Tupper's 2 Cents

Feet on the path and eyes wide open...

Category: Goals (page 1 of 2)

The Splendor of Skyline Divide!

Skyline Divide Trail

Skyline Divide Trail (August 7, 2017)

It’s quite possible that there are not enough superlatives to describe Skyline Divide Trail. With only two initial miles of forested switchbacks to hike before gaining the ridge, the path beyond cruises for mile after mile.  It’s about four more miles to Chowder Ridge, making for a possible 12-mile round trip hike. But any distance beyond the ridge is well worth it! The divide itself is a northward extension of Mt. Baker, such that each step moves you closer and closer to the mountain, and eventually it feels as if you are sitting (or standing) right in it’s lap!  Wildflowers and mountain views line the entire way.

Stats on Skyline Divide

LOCATION — Off the Mt. Baker Highway (SR-542), 34+ miles east of Bellingham.  Look for Glacier Creek Road,  just 0.8 miles past Glacier Ranger Station. Follow signs to Skyline Divide. It’s 12.9 miles of reasonable logging road to the trailhead.    DISTANCE — Variable. WTA calls it 9 miles RT, but you can make it 12 if you go all the way to Chowder Ridge.     ELEVATION GAIN — 2500 feet or more, depending on how far you go.     HIGH POINT — 6563 feet, give or take.   DIFFICULTY — Moderate

Why Skyline Divide?

This is one of my favorite day hikes off the Mt. Baker Highway, and somehow I had not been there since 2012! I HAD hiked into the area via Cougar Divide, twice, since 2012. Cougar Divide is an unmaintained trail that loosely parallels Skyline Divide, and the two divides come together at Chowder Ridge. Some folks swear by Cougar’s much less popular way in. The drawbacks of Cougar are that the road is awful and the unmaintained trail is somewhat sketchy. Both are doable, but not nearly as straightforward as Skyline. Here is a link to basic information on Cougar Divide, if you want to avoid the crowds at Skyline…

Doug and I had been talking about Skyline since we started our alpine hiking adventures back in late June. However, a tree had fallen last winter and lodged itself deeply into the road at an awkward angle, blocking access. Extraction of the tree required some serious innovation on the part of Forest Service employees, and that did not happen until a couple of weeks ago. With the logging road open and an open afternoon, Doug and I set out for Skyline last Monday.

It’s worth noting that we were taking a gamble with the ongoing prevalence of forest fire smoke. We didn’t know to what degree smoke would be an issue. Skyline is SUCH a view trail, and we knew there was a chance it would be all socked in (like my recent trip to Pugh). It’s a long drive up there (about 1 hour 45 minutes from Bellingham) to a view trail with no views. Doug had been there the previous week, after the smoke came in, and said that at least Mt. Baker made an appearance. We decided to chance it.

The Hike!

Skyline Divide is so popular that it boosts a parking lot to hold 30 cars. There is room for that many again by the side of the road. I have been there when I had to park far down the road as the lot was full to overflowing. On this Monday afternoon, however, the place was nearly deserted. There were only a few cars when we arrived just after 1:30 pm, in our typical late-start mode.  Maybe it was the late hour, or that it was a weekday, or maybe the smoke, or perhaps the threat of bugs — for whatever reason, we had the place nearly to ourselves.

Gaining the Ridge

We left the parking lot at 1:47, and began the switchbacks. The elevation up to the ridge was a moderate 1500 feet in two miles. Trailside views opened up early, with a plethora of wildflowers blanketing the switchbacks just over a mile in. It was great to have that distraction, as the black flies were out in force! I kept thinking back to the most recent WTA trip reports, written from hikers on the two days prior:

From Sunday, 8/6:  “Believe me, do not go here unless you have a head net and repellent! And even with such help, the pests will still be a problem for you. You literally cannot stop walking or they will eat you alive!”

From Saturday, 8/5:  “Bugs were as bad as everyone says they are. Maybe worse. I cannot overstate how bad the bugs were. It’s no joke! Wear long sleeves and keep moving until you reach the ridge. You’ll get some relief up there, but bugs were a constant nuisance.” 

Initially, these reports made me laugh. People can be so dramatic! Admittedly the bugs were bad, but not THAT bad. Doug wore long sleeves and pants like he always does, so he fared all right. I kept my hankie handy for waving them away. But our best strategy was to just keep moving. We did,  so much so that, sadly, I didn’t take any photos of the early fields of wildflowers. Thank goodness there were more were to come!

We gained the ridge in an hour. Then it was into the views!

First (smoky) views of Baker

Cruising the Divide

I had forgotten how magical this place was. Immediately after gaining the ridge, Mt. Baker was right there. There was a haze of smoke, but we could still see her majesty. The mountains were visible between Baker and Shuksan (called the Lasiocarpa Ridge), but Mt. Shuksan was much more shrouded in smoke and clouds. But at least we had views. We proceeded forward enthusiastically, glad for a slight reprieve from the bugs as well as the unfolding skyline.  We agreed we’d to stop for “lunch” at 5:15, and turn around by 6:00. With the days sadly getting shorter, and a logging road to get back down, we wanted to leave ample daylight for our return. That still left us with over two hours to wander.

Shuksan, barely visible far left through clouds and haze

The magic of Skyline Divide unfolded knoll after knoll. Six of them total creating a classic ridge walk, as each knoll brought on a new set of views.  Wandering here reminded both Doug and me of the trail beyond Welcome Pass, views expanding with every step.  It was the Sound of Music phenomenon again…only this time, the trail went on and on, and didn’t end far too soon, always a drawback above Welcome Pass.

Skyline trail and hazy Baker view

Doug coming up second knoll

The Skyline Divide trail provided options. At knolls two and three, we could choose to go up and over, by staying left, or skirt around, by staying right. Because of time and our desire to go as far as we could, we chose in each instance to go right and stay low. Going high would be a great option if time was no factor. We noticed that the trails up and over always come back down, and what struck me about that was that it’s one way to manage the numbers of people that travel here. Each party could go their own way, literally, for a lunch break or excursion, and commune with the mountains in their own way. On average, over 5000 pairs of boots travel this trail a year…it’s great that the sprawl is so extensive as to allow for the feeling of solitude even when it’s crowded.

At knoll four (3.5 miles from the trailhead and at 6000 feet elevation), there was a very obvious trail going left. We both knew from experience to go right, up a less-obvious and scrappy rock trail, but I have made the mistake of following the seemingly more beaten path to the left.  That trail heads down to campsites near Deadhorse Creek (I am not sure nor do I want to consider where the name comes from…). Deadhorse Creek is in between Skyline and Cougar Divides. It would be a great camping spot to set up and star-gaze if one was backpacking here.

Break among the flowers

Fields of Lupines

Happy hiker!

Between the fifth and sixth knoll, we encountered major flowers! Blankets of lupines turned one hillside blue, fireweed turned another one purple.  Mt. Baker peaked out just a tad further on, creating picture perfection.  It was spectacular! We could tell that the smoke was dissipating a bit as we went, as the Baker views kept getting better and better. To our left, Shuksan stayed in clouds and haze, and we had basically no views off to our right, just that smoky haze. But Baker herself kept beckoning us onward!

Baker blooming out of the flowers!

Doug coming up 6th knoll

The top of the sixth knoll (4.5 miles from TH, 6563 feet) is what WTA calls the end of the trail. However, the trail goes on, and we still had over 30 minutes left to go, so Doug and I went on for another half mile or more. It’s hard to say how far we went — probably five miles total. We stopped at 5:15 as planned, and where we stopped was perfect. We ate our late lunch with Baker as the best lunch date ever, and reveled in the fact that we had only seen three other people all day, and one of those in the parking lot. What magnificence, what rewards, and all gained so easily.

Baker, Chowder Ridge, Mt. Hadley far left

Doug at lunch break

Life is good!

Multiple thoughts came to mind as we sat. I remembered going up Chowder Ridge in 2012, with a significant cut on my hand incurred the previous day from a dishes/broken glass incident. I had to hike the long way to and up the ridge with my hand in the air. That was just after becoming a massage therapist, and I thought for sure my career as such was doomed even before it started! Now, five years later, I was happily ensconced in my career as a massage therapist, and so much water had passed under the proverbial bridge. It was one of those weird deja vu’s for me. I was totally present to 2012’s hike and 2017’s hike at the same time. Oh, to have several more hours in the day, so Doug and I could continue on. But that was not to be, and I was able to simultaneously long for more and be satisfied with what was as we sat and basked in sunshine and glory.

And another thing that came to mind is just how many hikes in the area end in a front row seat to Mt. Baker. Doug and I came up with six others besides Skyline Divide: Ptarmigan Ridge, Chain Lakes Loop, Table Mountain, Heliotrope Ridge, Park Butte, and Railroad Grade. Each offers a slightly different up close and personal view.  So many hikes have Baker views, but these put you squarely in front of Baker at trail’s end. I had a sudden inspiration to do each of these hikes before season’s end, and do a blog post on that. Stay tuned!

Favorite flower of the trip…looks like some type of white Indian Paintbrush.

Same flower and daisies of course!

At 5:47 we turned around, and made it back to the car in two hours, at 7:47. Plenty of daylight left for the road. Our hiking times for the estimated five miles each way were 3.5 hours up, with plenty of stops for pics and breaks, and 2 hours down. We never felt rushed, despite the late start, and were both supremely satisfied with the day.

Know if you go…

Every hiker within a 90 mile radius should do Skyline Divide! I know, saying that increases foot traffic to an already heavily trafficked area. But it’s that magical. This was my 6th time here, Doug’s 8th. It never gets old, and I still can’t believe it had been five years since I’d been there. New magic comes each time my feet hit the path.

But be aware that summer weekends are busy, and if you can swing a weekday, do so. Flowers right now are at their prime, as are the bugs. But both come and go quickly, and conditions change. It’s been six days since our hike, and rain thankfully has arrived to clear out the smoky air. And maybe the bugs. After the rain could be a great time to go explore Skyline Divide. Take a lunch, take your time, and go as far as you like. Few trails in our area offer so much spectacular scenery less than two miles from the trailhead.

Here’s the link to WTA’s info on Skyline Divide

Next up:  Backpack trip to Yellow Astor Butte and Day Hike of Tomyhoi Peak

 

 

Feel the Reluctance and Do It Anyway!

A rough morning leads to a worthwhile experiment…

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seems a struggle from the get go, making you feel like crawling back into bed instead of getting on with the day?  I am sure you have, because we all have them. How do you manage to stay on top of yourself and your game when it seems nothing is working and difficult circumstances keep flocking around you? What are your coping strategies during those times when you can’t exactly pinpoint what’s wrong, but life feels overwhelmingly challenging? In my experience, when the chips are really down, and I am in a full on crisis, it’s easier to take the steps necessary to problem solve the immediate concern. But when I am feeling just OFF, and I can’t seem to make my life work, even though no major catastrophe is at hand, those are the hardest days. At times like that I feel like giving up, giving into past destructive habits, or just completely blowing off my responsibilities…AND the things that I know will ultimately help me to feel better about myself.

Today started out as one of those days. Nothing disastrous, but for various reasons I couldn’t seem to pull my usually positive and motivated self together. Instead of giving into it, I decided to approach my day very intentionally. I wanted to see what would happen if I openly made a commitment to myself and a handful of people (for accountability purposes) to show up in life no matter what, keep all my scheduled plans even if I didn’t feel like it, and keep an open mind about the day. I wanted to see if I could turn the tide around by going with the flow, and doing everything I intended, no matter how difficult it was.

The Contributing Factors

There were several things going on in my life that contributed to my morning feeling of depression, discouragement, and despair on this Wednesday in late February.  The day’s problems weren’t earth shaking, but health challenges and financial concerns were at the  top of my list when I awoke this morning.

Health Challenges

I had foot and ankle surgery on 12/22/16, to repair completely torn out ligaments in the ankle and improve an overcorrection of a previous Bunionectomy. I had an easy initial recovery, walking in the boot  less than four weeks after surgery and doing many ambitious hikes, including a challenging half marathon course, while still in the boot. I told everyone it was my easiest recovery yet. I even did three blog posts on exercising post op with crutches and in the boot.

Then, on my first day out of the boot and in street shoes,  I took a fall in the snow (three weeks ago). That put me back into the boot again for another week. I was so excited to get out of the boot after that setback, two weeks ago, that I immediately started walking. Not anything major, no 14 milers, but I did head to the mall for several loops my first day in street shoes, then to Lake Padden on my second day, and so on. I walked five days in a row without the boot, and each walk got progressively more difficult and painful. I tried to ignore the pain (BIG MISTAKE!), thinking it was just my foot readjusting to being out of the boot and that the aches and pains would pass.

