Backpacking - Golden Trout Wilderness

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My first time leading a backcountry backpacking trip was a great success! We chose to hike around the Cottonwood Lakes over in the Golden Trout Wilderness of the Eastern Sierras because it’s dog friendly.

What I love the most about hiking in the backcountry is that you can pitch a tent anywhere at any time (as long as you have a permit for the area). There are many tasks to do around camp before the sun goes down - setting up camp, organizing gear, washing dishes, making sure the bear container is secure, etc. And once the sun goes down, it gets too cold (and a little scary) to hang outside, so it’s always an early night with some reading. Experiences like this remind me how simple life can be. Away from screens and phones, and noise. Where there is nothing to do but appreciate your surroundings and the people you’re with.

We camped at John Muir Lake, not far from the crowded Cottonwood Lakes, which we had nearly all to ourselves. We spotted lights from two other campsites around the entire lake. And I have to say, it was a much more beautiful place to pitch a tent for the night. The days were spent hiking in and out and exploring the high alpine Cottonwood Lakes, around 11,000 feet.

Can’t wait to do more of this once the winter passes!

Alamere Falls

"Tidefalls" or waterfalls that flow directly into the ocean, are super rare. There are a few scattered around the world but only 2 in the entire United States. Put that waterfall in Bolinas, CA, add a 4.2 mile hike along a stunning coastal trail to get there, and you have yourself a recipe for a unique and beautiful way to spend a day.

I first came across Alamere Falls around 7 years ago when I was looking for a rad surprise hike to take Sam on on his birthday. Because Sam was born and raised in the bay, growing up spoiled by beautiful nature, I wanted to find something I was fairly sure he had never done. Thanks to the many websites dedicated to trails and exploration, I was happy to come across this hike. And even happier to see his face in awe when we reached our destination. Since that proud moment, this has quickly become one of my favorite day hikes and one I try to take whenever we are visiting the bay.

On this particular day, my friends joined us on a belated birthday (this time mine!), last hike of the year, outing. It was the perfect way to wrap out the year.

There are many directions on the site, but here are mine for sake of ease. Always go prepared, with a map and clear directions:

Start at the Palomarin Trailhead which connects to the Coast Trail.
You'll be on this trail for nearly the rest of the time, about 3.5 miles. You'll dip away from the coast, into a wooded area, pass Bass Lake on your left, and eventually begin leaving the trees behind towards the end.
There are a couple ways to get to the beach, and we take the shortcut way via Alamere Falls Trail.
This trail is VERY easy to miss. The last time we were there, someone had graciously made an arrow out of stones pointing to the overgrown trail, but do not depend on that being there! Follow the overgrown trail roughly half a mile until the growth opens up and you reach the top of the lookout point - about 40 feet above the cliffs. 
This is a perfectly good place to stop and have lunch if you are afraid of heights or climbing.
If not, follow the trail snaking through the cliffside and scramble down to the beach!
Always make sure to keep an eye on the tide. Enjoy!
 

 

 

Yosemite National Park

This weekend was what I dreamed my life would be like when we moved to California. Filled with spontaneous outdoor adventures and lots of climbing.

After a very late night arrival, We awoke not long after sunrise, made some hot cups of coffee and wandered around the valley in awe. The sun hadn’t yet burned away the mist and fog, so our surroundings were filled with drama, sun beams, and fog. With the sounds of early morning forest stirrings.

After a hearty breakfast we packed our bags for what ended up being a 10 mile hike. As we drove higher, we quickly saw that the rain that pounded on our tents all night in the valley had left a beautiful layer of snow in the higher altitudes (and to think, back home in LA we were missing a 100 degree weekend!)

Our hike took us from the Sentinel Dome Parking, west towards Taft Point, northeast towards Glacier Point, and finally, the summit of Sentinel Dome, before making our way back down to our car. I love summits, no matter how big or small, and Sentinel Dome was no exception. Regardless of how many hours a month I put in running and trekking, walking uphill for hours always becomes super mental for me. At some point towards the end, I’m usually suffering and wondering why I do this for fun. But then I reach the top, am blasted with emotion over the views and scale, and remember that the reward is everything.

The next day, our climbing sensai, Solon, picked a route on 5 Open Books, a 5.8 (thank god we started easy). Not only was this my first time climbing in Yosemite, and only second time climbing outside in my life, it was more importantly my first multi pitch climb! 5 pitches, 500 feet or so, and a whole day on the wall! DREAMS!

We caterpillarded our way up, and though slower than going in pairs, I appreciated the odd number for the belay ledge company. There were a couple scary moves (crossing over a massively huge vertical crack in the wall that went 20 feet deep.) and one scary fall. But we all topped out around 3pm and had a celebratory lunch before packing up and heading back down to earth on a “climbing path” - a glorified hiking trail, with a lot of sliding down rocks on our butts.

After spending an entire day on the wall with only 2 people, getting back down to civilization felt surreal. Passing by park guests with binoculars looking at the climbers, I realized how freaking special it was to be able to climb. It’s physically exhausting, and mentally terrifying, but the hard work is worth having unique vantage points that the majority of the park guests don’t have access to. 

We grubbed extra hard at camp and passed out early. And that concluded my favorite weekend in Yosemite.

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Climbing Kilimanjaro

“That was the hardest thing I've ever done."

Those were the words that were looping in my head as our kitchen porters greeted me back at Kosovo Camp (4,900m). Pouring me a glass of vitamin water, I was given a big, warm congratulatory smile that was common among the crew, and that promptly brought tears to my eyes.  

