Aug 29

Southbound on the John Muir Trail (JMT)


So it’s taken me a few weeks to put this together, not because I haven’t been excited to tell people about the trip. If we grabbed coffee I could monopolize the conversation by talking about the trip the entire time. My delay has more to do with accurately capturing the experience. Just as pictures don’t often do justice to what our eyes see, so also it is hard to capture what truly is the most beautiful place I have ever been with words. So what follows is a simple write-up with pics that give a general idea of the immense, unspoiled beauty of the John Muir Trail. And if by chance you like hiking I would say, “Go see it for yourself!” (By the way, you might want to read this on a computer as the pics look far better on a bigger screen than they do on a mobile device—just a thought!)


Hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT) became a bucket list for me a few years ago so when my friend Amber asked if I would like to join her and her daughter Hannah and hike it this summer I jumped at the opportunity. We spent 10 months prepping for the trip as all three of us were green when it came to backpacking. Soon we were researching gear, attending REI Garage Sales, dehydrating our own food, taking a map and compass class, training with weight on our backs and incorporating some local overnight backpacking trips. I learned so much in preparation for the trip and thoroughly enjoyed the process.


For those who are not aware the JMT is ranked as one of the most beautiful trails in the US and the world. The trail begins in Yosemite Valley and ends on top of Mt Whitney—209 miles. Of course, you have to get down from Mt Whitney which adds another 11 miles bringing the total to 220 miles. Our plan was to tackle it in 17 days with a side-trip to Half Dome thrown in for an extra 4 miles.


Day 1: Happy Isle to Little Yosemite Valley—Mile 4

Our permit required us to stay in Little Yosemite Valley on the first night which meant we only hiked four miles the first day. Considering started, it was hot, there was a lot of elevation and we were getting accustomed to carrying a full pack, we were fine with the low mileage. The hike was gorgeous with great views of the falls. After we set up camp we spent the afternoon swimming in the river where a snake joined us—no joke, a snake swam right up to us! Crazy! Such a fun afternoon!


This is where we were swimming when a snake came swimming up to us. Never had that happen before!




Day 2: Little Yosemite Valley to Sunrise Camp—Mile 13.2 (plus a side trip of 4 miles to Half Dome)

We were on the trail by 7am and hiked 2 miles up to the Half Dome Junction where we detoured and hiked the 2 miles to Half Dome. We ditched our backpacks before the climbing got rough and took just the bare necessities up to the summit. It was beautiful and nice to be up there before the masses that would be coming later from the valley floor. After backtracking to the JMT we headed out to Sunrise passing through a really sad burn section in the heat of the day which we all agreed was “soul sucking”. We climbed most of Cathedral pass before calling it a day at Sunrise.


Half Dome! The little specks are people climbing up the cables.


A little yoga session on the top of Half Dome!


Beautiful day with beautiful friends!


The view going down the cables! The little specks down there are people!


We called this the “soul sucking” section”. So sad to see it burned. Hiking it in the middle of the day in the heat made it worse.

Day 3: Sunrise to Vogelsang Trail Junction—Mile 29.4

What an amazingly beautiful day! We had some climbing and a technical downhill, but most of the day was spent hiking across flat and fast meadows filled with wildflowers, chipmunks, streams and lakes. Late in the morning we picked up our first re-supply in Tuolumne and filled our bear canisters with food. What didn’t fit in the canisters we gave to a group of teenage boys from the east coast who were more than happy to make extra space in their gear and pockets for our left over Snickers bars, etc. We headed back out to the JMT but we did not get far before the river began calling us. So we ditched our packs in favor of going for a swim. Eventually we finished up our day by camping at a great spot in view of the water where we encountered quite a few deer and a fawn. We fell asleep to the sound of the river in the background—so soothing!



We stopped to swim here–so refreshing! Water was pretty cold!



One of my favorite pics! We camped about 100 feet from here. So beautiful!


Look close and you will see the fawn hiding in the bush.

Day 4: Vogelsang Trail Junction to Thousand Island Lake—Mile 43

The first couple of miles were flat and beautiful as we followed the river. Then the trail began to ascend and we climbed Donahue Pass. It was our first big pass at over 11,000 feet and it was tough but it was also stunning! Imagine rushing streams, pools of water, green meadows, wildflowers, huge vistas, reflective lakes, jagged peaks… So beautiful! We popped over Island Pass as well and camped at Thousand Island Lake.


Another one of my favorite pics!



Meadow near the top of Donahue Pass.


Water crossing! 🙂



Evening shot of Thousand Island Lake…


First light shot of Thousand Island Lake…



Sunrise shot of Thousand Island Lake. I love how the colors changed between the three pics!


Day 5: Thousand Island lake to Red’s Meadow—Mile 59

Another amazing day filled with lakes and rushing streams! But what was really cool was we had reservations for a cabin at Red’s Meadow which meant we had a hot shower and a bed!


Such a cool reflection!

Garnett Lake...what I love about this shot is, if you look close, the patchy reflectiveness in the water. I did not notice this until I looked at the pic later.

Garnett Lake. If you look closely you will see a patchy reflectiveness in the water. I did not notice this until I looked at the pic later.




Day 6: Red’s Meadow to McGee Pass Junction—Mile 76.8

We started with a relatively easy climb and quick pace and ended up startling a small bear which took off running the opposite direction on the trail in front of us. He was FAST! We were not sure if he was a cub so we slowed down just in case mama was around. We had planned on camping at Virginia Lake but it was too windy. We dropped down the other side and found a perfect camp site near water and without mosquitoes! Once again we fell asleep to the sound of a rushing stream.





