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

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Tales From the Trail-Guitar Lake to Mt Whitney

Into the mountains I go. To lose my mind and find my soul. img_0570

When we woke it was cold. I had smartly decided to wear a base layer under my hiking pants. I layered on a top base layer, a cold weather fleece, my down jacket, beanie, buff and my gloves. I was cold now but knew I’d warm in the climb. I put on my headlamp and unzipped myself from my tent. Immediately I noticed what appeared to be fire flies out in the night sky, which after taking a second look I realized where the headlamps of the hikers climbing Whitney ahead of us. Their lights danced in black space as they made their way up switchback after switchback in the freezing cold of the night.

The terrain of Whitney is rough and jagged. It’s granite boulders unfriendly. Sharp and serrated. As we started our way up we sludged through water running down the grassy slopes. The only green laying like a skirt at the bottom of this giant, granite treasure. My breathing was out of rythym and I wasn’t sure if the cause was the frigid cold, the accent or fear that had a grip on me. I can’t tell you why I was experiencing fear, other than worrying about altitude sickness, climbing in the dead of night or falling or quite possibly it was the fear of the unknown or the fear of failure.
As we climbed I could look out into the dark abyss below us and see the bobbing head lamps that reminded me of twinkling stars. I wondered how many would join us at the top for the sunrise.

Making it to Trail Crest was surreal. I had that a-ha moment of “I’m actually doing this!” Adrenaline rushed through my body. Trail Crest is the turn you take to the summit where the trail from Guitar Lake meets the Whitney Portal trail. It’s a staging area for the summit. Large packs are dropped and left here and slack packs are put on. The trial gets steeper and narrows at this point.

Previous to going to bed, we had packed our slack packs. Since we were returning to Guitar Lake we didn’t have to bring our big packs. We packed a small amount of food and enough water to get us to the summit and back.img_4946

Shortly after leaving Trail Crest I got ahead of K and K. J had decided that morning that she was going to skip the summit due to an injury from the day before. Being up Mt Whitney before she decided it wasn’t worth the risk to possibly take her out of the rest of the trip. At this point I was climbing alone in pitch black. No one ahead of me or behind me as far as I could see. I’m not gonna lie I was terrified! It was very empowering, scared me to death and allowed me to overcome some fears. I shook as I walked. I was cold and spilling over with unease. I had to get myself under control and allow my bravery to kick in. It was completely silent except for the wind on the side of the granite slab to my right. The other side a sheer drop. I learned right then I am a lot braver than I think I am. My entire world existed in a tiny dot of light from my headlamp. I couldn’t see further than 5 feet. As the trail narrowed I had a hard time being able to tell where I was going, a couple of times climbing over waist-high boulders dead center in the trail and watching every step I made as to make sure I planted my foot wisely. It was getting colder and colder and I was starting to get in to some snow and ice. I was anxious to reach the top and I was worried that I wouldn’t make it before the sunrise.img_0569

I prayed  and knew that God is not a God of fear. This calmed me. I was quickly reminded of all the fearful things He’s brought me through only to step to the other side of that fear and feel accomplished, free, able, unrestrained and….enough. I think moving past fear is healthy.  To do so is liberating. It changes you. You no longer feel the need to compromise or settle. And what’s funny is after you’ve smiled in the face of fear, you know you can never go back. You can’t go back into the unhappy relationship, the dead end job, the unhealthy friendship, the uneventful life, or the unloved and given-up dreams.  You won’t allow fear to trample you again. You may have the occasional whisper of fear, a hint that reminds you that you’re human, but it will never overtake you enough to disable you.

When I turned the final switch back I saw it. Silhouetted by the faint glow of the pre-risen sun. The hut! I made it. A sob choked out. Relief from my discomfort and a complete sense of joy filled me! A feeling of success washed over me. I went inside just enough to warm up a bit (the summit was in the low 20’s with a sharp, biting wind)  then I walked out to the summit table where ten others were perched waiting to be kissed by the sun. I sat alone and cried. I was overwhelmed, so caught up and grateful to be there right in this moment and as the sun rose I sat in praise! How awesomely, magnificent this gorgeous country is! How strong I am. How great our God is.

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*As I finish this blogpost I have just received confirmation of issue for another wildernesses permit for the JMT hiking southbound this time (SOBO) this July/Aug including, God willing, another summit of Mt Whitney!!

**Mt Whitney summit 14,505 feet

                                       May you always do what you’re afraid to do.

Beauty That Remains

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Building a house is no joke. How about this? Building a house in a third-world country.

