So I made it a week at the new gig. What gig? Well, I’m a lift operator (aka liftie) at Alpine Meadows. Its something I’ve wanted to do for many years and finally got around to.
What a difference a week makes! Last weekend I was granted one more relaxing weekend with friends in the desert. With my life about to transition I was a bit anxious about all that was ahead of me. It was a much needed time to unwind and laugh. Four wheeling can be a great way to unwind. Thanks guys for help with those snow chains and road trip tips!
On Sunday I sorted and loaded the car. I’m pretty sure I over packed AND under-packed (is that even possible). But everything needed to fit in the SUV while leaving me room to car camp. Since I had a couple of days I broke the nine hour drive over a couple of days. Camping first in the Alabama Hills, it’s a beautiful area with lots of dispersed camping that I’ve visited before.
The next day I headed north in search of a hot spring. After rambling around a couple of dirt roads I landed at the Hilltop Hot Springs. I would have rambled further but to my surprise my service engine soon light came on and I was a bit nervous about straying to far from highway 395. So I found a lovely dispersed camping spot about half mile of 395 back in a forested area.
My friends messaged me about a storm coming in so I figured I better push on to Tahoe City. There was rain that turned to snow and then back to rain. It stopped near Carson City so I had a beautiful drive north around the lake.
Tahoe City is a quaint resort town just minutes from Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows where I’ll be working. After a stop at HR I drove around til I found a good spot to stealth car camp. Not easy in a town with limited parking, but I found a spot. Went to sleep with a light rain falling…….woke to 7 inches of snow! Cleared the snow off with a towel (I neglected to replace my snow brush/scraper)! Welcome to the mountains!
Home of the 1960’s Winter Olympics
Planning to be “in winter” is kinda like planning for a 5 month thru hike, you know similar, but different. There is training, I’ve been dragging my butt to the gym pretty consistently (except for that one time). Gotta get those legs and core. I’m not a fan of squats and I’ve even done those. Liver training is admittedly lacking but maybe it’s similar to muscle memory!
Packing, is me spreading things all over the floor, looking at them and then deciding I’ll deal with it later. This could be a problem later, as I’m not going ultra light. I need snow gear, hiking gear, a NYE outfit (ya never know), oh and a tiny Christmas tree!! Screw it PACK ALL THE THINGS!!
Mentally I’ve been psyching myself up by doing a snow dance while listening to Pearl Jam (and not packing). Oh and watching ski movies for giggles. Have you seen the movie Frozen, not that one, the other one? Or Ski Patrol (1990) they just don’t make movies like that anymore. Plus a Warren Miller video or two “because if you don’t do it this year, you’ll only be older when you do“!
Know how much I want to go Heli-skiing? That’s totally random I know…….I’m just throwing it out there in the universe. Cuz ya never know…..heck who knew I’d walk to Canada!
Initially was going to start this post with a ‘sorry I haven’t posted in a while’. But I am not. This last month or so I have been sorting things out for myself. Clearing my head and determining my next life steps. In October I celebrated my 48th birthday, it was similar to an out of body experience. I was surrounded by people but alone. It is a strange yet familiar place for me. People look at me but they don’t actually see me for who I truly am. There is so much about me they do not know, at times I can see in the faces filling in the blanks with what makes them comfortable. Who will they decide that I am?
In Portland for my birthday I explored the city, trails and saw old friends. Mainly I was there for the ALDHA West Gathering, a hiker get together that includes speakers, Trail Angel/Triple Crown Awards and Board elections. I won a sweet Hyperlite backpack playing bingo and the 60’s costume contest!
The Triple Crown award presentation was enjoyable, I did a very short acceptance speech, it was recorded but I haven’t seen it yet, it was kinda a blur.
That’s where the Board elections come in. I ran for a member at large seat. It seemed like a great way meet other hikers, learn more about long distance hiking/conservation and offer my skills as a way to give back to the community. I won! I was shocked (there were some other great candidates) then excited.
So it’s gonna be a busy and excited winter learning new things, meeting new people, working with the board and living in Tahoe. That’s a whole lot of new.
(Sorry this should’ve posted this weekend…technical difficulties)
So I got my hands on some new trekking poles! The CNOC Vertex Carbon Trekking poles, a serious step up from the last ones I got at Walmart. These poles are the z type trekking pole, but not fixed length. This tripped me up when I first got them. Luckily there is a video explaining how to put them together on their site! So there is a push button connector, when extended I really like this z type pole as they tend to be more compact. As someone who uses poles less than most, i.e. they spend a lot of time in my outer pack pocket, I like that the are not protruding out like antennas.