Virginia Lake

Day 7: McGee Pass Junction to Verillion Valley Ranch Ferry Boat Launch—Mile 88

We had thought it was going to be an easy day but we quickly learned there are no easy days on the JMT. We climbed up Silver Pass and then made the trek down a hard, exposed and at times treacherous descent to the trail which would take us to the ferry boat launch which would deposit us at Vermillion Valley Ranch where we had made reservations to stay the night. Our philosophy was to take every opportunity we had to get a real bed and a shower! The ranch put me in an RV so I had the “Rambler” all to myself!


Small waterfall next to one of the crazy steep down hills.


The Rambler! My lodging for the night when we stayed at Vermillion. According to their staff it is one of the most coveted places on the ranch to stay. Lol!



My view from the Rambler!

Day 8: Vermillion Valley Ranch to Bear Creek—Mile 98

The ferry to get back across the trail didn’t leave until 9am so wanting to leave earlier we decided on a different route and took a car shuttle to what we thought was going to be the Bear Ridge Trailhead. However, we had misunderstood and had not researched the details and we ended up on the Bear Creek Trailhead. This trail led us to the JMT but it was three miles longer than we had planned which was a bit of a bummer. Hiking along the creek was beautiful and while most of it was pleasant there were some brutal climbs. Bear Creek was one of a couple of stream crossing where you had to get wet—there was no dry way to get across. We plunged into the water and then found a place to camp. It was the one night when we had a lot of mosquitoes so it was an early to the tent kind of night.


Bear Creek. The water in all of the lakes and streams was so clear you could see every rock and fish.

Day 9: Bear Creek to Muir Trail Ranch—Mile 107

If climbing a pass could be considered easy then climbing Seldon Pass would fit that description.  It  was also stunning as we passed through beautiful meadows with gurgling streams, clear mountain lakes, wildflowers, pine and fir trees. The only rough piece was the cut-off trail we took to Muir Trail Ranch where, you guessed it, we had a bed, shower, HOT SPRINGS and an amazing home cooked meal cooked by a gourmet chef waiting for us. Prime rib, veggies, black beans, salad, homemade bread with roasted garlic, dessert—it was awesome! As was soaking in the hot spring!


Marie Lake



I LOVED this section! It was one of the few flat parts we encountered.


Cabins at Muir Trail Ranch. They may not look like much but they were luxurious compared to our tents.


Picking up our resupply. Hikers mail home depot buckets filled with food to this ranch and pick it up when they come through so they have food for the next section of their hike.

Hot Spring




Day 10: Muir Trail Ranch to above Evolution Falls—Mile 117

The cook at MTR made breakfast in the morning as well (yay for not having to eat oatmeal again!)! We picked up our second resupply and my packed topped out at 43 lbs—way more than the 30lbs I was hoping to carry! We had a beautiful, fairly easy day hiking along the San Joaquin River. Eventually we crawled up a steep climb which brought us to Evolution Falls which, of course, was amazing! We crossed Evolution Creek up above the falls and found a camp site about a mile up the trail. It was at this point that we realized how bad the blisters were on one of our teammates feet. We had all had a couple of blisters but she had about 15 of them and they were raw and not healing. The next part of our trip would be taking us into some very remote country where getting medical treatment would be very difficult. An infection in your feet in the backcountry is a bad idea. Rather than chance it we decided the best thing to do would be to hike out and cut the trip short.



Evolution Falls

Day 11: Evolution Falls back to Muir Trail Ranch and then one mile toward Florence Lake

We had our only thunderstorm in the morning which we waited out in our tents. Then we headed back to MTR where we were able to get an email out to Amber’s husband that we were going to need a ride home. We hiked one more mile toward Florence Lake before setting up camp.


Day 12: Florence Lake

Our alarms went off at 4:30am and you have never seen a group of women move so fast. When we were focused on finishing the JMT we were fine with the whole camping, no shower thing. But as soon as we knew we were leaving early we were all about packing up and getting out and back to our real beds and showers. We hiked four miles to Florence Lake where we waited for a small ferry to come pick us up. Once we arrived on the other side of the lake we simply hung out while talking to a cool family from France and waited for our ride home. The ride home was long (8 hours) and a little concerning. The first 26 miles was on a single lane road, with sheer drop-offs and traffic going both ways! Glad I was not driving! Of course we had to make two stops on the way home. One for Mexican food and one for Starbucks! 🙂


Waiting for the ferry to pick us up.


Looking back at where we have come.

So we didn’t finish the JMT but it was the right decision.   The trail will always be there and being healthy and safe is first priority. What we saw and experienced in the first half was absolutely incredible!!! It was an amazing trip and I will be going back so watch for part two of the JMT post in the summer of 2017!


They served me well! La Sportiva Bushidos!

Mar 07

Trail Running in Florida: Hillsborough River State Park

While in Florida last week for training at Southeastern University I had Monday morning free so I decided to spend it the best way I knew how–trail running! It is always fun to explore new places so after thumbing through a Florida trails book I decided on Hillsborough River State Park and I was not disappointed. My goal was to have a nice run, enjoy the scenery, hopefully see an alligator (from a safe distance) and not see any banana spiders—I HATE spiders! Here is a short post of my Monday morning adventure.

The Hillsborough River is one of the few rivers in Florida with any type of rapids. I parked my car near a trailhead which led directly to some class 2 rapids and began my 6 mile jaunt from there. It was beautiful! The trail followed along the side of the river…

…and at times cut in under the tree canopy where it was well-maintained.  It was in these heavily forested sections where I kept my eyes out for banana spiders which, from what I saw on a video, are huge.


