Thursday, June 28, 2012

Swimming on the John Muir Trail

Last year, on two separate occasions, I really wished I knew how to swim. The first was at Kibbie Lake in Yosemite. Kibbie Lake is a beautiful, warm lake perfect for swimming. But I hung around near the shore while my friends lapped the lake and raved about the views on the other side.

Stunning Kibbie Lake
The second instance was during my 5 day trip from Onion Valley to Mt. Whitney. The group swam at Kearsarge Lakes and at Guitar Lake, while I just took photos. 

My friends taking a dip in frigid Guitar Lake
This year however, I want to swim whenever I camp at a lake or when I take a lunch break near one. And I will have ample opportunity to do so as this section of the Sierra Nevada mountains is riddled with stunning lakes. 

So many opportunities to swim
Helping me achieve this goal is my cousin, who has graciously volunteered her time to teach me to swim. It's slow going because a) the last time I swam to the deep end of a pool I was 14 years old; and b) because I seriously lack coordination; and c) yoga. 

You see, I've been practicing yoga for a little over 1 1/2 years now. Breath work and breathing techniques are essential to the practice - especially breathing through my nose. I have learned this skill very well. 

Unfortunately, when swimming, I have to forget this practice and breathe ONLY through my mouth! It's the hardest lesson for me to grasp thus far. I'm drinking gallons of water through my nose every time I'm in that pool. 

Practicing breathing through my mouth only.

As with any other skill, I'm confident that with more practice, I will learn this technique and be able to switch from breathing through my nose to breathing only through my mouth at will. 

I have less than 40 days to become completely comfortable in the water. Since time is of the essence, I've decided to do less yoga and hike less in order to focus more on swimming - which is also great exercise in itself. 

I'm confident my coordination and breathing will improve with every lesson.

Stay tuned...
P.S. On a very sad note (and all the more reason I want to become very comfortable in the water) - a man attempting a thru-hike of the Application Trail drowned in a pond just two weeks ago! It truly is very sad and my heartfelt condolences go out to his loved ones, but it goes to show that extracurricular activities (such as swimming after a long day of hiking and off trail scrambles to bag peaks) account for many injuries - and worse - sustained in the backcountry. 

It was not my intention to end this post on a low note; however, I share this story to hold myself accountable to all of you.

Bottom line - if I don't feel I'm ready to swim in a lake by the time I step foot on the John Muir Trail, I simply won't. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Birthday Backpack Trip

There's no other way I'd prefer to celebrate my birthday than to wake up in a tent, in the middle of the woods, next to friends whose company I thoroughly enjoy!

I was very fortunate to do just that over the weekend to celebrate my 29th birthday. 

We trekked to West Fork Campground in the Angeles National Forest and were greeted by blue skies, warm temperatures, wildflowers, flowing rivers and mozzies. 

Eric & Joy eastbound on the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail

beautiful flowers
West Fork San Gabriel River provided great views and cold, tasty water 

picturesque West Fork Campground

LOVE making a fire!
For dinner, my awesome friends prepared wheat berry salad, and grilled veggies which we ate with rice and peanut sauce. So good! Thanks Joy

They even hauled in a cake & candles for me to celebrate my b-day properly! I know, I'm blessed with great friends!!

My awesome birthday cake
Around 10:30 P.M., we called it a night and crawled into our tents, falling asleep to the symphony of frogs and other wildlife.

It was so warm I didn't get to test out my new down socks. Guess I have to plan another backpacking trip :))

The next morning, we lounged about, made another fire, took tons of photos, and enjoyed an awesome breakfast of potato potpourri & fake bacon (we don't eat meat). Thanks Eric! 

Many thanks to Eric for sawing wood and sustaining our fires! 

left to right: Eric, Joy, me
It was noon by the time we finally left camp.

We had to hike back up to the trailhead 5.5 miles and 2000 ft away. Did I mention we had to go UP? 

In hindsight we should have gotten a much earlier start as the temperature hovered around 80 - 85 degrees during our climb out of the canyon.

 resting in the shade
beautiful shady stretch of trail
We made it to our car in 3 hours, grateful to be done with it.

We capped our trip with a delicious meal at La Cabanita Mexican Restaurant in Montrose

I can't thank my friends Eric & Joy enough for making my birthday so memorable and wonder-full.

Thanks guys, you rock!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Staying In The Moment

I can't believe that in just under two months, I will travel one of the grandest, most majestic footpaths in the world!

The anticipation is overwhelming, but rest assured, there's lots for me to do that snaps me back into the here and now every time I begin to fantasize about the trail.

Speaking of the trail, I've decided to do no more research about trail conditions and the like.

I'm done with it.

While I appreciate John Ladd and other kind folks for constantly providing updates about the blowdowns from the freakish wind storm last November, it doesn't apply to me as I don't start my trek until August.

Lots can change from now til then.

Besides, I'm having too much fun preparing for this trip. Call me crazy but I enjoy buying gear, food and other knick-knacks, figuring out which items will go into which resupply box, trying to predict what meal I'd want to eat each day (impossible I know, but hey - I get a kick out of it), and training for the hike.

Everything I mentioned above keeps me in the present moment. It's great!

Focusing my awareness on the tasks at hand keeps me calm and relaxed; whereas worrying about trail conditions - and other stuff I have no control over - makes me anxious and tense.

The John Muir Trail, this trip, isn't the culmination of the skills I've learned and practiced the last few years or anything of that sort.

It's an unfolding of the process that is my life.

So too are the 'chores' I have to do to get 'out there.'

In the last week, I've enthusiastically savored every moment I've spent planing.

There's a joy that has come over me that I can't explain, but its wonderful.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Ursack Update

Unless a miracle occurs, we will not be able to use any Ursack products in areas that require bear canisters this year.

Ursack S29
The agency that will test the Ursack doesn't have a protocol in place yet. And even if it did and the Ursack passed, it's no guarantee that Yosemite National Park or other agencies would automatically allow the use of Ursacks. 

but there's always a bright side. 

Yes they're heavier & bulkier, but bear canisters require less effort to store at night after a long days hike, make great seats and ... ok that's all I got. 

Oh ya - here's something - it's one less item I don't have to shell out more $$ for before my hike :) 

Resupply buckets at Muir Trail Ranch

I can use the savings to cover shipping and storage costs of my resupply packages (which will cost about $150). YIKES!! 

I plan to resupply 3 times to keep my pack weight down, but I'm rethinking this after having done the calculations yesterday...ah planning.