There is a foam handle then a foam grip just below that. There is a cork version which is great if you have sweaty hands. But if you are camping be sure to not to leave your poles out, critters like to chew on the sweaty salty cork.
So each pole come in at only 7.7 ounces, together that is less than a pound, if your counting! They do come with a spiffy carrying case, snow and mud baskets and rubber tips(for pavement or concrete). I’m always looking for inexpensive, quality gear that can do double duty. These are actually a great deal price wise….right now they are on sale! I’ve already used them on few urban and local canyon hikes. Can’t wait to try them in the snow! (I’m so looking forward to this winter!) I’ll let you know how that goes!
Go ahead, go check them out! The holidays are coming, yo!
With the end of the hiking approaching, seeing pictures of hikers completing their hikes I have been reflecting on my own experiences. Looking at old PCT pictures and getting all teary. Maybe it’s just all the Pearl Jam and Martin Sexton I’ve been listening to that brought on all the feels.
I got a lot going on in my little corner of the world currently, don’t we all huh. The currents are shifting and as usually I am just gonna ride it out. Over the last 3 or so years figuring out “what to do next’ has been easy…another trail of course! The choice was easy as I was comfortable there or at least familiar. But if growth starts outside our comfort zone…I got to mix it up a bit right?
Bears, rattlesnakes, heck even bold squirrels are not as scary, to me, as stepping into a new adventure. There are so many unknowns, but thus is life, mine anyway.
So, I’ve decided to take a position in Tahoe for the winter! (i had to go back and change that period to and exclamation point) Been saying for years ‘I’m gonna ski more’ so what a better way than- total immersion! It’s gonna be hard, cold AF, new people, new experiences, new places I have never been. I’m not even sure where I will be living or with who? The uncertainty is exciting and scary all at once. On the upside I am looking forward to taking a swing a snowboarding (again), checking out that Rim to Rim trail (in snowshoes probably) and whatever else they got going up that way! Look at me getting out my head and my own way. This should be interesting. What you got going on this winter? Get outside!!!!
Well hellooooo! How y’all been? I’ve been enjoying the last days of summer and just being, well, busy. Let’s catch up!
So I went to PCT Trail Days…
Like a crazy person I drove 17 hours to Cascade Locks, OR! But it was so worth it. I met some cool people (that I’ve only known through the internet), volunteered at ALDHA-West, chatted with hikers and learned about Land and Water Conservation Fund!!
A Place in the Sun….
I’ve been itching to move out of the city, thought the desert would be right up my alley. So I took a trip out to Palm Springs. It was fun and hot, I even hiked part of the Cactus to Clouds trail, but it was hot. Went to a swanky museum and a cool bar with misters because it was hot. Then when I left to drive home my car overheated, I guess because it was hot. I took that as a sign and ditched the whole desert plan.
You’ve got a friend…..
My friends are the best and have helped in every way imaginable throughout my hiking adventures. So it’s been great to be back this summer and get to hang out with them. There have been some rocking brunches, porch chats, city hikes, kayaking, Ziggy Marley at Del Mar and Pink Floyd on the Spreckels Organ. We camped at Carlsbad State Beach last weekend and hiked Mt Woodson for a fogged out full moon! So much laughing and straight up shenanigans.
But wait…I thought you said you were itching to move out of the city? Yes, this is true. It’s time to mix things up a bit and get out of the city. There are plans in the works I’m finalizing the details and digging out my winter gear! (hint) More on this later…
BIRTHDAY MONTH is coming!!! Setting down my wine glass and picking up my stein, bring on the Oktoberfest fun!
October there will be a lot of celebrating Me! Oh and the 50th anniversary of the designation of our nation’s first two National Scenic Trails: the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails!! The PCT and the AT were our nation’s first National Scenic Trails, designated by a bipartisan act of Congress and signed into law as the NTSA (National Trails System Act) by President Lyndon Johnson on October 2, 1968.
Two years later on October 14, 1970 Elsye chardonnay was born, destined to hike those very trails…..yeah let’s celebrate!
For my birthday week I’ll be in Portland finding some trouble to get into and then Mt. Hood, Oregon for the ALDHA-West Gathering!
Oh I love Fall!! But I’m also looking forward to a wonderful winter adventure!
When I’m in a time of transition and lacking clarity I listen to Pearl Jam – Yellow Ledbetter. I have no idea what the actual lyrics are to the song. Heck I don’t think anyone does, maybe even Eddie. But there lays the beauty of it..