To help ensure people do not get lost, the trail was marked with orange blazes painted on trees every 30-50 feet.



There was quite a bit of water in the area so the park had built some cool bridges which were fun to run across. 🙂



The plant life was pretty amazing and so different from SoCal.  From oak trees with moss hanging off limbs…


…to giant old oaks that dwarfed everything around it…

…to little tiny trees growing out of large bumps on the side of palm trees…

…to pointy things sticking out of the water, it made for an interesting run!


Things became super interesting when the trail was swallowed up in some wetlands.  I by-passed the big puddle of water by bush-wacking through the undergrowth but then had second thoughts.  I had seen a sign earlier warning of poison ivy throughout the forest so I decided to get back on the trail.


That meant traversing through a lot of mud!

Unfortunately I had worn my street shoes instead of my trail runners.  So much for keeping them clean!


One of my goals was to see an alligator from a safe distance.  I knew they were around because I had seen this sign.  I couldn’t believe that people actually feed them–CRAZY!

So when I was about a mile or two from my finish I came around a corner and, glancing across the river, I saw a gator!.  He looked to be about three and a half to four feet long.  While I am sure he saw me, he didn’t move.  I went down to the rivers edge to get the best pic possible.  After snapping the pic I rethought my location as I did not want another gator popping up out of the murky water by my feet.  I jumped back up on the trail and watched him for a while.  It was sort of strange to be out for a run with a gator sunning on a rock just a stones throw away.  I am sure the locals are not fazed by them as they are probably as common as coyotes are in our area.  Being a west coast girl I found it pretty cool!

I finished up my run and found my way back to my car.  All in all I was pleased that I had seen a gator and some incredible scenery and really happy that I did not see any banana spiders!  🙂

Nov 12

Thursday Morning Thoughts Week Four: Living for the Applause of One

One of my heroes from afar is Mother Teresa.  She was amazing!  She also wrote one of my favorite poems that ties into the point from last night’s Bibles study about living for the applause of one.  I believe it is called, “Anyway”.


People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;

…Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

…Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

…Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

…Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

…Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

…Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

…Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

…Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway.


Living for the applause of God alone and doing what is right regardless of what other people think is foundational to staying on point and finishing well when living a life of faith and purpose.  The influence of social media in today’s culture has caused us to be constantly bombarded with the temptation to live for the approval or applause of others.  The number of likes we get or the comments people make on one of our posts can send us on a rollercoaster of emotion that can be sickening.  While I have a lot of room to grow in this area, I have found that learning to live for the applause of God alone is liberating. As we discussed last night we are not living in such a way as to earn God’s acceptance.  When you surrendered your life to Christ you were accepted and loved right where you were.  It is because we are accepted, because we are deeply loved that we want to live in such a way as to honor him.  In our study last night we saw that Daniel lived this way and he finished his race of life strong.  That does not mean it was always easy.  God’s favor was on him but there were times when he found himself to be the target of other people’s envy and jealousy.  Remember that the verse we closed with last night said that no weapon formed against you would prosper.  It did not say that there would be no weapon formed against you—because there will be.  Doing the right thing and living the life of faith will not always be popular and being unfairly attacked should not come as a surprise.  It happened to Daniel.  It happened to many others in the Bible.  But the weapon formed against them did not prosper and neither will it prosper against you.  Trust the God who shut the mouths of the lions and live to honor him.  Here is the verse for memorizing should you choose to do so.  See you next week as we look at the story of Esther.



Nov 05

Rock Slide in the Grand Canyon: Peace Even in the Midst of Chaos

Surviving the Slide

It was a beautiful clear morning in July giving no hint at all at what was to come.  A small group of my high school students plus a couple of us leaders got an early start as we headed down Bright Angel trail in the Grand Canyon.  Our destination was Indian Gardens where we planned to look out over the Colorado River and then hike back up.  The trek down was uneventful.  The trek back up ended up being the one and only time in my life thus far where I thought I might die—and not because of the strenuous climb.  Out of nowhere came a monster storm that soaked us to the bone and bruised us with an onslaught of hail.  Visibility became so restricted that although we were right in the middle of the Grand Canyon we could no longer see it.  Everything was white as hail poured down.  Suddenly two of our guys who were ahead of the group ran back toward us from around a switchback, grabbed us, yelled “Rockslide!” and unknowingly pinned us into a thorn bush in a small ditch on the side of the cliff.  (It is amazing how you do not feel thorns when you are terrified of falling rocks!)  Next there came a roar that I will never forget, it sounded like a freight train.  We could hear the slide but we could not see it.  Steve, one of the students, yelled out in pain—his leg had been struck.  Once the slide stopped I realized we were dangerously close to the bottom of a sheer rock wall with the very likely potential of more rocks falling on us.  I yelled for the group to run back down the switchback to a more safe location.  We grabbed the thorn bush to pull ourselves out of the ditch.  We would feel those thorns later (and would be pulling the thorns out for weeks to come) but for now adrenaline coursed through our veins.  Steve couldn’t walk and had to be carried by his buddies.  When we stopped we huddled together for warmth and comfort.  Some were crying.  Some were praying.  We were all bewildered.  With the immediate danger past and the adrenaline subsiding I began to feel an amazing calmness come over me.  I didn’t know how we were going to get out of this.  I stepped away from the group to the middle of the trail, looked up into the rain and had a little conversation with God.  “I don’t want to die down here.  Please get us out of this hole.”  Yes, the beautiful and majestic Grand Canyon had become a “hole”.  My prayer was calm; there was no panic or anxiety.  It was a simple prayer, like I was having coffee with God.

