Pacific Crest Trail…Mexico to Canada 2014

A new chapter of my life is beginning. Every road I have walked, every person I have met, all the joys and sorrows, the loves shared and lost, the pain and the ecstasy; all of life’s moments have led me to this trailhead. From the boys in Charicot, Nepal to the outcast Balinese handicapped, and the Buddhist teachers on the hilltop over looking Kathmandhu to the Holy Man in the small village inland Bali, from Tatu Jo who has taught me so much about the trail to my little neighbor Mankala who proclaimed it would be so much easier to fly to Canada than walk, from my dearest friend Joey Thomas whose love has carried me through so much to the old fisherman on Maui who told me the key to happiness was fresh fish and massage daily, from the endless love of my daughters to the memory of my great love Michael, and from all my family and friends I have met on this journey thus far, I bow down. I have so much gratitude for all the wisdom shared. 

When I used to run a lot of miles the most common question asked was,”what are you training for?” My answer every time, was “life.” I feel like everything we do essentially is training for what comes next. That being said, I go back to my first thought of this blog, I am here, because I have been there.

I am drawn to the Pacific Crest Trail for many reasons. I think the main draw is the ability to delve into self, to see and understand my strengths and weaknesses; to be in the moment, and to try to understand the great lesson of impermanence; to face any demons and insecurities that may lie deep within, and to let go of story lines that have dominated my life. My friend Tatu Jo told me, “what you carry onto the trail with you in Mexico, you no longer carry once you arrive in Canada.”  I feel there is so much more to life. I feel there is so much more to me. The trail I believe, will give me insight. This journey won’t be easy. I know that. But life isn’t easy. I know I will face things never faced before. I know my mind will say,”NO!!!!”. I know my body will scream at me.I know I will be hungry and dirty and tired. I know I will be scared, and I know that I embrace this challenge with  all my heart. A reporter asked me if it was hard to leave what I knew for something I knew very little about. If it was hard to leave that which was comfortable and familiar. My answer was absolutely not. I don’t think we were put on this planet to engage with that which is easy. Our true nature evolves out of our ability to take on the challenges that are put in front of us. I have, in the past, become my story. It was easy. It wasn’t an easy story, but it was easier to be that which I knew, than to break away and to become that which I could be. I stayed with my story line because I was afraid to break free of the ties I bound myself with. Joey once told me he felt I was like a caged bird whom he was protecting, and someday I would feel my wings and I would fly. Life is about breaking free from those self imposed walls. Often times we don’t even know we are bound. But the moment the realization enters…”Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Goethe

I begin this journey with so much love in my heart. I look forward to sharing it with you. My hope is to instill a little glimmer of possibility in you. That you can do that which you dream. I hope to bring a smile to your face. Follow me on this journey.It will be quite a ride!!!!IMG_0321

 

Advertisements

Villareca traverse

IWe hiked this section fairly quickly … Long days on the trail. Truly for no other reason than just following the cues of our bodies. It is interesting out there…. If you listen intently you will know … whether it is time to stop.. Or continue on… But I must say…. There are many times when the mind speaks louder and no matter what the body says …you push onward!!

We hiked through many different Eco-systems on this hike …. many hours spent maneuvering our way through varying shades and sizes of lava rock…much of it looking like finely chiseled sculptures… Quite beautiful… We meandered into dry landscapes .. Which were very hot, dry and gusty.. Water was scarce and oftentimes filled with silt from the mountains from where they originated…the layers of mountains and skies brought delight to the senses.. shades and layers of life…the mountain ranges bringing thoughts of future treks and longings… but staying in the moment as there was so much to fill the present… Our campsites were quite different from all others as we were the only ones out there must of the trek.. We saw a handful of others .. mostly we shared the territory we trekked through with cattle!!! This wasn’t really appreciated though it was accepted as they are quite large!! The droppings quite disgusting and many times maneuvering through their waste and the boggy sections got to be bothersome …The petite flowers growing out of the starkest of places continue to fill me with sparks of delight and joy!!the extremely long downhills taking a toll on the body … The slow pace because of the unstable terrains making for very long days…but … The wonder of it all….we hiked across snow fields as the snow reflected the sun back onto our faces that were bronzing by the moments…we were a bit let down as we weren’t able to swim in the lakes…. They looked somewhat dirtier than we felt and the surrounding campsites littered with trash … Once off the traverse we found ourselves walking down the road.. Thumbs extended in hopes of a ride to the nearby town 20k away to catch a bus back to Pucon… We stopped in a small town and were so pleased to find a small kitchen offering original Mapuchi meals… It was fabulous… We got a ride after an hour or two of extremely hot road walking… And caught the bus back to our hostel.   We have only 8 days remaining … Our bodies are a bit tired… We will see what tomorrow brings