But they didn’t. After five days, I couldn’t walk at all without severe pain and a significant limp. I knew something was up. I had a doctor’s appointment last Tuesday, at the end of the five days of regular shoe walking. The PA diagnosed me with a stress fracture in the third Metatarsal bone of my post-surgical foot — nothing directly related to the surgery, those sites were good and healed. But somehow, getting out too much, too soon, even though the walks were short, did me in. My foot was vulnerable, the bones maybe softer from non-use, and I did a number on my foot without realizing it. UGH. It fit, though, as I have had a stress fracture before. And I know they don’t heal unless you back way off, exactly what I don’t want to do.  It’s 4 – 6 MORE weeks of rest, with no walking without the boot, no swimming, no anything that will stress the foot. After the doctor’s visit, I felt defeated, discouraged and very frustrated,  states that have persisted to varying degrees over the last week.

Financial Concerns

On top of this, a trip to the bank yesterday gave me a startling reality that my finances are alarmingly tight. After so much time off work (as a massage therapist) during my various recoveries, bills mounted up. I am back to work now, but with knee replacement in November and foot/ankle surgery in December, things caught up with me, and money is tighter than I realized. I really let this get me down, feeling trapped and worrying all day that I might not be able to keep my head above water. I went to bed last night feeling down, discouraged, and stressed.  No surprise, I woke up this morning still feeling all those things. My usual strategy for lessening the intensity of concerns or frustrations, a good walk in nature, is not a good option right now for obvious reasons.  I felt the heaviness of despair all morning, and zero enthusiasm for the day  ahead. Usually I can shake it; this morning, it persisted with a vengeance.

The Plan

After texting back and forth with my sister early this morning about my mood and feelings of despair, I had to make a choice. Was I going to just give up on the day, call it a wash, or could I somehow turn it around?  There were things I could cancel in the day, but I wondered what it would be like if I did them all with intention and as best I could, despite my reluctance. After all, how many times have I said encouragingly to others, “Just show up and see what happens!” Here was a good opportunity to test this theory out myself.

The Events of the Day

The first thing on my list outside the house was a meditation group at 10:00. Thankfully, my meditation group contains kind, forgiving, and generous hearted folks. Most members have at one time or another shown up down, discouraged, worked up, frustrated, or in some other not calm and meditative state. I knew I would be OK there, and it was nice to get hugs and affirmations. I told the group of my intention for the day.

Next was an outcall massage at Semiahmoo in Blaine. I had about an hour to kill before the appointment. I hastily ate my sandwich in the car, asking myself why was I being so hasty? It’s simply habit, always eating on the go, and running from one thing to the next. I forced myself to slow down and take a breath. Since I had time, I stopped at the Co-op Bakery for a gluten-free chocolate chip cookie and hot water to make a Via instant coffee. I enjoyed both on the drive to Blaine, 30 minutes from Bellingham. I drove without speeding, relishing the fact that I was not in a hurry for once. I wanted to be in a good headspace for the massage.

Once in Blaine, I still had  time to kill, so I pulled off the road right by the water, and sat in my car taking stock. Ten years ago, I lived in Blaine, and where I pulled off was right next to beaches I would walk on in an effort to get my head straight back then. Those six months in Blaine were some of the toughest times of my adult life, and it didn’t take long to realize that, despite current challenges, things in my life today are MUCH improved from the Blaine days. This gave me a wonderful perspective, and I took a moment to text my sister about this.

The outcall massage was with a kind and charming, newly retired woman at her and her husband’s beautiful townhouse. Both were as sweet as can be, and everything about the visit was smooth and easy. I left their house at 2:30 with my mood buoyed, but not looking forward to the hours still left in the afternoon.

Late afternoon and evening are my toughest times when I am feeling down. If I was a napper, I’d go home and sleep. But I don’t nap well, and I KNEW if I went home, I would feel restless and unsettled for the entire rest of the day. I had to do something transitional to get from afternoon into evening, and the gym had been on my to do list. I knew even as I drove there that this would be the hardest part of the day. 50 times on the drive there, I considered bailing. But I steered the car to an open parking spot, where I sat outside for a good ten minutes trying to convince myself to go in. You’d think I would be happy to get a workout in, but I don’t like gyms.  I MUCH prefer being outside, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to convince myself to go. Today, I wanted to bail so badly, but I also knew I would feel better if I went, and I had said I was going to do everything I planned to, and that was on the list.

After ten minutes, I made myself open the car door, drag in my bag with clothes, headphones, stuff to shower, the works. I figured if I could at least get the right clothes on, I might get into it. And if not, at least I could say I tried. Time slowed down, as all my actions became reluctant and unwilling. But I did all the upper body weights, then all my floor exercises and stretching that my physical therapist had given me months ago. That part of the workout took over an hour.

Then came the hardest part, hauling myself upstairs to get on the stationary bike. This, the aerobic workout, is where the best possibility of a mood change would come, as endorphins, no matter how reluctantly achieved, always help to elevate my mood. And riding the bike, while I really don’t like it, is something I can do safely and without foot pain. I told myself I’d do 40 minutes, and I ended up doing 50. It wasn’t my most stellar or ambitious ride, and it took me a long while to settle into it. But I did it, and, not surprisingly, felt considerably better after. The best I’d felt all day, in fact.  I showered, dressed, and returned home by 6:15 pm. I made cookies for a friend’s birthday tomorrow, made myself dinner, and sat down to write this post. I had done the day, everything I said I would, and that felt pretty darn good.

Taking stock, again.

How did it go?  Was my experiment a success? It was, in the sense that I did everything I set out to do. It also did everything with the best attitude I could under the circumstances. I am reasonably sure, no one knew how rough of a day I was having unless I let on. Some folks, like the meditation group, I could tell them I was having a hard day. Others, like the outcall couple, I just did my thing. Still others, like at the gym, I didn’t have to talk or interact with anyone, and I could be off in my own world and trying to sort out my own thoughts. On the whole, my mood did improve, and I proved to  myself that I can successfully do life even when I don’t feel like it. It’s not that I haven’t done it before — for all of us I’m sure, there are times when we just have to put our ‘noses to the grindstone’, as my dad would say, and do it anyway. On this day, however, I had choice to a degree, I could have bailed on some things, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to give it my best shot.  And my best shot ended up being not all that bad. It felt surprisingly good to show up, be present, and know that I did the best I could.

And now, I really CAN crawl back under the covers, and tomorrow IS another day.

 

NOTE: I’d love to hear how you manage days like this. What do you do to get through when you feel like doing anything but? 

 

 

My Own Private Half Marathon

Fragrance Lake Half Marathon Route…in the Boot!

Origins of the idea

The inspiration to do this 13.1 mile hike came to me with the force of other ideas I have not been able to ignore — like hiking the John Muir Trail solo last summer, for instance. I was out on a hike on Chuckanut Ridge with my friend Michael on January 23, 2017.  I had been walking and then hiking in a post-op boot for two weeks following December 22nd’s  foot and ankle surgery. Gradually increasing both mileage and difficulty of terrain, I felt ready for the challenge of Chuckanut Ridge Trail (near Bellingham, where I live). Using poles and moving carefully,  I found I was able to successfully negotiate the steep, rocky, heavily rooted Ridge Trail, even in the boot, AND do all that for 3 hours. That got me wondering just how much I COULD do in a boot, and my curiosity and goal orientation took over.

“Michael”, I said.  “I have an idea…”

“Oh no”, he said, knowing full well that is a dangerous statement coming from me. “What is it?”

“Are you free next Monday? January 31st? I want to do the entire Fragrance Lake 1/2 Marathon course while I am still in the boot.” The actual event, I knew,  was Saturday February 11th, a day I have to work. “You’ll love the route — Two Dollar trail, Fragrance Lake, the Rock Trail, and the Chuckanut Ridge Trail. The hardest parts of it are the Rock trail and this Ridge trail. But I think I can do it.”

Two Dollar Trail

Michael, I know, is always up for an adventure and is slowly pushing his own limits of what’s possible hiking-wise, in this case distance. He laughed.  “I know that once it’s in your head, Kathie, you won’t let it go. So sure, let’s plan on it.”

It’s important to note that I have done the whole Fragrance Lake 1/2  marathon course three times before, so I know the route well.  Only once did I actually do the event itself, and that was three years ago on 2/15/14. THAT particular time I had serious demons to confront and unravel before, during, and after the course.

The Fragrance Lake Half of 2014

Inspiration for that Event

I signed up for 2014’s event rather spontaneously with my then boyfriend of three years. We were out on a hike in the Chuckanuts (a term locals use to describe both Chuckanut and adjoining Blanchard Mountain’s complex array of trail systems) in November of 2013 when, unexpectedly, multitudes of runners started passing us. We quickly discovered they were doing a marathon and half marathon on the trails we were hiking on. We continued our hike, keeping out of their way, and watching as they cruised by us in a steady stream.  As we watched the runners, some fast and some almost walking themselves, what struck us most was the variety of body types and running styles.  While many were thin, wiry, efficient running types, there were also heavier, less svelte almost awkward types too. Even though neither of us was running at the time, we were inspired by the diversity of runners, and started talking about the idea of run/walking a trail half marathon ourselves. Back at his house later that evening, we perused upcoming half’s and came upon the Fragrance Lake Half Marathon, scheduled for mid- February of the upcoming year. Motivated by the day’s events, we both signed up, with just three months to prepare.

Unexpected Challenges

Unfortunately and very unexpectedly, things in the relationship soon took a turn for the worse. In early December, my boyfriend/life partner/one who I thought was IT, started becoming increasingly distant. I didn’t understand this abrupt change, his lack of response to texts, not wanting to get together,  etc., and it drove me crazy for two weeks. Finally, in mid-December, we talked. He came to my house and said he needed time alone to work on personal issues. He did his best to explain and I did my best to listen and be compassionate and understanding. It was a painful and emotional conversation, out of which came his request for time away, and my willingness to give it to him. It wasn’t termed a break-up, at least I didn’t hear it that way. Because of my tendency to be the dominant one in relationships, he asked that let him contact me when he was ready to re-engage. I agreed, not realizing at the time what all I was leaving hanging out there in the zone of uncertainty.

I made it through the first few weeks of this with a lot of support from friends and family. I got through Christmas, the anniversary of my Dad’s death on 12/27 (an event that my partner and I shared, and was as impactful and emotional for him as it was for me), New Year’s Eve, and January 2 when we had concert tickets together. And still no word from him. As January continued along, my initial patience with his process started to turn to frustration.  I upped my exercise routine, doing long walks out on the trails and trying to sort out my feelings for and about him, without access to him to do so. I didn’t know what else to do, frankly. So I walked and hiked, even experimented with running a bit, and eventually did the whole half-marathon route, just to see if I could. It was challenging to say the least, and for unknown reasons I ended up getting extremely sick (vomiting, headache) after doing the course that first time.  I wrote a story about it…and sent it via email to my boyfriend (thinking that was an acceptable form of contact), and hoping it might open the door to communication — or at least give me an idea of whether or not he was still planning on doing the Half with me.

He did respond, but only vaguely.  He said nothing about his intentions with the half marathon. I emailed him back directly, saying that if he wasn’t going to do it, my daughter Shannon would sign up and do it with me. Shannon, then 23, and I were living together at the time, and she felt badly for me that he left so abruptly. As much as anyone, Shannon was aware of the complexity of our relationship. When no response came to the second email, I told her she was on. She signed up. Shannon’s birthday is on 2/16, the race was on 2/15, so we decided to turn it into a birthday race – celebration of me trying to run again – anti-Valentine’s Day – screw it, we don’t need men in our lives anyway event!

A Brief History of my Running Past….

A brief word here about my history of running. I started running at the age of 19, after a year of not exercising and weight gain. I ran sporadically through college and through the seven years of my first marriage and two children. Running was always there, like a comfortable and predictable old friend, but never a focus. When I divorced and remarried, I suddenly had time to run as I didn’t have to work with husband #2. We lived in Bellingham, and I ran as much as I could on the trails and roads in and around our home. I started training for a marathon, a goal I’d held in the back of my mind since college, but never really expected to achieve.  LONG story short, I trained for four marathons between 1995 and 1999, and ran zero. I got injured each and every time I would increase my mileage beyond 15 miles or so. My last marathon attempt was an Anchorage Marathon in June, 1999, with Team in Training, a fundraiser for Leukemia. I raised all the money, did the training, but ended up bailing — again — and having back surgery for a herniated disc a week before the marathon. It was a very sad day and a sad time of my life. Six months after surgery, I left my second husband for reasons far too complex to explain here. Suddenly I was on my own with two kids, chronic pain, and no ability to exercise to combat stress.