I am not afraid to die—not that I am looking to go anytime soon.  And to be honest, how I will die is a little concerning to me.  I think I am part of the masses when I say I would prefer it would be in my sleep. But I am so assured that God is real and knowable and good and that a life surrendered to him becomes part of a bigger story that doesn’t end here that, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “death has no sting”.  But that doesn’t mean I (or anyone else) never face fear, anxiety or panic.  Of course we do—that is just part of being human.  But what I learned in the “hole” was how God’s peace can trump these things.  When the rock slide occurred there was fear and panic everywhere.  This is just like life.  We are going along and minding our own business when seemingly out of the blue we get hit with something (a chaotic situation, a negative report from the doctor, a blow to our financial stability, a threat—whatever) and it knocks us silly, off-kilter, consumed with fear and anxiety and struggling to regain balance.  It can take a moment to catch our breath.  Here is what I have found.  When I will step away and look up, focusing on Jesus, peace floods my spirit even when the storm is still raging.  The key here is focus.  As long as I focus on my circumstances I magnify the fear.  But if I will focus on Christ who is the hope of my life I find peace.  Please note that I did not earn this peace by being “good enough” or deserving it.  It is given freely.  Jesus is known as the Prince of Peace and in the book of John he said, “My peace I give to you.”  Later on in the New Testament Paul writes that the peace we have transcends all understanding.  In other words this peace doesn’t always make sense as circumstances would dictate a completely different outlook.

Now just because we have peace does not mean things are not still hard and possibly even dangerous.  This post is already too long so I do not have time to go into detail, but eventually we had to have a search and rescue helicopter fly in to get Steve out of the “hole”.  His sister, Loraine, and I were still with him when rescue arrived (the rest of the team had climbed out).  The rescuer looked at Loraine and I and told us that he would take care of Steve but that we needed to get out now because we were getting hypothermia.  So I asked if it was safe for us to climb out—perhaps the rock slides were over.  He gave me a strong look and said, “No.  I didn’t say that.  What I said was you are getting hypothermia and you need to get out now!”  As we climbed out we saw other hikers huddled alongside the trail.  When an obnoxiously loud clap of thunder hit, a woman hiking up with us screamed, her eyes filled with terror and she turned around and ran back down into the “hole”.  I tried to stop her but she pushed me away.  As Lorraine and I were getting ready to step out from one of the tunnels located near the rim, a man yelled for us to stop and a large rock fell right where we would have stepped.  Things were still crazy, but we had peace.  Peace does not mean that everything is calm on the outside.  Peace brings calmness to the inside even when all hell is breaking loose around you.

This is a far more serious post than what I normally write, but it ties in with what we are talking about on Wednesday nights.  If we will cry out to Jesus he will show up in the midst of our situation and walk with us through it.  He did it for Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (one of the stories we looked at last week in the Bible study).  He did it for me in the “hole” and many other times of my life (which I do not have time to write about) when it seemed like the world was going sideways.  He will do it for you!

Here is the verse on peace from last week’s Bible study.  See you next week as we look at Daniel 5 and 6.

Isaiah 26 3

By the way, if you like the Grand Canyon and trail stuff you might want to check out these posts.  A couple of years ago my friends and I ran rim to rim to rim in one day (a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon – 46 miles) and it was epic–with no rock slides!  Here are the links and they are filled with pics.  I am not sure if they will work by clicking or if they need to be copied and pasted into the browser:

Oct 29

Thursday Morning Thoughts Week Two: Refusing to Conform

(Once again, while anyone is welcome to read this post, these Thursday Morning Reflections are meant specifically for those who are in the Bible study I am leading on Wednesday nights.  And thank you to those of you who come out–I love being there with you all on Wednesdays!).

Last night we were inspired by the courage of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three young men under incredible pressure to conform to the culture of Babylon.  In fact they were threatened with an excruciating death if they would not bow their knee,  Yet, they stood their ground and made one of the greatest statements of faith in the Bible: Our God is able to save us.  He is willing to save us.  And even if He doesn’t save us we are not going to bow!

Wow!  Where did this courage come from?  I believe it was rooted in their faith in God and supported by their knowledge of who they were.  Babylon had changed their names and tried to strip them of their identity.  The world could call them whatever it wanted to call them, but they knew who they were–they were Jews, followers of Jehovah.  When they were first taken as captives they made a decision and resolved that they would not defile themselves.  In a sense they drew a proverbial line in the sand and said they would not cross it.  That resolve was still evident years later.  They would obey God and God only, even under threat of death.  It is one thing to say “God I trust you.”  It is another thing to have actions which support that statement.  They knew they could trust in God’s goodness and power and his willingness to act on their behalf.  As you know from our study last night, God came through for them in a mighty way!  And also as we discussed last night, this God is the same God we serve.  And he is still good, he is still able, he is still willing to act on our behalf.  Have we drawn our line in the sand?  In the Old Testament, Joshua did this when he said that as for he and his house, they would serve the Lord.  In the New Testament, Peter and John did it when they said they would obey God rather than man.  It is our turn now.  We are the ones on center stage and we have incredible examples of faith to inspire us.  When our faith is rooted in Christ it gives us access to incredible courage in difficult circumstances.  Where is your line?  What is your statement?  Trust him and then let your actions fall inline with that confession.