the climbing of Volcan Villareca

What an awesome adventure!! We joined a group called”Summit Chile” .. they provided the gear we needed and also the guides..Claudio and his team were amazing. We started with 15 people .. At the end only 6 finished !! Geared up and ready to go we boarded into a van and headed up to the chair lift which would bring us to the starting point. We filed single file up the mountain , traversing back and forth across… step by very slow step.. watching each ice ax plant and keeping attention fully focused on every foot step . It was a windy day and the snow was very icy in places. I kept my vision on the path in front of me for to look up would take my attention away from where it needed to be. There were a number of folks who should not have attempted this and I personally think it was foolish for them to even try. The mountains are very strong and constantly changing and if you have never walked a mile even … Well as a result more than half the group pulled out. Up we went. We stopped for breaks , using our ice axes to carve a seat for our packs and then we rested against those …ate our snacks and readied ourselves for more climbing .. I faced many fears on that mountain . I also gained respect for my own mind and body. I think we forget sometimes to have gratitude , for self. Each step….. precise .. every time I slipped just a little, my heart gave a jump.. calm . We had to go very very slow and stop often . A young woman , I think her name was Julie from Chicago said she was afraid of everything.. she was along with  our group and she was indeed very afraid. She was tied via a rope to our guide and they led the 6 person group.. I was very impressed  with her and was not bothered by the insanely slow pace because she was facing her fears in a big way and it was inspiring to watch her go through the process. Upon reaching the summit the gases from the volcano became quite intense . My throat started burning.. Others had difficulty breathing.. We took pictures, high fived each other and began the slow journey down the mountain . The views from the top were breathtaking.. But as is typical for me on a mountain high, I contemplate life and my journey … So many factors in life leading to where I am .. So much gratitude..I sigh.. I breathe.. I feel the pounding of my heart .. Both from the physical exertion and also from life itself..the journey…realizing every day the many layers of life… The many threads woven that create this blanket … This life … The journey down.. Slushy and a little slippery yet much faster.. It took almost 5 hours up and 2 1/2 hours down. We stopped midway and did a little ceremony to honor the Mapuchi people  , the indigenous people of Chile. It was nice to think of those people who knew this mountain and this country so long ago and to honor their journey also. We reached the bottom of the mountain. Gave thanks to our guides, switched into our trekking mode. Unlike the others who were climbing in the van back to Pucon.. We were donning our backpacks to begin the 6 day traverse around Volcan Villareca… The volcano we had just summited!! We were told if we could find a guy named Diego he may have beers for sale!! We each drank 2 cold beers .. ate some food.. talked about our love of this life… and began the trek on….