The next twelve years was an on again, off again struggle — in life and with running. During that time I had knee surgery for chronic ACL problems, a back fusion, and a neck fusion. Between recoveries, I would sometimes be able to get back into running a little bit,  but mostly I became a committed road biker, hiker, and eventually backpacker — not a runner. I totally and completely kept the runner mind-set and desire, I just didn’t have the cooperation of my body to pull it off. I accepted this, but still and always, wanted to run. So with the half-marathon coming up, and Shannon now doing it with me, I decided to give it another go. In early February, I did the course again, this time running where I could and walking the rest, and it took me 4 hours 30 minutes. The cut-off for the race itself was 4:30, and I was determined that if we did it, we would do it to count.

Race Day 2014

By race day, then, I had done the whole course twice, and had a good sense of it. Shannon (who was running some at the time, but not a lot either), agreed to let me decide when we would run and when we would walk. Some of the route is just not runnable (in my view anyway — of course, many die-hards DO run all of it), and I was experiencing calf-cramping every time I ran up hill. With 3300 feet of elevation gain and lots of uneven terrain, that would mean a lot of walking. Somehow, on race day, we arrived late to the starting line. We were running even before the race started! I was exhausted after the first flat mile and a half, and still trying to catch my breath. After that, the hills began in earnest. We evolved into a routine, running the flats and easy downhills, and walking the uphills and the challenging terrain parts of the race. We started at the back of the pack and basically never caught up.

The Rock Trail comes just before the half-way point in the race. It covers only 1.1 miles, through beautiful, fern-adorned boulders and huge rock slabs, with Bellingham Bay peeking out from the trees. But it’s steep, and has many sections of stairs, eventually topping out at the Cyrus Gates Overlook, the high point of the race. At one point on the Rock Trail, Shannon, then a grad student at Western Washington University in Environmental Science,  decided to give me a lesson in the types of trees on the trail. She pointed out Alder, Cedar, Hemlock, Maple, and various evergreen trees. Then she wanted to quiz me as we went along. I was appreciative of her efforts of distraction, but barely hanging in there. I said, with as much patience as I could muster, “Shannon, I will tell you right now, it’s all I can do to  put one foot in front of the other. I am so sorry, but I am not going to be able to recall the names of trees right now. I just have to get through this!” She laughed good-naturedly, and we completed the Rock Trail in companionable silence.

Thankfully, the one refueling stop on the route was at Cyrus Gates overlook.  Volunteers were still there in the wind and drizzle, with food and cheering, though runners had all but passed through. I’d never been last in a race before, and it was hugely encouraging when they cheered us on like we were the first! We allowed ourselves a full stop, chomping  M & M’s and whatever else we could consume quickly. Weather was coming, and we still had the Chuckanut Ridge section to go.

The ridge section, something over two miles, is up and down, rocks and roots, obstacles and uneven ground. Our goal remained to complete the race under 4:30, but uninjured. Both of us are balance challenged and prone to ankle twists, so we took the ridge slowly and carefully. It was tedious and trying. We both tried to cheer each other on, and keep frustration at bay. Neither of us liked the section and it seemed to go on forever.  There were no views, and drizzle had turned to rain.

Shannon and Kathie wet and happy at 2014 finish line

After the ridge, we still had almost five miles to go, mostly downhill. There is one last uphill section on road, then it’s all downhill on trail for the last 3.5 miles. At that point, patience tried by the stopping and starting again to run, Shannon told me she was not going to stop running until the finish line. And that if I wanted to finish with her, I would have to run too. So we did. We pulled off a somewhat convincing last few miles, finishing the race in 4 hours and 2 minutes.  We were 141st  and 142nd out of 149 finishers. The fastest time was 1 hour, 48 minutes– less than half our time. But it felt like a huge victory, and I was on a runner’s high and typically reflective as we feasted on still warm soup and other goodies. Doing the half was in win in so many ways — a statement of independence and OK-ness with being alone, an opportunity to hang with my daughter, and, yes, a mini-comeback with running. As we headed back to the car, soaked but with our bodies replenished,  I joked with Shannon that we could make this an annual event to celebrate her birthday. She said point blank “I don’t think so, Mom. Never again. You are on your own with this one if you want to do it again.”

Back to the Present

Fortunately for Shannon but unfortunately for me, I was on crutches or in a post-op boot recovering from surgery for each of the next two Fragrance Lake Half-Marathons. It wasn’t even on the radar for this year, being similarly in a boot and recovering from both full knee replacement (right) on November 14, and foot and ankle surgery (left) on December 22. It had been a challenging initial recovery phase, using the recently replaced knee to weight bear 100% following foot and ankle surgery.

But after these surgeries healing was happening very quickly, and I started getting out on the trails in the boot earlier this round than previous ones (with the doctor’s approval, of course!)

Plus, three years later, many of the demons I was fighting with in 2014 had been successfully resolved, and it seemed a good time to do the half under different circumstances and with a different set of goals.

My goals for the event were straightforward: 1. See what was possible for me post-operatively — both in a boot, and 2.5 months after knee replacement. I had done as much appropriate preparation and lead up to this adventure as possible, but it would still be a significant jump from what I’d been up to; 2. Do the half route again — under different circumstances, and with so many of the stressors of the previous time now a thing of the past (the old boyfriend and I,  after a long period of total separation and angst, have gone through a process of relationship repair that has turned into close friendship); 3. Get out on trails I love in the middle of the winter in Bellingham, despite challenges — an overcoming of obstacles to do something I love and that feeds my soul like nothing else. Period.

The 2017 Half Marathon Event!

Michael and I were at the Lost Lake Trailhead and ready to go right at 10:00 am. We are both prepared hikers, and between us we had more than enough of everything — food, water, caffeine, extra clothes, rain gear, a map, and basic first aid. Michael kindly brought a portable stool for me to elevate my foot if necessary, or if not, for one of us to sit on. The day was cool and cloudy, but with no threat of rain. We both had poles, not necessary on the first flat part of the course, but essential on the tricky parts. I have learned that poles, particularly in a stiff boot, make challenging upward mobility doable. They also provide an extra balance point on any sort of uneven ground, and are a good braking mechanism when going downhill. The only “rules” we had for our hike were: 1. Take it slow — no time schedule here, except to finish before dark; 2. Take frequent breaks — to elevate the foot for me, and to rest for both of us; 3. Get through it without injury or incident; and 4. Have fun!!

First Break at Fragrance Lake

Everything on this day went pretty much as planned. We more or less cruised the first four miles, despite the steady uphill climb on Two Dollar trail to Fragrance Lake. Here we took our first break. It was cool, and sitting chilled us right off, so we moved again quickly. As anticipated, the route got more challenging once we hit the South Lost Lake trail, a mostly uphill traverse along a ridge overlooking Bellingham Bay. Views were obscured, unfortunately, by low clouds and, the higher up we went, by mist. Eventually the trail curves around and heads the other way, in forest, to the Rock Trail. As mentioned, the Rock Trail is challenging for normal hikers, and was much harder in the boot. The stairs were particularly tough, made more so by the still recovering knee replacement on the other side.  It was slow going, one step at a time. I have never counted the stairs on Rock Trail, but there are plenty and they are steep. The coolest part of the rock trail was the mist. As we looked up, the trees were blanketed in a surreal mist, making the whole stretch, already very fairy-like with it’s ferns and mosses sprouting off rocks and trees, even more magical.

Rock Trail

Stairs on Rock Trail

Top of the hike

By Cyrus Gates, we were full on in the mist. We had no views whatsoever, except of the two picnic tables, one of which we chose for lunch. We encountered a few other hikers and one mountain biker there, also out on this cool last day of January. One gal, hiking with her tiny dog, was also a patient of  my current foot doctor and a previous knee doc, and we had a great time swapping stories of surgeries and recoveries as we ate. It was relaxing and fun, but we still had half way to go, starting off with the Chuckanut Ridge section, so we couldn’t get too lackadaisical.

Lunch Break — Michael, Kathie, the pooch, and fog!

Having just done a portion of this section in the boot, and knowing the ridge is challenging no matter what, I didn’t expect anything different. And it was really tough. Particularly difficult was navigating both the awkward left foot and the still recovering right knee, which doesn’t bend much beyond 90 degrees without pain. When doing a trail with obstacles and roots and rock slabs, it’s far preferable to have two fully functioning appendages — well four, actually if you count arms and poles. I had two — the upper two, but the lower two were definitely compromised. So it was slow progress, and we were already at the four hour mark on our journey with over half of the ridge section left to go.  We knew were setting no speed record!

I was relieved when we made it through the ridge without incident. Again, like when Shannon and I did it, the skies were cloudy, and only the vaguest view of a mountain top might appear between clouds and fog as we labored along. But, unlike 2014, we had no rain, for which I was totally grateful. And the trail was dry after a week or so of good weather leading up to our hike,  a blessing as well. I want to state for the record that I would NOT have undertaken this mission in rain or on a wet and muddy trail. It simply would have been too much.

Starting challenging section of Ridge Trail…

Navigating through…

And success!

And down to the finish!

After the ridge trail, it’s mostly downhill, and that is what is most painful about hiking in a boot. The muscles that hold your foot up are constantly working to stabilize in the boot. The boot can’t flex, but the ankle flexors can and do. The muscle fatigue was intense for the last five miles of the hike. It’s like my foot/ankle said “Ok, we got you through the tough stuff, now give us a break!!” It was easy going terrain wise, but really hard going with muscle fatigue and associated pain. We rested again just before the last 2.5 miles, down Fragrance Lake Trail and back to the car. But I was struggling with each step, and it was a mind over body experience. I knew I wasn’t hurting anything in the sense of surgical repair, but I was definitely hurting!

Last break before final descent

We made it back to the car by 5:00 pm, just as the daylight was fading for real. It took us seven hours total.  An event that put Shannon and I in nearly last place at just over 4 hours would definitely have landed Michael and I into the DNF (did not finish) category had we done the race for real. But we DID finish! And it was with a huge sense of accomplishment and relief that I took my boot off in Michael’s car, and celebrated freedom — for my foot, and from the past. Doing this route, on this day, was undoubtedly a celebration of overcoming. Similar to the last Fragrance Lake half with Shannon, it was taking a group of obstacles and a whole lot of reasons not to do something, and turning it around into an accomplishment and victory. I am proud of us for doing it! For Michael, it was his longest hike to date, and for me, it was one of the most challenging in it’s tedium.  But all of that just made the victory that much sweeter! Who needs chocolates on Valentine’s Day after that!

Boot’s a little worse for wear

 

NOTES: There is still time to sign up for the Fragrance Lake Half Marathon on 2/11/17. Click HERE for more information.

Also, for more information on hiking in the Chuckanut Mountains, click HERE.

 

 

 

 

Post John Muir Trail — Last Day — Virginia Lakes Day Hike

Virginia Lakes Day Hike, onto the Reno Airport, then back to Bellingham

Miles hiked — Approximately 9

This is it, there is no way around it. At the end of this day, I will be on a plane flying home to Bellingham and my JMT adventure will be over. I am sad to know this when I wake up on this last day in Bishop, but I’m ready to face it. Ready for one more day of adventure and hiking, and ready to return home and back to “normal life”….whatever that means at this point.

I make another egg scramble for breakfast, just like the previous day. Today over breakfast, I pick up Dave’s Book,  The Sierra High Route: Traversing Timberline Country, by Steve Roper.  It’s the same route the guy from the rental car place was talking about, and the same route that I encountered backpackers doing when they would drop down from the high route to the JMT. The route is about the same distance  as JMT, 195 miles, but at higher elevation and mostly off trail, and with many more passes to cross, lakes to encounter, and much, much more seclusion.  It’s an intriguing idea, doing this route, and the idea again enters my mind for future consideration.

But for this day, I will pack up my stuff, and head up Highway 395 North towards Reno. I have one stop planned along the way. Just past Lee Vining is a turn off to the Virginia Lakes Road, and there I will go to find my last day hike in the California Sierras. I know nothing of Virginia Lakes except how to get there, and I have no real agenda except to hike for as long as seems reasonable before I have to turn around to get to the airport in time for my 7 pm flight.  It’s an easy and straightforward adventure.

After goodbyes and heart felt thank you’s to Dave and Michelle, I am on my way by 8 am. I stop at the corner market for fresh fruit, and I hop back in the Prius rental. I am liking the car, and the gas gauge hasn’t moved despite yesterday’s trip to Bishop Pass! It’s under two hours to the trailhead, and, even with all my putzing around, I am on the trail by 10:15. The trailhead is just under 10,000 feet, and the day is mostly clear, but cool and windy.  It’s a day for extra clothes, headphones and an audiobook, lunch, and more great scenery.