As we closed last night there were two verses to consider memorizing.  The first one focuses on trust followed by obedient actions.  You might consider this one if you are up against some difficult situation and you are wanting to handle it God’s way.  Here is it:

Isaiah 26 8

The second one focuses more on the peace God provides when we keep our focus on him.  There is no Bible study next week so I am going to write a supplementary post next Thursday specifically on having peace in crazy or alarming circumstances.  You might consider memorizing this verse if you are currently in the midst of a trial or fiery situation and need peace.  Here you go:

Isaiah 26 3



Oct 22

Thursday Morning Thoughts Week Two: Keep Calm

We have all seen them—“Keep Calm” posters.  They are everywhere and come with all types of creative and fun endings:

Keep calm eat a cooking

But I bet you did not know that the original poster (see below)…

Keep calm carry on

…was produced in 1939 by the British government to raise the morale of the public who were under the threat air strikes.  The air strikes eventually came yet the poster was rarely ever displayed and was rediscovered in the year 2000.  Had it been displayed would it have worked?  How do you stay calm when under attack?  How do you stay calm when life goes sideways?  That is what we were talking about last night at the Bible study at The Wednesday Experience at Faith.  As a quick recap from Daniel 2, Daniel and his buddies found themselves in a completely unfair situation with the king of Babylon making unrealistic demands of them.  The king had had a dream which had terrified him.  He wanted to know the meaning of the dream but was unwilling to tell anyone what the dream was.  He demanded that his wise men tell him what he had dreamed and then interpret it—a seemingly impossible situation.  If they could not produce what he wanted the king had promised to tear them apart limb by limb—a promise he was more than capable of making good on.  The temptation to panic and lose their minds to fear would have been real.  The young men would have been tempted to get defensive, combative and rebellious.  But Daniel responded differently than would have been predicted.  He stayed calm, got the details and gathered his friends to pray.  One of the main points from last night was that prayer should not be our last resort but rather our first response.  The young men trusted God’s goodness and power and did not rely on their own wits to save them.  And God came through for them telling Daniel what the king had dreamed and what the dream meant.  The king was so impressed that he rewarded Daniel and his friends with high positions in his kingdom.  What could have easily been seen as a hopeless situation became a launching pad for a significant promotion.

So how about us?  When we face crazy, unrealistic situations at work or in our families or wherever, will we lose our minds to fear and panic?  Will we become defensive and combative?  Will be give up with discouragement or try to solve it with our own wits?  Or will we choose to stay calm in the midst of the situation, making our first response prayer based on our trust in God’s goodness and power?  Will we dare to hope that this situation might actually be a launching pad to something greater?  God is good!  We can trust Him!  Here is the verse to consider memorizing for this week:

Philippians 4 67

See you next Wednesday night!

Oct 21

Mt Baldy Via Pine Mountain and Dawson Peak


Back at baldy

 This post is very delayed, but better late than never. 🙂

Growing up in the San Gabriel Valley I learned my directions (north, south, east, west) based on the location of the mountains–the mountains were always north.  To this day I am lost without my mountains!  The one prominent mountain which my grandparents consistently pointed out to me was Mt. Baldy–especially when it was capped with snow.  At 10,064 feet it is the tallest mountain in the San Gabriels so it has been awesome as an adult to summit it numerous times from four different approaches–Devil’s Backbone, Ski Hut Trail, Bear Flats and the traverse from Iron Mountain (which I refuse to write about as we should have never been up there!).  Last October Amber, Sarah and I took on a new (for us) and rarely used route to Mt. Baldy from the Wrightwood area via Pine Mountain and Dawson Peak and, like all the other approaches, it was stunning.  It was also pretty difficult!  Here is the account with pics.

We drove out to Wrightwood and then took Hwy 2 to Inspiration Point where we turned onto a dirt service road that was pretty rutted.  We followed the road to the gate where it was closed at Guffy Campground, parked the car and then headed down the road on foot to the trailhead.  We had read previous blogs and knew the trailhead was not well-marked, however the route followed the ridgeline which was easy to see so we just had to find where it intersected with the service road.  Once located we found ourselves on a single track faint use trail which we would follow all the way to Baldy.

It was a beautiful start to the morning with incredible views through the forest and over the clouds which encompassed the valley below.


The initial climb took us over Wright Mountain which was barely a bump compared to what lay ahead.  As we came into a saddle we had a great view of the opening piece of the trail up to Pine Mountain.  If you look closely (at the pic below) you can see how it literally follows the spine of the ridgeline.  All three of us had brought trekking poles which were put to good use.

Pine ascent

The climb up Pine had some fairly steep sections with one piece requiring us to put our poles away and use all fours.  It was one thing to have to go up this section but coming down it on the return trip was not going to be fun.  It was slick with light gravel/scree but it was the only location where things were a bit sketchy.

Sarah ascending

The groves of trees were beautiful and one gracefully arched its way over our route.

Curved tree

At the top of Pine we took a break to eat and enjoyed the view.  Below is a panoramic looking toward Baldy and Iron Mtn.

Dawson Peak pan of Baldy

From Pine Mountain the trail quickly dropped about 430 feet to the saddle and then the climb up Dawson Peak began where we re-climbed 316 feet.  I don’t know if “re-climbed” is an actual word or phrase but it is what we did a lot of on this trek!  From the top of Dawson we captured a view of our route up Baldy (see next pic).  Once again the trail took us right along the ridgeline but first we had to descend 640 feet to the saddle only to have to climb back up from the saddle to the summit of Baldy, a gain of almost 1200 feet..  It is always a bummer to go downhill when you know you will have to climb that elevation all over again.  🙁

Baldy ridgeline

The climb up Baldy was really tough but we slogged our way through it.  Eventually we made it to the summit and were met with an incredible view towards the desert.  The view towards LA was socked in with clouds.