fear revisited….Lago Negra onward

I awoke at a lovely campsite near Refugio Negra. The Refugio is alongside an onyx lake nestled in between the mountains.. the winds come through and a chill weaves its way through my being… After a breakfast of home made bread, dulce leche… and coffee we began what was to be the most difficult day for me mentally. The hike began around the lake where at one point we had to scale up and back down the side of a grand rock utilizing a rope to aid in the ascent and descent.. it was interesting with the backpack and poles!!! Oh.. I forgot to mention yesterday was my longest hiking day thus far.. it was about 44 k.. Anyway…We had met a local guy a neuro-surgeon a couple days back.. He had suggested we hike this hike the opposite way than we eventually chose because of a very steep “annoying ” section…I am happy we went the way we did .. as going down what we went up would have been simply awful…we sat at the base eating our lunch.. for me.. Trying to build confidence…we watched a couple people come down.. it didn’t look fun.. we began and were actually stoked as the scree looked bigger and steadier than we imagined.. it quickly changed and my fear grew to epic proportions… there was a bit of a trail but it almost didn’t feel like the safest way to go…we kinda made our own trails because to follow behind one another would have been foolish if the leader(nancy) would have slipped.. I too would go … She seemed to be moving with ease… Not me.. I caused a bit of a  rock slide … decided to climb the rest  of the climb hugging as close as I could the rock mountainside.. Each step.. Each handhold set with absolute precision…I wanted to cry but even that emotion would take me too far from the moment and I could not afford to go there! I am not sure really how long it took to get up.. Possibly a half hour.. Maybe more .. But at one point I looked up and nancy was there and she said we are almost there.. the rest is no problem .. I sat for a moment and let tears prevail .. collected myself and finished the upward trek..we were far from finished for the day andi was thoroughly exhausted but we decided to not stop for the day and hike out.. we got back in bariloche that night at10 pm.. We didn’t have a place to stay but the folks at Penthouse 1004 placed some calls for us .. the city was full.. our room looked out into a laundry room full of blankets and quilts…a far cry from where we had been the last 4 days …it only took one day in town for me to be ready to get back out there… the trail.. the mountains .. They define you…you must be with intention out here ..just being is an option but I feel as if you must be absolutely present to immerse yourself… again I struggle with words to explain my emotions .. my life changes a little bit after every trail… as the river flows..as the condor moves with the changes of the wind.. such are the seasons of life .. I love this life

LagoJakob

Each moment…important…Every step precisely set…What a journey. For me.. Intense day..Concentration being key.. It was an expansive day. All directions.. Life. This section of our trek has been a learning experience. The absolute importance of bring here..now. Climbing over big boulders surrounded by loose shale didn’t lend towards a stable climb upwards.My heart continually pounding and reminding me of the gift I was living. at the top of what I thought was the top every time  a new top appeared !!!heart pounding.. Breathing heavy .. And another mountain to climb.. The top wasn’t well marked.. After careful deliberation.. Consulting maps and guide books we made our way… The thrill of new discovery ..because of the heavy rains the night before we were blessed with a damp trail which compacted the extremely loose rock and shale a bit . It didn’t help immensly with the fear factor but I believe it saved us from slipping..the mental component of this section was huge..the mountains were steep.. Very steep and the trail was poorly defined..challenging.. continually evaluating each step .. reaching the last rise before the descent into Lago Jakob.. The rump of Tronador loomed in the distance…We had just finished an intense ascent over major boulders to reach this view…  breath taking in so many  ways… the winds were strong though and Refugio Jakob was beckoning to us way down the mountain… the journey downward slow but we finally reached our destination.. at first we were dismayed.. The campsites seemed less than desirable. we decided to indulge on a cold one and reassess the situation.. It looked much better .. actually turned out to be a favorite campsite .. we shared wine and story that night with an awesome mountaineering couple from Belgium. I loved spending time with them… They were so high on life ..someday I too will find a man to share the trails with… for now I can be stoked for this lifestyle …

Bring on the storms…

We trekked up to Refugio Frey I the Nahuel Huapi National Park. It was a nice trek up. The trail a bit dusty but the cathedral spires jutting upward toward the skies were a sight to behold. It was difficult not to keep glancing upward trying to decipher figures created by Gods hands in the rock formations. What a delightful Refugio. Nestled along a lake with spires surrounding … My favorite campsite thus far. We arrived early and setup our tents . The winds were howling. After double, triple and even quadruple checking the security if my tent I sat to eat lunch and ponder with amazement the rock climbers and their agile movements across the face of the rocks. Being that it was Christmas we decided to join the Refugio for dinner. We shared food with Brazilians, Welch, Argentinians, Swiss and a mixture of those of us from the states.. It was a joyous celebration with wine,food and conversation. The night brought on the storm . Rains and winds . Howling through the campsite all night and into the morning . I arose early as I felt my tent may collapse at any moment. I wanted to be ready. I packed everything up except for my tent and made my way to the security if the solid rock walls of theRefugio… Curious what the day may bring…so grateful to be here…and not in the city where we had spent the night before.. The elements of nature fill me with wonder and peace. Such a teacher is Mother Nature…

My Fitzroy Argentina

Ok… So I meant to type Mt Fitzroy… But My Fitzroy magically appeared .. I let it stand . I loved this mountain. I have not quite figured it out .. But perhaps I don’t need to.. It captivated me . Simply captivated me. He stands majestically over all others. A beacon of strength .. Of that which can and will be. I felt great energy from him and feel a bit possessed  by his magnificence. Such raw beauty and power….