Beautiful vivid sunset at Big Virginia Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada. California, USA

Beautiful vivid reflection at Big Virginia Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada. California, USA.

The trail is advertised as popular and crowded, but there is hardly anyone there on this late August weekday. It starts at Big Virginia Lake, with Little Virginia Lake just beyond. The trail is easy and straightforward, passing five lakes in a mile and a half. The others are Trumbull, Red, and Blue Lakes. I am not sure what the colors mean. I pass a few folks, but not many. The colors of the surrounding hills and peaks are fantastic, reminding me of the North Cascades in early Autumn. Views open up as I go. It’s another great day hike, and I am super happy to be here.

View from Burro Pass

Looking down into Green Creek Basin

Eventually the trail crosses between Frog Lakes and steepens to ascend Burro Pass. The pass is 11,120 feet and a pretty typical pass — barren, dry, semi-steep switchbacks over loose rock and boulders. I will miss these California Sierra Passes, and it makes me sad to be doing my last one. Everything about this day has a “last” attached to it — last day hike, last pass, last stream to cross, last lake to traverse, last peaks in the distance to gaze at. I try to appreciate all of this and not let the “lastness” get to me.

On the other side of Burro Pass, the trail drops back down. I am in the Hoover wilderness headed for Hoover Lake. I wonder if a vacuum cleaner aficionado discovered the area…? Regardless, it’s beautiful, and I follow the path down into Green Creek Basin for about a mile and a half. I don’t know exactly where I am going, but run into a couple with a dog coming up. I ask them what’s ahead, and they tell me the trail will split to head up to Summit Lake, or drop down to Hoover and another Lake. I wish I could keep going. I want to do Summit Lake. But I know I have to catch a plane, and I don’t want to risk being rushed. I think on another backpack trip where we did “one last hike” and very nearly missed the plane, and another that was so incredibly stressful getting to the airport that I couldn’t even sit with my hiking partner on the plane. Such stress is definitely NOT what I need or want on this day.

Looking down to Hoover Lake

So I stop on the steep switchbacks, find a large rock to sit on, and eat my leftover chicken (cold, from last night’s dinner), fruit, and an energy bar. It’s another last…my last lunch on the trail. I want to make all this last forever, and I try my best to burn the image of Hoover Lake and Green Basin into my head and heart. While it’s not as mystically magical as some other spots I have recently been, I know it is the last such view for awhile. I stay 20 minutes and take it all in.

Reluctant but  resigned , I turn around and head back. I keep telling myself to relax, this isn’t the end of my hiking career.  It IS, unfortunately,  the end of a fun, successful, and hugely meaningful trip. The mile plus back up the pass flies by, and it’s all downhill from there. Back to the car, step by step, analyzing each rock and foot placement, being extra careful that I don’t turn an ankle or have a slip or fall so close to the end. I am amazed that I have done this whole trip, all 250 plus miles in total, with no real physical mishaps. I want to get back to the car unscathed and whole, both physically and mentally.

There are more cars at the trailhead when I return, and it’s still wickedly windy. I want to organize everything for airport readiness, so when I drop off my car it will be a simple process. Everything I put outside the car to organize inside either blows over or blows away. I find myself chasing empty water bottles and even clothing that flies away with each wind gust. It’s humorous, my determination to do it all here. Change clothes, get everything packed back up. But I would much rather do it here in the wind than in the chaos and finality of the rental car lot. It’s another way to prolong my stay in the beauty of the mountains for as long as possible.

Finally I am dressed in the only airline clothes I have (a lightweight skirt that I carried all the way on the JMT so that I would have something to wear besides my preferred hiking shorts, which are running shorts that are too short for comfort in real life!) And I have clean upper layers thanks to Dave’s washing machine,  so I feel moderately put together and ready for the trip home.  It’s about 2.5 hours of driving to the airport, and I will be one step closer to of the end of my journey.

My previous audiobook conveniently finished at trails end, so I start John Grisham’s “Gray Mountain” for my drive to the airport. It’s fitting in that it’s about a young corporate lawyer who ends up trying to find herself and make a difference deep in Appalachia. I can relate, as I sometimes feel like the mountains are my home and I have to struggle to fit in back in my real life. It’s the opposite problem she has, but it helps me put into perspective that who and how we are in our environment is a matter of choice. Always. And while the mountains has been my environment for weeks, I must make the adjustment now to my other life back at home.

Everything goes smoothly at the rental car place and I arrive at the airport in plenty of time. A totally lame salad from some coffee shop serves as dinner. It actually makes me miss my backpacker meals! I have a layover in Portland, and my plane won’t arrive in Bellingham until 10:50. Thankfully, my daughter Shannon has agreed to pick me up so it’s an easy ending. I survive both flights, and Shannon is there to meet me curb side after I’ve claimed my bag. It’s great to see her, and I give her a big hug…even though she doesn’t much like hugs. It’s cold outside, and Shannon tells me summer has abruptly disappeared in the last day or so. Back to 50 degrees and cloudy, and I know I am really back on my home soil now.

My welcoming committee: Sapphire (left) and Indigo (Indie)

Shannon has driven my car to pick me up, so I only have to drop her off and then it’s 20 minutes back to my house. The place is dark and quiet when I arrive just before midnight. The welcoming committee is my cats, who have been without me for almost a month. Thankfully they remember me, and seem moderately excited to see me. It’s weird to be back, and I remember similarly how weird it was to be back from JMT 1. I assure myself that I will readjust, and that all will be well in time. It’s nice to stand in front of my own sink, look at my deeply tanned and newly washed face, and welcome myself home! I am proud of my accomplishment, and tell my reflection just that before heading for bed. As I climb in to my blessedly queen size bed, I realize that it’s an anticlimactic and fittingly simple end to this whole adventure. I am safely home in bed after my fantastic event, and, somehow I know, life will go on.

Highlights of the Day

The last hike to Virginia Lakes

Virginia Lakes Trail

I could have just driven straight to the airport and hung out in Reno, or any of a number of other options for this last day. But I did what fit ME the most, and that was to take a hike. I am not a gambler, never have even been to Vegas except to fly in and out of. And the idea of crowds and people overwhelms me. So I chose wilderness, high elevation lakes and peaks, and as much solitude as I could get on the last day. I could have saved myself $100 bucks by taking the bus to the airport, which is what we did on JMT 1. But six hours on a bus and missing out on a hike just wasn’t going to work for me. I am grateful to Dave for the suggestion of Virginia Lakes, and grateful to the trail for being so close to the highway! It made for a fantastic diversion as I wrestled with my thoughts about coming home, and gave me something tangible to hang onto for my last day in the Sierras.

Coming home…

Paradoxically, the other highlight of the day was getting home. It was great to walk in my door, see that the cats were still alive and thriving, dump all my backpack stuff on the floor, and sleep in my own bed. In theory, I could stay on the trails forever. In actuality, it was a relief to be back to the comforts of my own living space.

Lessons of the Day

All good things must come to an end…

It had to happen, and it happened with ease. My JMT trip ended as it started — with everything falling into place. I am not sure why everything went so smoothly for me on this trip. Sure there were a few glitches, but all in all, things fell remarkably into place. I felt blessed and watched over each and every step of the way. I don’t mean that in a religious sense, but definitely in a spiritual way: I knew I was intended to do this trip. And even though I was alone for much of it, I never felt lonely. I always had the sense that I was just where I needed to be, and knew that things would work out. And they did. Going to bed on the last night, I similarly knew I would be OK with moving ahead.

Or do they?

All that day and in the days following, I kept thinking about how I would share my trip with others. I came up with this plan, a day by day recounting which you have just finished reading. And the next step of sharing my trip is already in progress. I am currently taking a 9 month writing class, with the trip as the basis of an upcoming memoir. So while I will leave the JMT for awhile in my blogs to come, inevitably, I will circle back. Stay tuned for more information on the book as it develops. And I will keep you abreast of plans for my next big trip…maybe the High Sierra Route, back in the Sierras which I have come to love so much, and now call my second home.

In some ways, the journey has just begun!

 

 

 

 

Day 18 John Muir Trail

Lake South America Junction to Arctic Lake

Total JMT miles — 11.8        Elevation gain/loss  —  2070+/1410-

I awake early this morning, hours before daylight, with a keen awareness that the end of my Great Journey is inconceivably near. This time tomorrow, I will be headed up to the summit of Mt. Whitney, the “official”  end of the John Muir Trail.  While the trail officially ends on the summit, you still have to hike out the ten miles to the Whitney Portal and back to civilization. Nonetheless, tomorrow I will be done with the official trail, and the next day I will hike out of the Sierras for the completion of my trip. I lie awake in the early morning darkness considering how I want this day to look. I feel reflective, contemplative, and aware of the slightest beginnings of sadness. I make a pledge to myself before I leave the warmth of my tent to enjoy and embrace each and every minute of this last full day on the JMT proper, whatever may come to pass.

Again it’s cold at the campsite, and I struggle mightily to get myself packed up without freezing. Thankfully, I have hand warmers for each of my last two super-cold mornings, and I enjoy the small amount of warmth they exude inside my gloves. I do all my morning tasks while deep in thought, and I want to slow down time so that the day never ends. It’s an easy day in miles, just under 12, to hike above Guitar Look, to the outlet of Arctic Lake, guarded carefully by Mt. Whitney herself. There is nothing particularly challenging about the day, except my reluctance to start it. I know that once it starts, it’s conclusion is the inevitable outcome. But eventually cold and the need to move forces me to turn it on, and I get packed up and move out.

Craggy trees to start my day

Craggy trees to start my day

First up is a bit of forest, and I move quickly to warm up. I am grateful that there is some elevation gain here to get the blood flowing. Soon the trail opens up, and I emerge onto a flat barren of sand. The views are vast and open, and I can see peaks in all directions. The trail crests at what’s called Bighorn Plateau, a place named after a long ago sighting of sheep off to the east.  My book says it’s uncommon to actually see sheep here, but coyotes and soaring birds of prey are commonly sighted. It’s a pretty magical place on the whole. Last year we took off from Bighorn for a quick jaunt up Tawny Point for a full panorama; I consider that side trip briefly, but after the previous days challenges on the Lake South America Trail, I decide I don’t feel like going off-trail. But the views are fantastic, and I take lots of pictures.

Kern Ridge from Bighorn Plateau

Kern Ridge from Bighorn Plateau

trailthrubighorn

Unnamed lake and Kern Ridge

Unnamed lake and Kern Ridge

Mt.Hale (foreground), Mt. Whitney (back, right), Mt. Russell (back, left)

Mt.Hale (foreground), Mt. Whitney (back, right), Mt. Russell (back, left)

Kaweahs from Bighorn Plateau

Kaweahs from Bighorn Plateau

Leaving Bighorn Plateau, I drop into the Wright Creek drainage. It’s a minor elevation drop with multiple stream crossings adding to the magical surroundings. I am once again walking in a wonderland of meadows and creeks, surrounded by peaks, and I feel blessed and lucky with each step. I am really enjoying myself, and feel as if I am walking on air in spite of the weight of my backpack. The trail goes up and down repeatedly. None of it is difficult. Soon I come to the place where the JMT and PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) split for good. Prior to this, the JMT largely follows the much longer PCT, but at 202 miles in,  I head east toward the summit of Whitney to finish off the JMT, and the PCT heads south towards the Mexican border. Briefly, I wish I was on the PCT just so my journey wouldn’t be so close to an end. I let myself entertain for a moment the idea of doing such an adventure in the future. Realistically, I know I won’t, as 2650 miles is just too much,  and I have no desire or inclination to be out on the trail for five months in a row! But it’s fun to day dream on this already dreamy day, and I let my thoughts wander along with my feet.

In no time I am at the junction to Crabtree Meadow. The JMT actually bypasses this gem, by you can enjoy it if you head a mere two tenths of a mile south. Crabtree Meadow, just 3 miles from where I will camp and 7.5 miles from the summit of Whitney, has ample camping, food storage boxes, a ranger station, and even a sit down toilet! It also has a lovely creek that runs through it, Crabtree Creek,  and a great potential lunch spot that I discovered last year when I left the trail to find water. All morning I have looked forward to having a long lunch in this meadow by the creek, and I am ecstatic to actually be here.