Baldy pan to Pine

It was at the summit where we met the only other person we would see on the trail that day.  We asked if he would take our picture.  He obliged but I realized later when I looked through my pics that he was not accustomed to using an iPhone–he took about eight selfies without realizing it while repeatedly telling me he did not think it was working.  🙂   His name was Mark and we appreciated his effort!


He did manage to take quite a few pics of the three of us as well.  (Yes, I was wearing a goofy hat but it kept the sun off my neck and ears!)

Three of us

We ate most of the rest of our food at the summit and then headed back..  Along the way Sarah entertained us with a trail dance!  I am wondering if it was inspired by a caffeinated gel. 🙂

Sarah trail dance

It was a peaceful hike back as we saw nobody else until we got back to Guffy campground.

Amber on backbone

All in all it was a total of 13 miles with 6,000 feet of elevation gain.  We did not do any running, we simply hiked, and including our break time we were out there 7 hours and 20 minutes.  It was a great trip but if we were to do it again we would make a significant change.  We would drop a car at Baldy (Manker Flats) and then beg or bribe someone to drive us to Wrightwood, dropping us off at the Acorn Trail.  We would hike up Acorn to the PCT, make a left and pick up the trail for this hike off the PCT.  Then after climbing Baldy we would simply descend Baldy to the car and not hike back out to Wrightwood–it was a LONG way back!






Oct 15

Thursday Morning Thoughts Week 1: When Life is Not Fair

Romans 8 28

Last night we started back to The Wednesday Experience after a four-month break.  I am super excited to be teaching the Bible study and I thought that as a follow-up each week I would post a recap/reflection on Thursday mornings along with the verse of the week for those of you who want to take on the challenge of memorizing it.  So these “Thursday Morning Thoughts” are specifically for those of you who are attending the Bible study but of course anyone who is interested is welcome to read them.

So the pic above is the verse to memorize for this next week.  I layered it on a pic I took from Connecticut three years ago when I became an official “leaf peeper”—what a beautiful trip!  Memorizing the scripture is completely optional and meant to support those of you who want to push yourself a little more—go a little deeper.  Remember what we talked about last night.  The verse is not saying that everything that happens is good.  It simply states that God can and will bring good out of all situations for those who love Him.  In the story we looked at last night in Daniel 1, Daniel and his friends found themselves in a very unfair situation.  Many scholars believe they were about 15 years old when they were forcefully removed from their families and homes and exiled to a land very far away—Babylon.  The Babylonians tried to strip them of their identity by changing their names and forced them into an educational program not of their choosing.  All of this was not the result of their own rebelliousness, but rather the result of the rebelliousness of the generations who had lived before them.  How was that fair?!  Yet Daniel and his buddies chose to not respond with bitterness or discouragement or rebellion or by abandoning their faith.  They drew a proverbial line in the sand and resolved (which means to be firm in purpose or intent, to settle) not to defile themselves with the king’s food.  The Babylonian food may have been items which the Jewish dietary laws forbid them to eat and/or it may have been offered to Babylonian idols thus eating it would be participating in idol worship.  Either way Daniel was not going to be stripped of his identity as a follower of God.  He and his friends chose to trust God even in the midst of the unfair situation.  By the end of the chapter we saw how God was beginning to bring good out of their situation giving them incredible favor with the king.  We will see more over the coming weeks.

How about us?  Will we trust God even when faced with unfair and painful circumstances?  An antagonistic work environment, the break-up of a marriage or significant relationship, a sobering diagnosis from a doctor, being overlooked for a promotion, a rejection letter from the school of your dreams–these things are not good.  But if we will trust God He will not only take us through the difficult experience, He will also bring good out of it.  Trust Him!  He is good and He is faithful!  See you next Wednesday night for Daniel 2.  Happy Thursday!

Jun 10

Bryce Canyon 50 Mile Race Report

Lake behind Rubys

A few years ago, while reading Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker I was inspired to come up with my own list of “100 Life Goals” (you can read more about Batterson’s goals here: Life Goals ).  So far I have only came up with thirty-eight goals (I have some more praying and dreaming to do!), but one of my goals was to run a 50 mile ultra-marathon.  Knowing I am not getting any younger I decided 2015 was a good year to go after the 50 miler.  Of course, if you are going to run 50 miles you sure as heck want the course to be beautiful.  So after looking at all types of events, my friend Amber, who I do much of this crazy stuff with and I decided on Bryce.  Let me just say that I was not disappointed.  This was my first time to Bryce and it was stunning!!!  The course is run along the Paunsaugunt Plateau between 8,000 and 9,400 feet of elevation with incredible views of hoodoos.  The company who organized this race was Ultra Adventures and under the leadership of race director Matt Gunn, they did an amazing job.  Their races are located in the area known as The Grand Circle (Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce, etc.) and they offer distances from a half-marathon to 100 miles.  If you are looking for a race in the southwest be sure to check them out: Ultra Adventures

While in Bryce we stayed at Ruby’s Inn which had a beautiful lake behind the lodge with space for those who preferred to camp (see opening pic).  We arrived on Thursday which gave us plenty of time to settle in, pick up our race packets and get our gear ready.