The trails up to, around, and away from we’re not as crowded.. It was magical..some of the trails weren’t maintained .. It was adventure.. We scrambled up gigantic boulders to get closer to Piedras Blanca.. A glorious glacier en route to Fitzroy.. We followed old trails the ranger told us weren’t in existence.. We re-created them.. The campsite was crowded … But we didn’t see folks on the trail .. It was amazing. I felt as if the puma was watching us… We saw her scat on the trail and I know she was watching us and letting us pass by…
We ventured up to the base of a climbers
Camp.. A sweet little Refugio nestled along a stream amongst the grandeur of the towering peaks .. A respite from the cold .. Hot Argentinian coffee.. Sweet little home made cookies… Ahhh life
We climbed up to Fitzroy twice .. Once in the evening… Again at sunrise..it wasn’t an easy climb.. My body feeling the effects of the stairs.. The instability of the soil… The scree… But all if it, the back pain diminished as I set my eyes on the scene unfolding. As the sun rose and cast her colors on Fitzroy the internal emotion wept with joy…such beauty… Inhaling all that was in those moments.. I saw my life.. And I felt a blessing wash through me…I am exactly where I should be..
Leaving … We couldn’t help but look back hundreds of times.. It was hard to leave that special place.. It stands above and beyond all the other mountain peaks I have seen . I have immense gratitude.. I have immense  love to share.. this life .. Blessed be

Embracing the wind… Our last day inTorres

We had heard about the winds… We had experienced some windy days and nights… But on our last day we got the challenge of pushing through the strongest winds any of us had ever met. Winds that stop you in your tracks… Wind that pushes you totally off the trail.. Wind that even knocks you down .. The condors overhead gliding… Gracefully… suspended in motion …these kind of winds allow all thought to be thoroughly released from mind .. The winds so powerful and mighty cleansing the un-necessary and leaving a raw self… I learned on this journey to embrace the wind .. It is such a gift…

The hiking out was very slow… It became very wet and cold and this we also felt gratitude for.. To travel to Patagonia and experience only blue sunshine days… Well we would have felt as if we were denied the true spirit of these mountains…
The bus journey back to Puerto Natales was a bit difficult . We were sad to be leaving these mountains and the harsh reality of life slapped us in the face as we learned of Nancy’s father passing away.
Life. What a journey . When the mountains call though.. I will always heed her beckoning…

The last 2 days in Torres Del Paine

We left Lago Grey not as full of energy as we had hoped .. We were all kind of dragging. The winds were more consistent than they had been earlier on.The clouds continued to create vivid fast moving scenes in the skies. Absolutely stunning…. All of it.. The skies , the peaks and glaciers, the tiny communities of plants, the ever changing landscapes… I am captivated .. Thoroughly… Campo Italiano was quite crowded…. Went to sleep after a great conversation with nancy … I continue to be very excited about the PCT… We all arose early to hike up Frances Valley.. It was  lovely, the glaciers majestically towering above and below.. Again though I felt tired …

From Campo Italiano we headed towards Los  Cuernos…At one point we walked along a beautiful wintergreen colored lake  with a lovely shore of beach pebbles… The winds were ferocious at this point and the hiking was slow … Upon arrival at Los Cuernos.. A sweet little Refugio overlooking the lake.. We decided to spend the night in the hostel..It appeared to be a good choice as the winds came howling through so strong that tents were flying away and poles bring snapped in two.. We had a great dinner in the Refugio meeting more great folks… Farad from Israel and I struck up a nice conversation about life and the importance of living with passion and not letting life pass you by…

Zero day at Refugio Grey

We decided to lay over a day at Refugio Grey. Planning on kayaking , but the winds were really strong so we decided just to hang out . I reveled in the down time. Contemplating the trail, the emotions, my life…re-visiting the fear that overtook me in regards to the river crossings. Trying to look deeply at that. It wasn’t so much of a confidence issue with self…. But I also had to have confidence in the welder and the rope attacher and Mother Nature….I realized how hard it was for me.. Thoughts flew quickly to Nicole and Chrissy… What if I fell … I dug really deep…

The trail is good for contemplation. It is also good for forcing you to be in the moment.. Allowing nature to be… Allowing self to be