I immediately pull off my boots, socks, and get down to as few clothes as I can — jog bra and shorts. I plan for some serious sunbathing and relaxing. It’s only noon, and I have nothing else to do this afternoon but complete the three miles to Arctic Lake outlet. I figure I deserve a good long break. I eat slowly, taking in the views. No one else is around, which amazes me. After I eat I lie back and let the warm sun sink right into my weary body. I wonder if it is a mistake to get so relaxed mid day with a handful of miles still to cover. But I can’t help it. I am in heaven. It’s far and away the most relaxed I have been on this trip. The time with Dave, Oliver, and Olivia, (Day 10) when we spent much of the day in camp, I was relaxed, but it was just cold enough that I had a hard time totally letting go. Here, the sun at 10,700 feet feels fantastic, and I seriously don’t want to move. I consider just camping here for the night.

Crabtree Meadow and Creek, Mt. Hitchcock behind.

Crabtree Meadow and Creek, Mt. Hitchcock behind.

Instead, I pull out my journal and write, to capture the essence of where I am. Here is what rolls off the pen:  “Midday at Crabtree Meadow — So peaceful, sunbathing, eating lunch, boots off, and I could not be happier. I am liking this day because it is SO relaxing, I can barely stand it! When I think of what I could possibly feel stress about right now, there’s nothing. I have a great lunch spot, I am alone in the meadow by this lovely creek, with just a little farther to go today and ample time to get there. The weather looks good, and all seems to be totally in line for a relatively relaxing and easy summit tomorrow. I have enjoyed this trip beyond belief. I have gotten so comfortable with myself in all ways out here. I have seen bobcats, a coyote, deer, marmots, and tons of small critters. I have blessedly not seen a bear! I am absolutely loving this trip so far, and I wouldn’t want to change a thing. I am completely in sync in all areas of my life right now. There is simply no other place I would rather be than just where I am.”

It’s hard to top that, and it’s hard to leave. But I want that coveted spot up above Guitar Lake (most people camp at the lake the night before summiting Whitney). Last year Gregg and I made the extra half mile push up above the lake, and the views down to the lake were spectacular, as well as the fact that we were well away from all people. Since I am still seeking solitude, I push on from Crabtree after a fantastic two hour break.

Mt. Muir from trail leaving Crabtree

Mt. Muir from trail leaving Crabtree

Timberline Lake

Timberline Lake

West side of Mt. Whitney

West side of Mt. Whitney

headinguptoguitar

Whitney's getting closer!

Whitney’s getting closer!

Look closely and you can see the helicopter...

Look closely and you can see the helicopter…

Some clouds come in, and the air is noticeably chillier. I am aimed straight at Whitney as I hike, and I have a sense of my destiny emblazoned in my soul. I know how it all ends. I am starting to become more okay with things ending, and in particular I am ready to be done for the day. My legs are feeling especially fatigued, as if they know the end of their responsibility on this trip is drawing near. I tell them to hang in, we are almost done! Thankfully, the miles pass quickly, as I head past Timberline Lake and on towards Guitar. Between these lakes, I first notice helicopter activity. I start paying attention, assuming it is some type of a mountain rescue. Last summer, I had a front row seat to a helicopter rescue of a dead body in the Enchantments, outside of Leavenworth, WA (see Day 2 Enchantments). I am instantly taken back there. I hope it’s not a dead body, or any body for that matter, that they are currently rescuing. But the helicopter keeps on circling and circling. I don’t like that the noise breaks up the quiet, and I don’t like what the helicopter may represent. This stays on my mind, the first time I have let worry creep into my head all day. I try my best to let it go, as I ascend the last bit up to Guitar Lake.

When I arrive at Guitar, friends from Day 13‘s rainstorm, Ginnie and Tracy, call a hearty “Hey Kathie!!” I feel like a celebrity! Their group has grown, to about eight in all, and I immediately drop my pack for a quick hug and hello. These are the gals that set up tent so closely in the rain, then we hiked more or less together until Mather Pass on Day 14. I lost track of them after that, and I am really glad to see them.  I ask them about the helicopter. “Just training sessions,” they assure me. “They have been at it all afternoon!” I am relieved about that. I ask them their plans for the morning. They expect to leave to summit by 5 am. I tell them I am headed up to camp at Arctic Lake outlet, and don’t expect to be on the trail quite that early, but that inevitably we will run into each other on the summit. This makes me super happy, as I have lost track for good of my former comrades Ashley, Rob, and Marcus, and I would love to at least be on the summit with some folks I feel like I know well enough to celebrate with.

I do the last distance to Arctic Lake outlet on a high. There is no sad mountain rescue at hand, I have encountered friends I will see on the summit tomorrow, and I will be at camp and set up in plenty of time to enjoy the sunset over Guitar Lake.  I am in for a surprise, though, as, where last year there were just two other campers up above Guitar, this year, there is a throng. At least 20 backpackers are there, evenly spread out over the meager camping spots available. I am determined not to let this discourage me, and I set about trying to find a perfect spot for myself. I wander amongst the open slabs of rock, with their shelves on which one can barely fit a tent, and look for a spot away from the others. Eventually, I find one, and it’s actually pretty perfect. It has a ledge up above the flat rock below, which makes a built in table for me to spread my stuff out. It even has a seat off to the side of my tent slab, for writing and reading. It’s all rocky and exposed, and I know it will be cold, but it looks down over Guitar Lake, and it’s away enough from others that I don’t feel like I am right in anyone’s back yard. It’s more than good enough, and I happily begin making myself at home for the night.

Guitar Lake from my campsite

Guitar Lake from my campsite

The evening passes slowly, after an early dinner. I still have hours before darkness, and I finish a book and then do some more writing. Finally, I can’t think of any reason not to, and so I get into the tent even before the sun goes down. I think maybe I will get that early start in the morning after all, depending on what time I wake up and get moving.

Highlights of the Day

Hanging out in Crabtree Meadow

I am not sure why it took me until Day 18 to achieve complete relaxation on the trip. But for my time at the meadow, I was there. Surprisingly, I only saw a few other people the entire time, and mostly, it was just me by the creek, enjoying the peaceful sounds of water dancing as I rested, ate, and wrote. Perhaps it was my intentionality to enjoy the day that created in me such a sense of peace. Perhaps it was that I was so close to the end of my trip that there was just plain not much left to worry about. Perhaps it was that my body finally said, “Hey! We deserve a break here!”, and I listened. But for whatever reason, that time in the meadow was not only a highlight of my day, but also of the entire trip.

Campsite at Arctic Lake outlet

My campsite at Arctic Lake outlet

My campsite at Arctic Lake outlet

For whatever reason, my sense of being relaxed and accepting of everything continued into the evening and my time above Guitar Lake. I was just plain not stressed out.  About anything. I kept thinking there must be something I should worry about, at least I could get nervous about summiting in the morning. But even that didn’t do it for me. I just felt calm, cool, and collected, and very at peace in my environment. Like I fully belonged there and was one with my surroundings.

Lessons of the Day

When the pieces fall into place, it simply feels great.

I came on the trip to relax into being by myself in the magnificent beauty of a somewhat extreme mountain environment. I wanted to feel peaceful and calm and a part of that world. I wanted to be comfortable and at ease with myself and my natural companions of weather, animals, lakes, creeks, and stark mountain peaks surrounding me on all sides. I wanted to feel at home here. I finally got that in spades on Day 18. I was finally and completely at peace. Everything about the day was just like magic. I HAD fully and completely embraced all parts of the day, and it felt just great.

The realization that I was going to make it finally set in.

This wasn’t so much of a lesson as a realization. As I write and reflect back on this day, the magic largely had to do with knowing I was going to make it.  I knew it with a certainty that was as complete as my peace — I was going to complete my solo trip of the John Muir Trail. I let the magnitude and emotion of that really started to sink in on this day. Nothing stood between me and the end.

 

 

 

 

 

Day 13 John Muir Trail

“Split Lake” (Lake 11,595) to Main South Fork Kings Crossing

Total JMT Miles — 4       Side trip miles — 1     Elevation gain/loss — +200/-1670

Morning at 'Split Lake" campsite

Morning at ‘Split Lake” campsite

Day 13 started innocently enough. I awoke after a wet and cold night at my lake of solitude. It was not raining at first light, for which I was grateful. I gave myself a hearty pat on the back for having survived my first night of rain on the JMT, and I felt good and optimistic about the day to come. The day’s goals were simple:  Dry out my gear from the previous day, and get in some JMT miles. I hoped to catch back up to my hiking friends, Ashley, Rob, and Marcus. I knew they had camped at Marjorie Lake, six miles away, the previous night, and I wanted to bridge the distance with a long day. I didn’t have a destination in mind for the night, but I was physically and psychologically prepared for a day of miles. I could see the sun attempting to peek out of the heavy cloud over, and I earnestly believed that the rain was gone, and that blue skies would return with conviction. So I lingered in camp to see if I could reap some benefit from the sun’s natural ability to dry things out.

S. Fork Kings River, with (left to right) Striped Mt., Mt. Ickes and Crater Mt. Note the skies are blue here!

Mt. Ruskin

Mt. Ruskin

But as the morning progressed, and the cloud cover persisted, I gave up my hope of sun-dried gear. I packed up my wet tent, clothes and sleeping bag and moved out. I left Split Lake and was back on the JMT by 9:00 am. My mood has lightened despite the clouds, and I was glad to be back on the solid footing of the JMT.  The going was easy, the views were good, and I removed layers of clothing as I cruised along. Soon I was down to shorts and a tank top, admittedly trying to draw back the sunshine with my light hiking attire. I sat pleasantly enough by a stream for my 10:00 am snack, and began to relax into the day.

S. Fork Kings, Mt. Ickes, and clouds!

S. Fork Kings, Mt. Ickes, and clouds!

Soon thereafter, the trail entered forest, and my views became obscured by trees. Again I crossed the South Fork of the Kings River, and continued dropping gradually for another mile and 700 feet. I could FEEL that the clouds were getting heavier, and I kept looking up, willing lighter skies to come back.  I had to stop and put on another layer, as clearly my approach of “dressing for” was not going to bring back the sun. Right on cue, I started to feel the first rain drops. “Only a light shower”, I assured myself. It was only 11:00 am, I had only travelled four miles, and I wasn’t ready to stop by any means. But within minutes, literally, and just as I reached the lowest point of the day elevation wise,  the skies opened up and rain began to dump. Accompanied by thunder and lightning, it was sudden, extreme, and a bit scary. I was rather unexpectedly in for a full on mountain thunderstorm!

I decided to stop right there and wait out the storm. I pulled out my rain jacket, and a hefty garbage bag for my pack. I experienced instant regret about NOT purchasing an actual rain cover for my backpack, which protects that pack while leaving the straps free, and would have let me keep hiking.  At the time, I didn’t want to add the extra expense to an already costly adventure and I assumed, as I could now see naively, that I would not need a pack cover, since on the previous year’s JMT hike we had experienced virtually no rain.

So I sat under a big tree, pack covered, still in shorts, but top half dry in my Gore Tex jacket and waited, watched, and listened. It was frankly eerie, as the sky crackled with lightning and boomed with thunder, one right on the heels of the next. I felt good about my location, trying to remember where you were NOT supposed to be in a thunderstorm — on a pass, in an open area with few trees, near a vertical wall, or in a cave. It seemed OK to be seated under a large tree that was one of many.

I told myself I would sit there until noon, see what the weather was up to, then make a decision to set up camp or move on. I was hopeful the weather would break, but it showed no signs of doing so. Eventually, a hiker came up, and I was ecstatic, both to see a person and that it was Emily, a young gal hiking solo who I had not seen since Donahue Pass on Day 3. I thought perhaps she had quit her JMT endeavor since I hadn’t seen her for ten days, and so was doubly glad to see her. She asked if she could sit under the tree with me, and I warmly welcomed her company for the storm vigil. We sat and talked of our trail adventures to date and those to come. She planned to go up to Bench Lake for the night, another few miles up and off the JMT. I told her I had day hiked there the previous year and that it was lovely. Of course, when we were there it was warm and sunny, not a full on thunderstorm. After we sat and talked for a half hour, it was clear no let up was in sight, and Emily decided to move on, committed to her mileage goal.  Reluctantly, I stayed behind to set up camp. With a backpack cover,  I might have joined her, but I was reluctant to get any wetter than I and my gear already were.

The campsite I was in was large, and rivulets of water were starting to form all around the flat areas. I chose what looked to be the driest spot, and set up my tent. I was efficient despite the cold, wet rain, this now being my second time in two days of setting up my tent in the rain. I was in the tent and warming up by 1:00 pm, and ate lunch inside.  I wondered if the smell of food in the tent would be a bear draw, but honestly, I was beyond caring at that point. I was relieved to be under cover and out of the rain.

