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 

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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

 

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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