The words continued to echo in my mind, as I downed the glass of sweet vitamin water in seconds and collapsed into my tent, and as one of our guides, Casper, started untying my shoes for me, because I was too exhausted to think of it myself. I felt those words with my entire being as they changed to, “I can’t believe I just did that.” I lay, unmoving, on my back, roughly 9 hours after we began our midnight journey to summit Uhuru Peak, the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

It’s now been two and a half weeks since I reached the roof of Africa with 21 women on International Women’s Day. I’ve been wanting desperately to reflect, to write it all down, before the memories faded, but I haven’t known how to begin.

How do you describe the feeling of your body physically shutting down and refusing to take another step, while your brain forces you to take one more? Or the disconnect between your mind and the pain that your lungs are feeling? How do you describe seeing the summit 200 feet away and feeling like there were still miles to walk - that the past 5 hours of the steep ascent, surrounded by the darkest night, were nothing compared to those last few hundred feet. Or the joy and disorientation I felt being embraced by all the women I became friends with that week, as we all celebrated the accomplishment of reaching the top? How to describe the bond that's formed through suffering and achievement? How to express the immense gratitude towards the local men (and one kickass woman!), lead guides, assistant guides, cooks, kitchen team, and porters (roughly 70 crewmembers in total), who took care of us and literally sang us all the way to the top. 

 

It’s difficult to summarize the week long trek that I went on with WHOA travel in Tanzania. The tallest free standing mountain in the world towers at 5,853 meters, or 19,341 feet. There were so many highs and lows, feelings of utter defeat and pure bliss. The landscape made me feel like I was on another planet with views that literally took my breath away. There was the breath itself - something I rarely think about on a day to day basis, and what turned into hours and days of meditation as I concentrated on the simple act of breathing. There were the guides and porters who were the most encouraging and selfless humans, carrying unfathomable weight on their heads, and who scrambled around and ahead of us daily to have everything set up by the time we stumbled into camp. The stars seemed closer and brighter the higher and higher we got. There were the 21 women, all coming to this mountain for different reasons, supporting and helping each other, making it that much easier to keep going. My mom, who at 52, and battling altitude sickness for the majority of the time, kicked the mountain’s ass and beat me to the top! There was Uhuru Peak, hovering above us for days, taunting us with it's height, which now feels like a blurry memory. It was understanding what pure exhaustion actually meant. Getting a glimpse into why people push themselves to extremes, experiencing the addicting high you get when accomplishing something that feels like it nearly fell out of your grasp. 

A few hours before we began our summit bid, I sat in our dining tent, trying hard to not let fear get the best of me. Everyone had a quote in front of them, and mine, by the great Maya Angelou read, "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."

The gratitude and respect I feel to this mountain, is hard to describe, but I know I will be trying to find those words for the rest of my life.

words written on 3/26/2016
Trek organized and led by WHOA TRAVEL

 

Camping Down the Oregon Coast - Day 4 & 5

Our final destination was Suislaw National Park. By chance, due to the park camp sites being full and a wrong booking, we ended up at a tiny camp, off the grid campsite about 7 miles south of where we planned on staying. With only 11 sites, we got the last unreserved camp site of the weekend.

There are no words to describe this site - it is a hidden gem.  One of our neighbors, who was very intrigued as to how we found this site - later told us that she had been coming to this site for over 50 years.

Entering this campground, the temperature immediately drops what felt like 10 degrees. It is thick with towering Spruce Trees. The sun didn’t make it’s way into the density until after 9am, and was gone well before sunset. It was quiet, with the only sounds coming from the creek running feet from our tent, birds chirping, and fires crackling. It was so peaceful I felt on the brink of tears every time I took in my surroundings. I dare say, nothing could have topped the ending to our camping trip.

We spent 2 nights here. During the day we went on hikes (The Hobbit Trail, recommended by our tent neighbors is highly recommended), and in the evenings we grilled over our campfire. Sleep came early and left late.

I know that I’ll be coming back to this site for the rest of my life.  

Camping Down the Oregon Coast - Day 3

Our next destination was Cape Lookout State Park, which has a spectacular coastal beach. Along the way we did a pitstop at Otter Rock to check out a surf beach, and stopped at a few lookout points. 

I could have spent a few days at this park. We got a tent site right over the dunes of the beach and spent the afternoon barefoot by the ocean. Again, the coast and landscape leading up to the beach is so stunning - misty distances, golden light, cliffs on the horizon, lush forest - that it was just a pleasure to spend hours walking along the beach. Right before sunset, we watched a massive rain cloud roll in over the setting sun. Amazing. 

Jump to Day 1 and Day 2.

Camping Down the Oregon Coast - Day 2

The next morning, we drove south to Ecola State Park, just north of Cannon Beach. This is hands down, one of the most beautiful parks I’ve ever been. We took a coastal trail that wove in and out of a dense forest of old-growth Sitka spruce, along breathtaking cliffs that offered cinematic views. It was a drizzly day, so the wet fogginess added to the picturesqueness of the forest and coast.

Afterwards, we drove into the town of Cannon Beach, where I yelped the best burger (Tom’s Fish n chips), and then headed to the beach to find the Goonies. This beach did not disappoint.  I love overcast and foggy conditions, I thin they result in beautiful imagery, and the distant haystacks looked so epic, looming in the fog. We spent the night and following morning at Nehalem Bay State Park, which has tall and vast dunes.