The start time for the 50 miler was at 6am on Saturday which required meeting a shuttle at 4:30am for the ride out to the start.  Temps were in the 30’s and we were all hoping the hail and thunderstorms from the day before would not return–but it was not to be.  The race started at Crawford Pass under cloud cover.  I knew I was trained to finish a 50 miler but not to do it fast so I stayed in the back and followed the advice from a local ultra friend, “Start off slow and then ease up from there.”  🙂   A few miles in, as we began to climb up to the Pink Cliffs Aid Station, the clouds began to burn off and hoodoos began to appear mysteriously in the fog.  They were beautiful!

Race 2 Hoodoo Clearing

We continued to run up to Pink Cliffs Aid Station where our view was obstructed by clouds.  From there we ran through a beautiful meadow on a very runnable fire road/double track past a meandering stream on our way to Straight Canyon Aid.

Race 3 Fireroad Race 4 Stream Race 5 Meadow As we climbed back up and ran along the rim the clouds began to dissipate and the views became spectacular–amazing cliffs of pink and red appeared as I ran out from under the trees.  Views like this helped to take away some of the pain of running 50 miles!  I wish the pictures would do it more justice!

Race 10 Cliffs Shadow 2 Race 7 Cliffs 2 Race 9 Cliffs 4 Race 10 Cliffs 5 Race 10 Cliffs 6 Race 10 Cliffs 7 Race 10 Cliffs 8  Race 11 Cliffs 9 Race 12 Tree and Cliffs I continued on to Blubber Creek Aid which was at mile 25 where I ate some sausage–yep, they were cooking sausage at that station and it tasted amazing!.  Considering the race was at high elevation with 9,200 feet of climbing my goal was simply to finish standing up, having enjoyed myself and having taken lots of pics along the way. This was a once in a lifetime event that I did not want to miss by being too concerned about time.  I thought I would finish at around 14 hours.  So at mile 25 when I saw I was at 5 hours and 35 minutes I was very pleased.  I knew the second half of any race is almost always harder since you are dealing with fatigue.  What I didn’t know was how hard the section from Blubber Creek Aid to Proctor Aid would be.  That section was brutal–technical single track with some steep climbs.  I struggled through it and eventually saw the Proctor Aid Station in the distance.  What a relief!Race 16 Proctor AideI had a drop bag with extra food and fresh gear at that station.  I quickly found it and went into the tent to get some food.  I was there a minute at the most when thunder and lightning hit and a crazy hailstorm ensued.  As other runners were coming into the aid station everyone took cover in the tent and before long it was like an adult version of the kids game Sardines, where you try to fit as many people as possible in a small place.  But at least it was dry and they were making quesadillas which despite running 33 miles I was able to stomach. I was at that aid station for almost 40 minutes before the storm subsided.  When I finally left I felt super stiff and I had lost all of my momentum.  A volunteer offered to drive anyone out who wanted to drop and I almost took him up on it.  But I decided to head out and threw a rain poncho on and took off–actually I shuffled off thanks to the stiffness.  What I encountered made me think I had made the wrong decision–the trails had become slick mud flows and it was very slow going. There were some pieces I simply slid down rather than run. Thunder could still be heard in the background and I got caught in a smaller hail and thunderstorm that passed very quickly.  I decided I wanted to drop at the next aid station, Thunder Mountain, as I did not want to be out in these elements.  It wasn’t the rain and hail so much as it was the lightning.  One of the guys running near me on the trail that morning had told me that Bryce gets hit with more lightning strikes than anywhere else in the US other than Florida.  Yet here I was, at times completely exposed on top of ridgelines.  I just didn’t think it was a very good idea.  I convinced myself that I would be okay with dropping and would not want any sympathy from anyone back home as I had experienced a beautiful day.  I texted my friend Amber who had run the 50k and finished earlier that day and whose race covered the same final miles as mine.  She was honest with me and told me the last 10 miles were really rough.  So with my mind made up I came into Thunder Mountain Aid and said that if it was possible I wanted to drop.  The guy looked at me and said it was not possible as the car had just left with two others who were dropping.  I am not a big crier but at that moment I wanted to cry.  What I didn’t mention earlier in this post was somewhere on the trail I had lost my Maui Jim sunglasses (very expensive!) and a rain jacket I was borrowing from my friend (also expensive).  That together with the lightning and the mud and losing 40 minutes at an aid station and being very stiff–I was done. It is crazy how things get compounded with tiredness!  He told me they could call for a car but it would be at least an hour.  He then proceeded to talk me into finishing telling me I looked great.  Hmmm!  I wasn’t happy about it but they filled up my water, gave me a couple of fruit cups and I was off.

The last section was very hard!  It was also very beautiful!  I ran the first section of it alone but eventually was caught by another woman from SoCal and we ran the final miles together.

Race 19 Hoodoos Race 20 Cliffs You can see from this next pic why I continued to be very concerned about the thunderstorms.   One nice thing was the trail did dry rather quickly and what was once very slippery became quite runnable.

Race 20 Storm in backgroundRace 21 Starightaway Race 22   The guy running behind me got this shot of me running though the canyon.  It puts the size of the hoodoos in perspective.  You feel very small out there!Race 24 Me running out So after 14 hours and 29 minutes we finished and I took a little finish line photo with my new friend.  The smile was due to my relief of being finished.  🙂

Race 25 Finish

Looking back on it a few days later I am really, really glad I finished this race.  It was an amazing experience and Bryce was spectacular!   Instead of finisher medals we were given handmade leather wrist cuffs which were cool.  I made it back to the lodge around 9:30pm that night and my friend Amber and her daughter Hannah had my dinner waiting there for me!  I have never had any problem eating after hard events.  I had accomplished my goal and finished standing up, having taken lots of pics and for the most part (minus the lightning) thoroughly enjoyed my day.  Huge shout out to Mr. Aid Station Guy at mile 42 for talking me into finishing! 🙂   And a HUGE SHOUT OUT to the race director, Matt Gunn, for putting together a well-organized and incredibly beautiful race!