Once the setup and lunch tasks were done, however, my good mood quickly evaporated.  I felt discouragement and then depression descend and wrap around me with a dampness on par with the conditions outside. I was angry at the rain for thwarting my plans. I had only gone four miles!  I tried to embrace this as another rest day opportunity.  I lay down with my book to read. I tried to sleep. My thoughts were racing, though, as I dwelled on the fact that now I was really “behind schedule” to meet up with Dave again in two more days for the second ten-day food drop. My brain knew I still had time to do the miles, but I found myself obsessing anyway. While I knew intellectually I’d made the right choice in stopping, I still felt distressed and angry about being stuck in the tent when I would rather be hiking. I tried to just chill out and accept my fate, and rest and relax. Finally, I was able to doze a bit.

Suddenly, I was rudely awakened by a mass of hikers entering my personal campground. I could hear voices, many of them, and they were discussing where to pitch their tents right there in the exact same spot I was in. It was a large spot, but there were also other campsites nearby, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why they would want to camp right there almost on top of me. I could hear four tents going up, which meant at least eight people, and they had me surrounded! I was really irked, and lay in my tent fuming and writing. It reminded me of Red’s Meadow on Day 5, when all the late backpackers came in and set up camp in the already over crowded backpacker camp right at dark. I was extremely puzzled, again, by why people would want to be so close…to each other, and to someone they didn’t even know. I let out all my frustrations through the pen, then forced myself to try to see it from their perspective. It was 3 pm, which meant they had been hiking in the rain for hours and were probably soaked. They probably saw my tent and a site that seemed doable, and just decided to stop. I tried to be forgiving and gracious. I told myself I would not get out of my tent until I could be kind and courteous.

I stayed in the tent until 4:30, when the rain finally started to let up. I cautiously poked my head out, and the woman who had set up the closest to me was right there in her tent with the fly open. Literally, I crawled out of my tent and hers was less than a foot away.  I recognized her as Ginnie from Red’s Meadow, the labor and delivery nurse who I had really liked. Her tent mate was Tracy. They apologized for their super close proximity, and I told them no worries. I was still irritated, but I was relieved they were at least people I had previously met and liked. The other surrounding tents’ occupants were inside, and I chatted for a few minutes with Ginnie about their day and how they had ended up there.  I wandered a bit to find a place to pee, then came back and decided to make an early dinner since I was up and out of the tent anyway.  The rain was down to a drizzle, and the thunder and lightning had stopped. I foraged through my pack, thankfully dry from the garbage bag, and found stove, food, and water to make my simple dinner. Ginnie joined me, and we cooked our dinners side by side on the one flat rock in our deluged camp site.

After dinner, I decided to go on a walk. I had been sitting or lying for over six hours, about my max for non-movement. I started on the JMT in the direction I would head in the morning, just to move and see what I was facing. Since it was the low point of elevation where we were all camped, I knew it would be uphill. I hiked for about 45 minutes, up switchbacks that I vaguely remembered from the previous year. It was nice to move, and the hiking warmed me up and brought blood back circulating into my muscles. It was still a dark and gloomy day, and I was still discouraged about losing a day’s hiking and the continued rain and wet, BUT I also felt my mood revive, as always, after a good walk. I returned to my tent, and people were in theirs so I didn’t have to make conversation. I got ready for bed, still accompanied by persistent drizzle, and was back in the tent by 7:00. I wrote some more, and read until darkness. I was frankly relieved that the day was done and that I had regained my sanity despite my frustrations.

Highlights of the day

Getting through it without being bitchy!

I have a tendency to want and need to withdraw into myself when I am frustrated, angry, or depressed. I was prepared to do that on this day when the rain came — be alone, and just tough it out. Then people came in, and I had to be a bit social, or else seem completely rude. I was able to strike a balance with that, being mostly alone with my disparaging thoughts,  but also somewhat interactive.  Especially with Ginnie, who I did really like. As we cooked our dinner together, we chatted and I learned more about her and how she ended up on the JMT. It helped tremendously to have this time with her to get out of my self-imposed pity party.

Getting out on a walk!

I have said it a thousand times before and I know it to be true…after periods of inactivity, whether sleep, a long car ride, or hours spent cooped up in a tent, movement is the ticket for me to feel “normal”. Just moving my body, and getting blood flow to stagnant muscles, and being out in nature, even if it was rainy and wet, did wonders to lift my damp mood. I cannot say enough about how this small endeavor shifted my perspective from one of despair to gradual acceptance of my reality.

Lesson of the day

Frustration with lack of control exists in nature as well as in civilization.

It’s a simple but true statement…I take myself and my tendencies wherever I go. I could see it with the Llamas a few days prior, and I could see it here. I don’t like it when I have a plan and something gets in the way. Until this day, my plans for the days activities and miles got met, despite inevitable obstacles.  But the conditions on this day were too much. I felt an immense amount of irritation about something I could not control. Out in the wilderness, I realized, is just a microcosm of the bigger picture of life. I let myself dwell and obsess on the weather holding me back, just as I let myself worry needlessly and endlessly about things in my day to day “normal” life that I can’t control. I struggle with acceptance of the things that get in the way of my carefully laid plans. I was reminded on this day of the AA serenity prayer: To accept the things I cannot change (the weather), to have the courage to change the things I can (my attitude) and the wisdom to know the difference (embrace instead of fight the reality).

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1 John Muir Trail

Yosemite Valley (Happy Isles) to Sunrise Camp

Total JMT miles — 13.2        Elevation gain/loss — +6405 feet/-1265 feet

I left the Yosemite backpacker camp at 8:00 am on August 10 for the long trek up and out of the Valley floor. My pack was heavy (57 pounds), but my mood was great as I walked the mile from camp to Happy Isles, the official beginning of the John Muir Trail. I chatted amiably with a father/son duo from Cleveland who were headed to Crater Lake, from where I had just come. The son planned to do the Crater Lake Marathon, and the father was his support. They were vacationing in and around California and Oregon, and loving every minute of it. I was struck by how everyone is up to something in Yosemite, and amid the throngs of tourists you can always find a good story. I was sad to see them head to their car as I continued to Happy Isles.

Official start of the JMT

Official start of the JMT

I used a “real” bathroom one last time, and had a tourist snap a photo of me at the trailhead. I was on my way! I knew from last year that the trail starts out paved, and steep. I also knew the day would require an immense amount of elevation gain if I went to Sunrise camp, which was my intention. Last year, my hiking partner Gregg and I camped part way up and did a late afternoon ascent of Half Dome. This year, I had no permit or plans for Half Dome, and my intentions were to reach Sunrise Camp, and do it in a fashion that was less taxing than last year.  Despite camping only 6.5 miles from the start last year, that first day really did me in. For whatever reason, the steepness of the trail and the high steps required nearly defeated me last year on the very first day. This year, I was determined not to let that happen again.

I had plans for a three-prong approach to preventing last year’s extremely tough first day.  1. Hike with poles. For various reasons, last year I started without poles, and the trail was murder on my knees and hips as a result. So the poles were out from the beginning this time around;  2. Avoid the Mist Trail. While shorter and spectacular as it “mists” you from the spray of Vernal Falls,  it is also much steeper, and bypasses the

Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

Clark Point Junction...with Half Dome, Mt. Broderick, and Liberty Cap

Clark Point Junction…with Half Dome, Mt. Broderick, and Liberty Cap

real JMT route. We mistakenly did that last year, and I paid a dear price. This year I stayed on the JMT proper, ending up at the top of Nevada Falls, and seeing Vernal Falls only from a distance;  3. Expect that it will be difficult, and take it slow and steady. This approach served me well, and having the expectation of difficulty made all the difference in the world.  I kept a steady but reasonable pace for the 3.5 miles up to Nevada Falls, and arrived at 10:15 am, just in time for a well-deserved drink, snack, and photos.

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls

Nevada Falls

The next phase of the route was more gradually up, and felt very familiar. I took it slow and steady, up to the Half Dome Junction. I lunched there, and reflected that soon I would be in new backpacking territory for my first day out. My hips were starting to ache from the weight of the pack and the continuous elevation gain. But I was making good time, and knew I just had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I passed the junction to Cloud’s Rest, where we had camped last year,  and felt briefly saddened not to be taking that side trip. Of all of last year’s side trips, Cloud’s Rest remained one of my favorites. But this year, I walked on by, my destination still 6.7 miles away. While I was nearly half way there,  the toughest part was yet to come.

After several more tedious miles through a burned-out zone, Sunrise Mountain loomed ahead. I remembered it last year as a series of hot, dry, and steep switchbacks.  I also remembered it as tedious and miserable. I stopped to tape a developing hot spot on my right foot before I started up in earnest. I could feel a blister coming, and I wanted to be proactive, especially on day one.  I ate and drank. I continued to the switchbacks, as the cloudless day grew warmer. When I finally crossed the creek one last time and started up, my headspace got weird. I felt disassociated from my brain, like I was traveling in a fog. When I passed the rare person coming down, I made sure I was coherent. I think it was a combination of the heat, the intensity of the hike and day, and fatigue. I really had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other for the climb up Sunrise Mountain, and it proved equally as difficult as I remembered.

Top of Sunrise Mountain

Top of Sunrise Mountain

At the top, I was beyond ready to take a break…including a smiling “selfie”. Might as well look non-plussed!  I was relieved to have done most of the elevation for the day, and to be a mere mile from Sunrise camp. As I re-shouldered my pack again, I realized with a start just how sore my hips, glutes, and scare-iliac ligaments were. Everything was screaming and exquisitely painful to the touch. It almost felt like I couldn’t keep going. But I continued on to expansive Long Meadow, where I took one last break as I tried to figure out where to camp.

Long Meadow...at last!

Long Meadow…at last!

The Yosemite ranger had told me to camp at the Sunrise High Sierra Camp…I thought that was only for paid guests. But I staggered in there, impatiently traipsing through the High Sierra camp, with it’s huts and guests. Where was the backpacker camp?

Some nice lady told me to just keep going, past all the huts. I did, and soon reached the throng of backpackers. This backpacker camp was even more busy than Yosemite’s! I tried to find a place away from the masses, but eventually gave up due to fatigue and frustration. I dumped my pack in the only campsite I could find… to heck with my desire for space and privacy. I apologized to the gal whose tent space I encroached on…she said no worries, she had been there three nights and it had been just as crowded each night. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to spend three nights there, but who was I to say?

I was simply relieved to unburden myself of my pack for good, right about 5:30 pm. I set up camp and went exploring. I thought Sunrise Lakes was nearby, and had a fantasy of dipping my sore body into the lakes for relief. After wandering for 30 minutes and ending right back at the backpacker camp (by the straightforward approach I had missed in the first round, due to my fatigue and impatience), I gave up on the lake idea. Turns out Sunrise Lakes is miles away, and I certainly didn’t have that in me. Instead, I made dinner and tried for bed, at darkness (about 8 pm). I slept very poorly…perhaps in part because of my bear fear.

This fear, the fear of bears, was definitely on my mind. Partly this was due to a bear encounter last year on the trail, which my partner Gregg dealt with by chasing off the bear.  And partly it was because, at the Yosemite Wilderness Center this year, the ranger said they had to kill a bear merely five days earlier, who was prowling uncontrollably and threateningly at the Sunrise Camp…where I was stationed.  While sad to hear this, it also had me worried. There had been two very persistent bears…the most troublesome one now was gone, but that still left one. As I tried to go to sleep, I kept envisioning what I would do if a bear tried to get in the tent with me! I know it sounds silly, but that night, those thoughts were present. I had to work with myself and my thoughts to dispel the worry…and it DID help to know that there were lots of other people around. One advantage of camping with the throngs!

Suffice it to say that after a restless night, I was relieved to be up and out of the Sunrise Camp next morning…and onto Day 2 of my adventure.

Highlights of Day 1

The hardest day was behind me…and it WAS better than the previous first day.

I KNEW that day one would be the most physically challenging. I was front-loaded with things like fuel and toiletries, as well as carrying five days of food. I would not have to carry any more weight at any time than I carried that first day. And I would not have to gain more elevation in any given day than I did that first day. To have all of that behind me, despite the pain in my hips and glutes, was a HUGE relief. Things would only get theoretically easier from that point on.

And despite the challenges, my goal of a better Day One on the JMT was definitely met. My attitude of acceptance and having the expectation that it would be difficult definitely paid off. I was not caught off guard by the challenge, and instead rose to and met it. A big success right off the bat!

I was proactive with pain and problems.