My heart still stings when I think, talk and dream about Honduras. Back one week now, tears bite at the corners of my eyes on mention. Little by little I reacclimatize to being home and I get so excited to tell our story.

Actually….God’s story.

We had an incredible team hand-picked by God; a blend of new people, some of whom had never left the country before, let alone on a mission trip and some who are well-traveled veterans. None of us, with the exception of one (I believe) have any real building experience.  Funny how that has never made a difference….. IMG_1068

UnknownGod enters into the scenario. Only through Him do you get a team of men and women to create something wonderful with no experience. He always shows up and always blows my mind. This is who He is.

We arrived on our build site to find 2 foundations poured, side-by-side. This was amazing, as we were really praying for this prior to the trip, so we could share recourses throughout our build time AND not have to split up the team. We made some preparations with our team foreman, and set off on our task of building two transitional homes for families living and working in the trash dump in Tegucigalpa.

We had 3 and a half days to build these houses!

IMG_0928IMG_0863   Building relationships is one of the best things that I love about mission work. Partnering with God, alongside other people; some of whom you’ve never met, to create something; These people become your family. It’s happened with every mission trip I’ve been on. There is nothing like that bond. It lasts and is one of many things that I feel blessed with from these trips.

As the days continued and houses were erected with the help of some amazing Honduran workers I loved watching the process. I loved being in the moment. I wasn’t rushing to get things done; I knew they would be. I wasn’t feeling a sense of urgency; I know everything works in God’s timing. I wasn’t worried we wouldn’t complete the houses; He who sent us, will equip us.  I found myself, several times, standing back and smiling at what was happening around me…..IMG_0848IMG_0830IMG_0780

Laughter between people of two different countries.

Conversations between people that do not speak the same language.

Differences being worked out in respectful ways between two strong-willed men.

IMG_0755Women learning how to use tools that I’m sure they’ve never used or possibly seen before.

Children shyly making eyes contact with us.

The young boys in the neighborhood who were always right there to help lift lumber and our spirits.

All of us bettering our Spanish language.

Learning new things everyday from our translators. (Some not so great…hello Chinche bug)

Women caring for one another when one of us fell ill.IMG_0710

The compassion we had for the ones that had to stay back at the hotel for sick days.

Making jokes with one another.

Laughter.

IMG_0912Dogs barking.

Turkeys gobbling.IMG_0706

So. Many. Smiles.

Generosity like I’ve never seen.

How thankful we were for one day’s rain.

Prayers being whispered for the clouds to show up in the sky.

The care everyone took to make sure everyone had a chance to try something new.

Complete selflessness.

IMG_0765Walls of a home being lifted.

Nails being bent and re-nailed to perfection.

Complete surrender and reliance on a God who was preparing the way ahead of us on this trip the entire time we were there.

Softened hearts.

IMG_0915Rooves <roofs> going onto houses.

Children teaching us Spanish.

The strengthening of our hearts.

Playing a simple game of Telephone in English and Spanish that created unbelievable amounts of laughter.IMG_0939

Smashed thumbs and healed hearts.

Fears being released.

Lives being changed.

Family being able to share an amazing experience together.

The love between a mother and son.

A mama trusting me enough to hold her chubby, baby girl.

IMG_0688Hands working together.

Great patience.

God’s love and presence everywhere.

IMG_1004A dad’s love for his sweet daughters.

Tears of joy.

Tired bodies still willing to do something more.

Butterflies.

Beauty in the struggle.

So. Many. Answered. Prayers.

And then….the day came for us to dedicate these houses to the families. This is really the moment we wait for. Meeting the families for the first time. Seeing them coming up the road, quietly, shy and grateful.  Maybe a little overwhelmed. This is where we see a reverse of blessings. The place where we think we are blessing someone, only to find out the blessing is coming right back onto us. To stand and witness a mother and her 3 small kids as she sees her new home for the first time; blessed.  This is the beauty of God.  It’s etched into my mind forever. I think in this moment; THIS, this is why we are here. This is why we have life. This is why we have been blessed beyond belief with the recourses to be here, in this moment. This….does it get any better than this? This is making kingdom differences. This is making world differences. images

As we pray for and dedicate these homes to the families;tears fall.  Our hearts ache with a joy that’s inconceivable to most.  The witnessing of God’s presence everywhere is undeniable and unimaginable.  God’s beauty is thick like a blanket over this place.  His never-ending mercy and grace abounds.  It’s what brought us here and what will continue to bring us here. Amor, Fe, Esperanza.  Love, Faith and Hope…To Him be the glory!

For more about partnering with AFE:http://www.afehonduras.org

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