“A riff loosely based on something I had during the Ten sessions. I thought it was pretty. Eddie started making up words on the spot and we kept them. I still don’t know what it’s about and I don’t want to! I love it. Fans like it too!” -Lead guitarist Mike McCready
So in moment s of, well, uncertainty I listen to the song. Sometimes on repeat. At some point I just hear what I want to hear. Some people need silence to hear what their heart or that little voice inside is saying. I need Yellow Ledbetter….
this is a long post……but worth it!
On the morning we were to climb Katahdin we were all pretty excited to get going. All packed up and ready to go by 6 am. There was a quick stop at the ranger station. You can borrow a day-pack or just leave some of your things there. This was pretty nice since there was really no need to haul everything up there and back. Now the climb is only about 5.2 miles, however this is the AT so yeah. All the fast kids took off as soon as we hit the trail, I fell back. It’s kinda like a race remember to go your own pace. Sparkle is from Boston and offered to give us a ride out of the park afterwards. The plan was to hike the Hunt Trail up then hike the Abol trail down to the campground. Everyone said the Abol trail was shorter, yea, later I would find out it’s also the steepest descent!
I was cool with hiking alone, it was time for me to process the fact that this was it the big finish. The trail started out just fine….then came the boulders. Not surprised, it never gets easy the last day should be hard too, consistency. So I checked my map, only 2.3 miles to go! Yes I can do that. Pushing hard, I pulled my using the metal hand holds anchored in the rocks. Sweating, breathing hard and swatting those annoying bugs I leaned on a boulder. Now I’m not great with guessing distances but I felt I was really moving. So I checked the map, bad idea. 2.0 miles to go, WHAT!?! That .3 had felt like a mile. The steeper, exposed climb and alpine section were still ahead. oh no.
My mind took over….crap everyone is gonna summit and be down, what if they leave me? I know I can make it but when? Wait wasn’t there talk of rain, what if a storm rolls in? What if there is no Santa Claus? ahhhh. Just then I glanced a saw Glowworm climbing up behind me! “Hey chardonnay, you can do this.. congrats on that triple crown..he said passing me.” Mentally when you’re not in a good-place on trail, it’s the other hikers you draw strength from, solo hiker or not. With that I was moving, behind the boys (again), but moving. I’d see the others coming down as I still climbed, but their words of encouragement and a hurry up gave me wings!!
My first glimpse of the sign, it stopped me in my tracks.
Like a highlight reel it all flashed through my mind. All that I had done to get there, all that I had given up, been through, suffered through, the highs and the lows. I’d do it all again…well most of it. Now let me get a picture and get off this mountain!
My elation was short lived…on the way down I stumbled, ok fell, cut up my hand. There was blood, I would live. But it did not help with the steep climb down. At the bottom everyone was waiting…..and there was cold soda, chips, and sandwich’s!
So there I sat drinking warm Chardonnay, swatting bugs…..now what?
Pretty much my last day in the 100 mile wilderness, it rained. For like 20 miles I hiked in the rain. I was not all that happy about it, mostly because it would rain then kinda stop, then start again. Wearing the Frogtogg poncho I snagged from a hiker box, I draped my other poncho over my pack. As if I wasn’t wet enough I tripped getting mud all over my skirt. That was also about the time when I realized I’d lost my bandanna all my friends had signed.
Needing a distraction I put on some tunes. Lauren Hill sang as the trail winded around lakes (heck it might have been the same lake). Maine is like Minnesota great trails, lots of lakes and a gazillion bugs! Next up Christina Aguilera’s Dirty, rain or not you just gotta dance to that! So I did, right thru the puddles straight to the shelter. I immediately set up my tent (in the shelter) and climbed into my sleeping bag in a wet skirt and top. I knew my body heat would dry them over night, the wet socks and pants were left out to fend for themselves.
There were a bunch if soggy southbounders at the shelter too. Strange listening them chat as they begin their thru hikes while my hike comes to an end. There was so much I didn’t know when I started my first thru hike. Maybe its better that way. Too much prep and info spoils the surprise. Embrace the suck and be open to fact there is more to learn.
Me & Hummingbird! Rain drove us into the shelter but didn’t dampen our fun!
The next morning I pulled on wet socks and started the process of getting to Katahdin, and it is a process. Step1 hike 3 miles to the camp store for an all you can eat breakfast. Step2 discuss with hikers how many hikers are going to be at campsite and how many are actually allowed; even though no one knows for sure either number. Step3 get so full you forget to buy dinner, snacks or summit food. Doh! Step4 Enjoy a beautiful sunny 10 mile hike to the hiker reserved campsite. Step5 sign up with ranger to climb Katahdin… So glad to spend my last night in the woods with a cool bunch of hikers because tomorrow is summit day! Even Hummingbird was there, I hadn’t seen her since Vermont!