As mentioned, I started developing hot spots with my right foot, which I attempted to problem solve that first day. I also developed a hot spot on my spine, which had been one of my biggest issues the previous year…backpack chafing along the vertebrae, which opened up and caused pain and discomfort for the entirety of last year’s trip. This year, I could FEEL it happening on that first day, despite a new pack that was supposed to have a suspension system guaranteed to prevent this. Before I left Sunrise Camp on Day 2, I asked someone to put moleskin on the hot spot on my mid-back, as I could not reach it. One of the disadvantages of traveling alone…no partner to help with such. BUT, being proactive early on with the back was a necessity, and a nice crew of men and women all offered their thoughts on how best to deal with this. We all agreed that a strip of moleskin to more than cover the spot was the best bet.

Lessons of Day 1

Advantages and Disadvantages of traveling alone…

I started a file on this topic. I really liked being alone, in terms of setting my own pace, stopping whenever I wanted to, taking pictures, or not, and basically setting my own agenda. However, there was no one to immediately share the victory with when a milestone was reached, and it was difficult to do things like apply moleskin to my back. This file and theme continued to grow in my mind as the trip progressed.

Managing my tendency for needless worry…

This theme was played out in bear fears that first night. I wondered what my night would have been like if I had NOT worried about bears…yet I felt powerless to stop it. Also, I acknowledged my tendency to worry about upcoming challenges. I started worrying and obsessing about Sunrise Mountain before it was even upon me, that it might be “too much”. Then, when I was there, I worried that I might pass out or lose it, as my head felt foggy. None of those things happened. Realizing my tendency for needless worry caused me to start a file on that also…things I worry about that don’t happen. While I felt challenged to control my thoughts completely, at least I knew I could reflect back after the fact on the worries that never come to fruition. Somehow, writing it out after that first day and night helped to put the theme and reality of needless worry into perspective.

The body really DOES feel better in the morning!

Even though I slept poorly, I was relieved that I felt mostly OK on the morning of Day 2. I know this from past experience, that a night of rest usually pays off for physical pain relief,  even if sleep is negligible. I repeated a mantra and affirmation as I packed up for the day…”I awake each day rejuvenated, refreshed, and revived.” I declared that as my theme for each and every morning remaining on the trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update on Strategies for Achieving a Seemingly Impossible Goal…Almost There!

A “Goals” Update

As you may recall, this whole thing started with the Strategies. Many months ago, I started exploring what it takes to achieve a “seemingly impossible goal” of some magnitude. I outlined steps, and committed to using my goal of solo hiking the John Muir Trail to see how well these stategies worked. Here’s a recap of the steps: AdobeStock_107246405_WM

Strategies for Achieving a Seemingly Impossible Goal

  1.  Ponder ALL apparent obstacles.
  2. Identify THE most daunting obstacle.
  3. Knock off as many lesser obstacles as possible.
  4. Strategize specific steps to overcome the most daunting obstacle.
  5. Make a step by step plan of action. 
  6. Visualize yourself achieving your goal, doing your thing.
  7. Ask for help when necessary.
  8. Be prepared.
  9. Be realistic, flexible, and willing to adjust your expectations if necessary.
  10. Check in with yourself often as you go.
  11. Enjoy the process! 
  12. Celebrate your success!

In a previous post, I gave an Obstacles Update for steps 1 – 4,   identifying my biggest roadblocks and the actions necessary to overcome them.  Now, with just a week left to go, I wanted to share how steps 5 – 8 have evolved to help bring my goal of hiking the JMT ever closer to reality.

Wherever the trail leads, I will follow...

Wherever the trail leads, I will follow…

Step 5 — Make a step by step plan of action

I am a semi-compulsive list maker, and I am working my way through a lengthy “to do” list of preparations for my trip. Some of the items that were crucial to mark off involved things I am not inherently comfortable doing. These were travel arrangements to and from the trailhead, the all important food-drop locations and details surrounding those, and getting out on solo backpack trips to confront my fears of backpacking alone and to test and refine my equipment.  I am thrilled to report that ALL of these things have been checked off the list!

Travel plans

My daughter Shannon and her boyfriend Kevin graciously offered to take a road trip and drive me to the trailhead. We leave bright and early Saturday morning, a mere three days away! We’ve planned three days to get to Yosemite Valley, where my permit awaits and the trail starts. We will see Crater Lake along the way, as well as drop off a food bucket to one of my pick-up locations on the trail, so I don’t have to mail it. I am grateful for the ease with which this allows me to leave Bellingham. I don’t have to leave home with just what I need for the three weeks, as I can be a bit disorganized and overpacked for a few days, then leave a bundle with Shannon and Kevin to return to Bellingham. This is a huge help and eases my mind considerably.

Mount Whitmey, where it all ends

Mount Whitmey, where it all ends

In terms of the return journey, I have two friends from Bishop who have agreed to pick me up at the Whitney Portal, where the John Muir Trail ends. I will stay a night or two with them (depending on when I finish), to shower and clean up before catching a bus from Bishop to Reno, where I fly home on August 31. This is real benefit,  to have transportation and the promise of a shower waiting at the end of the journey. I feel blessed and grateful that both the beginning and the end of my adventure involve friends and familiar faces.

Food drops

Mt. Goddard

Mt. Goddard

This part has ended up working out fantastically! As mentioned, I will personally deliver my first food cache to the resort where I will pick it up five days in, so I know that it will be there. The second food drop is a big one, ten days worth, being personally delivered by three friends who are hiking it over a pass outside of Bishop to meet up with me and personally hand it off!  This is an unexpected bonus, and means I don’t have to mail any food. We have a fail-safe plan (at least I hope so!) of where to meet on the trail at mile 120…as well as a back up plan if something comes up. Also, I get to hang with them for an additional day and climb 13,563-foot Mt. Goddard before resuming my journey on the trail. I am extremely grateful for their willingness to take this on!

 

Solo backpack trips accomplished, and gear all set

In short, I have done all I needed and wanted to do with this one. I did three solo backpack trips, enough to get very comfortable with being alone on the trail. I have also become intimately familiar with my gear, and learned the nuances of each piece of equipment.  When all this started, I had never backpacked alone and I didn’t have the gear I needed. Now I am all set and ready to embark on the journey!

Step 6 — Visualize yourself achieving your goal, doing your thing.

Years ago, I took a class in Sports Psychology. I remember learning about the importance of visualization for athletes in helping them succeed on the playing field. I use visualization often, and firmly believe that if you can see yourself doing something,  chances are pretty good you will do it. Similarly, if you just plain can’t see yourself doing it, then it may appropriate to look at doing something else.

I have been practicing visualizing myself on the trail. There are a lot of mountain passes to go up and down on the JMT — eleven total. While hiking and backpacking this summer, I’ve practiced putting myself mentally on a JMT pass while doing hikes with elevation. I transport myself to the trail in my mind, and visualize my success and the feeling of victory that comes with each pass gained. Similarly, I see myself setting up camp, cooking, and breaking down camp with similar success. I don’t visualize failure…which means I don’t plan for things to go wrong. I AM aware that things don’t always go as planned, and that flexibility is required (see strategy #9).

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Ansel Adams Wilderness

Tuolmne Meadows

Tuolmne Meadows

I also have been practicing visualizing things I don’t like doing. I don’t like getting up and out of a tent, especially at night to use the bathroom (there is no bathroom, in reality). So instead of imaging how much I don’t like that, I practice seeing myself doing it with ease and contentment. Enjoying the stars, perhaps. Same with hiking steps, which I don’t like because it hurts my knees. Instead of seeing myself doing it in pain, I practice in my mind doing it gradually, a step at a time, with comfort and ease. Same story with packing up camp when my hands are cold. Instead of focusing on the discomfort and displeasure of that, I am visualizing using hand warmers, or taking breaks to warm my hands, and not having it be such an unpleasant experience. Small things, but to have positive visualizations helps me to fall back on those at times when the inevitable challenges occur.

Step 7 — Ask for help

As mentioned, I am getting a lot of help on this trip. Much of it I didn’t ask for, it was offered… and I simply said yes! When my daughter offered to drive me to the trailhead, I said “Absolutely!”  When my friend from Bellingham offered to hike food over the pass (or more accurately offered his brother in Bishop to do it and he would go along), I said “You bet!” Same friend offered same brother to pick me up at the trailhead at Whitney, and it was a resounding  “Of course!” I feel lucky and grateful.  It’s nice to have people want to help.  As mentioned, some of my biggest fears were allayed by having help in the areas of transportation and food.

I have also received advice from backpacking friends about equipment,  maps and JMT information from my friend that I did the trail with last year, as well as a huge amount of encouragement from friends and family members. I feel well supported and not alone as I go out on this adventure. I will not have cell service for the entirety of the trail, and I will in theory be alone. But I take with me all the good will wishes for success that so many have passed on over the months of planning. Thank you all!

And finally, I would be remiss in not stating how much my foot doctor and physical therapist have contributed to this mission. I simply could not have done it without multiple visits for check ups and orthotic refinements and a multitude of fine tunings. I am grateful beyond words for this assistance and care.

Step 8 — Be prepared

There are many elements to preparedness, obviously. The ones I will mention here are physical preparedness and making sure I have enough of necessary items.

Ready as I will ever be!

Ready as I will ever be!

Physical preparedness

How does one prepare for a trip like this? It’s not climbing Everest, I fully realize that. People do far more challenging and physically daunting things every day.  But the reality of the JMT is that it IS physically challenging. And at age 52 with 13 orthopedic surgeries under my belt, I needed to put some thought into how to pull this off. So what did I do to “train” for the JMT?

After my last foot surgery, which was in early May, I started keeping track of my activity every day. I titled my activity journal “The road back…again”. I didn’t know when I resumed activity following that last foot surgery if I would sufficiently recover in time for this trip, let alone be in sufficient physical shape for it. But I figured keeping track would provide incentive, and it would be interesting to  see what I actually did in the just under three months from the time I resumed activity to beginning the trail. Last night, I added it all up. Here is what I did to prepare:

Total walking/hiking miles — 460.    Of that, 70 miles was backpacking , 77 miles was alpine day hiking, and the remaining 313 was on trails in and around Bellingham.

Total road biking miles — 883.

Total times to yoga and pilates: 17.    I wish this number had been higher. Yoga in particular has been very beneficial to me in a multitude of ways. However, it took awhile to get back into it following the foot work, and that’s all I managed to get in.

Is it enough? I hope so. I would have ideally liked more miles with the backpack, but time got away from me. As I have said, I think my preparation is sufficient, and I feel ready. That feeling of readiness counts for a lot.

Insuring I have “enough” of necessary items

The most important things for me is to make sure I have enough of essential items. This means food, warm clothes, shelter and amenities related to, fuel, water tablets, and items related to emergency preparedness. Do I have enough of these things? I think so. Once again, the trade off is stuff for backpack weight, and I am trying to keep that balance reasonable. I know myself well enough to know that I will pack on the heavy side, for fear of not having enough. How much will all this weigh? Most likely around 50 pounds, but I won’t know for sure until it is all packed up and ready to go. Whatever it will be it will be.

A note before I go…

Off into the sunset...

Off into the sunset…

So that’s where things stand, three days before I leave and exactly one week before I start.  This will likely be my final post before I go, and  I won’t have the ability to write on the trail. Thank you for reading my pre-trail thoughts, and I will most assuredly be in touch with more thoughts and stories when it is all said and done. I appreciate the well wishes more than you know. Happy trails to all!

Gratefully,

Kathie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tour de Whatcom Century Ride is Complete…and (almost) a complete success!

Overview

I signed up on a bit of a whim to ride the Tour de Whatcom Century bike ride. As I’ve said, I have never ridden more than 65 miles in any given day before, and I knew 100 would be a stretch. But I wanted to do it, to see how it was, and to have the accomplishment under my belt. It wasn’t a bucket list sort of thing…it was something that I felt a desire to try, my conditioning is pretty solid, and I have been on the bike quite a lot this summer. So why not give it a go?

Ready to roll!

Ready to roll!

The ride was Saturday. Having done only one organized ride before (the same ride, only the 62-miler two years earlier), I was excited and a bit nervous when I arrived at the registration booth at 7:10. The ride started at 7:30, and I was pleased to be through registration and with my bike in the shoot by 7:27,  with three minutes to spare! Since it’s not a “race”, but simply an “event”, the starting fanfare was minor. But excitement was in the air, and I was ready to go!

The Course

Bellingham to Alger and back to Bellingham

I had mistakenly thought the course took off north from Boundary Bay in downtown Bellingham. But it actually headed south, down to Fairhaven, right past my office and down and around Lake Samish.  After Lake Samish, it wound down to Alger, then back to Sudden Valley. Since I live in Sudden Valley, and ride to work regularly, I am intimately familiar with all those roads. It was a good way to start the course, as I was in my comfort zone in terms of road familiarity. I also knew it was the most hilly section of the ride, and it was good to get that out of the way early.