The next morning we did a little sightseeing before heading home.  The rest of the pics in this post are from our sightseeing on both Thursday and Sunday.  I will be back to explore these trails some day!Sat Hoodoo 2 Sat Hoodoo Sat Trail Sign Thurs 1 Thurs 2 Thurs 3

Apr 07

Chuckanut 50k Race Report


(NOTE: After publishing this post I noticed that when accessing it on an iPad the pics are showing up sideways.  If you are reading the post on a computer the pics are fine.  I am not an IT person and have no idea why it is doing this so I apologize in advance! 🙂  )

So after a seven-month hiatus I am finally back to the blog and excited about a lot of things that are coming up, especially my first 50 mile race.  Yes, 50 miles–I know it’s crazy!  When I first started running back in 2007 it was to check-off a bucket list item which was to run a marathon. I thought I would be “one and done”!  However, the running hasn’t stopped and the distance has only gotten longer!  So that is how I find myself currently looking at a 50 mile race which is coming up on June 6 at Bryce canyon.  But to be clear, I do feel that 50 miles is my tap-out point–I am not a 100k or 100 mile girl!!!  So to prepare for this, my friend and I hired a coach to design a training plan to get us to 50 miles (I might write more about that later) and I signed up for two practice races, one of which I ran on March 21–Chuckanut 50k.

I have a close friend who lives up in Washington who had been asking me to visit for some time so I conveniently booked a trip up north the same week as the very popular Chuckanut 50k was being run.  You see, this is what runners do–we book vacations around races! 🙂

For non-runners, a 50k is between 31 and 32 miles and most are run on trails.  The pic at the top of this post tells a lot of the story–it was wet and muddy.  Mud like this SoCal girl had never seen before!  I was covered!  But it was beautiful and fun and I would do this race again in a heartbeat.  I knew going into the race that I was not trained for it as the race itself was training for my upcoming 50 miler, so I did not expect to do well.  I had only run one 20 miler and had not done any weekend back to back runs.  The goal was to finish and not be too torn up.  Here is a run down on the race.

It had rained every day that week and it rained for most of the race.  The opening 10k (or 6.5 miles) of the race was run on an inter-urban trail that was relatively flat and gentle with just a couple of hundred feet of elevation gain.  I wish we had inter-urban trails that looked like this! I was able to preview this section the day before and got some pics…


Trees were covered in moss which made them appear to glow…


There were cool twists and turns, beckoning you into the forest…


Much of the trail followed alongside a gentle steam with occasional small waterfalls…


After completing the opening 10k the climbing began.  The elevation gain on this race was 5100 feet and most of it was in the 19 mile long middle section. The first climb took us up to Fragrance Lake and the trail began to get a little more technical with roots and rocks but nothing like it would become.


In this pic of Fragrance Lake you can see the rain landing softly on the water…


After Fragrance Lake I stopped taking pics for a long time as I had left my gloves in my gear bag back at the start of the race and my fingers were freezing and stiff.  The next climb was Cleator Rd.  I had read a blog were someone had wished they had walked most of this section to conserve energy, so when I saw others walking I joined them.  If I were to do this race again I would probably run most of this section as it was runnable and not technical at all.  At the end of Cleator Rd. we came to the Ridge Trail which was both stunning and terrifying.  It was a lush and green single track that was incredibly technical and very cold.  I do not understand how the top contenders run this type of terrain.  There were rocks and roots everywhere and crazy slippery mud.  A few times I had to hang on to roots to lower myself or pull myself up the terrain.  It is a miracle I did not go down!  There were many times I came close though–caught my foot on a root, flailed through the air and regained my balance; stepped onto a large rock only to have my foot slide all the way down to its base while my heart rate soared thanks to the adrenaline (twice!); numerous slips in shoe sucking mud.  I finally figured out that the safest place to run when running in the mud was right in the center of the mud puddle, so that is what I did.  I was filthy!  At the end of the Ridge Trail, the final climb came–the notorious Chinscraper!  For my local running friends, Chinscaper is like a combined Mystic Trail and Poop Out Trail–only muddy, and with a photographer recording your struggle for all to see.  Once Chinscraper was summited it was primarily downhill the entire way back.  My fingers had finally warmed up enough so I took a few pics coming down back toward Fragrance Lake.


Once I was down from Fragrance Lake I was met by some friends who were waiting  for me at the aid station.  They got this pic of me with 26 miles on my legs and another 10k to go.

imageThe final 10k was a return trip back on the inter-urban which I ran with the girls encouraging me onward.  I really appreciated their support and want to give a huge shout out to them.  I was even able to smile when it was over.  It was also nice to have the sun finally come out!  🙂


Also a huge shout out to my friends Jane and Violet for putting up with me racing during my visit! They were at the finish line to cheer me in!


My finish time was not great, 7:14,  but I reminded myself this was a training run and was 12 miles farther than anything I had done in preparation. I was tired, but not torn up and recovered relatively quickly.  It is amazing how God has designed our bodies to handle stuff like this.  So my next practice race is the Leona Divide 50k on April 18. I am looking forward to it!