swim, bike and run days, will keep me injury free and not have the situation I was in this summer that took me out of my Fall marathon.  I am happy that I have learned over the years, that less is really more as far as training goes for me.  I mean, I trained for my last Ironman in 9 weeks (not advised) but it worked out, and I have the PR to prove it.  I started a sort of “weening into” training last week.  My coach gave me a 2-week warm up….”OH hello triathlon body…time to wake up!!”  I have to say, it has been nice to be back on a plan.  Not that I have been sitting on the couch for months, but I have definitely been more, shall we say, lenient, in my training.


I am once again, looking forward to sweaty feet, tired muscles, stinky running shoes, helmet head, a chaffed bottom side (for a while…ok always)  visor hair, living in tri-gear, catching up on every movie on Netflix during trainer rides, napping, falling into bed completely used up physically from a hard training day, blisters, the squeeze of compression socks, a car that looks like I am living out of it, snaps on the head from my swim cap, goggle eyes, the foam roller (ok, that’s a lie) the Stick (ok, that’s an even bigger lie) and the fabulous perfume of chlorine!Unknown


Goodbyes and Hellos


Taking a few moments out of the first day of the year to do some reflecting~


As I look back over the past twelve months of 2012, a great sense of gratitude floods my mind. Gratitude in knowing that it was a well-lived year. It was full of growth, some hard, but necessary. Full of new adventure, full of living life to the utmost, and full of the love and laughter of friends and family. I am grateful for many new friendships that sprang to life this past year, as well as the ones who have been in my life forever. I am grateful for my family that surrounds me every single day with so much love that it makes my heart want to burst. I am grateful for some hard lessons learned about life. I have learned the shortness of life and that no one is guaranteed tomorrow. I have learned that people aren’t always who they say they are. I’ve learned to not take anyone for granted. I have learned if you want something, go ahead and fight for it, walk right up to it, and go through it, boldly, securely…even if it ends badly…at least you tried.

I say every year that THIS was the best year ever, but it often seems like the current outdoes the past. And 2012 was no exception. It was a phenomenal year!! God is so good! And He knows just how to orchestrate a life for me, that is everyday, a blessing. I had more good times this year, than I knew what to do with. I just know there are a few more lines on this face from smiling and laughing my way through this year!

So “gratitude” is my farewell word to two thousand and twelve. Unimaginable gratitude.



I have zero. I think we oftentimes have well-meant intentions, but find that they go by the way side. I don’t think that is the aim for most, but it happens. I have never used one day out of the year to make a proclamation of goals and dreams. I live that out daily. Year round. It works for me. My goals change, my dreams change, my intent to do things differently gets side-lined for something way more incredible. And I roll with it.

I do promise myself to continue being as authentic as possible. Knowing I do not need to change a thing about who I am, if I am true to self. Loving without abandon those around me (even and especially when my heart gets stepped on) and to continue to surround myself with people who are real to themselves and others, who are optimistic and treat those around them with love and compassion, and who know the best medicine in life is laughter and light-heartedness. (Because sometimes…all you can do is laugh at yourself) I promise to walk in unselfishness, without bitterness and to give wholly of myself to those I adore.

I vow to have great escapades, wondrous travel and new experiences this coming year, but to also take time to rejoice in the quiet and alone time of just sitting in the silence of my house. Doing nothing but staring into the still surrounding me.

I want to delight in the smallest of things. Seek out every miracle, no matter the size or happening, even in the negative, I will see the good.

I want to give new strength and energy to continuing on my quest of cooking more healthy meals. Dive in head first into the new training season. Log copious amounts of running miles, both on road and trail.

I want to be up on posting more on my blog…which oftentimes goes for long periods with no love.

I want to do some more experimenting with smoothies, and start juicing WAY more.

I want to spend more time on my knees in prayer being thankful for what I have and not asking God for anything more.

I want God to challenge me, everyday, again and again as He grows me even more and more into the person I am in Him.  And may I always hear His still, small, voice, and always walk the path He has for me.

I want to read even MORE than I do now.  Reading is learning.

I want to start working on learning to speak the beautiful Italian language.

What are your ideas and traditions in the New Year? Do you make resolutions? Do you make changes or stay just the way you are and want to be? I hope whatever your journey is, that you have an extraordinary and remarkable two thousand thirteen. I already know it will be unforgettable!!


~~We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day. – Edith Lovejoy Pierce