Almost immediately after taking off,  I encountered my friend and fellow massage therapist, Lisa. I didn’t know Lisa was doing the ride, as she and her husband Dave had just signed up two days prior. Lisa and I have ridden quite a lot over the years…she is one of only a handful of people I ride with even at all. As I have said in previous posts, I almost always ride alone and I am very used to that. It was an unexpected bonus to have a bit of time to chat and catch up with Lisa as we made our way to the first rest stop in Alger.

My friend Carrie, who has ridden multiple century rides, told me to eat and drink at every stop, but not linger too long as “time can get away from you”. At the first stop, I could see how that could happen. By the time I got through the bathroom line-up, reconfigured my clothing and belongings, and refueled, a good 20 minutes had gone by! But soon I was back on the bike, and headed along Lake Whatcom Boulevard. More familiar roads with hills, and in no time I was at the second rest stop, at a park right along Lake Whatcom. Those two rest stops were very close together, but I did as Carrie had suggested, and ate and drank more anyway at the second stop.  I was feeling good, and I wanted it to stay that way!

Bellingham to Lynden

The stretch from Bellingham to Lynden was longer, and mostly calm and quiet. After a short stint on the Mt. Baker Highway, I found myself on quiet county roads, slowly progressing north to Lynden. I was feeling good and strong, and my energy was great.  Midway this stretch, the ride splits, and the 62-mile riders return to Bellingham, and the Century riders head north to Lynden.  I had taken up conversation with a female rider from Vancouver, who was riding a similar pace. We’d been passing each other, she passing me on the uphills, me passing her on the downhills, for quite some time. It was nice to find out about what draws other people to a ride like this, and it helped the miles go along to chat a bit with her. We split ways at the junction, as she and her friend were riding the 62- miler, or “metric” in bike event speak.

Lynden rest stop...half way there!

Lynden rest stop…half way there!

I was back to riding alone, in my comfort zone and on familiar roads. Inevitably, I reflected on times of past rides along these same roads, and where I was in my life at the time. I enjoyed my contemplative mindset tremendously, and had a big smile on my face as I rode. I felt happy and content when I arrived at Lynden, even after a short time of losing the route when I inadvertently followed some bikers who were NOT on the tour.  I quickly self-corrected, and found my way to the rest stop in Lynden. Dave, Lisa’s husband, gave me a big high-five when I arrived. Lisa had turned for the 62-miler back to Bellingham, but it gave me deep satisfaction to be more or less keeping up with Dave, as he is in my book a much stronger rider than me. This rest stop signified 50% completion of the ride, and I was starting to believe I could do it.

Lynden to Blaine, then Birch Bay

This 23-mile stretch was easily the hardest, the most tedious…and also the most nostalgic for me.  After leaving Lynden, I found myself on long, mostly flat county roads that went right up to the border in Blaine, before dropping south to Birch Bay. I rode this entire stretch alone, and saw only a handful of other riders. It was a bit lonely and I became increasingly aware of pain and discomfort settling into my body. I must curl my toes when I ride, because I could tell they were getting sores on the tops of two of them, and this bothered and distracted me. I kept trying to alter position and foot stance, which is always hard on the bike. I was acutely aware that pain had settled into my left side lower back, a vulnerable area following two previous back surgeries. I know from experience that once that type of pain settles in, it won’t abate until I am off of the bike.

I fluctuated during this time between trying to manage pain, enjoying the ride, and heavy introspection. For one six-month period of my life, I lived in Blaine. It was a mixed time of life, full of some positive but also many difficult events. Riding the roads in and around Blaine, I passed multiple ball fields where my son had played baseball, and my heart felt full with good memories. I also passed by the turn off to our old house, with all the desperation walks and beach explorations I had done so often to try to get through the hard times. It was interesting to encounter these memorable places while I was struggling with increasing back pain on the ride. The time I lived in Blaine was also one of intense back pain,  and it was an odd sort of deja-va.

Birch Bay

Birch Bay

I have to say, I was relieved to come into Birch Bay after all of that. Birch Bay drive was crazy, with cars, people, a street fair of some kind, and multitudes of activity along the strip. I thought I would never reach the rest area…but eventually, I arrived. This rest area was at 78 miles, and I felt moderately confident. I pulled in to the rest area just as Dave was getting ready to pull out. Again, he high-fived me, and I felt great to connect with him even though we weren’t riding together. He had offered for me to join them, but I was feeling fatigued and too insecure to commit to trying to keep up with people who were even a bit faster than me.

And I was definitely hurting. I got bandaids for my two sore toes, and ate and drank. I love Birch Bay, so it was nice to be here. But honestly, I was ready at this point for the ride to be over.

Birch Bay back to Bellingham

Once again, I was back on very familiar roads when I left Birch Bay. I have done the ride to and from Birch Bay so many times, I could do it with my eyes closed (well, maybe not..) I knew that the end was near, and I got a bit of a second wind. There was a strong head wind all the way from Birch Bay back to Bellingham, which I knew would be the case. I ducked down and hit my low-riding stance when I could…a help for the wind, but killer on the back. I hunkered down and did what I had to do, as I knew I’d be hurting no matter what. Simply put, I could tell that my body was into a zone of not having been there before, in terms of hours on the bike, and I was feeling it intensely.

Well-earned finisher medal

Well-earned finisher medal

One mile at a time, lots of self-talk, and a constant reminder to enjoy the process, and soon I was back downtown and at the Finish Line at Boundary Bay. I felt relief, happiness, and a great sense of accomplishment to be done. They gave me my finisher medal, and I took it with gratitude. I didn’t hang around Boundary Bay for post-race festivities…that’s not really my style, and I wanted to get home for a shower and real food. I finished the ride about 3:45, just over eight hours after I started.

The Highlights

There were many positive aspects to this ride, and like I said I am very glad I did it. Here’s a sampling of highlights:

Physically speaking…

I felt on the whole much better than expected. I had taken two full days off before the ride, with no activity. I don’t usually “taper” for an event, but life dictated that I had no time for exercise in the days prior. So my legs felt rested and strong, and that was a huge bonus. Of the things I noticed and felt hindered by on the ride, leg fatigue was NOT one of them.

I had received a cortisone injection in my severely arthritic right knee two days prior to the event. I can’t say enough about this…I had so little knee pain compared to usual, and this was HUGE for me on the ride. Usually, knee pain is a constant and severe hindrance, especially on hills. On this day, my slowness on hills was more about energy conservation and habit than pain management, for which I was extremely grateful.

Overall, my fitness for and ability to do this ride made me feel good. I had put in some miles, but I didn’t really train for it. I am happy that I was strong and fit enough to do it, and that I felt relatively OK throughout.

Walk down memory lane…

As mentioned, this was a highlight for me as well. I literally travelled roads I have been on before…both on the bike, and simply at past points in my life. To be alone in my head while I revisited those roads brought about an incredible perspective on how life has changed and come together so nicely. As I came and went on roads of past significance, I felt very grateful for all the positive changes and turns my life has taken. The stressful Blaine days are behind me now…in more ways than one. I have moved on past many roadblocks in life, and it’s a much easier ride now.

A part of something bigger, and yet…

Doing this ride, as an individual within a group, gave me a perspective on life as well. I loved being a part of something big and organized, the ride in it’s greater sense. There was some camaraderie and moments of interactions with others, and I loved that. Then there was also a lot of time alone, with just me and my bike and my thoughts. I realized that this IS my comfort zone…I like being aware and a part of something bigger than myself, and I also really like and enjoy my alone time. I could have sought out more interaction and conversation, or taken Dave up on his offer at the rest stops to “ride along with them”. But I actually like being in my own company, and best of all,  I am very comfortable with that.

I am not such a slouch after all!

I always think of myself as a lame bike rider. That changed a bit on the ride, as I realized that I am not really all that slow. I feel slow, but It’s all a matter of perception. Many people wouldn’t even try to do something like ride 100 miles in a day. So while I wasn’t the fastest rider out there, that I persisted and did it gave me a great sense of accomplishment.I actually felt a bit like a “real” biker!

The main lesson learned?

I am a better hiker than biker!

Simply stated, my body did not like being bent over on the bike for that amount of time. I realize now why I like to hike and backpack for long days much more so than to be on the bike all day. I felt it in my back at 50 miles, and it was a constant battle after that. While I didn’t let the back pain get to me to such a degree that I lost all enjoyment of the process, it did affect me. And it will take awhile to settle it’s way out as well. I am grateful that with hiking and backpacking I can move around and I am not stuck in one position.

And the really cool thing is that I get to choose these things!  As much as the ride was hard, no one had a gun to my back saying, “Kathie, you have to do this!” I took it on, reveled in it, and made it through, I completely got what there was to get out of the experience. I loved the organization of the event, and the Tour aspect of it was unparalleled. To see that much of our beautiful county on mostly quiet roads all in one day was extremely rewarding. I don’t know if I will do another, but the experience was overall very nearly a complete success!

 

The Other “Soul Restoration” Day Hikes…

Kathie’s Top Five Soul Restoration Hikes

The previous post explored the idea of “soul restoration” day hikes and described one, Lake Ann/Maple Pass Loop. As I thought about other hikes that fit the criteria, four more came to mind. I will share those here, and I hope that you will share yours as well. You don’t have to share why, as the reasons are often incredibly personal and private and should sometimes stay that way!

Lake Ann/Maple Pass loop...blast from the past.

Lake Ann/Maple Pass loop…blast from the past.

  1. Lake Ann/Maple Pass.  Off of Highway 20, North Cascades, described in previous post.
  2. Yellow Astor Butte.  This hike, off the Mt. Baker Highway, is beyond gorgeous with it’s unfolding views of Mt. Shuksan, Mt. Baker, and multitudes of other peaks. It has it all…wildflowers (including the Yellow Astor, for which it is named…which is really a daisy :-), inviting ponds, and the potential of a further excursion to climb Tomyhoi Peak. I absolutely love this place, and have been there a dozen or more times over the years.
  3. Ptarmigan Ridge Trail.  This hike is also off the Mt. Baker Highway, and takes off from Artist Point, at the very end of the road. I cannot say enough about this trail. It is all open, meanders gradually up and along a ridge, and can be followed to where one is literally standing right in front of Mt. Baker in all it’s glaciated magnificence! It’s simply stupendous. When my thoughts randomly go to the
    Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

    Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

    mountains, this area is where they most often go.

  4. “Lily Dome”, aka North Butte.  Much closer to home in Bellingham, this is the alternative to super popular Oyster Dome. This “lesser dome” is right above Lily Lake, hence my pet name for it. It’s a hidden gem that is still mostly undiscovered. Just a stones throw from Oyster Dome, the views out to the San Juan Islands are comparable to Oyster Dome, but there are hardly ever any other
    "Lily Dome"

    “Lily Dome”

    people.

  5. The Ridge Trail, on Galbraith Mountain.  The background on this requires a little explanation. Galbraith Mountain, right in Bellingham, is a mountain bikers haven. I have been going up on Galbraith since 1994, when I lived at the end of an access road leading up to the trails. I regularly hiked to what I call the “stretching tree”, on the top of the Ridge Trail.  The stretching tree is a place of contemplation, where you can sit, and see Bellingham Bay in one direction and Mt. Baker in the other. I have been to this tree more times than I can count, and many a time when I HAD to get clear on some major decision or let go of some incredibly persistent stressor in my life. I have come to view it as the place of letting go…and while my life is much less “stressful” now, I have incredibly positive associations of getting straightened out at the tree.

A final note:  A soul restoration hike is to be distinguished from a “soul desperation” hike. The latter category involves those places where I go, sometimes with some urgency and desperation, because I need an environmental “fix”. I would put Lake Padden into this category…often, it has restorative value, but equally as often, it is a place I go to get ready for a work day, or to transition after one, or because I don’t have time to go anywhere else.  There is sometimes more of a desperate or needy quality to these walks around Padden. A loop around Padden is my drug of choice. It is hands down the hike I have done most often, literally hundreds of times since I have lived in Bellingham. And I do love it, but it doesn’t quite make the grade for a restoration hike…at least not each and every time. That would be a tall order!

What hikes bring your soul to restoration?

If something comes to mind, please share via email or in the comments section. I would love to hear from you!

For more information on listed hikes…

Lake Ann/Maple Pass loop

Yellow Astor Butte

Ptarmigan Ridge

North Butte via Blanchard Mountain 

Ridge Trail, Galbraith Mountain

Lake Padden

HAPPY TRAILS!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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