Sometimes you just need to step back, look at your life, and decide to hit the reset button. I’ve done that with this blog post since I’ve written and rewritten and rewritten it again since Jason and I came back from vacation, but in a way vacation was “hitting the reset button” as well.
My life has been going great recently. Work has reached a steady state which means that I’m not crazy busy all the time, but still am doing work that is more interesting than what I was doing earlier in 2014. My relationship with Jason is going great and I thoroughly enjoy spending time with him (yes – even when its two weeks of non-stop time together). Moose is healthy and happy and still the little fuzzy goofball that stole my heart almost three years ago – wow time goes fast! And my running is going great. Of course I have days where it feels like I’m running through sand and I question why I put my body through this, but I’m starting to notice some changes for the better. Like my 5k time, which I lowered by almost two whole minutes last week (still work to do on that one though).
Even with everything going perfectly, sometimes it’s still nice to step back and relook at things. For me, heading out into nature is the perfect way to do this, and spending two whole weeks camping, hiking, and exploring with the best adventure partner was beyond my wildest dreams.
The trip had a rocky start when I fell off a 15 foot cliff during our top-down hike of the Subway in Zion National Park. The fall happened after the “technical canyoneering” section which required rappelling and was the result of me losing my balance and not being able to regain it with about 20 lbs of rope and water strapped to my backpack. Jason thought I was dead, but I hoped right up like nothing had happened. And then the pain hit me. It felt like I had shattered my heel bone and all I could think about was how the rest of our trip would be ruined since I was certain I would be immobile. I didn’t want to show that weakness though, and tried to put on a brave face and gut through the last three miles of the hike. If you want to read all about our Zion Adventure, check out One for the Road to read an awesome trip report and see lots of pictures of yours truly.
Although we skipped doing the Rim to River hike in the Grand Canyon, my heel heeled quickly and we didn’t miss any of our other epic hikes. I think the pictures do a great job of telling the story but there were three experiences that really stand out for me on the rest of the trip. The first was spending a day relaxing in LA with one of Jason’s best friends and his girlfriend. They were so welcoming, going out of their way to make us breakfast and dinner and showing us the best of LA, which is obviously relaxing by the beach! Every single person that I’ve met that Jason considers a friend is absolutely wonderful. Their group of friends reminds me of my friends from high school. Most of the year we’re doing our own thing spread around the country (except for the few that live in DC and see each other all the time) but when we get together we can pick up right where we left off. Graham and Tricia were the perfect hosts and I can’t thank them enough for sharing their new home (they were just moving in when we got there) with us.
The second experience was hiking to the top of Half Dome. When I was younger, I was afraid of heights. Not deathly afraid to the point where I would freeze, but they definitely did nasty things to my stomach. I’ve since learned that its not heights that I should be afraid of but a lack of skill when it comes to ascending or descending them (both my skill and that of the people around me). The hike to the cables section is stunning, awarding the tenacious with unparalleled views of waterfalls, sub-alpine meadows, and towering granite cliffs that define the Yosemite Valley. And then you get to the cables. And all you can see is slick granite and metal cables heading up at an impossible angle, occasionally punctuated by flimsy looking wooden slats. I would be lying if I said a fission of fear didn’t ripple through my whole body. But we had come so far and I was not turning back with less than 1/10 of a mile to go. Luckily Jason felt the same way. I started in the front and we slowly ascended, one hand over the other, keeping on firmly gripping the cables at all times. Every time I looked down at Jason to see how he was doing, I another little ripple of fear coursed through me seeing how vertical the climb really was. Finally we made it to the top and the views were amazing. Yosemite is truly a land of rock and water, with rivers, waterfalls, and exposed granite it all directions. After taking a couple pictures we started our way back down, intent on being off the cables before the mad noontime rush started. We made it safely down and then leisurely (for me) hiked back to the car.
The third experience was hiking Mount Whitney. Ever since I read Dean Karnazes’ experience with running the Badwater Ultramarathon, I have wanted to stand on the summit of Mount Whitney (the highest point in the continental US – 14,494 feet above sea level) and the badwater basin (the lowest point in the western hemisphere – 282 feet below sea level). The week before we left for our trip, I happened to be poking around on recreation.gov and found that there were exactly two permits available to hike Mount Whitney within the time frame that we were planning on being in the area. So I applied for the permits and on Saturday May 31 at 4:00 am we started the 22 mile round trip ascent. The hike in the dark went by quickly, shuffling along and occasionally stopping for a snack. The sun rise over the White Mountains (CA not NH) was stunning, slowly bathing the sky in technicolor. Right about sunrise is when the hike started to become a slog. I kept looking at the ascent data on my watch and it seemed like every 1,000 feet took forever to achieve. Jason was struggling and at one point I thought we were going to have to turn back, but luckily an almond butter, peach jam, and honey sandwich revitalized him and eventually we were hiking the last couple hundred yards to the summit. The air was clear and we could see for miles in all directions. It was an amazing feeling being able to say I stood on top of the continental US, especially when I learned that less than 1/3 of the people that make a serious summit attempt (i.e. are not just hiking to one of the thousands of alpine lakes) make it to the top! Like Half Dome, we didn’t spend too much time on the summit but took our time on the hike down. When we finally made it to the car, we made quick work of dinner and went to bed. The next day, barely 12 hours after standing on the summit of Mount Whitney, we were standing in badwater basin. The experience was everything I could have hoped and dreamed for.
The rest of the trip is detailed below in pictures. Before I end the written part of this post though, I have to say thanks to Jason for going along with my crazy whirlwind plan that had us in eight National Parks (and three non-National Park locations) across four states over 3,000+ miles in just 14 short days. It was the trip of the lifetime and I look forward to doing more exploring. If you want to hear more stories, just ask me.